Friday’s need-to-know money news

Wire cutterWhy would should wait to go school shopping, avoiding overdraft fees, how to prepare yourself for the joys of homeowning and reasons why you’ll drop cable soon.

Hold Off on Back-to-School Shopping
Those great deals could be even greater in August.

Four Ways to Avoid Hefty Overdraft Fees
Don’t let a $10 check become a $35 fee.

How to Protect Yourself Against Credit Card Discrimination
What to do when your rejection has nothing to do with your credit score.

So You Wanna Be a First-Time Homebuyer?
Mistakes to avoid when taking the leap.

5 More Reasons You’ll Be Cutting Your Cable TV Cord Next Year
Dropping your cable company is becoming easier.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Little Girl with Crown of EarsHow to survive your child’s summer vacation without emptying your wallet, protecting your tuition investments, and how to ensure your semester abroad doesn’t lead to financial disaster.

Six Ways to Save Money on Summer Childcare
Keeping your child busy this summer doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank.

Why a Good Student Checking Account Matters

Student checking accounts are a perfect way to teach financial responsibility.

Kids and Money: Tuition is an Insurable Investment

Tuition refund insurance can provide peace of mind.

Plan For Financial Independence, Not Retirement
Financial independence can mean working when you want; not because you have to.

4 Credit Card Tips for College Students Headed Overseas

How to avoid a financial mess when studying abroad.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

The hackerProtecting your finances online, helping your kids build their credit and when to start saving for retirement.

FBI Warns of New ‘Wire Transfer’ Scheme
How to keep your money safe from internet thieves.

How to Dispute a Credit Card Charge
The easiest ways to get your money back.

How Young People Can Begin to Build Credit
Sharing your credit could just be the best way to start.

7 Retirement Decisions that Affect the Rest of Your Life
When you start saving could make the difference forty years down the line.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

The hackerBanks are watching your Facebook account, escaping a lease, and keeping your cool.

The Identity Theft Flu: 5 Ways to Stay Healthy

There’s no way to completely protect yourself from identity theft, but here are some ways to boost your financial immune system.

Using Social Media to Stop Online Payment Fraud

Your Facebook status updates could soon be used to verify your financial state.

Is Creating a Personal Budget a Good Idea?

Experts debate the pros and cons of personal budgets.

When and How to Break a Lease

Tips on how to break a lease as painlessly as possible.

Smart Ways to Slash Your Summer Bills

How to stay  cool without melting your wallet.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

FinancesFather knows best, careers that simply aren’t worth the money and the double-edged sword of frugality.

Listen to Your Father! Old-School Money Tips for Today

Financial advice that stands the test of time.

The Best and Worst Careers to Go Into Debt For

If you want to see your work in print, become an advertiser, not a reporter.

Credit Expert Answers 7 Burning Personal Finance Questions

Including tips on how to improve your credit score.

When Frugality Goes Too Far

Growing your own vegetables is a great idea. Spending $3500 on a vegetable garden is not.

Overdraft Fees Cost Bank Customers Hundreds of Dollars a Year

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found overdrawing their accounts cost customers an average of $225 per year.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

collegeHere are some of the top money stories around the Web:

How to Pay Student Loans You Can’t Afford

With interest rates on federal Stafford Loans set to double on July 1st, Credit.com’s Gerri Detweiler breaks down the four main income-based repayment programs.

The Surprising Downside of Cutting Up Your Credit Cards

While it may curb your spending, cutting those credit cards in half could hurt your credit score.

Banks Lag on Consumer-Friendly Checking Practices

After surveying 36 of 50 of the country’s largest banks, the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Safe Checking in the Electronic Age project discovered that not a single one met all of the recommended practices.

Are You Paying the iTunes Tax?

The days of tax free internet purchases could soon be over.

Paper statements may not be necessary

Dear Liz: I’m wondering how long we really need to keep bank statements, since banks now offer paperless options. My son doesn’t even open the statements anymore; he just views his account information online.

Answer: There’s nothing magical about paper bank statements. If your son doesn’t open them, he probably shouldn’t even get them. He can ask his bank to switch him to its paperless option and save some trees.

The IRS accepts electronic documents, and banks keep account records at least six years. Your highest risk for an audit is the three years after a tax return is filed, so you should be able to download statements if you need them in an audit. There might be fees involved to get these statements, however, so you’ll have to weigh the potential cost against the hassle of storing all that paper. Some people get the paper statements, scan them and shred the originals; others download the statements as they go and store them electronically.

If you don’t need bank records for tax purposes, there’s even less reason for getting paper statements. Eschewing them can reduce bank fees and will certainly save a few trees.

Roommate may be not be telling the truth about his credit

Dear Liz: I have a roommate who has truly bad credit. He has been turned down from getting a checking account at banks because his mom bounced checks on his account when he was 18 (he is now 31). What is the best way to rehab his credit? He can’t get a secured credit card because he doesn’t have a checking account. Is there a way around this?

Answer: You may not be getting the full story from your roommate. If his mom misused his checking account when he was 18, it shouldn’t still be affecting his ability to establish a bank account. Reports to Chexsystems, the bureau that tells banks about people who have mishandled their bank accounts, typically remain on file for only five years.

Your roommate should first request a free annual report from Chexsystems at http://www.consumerdebit.com and dispute any errors or old information. Even if he’s still listed in Chexsystems, he could get a so-called “second chance” checking account from several major banks, including Wells Fargo, Chase and PNC Bank. Responsible use of those accounts should allow him to graduate to a regular checking account. Then he can start the process of rehabilitating his credit.

Old check may still have value

Dear Liz: You recently answered a question from a reader who found an old refund check that couldn’t be cashed. You pointed out that checks typically must be cashed within six months or they’re worthless. But your reader should check the unclaimed-property department of his state. Each state has laws that all companies must follow that typically require them to turn over or “escheat” amounts from uncashed checks, dormant checking accounts, unclaimed utility deposits and other accounts. The consumer should write a letter to the company that issued the check (sent certified mail) with a copy of the front and back of the check to find out whether they escheated the funds. The consumer should also check Unclaimed.org and talk to the state that the company is based in along with his current state. Please encourage him to keep the check and not give up. Unclaimed-property laws are not well known, and they are there to protect the consumer.

Answer: Thanks for your suggestion. Not all companies follow the laws regarding unclaimed property. If this company had, it presumably would have referred this customer to the appropriate unclaimed-property department when he called asking for a replacement check. Still, checking the state treasury departments on Unclaimed.org is relatively easy and certainly worth a try.

Old check is probably worthless

Dear Liz: Twelve years ago I hired a moving company. I must have overpaid them, because in January 2001 I received a refund check for $235. I misplaced the check and didn’t find it until 2003. Ever since then I have made a number of phone calls asking for a replacement. All my calls were to no avail. Can you help?

Answer: No. You typically have six months to cash a check. If you miss that time frame, you can ask the issuer for a new check, but it is usually under no obligation to accommodate you. Trying to deposit an old check can often result in a “returned check” fee from your bank when the check is stopped or returned unpaid.