How Google’s New Search Features Help You Plan Pandemic-Era Travel
At a time when travel is fraught with cancellations, frequent changes and the need to socially distance, Google has added some helpful features to its travel platform. New search filters, local data and updated information on travel restrictions aim to help travelers get around safely and avoid unpleasant surprises.
Here’s a rundown of Google’s new travel search tools and how they can help you better plan pandemic-era travel.
Get local Covid-19 data for your destination
Google travel searches now display COVID-19 trends at your destination, along with suggestions for things to do and places to go. Simply type in a destination like “Austin” or “San Diego” and up-to-date info will be included right at the top of the page under a drop-down menu headed “COVID Trends in …” Click the drop-down arrow to see travel advisories, local cases, the percentage of hotels with availability, and the percentage of flights operating in and out of the destination. There are also links to CDC and Google News pages with more detailed info.
This creates a convenient look for your pandemic travel research, saving you visits to multiple websites before deciding if you can — or should — book a trip.
Find Flexible Hotels
When looking for hotels with Google, you can filter your search results based on cancellation policies and even properties that have COVID-19 responder rooms available.
Prior to this summer, travelers could filter only for criteria like rating, amenities and price. So the ability to single out hotels with free cancellation policies means peace of mind at a time when canceled flights and the ability to travel safely are real concerns. And you don’t have to wade through several pages of terms and conditions on hotel booking sites to get this valuable information.
The dedicated search filter to identify properties offering COVID-19 responder rooms can help those traveling to address local health issues.
Search for flights
If you search for international flights to a place where travel restrictions are in place — Rome, for example — you’ll see an alert advising you of those restrictions, with a link to a page with more details.
The Bottom Line
Though you won’t find highly detailed information like local mask mandates or business closures, Google now offers more of what you need to book COVID-era travel with confidence. Even if you're driving instead of flying, Google maps can also now alert you to any checkpoints or restrictions along your road trip route.
With a few clicks, you can get an idea of how far along a destination is on the road to recovery, whether confirmed cases are rising or falling and even whether you can travel to the destination at all.
Getting all this information on the same platform where you can find cancelable hotel rooms saves you time and can ease your mind. And though you can’t book award travel through Google with most points and miles programs, you can use it to make decisions before booking through Google or any other site you choose.
The article, How Google's New Search Features Help You Plan Pandemic-Era Travel, originally appeared on nerdwallet.com
Shop Locally For The Holidays
Planning to spread some cheer this holiday season? Go home for the holidays and pick up a one-of-a-kind creation from your local small businesses. Shopping locally is the gift that keeps on giving. Many small businesses now offer contactless pick up of their merchandise or products.
Did you know that for every $100 you spend at locally owned businesses, $68 stays in the community, compared to just $43 when you shop at a national chain? Or that small businesses create two out of three new U.S. jobs annually? So, when you shop locally, you’re not only putting your hard-earned dollars to work in your community; you’re supporting the engines that fuel our national economy.
Independent, community-serving businesses typically consume less land, carry more locally made products, and create less traffic and air pollution, so it’s good for the environment too. And locally sourced goods and services are often crafted by local artisans and are exclusive to our region, making for memorable gift-giving during the holidays and beyond. If you prefer your gifts without a shiny bow, gift an “experience” to try contactless curb-side pick up from a family-run restaurant.
Continue the movement beyond the holidays. Show support for entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout the year by shopping locally and encouraging your friends and neighbors to do the same.
The article, Shop Locally For The Holidays, originally appeared on icba.org
Coulee Bank Mortgage: What You Should Know About Rate Locks
Mortgage rates are near all-time lows right now, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way forever.
That’s where a rate lock can come in. Rate locks guarantee you a certain mortgage rate for an extended period, protecting you from the possibility of rising interest rates while you complete the homebuying process.
Are you shopping for a home? Here’s what you need to know about mortgage rate locks:
Q: What is a rate lock?
A: A rate lock guarantees your initially quoted mortgage rate for an extended period of time. Your rate can’t rise at any point during your lock period (even if market rates rise), giving you plenty of time to close the loan.
Q: How long does it last?
A: The length of a rate lock depends, though it’s usually 30, 60 or 90 days. In some cases, you may be able to pay for a longer lock period if you need more time.
Q: Why would you want to lock your rate?
A: Rate locks are smart if interest rates are very low or fluctuating. They’re also a good move if you have a unique situation — like being self-employed — and it could take a bit longer to close your loan.
Q: Are there any risks?
A: In the event market rates drop, there’s a chance your locked-in rate could be higher than what newer applicants are being quoted. You can pay for a “float down” option when you lock, which essentially means you’d get the lower market rate if they do fall.
Do you have more questions about rate locks? Are you ready to sort out your home financing? Get in touch to learn about refinancing, home equity loans and other options. Reach out to a Coulee Bank mortgage lender today for a personalized recommendation.
Coulee Security Tip: Family Protection From Cyber Threats
COVID-19 has changed the very way we live, play and work on the internet. Of course, being connected online helps reduce the impact of social gatherings, but it also brings other hosts of safety issues to your family regarding cybersecurity. Coulee Bank has created five essential tips to increase the cybersecurity and safety for your family.
Q-Tip 1: Common sense
This may seem rather on the nose, but the use of common sense of an event can significantly change the outcome. For instance, your child sharing some basic information in a school setting with other kids is probably fine but sharing that same basic information on a public forum board makes your family a higher target for unwanted cyber threats. Always check up on what your family is posting online.
Q-Tip 2: Batten down the hatches
Please make sure all devices capable of accessing the internet have their firmware and software updated regularly. Most features and software updated have security features baked in, so it's only going to increase your family's protection from unwanted cyber attacks. This is one of the easiest and passive security features you can do to protect your family online.
Q-Tip 3: Read the terms of service agreement for the software and applications your family uses
If the terms of service agreement are questionable on what data they are keeping or sharing, removing that application should be a top priority. It's also a rule of thumb that any "free" application isn't truly free, but rather you’re paying for it with your family's data.
Q-Tip 4: Balance
Finding the right balance between protection and allowing your family to express themselves online freely is tricky. What I suggest is allowing exchange between offline events to online events. For example: Have a family hike, take pictures and videos of the event for the memories. Then discuss with your family what should and shouldn't be uploaded online. Events like this will allow for family bonding and instruction on what is safe or unsafe for posting.
Tip 5: Open line of communication
Discuss what concerns, privacy, dangers, and expectations for everyone in the family regarding your digital footprint. I would also suggest making a family social media contract. It should contain all the topics you discussed regarding your family's digital footprint and a section regarding an open communication line that's judgment free. The last part of allowing a safe haven encourages children to report any potential cyber threat issues when they occur rather than finding them later.
Coulee Security Tips are provided by Coulee Bank's IT Network Risk Manager, Quentin Fisher. He is always on the lookout for ways to keep our customers' information safe, here at the bank, at work and home.
Coulee Investment Center: IRA 101: Know The Facts
Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) are one of the most common assets people rely on to save and invest for retirement. In fact, more than a third of households in America own an IRA. If you’re thinking of opening an IRA for the first time, it’s a good idea to review the rules. Even if you have had an IRA for years, note that laws change.
The Different Types
There are two main types of IRA accounts to choose from: traditional and Roth. The timing of the tax advantages is the main difference between the two. For a traditional IRA, contributions are tax deductible and tax is paid upon withdrawal. Roth IRA contributions are taxed in the year they are made, and qualified withdrawals are tax-free. Both types are almost equally popular: 36% of American households have Roth IRAs 35% of American households have traditional IRAs 26% of American households contribute to both There are also employer-sponsored IRAs. These may fall into either of the two categories.
The IRS set a 2020 annual limit of $6,000 for people under 50 years old. People who are 50 years and older can make a total contribution of $7,000. What some breadwinners do to maximize contributions is to file joint tax returns and open a second account for their spouses. They then make additional contributions to this account. The IRS states that the combined contribution cannot exceed the lesser of the couple’s taxable income or the contributor’s individual limit times two.
The IRS considers net income from self-employment, gross wages and gross salaries as qualifying income. Too much income, however, and IRA contributions can get reduced or prohibited altogether:
Qualifying Widower or Married Filing Jointly: The regular contribution rules apply up to $196,000. From $196,000 to $206,000, the IRS reduces the contribution limit. No contributions are allowed after $206,000.
Single, Married Filing Separately (did not live together) or Head-of-household: Filers who earn less than $124,000 follow the usual contribution rules. More than this up to $139,000, the IRS reduces the contribution limit and after $139,000, contributing is not allowed.
Married Filing Separately (lived together): The IRS reduces the contribution amount for less than $10,000 and prohibits contributions for $10,000 in income or more.
How much income you make determines how much of your total contribution you can deduct from your taxable income and whether or not your contribute to an employer sponsored retirement plan:
Qualifying Widower or Married Filing Jointly: Filers who make $104,000 or less can take tax deductions up to the full contribution limit. More than this up to less than $124,000, people can get a partial deduction. Beyond this, there is no deduction.
Single or Head-of-household: For total incomes of $65,000 or less, the individual can take the full deduction. More than this up to less than $75,000, there is only a partial deduction. Beyond $75,000, there is no deduction.
Married Filing Separately: There is a partial deduction for income up to $10,000. After $10,000, there is no deduction.
Like any retirement account, you do not need to wait until retirement to claim your distributions. Here’s what you need to know:
- There is no penalty for traditional IRA withdrawals after reaching age 59 and a half.
- Traditional IRA distributions get taxed at the rate that is current at the time of withdrawal.
- Roth withdrawals are not taxed because taxes were already paid upfront.
- Roth IRAs do not have mandatory withdrawal rules, but traditional IRAs require distributions by April 1st of the year you turn 72 or there are considerable tax penalties.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to choosing and funding a specific type of IRA account.
Reach out to Shari Hopkins, LPL Financial Advisor, for a personalized recommendation.
Traditional IRAs are funded with tax-deductible contributions in which any earnings are tax deferred until withdrawn, usually after retirement age. Unless certain criteria are met, IRS penalties and income taxes may apply on any withdrawals taken from Traditional IRAs prior to age 59 ½. RMDs (required minimum distributions) must generally be taken by the account holder within the year after turning 72.
The Roth IRA offers tax deferral on any earnings in the account. Withdrawals from the account may be tax-free, as long as they are considered qualified. Limitations and restrictions may apply. Withdrawals prior to age 59 ½ or prior to the account being opened for 5 years, whichever is later, may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax. Future tax laws can change at any time and may impact the benefits of Roth IRAs. Their tax treatment may change.
This material is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. There is no assurance that the views or strategies discussed are suitable for all investors or will yield positive outcomes. Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.
This material was prepared by LPL Financial, LLC
Securities and advisory services are offered through LPL Financial (LPL), a registered investment advisor and broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC). Insurance products are offered through LPL or its licensed affiliates. Coulee Bank and/or Coulee Investment Center are not registered as a broker/dealer or investment advisor. Registered representatives of LPL offer products and services using Coulee Investment Center, and may also be employees of Coulee Bank. These products and services are being offered through LPL or its affiliates, which are separate entities from, and not affiliates of Coulee Bank or Coulee Investment Center. Securities and insurance offered through LPL or its affiliates are: