Advice & Expertise Blog

Holly Johnson

Holly Johnson

Holly Johnson is a financial expert and award-winning writer who serves as Contributing Editor for The Simple Dollar. Holly runs her own website,, and writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News, World Report Travel, The Indianapolis Star, and Wise Bread. She is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You'll Love.

  1. March 11, 2019

    Disney World in Orlando, Florida may just be the holy grail of vacations for most Americans, but that doesn’t mean it’s affordable. If you want to take savings up a notch, you can even earn rewards in programs that let you book airfare, hotel stays, and other components of a Disney trip for free.

  2. March 8, 2019

    Each of the major credit card issuers — Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express — pulled together to stop requiring credit card signatures as of 2018. The move was the result of careful planning amidst a transition toward greater credit card security over all.

  3. March 6, 2019

    The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a cash-back credit card that works for people who want to keep their rewards game on the simple side. Not only does this card offer a big signup bonus, but it lets you earn considerable rewards in categories people tend to spend the most in.

  4. March 1, 2019

    It seems like you need a complex password for everything these days, ranging from the online account you use to pay your electric bill to your cable television account, credit card account, and online bank.

  5. February 27, 2019

    While travel rewards and cash-back credit cards provide lucrative perks, they work best for consumers who never carry a balance on their cards from month to month. After all, the average credit card APR is currently well over 17%. It doesn’t make any sense to pursue rewards if you’re carrying a balance since the interest you pay will add up to way more than any rewards you earn.

  6. February 19, 2019

    Southwest is known for its low fares, constant sales, and cheerful flight attendants, but the airlines frequent flyer program — known as Southwest Rapid Rewards — is where it really shines. This dynamic program, which is insanely easy to use and understand, offers fare-based redemptions, an overly flexible cancellation policy, and points you can redeem in more than one way.

  7. February 8, 2019

    The easiest way to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points is with one of their premier travel credit cards. Also note that you can earn Chase points with their regular cash-back credit cards, although you won’t be able to use them for premium travel redemption's.

  8. February 5, 2019

    If you’re considering a new travel credit card for the new year, it’s smart to pay attention to new offers as well as tried and true favorites. Fortunately, there are an array of lucrative travel credit card offers available all year long — some with signup bonuses worth $500 or more.

  9. January 31, 2019

    If you’re in debt and struggling to figure a way out, you are not alone. According to a Northwest Mutual Planning & Progress study from 2018, the average debt per American is up to $38,000 (excluding mortgage debt). Two in every ten people also allocate 50% to 100% of their income to debt repayment, which is a recipe for disaster.

  10. January 30, 2019

    If you’re trying to build credit or repair credit mistakes from the past, the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card may be exactly what you need. Keep reading to learn how you could qualify, the benefits you will receive if you get approved, and where this card comes up short.

  11. January 28, 2019

    While many travel rewards cards offer complicated redemption schemes and earning categories that are hard to keep track of, the Discover it® Miles takes a totally different approach. Let's go over the biggest benefits of the Discover it® Miles, who it’s best for, and a few potential downsides to consider.

  12. January 16, 2019

    The Chase Freedom® has long been considered one of the most popular cash-back credit cards on the market — and for good reason. This cash-back credit card lets you earn 5% back on up to $1,500 in spending in categories that rotate each quarter (then 1%), plus 1% back on all your other purchases.

  13. January 11, 2019

    Getting your first credit card is a huge adult milestone just like getting your first car or your first bank account. The problem is, it can be difficult to get approved for a credit card just because you want one.

  14. January 9, 2019

    The high cost of airfare is just one of the reasons many families pursue airline miles. Not only can airline miles help you travel the world for free, but you can use them for better seats and upgraded cabins that make flying more of an experience.

  15. January 3, 2019

    While many people will spend the new year digging out of holiday debt, the rest of us have the potential to use credit cards to improve our financial situations — or our lives — for the better. Here are a few ways credit cards can further your new year’s money goals.

  16. December 31, 2018

    It’s smart to wonder how getting a new credit card will affect your credit score. After all, your credit score can impact the interest rate you’ll pay on credit cards and other loans. Learn more about your credit score and if a new rewards credit card would harm it.

  17. December 14, 2018

    With so much thought and money poured into the holiday spending season, it’s easy to wonder why we still give our dear family members and friends gift cards each year. When you really think about it, gift cards are easily the most generic gift you can give!

  18. November 26, 2018

    If you believe this new scoring model could benefit you, it’s important to understand how your banking data could play a role. FICO has mentioned how your checking, savings, and money market history can be used to boost your credit score in some cases, but what does that mean?

  19. November 19, 2018

    If you’re looking for a way to earn more than the standard 1% cash back many no-fee rewards cards offer, you may want to consider the Discover it® Cash Back.This card does offer unlimited 1% cash back on your everyday purchases, but you also earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in categories that rotate each quarter.

  20. November 7, 2018

    The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers an exceptional rate of cash-back without charging an annual fee. In addition to ongoing rewards, consumers can also earn bonus cash just for signing up and meeting a minimum spending requirement.

  21. November 2, 2018

    If you plan to shop for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or other winter holidays this year, it’s only natural to wonder if a credit card could leave you better off. After all, many credit cards offer travel rewards or cash-back and some offer consumer protections such as guaranteed returns and extended warranties.

  22. October 22, 2018

    The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® Card offers a simple rewards proposition, a solid signup bonus, and valuable perks consumers will love. The best part is, consumers can sign up for this card and earn rewards on their regular spending without paying an annual fee.

  23. October 8, 2018

    If you’re in the market for a new credit card this year and think a Discover card could meet your needs, it helps to gain an understanding of each card’s unique value proposition. This guide breaks down the benefits of each card as well as who it’s good for.

  24. October 2, 2018

    While many people have kept an eye on their credit by signing up for free credit monitoring or paying for an identity protection service like LifeLock, there has been another option on the table for some time now — freezing your credit. Through a credit freeze, Americans have had the opportunity to stall their credit and make it unavailable to anyone who tries to open an account in their name.

  25. October 1, 2018

    When it comes to choosing a bank, there are several ways to keep costs at a minimum while scoring valuable benefits. You can opt for a bank that offers free checking, high interest savings account options, or online banking perks that make paying bills or making deposits easy, for example.

  26. September 28, 2018

    Think about considering a flat-rate rewards card such as the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business. This card doles out an unlimited 2% back for each dollar you spend, meaning you’ll never have to wonder if you’re maximizing bonus categories or approaching an earnings cap.

  27. September 20, 2018

    Like it or not, your credit score may play a bigger role in your life — and your lifestyle — than you think. It all starts with knowing what a good credit score is and the steps you can take to achieve this milestone. Keep reading to learn more about credit score ranges and how to improve your score over the long haul.

  28. September 19, 2018

    If your credit score is in the 600 range, you have what is typically called “fair” credit. While it’s possible to get approval for a traditional credit card if you have fair credit, many credit cards for people with bad credit are secured credit cards. If you are in this range, take a look at the cards that might be available to you and how you can help you score.

  29. September 6, 2018

    Your credit score is an important measure of your overall credit health that can help — or stand in the way of — myriad financial goals. Although it isn't necessarily easy to understand, there are similarities to both your FICO score and VantageScore. Learn more now about each of these factors and what you can do to help improve your scores.

  30. August 23, 2018

    If you want to get out of debt this year and know a personal loan could help, it’s smart to compare loan companies to see what they can offer. Read on to learn about the services that offer personal loans with low rates and could help you save money on interest, pay down debt faster, and simplify your financial life.

  31. August 22, 2018

    Building credit can be difficult when you’re first starting out, and it may even seem impossible. It’s not always easy to find a bank willing to give you a credit card or line of credit when you don’t have a credit history, after all. If you're not sure where to start, a secure card might be best.

  32. August 16, 2018

    If the information in your credit report is negative or incorrect, this could spell disaster for your credit score and your ability to qualify for loans or other forms of credit. Checking your credit report, you are able to monitor your credit for signs of identity theft or fraud.

  33. August 6, 2018

    If you’re a frequent shopper at Walmart stores, you may be wondering if you could benefit from one of their co-branded credit cards. Before you decide, it helps to know about the different cards the nation’s biggest retailer offers along with how their benefits work.

  34. July 25, 2018

    While personal loans have gotten a bad rap, there are benefits that come with taking one out. If you have good credit, personal loans can also come with competitive interest rates that are much lower than you would get with a credit card.

  35. July 19, 2018

    If you’re in the market for a travel credit card but feeling completely overwhelmed by all the different rewards programs available, you’re not alone. While earning travel rewards is fun for some, many people find that the sheer number of rewards programs, make the process of finding a card stressful.

  36. July 13, 2018

    Whether you want to redo your kitchen, add a new bathroom, build a room addition, or create a new outdoor living space, your project won’t be cheap. If you are ready to remodel but need to borrow money to bring your project to fruition, here are the loan options you should consider.

  37. July 9, 2018

    Whether you have some of your summer travel booked and paid for or you’re waiting to score a last-minute deal, you might be surprised to hear that one tool could help save you money or protect your financial investment. Here are 4 reasons you should consider getting a credit card before you depart on your summer getaway.

  38. June 29, 2018

    You may not be approved for a new credit card if your credit profile is thin or you have negative marks on your credit report, after all. Still, you’ll want to take steps to improve your credit whether you can get a new credit card or not. Here are four strategies that can make the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time.

  39. June 28, 2018

    While many consumers earn their points via flying, Southwest Airlines also offers a handful of co-branded travel credit cards with Chase that let you earn points via credit card spending. These cards make it easy to earn rewards you can redeem for free flights, rental cars, hotels, gift cards, and more.

  40. June 18, 2018

    If you’re struggling with debt and know it will take you years to pay off, you’re not alone. You can travel frugally while you’re young and pay down debt, but you’ll need to avoid some pitfalls along the way. Here are 4 strategies you can use to see the world while you still can — without avoiding your responsibilities.

  41. June 12, 2018

    If you’re drowning in debt and struggling to find a way out, you may believe a new credit card is the last thing you need. While you are likely right when it comes to traditional cards, there is one type of card that could actually make paying down debt easier.

  42. June 5, 2018

    With the right rewards card, you can easily earn up to 5% back on all your regular spending. Since you can achieve these returns without any effort or time invested, this is truly “free money,” provided you have the discipline to pay your bill in full each month.

  43. May 29, 2018

    To reach the end of the month (or the year) with extra cash to save and invest, you have to plug the holes in your sinking financial ship — and fast. The best way to do this is to figure out the ways you’re wasting money every day and stop doing it

  44. May 23, 2018

    There are plenty of ways to make family memories without spending a bundle. If you’re angling for a summer vacation with kids that won’t blow your budget out the window, consider these low-cost and mid-tier vacation ideas.

  45. May 15, 2018

    Building wealth is a long-term game that requires patience and forward thinking. Of course, those who start saving and investing early tend to have the best results. For that reason, it’s smart to create annual goals as well as five-year, ten-year, and even twenty-year financial goals.

  46. May 8, 2018

    If you’re someone who isn’t too keen on spending money you don’t have (or borrowing money) for your wedding day, it’s smart to look for ways to whittle down costs. Here are nine ways to get married for less.

  47. May 1, 2018

    Planning any type of trip can be stressful when your funds are limited, but you have a real task at hand if you expect luxury for less. Fortunately, there are ways to score luxury for less if you’re willing to do things differently, and able to plan ahead. Here are 7 tips that can help you book sheer luxury for less.

  48. April 23, 2018

    Fortunately, your summer getaway doesn’t have to break the bank. There are myriad travel credit cards that can make your summer getaway both cheap and fun, although the right card for your needs depends on where you want to go and your travel style.

  49. April 19, 2018

    Purchasing a home is an exciting and momentous occasion, but it’s one that’s often rife with stress. With that in mind, you may be wondering if credit card rewards could ruin your home purchase. Here’s the skinny on how credit cards can help — or hurt — your chances at getting a mortgage.

  50. April 9, 2018

    Not only can you earn a signup bonus for scoring a new card before your spring clean, but some cards offer additional points for home improvement purchases made this year. Here are some of the best cards for this year’s spring cleaning season.

  51. April 5, 2018

    While nearly every parent dreams of taking their kids on a magical Disney vacation, not everyone can afford the outrageous costs required to visit a Disney park. Learn more about this magical vacation option and the alternatives for vacationing on a budget.

  52. March 26, 2018

    Love it or hate it, the World of Hyatt program appears to be working thus far, as rewards enthusiasts around the globe continue to take advantage and rack up points for free stay. Before you dive into the new World of Hyatt rewards program, check out these 6 things you should know.

  53. March 20, 2018

    As you explore bank bonus offers and decide which one to sign up for, it’s crucial to read the fine print so you can avoid the biggest gotchas and pitfalls. Learn more about these 5 fine print details you should absolutely be aware of.

  54. March 5, 2018

    While cruise fares can be inexpensive on their own, there are plenty of “extras” and “gotchas” you should prepare for. While some of these added expenses can be avoided, others are just part of the deal. Learn more about the hidden expenses of a cruise.

  55. February 26, 2018

    Lowering your expenses isn’t always easy. To really cut your spending, you may need to take some uncomfortable steps in your life – steps like using a budget for the first time, giving up expensive hobbies like going to bars or dining out, and avoiding situations where you’re tempted to spend.

  56. February 15, 2018

    New Year’s resolutions are a popular way to set new goals at the end of the year. No matter your past indiscretions or whether or not you improved your life last year, a new year means a new opportunity to get things right. If you’re looking for an easy way to stick to your money goals this year, try these strategies:

  57. February 2, 2018

    If you are hoping to score a slightly more exciting or luxurious Valentine’s Day this year, however, certain rewards and travel credit cards can help. Not only do some dole out rewards you can use for an epic gift, but some rewards are a gift on their own.Here are some of our favorite cards for an epic Valentine’s Day.

  58. January 30, 2018

    The bad news is, debt is pervasive, relentless, and a lot like Mogwai. If you feed it, it just keeps growing and growing as interest compounds over and over again. The good news is, there are some ways to put a lid on your holiday debt – and all your other debts – for good.

  59. December 22, 2017

    If you’re looking for ways to rack up rewards through regular spending, why not take a look at your daycare bill? You’re probably paying a lot for care, so it makes sense to look for ways to benefit. Provided you can pay your daycare bill with a credit card every month (and pay it off), this strategy could help you rack up a ton of rewards with little effort on your part.

  60. December 19, 2017

    The downside that comes with pursuing travel credit cards that fall into this category is that most, if not all, come with large annual fees. But, if you’re a steady traveler who can benefit from a large signup bonus and all the benefits, cards that let you “double dip” in this way can really pay off.

  61. December 15, 2017

    While there are many ways to learn life’s important lessons, one of the best ways to learn is by doing – or through old fashioned trial and error. You can tell your kids how to fish, but they’ll become better fisherman by baiting their own lines and strategizing ways to get fish to bite.

  62. December 12, 2017

    The new Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card falls into the latter category, offering different levels of rewards for different purchases. Fortunately, the rewards are lucrative – especially in certain categories – and there’s no annual fee. The fact this card offers a signup bonus is just icing on the cake.

  63. December 7, 2017

    There’s a reason the divorce rate hovers around 40 to 50 percent at any given time. Marriage is hard, and it often comes with issues you can’t foresee. You marry “in sickness and in health” and “for rich or for poor,” but that doesn’t mean you actually expect the worst-case scenario to happen. And when life gives you lemons, divorce is often the easiest way out.

  64. November 30, 2017

    Before you spend hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars on holiday gifts for your employees or vendors, it can pay off to spend some time figuring out the best business credit card for your needs. Here are some options to consider along with their pros and cons for the 2017 holiday season and beyond:

  65. November 22, 2017

    Sticking to your holiday shopping budget can be tricky no matter how you pay. After all, you may have a dozen people on your holiday shopping list, and potentially more. Finding the perfect gift for everyone is hard enough, let alone finding gifts that are within your price range.

  66. November 15, 2017

    If you’re gearing up for the holiday shopping season and looking for new ways to save, it always helps to think outside the box. Of course you’ll scoop up bargains on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but your deal-seeking doesn’t have to end there. With the right rewards credit card, you could get 5 percent cash back – or a 5 percent discount on most of your holiday gift-giving this year.

  67. November 9, 2017

    As usual, a lot of spending will take place on Black Friday, the notorious shopping holiday that takes place the day after Thanksgiving. As NRF figures show, more than 154 million individuals shopped in stores or online on Black Friday in 2016, spending about $290 each, on average.

  68. November 6, 2017

    But, which balance transfer card should you get? If you have a small amount of debt that will only take a few months to pay off, nearly any 0 percent APR card could do the trick. If you’re drowning in debt and carrying more than average, on the other hand, a card with a long introductory offer and the best terms possible will leave you better off.

  69. October 17, 2017

    With college costs and student loan debt soaring, I want to help my kids make smart decisions regarding their future. Since our kids were babies, we’ve been socking money away in their 529 savings plans. By the time they reach college, I estimate they’ll both have $50,000 to pay for any school of their choosing.

  70. October 9, 2017

    Recently, Delta Air Lines and American Express partnered up to offer a brand new co-branded credit card – the Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. While the signup bonus on this card isn’t anything to write home about, it does offer one benefit many rewards consumers look for – no annual fee. Beyond its lack of an annual fee, this card also offers an interesting earning structure that could work well for consumers with certain spending habits.

  71. October 4, 2017

    As the water recedes in Houston and various waterfront communities across Texas, a startling financial reality continues to unfold. Where hurricane Harvey hit the hardest, 80 percent of homeowners and property owners lacked flood insurance coverage.

  72. September 22, 2017

    Business owners who compare business credit cards face a common conundrum– they crave points they can redeem for travel, but may be put off by the egregious annual fees some business cards charge. Fortunately, at least one business credit card offers valuable rewards, a simple redemption process, and an annual fee nearly any business owner can stomach.

  73. September 19, 2017

    Millennials may be the largest living generation on Earth, but that doesn't mean they don't face their share of financial hurdles. For example, millennials face higher levels of student loan debt than ever before, rampant unemployment or underemployment, an increasingly expensive housing market, and a world where owning costly gadgets and technology is the norm.

  74. September 13, 2017

    With summer behind us and fall on its way, it’s just a matter of time until the festive season hits. Once Halloween comes and goes, an explosion of twinkling lights and non-stop sales will last for months. Holiday shopping season will kick in, culminating on Black Friday followed by weeks of last-minute rushing to find the perfect gifts. It will be here before we know it, which is why you should really start planning now.

  75. September 7, 2017

    According to a recent survey from Allianz Travel Insurance, the average American may be spending more money on vacation than ever before - approximately $1,798 on average as of 2016. That’s a lot of dough to spend on travel, yet 50 percent of respondents to the Allianz study said they were confident they could pull it off.

  76. September 5, 2017

    If you have high interest credit card debt, personal loan debt, or other mounting bills, a balance transfer credit card could be the answer to your prayers. Once you qualify for a balance transfer credit card, you can score 0 percent APR on transferred balances for anywhere from 12 – 21 months. Best of all, some balance transfer credit cards offer low fees or even no fees to consumers who qualify.

  77. August 25, 2017

    When it comes to credit cards, there are too many options to count. From cash-back rewards cards that let you earn rewards to balance transfer cards that help you save money on interest, there’s a card type to suit everyone regardless of their credit needs. And yes, that includes credit cards that can help you become more charitable. Believe it or not, some card issuers and programs make it easy to donate cash-back or miles instead of keeping your rewards for yourself.

  78. August 18, 2017

    While American Express is well known for their selection of premier travel credit cards, past and present Amex customers seem to have a lot of gripes. For starters, the card issuer’s top tier travel credit cards – the Platinum Card from American Express and the Business Platinum Card from American Express – come with outrageous annual fees of $550 and $595, respectively. Worse, both cards offer an earning tier of just 1 point per $1 spent outside of special bonus categories.

  79. August 16, 2017

    Credit cards offer a slew of benefits that make them valuable for just about anyone. With a credit card in-hand, you can score valuable consumer protections like purchase protection, zero fraud liability, and guaranteed returns. And, let’s not forget about the many rewards programs that help you rack up cash back, gift cards, or free travel.

  80. August 11, 2017

    With interest rates near record lows so long that rising rates seem imminent, it’s smart to at least consider refinancing your home mortgage. A lower interest rate could give you plenty of advantages, after all. While loan outcomes vary, lower interest rates can easily lead to lower monthly mortgage payments and interest savings. Under the right circumstances, you could even shorten the repayment timeline for your loan and pay off your home faster.

  81. August 8, 2017

    Credit card signup bonuses are often considered the holy grail of affordable travel. Sign up for a new rewards credit card or travel credit card, hit a minimum spending requirement, and earn a bonus big enough to pay for several hotel nights or a free round-trip flight. If you’re into cash-back instead, you can also parlay your rewards into several hundred dollars in statement credits instead.

  82. August 4, 2017

    Is big-city living all it’s cracked up to be? Or, would you be better off in a quieter, slower-paced rural environment? While this question has been debated for years, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer that suits everyone. The truth is, some people prefer the close-knit quarters of an urban existence while others crave more space.

  83. July 26, 2017

    While higher education is typically a good investment, the surging costs of a college degree have been blurring the line for years. Sure, college graduates tend to earn more, but they’re also facing growing debt loads, too. According to Student Loan Hero, the average 2016 college graduate left school with more than $37,000 in student loan debt.

  84. July 20, 2017

    Graduating with a college degree requires a sincere commitment to academics and a laser-focus on achieving one’s goals. Many top degree programs require four years of rigorous coursework at the very least, while some of the highest-paying fields require eight or more years in school along with a residency and/or on-the-job training.

  85. July 18, 2017

    According to a recent analysis from USA Today, using data compiled by the Economic Policy Institute, a college degree is one of the best financial investments anyone can make. In 2015, college graduates earned 56 percent more than high school graduates. Non-degreed adults also face higher unemployment rates and fewer opportunities over all, mostly due to lost manufacturing jobs from the last decade.

  86. July 13, 2017

    A European getaway is on nearly everyone’s bucket list, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s budget is equipped to handle the expense. Flights alone can be cost-prohibitive. Truth be told, most round-trip flights to Europe from the U.S. start at $1,000 and only go up from there.

  87. July 7, 2017

    Despite the growing costs of higher education, a college degree is usually the best way to get ahead. With a degree in an in-demand and profitable industry, workers can get their foot in the door, climb the career ladder, and continue improving their skills.

  88. July 3, 2017

    If you have kids, you’re probably well aware that beach vacations are the ultimate gateway to frugal fun. Beyond transportation and lodging, you’ll pay very little to keep the kids busy all day. Head out to the beach from your hotel or rental, bring along a cooler of drinks and snacks, and your kids will use nature’s bounty – surf, sand, and sea life - to entertain themselves.

  89. June 20, 2017

    My original foray into credit card rewards stemmed from a targeted mailer for the Chase Freedom® card. I was in my late 20’s and money was tight. With Chase Freedom®, I learned I could score an initial signup bonus ($100 at the time) and earn 1-5 percent cash back for every dollar I spent. Needless to say, I was pumped to try it out.

  90. May 26, 2017

    If you have a large purchase coming up and don’t have the cash, you have myriad options at your disposal. You could spend months saving small sums to reach your goal, or you could take out a personal loan. If neither of those options seem appealing, you could sign up for a new credit card instead.

  91. May 9, 2017

    The best travel and rewards credit cards really can offer the unthinkable – something for nothing. By using your card for all your purchases, you can earn points redeemable for cash back, travel rewards, gift cards, or merchandise. The catch, however, is that you must avoid carrying a balance if you want to avoid credit card interest.

  92. April 20, 2017

    If you have ever wanted to travel the world, earn cash back for a rainy day, or rack up points good for gift cards or merchandise, a rewards credit card might be exactly what you need. After signing up a for rewards card, you can easily earn 1-5 points worth of cash back, gift cards, merchandise, or travel rewards for each dollar you spend.

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