Payment Apps and Processors

Sending and accepting payments can be tricky. There are a lot of options out there, so we'll help guide you. Things to consider when looking into accepting/sending payments are: 1) transaction costs 2) ease of functionality 3) app integrations on your phone. 

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What Is a Payment App?

A payment app is a tool to pay for goods and services and send money to vendors, friends, and family. People tend not to carry as much cash nowadays, so a payment app can be a quick way to reimburse a friend for a concert ticket, help a family member out with a bill, or even pay for something at a store without having your wallet with you. It’s like having a digital wallet with you on your phone.

How Does a Payment App Work?

A payment app works like a digital wallet. You link your bank account information and credit cards to the app, and it securely stores it so you can use it to send and receive money directly on the app. You don’t need to have your wallet physically with you, and some apps can even be used internationally. It’s a quick and convenient way to send and receive money and pay for things online and in stores.

How Much Does a Payment App Cost?

Some payment apps are completely free, while others have free aspects like receiving money or sending money between friends and family. Some payment apps may charge fees to receive money quicker than the standard time, currency exchange and processing fees, and credit card fees. These fees vary based on the type, amount, and location of the transaction.

You may be charged between 2.5–3% for credit card processing fees when using some payment apps. If you’re a small business, you can add these fees into the cost of your goods and services or charge an additional fee for customers to pay with a credit card. 

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Is a Payment App Worth the Cost?

Free payment apps are worth using because there’s no cost, and they’re convenient and easy to use. However, if you have to pay to use the payment app, it may or may not be worth the cost. If you’re a small business that accepts credit cards, it’s usually worth it because you’re increasing your number of customers by accepting additional payment forms.

If you need to send money internationally or need your funds available the same day, you would need to find out the fees, weigh your options, and then see if it’s worth it to pay a little more for the convenience.

PayPal

PayPal is the granddaddy of payment companies, with a history going back to 1998. It made its name as the preferred digital wallet and payment provider for eBay transactions but has since grown to be one of the most dominant names in online payments.

PayPal offers the ability to transfer money to and from any U.S.-based bank account and many foreign accounts. There is no fee to transfer funds to family or friends from a PayPal balance or bank account balance, but PayPal does charge fees to send from a credit card or convert currencies.

Venmo

Venmo is actually owned by PayPal, however, Venmo is a very different app than PayPal. Venmo is an app designed primarily to send money to friends, with an embedded social aspect. And, while you can sign in and access your account on the internet, it is a mobile first experience built primarily for use on the go with your smartphone.

Venmo has 60 million active users. That's a lot of restaurant checks split. Venmo can also be used to pay for transactions at many businesses as well. It is free to send money using your linked debit card bank account.

Cash App

Cash App is a mobile credit card processor–Square’s answer to the growing popularity of peer-to-peer payments. Cash App does pretty much the same thing as Venmo, but without the social features. You can send money to, or request from, anyone with a Cash account, and funds are drawn from a linked bank account via debit card at no cost.

Cash App has a wallet feature, like PayPal, or the ability to send from a linked account without holding funds in your digital wallet. In 2018, Square added the ability to buy and sell Bitcoin on the Cash App as well, which gives it a unique feature compared to other popular payment apps.

Zelle

Zelle offers a unique way to pay friends or family right from your bank. If you have an account at a participating bank, you can send cash with same-day transfers to anyone else with an account at a participating bank. The growing list of participating banks includes titans such as Chase, Bank of America, Citi, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, and online banking leaders, Ally and Capital One.

You can send without installing the app on your phone, though you can download Zelle’s app and connect to your bank account, too. It is free to send and receive. You can only connect one bank account to your Zelle profile at this time, so if you sign up, make sure it is with your primary account.

Google Pay

Google offers a tool to do almost everything one can do online, and sending money is no exception. Google Pay is unique in its integrations with other Google products, including Gmail. Yes, you can send money to someone by e-mail using Google Pay and Gmail. If you have a Google account, you are essentially already signed up for Google Pay.

Like most Google products, it is well designed and easy to use. It works with the dedicated Google Pay app or through other integrated Google services. There are currently no fees to use Google Pay.


What is a payment processor?

A payment processor is a company that manages the credit card transaction process, acting as a kind of mediator between the bank and the merchant. Put simply, the payment processor communicates information from your customer’s card to your bank and the customer’s bank. Assuming there are enough funds, the transaction goes through.

There are a broad range of fees associated with payment processors, including start-up fees, transaction fees, chargeback fees, termination fees, and lease charges for credit card processing equipment (generally, the third-party payment processor provides the equipment you use to accept card payments, including the credit card machines). However, if you want to accept credit or debit card payments from your customers, there’s really no other option.

Bear in mind that “payment processor” isn’t a universal legal term, and in some cases, it’s used interchangeably with terms like “payment service provider” or “acquirer”.

Payment gateway vs. payment processor vs. merchant accounts

Of course, payment processors aren’t the only significant part of the payments process. You also need to understand the role of payment gateways and merchant accounts.

So, what’s a payment gateway? Essentially, payment gateways are like middlemen between the third-party payment processor/merchant account and the credit card companies. It’s a type of software that handles the technical side of transferring cardholder information. If you don’t have a payment gateway, then you won’t be able to receive payment from your customers, even if all the other elements are in place.

And as for merchant accounts? Put simply, a merchant account is a type of bank account that accepts credit and debit card payments. If you don’t have a merchant account, you won’t be able to accept these types of payment, so it’s incredibly important that set one up when starting your business and creating a business bank account.

As you can see, it’s not really a case of payment gateway vs. payment processor vs. merchant accounts. To successfully manage the payments process, all these elements need to be included. The payment gateway handles the transfer process, the payment processor authenticates and secures the transaction, and the merchant account is where the bank settles the funds, before they’re paid into your business account.

(sources: thebalance.com, consumerreports.org, gocardless.com)

Top Home Security Systems

Investing in a home security system can improve home safety and help protect your home from break-ins and theft. Keep reading to learn about the best home security systems and find a solution that’s right for you.

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1. Vivint

If you want a beautifully designed security system that works even better than it looks, then Vivint is for you. That is with the caveat that you’re also a homeowner, and you don’t mind paying for professional installation. Renters, look away, this one’s not your best option.

Why we chose Vivint

Everything Vivint does, it does well. Where other alarm companies offer a hodgepodge of third-party equipment, Vivint designs its own stuff. Where some options, like ADT, have good equipment but so-so cameras, Vivint’s cameras have some of the best features on the market, including video analytics and 4K image sensors (as well as more standard fare like motion detectors, two-way audio, and night vision).

Vivint also has professional installation, so you don’t have to break a sweat setting up your system. And it has full smart home support, so you can automate everything from your door locks to your bedside lamp.

If you want a security system that will protect your home and also make your neighbors say, “Wow, where’d you get that?” then Vivint’s got what you need.

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2. SimpliSafe

SimpliSafe changed the way home security companies do things. It lets you order online instead of getting on the phone, it doesn’t do contracts, and it’s super affordable. We love that SimpliSafe makes it easy to set up a basic security system yourself without draining your savings in the process.

Why we chose SimpliSafe

SimpliSafe is perfect if you want a well-known brand that will protect your house but for way less money than you’d pay for the ADT’s of the world. Most people know the name “SimpliSafe” by now (potential burglars included), and it makes it cheap and easy to set up an alarm system in your house.

Plus, SimpliSafe is no slouch on the equipment front. You can find everything from window sensors to leak detectors to carbon monoxide sensors.

3. ADT

Everyone knows ADT. It’s been in business for over a century, and it’s available all across the US (and a few other countries as well. For any Canadians out there, it’s one of the most popular alarm systems in Canada.)

If what you want is the system with the most clout, then ADT delivers. Potential burglars will see the yard sign and skip your house faster than you can say, “break-in.” Not to mention, ADT uses professional installation so you don’t have to do the work yourself.

Why we chose ADT

Aside from its famous name, ADT also has a wide range of security equipment to protect your home. And the system requires professional installation, so you don’t have to worry about sticking sensors on your doors backward or something.

ADT also works with Z-Wave and supports a bunch of different smart home devices as well as some indoor and outdoor cameras. But you have to subscribe to the right monitoring plan to get support for stuff like that.

4. Frontpoint

Frontpoint’s system works for just about everyone: big house or small house, renter or homeowner, technophile or aspiring Luddite. We like Frontpoint’s simple, secure equipment and its smart home features (especially the Yale smart door lock). Just expect to pay a bit more for the monitoring service.

Why we chose Frontpoint

Frontpoint is friendly. Its customers routinely leave glowing reviews,2,3 and our own experience with Frontpoint’s reps has always been that they’re helpful and easy to talk to.

If you’ve ever tried to call in to something like your internet service provider and had a horrible customer experience (*cough* Comcast *cough*), then you know how important it is to have good support when something goes awry. And Frontpoint is like the Tom Hanks of home security companies—just so nice, you know?

If you’re having trouble installing your doorbell camera or telling your door sensor from your flood sensor, Frontpoint has a bunch of support resources on its website. And you can even contact its reps through social media platforms like Twitter if that’s your jam.

5. Brinks Home

Brinks smart home security equipment comes with some pretty neat monitoring alerts.

Why we chose Brinks Home

False alarms can be a huge pain in the you-know-what. If you have enough false alarms that make their way to police dispatch, you might even have to pay a fine. That’s why most monitoring centers will try to call you before they get the cops involved when your alarm system goes off.

Brinks takes that a step farther, though, and can contact you through text message, phone, or email, depending on which one you prefer. If, like us, you avoid answering your phone as much as possible, then text messages might be a better way to reach you. Brinks can also notify other people on your contact list in case you don’t pick up.

6. Cove

Cove is like a slightly fancier version of SimpliSafe. Both systems cost exactly the same, but if you like the look of a touchscreen control panel, then Cove will give your style a bit of a boost.

We still recommend SimpliSafe overall because it has a wider range of equipment, and offers a doorbell camera. But Cove is a nice alternative for people who want something affordable yet sleek.

Why we chose Cove

Cove’s equipment doesn’t just look good, it’s also super easy to set up, and it’s backed by good customer support.

Cove has a full range of support articles and videos in case you get stuck while you’re setting things up, but we doubt you’ll need them.

(sources: reviews.org, usnews.com )

Best Cell Phone Plans

Cell phone providers constantly jockey for position to offer the most reliable coverage, highest-value prepaid plan, or most budget-friendly cell phone plans. Here’s how the best cell phone plans of 2021 stack up.

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Mint Mobile 4 GB  

Best Overall

4.2 out of 5

MONTHLY COST$15 and Up

PLAN TYPEPrepaid (3, 6, & 12 Month Plans)

DATAUnlimited

Mint Mobile 4 GB: Mint Mobile’s 4 gigabyte (GB) plan is the Best Cell Phone Plan of 2021. It earns its spot with easy prepaid plans available in increments of three, six, and 12 months, which explains why it ranks No. 1 in Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans of 2021 as well as Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans of 2021. Mint Mobile runs on T-Mobile’s network.

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Verizon Shared Data 5 GB  

Best Nationwide Coverage

4.1 out of 5

MONTHLY COST$55

PLAN TYPEContract

DATA5 GB

Verizon Shared Data 5 GB: Verizon’s Shared Data 5 GB plan starts at $65 and gives you 5 GB of high-speed data and unlimited data at slower speeds. You can add 1 GB of high-speed data for $15 per month. A Verizon plan gives you access to the largest network in the U.S. and reliable 4G coverage. Although 5G provides the fastest connection, note that 5G service coverage is not yet widespread.

Google Fi Flexible  

Best Pay-As-You-Go

4 out of 5

MONTHLY COST$20 +$10/GB

PLAN TYPEPrepaid

DATAVaries

Google Fi Flexible: The Google Fi Flexible cell phone plan places No. 3 in our rating of the Best Cell Phone Plans of 2021. The Flexible plan starts at $20 per month and includes 15 GB of high-speed data, with each extra GB of data costing $10. The plan's affordability and the fact that it doesn't require a contract make it good for budget-conscious shoppers and those wanting to limit overages and unused data. If you have a 5G compatible device, you can get 5G coverage for free.

T-Mobile Magenta  

Best Nationwide Coverage for 5G

4 out of 5

MONTHLY COST$70

PLAN TYPEContract

DATAUnlimited

T-Mobile Magenta: The T-Mobile Magenta plan offers coverage for up to eight lines and includes 100 GB of high-speed data along with 5 GB to use as a mobile hotspot. The plan starts at $70 a month (with taxes and fees included) and has plenty of optional data, and streaming services.

Visible Unlimited  

Best for Unlimited High-Speed Data

4 out of 5

MONTHLY COST$40

PLAN TYPEPrepaid

DATAUnlimited

Visible Unlimited: Visible’s Unlimited plan is $40 per line per month. If you build a plan for at least four people, your per-line cost drops to $25 per month. The plan includes unlimited talking, texting, and data, hotspot capability with data speeds of up to 5 megabits per second, Wi-Fi calling (on a compatible device), and calls and texts to Canada and Mexico. Visible runs on Verizon’s network.

T-Mobile Essentials  

3.9 out of 5

MONTHLY COST$60

PLAN TYPEContract

DATAUnlimited

T-Mobile Essentials: T-Mobile Essentials cell phone plan starts at $60 a month and gives you 50 GB of high-speed data. You can cover up to six lines under this plan, which makes it appealing for families. A mobile hotspot comes with the plan and includes unlimited data at 3G speeds. You will have access to T-Mobile’s 5G network, which is the largest in the country.

Mint Mobile Unlimited  

3.9 out of 5

MONTHLY COST$30 and Up

PLAN TYPEPrepaid (3, 6 & 12 Month Plans)

DATAUnlimited

Mint Mobile Unlimited: Mint Mobile Unlimited is No. 6 in the Best Cell Phone plans of 2021 rating. It starts at $30 per month and gives you 35 GB of high-speed data along with a mobile hotspot with 5 GB of data. You’ll have access to 4G LTE networks as well as 5G networks in certain areas with a compatible device.

Metro by T-Mobile Unlimited Prepaid (5 GB Hotspot)  

3.8 out of 5

MONTHLY COST$50

PLAN TYPEPrepaid

DATAUnlimited

Metro by T-Mobile Unlimited Prepaid (5 GB Hotspot): This plan starts at $50 and gives you unlimited high-speed data, 5 GB of hotspot data, and a Google One membership (which gives you 100 GB of storage for images, videos, and files within Google Workspace). The plan ranks No. 8 in our list of the Best Cell Phone Plans of 2021 and No. 5 in our Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans of 2021 ratings.

Google Fi Unlimited  

3.7 out of 5

MONTHLY COST$70

PLAN TYPEPrepaid

DATAUnlimited

Google Fi Unlimited: Google Fi Unlimited starts at $70 per month and is a more robust plan than Google Fi Flexible. You can add up to six lines, and customers receive coverage on 4G LTE and 5G networks with compatible devices. With the unlimited plan, you can make free calls from the U.S. to more than 50 countries and territories. A bonus feature of the plan is that it comes with a Google One membership. This allows each person on the plan 100 GB of cloud storage.

Tello Economy  

3.4 out of 5

MONTHLY COST$10

PLAN TYPEPrepaidDATA

Unlimited

Tello Economy: Economy is Tello’s base plan, which comes with 1 GB of high-speed data, unlimited talking, and unlimited texting. At $10 per month, it’s the least expensive plan to make our list. There is no contract or setup fee, and for compatible cell phones, the plan comes with free tethering of your phone as a mobile hotspot. One key feature is the ability to restructure your plan at any time. Tello Economy has both 4G LTE and 5G cellular networks.

(sources: usnews.com, reviews.org)

Best Pet Insurance

Are you interested in purchasing insurance coverage that will help pay for veterinary expenses necessary for taking care of your pet? Below we will provide you with answers to your questions, and our two top choices.

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Questions to consider may include:

  • Does the coverage offered have exclusion for preexisting conditions? If so, the insurer will likely not pay for treatment for any condition for which the pet owner has received medical advice or the pet has received treatment prior to enrollment in a new pet insurance policy.
  • Is there a waiting or affiliation period, which means the period of time specified in a pet insurance policy which must pass before some or all of the coverage in the policy can begin? If so, any costs for treatment provided before the end of the waiting period will not be covered by the policy.
  • Does the coverage exclude costs for treatment of a hereditary disorder, which means an abnormality that is genetically transmitted from parent to offspring and may cause illness or disease? If your pet has a hereditary disorder, such as a hip dysplasia, the insurer will not pay for treatment related to that disorder.
  • Does the coverage exclude costs for a congenital anomaly or disorder, which means a condition that is present from birth, whether inherited or caused by the environment, and which may cause or otherwise contribute to illness or disease? If your pet has a health issued identified as a congenital anomaly or disorder the insurer will not pay for treatment related to that disorder.
  • Is there a deductible or coinsurance clause that causes any claim reimbursement to be reduced by a set amount? Your veterinarian will expect you to pay the amount of any deductible or coinsurance percentage.
  • Is there an annual or lifetime policy limit that will cap the amount that will be paid for veterinary services? If so you need to consider whether the coverage is a reasonable investment in terms of premium paid versus total benefit available.
  • Will the renewal premium be increased if a claim is made? If so, you might want to know what is the amount of increase that takes place.
  • Is there a basis for reimbursement or formula for payment for veterinary services other than the actual amount of the billed services? Examples include claims payments based upon a standardized schedule of costs or a schedule of “usual and customary” charges in the industry for the services provided. Your veterinarian will expect you to pay the balance of any billed amount not paid by the insurer.
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Here are our two top picks:

1. BEST OVERALL- Pet Assure

Why We Chose It

While Pet Assure doesn’t fall under the standard pet insurance umbrella, its low cost and flexibility make it our top pick for owners of all types of pets.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Low monthly fees
  • Covers all types of pets
  • No annual limits or deductibles
  • Not subject to waiting periods
  • Pays for pre-existing conditions

Cons

  • Limited to in-network veterinarians (which number about 5,600)
  • Covers only 25% of costs
  • Prescriptions not covered

Coverage

Pet Assure offers plans for a single cat, a single dog, a family plan for up to four animals of any size, and an unlimited plan for all pets in your household. Best of all, there’s no waiting period before you can use your coverage. All of Pet Assure’s plans come with discounted veterinary services, including treatments related to:

  • Accidents
  • Illnesses
  • Preventive care
  • Pre-existing conditions

Pricing

Pet Assure insurance is pretty affordable, plus there is no deductible. You can save some money on your policy if you choose the annual billing option. These are the rates for each insurance plan:

  • Single cat plan: $9.95 per month 
  • Single dog plan: $11.95 per month
  • Family plan: $16.95 per month
  • Unlimited plan: $21.95 per month

Usage

Instead of paying for veterinary costs in full and out-of-pocket, Pet Assure members simply need to visit a participating veterinarian and present their membership information to get discounted services. The Pet Assure network limits you to one of more than 5,600 participating vets spread throughout the country and will reimburse 25% of veterinary costs.

  • Deductibles: None
  • Annual limits: None
  • Copays: 75%
  • Waiting period: None
  • Network size: 5,600 providers

2. BEST FOR DISCOUNTS- GEICO

Why We Chose It

GEICO offers more pet insurance discounts than any other competitor, including lower rates for paying in advance, enrolling multiple pets, and spaying or neutering your dog or cat.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Generous discounts available
  • Low monthly premiums
  • Flexible policy terms
  • Offers wellness benefits

Cons

  • Policies administered by a third party
  • Wellness plans carry little value
  • Limited online resources
  • No option for unlimited benefits

Coverage

GEICO offers one pet insurance policy, and it’s underwritten by Embrace, another company on this list that strictly offers pet insurance. You can begin using your coverage 14 days after enrollment begins. GEICO’s pet insurance policies will reimburse up to $30,000 for the cost of treatments related to:

  • Accidents
  • Broken bones
  • Swallowed objects
  • Illnesses
  • Dental issues
  • Cancer treatment

Pricing

GEICO pet insurance starts at $68 per year, but you can get a quote online to see how much it will cost for your pet specifically. You can choose a deductible between $200 to $1,000, and choosing a higher deductible can help you lock in a lower monthly rate.

Additionally, GEICO offers a handful of discounts for pet owners. There are savings for pets that are spayed or neutered. You can also get a lower rate by paying your entire annual premium upfront, and enrolling more than one pet on your policy. 

Usage

GEICO doesn’t have any restrictions on where you can use your pet insurance coverage, which means you can take your dog or cat to any licensed veterinarian in the country. You can also file claims directly through Embrace’s website. However, you must wait 14 days before you can use the coverage at the vet’s office. Plus, your pet must have visited a vet within the last year in order to enroll. 

  • Deductibles: $200 to $1,000
  • Annual limits: Up to $30,000
  • Copays: 10% to 30%
  • Waiting period: 14 days for accidents and illnesses
  • Network size: Unlimited

(sources: insurance.ca.gov, investopedia.com )

Affordable Solar Panels

Upgrading to photovoltaic solar panels can be an expensive commitment, but there are plenty of cheap solar panels to choose from. Read on for more information about solar options.

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1. Solarland SLP020-24U Silver Poly 24 Volt Solar Panel

Solarland panels are the cheapest overall. 

  • $63.80 per panel
  • 20-watt panels
  • Unknown efficiency
  • 10-year warranty on power output

Their most popular cheap model is the Solarland SLP020-24U Silver Poly 24 Volt Solar Panel, which is typically used for powering traffic lights and other small off-grid uses. 

Certain features, like its efficiency rating, are either non-existent or challenging to find, which makes this cheap panel a potentially risky purchase.

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2. LONGi Model #LR6-60-HPB-310M

As for residential solar panels that can power an entire house, the LONGi brand is well-rated on SolarReviews and offers a few cheap model types, including LONGi Model #LR6-60-HPB-310M and LONGi Model #LR6-60-HPB-300M.

  • $165 per panel
  • 310-watt panels
  • 18.7% efficiency
  • Limited 25-year warranty

LONGi is a great panel that offers good efficiency and reliable wattage, it is a high-quality cheap panel option. 

3. LONGi Model #LR6-60-HPB-300M 

LONGi also offers a lower wattage model if you want to spend a little less per square foot and have roof space to spare for extra panels.

  • $196.11 per panel
  • 300-watt panels
  • 18.1% efficiency
  • Limited 25-year warranty

Although LONGi panels are not as efficient as their top-tier counterparts, they can provide enough power for your entire home for a guaranteed 25 years.

4. Canadian Solar Model #CS3K-315MS

Canadian Solar is another highly-rated, cost-effective solar panel manufacturer. The cheapest option is Model #CS3K-315MS.

  • $207.90 per panel
  • 315-watt panels
  • 18.96% efficiency
  • 25-year output warranty

Canadian Solar panels are slightly more expensive than LONGi but they offer better efficiency, so you can use less of them to power your home.

5. Panasonic Model #VBH330RA03K

Panasonic solar panels are regarded as some of the best-quality panels, but you can find a good deal with the VBH330RA03K model.

  • $291.18 per panel
  • 330-watt panels
  • 19.7% efficiency
  • 25-year warranty

Panasonic is definitely the most costly option on this list, but its brand recognition, higher efficiency, and wattage might make it worth the money in exchange for the peace of mind that comes with a known and well-liked brand. 

Why do solar panel costs vary?

Although individual solar panel prices are listed, normally when solar installers order materials for installation, they might be able to find a better deal because of relationships they have with manufacturers or through various incentives for solar in your state. 

Find what solar incentives you could be eligible for here.

When buying solar panels for a project, the cost per watt of the panel can end up being less than if you bought 20 individual panels. Working with a licensed installer can help you get the best quality panel for the best cost.

Additionally, while cheap solar panels offer the best price upfront, they might not be the best long-term option. Cheap solar panels have a shorter lifespan because usually what makes them cheap is that they have lower efficiency, or ability to absorb sunlight, and they deteriorate more quickly. 

However, if you are determined to get the best deal for solar panels, going the DIY route might be your best bet. 

Are buying cheap solar panels worth it?

Solar panels vary in price for a few reasons. High efficiency panels with more solar cells, or ones that have a higher wattage amount, are generally more expensive because they can produce more electricity per panel than less efficient options. 

While purchasing cheap solar panels might save you money upfront, the long-term benefit of installing more expensive solar panels might outweigh the initial savings. Higher-quality panels will produce more electricity and last longer so you will need less panels to cover the energy consumption of your home. 

Cost generally comes down to how a panel was built, both in terms of quality and the method used, i.e. monocrystalline versus polycrystalline, and its efficiency.

While cheap solar panels might be tempting, the best-priced solar panels are ones that will provide the highest payback over the long term. Despite the large initial price tag involved with a quality solar system, depending on where you live, you can save upwards of $60,000 over a 25-year period instead of spending that money on utility bills.

Solar power is one of the most profitable renewable energy home investments in the United States and is currently helping hundreds of thousands of homeowners save money on their electricity bills. Provided you install the right system size, you can wipe out all or most of your electric bill. Solar panel installation companies are more than happy to help you find the cheapest solar installation.

Solar Energy Terms

Renewable Energy

A renewal energy resource is an energy resource that is regenerative or virtually inexhaustible. Typical examples are solar, wind, geothermal, and water. A renewal energy resource is an energy resource that is regenerative or virtually inexhaustible. Typical examples are solar, wind, geothermal. 

Solar Energy

Solar energy-Solar energy is electromagnetic energy transmitted from the sun. Solar energy is measured is kilowatt hours (kWh) or megawatt hours.

kWh and MWh

kWh and MWhkWh and MWh are measurements of energy production and usage. kWh stands for kilowatt hour. MWh stands for megawatt hour.

Alternating current (AC)

Alternating current is a type of electrical current, the direction of which is reversed at regular intervals or cycles. In the United States, the standard is 120 reversals or 60 cycles per second. Electricity transmission networks use AC because voltage can be controlled with relative ease. This is the type of current used by homes and buildings.

Direct current (DC)

Direct current is a type of electricity transmission and distribution by which electricity flows in one direction through the conductor, usually relatively low voltage and high current. This is the type of current created by your solar panels. To be used for homes, DC must be converted to alternating current (AC) using an inverter.

Photovoltaic (PV)

The process by which sunlight is converted into energy. The sun emits photons (light), which generates electricity when they strike a photovoltaic cell. A photovoltaic module is another term for a solar panel.

(sources: affordable-solar.com, solarreviews.com)

Best GPS Trackers

We cover GPS trackers for vehicles, handheld GPS tracking devices for hiking and camping, and GPS watches that cover a range of activities. Read on for what to look for before buying.

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1.  BEST VALUE FOR VEHICLES- Optimus 2.0 4g LTE GPS Tracker

This GPS tracker gives you tons of bang for your buck, with a host of attractive features and an equally attractive price point—under $50 at the time of this writing. It’s smaller than a deck of cards and comes with a water-resistant magnetic case that’s strong enough to place under your car, hidden out of sight. 

You can set up custom alerts through the app for things like your car going out of range or a low battery, plus access driving reports and change real-time tracking from 60 seconds to every 30 or 10 seconds. There’s also an SOS button and the battery is said to last up to two weeks on a single charge. The monthly service fee is a competitive $19.95 per month, with coverage in the U.S. and Canada. 

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2. BEST MIDPRICED UNIT FOR VEHICLES- Bouncie 4g LTE GPS Tracker

While this GPS tracker is pricier than the option above, its monthly service fee is an incredibly reasonable $8 per month. The Bouncie has 15-second real-time data reporting, plus it has attractive features, including impact detection to send alerts to roadside assistance if there's an accident. It also has an SOS button, detects diagnostic trouble codes from your vehicle, and keeps you apprised of speed limits in real time during a trip. 

You can set up a circular geofence to get pinged if your car leaves or enters (slightly limiting, as other devices don’t constrain the zone to a circle), and the Bouncie is Alexa-compatible, Not bad for a tracker that’s about a 2-inch square.

3. BEST PREMIUM FOR VEHICLES- Americaloc GL300 GPS tracker

This GPS tracker comes with exceptional features, sending more alerts than other models in its price category—plus it has a reasonable monthly service fee. Along with real-time tracking in 10-, 20-, 30-, and 60-second increments, geofencing, and an SOS button, the tracker also gives you a heads-up if there’s bad weather ahead and lets you know when the car is turned on or off. 

Americaloc GL300 has solid battery life and it can be hardwired for cars that don’t have an onboard II diagnostic port (OBD II). The monthly service fee is $24.95, but paying for the year up front knocks it down to $19.99 per month. Coverage includes U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and it can be used in other countries with a SIM card.

4. BEST VALUE FOR HIKING- Gramin etrex Touch 35

In addition to its competitive price point—$179 at the time of this writing—one of the best reasons to buy Garmin’s eTrex Touch is the display, which has a color-rich 2.6-inch touchscreen that works like a smartphone. You can set up profiles for multiple activities ranging from climbing to hiking and it features an altimeter, barometer, and three-axis electronic compass. 

Other highlights include a 4GB memory and GPS plus GLONASS satellites for better tracking in challenging conditions. The eTrex is also durable and water-resistant, with built-in mapping and more than 250,000 preloaded geocaches and coverage in the U.S. and Canada.

5. BEST PREMIUM FOR HIKING- Garmin inReach Explorer+GPS Tracker

This bright, attractive handheld GPS tracker is said to deliver 100 hours of battery life on a single charge—and that’s just one of its impressive features. It also has two-way messaging, with access to the global Iridium satellite network to communicate when there’s no cell service. Plus, it triggers an interactive SPS to a 24/7 search and rescue center.

The Garmin inReach Explorer+ has a IPX7 water rating (meaning: it’s essentially waterproof) and gives you access to downloadable maps along with U.S. NOAA charts. Other highlights include a barometric altimeter, built-in digital compass, and accelerometer.

6.  BEST SPLURGE FOR HIKING- Garmin GPSMAP 66sr

This splurgeworthy handheld tracker features a colorful, sunlight-readable, 3-inch bright backlit display, plus expanded GSSN and multiband technology for better coverage in deep valleys and other challenging conditions. 

There’s an altimeter, barometer, and 3-axis electronic compass, along with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that’s said to last up to 36 hours in standard mode. The Garmin 66sr is considered waterproof, with a IPX7 rating, and connects via Bluetooth and  ANT+, which allows all wireless devices to communicate to share vital information like tracking and routes.

7. BEST VALUE GPS WATCH- Garmin Instinct GPS Watch

If you’re looking for an affordable, high-quality GPS watch from market-leader Garmin, the Instinct is tough to beat—and it gets rave reviews, with an average 4.7 stars from more than 20,900 customers. 

The watch is extra-durable, crafted to meet military standards for shock and water resistance, has expanded GSSN for better coverage in challenging conditions, and has a built-in three-axis compass and barometric altimeter. There’s also a backtrack feature that allows you to retrace your steps on the trail and the battery is said to last up to 16 hours in GPS mode. 

On a side note, another type of GPS tracking may be used by Employers and fleet managers. GPS fleet tracking offers several advantages, including improved driver safety, and vehicle and fuel management. GPS fleet tracking software includes alerts and reporting features that can aid businesses' decision making. By tracking driver performance, route trends, and fuel consumption, businesses can optimize fleet performance and save money.

(sources: businessnewsdaily.com, toptenreviews.com, popularmechanics.comg.com, bestcolleges.com)

Background Checker

The best background check services allow you to simply and easily verify someone's identity and provide useful information on that person.

There are a number of reasons why you might want to run such a check, such as to search for family or friends you've lost contact with; or indeed you may even want to simply see what data has been made available on you.

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Top 4 Background Check Services

1. Intelius

Best background check service for beginners

REASONS TO BUY

-Includes education

-Useful visualizations

-Subscription and single-report options

-Social network viewer

REASONS TO AVOID

Relatively expensive

Intelius’s background checks are more exhaustive than many. In addition to the usual addresses, criminal history and financial information, it also includes educational history – useful data if you’re trying to use Intelius to get in touch with someone from your past.

Intelius specially recommends using its service to reconnect with old friends, check someone’s criminal record, and see what appears in your background check. It also allows you to find out who is calling you, review property data on the house you want. The service is quick at getting you the information you want, and all searches are private and confidential and will not show that you searched for that information.

Intelius offers seven unique background search products, ranging from phone directory lookups to full-scale background checks. No matter which of these you want to use, you’ll need to sign up for a long-term membership to access them. Each plan comes with a similar monthly subscription cost, but initial trial period prices vary.

Besides that extensive database, Intelius is notable for its intuitive interface. Despite some slightly confusing billing practices, we consider this to be one of the best background check services. We also like the way Intelius shows connections as a graph, making it easy to see how things are related. There’s also a monthly subscription option and with the quality on show from Intelius, it should be worth the expense.

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2. Instant Checkmate

Best background check service for data

REASONS TO BUY

Good value for money

Accurate and timely data

Great search tools

Unlimited reports with subscription

REASONS TO AVOID

– No single-report option

Instant Checkmate is a people search finder that aggregates data from public records. The service is simple to use and offers a wide range of information, including contact details and criminal records. Results aren’t instantaneous and the service prompts you with a lot of questions and warnings before delivering a report, which can be annoying.

Instant Checkmate enables you to search for someone based on just their name, city, and state. There’s also a reverse phone lookup feature, although this is somewhat hard to find on the Instant Checkmate website. When you run a search, you’re presented with a list of potential matches and you can pull a detailed report for any individual.

The service only checks public records, so there’s no information available through Instant Checkmate that you can’t get elsewhere. However, the platform does cast a wide net and includes details about properties, vehicles past address, family members, marriages, and bankruptcies in its reports. The tool will also tell you if the individual you’re searching is a registered sex offender, if they hold a gun license, or if they have any criminal, arrest, or traffic records.

One of the best things about this service is that you get a huge range of data compared to similar search tools. Running a search with Instant Checkmate can be frustrating since you have to click through more than a dozen pop-ups before you can see the final report. If you can overlook this flaw, though, Instant Checkmate is relatively easy to use.

3. TruthFinder

Best background check service for frequent checks

REASONS TO BUY

Unlimited background checks

Self-monitoring tools

Impressive people finding capabilities

REASONS TO AVOID

Not cheap

TruthFinder offers a range of different background check features covering both public and private databases, and the likes of self-monitoring tools – so you can see what other people might find out about you.

TruthFinder offers many of the same features that you’d expect to find with other background check services. These include searches that cover both public and private databases plus the ability to identify potential associates and relatives of your search subject. 

The TruthFinder platform also offers self-monitoring tools, meaning you can view your record to see what potential employers, or other people who search for you, will see on the platform. Through TruthFinder, you can even claim a particular record as your own. If you do this, you’ll be able to correct factual inaccuracies on it or hide it from other TruthFinder users.

Its skills as a people finder platform are impressive, and TruthFinder provides a wealth of information on the person you’re searching for. Another major strength here is the ability to complete unlimited background checks. The main downside is it isn’t a cheap service, but if you’re going to use TruthFinder a lot, it’ll certainly be worth the outlay.

4. US Search

Best budget background check service

REASONS TO BUY

Affordable reporting

Good search options

Up-to-date data

Search results are free

Reports include contact information

REASONS TO AVOID

No option to buy a single report

In addition to background checks, US Search enables you to travel back in time: the site looks and feels like Yahoo circa 1998. But the lack of web design budget appears to mean that US Search has been able to invest more in thorough search options and excellent price points.

You can search people by name, phone number, address, or email address, and US Search will turn up a large list of search results to help you find the exact person for whom you are looking. Unlike other people search tools, US Search doesn’t put up a paywall in front of the search results. You’ll be able to see the list so you can find the right person—you only pay to access the full report for an individual.

The reports contain basic information like the names of family members, past addresses, properties owned, and any criminal records. Helpfully, they also offer any known phone numbers, email addresses, and social media handles so that you can get in touch with the person you’re searching for. That makes US Search particularly useful for reconnecting with an old friend or long-lost relative.

There are various pricing options available, starting with a single report cost, or a monthly subscription available for unlimited searches, or a quarterly package for the same but with a discount.

It may not be pretty, but it’s certainly pretty good value for money, not to mention a robust background check solution.

Highly Rated Background Check Software

Checkr

What is Checkr?

Checkr is a cloud-based screening solution designed to help businesses of all sizes manage background verification for employees and job applicants. The platform enables users to streamline workflows, add new users, share candidate records with review team, and insert multiple checks at different stages of recruitment.

Checkr comes with a centralized dashboard, which displays a colour-coded status for every screening performed for each candidate. Features include in-house monitoring, information encryption, third-party testing, real-time audit logs, and data source tracking. Its screenings management feature facilitates checks for Social Security Number (SSN) trace, criminal records, credentials verification, drugs, and more. Besides, its artificial intelligence-based (AI) system automatically classifies records based on FCRA, EEOC and other state regulations.

Checkr enables hiring managers to pull consumer credit reports for verifying financial performance and get insights into credit accounts, liabilities, late payments, charge-offs, and public records. The platform integrates with various applicant tracking systems and third-party applications such as Oracle, Kenexa, Workday, and Greenhouse.

(sources: techradar.com, getapp.com)

Best Car Values for Donation

Here are four things to know before you donate a car. Read on to learn how to donate your car and how to take a tax deduction if you’re eligible.

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Do you have an old vehicle sitting around that you’re no longer using?

If so, one option to get it off your hands is to donate it to a charity. Depending on what the charity needs and the kind of vehicle you have, the charity itself may use the vehicle, sell it to a needy individual for a reduced price, auction it off for money or sell it to a salvage yard. In some cases, your vehicle doesn’t even need to be in running condition for you to be able to donate it. What kinds of vehicles can be donated? Almost all vehicles, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, boats, snowmobiles, farm equipment and construction equipment.

Many charities make it very easy for you to donate your car in just a few steps. Many charities will even pick up your car for free. But if you also want to claim a deduction on your taxes and get a little bit back yourself, the rules are a bit hazier.

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How to donate your car

The easiest way to donate your car is to simply contact a charity and arrange for it to come pick up your vehicle. Many of the larger charities like Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill and the Salvation Army offer dedicated services for this, complete with phone hotlines and websites with donation forms. There are even dedicated car donation services like Charitable Adult Rides & Services, which handles all of the details and lets you choose the charity you’d like the proceeds to go to.

If you’re up for a bit more work, another option is to simply sell the car yourself and donate the money. In some cases this can be more beneficial to the charity, since you may be able to sell it yourself for more than the charity could get at auction for it. At the end of the day, it’s your choice.

Steps to stay safe when donating your car

Donating your car to a charity is generally safe. Still, you’ll want to take a few steps to help protect yourself and not be held liable for anything that happens with your car after you give it away.

  • Be wary of organizations that sound too good to be true — for example, if they promise that you can deduct however much you want from your taxes.
  • Get a receipt from the charity.
  • Remove your car’s license plates once you’re done driving it.
  • File a transfer form to sign over your title with your state’s transportation or motor vehicle agency.

Tax deductions: What to know before you donate your car 

One of the biggest benefits of donating your car is that you might be able to get a pretty sweet tax deduction. But just like anything else the IRS controls, it’s not as simple as handing the car over to a charity and then deducting its value from your taxable income. Instead, you’ll need to meet certain criteria in order to deduct the donation from your taxes. You can get more info from the IRS’ guide to vehicle donation.

You’ll need to itemize your deductions

You can claim a charitable deduction (including for cars) only if you itemize your taxes. And unfortunately, with the new tax law changes, most people are better off claiming the standard deduction, so your car donation might not benefit you at all come tax time.

You’ll need to donate to a charity that qualifies

In order for your donation to count as a tax deduction, you’ll need to hand your car over to a registered 501(c)(3) organization or tax-exempt religious institution. You can verify the charity’s eligibility by calling the IRS hotline at 1-877-829-5500 or by visiting the IRS website.

You’ll need to collect certain documents

After you hand off your car to the charity, you should get a written receipt right away. Depending on what the charity does with your car, you’ll also get either a written acknowledgement or a Form 1098-C (Contributions of Motor Vehicles, Boats, and Airplanes) at some point. Keep a hold of this document, as you may need the information to file your taxes, and you may even need to send the document itself in if you’re deducting more than $500 from your taxes.

In addition, if you’re donating a car worth more than $5,000 and the charity doesn’t plan to sell it for cash, you’ll need to get an official written appraisal at least 60 days before you donate the car as well.

Filing the proper tax forms

Most charities sell the cars that are donated to them for money. In that case, you can deduct the car’s final selling price, which the charity will provide to you with written acknowledgement or Form 1098-C.

You’ll need to file the following documents with your tax return, depending on how much you can deduct:

  • $500 or less: Nothing in particular, but hang on to your records in case you’re audited.
  • $501 to $5,000: File Form 1098-C or the written acknowledgement, plus Section A of Form 8283.
  • More than $5,000: File Form 1098-C or the written acknowledgement, plus Section B of Form 8283 and the written appraisal of the vehicle if the charity isn’t selling it.

Bottom line

Whether you can qualify for a tax deduction from a car donation or not, you can rest assured that charities will be grateful for it. Even your old junker may qualify as a donation since charities can sell it to a scrap yard. So consider donating your car — it’s a great way to clear your yard while helping people out at the same time. It’s a win-win scenario — just make sure to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s if you do plan on taking a deduction.

(sources: creditkarma.com , habitat.org)

Jobs Search and ATS

There are many ways to track applicants today, so we will help guide you.

When looking into your options, it's important to keep these items in mind: 1) ease of use 2) total cost of ownership 3) integrations into existing systems 4) stability and security.

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What is an Applicant Tracking System?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a human resources software that acts as a database for job applicants. ATS are used by companies of all sizes to organize, search, and communicate with large groups of applicants. Ninety-nine percent of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS as part of their recruiting strategy.

The main goal of an ATS is to make life easier for recruiters and hiring managers. Companies often hire for multiple positions at once and receive hundreds if not thousands of applicants for each job opening. When a recruiter or hiring manager receives that many resumes, it’s not feasible for them to carefully read each one.

ATS makes searching easier—or even automated—saving time while avoiding human error. As an applicant, you should optimize and tailor your resume to the job for which you’re applying. 

How do Applicant Tracking Systems Work?

Regardless of each ATS’s strengths and weaknesses, they all follow the same basic process.

When you apply through an ATS, you will most likely be asked to answer what are called “knockout questions.” Knockout questions can be in the style of check boxes or short answer questions. Their purpose is to narrow the pool of applicants.

If an applicant answers any of the knockout questions unsatisfactorily, the resume will either be flagged or auto-rejected by the ATS. If you answer the knockout questions correctly, your resume will make it through to the next stage.

All applicant tracking systems parse and store resume information in ways that make candidates easy to filter and search by keyword.

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Recruiters and hiring managers can then search the resumes stored in the ATS by using a few different functionalities.

Viewing applications: Many recruiters will glance at each resume that comes through their applicant tracking system. It will likely be a brief glance, so applicants should always be careful to make their top skills and qualifications easily visible.

Automatic rankings: Some applicant tracking systems will compare your resume to the job description and rank applicants based on how well their resume matches the job description. Recruiters can focus on top-ranked candidates instead of reading through each resume.

Keyword Searches: Recruiters and hiring managers can search resumes stored in the ATS by using keywords. These resume keywords are commonly the keywords used in the job posting. They could be based on skills, experiences, location, former employers, or work experience. The image below shows a candidate search window from the perspective of the hiring manager/recruiter.

Applicant Tracking System Features

Each ATS is different, but most of the top ATS have the same general features. These features include:

Resume ParsingThe ATS will extract and organize the parts of each resume into structured information.
Resume StorageOnce entered into the ATS, resumes remain in the system as possible candidates for future positions.
Keyword SearchRecruiters and hiring managers can search by any keyword, often with the Boolean search. Boolean search connects keywords using AND, OR, NOT, and NEAR.
FiltersFilters can include the job seeker’s location, the source of your application, how long ago you applied to the company, and whether or not you are a referral.
Automated Email CustomizationCompanies can customize rejection letters and other emails to ensure that applicants get a response to their application.

It’s good to note that there are hundreds of applicant tracking systems, each featuring unique specialties. They don’t all parse, rank, or filter your resume in the same way.

This means that optimizing your formatting or keyword density for one ATS may not be ideal for another. For this reason, Jobscan now offers ATS-specific advice. Just add the URL in your Jobscan match report and the tool will return unique tips based on the company’s applicant tracking system.

Social Media and Application Tracking Systems

Your social media profile can help your job search, since some ATS use social media to search for potential employees. How does it work? Certain ATS softwares have the ability to search through social channels for keywords. So, update your profiles with common keywords for the job industry you are interested in, as well as your work experience, and you might just be contacted about a great job.

How to Beat an Applicant Tracking System

Optimizing your resume for ATS is an important part of the modern job searching process. Without paying attention to keywords, formatting, other ATS-friendly elements, qualified candidates can slip through the cracks.

Here are some quick tips on how to beat applicant tracking systems:

1. Tailor Your Resume to the Job Description.

One-size-fits-all resumes do not work well for modern job searches. Customizing your resume for each job gives you the best chance of being identified as a great candidate. Tailor your resume headline to match the role and prioritize your most relevant skills and experience.

2. Match Your Resume Keywords to Skills Found in the Job Description.

Optimize for ATS search and ranking algorithms by paying close attention to the keywords you include on your resume. Keywords are most commonly the hard skills requirements listed in the job description. Include as many relevant skills and keywords as possible on your resume.

3. Use Long-Form and Acronym Versions of Keywords.

Recruiters and hiring managers may search by keywords when looking for candidates. Some ATS will only return exact keyword match results, which means that if you included the term “Search Engine Optimization” without its acronym counterpart, your profile may not appear in a recruiter’s search for the term “SEO.”

4. Use Chronological or Hybrid Resume Format.

Formats that deemphasize work history, like the functional resume format, don’t work well for applicant tracking systems that count on more traditional reverse chronological formatting to understand an applicant’s experience. Recruiters are also most familiar with chronological and hybrid resume formats.

5. Don’t Use Tables or Columns.

Even though tables and columns can improve readability for human readers, they may cause parsing errors in the ATS.

6. Use a Screen-Friendly, Traditional Font.

For readability, it’s best to use a traditional serif or sans serif font. Some ATS will automatically change unfamiliar fonts which can alter the design of your resume.

7. Don’t Use Headers or Footers.

The information in headers and footers may get lost or cause parsing errors inside and ATS.

8. Use Standard Resume Section Headings.

Section headers like “Where I’ve Been” in place of “Work Experience” may confuse applicant tracking systems, causing them to organize information incorrectly.

9. Save Your File as a .docx if Possible

A docx file is most compatible with ATS.

(sources: jobscan, capterra, wikipedia)

Hepatitis Help and Info

There are many ways to help treat hep c, so we will help guide you.

When looking into your options, it's important to keep these items in mind: 1) prescriptions drugs vs natural remedies 2) costs of either treatment 3) how hard is it to change your lifestyle 4) your willingness to change

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Hep C Treatments

Antiviral Medications

Hepatitis C infection is treated with antiviral medications intended to clear the virus from your body. The goal of treatment is to have no hepatitis C virus detected in your body at least 12 weeks after you complete treatment.

Researchers have recently made significant advances in treatment for hepatitis C using new, “direct-acting” antiviral medications, sometimes in combination with existing ones. As a result, people experience better outcomes, fewer side effects and shorter treatment times — some as short as eight weeks. The choice of medications and length of treatment depend on the hepatitis C genotype, presence of existing liver damage, other medical conditions and prior treatments.

Due to the pace of research, recommendations for medications and treatment regimens are changing rapidly. It is therefore best to discuss your treatment options with a specialist.

Throughout treatment your care team will monitor your response to medications.

Liver Transplantation

If you have developed serious complications from chronic hepatitis C infection, liver transplantation may be an option. During liver transplantation, the surgeon removes your damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy liver. Most transplanted livers come from deceased donors, though a small number come from living donors who donate a portion of their livers.

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In most cases, a liver transplant alone doesn't cure hepatitis C. The infection is likely to return, requiring treatment with antiviral medication to prevent damage to the transplanted liver. Several studies have demonstrated that new, direct-acting antiviral medication regimens are effective at curing post-transplant hepatitis C. At the same time, treatment with direct-acting antivirals can be achieved in appropriately selected patients before liver transplantation.

List of Hepatitis C Medications:

  • Ribavirin
  • Direct-acting antivirals
  • Combination drugs
  • Harvoni
  • Zepatier
  • Epclusa
  • Vosevi
  • Mavyret
  • Interferons
  • Discontinued medications

Daclatasvir (Daklinza): Approval of this drug meant no more shots for the 1 in 10 people infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) types 1 and 3. You take this pill once a day with sofosbuvir (Sovaldi). You might get a headache or feel a little tired. Tell your doctor if you feel super-sluggish. The FDA warns it can sometimes seriously slow your heart rate, which may require you to get a pacemaker.

Elbasvir and grazoprevir (Zepatier): This once-a-day pill treats HCV types 1 and 4. It may also offer new hope for people with hep C who also have cirrhosis, HIV, late-stage kidney disease, and other hard-to-treat conditions. Like the other antivirals, the side effects are mild. You might have a slight headache or bellyache, or you might feel tired.

Glecaprevir and pibrentasvir (Mavyret): Three pills daily can treat all types of hep C. Side effects are mild and can include headache, fatigue, diarrhea, and nausea.

Ledipasvir and sofosbuvir (Harvoni): This once-a-day pill launched a revolution in hep C treatment. It was the first interferon-free med for people with type 1. A year later, the FDA also gave the thumbs up for people with HCV types 4, 5, and 6 to use itSide effects are mild. You might feel tired or have a slight headache. Some people have a bellyache, diarrhea, and trouble sleeping.

Ombitasvir, paritaprevir, and ritonavir, with dasabuvir (Viekira Pak):Doctors say this treatment works well for people with HCV type 1. You can even take it if you have some liver scarring, as long as your liver still can do its job. Your doctor might call this compensated cirrhosis. You take two pills once a day and another pill twice a day.

Simeprevir (Olysio)and sofosbuvir (Sovaldi):The FDA said these two drugs could be given together to treat people with HCV type 1. Before that, you had to take the pills with interferon or ribavirin. Sofosbuvir can cause fatigue, headache, and tummy troubles and make it hard for you to sleep. Simeprevir may cause dry skin and a rash and make you more sensitive to sunlight.

Sofosbuvir, velpatasvir, and voxilaprevir (Vosevi):This can also treat all types of hep C with one tablet that you take each day. Typically, your doctor will only prescribe this if you don't have cirrhosis and after other treatments have not worked. The most common side effects are headache, tiredness, diarrhea, and nausea.

Vaccinations

Although there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, your doctor will likely recommend that you receive vaccines against the hepatitis A and B viruses. These are separate viruses that also can cause liver damage and complicate the course of chronic hepatitis C.

Diagnosis

Screening for hepatitis C

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all adults ages 18 to 79 years be screened for hepatitis C, even those without symptoms or known liver disease. Screening for HCV is especially important if you're at high risk of exposure, including:

  • Anyone who has ever injected or inhaled illicit drugs
  • Anyone who has abnormal liver function test results with no identified cause
  • Babies born to mothers with hepatitis C
  • Health care and emergency workers who have been exposed to blood or accidental needle sticks
  • People with hemophilia who were treated with clotting factors before 1987
  • People who have undergone long-term hemodialysis treatments
  • People who received blood transfusions or organ transplants before 1992
  • Sexual partners of anyone diagnosed with hepatitis C infection
  • People with HIV infection
  • Anyone born from 1945 to 1965
  • Anyone who has been in prison

Other blood tests

If an initial blood test shows that you have hepatitis C, additional blood tests will:

  • Measure the quantity of the hepatitis C virus in your blood (viral load)
  • Identify the genotype of the virus

(sources: mayoclinic, webmd, healthline)