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The Pros and Cons of Credit Cards

The Pros and Cons of Credit Cards

There are a number of pros and cons to owning credit cards.

If you use them properly, they can be a beneficial tool in your overall personal finance repertoire.

However, if you misuse them, they can help lead you down the path to financial ruin.

Here are five pros and cons to owning a credit card:

Pros

Convenience: No payment method is easier and quicker than using a credit card. You just swipe the card, sign the receipt, and off you go. No punching in a pin number; no waiting for change; no stopping at an ATM to replenish cash. It’s also one of the safest and easiest ways to buy products online.

Builds Credit History: If you’re young and just out of college and plan one day to purchase a house, you’re going to need to establish a credit history first. Having a credit card and making your payments on time is one of the easiest ways to establish this. Given the stricter underwriting following the housing crash, building a solid consumer credit history early in life is important.

Cash Back and Rewards: Many no-fee credit cards offer users cash back, typically 1% for everyday purchases and between 2-5% for select categories like gas or groceries. While that may not sound like a lot, it can add up quickly and put a few hundred extra dollars in your pocket each year. Credit cards can also be a good way to rack up frequent flyer miles as well for users who like to travel. Store credit cards, meanwhile, like Target’s Redcard, can give shoppers instant discounts each time they use the card at the store.

Security: One of the big benefits of owning a credit card compared to a debit card is security. In the U.S., federal laws limit the liability of the cardholder to $50 if they report that their card was stolen within 60 days of receiving their statement. For debit cards, however, consumers have only two business days to notify their financial institution that it was lost or stolen for their liability to be capped at $50. Otherwise, the cap is $500.

Emergencies: While not ideal, credit cards can be a good source of funds in case of a minor emergency, such as if your car breaks down, if your savings are running low.

Cons

High Interest Rates: If you own a credit card and don’t plan to pay the balance off each month, then you’re going to get hit with pretty high interest rates, sometimes in excess of 20%. That means if you plan to carry a balance, you’ll end up paying a lot more for your purchases than the sticker price.

Easier to Overspend: The convenience of credit cards can occasionally lead to overspending if you’re not mindful. Unlike cash where you only have a certain amount in your wallet, with credit cards you can “almost” unknowingly spend more than you had planned. Adding up the receipts after a day at the mall can sometimes lead to an unpleasant surprise as a result.

Fees: Not every credit card is free, and some reward cards can come with some pretty hefty annual fees. Meanwhile, you can also get hit with fees if you miss a payment.

Identity Theft: It’s not unheard of for thieves to go after credit card information. In July 2005, hackers gained access to TJ Maxx’s computer systems and were able to steal the personal information of 45 million credit card and debit card users.

Debt Can Add Up Quickly: If you’re not going to pay off your credit card bill each month, then the biggest pitfall to owning a credit card is that your debt can quickly escalate. Paying the minimum payment each month and then continuing to charge can be one of the quickest ways to financial ruin.

The Bottom Line

If you plan on paying off your credit card bill each month and are careful not to overspend, then owning a credit card can be financially rewarding.

However, if you start bringing home more stuff each shopping trip and are only paying the minimum amount owned each month, it’s time to stick the plastic in the back of the drawer and only break it out in case of emergency.…

Nine of the Most Romantic Restaurants in Orlando, Florida

Nine of the Most Romantic Restaurants in Orlando, Florida

If you’re looking for that extra special location for Valentine’s Day dining or beyond, Orlando offers many attractive venues that will cater to your wishes.

From resort dining to independent restaurants around the city, there are plenty of ways to enjoy dinner in a truly romantic setting with the one you love.

When only the best will do your for you sweetheart, here’s where you’ll find nine of the most romantic restaurants around Orlando:

Emeril’s at Universal Citywalk (Closed)

Prepare for an unforgettable dining experience-in a good way-with the classy, high energy experience at Emeril’s Orlando.

This is one of the few places in the city where you can watch the kitchen from your seat, and you’ll be seated in a lavishly decorated dining room with white linen tablecloths and light wood fixtures.

It’s an exciting venue to dig into some of Emeril’s best dishes; enjoy your dinner with a touch of New Orleans in the mix. Call (407) 224-2424 for more information.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Ruths Chris Steak HouseIf you’re both serious about steak, head to Ruth’s for your pick of choice prime steaks and sides; this steak house may be a franchise, but you’ll enjoy top-notch service and an elegant setting for your romantic dinner.

Take your pick of New Orleans-inspired appetizers, gourmet entrees, and decadent desserts.

This restaurant goes above and beyond to make your meal as perfect as possible, and is a great choice for any special occasion; call (407) 226-3900 for more information.

Manuel’s on the 28th (Closed)

Head to downtown Orlando for contemporary world cuisine served on the rooftop; well, almost. Manuel’s serves gourmet dinners on top of the Bank of America building in downtown Orlando, giving you a perfect view of the city below from the giant glass windows.

The dining room is decorated with art-deco lamps, dark tablecloths, and exudes a romantic ambiance for your special celebration. Take your pick of European-fusion cuisine at one of the city’s most elegant restaurants; call (407) 246-6580 for more information.

Timpano Italian Chophouse

Timpano Italian ChophouseEnjoy gourmet Italina cuisine at this chophouse; you’ll never guess that it’s a chain!

With Sinatra music echoing in the background, you and your date will soon be in a romantic mood; the martini bar offers plenty of unique concoctions to kick off the night of celebration with, and the menu of steaks, pork chops, pasta, seafood, and pizza is sure to please any fickle appetite.

Call (813) 254-5870 for more information.

Disney’s California Grill

If you’re looking for a vibrant atmosphere and entertainment as you dine, make your way to Disney’s very own California Grill.

This is the place to watch the chefs prepare your dinner with the on-stage kitchen and one-of-a-kind atmosphere. It’s located inside the Contemporary Resort at Disney World and it’s also one of the best places to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks display. Call (407) WDW-DINE for more information.

The Boheme Restaurant

It’s the place for celebrities, business travelers, and vacationers alike, and is a prime spot to reserve a special dinner with your sweetheart.

The Boheme Restaurant inside the Grand Bohemian Hotel is luxury at its finest; settle into the plush booths and white linen tables for a night of jazz, wine, and gourmet entrees.

The dining room is covered in unique artwork from local and international artists that make this one of the top cultural hotspots in the city as well. Call (407) 313-9000 for more information.

Dux at The Peabody Orlando

Head to the Dux at the Peabody Hotel for world-class dining in a majestic atmosphere. The hotel has become synonymous with excellent service, and you’ll be treated like royalty in the elegant banquet room and lavish setting.

Chef Julio Delgado offers an award-winning menu with fresh seafood, pasta, and steaks with a contemporary American twist. Call (407) 352-4000 for more information.

Le Coq au Vin

Simple French cuisine is the specialty of this classy restaurant, a place to dine and relax in a beautifully decorated dining room.

Owners Chef Louis Perrotte and his wife Magdalena have turned this venue into one of Orlando’s most favored for special occasions and formal events. From escargots to a French-style Black Angus Steak, you have plenty of options to make it a decadent meal; call (407) 851-6980 for more information.

Norman’s at the Ritz Carlton

Set yourself up for a night wine, New World cuisine, and an absolutely gorgeous setting at the Ritz Carlton, Grande Lakes. The dining room offers beautiful views of the surrounding area, so choose a table right near the window if you can.

The menu here combines the great tastes of the Caribbean with classic American cuisines; from reserve wine to gourmet dessert, you’l have everything you need to make your night a romantic celebration. Call (407) 206-2400 for more information.

From authentic French cuisine to contemporary American, you’re sure to find a unique venue for your romantic date in Orlando. You can find even more great places at TripAdvisor. Head to any of these restaurants for a special occasion, a date, or just as an excuse to sample a gourmet menu!…

11 Personal Finance Tips to Stop Overspending

11 Personal Finance Tips to Stop Overspending

Committed to sticking to your budget? Make sure you reach your budget goals each month by lowering your risk of overspending.

The urge to overspend or buy on impulse may be preventing you from saving money and keeping your finances in check.

If you want to stop overspending and reach your financial goals, you’ll need to say goodbye to spending sprees, unnecessary purchases and “retail therapy”. Knowing what your spending “triggers” are is the first step towards financial recovery.

Get your finances under control this year and look forward to a better financial future. Use these eleven personal finance tips to stop overspending:

1. Don’t let spending be your escape. If you enjoy shopping as a diversion or use retail therapy to manage your life on a regular basis, now is the time to put these activities on hold. Stop overspending by making a commitment to only spend on things you need – and not go on shopping sprees as an extracurricular activity.

2. Appreciate what you have. If you’ve gotten into the habit of overspending and have been shopping regularly, you’re probably stocked up on some great finds and goods. Take some time to “take inventory” of what you have and appreciate everything you’ve bought. Remind yourself that more things don’t necessarily mean more satisfaction.

3. Find satisfaction in other areas of your life. Overspending can give you a temporary fix when you’re stressed or are dissatisfied with a certain area of your life. Ask yourself why you’re dissatisfied and find healthier ways to fill that void.

4. Always shop with a list. It’s harder to buy extra items and overspend when you commit to purchasing only what you have on a shopping list. Whether you’re shopping for groceries or clothing items, make a list and stick with it!

5. Track each and every purchase you make. Become more aware of your spending habits and make a list of everything you buy day in, day out. Simply writing these purchases down can stop you from overspending.

6. Set your own spending limits. Set limits on how much you’re going to spend on something, even if it will be a “splurge”. Setting limits puts you back in control and will help you avoid overspending.

7. Talk to someone about your financial habits. Being more open about your spending or shopping habits can make it less likely that you’ll cheat on your budget. Share your goals with someone you trust and have them hold you accountable.

8. Learn how to find great deals. After you’ve set a budget and limit on your spending, start shopping around for the best deal and comparing prices. You’ll be surprised how much you can save on major purchases just by shopping around, and this strategy can stop you from overspending all year long.

9. Don’t count on your credit cards. Credit cards can give you a false sense of buying power and can even perpetuate your spending habits. Leave your credit cards at home and don’t even think about them as a spending resource.

10. Avoid doorbuster deals. Doorbuster deals and deep discounts on only certain items help to lure shoppers and spenders into the store so that they end up spending more than they would otherwise. Avoid these special sales altogether and focus on purchasing specific items you want on your list, and comparing prices until you find the best deal.

11. Be patient with yourself. You won’t be able to nix the overspending habit overnight, especially if you’re guilty of overspending on a regular basis. Give yourself time to try different spending and budgeting strategies, and be prepared to slip up now and then. Keep recommitting to your healthy spending goals until they become a habit, and you’ll soon say goodbye to overspending.…

Shells Seafood Restaurant, St. Petersburg Beach, Florida

Shells Seafood Restaurant, St. Petersburg Beach, Florida

Len and I have eaten at Shells Seafood Restaurant dozens of times over the years. The one we normally choose is located in the Travelodge on St. Petersburg Beach, Florida.

We have always had great food and good service but remember the time we had a small table right next to the stairs leading up to the server’s station. The servers rushing around continually bumped Len’s chair and it really did spoil our romantic evening. A few months later one of the Managers read a review I had written about our experience and gave us an evening to remember.

So as we were staying in the Travelodge this past couple of nights we decided to treat Len’s sister and her husband to a meal there. We had walked about 8 miles that day and were hungry so entered the restaurant around 5.15 p.m.

Shells Seafood RestaurantWe were seated immediately at a booth. The restaurant, on a Monday night, was very quiet.

Mark was our server and came over with menus and the early bird specials too. This is the first time I had seen them. They are available from 4.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

I chose the specialty, Shrimp Pasta, which is wonderful. It is cooked in white wine with garlic and olive oil. Len sister ordered the same and we both chose the lobster bisque. Len asked for the Shrimp Paste with Cajun spices and he had the clam chowder. Sue’s husband decided on the Fried Shrimp with French fries, coleslaw and the lobster bisque. With the special coffee, tea, or soda was included.

Mark asked us if we would like the appetizer of a shrimp, crab, jack cheese dip with cheese. It looked great on the menu so we had that too.

Our drinks came out almost immediately, 2 sodas a regular and decaffeinated coffee.

Our server brought out the appetizer, soups, and a basket of bread within minutes. The dip was excellent and we all enjoyed it. I have had the clam chowder before and know how good it is. They excelled with the lobster bisque.

While we were eating Mark came back with 2 more glasses of soda for the guys and mugs of coffee for us ladies. I hadn’t even finished my first one.

I was just about finishing my soup when our entrees arrived. The 3 Shrimp Pasta were in fairly small bowls and had 5 or 6 shrimp on the top of them. The fried shrimp platter was huge. There were 12 large shrimp, and the rest of the plate was covered with fries and a dish of coleslaw. Len looked at the size of his meal and then checked for shrimp. I knew that he should have ordered off the regular menu.

Apart from Len we were delighted with the meals we had chosen. Len picked out the shrimp and that was it. Sue and I only ate our shrimp and a little pasta, as we were already full. Her husband managed his shrimp. While we were eating these Mark came back with another basket of hot rolls fresh out of the oven and also 2 more mugs of coffee.

Mark came back to check on us and looked at Len’s plate. He asked how our entrees had been and Len said that he was disappointed with his. I explained to the server that Len had ordered the wrong meal.

Can you believe that he took it off our check? I told him that I wanted to pay for it. The early bird specials only ran $8.99 and $9.99, which was excellent value. He insisted that if Len wasn’t 100% happy with the meal then he would not pay for it.

We were so impressed with the service that we left him a 30% tip, and I told him that we would be coming back in 2 weeks time, when we have our yearly timeshare at Treasure Island beach just up the road.

Shells also has chicken, steak, and cheeseburgers on the menu as well as all the wonderful seafood items. This is a bright colorful restaurant that is clean and caters for friends, families, and parties too. I highly recommend it.…