Don’t Get Tricked: Identity Protection Tips You Need

A woman sits on a gray couch with a laptop on her lap, drinking a cup of coffee

The weather is turning, fall is in the air, and Halloween is around the corner—which means it’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. How can you ensure October is full of treats while not falling for any scammers’ tricks? By arming yourself with these identity protection tips.

Every American should understand the basics of identity theft protection. According to the most recent report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 10% of people 16 and older have been the victim of identity theft. That’s why we’re encouraging people to educate themselves on identity protection tips this autumn. After all, there’s nothing quite as scary as identity fraud!

Here are some identity theft tricks to watch out for and identity security treats to take advantage of.

Trick: Using Your Data to Open New Accounts

According to the FTC, credit card fraud—including opening new credit card accounts—was the most commonly reported form of identity theft in 2019. Thieves can rack up hundreds of dollars’ worth of bills before you know it happened.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to your cybersecurity to avoid your data being used to open new accounts in your name:

  • Never use the same password across multiple accounts. Switch your passwords up.
  • Never use a password that’s easy to guess. This includes passwords that include your birthday, first or last name, or address.
  • Use passwords that are random combinations of numbers, letters, and symbols.
  • Enable two-factor authentication whenever it’s offered.
  • Don’t share or write down your passwords.
  • Never click on unknown email links or pop-ups on websites.
  • Make sure websites are secure before entering your payment information.
  • Never connect to public Wi-Fi that isn’t secure.
  • Never walk away from your laptop in public places.
  • Enable firewall protection.
  • Monitor your accounts and credit reports for unusual activity.

Treat: Check Your Credit Reports

Identity theft protection starts by being proactive and regularly monitoring your information for suspicious activity. That includes monitoring your credit report.

Did you know that you’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report each year from all three credit reporting agencies? In honor of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, make October the month that you request your reports and go over them with a fine-toothed comb. Make sure you recognize all the open accounts under your name.

[Note: Through April 2021, you can review your credit reports weekly.]

An added bonus of checking your reports early in the month is that you can give your credit a good once-over before the upcoming holiday shopping season. Unexplained dips in your credit score could be a sign that something is wrong.

When you request your free credit report from the credit bureaus, your report does not come with your credit score—you have to request that separately. Sign up for ExtraCredit to get 28 of your FICO® scores and your credit reports from all three credit bureaus. You’ll also get account monitoring and $1 million identity theft insurance.

Protect Your Identity with ExtraCredit

Trick: Charity Fraud

October also happens to be Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and everywhere you look, pink is on display. With so much national attention on breast cancer, it’s easy to fall for scams that claim to be legitimate charities.

Consumers should also be on the lookout for phony COVID-19 related scams this fall and winter. For example, watch out for fake charities that pretend to provide COVID relief to groups or families but are simply stealing money.

Even worse than handing over money to these heartless fraudsters is that you may have handed over your credit card numbers or other personally identifiable information in the process.

Treat: Know Your Worthy Causes

Before donating to a charitable cause, do your homework. You can use websites such as Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance to check a charity’s reputation. Additionally, consider contacting your state’s charity regulator to confirm the organization is registered to raise money in your state.

After you’ve verified the status of the charity, consider making donations directly through the national organization. Avoid giving money or financial information directly to someone that reaches out to you through email, phone calls, or door-to-door interactions.

It might be a bit of extra work, but at the end of the day, you can feel good knowing your money is going to support a real cause. If you want to support October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, consider donating directly on the national website. An added bonus is that you’ll receive a receipt you can use for tax deduction purposes.

Trick: Tax Refund Fraud

Every year, the Internal Revenue Service announces its “dirty dozen” scams. These are the tax fraud scams the IRS determines to be the most common for the year. The 2020 list includes refund theft. A tax thief gains access to your information, files a fraudulent return in your name before you do, and has the funds paid out them. The only way you find out about it is that your legitimate tax return—the one you submit—is rejected for having already been filed.

Another way individuals fall victim to tax refund fraud is by using an unscrupulous return vendor. Dishonest vendors and ghost preparers steal personal information to file a tax refund and pocket the money or use that information for other types of identity fraud.

It’s unclear what exactly the next round of stimulus legislation will include, but if another stimulus check is included, watch out for attempts to steal your COVID stimulus checks. Remember that the IRS never contacts you via email, social media, or text.

Treat: File Early

It may feel like you just finished filing your 2019 taxes, but it’s never too early to start preparing for next year. While filing your taxes might be the last thing you want to think about this month, it’s crucial to stay on top of your tax return documents so you’re ready to file as early as possible. This is especially true for individuals who have reason to believe that their personal data has already been breached.

Always ensure you work with a reputable tax return vendor. You can look at the vendor’s online reviews before considering them as an option for tax return help.

Additionally, individuals that are paid to assist with or prepare federal tax returns must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid preparers must sign and include their PTIN on returns. Always ask for this number before you hire an individual and hand over your personal information.

If you file early, you can beat out someone filing before you and receiving your return first. The earliest you can file is January.

Trick: Social Media Scams

Our social media accounts allow us to stay connected with friends and family. Unfortunately, scammers understand this and have started using social media to commit identity fraud.

There are many variations of social media phishing scams, but the basics are generally that a scammer creates an account to gain your trust and gather personal information from you. For example, many people have their name, birthday, and workplace information on their Facebook or other social media account. Those three things alone could be enough for someone to gain everything else they need to create a credit card application under your name or access your existing accounts.

Treat: Be More Exclusive and Private

Consider taking a quiet October morning to comb through your social media accounts. Start with your followers. Consider deleting everyone you don’t know personally.

If a follower base is important to you, consider another approach. Go through each social profile and scrub any personal details. Change the spelling of your last name slightly, delete your birthday, and remove other personal information, such as place of work. Ultimately, this can reduce the risk of being an easy target for identity fraud.

These core identity protection tips should help you stay safer online. With COVID-19 causing people to feel scared, individuals are more vulnerable to being tricked. Remember that identity fraud happens to millions of people every year, and it’s important to remain vigilant.

Stay Vigilant This Fall

Identity theft can have long-lasting consequences. If you’re recovering from identity fraud or simply unhappy with your credit score, consider signing up for ExtraCredit. ExtraCredit is a five-in-one credit product that provides tools to helps you build, guard, track, reward, and restore your credit.

Sign Up Now

The post Don’t Get Tricked: Identity Protection Tips You Need appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

7 Tools for Protecting Your Walls

Protect Your Walls from Cracks

Before driving a nail into a plaster wall, place a small piece of tape over the spot you’re working on. This simple prep step will prevent cracking in the plaster.

Patch It Up

To make a putty for quick patches, combine a tablespoon of salt with a tablespoon of cornstarch.

Mix them together with just enough water to make a paste. Apply while still wet.

Crafty Use for Old Gift Cards

 

In need of a thin yet sturdy household tool for scraping grout, repairing holes in walls, or filling scratches in wood? Use a used-up gift card (or expired credit card) for the job—any unusable hard plastic card will do. And if you’re anything like us, you have plenty of those!

Wall Hole Solution

You’re moving out of an apartment and need to fill in the holes in the wall caused by nails. Just grab a bar of white soap and rub across the hole until the soap fills it. It’s not a permanent fix, but it will make the walls look clean until they can be repainted.

Another Wall Hole Solution

Before spackling small holes in your wall caused by nails, first cut a Q-tip in half and insert in the hole, stick end first. Then spackle as you normally would. The Q-tip will completely fill the hole and ensure you won’t have to go back for a second pass.

Finding Imperfections

Filling and sanding every hole in the wall before you paint can be enough of a pain, but sometimes it’s hard to find every crack, hole, and imperfection. Make your job easier by turning off the lights in a room, then slowly running a flashlight over the entire surface of the wall. The light will cast different shadows in these areas, making them easier to see than they would have been in the daylight.

Got a Screw Loose?

You’ve just struggled to remove a stripped screw from the wall. Now how do you fix the hole? Use a wooden golf tee! First, squirt some wood glue into the hole, then insert the tee as far as it will go, tapping it in place with a hammer. Next, use a utility knife to cut the tee flush with the wall. You’ve now made a stable base for the new screw. Drill a pilot hole into the golf tee, and insert your new screw. Problem solved!

 
For everyday tips and lifehacks, tune in to the Who Knew podcast on iTunes and Stitcher! And don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

The Ultimate Guide to Using a Cash Budget

The post The Ultimate Guide to Using a Cash Budget appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

There are many types of budgets you can try.  A quick Google search will show you lots of options – including the cash envelope budget.  If you say it will not work for you, it means you did not try doing it the right way.

cash envelope budget system

Whether you are getting out of debt or not, you can probably use some help in making sure you control your spending. Contrary to what many people say, the best way to do this is to use cash.  If you are trying to get out of debt, this is the next step you need to follow!  The cash envelope system is an important step to your debt paydown plan.

Ask many financial experts such as Dave Ramsey or Clark Howard and they will agree that using cash is an important factor in controlling your spending. And it is not a system only for people trying to get out of debt, but everyone as it really makes you think more about your spending.

If you are just learning about budgeting, you will want to check out our page — How to Budget. There, you will learn everything you want to know about budgets and budgeting.

 

HOW TO USE THE CASH BUDGET

WHY A CASH ENVELOPE SYSTEM?

Cash is King!!  I say this all of the time because I genuinely believe this.  When I bring up using cash, the first rebuttal I get is “If I have cash, I spend it far too easily.”  Sorry, I don’t buy it.  The main reason that people fail on a cash budget is a lack of tracking what they spend and assigning it a task.

[clickToTweet tweet=”The truth is that when you use cash, you spend more wisely. ” quote=”The truth is that when you use cash, you spend more wisely. “]

When you have only $200 for groceries, and you also know that it must last for two weeks.  It forces you to think twice before you buy that extra item.  A cash budget never lets you overspend because once the money is gone – it’s gone.

 

CASH ENVELOPE CATEGORIES

Getting started using the envelope system for budgeting is pretty simple.  To begin, look at your budget.  The following are cash envelope categories you should consider using:

  • Groceries
  • Clothing
  • Dining Out
  • Hair Cuts/ Beauty
  • Doctor Visits
  • Random Spending (which is your spend as you want – only if you can afford it)
  • Medicine
  • Doctor/Dentist Visits

You will notice that I didn’t include gasoline on my list.  The reason I didn’t is that most people won’t overspend at the pump.  Most of us just fill up our tanks and go about our merry way.  You also don’t drive around and burn fuel or decide to fuel up because your neighbor did.  It is on your budget but is not one you where you will overspend. Not only that, it is usually much more convenient to pay at the pump.

 

PRINTABLE DIY CASH ENVELOPE TEMPLATE

When it comes to using the cash envelope system, you can purchase one such as that sold by Dave Ramsey or you can just use the envelopes in your desk drawer.  I’ve even got a cash envelope template you can use as well (purchase HERE for $2.99).

 

HOW MUCH CASH DO I NEED?

Once you have your categories, you have to determine how much cash you need for each group.  You will figure the amount based on your pay period.

For example, if payday is every two weeks, take the total monthly grocery budgeted amount and divide it by 2.  You will then know how much money you will need for each of the two pay periods for that month.  It is important you have a budget that works (including using budget printables as needed).

Next, review, each category you will use cash for and figure up the amount you will need.  Once you have done that, you will also want to figure out how many of each denomination of bill you will need.  List the total amount, by denomination, on a piece of paper.  Take that, along with a check from your account for the amount, to the bank.  You will make a withdrawal and then split up the cash into each envelope.

 

HOW TO USE THE DAVE RAMSEY ENVELOPE SYSTEM

Sometimes, it is easier to understand something if you can see it in action.  Follow this simple cash budget example to see how it works.

 

START WITH YOUR REGULAR BUDGET

Let’s say you bring home $2,500 per month. You have completed your written budget and have items such as your mortgage, utilities, food, dining out, debts and other expenses.  Most of your expenses are paid with a check or electronic transfer. Those are not the categories to consider for your cash budget.  Instead, look at those items that you don’t pay for all at once, but rather over time.

These are the items that will work best if you use cash.  In this case, you will include groceries, clothing, random spending, doctor visits and dining out.  (We don’t include fuel because there is never a chance you will overspend on fuel).

In this example, we will only use cash for these items:

MONTHLY BUDGET

Groceries – $500
Clothing – $100
Random Spending – $80
Doctor – $50
Dining Out – $100

DETERMINE HOW MUCH CASH YOU NEED PER PAYCHECK

As you can see, the budget above is based on your monthly income.  Since you are paid every two weeks, that means your take-home pay is $1,250 twice a month.  You only need enough money to cover half of each of these categories.  Your spending for each will look like this for each pay period:

MONTHLY BUDGET DIVIDED FOR BI-WEEKLY PAY

Groceries – $250
Clothing – $50
Random Spending – $40
Doctor – $25
Dining Out – $50
Total cash needed:  $415 per pay period

Now that you see what you have budgeted to spend on each category each pay period, you need to determine how many bills of each denomination you will need to get from the bank.

 

KNOWING HOW MUCH CASH YOU NEED FOR A CASH SYSTEM

Using the same cash budget example above, here is how you will do that:

Groceries – $250 —- 3 $50 bills, 5 $20 bills
Clothing – $50 — 2 $20 bills, 1 $10 bill
Random spending – $40 —- 2 $20 bills
Doctor – $25 —- 1 $20 bill, 1 $5 bill
Dining Out – $50 —- 2 $20 bills, 1 $10 bill

You need to get this cash from the bank.  You can’t use the ATM as it will spit out only $20s and $10s and will not give you the correct number of bills.  Make a note to hand to the teller that shows how to break down the cash:

3 $50 bills
12 $20 bills
2 $10 bills
1 $5 bill

Write a check for $415, payable to “CASH” and take it, along with your slip of paper to your bank.  The teller will cash the check and give you the bills you need.

 

FILL YOUR CASH ENVELOPES

When you get home with your cash, it is time to add it to each envelope.  Find the one for each category listed above.  Pull the cash from the bank envelope and split it into each envelope, per the list above.  Add the amount of the deposit to the front of the envelope, adding to any amounts that may be left from the prior pay period.

 

USING THE CASH ENVELOPE SYSTEM

Once you have your cash and your envelopes, it is time to put them to work.  The only – and I mean only – way that this will work is if you track every. Single. Transaction.  I am not joking.  Doing this can help you stay on track, and you also have to account for everything you spend.

For example, shop as usual at the grocery store.  If your total is $20.17, you will pay with the cash from your groceries envelope.  Place any cash you get back into the envelope and then deduct your purchase from the balance.  So, if you had $100 and spent $20.17, the new total cash you have left will be $79.83.

The printable cash envelope template above includes lines on the envelope, so you have a place to track your balance.  If you use your own, add it to the outside or keep a slip of paper inside.

Make sure you track every purchase. You can always see how much money you have left and where it was spent.  It helps you monitor your spending at a glance.  Once the cash is gone  – you are done spending money.

USING THE VIRTUAL CASH ENVELOPE SYSTEM

I also get that sometimes, cash is just something you can’t do. You need (or just really prefer) using your debit or credit card instead. Is there a way you can apply this method when you spend using plastic?

Of course!

Rather than get paper money to put into your envelopes, you can use either a virtual envelope or paper tracking to monitor your spending.

Virtual envelope systems, such as ProActive, help you monitor and control your spending but allow you the convenience of using your credit or debit card.  Rather than paying with cash, you swipe but know how much you have left to spend on each category in your budget.

If you would rather opt for something that is free, you can print out cashless envelopes instead.  They work in the same fashion as cash envelopes.  You still write down the amount you have to spend on each form and as you shop, you keep track.  When you are out of “money” according to your envelope tally, you are done shopping.

You can read even more and get started with different ways to use the envelope method even if you don’t use cash.

 

HOW TO USE A CASH METHOD WHEN SHOPPING ONLINE

So, what if you don’t shop in the store, but rather, make purchases online, how would that work with a cash budget?  Can you even do that?  Yes, you can.  You just have to handle it a little differently.

The first option is to leave some of the money you normally get in cash, in your account.  For example, if you spend $100 every paycheck through online purchases, get $100 less in cash.  You can still account for it by using cashless envelopes instead.  That way, you still monitor your spending and don’t blow your budget.

The other option is to still get all of the cash you normally need.  Then, if you buy something online, head to the bank and re-deposit that back into your account.  You still get the full benefit of using cash and seeing the money come out of your envelopes.

You still can use cash when you shop online, you just have to make some adjustments.

 

WHY THE CASH ENVELOPE SYSTEM WORKS

The reason why the cash envelope system works is pretty simple.  Accountability.

When you have to make yourself accountable for your spending, you are taking control.  It also will help you spend less.  If you only have $100 to spend on dining out over the next two weeks, you think twice about ordering take out three days in a row. When the money is gone – you are done spending!!!

It isn’t entirely about cash.  It is learning self-control.  That is the one thing everyone will gain in going through this process.  It enforces this way of thinking.  You will quickly learn to love using cash, and you will feel more in control of your finances.

Cash also has more emotion attached to it. You don’t think about the consequences of a purchase when you swipe a card.  However, handing over that cold, hard cash sometimes hurts.  You do think about each purchase a bit more.

We’ve been doing this for so long that I don’t know how to shop without my envelopes!   It is routine, and it helps us always know, in a matter of minutes, how much money we have available for the things we need.

The post The Ultimate Guide to Using a Cash Budget appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

Source: pennypinchinmom.com

All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt

All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt

Paying off debt can be an excruciating process, depending on how much money you owe. But your debts may not haunt you forever. Most consumer debts have a statute of limitations. That means that after a certain amount of time has gone by, collectors can’t sue you for failing to pay off outstanding debts. Here’s everything you need to know about the statute of limitations on debt.

See how long it’ll take to pay off your credit card debt.

Understanding the Statute of Limitations on Debt

You can be taken to court for not paying off certain debts. But there’s a limit on how long debt collectors can chase after the borrowers they want to sue.

The period in which someone can take legal action against you for owing money is known as the statute of limitations. In many cases, that time period either begins on the date you last made a payment or when your account becomes delinquent (which usually happens 30 days after a borrower fails to make a payment). But sometimes, the statute of limitations begins whenever you last used the account, acknowledged that you owed debt or agreed to make a payment (more on that later).

Statutes of limitations offer consumers with old debts some protection from debt collection agencies. After the statute of limitations on a debt expires, that unpaid debt is considered to be time-barred. At that point, borrowers no longer have a legal obligation to pay off their debts.

Different states have different statutes of limitations. And there are different rules attached to different types of debts. In Iowa for example, the statute of limitations on credit card debt is 10 years. In Alaska, Alabama and Washington D.C. it’s only three years.

Not all consumer debts have a statute of limitations, however. Federal student loans, for example, haven’t had a legal expiration date for over two decades.

What to Do With Time-Barred Debts 

All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt

While you may no longer be legally responsible for your time-barred debts, you’re not totally off the hook. Most negative credit information – like unpaid debts – can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. But tax liens can remain on your credit report for up to 15 years and bankruptcies can be reported for 10 years.

Not repaying the old debt you owe after the statute of limitations expires could hurt your credit score. And you could have a hard time trying to buy a house or take out a new loan.

Related Article: The Worst Ways to Deal With a Bill Collector

If you decide to pay off an old debt, it’s important to make sure you have documentation confirming that the debt is yours before making a single payment. You may have to pay off your debt in full in order to avoid restarting or extending the statute of limitations on your debt. So talking to a lawyer before making a single payment is a good idea.

When a Collector Asks About Your Time-Barred Debt

Even though you can’t be sued for your time-barred debts, a debt collector may try to come after you anyway. Bill collectors are required to follow certain rules under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). But they have the right to contact you even after the statute of limitations on a debt runs out. If a debt collector threatens to sue you for a time-barred debt, he or she could be violating the FDCPA.

Statutes of limitations can be tricky. So if you’re not sure whether your debt is past its legal expiration date, it’s a good idea to ask a debt collector who contacts you if your debt is time-barred. If he or she says no, it’s best to ask for the date of the last payment and request written proof that the debt they’re trying to collect is actually yours.

You’ll need to be careful when speaking to debt collectors, especially when dealing with a debt you believe is time-barred. If you say the wrong thing, the statute of limitations could be restarted or extended and you could end up having to pay a bill collector what you owe. The debt collector could also sue you and win.

The clock on your debt can restart if you admit to owing a debt, promise to start paying it or attempt to start repaying it by sending money to a debt collector. But the guidelines associated with extending and restarting the statute of limitations vary depending on where you live.

Related Article: Understanding Debt

Final Word

All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt

If you don’t know if the statute of limitations on your debt has expired, you can check with someone from a local legal aid society, an attorney or your state attorney general’s office. Or you can figure it out yourself by finding out when the statute of limitations begins and looking up your state’s laws regarding the statute of limitations on debts.

After you can confirm that the statute of limitations on your debt has in fact expired, you’ll have to decide what to do with it. You can pay off the debt and improve your credit score or ignore it and wait until it disappears from your credit report. You could also dispute the old debt or try to work out an agreement so that you end up paying less than what you owe your creditor.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Geber86, ©iStock.com/fstop123, ©iStock.com/ozgurdonmaz

The post All About the Statute of Limitations on Debt appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt Your Credit Score

Credit card bills can be confusing. If everything was straightforward and clear, credit card debt wouldn’t be such a big issue. But it’s not clear, and debt is a massive issue for millions of consumers. 

One of the most confusing aspects is the minimum payment, with few consumers understanding how this works, how much damage (if any) it does to their credit score, and why it’s important to pay more than the minimum.

We’ll address all of those things and more in this guide, looking at how minimum credit card payments can impact your FICO score and your credit report.

What is a Credit Card Minimum Payment?

The minimum payment is the lowest amount you need to pay during any given month. It’s often fixed as a fraction of your total balance and includes fees and interest.  

If you fail to make this minimum payment, you may be hit with late fees and if you still haven’t paid after 30 days, your creditor will report your activity to the major credit bureaus and your credit score will take a hit.

When this happens, you could lose up to 100 points and gain a derogatory mark that remains on your credit report for up to 7 years. Making minimum payments will not result in a derogatory mark, but it can indirectly affect your credit score and we’ll discuss that a little later.

Firstly, it’s important to understand why you’re being asked to pay a minimum amount and how you can avoid it.

How Much is a Minimum Credit Card Payment?

Prior to 2004, monthly payments could be as low as 2% of the balance. This caused all kinds of problems as most of your monthly payment is interest and will, therefore, inflate every month so that every time you reduce the balance it grows back. 

Regulators forced a change when they realized that some users were being locked into a cycle of credit card debt, one that could see them repaying thousands more than the balance and taking many years to repay in full.

These days, a minimum payment must be at least 1% of the balance plus all interest and fees that have accumulated during that month, ensuring the balance decreases by at least 1% if only the minimum payment is met.

Do I Need to Make the Minimum Payment?

If you have a rolling balance, you need to make the minimum monthly payment to avoid derogatory marks. If you fail to do so and keep missing those payments, your account will eventually default and cause all kinds of issues.

However, you can avoid the minimum payment by clearing your balance in full.

Let’s assume that you have a brand-new credit card and you spend $2,000 in the first billing cycle. In the next cycle, you will be required to pay this balance in full. However, you will also be offered a minimum payment, which will likely be anywhere from $30 to $100. If this is all that you pay, the issuer will start charging you interest on your balance and your problems will begin.

If you spend $2,000 in the next billing cycle, you have just doubled your debt (minus whatever principal the minimum payment cleared) and your problems.

This is a cycle that many consumers get locked into. They do what they can to pay off their balance in full, but then they have a difficult month and that minimum payment begins to look very tempting. They convince themselves that one month won’t hurt and they’ll repay the balance in full next month, but by that point they’ve spent more, it has grown more, and they just don’t have the funds.

To avoid falling into this trap, try the following tips:

  • Only Spend What You Have: A credit card should be used to spend money you have now or will have in the future. Don’t spend in the hope you’ll somehow come into some money before the billing period ends and the credit card balance rolls over.
  • Get an Introductory Interest Rate: Many credit card issuers offer a 0% intro APR for a fixed period of time, allowing you to accumulate debt without interest. This can help if you need to make some essential purchases, but it’s important not to abuse this as you’ll still need to clear the full balance before the intro period ends.
  • Use a Balance Transfer: If you’re in too deep and the intro rate is coming to an end, consider a balance transfer credit card. These cards allow you to move your full balance from one card (or cards) to another, taking advantage of yet another 0% APR and essentially extending the one you have.
  • Pay the Minimum: If you can’t pay the balance in full, make sure you at least pay the minimum. A missed payment or late payment can incur fees and may hurt your credit score. 

Why Pay More Than the Minimum?

You may have heard experts recommending that you pay more than the minimum every month, but why? If you’re locked into a cycle of credit card debt, it can seem counterproductive. After all, if you have a debt of $10,000 that’s costing you $400 a month, what’s the point of taking an extra $100 out of your budget?

Your interest and fees are covered by your minimum payment and account for a sizeable percentage of that minimum payment. By adding just 50% more, you could be doubling and even tripling the amount of the principal that you repay every month.

What’s more, your interest accumulates every single day and this interest compounds. Imagine, for instance, that you have a balance of $10,000 today and with interest, this grows to $10,040. The next day, the interest will be calculated based on that $10,040 figure, which means it could grow to $10,081, which will then become the new balance for the next day. 

This continues every single day, and the larger your balance is, the more interest will compound and the greater the amount will be due over the term. By paying more than your minimum payment when you can, you’re reducing the balance and slowing things down.

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt My Credit Score?

Paying the minimum amount every month ensures you are doing the bare minimum to avoid hurting your credit history or accumulating fees. However, it can indirectly reduce your score via your credit utilization ratio.

Your credit utilization ratio is a score that compares the credit limit of all available credit cards to the total debt on those cards. It accounts for 30% of your credit score and is, therefore, a very important aspect of the credit scoring process.

The more credit card debt you accumulate, the lower your credit utilization rate will be and the more your score will be impacted. If you only pay the minimum, this rate will become stagnant and may take years to improve. By increasing the payment amount, however, you can bring that ratio down and improve your credit score.

You can calculate your credit utilization score by adding together the total amount of credit limits and debts and then comparing the latter to the former. A combined credit limit of $10,000 and a balance of $5,000, for instance, would equate to a 50% ratio, which is on the high side.

Can Credit Card Fees Hurt My Credit Score?

As with interest charges, credit card fees will not directly reduce your score but may have an indirect effect. Cash advance fees, for instance, can be substantial, with many credit card companies (including Capital One) charging 3% with a $10 minimum charge. This means that every time you withdraw cash, you’re paying at least $10, even if you’re only withdrawing $10.

What many consumers don’t realize is that these fees are also charged every time you buy casino chips or pay for some other form of gambling, and every time you purchase money orders and other cash products. 

Along with foreign transaction fees and penalty fees, these can increase your balance and your minimum payment, making it harder to make on time payments and thus increasing the risk of a late payment.

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt Your Credit Score is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

By: Anita Miller

I received a civil summons to court from a debt collector claiming I owe them money on a credit card that according to my credit report showed last payment as 2/11/10 I have never gotten anything from this agency regarding this matter and know the sol is 6 yrs in the state I live in, the summons they included a billing statement dated 06/14/11 as their proof of debt I’m assuming but that isn’t the date of last activity it was 2/11/10. The 06/14/11 which is also the date on my credit report that they closed the acct. I received this summons on Thursday evening to appear Monday morning please help

Source: credit.com

What is a Foreign Transaction Fee and How Can You Avoid It?

Foreign transaction fees are irritating little charges that every traveler has faced, and most credit card users have questioned. They are the bane of a frequent flyer’s life and if not managed carefully, could result in some serious charges. But what are these charges, why do they exist, what’s the average fee, and how can you avoid them?

What is a Foreign Transaction Fee?

A foreign transaction fee is a surcharge levied every time you make a payment in a foreign currency or transfer money through a foreign bank. These fees are charged by credit card networks and issuers, often totaling around 3%.

For example, imagine that you’re on holiday in the United Kingdom, where all transactions occur in Pound Sterling. You go out for a meal and use your credit card to pay a bill of £150. Your credit card issuer first converts this sum into US Dollars and then charges a foreign transaction fee, after which the network (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) will do the same.

If we assume that £150 equates to exactly $200, this will show on your credit card statement first followed by a separate foreign transaction fee of $6.

When Will You Pay Foreign Transaction Fees?

If you’re moving money from a US bank account to an international account in a different currency, there’s a good chance you will be hit with foreign transaction fees and may also be charged additional transfer fees. More commonly, these fees are charged every time you make a payment in a foreign currency.

Many years ago, foreign transaction fees were limited to purchases made in other currencies, but they are now charged for online purchases as well. If the site you’re using is based in another country, there’s a good chance you’ll face these charges.

It isn’t always easy to know in advance whether these fees will be charged or not. Many foreign based sites use software that automatically detects your location and changes the currency as soon as you visit. To you, it seems like everything is listed in dollars, but you may actually be paying in a foreign currency.

Other Issues that American Travelers Face 

Foreign transaction fees aren’t the only issue you will encounter when trying to use American reward credit cards abroad. If we return to the previous example of a holiday in the UK, you may discover that the restaurant doesn’t accept your credit card at all.

In the UK, as in the US, Visa and MasterCard are the two most common credit card networks and are accepted anywhere you can use a credit or debit card. However, while Discover is the third most common network in the US, it’s all but non-existent in the UK. 

Discover has claimed that the card has “moderate” acceptance in the UK, but this is a generous description and unless you’re shopping in locations that tailor for many tourists and American tourists in particular, it likely won’t be accepted.

There are similar issues with American Express, albeit to a lesser extent. AMEX is the third most common provider in the UK, but finding a retailer that actually accepts this card is very hit and miss.

Do Foreign Transaction Fees Count Towards Credit Card Rewards?

Foreign transaction fees, and all other bank and credit card fees, do not count towards your rewards total but the initial charge does. If we return to the previous example of a $200 restaurant payment, you will earn reward points on that $200 but not on the additional $6 that you pay in fees.

How to Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees

The easiest way to avoid foreign transaction fees is to use a credit card that doesn’t charge them. Some premium cards and reward cards will absorb the fee charged for these transactions, which means you can take your credit card with you when you travel and don’t have to worry about extra charges.

This is key, because simply converting your dollars to your target currency isn’t the best way to avoid foreign transaction fees. A currency conversion will come with its own fees and it’s also very risky to carry large sums of cash with you when you’re on vacation. 

Credit Cards Without Foreign Transaction Fees

All credit card offers are required to clearly state a host of basic features, including interest rates, reward schemes, and annual fees. However, you may need to do a little digging to learn about foreign transaction fees. These fees can be found in the credit card’s terms and conditions, which should be listed in full on the provider’s website.

To get you started, here are a few credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees:

  1. Bank of America Travel Rewards Card: A high-reward and low-fee credit card backed by the Bank of America.
  2. Capital One: All Capital One cards are free of foreign transaction fees, including their reward cards, such as the Venture card.
  3. Chase Sapphire Preferred: A premium rewards card aimed at big spenders. There is an annual fee, but not foreign transaction fees.
  4. Citi Prestige: One of several Citi cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees, and the best one in terms of rewards. 
  5. Discover It: A solid all-round credit card with no foreign transaction fees. However, as noted above, the Discover network is rare outside of the United States.
  6. Wells Fargo Propel World: An American Express credit card with good rewards and low fees, including no foreign transaction fees.

Summary: One of Many Fees

Foreign transaction fees are just some of the many fees you could be paying every month. Credit cards work on a system of rewards and penalties; you’re rewarded when you make qualifying purchases and penalized when you make payments in foreign currencies and in casinos, and when you use your card to withdraw cash.

Many of these fees are fixed as a percentage of your total spend, but some also charge interest and you will pay this even if you clear your balance in full every month. To avoid being hit with these fees, pay attention to the terms and conditions and look for cards that won’t punish you for the things you do regularly.

What is a Foreign Transaction Fee and How Can You Avoid It? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

What Happens If You Make a Late Credit Card Payment?

credt card sitting on bill on keyboard to show late credit card payment

Uh-oh! You just received your credit card statement, and it shows interest charges and a $38 late fee that you didn’t expect. You realize you’re guilty of making a late credit card payment last month. Or worse, you realize you forgot to send your payment at all. Here’s a rundown of potential impacts that your missed payment may have on your account.

  1. You’re assessed a late fee. Most credit cards charge a late fee when you make a late payment. In most cases, the fee is a flat charge of up to $39. In other instances, the fee might be tiered. For example, the late fee could be $15 if the balance is less than $100, up to $25 if the balance is $100 to less than $250 and up to $39 if the balance is $250 or more.

But what exactly does “up to” mean? Federal laws now prohibit credit card issuers from charging late fees that are in excess of the amount due. So if you have a balance of only $12, then your late fee can’t be more than $12.

On the other hand, there are credit cards that charge no late fees at all. In addition, a few cards automatically waive a first late payment. Nevertheless, don’t interpret a late-payment forgiveness policy as an excuse to pay late.

  1. You lose your interest-free grace period. Many credit card users avoid interest charges by paying their balance in full and on time. But if you fail to pay your statement balance on time, the interest charges are applied to your next statement in addition to any fees. In fact, interest charges are assessed based on your average daily balance for each day of the entire statement period. For cardholders who are already carrying a balance, the increase in interest charges won’t be as dramatic, but it can be significant.
  2. You’re charged a penalty interest rate—AKA penalty APR. Not only are most cardholders hit with a late fee and additional interest charges, but a new, higher penalty interest rate can apply when cardholders miss payments. Thankfully, some of the same simple cards, like the Avant Credit Card don’t increase your APR as a penalty for late payments.
  3. Your credit score suffers. Making a late payment on your credit card account can affect your credit score, but it depends. It’s up to credit card issuers how late a payment must be before it’s reported to the credit bureaus, but any late payment can be reported.

Thankfully, most credit card issuers won’t report payments that are less than 30 days late. And some lenders wait as long as 60 days before reporting late credit card payments.

Just because issuers don’t immediately report a late payment doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Your credit reports show the payment history for all of your credit cards, so check your reports to see whether a late payment has been reported to the bureaus. You’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies once a year under federal law.

In between getting your free annual credit reports, you can see how your payment history is affecting your own credit by getting your free score and credit report card on Credit.com.

What to Do If You Miss a Payment

  1. Pay it as soon as possible.When you realize you missed a payment, make a payment immediately. The quickest way to make a payment is by phone or electronically—not by postal mail. Making sure the payment is received quickly reduces the likelihood that your late payment is reported to the major credit bureaus. It also increases the chance that the card issuer is willing to forgive any late fees and interest charges.
  2. Contact your credit card issuer.Once you’ve made a payment, if you were otherwise in good standing, you’re in an excellent position to request that any late fees and interest charges be waived. Simply call your credit card company and let it know the circumstances that caused you to pay late, such as if you didn’t receive your statement. In most cases, the credit card provider is happy to waive these charges in order to satisfy and retain you as a customer.
  3. Fix the problem.After you’ve done what you can to limit the immediate harm caused by a late credit card payment, take steps to keep it from happening again. For example, if your statement for your last billing cycle wasn’t delivered in the mail, switch to electronic statements. Alternatively, you can see if your credit card issuer offers payment reminders via text or email. Even better, set up automatic payments if you can.

It’s only human to miss a credit card payment sometime. It’s how quickly you address the error that matters to you, your credit score and your credit card issuer.

More on Credit Cards

  • 6 Smart Credit Card Strategies
  • How to Get a Credit Card with Bad Credit
  • 11 Ways to Improve Your Credit Score

Image: Purestock

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in this article may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

The post What Happens If You Make a Late Credit Card Payment? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com