Monday’s need-to-know money news

crop380w_istock_000009258023xsmall-dbet-ball-and-chainToday’s top story: How high your credit score needs to be in order to refinance. Also in the news: Tips on getting out of debt from people who have paid off thousands, ways to save on monthly housing costs, and how to avoid the scariest credit card fees.

What credit score do I need to refinance?
Reaching the magic number.

How to Get Out of Debt: Lessons From People Who Paid Off $100,000
Learning from the masters.

4 Ways To Save On Monthly Housing Costs
Every little bit helps.

The 5 Scariest Credit Card Fees – And How to Avoid Them
Paying even an hour late could cost you big bucks.

8 Online Banks That Let You Skip the Fees, Enjoy the Interest
Thinking outside the branch.

Q&A: Fraud or forgetfulness?

Dear Liz: I think I’ve been scammed, but my credit union has decided I’m simply forgetful. I noticed a debit to my checking account that I did not recognize from a merchant I cannot identify. The merchant name appears on my statement as simply “Portland Portland OR.” My credit union can tell me only that it is a used-merchandise store or secondhand store. I questioned the charge by email and replaced my card. Then I got a letter from the credit union upholding the charge, saying that my card and PIN were present at the time of the transaction. I never did learn the merchant’s name. Can this merchant really not be identified? The $10.48 in dispute is unimportant compared with the complete opacity of the supposed purchase. No name, no address, only a day and time. Is this mystery the best the banking system can do?

Answer: Your credit union could identify the merchant by contacting the card network that processed the transaction, but has apparently decided it’s not worth the effort, said Odysseas Papadimitriou, chief executive of Evolution Finance, which operates the CardHub.com card comparison site. You can demand the credit union identify the merchant for you, but there’s reason to believe this transaction is legitimate, he said.

It’s not just because a personal identification number was used, however, since PINs certainly can be stolen. Hackers have compromised keypads at Michael’s stores and Barnes & Noble, among other retail chains, while Target said encrypted PIN data were stolen in its massive database breach.
But the use of a PIN combined with the small amount of the transaction indicates the culprit here likely is forgetfulness rather than an identity thief, Papadimitriou said. ID thieves are unlikely to make one small transaction and then wait, he said.

“They try to extract the max they can before they get shut down,” Papadimitriou said.
Still, your experience should make you think twice about using a debit card for a retail transaction. With debit card fraud, you may have to fight with your financial institution to get the money back, since the transaction comes directly out of your checking account. With credit cards, you don’t have to pay a disputed transaction until the card company investigates.

Secret Fed recordings should scare you–a lot

watchdogPeople remember where they were when they heard about big historical events, like the planes flying into the World Trade Center buildings. Finance geeks remember where they were in September 2008 when they heard that the Prime Reserve Fund had “broken the buck.” A money market fund’s share price had just dropped below $1 for the first time, and this was a huge deal. Money market funds were supposed to be safe–I almost said “safe as houses,” but given the subsequent real estate recession, maybe not. Anyway, it wasn’t hard to envision this news triggering a Depression-era run on the funds where individuals and institutions stored trillions of dollars of cash. The funds wouldn’t be able to meet all the demands for withdrawals and the banking system would grind to a halt. From there, the collapse of the whole financial system would no longer be a fantasy of end-of-the-world preppers. Of all the bad news that fall–and there was a ton–that’s the story that really made it clear how close we were to the brink.

We avoided the worst, but our close call should have put every financial regulator on his or her toes. Unfortunately, secret recordings made by a now-fired Fed attorney make it clear that watchdogs are instead cuddled in the arms of the financial institutions they’re supposed to regulate. This is a gigantic story, one that financial author Michael Lewis calls “The Ray Rice video for the financial sector.”

Listen to the This American Life podcast here, and read ProPublica’s story here.  This is news you really need to know.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Thousands of homeowners are missing out on lower mortgage payments. Also in the news: How safe are your deposits, how to save money while you remodel, and why free checking can be a misnomer.

800,000 Homeowners Are Missing Out on Lower Mortgage Payments
Are you one of them?

How Safe is Your ‘Safe Money’?
How banks are protecting your finances.

3 Ways to Reduce Your Remodeling Budget
DIY doesn’t have to mean $$$.

Checking account costs rise; only 28% are free, study finds
Free comes at a price.

10 Smart Money-Saving Tips for Time-Strapped People
Quick tips that’ll save you money.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

1403399192000-retire-workToday’s top story: One third of Americans have nothing saved for their retirement. Also in the news: How to pick the right bank, preparing financially for having kids, and how to get the best money market rates.

A third of people have nothing saved for retirement
You really shouldn’t be one of them.

How to pick a bank, in 7 steps
One of your most important relationships.

Babies Are Expensive: How to Prepare for Having a Kid
Adorable, but expensive.

How to Find the Best Money Market Rates
Getting the most for your savings.

3 Financial Firsts All Parents Should Prepare Their Children For
The sooner, the better.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Could your job search be impeded by medical debt? Also in the news: Easy steps for a complete money makeover, the future of identity theft, and details on the new MyRa retirement savings plan. Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

Could Your Medical Debt Keep You From Getting a Job?
Not if Senator Warren has her way.

9 Easy Steps for a Complete Money Makeover
Start by choosing a better bank.

Here’s What Identity Theft Will Look Like in 2014
Thieves are after more than just your money.

Introducing the myRA retirement savings account.
Announced at last night’s State of the Union, the account would work like a savings bond.

Got a charge for $9.84 on your credit card? Beware
This small charge could put your credit and identity at risk.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Doctor feesHow to do your banking on your phone, solving the mysteries of Obamacare, and avoiding the habits that could ruin your retirement.

Can a Debt Collector Double My Debt?
Unfortunately, they can.

How to Stay Safe Banking on Your Phone
Learn how to safely pay your bills in between rounds of Angry Birds.

Obamacare Isn’t Communism, And 13 Other Questions Answered
Clearing up the mysteries surrounding the Affordable Care Act.

Habits That Can Ruin Your Retirement
Retiring doesn’t mean you can get lazy.

What Obamacare will mean for retirees
The prescription drug plan donut hole is shrinking.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailHow your addiction to pop culture could put your identity at risk, saving on holiday travel, and when is the right time to kick your kid off of your health insurance?

How Your Katy Perry Obsession Could Get You Hacked
Hackers love the pop culture obsessed.

Our Financial Future: How Banking and Money Will Change
Could bank tellers be replaced by smartphones?

5 tips on selling a home on your own
The pros and cons of selling your home without a real estate agent.

How to Save on Holiday Airfares
What better gift to give yourself than saving on holiday travel?

When to kick your adult child off your health plan
Weighing the options offered by the Affordable Care Act.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailGetting a mortgage with bad credit, busting financial myths, and how to survive back-to-school shopping with your teenager.

How to Get a Mortgage With Bad Credit

Buying a home is still possible even with bad credit.

7 Personal Finance Myths That May Have Fooled You

Mythbusting, finance style.

5 Financial Decisions That Sound Smart But Are Really Dumb
What sounds good at that time could be bad in the long run.

How to Avoid New Bank Fees
Tips on avoiding the ever growing list of bank fees.

How to Handle Back-to-School Shopping With Teens
Back-to-school shopping with your teen doesn’t have to be a nightmare.

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.