Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Credit score companies ordered to pay millions in refunds. Also in the news: How the Trump presidency will impact housing, how to refresh your finances in the new year, and how to become an extreme saver in 2017.

Credit Score Companies Must Refund $17.7 Million to Customers
Could you have a refund on the way?

How the Trump Presidency Will Impact Housing in 2017
A glimpse into the future.

Ask Brianna: How Can I Refresh My Finances for the New Year?

How to Become an Extreme Saver in 2017
Every penny counts.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Pile of Credit CardsToday’s top story: The best credit card tips for January. Also in the news: Less than one month left to shop for Obamacare, how to spend more mindfully in the new year, and what research says about erasing credit card debt.

NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for January 2017
How you can make 2017 better than 2016.

Less Than One Month Left for ‘Obamacare’ Shoppers
The deadline is Jan. 31st.

How to Spend More Mindfully in the New Year
Paying closer attention.

What research says about erasing credit card debt
Following the best path.

Holiday debt hangover? Here’s how to fix it

images-2Despite what you often read, credit card debt isn’t typical. One quarter of U.S. households don’t use credit cards at all, and another 35 percent or so regularly pay their balances in full, according to Federal Reserve statistics. Among households that carry credit card balances, the median debt–where half owe more and half owe less–is somewhere around $3,000.

Whopping “average credit card debt” statistics are what grab headlines, though. They’re typically compiled by taking the total amount charged on plastic at the end of the year and dividing it by the number of card-carrying households. Those total charges include amounts that are about to be paid off by us so-called “convenience users,” and often business credit card balances as well. Also, averages can be misleading, since a relatively small number of households carrying a lot of debt can skew the average upward.

If you’re the one with the debt, though, you know it doesn’t feel good. If your balances grew over the holidays, you may be stressing already about how to pay it off. Here are some ideas:

Skip the post-holiday sales. You’ve heard it over and over: You can’t get out of debt if you don’t stop digging. But our brains tells us sales are the exception. We’re saving money! Nope, we’re spending–and adding to our debt stress. Whatever’s on sale likely will be on sale again, so let it go.

Have a no-spend month. I hosted one of these more than a decade ago on MSN, and readers reported saving $300, $400 and more. A no-spend means you spend only on essentials: no eating out, paid entertainment or shopping. You’ll learn frugality skills like planning and making do that can help you save year round.

Check the cushions. You may have money tucked away in various forms–jars of coins, unused gift cards, rewards programs that can be converted to cash back or gift cards. (Sites like Gift Card Granny can help you convert plastic to cash.)

Make weekly credit card payments. Don’t wait until the bill arrives to pay it–start whittling down your balance with regular injections.

Lower your interest rate. If you have good credit, you may be able to qualify for low- or zero-rate balance transfer offers. Use them as a way to speed up your debt repayment.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

hidden-fees1Today’s top story: Credit card late fees are expected to rise in 2017. Also in the news: 10 New Year’s resolutions for your wallet, will Millennials be ready for retirement, and 3 signs you should switch banks.

Look for Credit Card Late Fees to Rise in 2017
More incentive to pay on time.

Sean Talks Money: 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Wallet
Starting the news year off on the right foot.

Only 30 Years to Go. Will Millennials Be Ready for Retirement?
The clock is ticking.

3 Signs You Should Switch Banks in 2017
Knowing when it’s time to switch.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: NerdWallet’s best credit card tips for December. Also in the news: How to tell if a Roth 401(k) is for you, why postdating checks is a waste of time, and how many credit cards you should have.

NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for December 2016
Just in time for holiday spending.

How to Tell If a Roth 401(k) Is for You
Choosing the right retirement savings.

Postdating Checks Is a Waste of Time — Here’s Why
Not worth the risk.

How many credit cards should you have?
What’s the magic number?

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Holiday-tipping-in-tough-times-7FKMMIM-x-largeToday’s top story: For international travel, MasterCard has a slight edge on Visa. Also in the news: How to build a multi-million dollar retirement fund, 10 ways to end 2016 on a financial high note, and 8 ways to keep a leash on your holiday spending.

For International Travel, MasterCard Has Slight Edge on Visa
Which card has the best rates?

How to Build a Multimillion-Dollar Retirement Fund
Step-by-step.

10 Ways to End 2016 on a Financial High Note
Ending the year strong.

8 Ways To Keep A Leash On Holiday Spending
Don’t go overboard.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Pile of Credit CardsToday’s top story: How to choose your second credit card. Also in the news: How home insurance can cover your holiday disasters, how Affordable Care Act plans could change in 2017, and how to calculate how long it’ll take you to get out of the debt.

How to Choose Your Second Credit Card
Finding a card that compliments your spending habits.

No Need to Pout: Home Insurance Can Cover That Holiday Disaster
Saving you from becoming The Grinch.

How Affordable Care Act Marketplace Insurance Plans Will Change in 2017
A new administration could bring big changes.

How Long It Will Take to Get Out of Debt, Depending on Your Monthly Payment
Calculating your escape date.

Q&A: Credit cards just keep coming

Dear Liz: I use only two credit cards. But I have several credit cards I never use. When the cards expire, the issuers send me new ones. I just received two more cards, with new expiration dates, which I will not use. I keep hearing that cancellation of cards results in lower credit scores. How can I cancel all the unused cards I have without affecting my 797 score, and how can I stop them from sending me new ones without my authorization?

Answer: Your issuers can continue sending you new cards until the accounts are canceled. Your “authorization” isn’t necessary once you’ve applied for the card. Some credit card companies will close an account that hasn’t been used in more than a year, but others will keep accounts open hoping you’ll start using the cards again someday.

Having several credit cards is typically good for your scores — of which you have many, by the way, not just one. But you don’t have to keep unwanted cards forever. If your scores are in the high 700s you can close the occasional credit card account.

What you don’t want to do is shut down a bunch of cards at once, or close your highest limit cards. Credit scoring formulas are sensitive to the amount of your available credit you’re using. Anything that significantly reduces the amount of available credit you have can hurt your scores.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

babytrollToday’s top story: Why your newborn doesn’t need to be on your credit card account. Also in the news: Why paying more tax today could be your best AMT strategy, common retirement mistakes seen by financial planners, and how credit card minimum payments are meant to keep you in debt forever.

No, Your Newborn Doesn’t Need to Be on Your Credit Card Account
No need to build credit that early.

Paying More Tax Today May Be Your Best AMT Strategy
Understanding how AMT works.

Seven Common Retirement Mistakes Seen by Financial Planners
And how to avoid them.

Credit card minimums: Perfectly calibrated to keep you in debt
A cycle of perpetual debt.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

stack-of-billsToday’s top story: Why minimum payments on credit cards are designed to keep you in debt. Also in the news: Retirement planning rules Millennials can break, how to choose the right health insurance plan “metal tier,” and why it’s so hard to stick to a budget.

Credit Card Minimums: Perfectly Calibrated to Keep You in Debt
The card companies aren’t on your side.

4 Retirement Planning Rules Millennials Can Break
Or at least bend.

Choosing the Right Health Insurance Plan ‘Metal Tier’
Sadly, no rose gold.

Why Is It So Hard to Stick to a Budget?
Answering the age-old question.