Save money with Travel Rewards programs

Flight bonus points symbol concepts isolatedBy Alyssa Furtado,

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Active and casual travelers have long known that one of the best ways to save on their vacations is by using travel rewards credit cards. It’s pretty simple: Sign up for a travel rewards program, collect points, and redeem them when you have enough saved.

What makes travel rewards credit cards so appealing is the fact that many offer huge sign-up bonuses. Usually there’s a minimum spend required within a set amount of time, but that seems pretty minor when you’re getting a few hundred dollars in return.

In addition, many travel credit cards offer additional benefits that help you save on your travel. For instance, many include travel emergency medical and car rental collision/loss damage waiver insurance. That’s easily worth a few hundred dollars a year.

The downside to travel rewards programs is that they can be difficult to understand for some. Here’s a look at three popular programs to help you decide the one that’s best for you.

BMO Rewards

With BMO Rewards, points can be used for flights, hotels, and more. They’re only redeemable on the BMO Rewards website or by calling the BMO Rewards Centre (a $29.95 booking fee applies), but there’s still some decent flexibility here. There are no blackout dates, you can book with any airline or hotel, and you can use your points to pay for taxes and fees. You receive $1 credit for every 100 points you redeem. That values each BMO Rewards point at $0.01 apiece. Continue Reading…

Top 5 Income Tax Stories of 2016

David J. Rotfleisch

By David J. Rotfleisch, CPA, CA, JD

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Some of the biggest Canadian income tax stories this year have an international connection. Here are my top five picks for income tax stories for 2016:

1.) Panama Papers and Bahamas Leaks

The top tax story of 2016 is the Panama Papers leak in March followed by the Bahamas leak in September, both a result of investigations by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICJ).

The leak was unprecedented in size and scope and consisted of data and secret papers demonstrating murky and in some cases illegal offshore financial transactions of celebrities, financiers, politicians and ordinary citizens from Canada and all over the world. Encrypted internal documents from Mossack Fonseca, a law firm based in Panama, were released to the ICJ by an anonymous whistleblower.

While headlines mentioned billionaires, entertainment and sports celebrities, politicians, public officials, as well as the network of global law firms, banks and accounting firms that sell and profit from offshore financial secrecy, ordinary Canadians have been caught in the web as well.

Passport information of about 350 Canadians was revealed. And the Royal Bank of Canada used Mossack Fonseca to organize offshore corporations on behalf of its Canadian clients.

The Bahamian leak added yet more information from internal records from the official registry of the Bahamas, a known Caribbean tax haven. Information was added to the same searchable data base as well as details of some 175,000 Bahamian corporations, trusts and foundations set up over the past 25 years.

Canadian Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier announced that CRA would carry out an investigation to determine how many Canadians set up offshore corporations and bank accounts to evade taxes.

CRA has indicated that it reviewed the searchable database, identified 2,600 records with a Canadian link and undertook tax investigations into 85 Canadians. To-date, CRA has executed search warrants and launched 60 income tax audits.

 2.) Fraudsters Impersonating CRA Collections Officers

A continuing top story from 2015 is the Canada-wide epidemic of bogus phone calls from scam artists claiming to be CRA collections officers and threatening Canadians with jail time for alleged unpaid taxes.

Thousands of Canadians have been contacted by these call centre fraudsters and hundreds have been victimized into making payments to these criminals for taxes not owing. While a number of payment methods were used by the fraudsters, the most common payment was via iTunes cards.

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5 surprisingly smart Financial Habits of Millennials

5-millenialsBy Maricor Bunal

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Millennials often get a bad rap for a lot of things. They are usually perceived as narcissistic, entitled, lazy, spoiled, and (perhaps the greatest stereotype of all) irresponsible with money. But having grown up in a sluggish economy, millennials may not be as bad with money as most people think. In fact, when it comes to personal finance, millennials are actually making some smart money moves that their older counterparts would do well to emulate.

Here are five surprisingly smart financial habits commonly used by Gen Y-ers that older generations should consider picking up.

1.) Use technology to manage finances

Millennials are a generation that grew up with technology, so it’s only natural that they would tap its power to help them with their personal finance. These days, Gen Y-ers rely on various mobile apps and tools to easily track and manage their money. Some of the most popular budgeting and finance apps today include Mint, GoodBudget, and PocketGuard. These apps are used to record and track purchases, monitor spending patterns, and even make automated, hassle-free payments.

2.) Choose experiences over material possessions

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Boosting retirement savings during your final 5 working years

Pink piggy bank with glasses standing on books next to a blackboard with retirement savings message. Sharp focus on the piggy bank with blackboard slightly blurred.Whether you’re a late starter or seasoned saver, the five years (or so) leading up to retirement just might be the most crucial time to get your finances in order.

A new Tangerine survey revealed that Canadians 55 and older are saving primarily for retirement (34 per cent), emergency fund (22 per cent), and big vacation/travel (22 per cent). Sadly, one-third of Canadians aged 55 and up report having no savings goals!

Most retirement-ready checklists suggest your final working years is a time to double-down on retirement savings. The idea being that major financial burdens, such as paying down the mortgage and raising children, should be behind you and those savings can be parlayed into big contributions to your retirement nest egg.

High-income earners should look to their unused RRSP contribution room and contribute as much as possible in their final working years. This has the added benefit of generating big tax returns, which can be reinvested into your RRSP or used to pay down any outstanding debts.

Procrastinators have a final chance to break any bad spending habits and set their finances straight. The first step is to draw up a financial plan. Make it a top priority to pay down any remaining debt and get spending under control. You should then have a rough idea when debt-freedom is in sight and from there decide how long to continue working to meet your retirement savings goals.

 Retirement income target

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‘Tis the season of merry debts

depositphotos_36811637_s-2015“It’s that renowned time when much debt is racked up during the spree of merry.”

The season of joyful giving hovers in our merry midst once again.

Some finances get stressed and stretched to the max — like credit cards creeping past their safe outer limits. The reasons don’t matter, it’s the outcomes that really count.

Easy credit is everywhere. It seems so painless at first. Just sign those tempting card offerings that sail through email and mail slots. Voila, it’s done. I receive at least a couple new flavours every month.

People love to be generous during these merry times. Yet good intentions can lead to frightful finances. A frosty thought that may cost dearly. Possibly, even a brush with financial ruin.

For example, making the minimum monthly payment on credit cards is akin to a slow financial death. With interest rates in the 20% ballpark, it takes a lifetime to pay off balances.

Good Samaritans wanted

Let’s reflect a little on the season that incurs those merry debts. Individuals who spend more than they can afford usually don’t do it intentionally. As we know, stuff happens: all in the spirit of giving.

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