Today’s top story: Time to start getting your finances ready for 2015. Also in the news: How to give yourself a holiday bonus, protecting yourself and your credit from “Santa Scams”, and an end-of-the-year financial checklist.
15 tips on turning your finances around in 2015
Start getting ready.
Give Yourself (not Uncle Sam) a Christmas Bonus
Time to look at your W-4.
Santa Claus Is Coming… for Your Credit Cards
Watch out for the Letters From Santa scam.
Your End-of-Year Financial Checklist
Starting 2015 off on the right foot.
3 Reasons Why You Just Can’t Stick to a Budget
And how to fix them.
Today’s top story: Seven financial moves to make before New Year’s Eve. Also in the news: When you should use your credit card instead of your debit card, what to do when you’re 40 and have nothing saved for retirement, and busting four common myths about taxes.
7 Financial Moves to Make Before New Year’s Eve
Preparing yourself for 2015.
6 Times You Should Use a Credit Card Instead of a Debit Card
Credit cards can provide more protection.
5 Ways to Combat an Online Shopping Addiction
Tips to combat a growing problem.
4 Common Myths About Taxes
Time for some tax mythbusting.
Today’s top story: Why debt doesn’t have to ruin your holiday season. Also in the news: How time can heal your credit wounds, where you’ll have to pay sales tax on Cyber Monday, and how to protect yourself from charity fraud during the holidays.
Don’t let debt ruin your holiday season
Manage and reduce your debt while still enjoying the holidays.
Time heals all wounds when it comes to credit
Time and responsibility are the best remedies for credit bruises.
On Cyber Monday, Will You Have to Pay Sales Tax?
It all depends on where you live and where you shop.
How to protect yourself against charity fraud during the holidays
Don’t let thieves take advantage of your generosity.
How Information Overload Can Hurt Your Retirement
Take small bites instead of big chunks.
Dear Liz: We’ve had three cases of credit card fraud. Each time, the credit card company issued new cards with new numbers and canceled the old ones (along with the fraudulent charges). We had nine monthly auto-payment authorizations set up, and we seethed at the fact that the card company would not offer to authorize our auto-payments via the new numbers. We eventually received late-payment notices and charges, since the old numbers were still on the record with payees. Are there companies that offer updates to payees when cards are canceled, and new ones issued, in such fraud situations?
Answer: Given all the database breaches lately, automatic updates to auto-payments might come in handy.
But it seems you’re on your own. Your agreements with your billers typically state that you’re required to update them whenever a card expires or its number changes. Many billers will alert you when an expiration date is near or if a charge doesn’t go through, but ultimately it’s your responsibility to keep track.
It’s a good idea to keep a list of your auto-payments so you don’t forget to update them all when this happens again. If you don’t have a list, simply checking your past statements should remind you which accounts are on auto-pay.
Dear Liz: My brother is a Vietnam veteran. Every month since his separation from the Navy in 1969, he has had a monthly premium deducted from his pay and sent to the Veterans Administration for his medical insurance coverage. Last month he received a notice from his employer stating that if he doesn’t sign up and pay premiums under the Affordable Care Act, he will be fined for not having medical insurance. How can this be? He goes to the VA for all of his medical needs. Can this truly be correct?
Answer: People enrolled in VA healthcare don’t have to sign up for additional health insurance or pay additional premiums. Their VA coverage meets the Affordable Care Act’s requirements for coverage.
Your brother’s employer may have sent out a general notice to all employees about the law, rather than one that reflects his individual situation. If the employer believes that VA coverage doesn’t qualify, it should be alerted to this page on the VA site: http://www.va.gov/health/aca/.
Today’s top story: How to find the best airfare deals. Also in the news: Financially preparing for a job search, how “reason codes” can help improve your credit, and ten money moves to make before the end of the year.
3 Insider Tips for Getting the Best Airfare Deal
How to get the best possible deal on flights.
Preparing Financially for a Job Search
Three tips to help you survive the hunt.
Pay Attention to Credit Report “Reason Codes” to Improve Your Score
These codes can help you improve your credit.
10 Smart Money Moves to Make Before the Year Ends
Don’t put off your finances until the new year.
Want to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early? Not So Fast
Why you should carefully consider where your money should go.
Hundreds of flights have already been cancelled on this busy travel day, with more cancellations and delays likely to come as a winter storm rolls through the East Coast. If you used the right credit card to book your trip, though, you may be entitled to some compensation.
Most cards offer some kind of travel protection, but some of the policies are pretty weak, even for high-end cards. Some only offer compensation for lost baggage, while others offer hundreds of dollars in compensation for trip delays–and thousands for trip cancellations.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card, for example, is justifiably famous among savvy travelers for its generous delay and cancellation protection: If your trip is canceled or cut short by illness, severe weather and “other covered situations,” can can be reimbursed up to $10,000 for prepaid, nonrefundable expenses. You can get up to $500 for trip delays and a whopping $3,000 for lost luggage. (Many other cards limit lost luggage reimbursement to $500.) Other high-end Chase cards, along with The United Explorer Visa Platinum Card, offer similar top-drawer benefits.
Citi recently stepped up its game, and now offers card members refunds for trip expenses if unforeseen events like severe weather, jury duty or even previously unannounced strikes cause trip cancellations. The coverage is limited to $1,500 for most cardholders, though some get up to $5,000. Those with ThankYou Premier or Citi Prestige can get up to $500 to buy clothes and toiletries if their bags are delayed. If a trip is delayed, these travel rewards card members also can get up to $500 for unplanned expenses such as hotel rooms, ground transportation and meals.
Travel cards that you think would have pretty good protection–such as American Express or Capital One Venture–unfortunately don’t. Amex offers travel protection for an extra cost and CapOne covers just lost or stolen luggage (although the limit is $3,000).
If you’re affected this weekend by travel hassles, call and ask the credit card company that you used to book the trip what your options might be. If you don’t like what you hear, start looking for a better alternative for your next trip.
Today’s top story: The best airline miles credit cards. Also in the news: Behind the scenes of a student loan deal, how to prioritize your bills when you’re low on cash, and five items to donate for a charitable tax deduction.
The Best Airline Miles Credit Cards in America
Getting the most mileage bang for your buck.
How a Little Student Loan Deal Could Spell Big Trouble for Borrowers
The ghosts of FFEL loans.
How to Prioritize Bills When You’re Low on Cash
Paying in the right order could save you time and money.
5 Items to Donate for a Charitable Tax Deduction
Every little bit healps.
“I am Jonathan Knight and I am calling you from the federal investigation department of IRS. My badge number is 46719. The matter at the hand is extremely time sensitive and urgent as after audit we found that there was a fraud and misconduct on your taxes which you are hiding from the federal government. This needs to be rectified immediately so do return the call as soon as you receive the message on my direct line number. And this is Jonathan Knight again federal investigation department of IRS.”
I was really rather bummed that I’d let this particular gem go to voice mail. Oh, the fun I could have had with this idiot! Here’s me, pretending to be all scared and upset…drawing him in, getting him all excited about the money he was going to scam from me…and then Boom! Telling him exactly what I thought of his morals, his conduct, his parentage and what bug he’ll be incarnated into the next go-round.
I did call the number back and got a different gentleman with an Indian accent on the line (with the noise of a call center in the background). He called himself “Chief Ray Parker” and told me that “complete audits” of my tax returns from 2002 to 2012 had turned up “errors and miscalculations” and that the government was going to the courthouse to file a lawsuit against me within two hours. When he demanded to know if I had a lawyer and I said yes, though, he didn’t seem to know what to say next, and hung up on me. So I didn’t get to unleash at all.
The IRS says this a pervasive, aggressive scam that’s hitting taxpayers all over the country. The scammers alter their caller ID to make it look like it’s coming from a Washington D.C. number and may know a lot about the people they’re calling. Unfortunately, too many people take the bait and give up sensitive personal information or even money to these scoundrels.
Just as a refresher: the IRS typically contacts taxpayers by letter, not by phone, particularly if an audit is involved. If the IRS thinks you owe money, it will let you know and give you some time to make payment arrangements. Oh, and by the way, the IRS is one of the few creditors that doesn’t need to go to court to get a wage garnishment.
If you get one of these calls, report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484 or at www.tigta.gov. Even if you don’t, tell your parents and grandparents about this since older people may be more vulnerable to these kinds of scams.