What the experts say
How Airbnb complicates refinancing
“Airbnb is causing headaches for some homeowners looking to refinance their mortgages,” said Peter Rudegeair in The Wall Street Journal. Big banks, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, are subjecting people who rent out rooms through the site to extra scrutiny, rejecting some of their applications for certain kinds of loans or charging them higher interest rates. The reason is that short-term rental services blur the line between residential and commercial property, and lenders see the latter as a riskier investment. Many lenders find out about homeowners’ Airbnb activity through income-tax returns. But you may not have to report rental earnings to the IRS. If your home is rented out for fewer than 15 days a year, “the tax code allows that income to be pocketed, tax-free.”
Don’t sell those comics just yet
Low on cash? “You may find yourself eyeing your prized fill-in-the-blank collection, wondering, ‘Should I sell this?’” said Geoff Williams in USNews.com. If you really need the money, don’t rush in to selling your stash of comic books or Beanie Babies. Research the value of your collection first, checking sites like eBay to see what similar items have sold for. “If you want top dollar, don’t go to a store to sell your stuff.” Retailers, which need to make a profit of their own, have to offer less than the resale value. Don’t sell your entire collection in bulk, either. Individual collectors often have smaller budgets, but are willing to pay more for a single piece. Besides, “do you really want your buyer to treat your prized collection like a warehouse-store score?”
The catch with credit card rewards
Credit card companies are offering ever more generous sign-up bonuses—but you can’t take advantage of them all, said Jonnelle Marte in The Washington Post. Banks have been making it harder for consumers to grab as many rewards as possible by opening multiple cards or by closing and reopening a card to get an offer aimed at new customers. Chase, for example, often rejects applications from customers who have opened five or more credit cards over the past two years. Customers must also wait two years before collecting another signup bonus for the same credit card. At American Express, cardholders can earn a bonus only once per credit card, period. So be selective when hunting rewards. “Applying for too many cards may kick you out of the running when an enticing offer comes along.”
Charity of the week
Founded in 1989, the American Indian College Fund (collegefund.org) is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to providing college scholarships to American Indians. Fewer than 5_percent of Native Americans can afford to attend college without financial help, and only 13_percent of Native Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 28_percent of the U.S. population. The organization distributed more than $7.2_million in scholarships in the last academic year to some 4,000 Native American students, who were selected based on academic success, financial need, and community involvement. The charity also helps fund the nation’s 33 accredited tribal colleges, which integrate Native American languages and culture into their curricula but receive little or no tax support.
Each charity we feature has earned a four-star overall rating from Charity Navigator, which rates not-for-profit organizations on the strength of their finances, their governance practices, and the transparency of their operations. Four stars is the group’s highest rating.