Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Lock down your data right now after Equifax breach.Also in the news: Health insurers ease rules for Harvey Victims, protecting critical documents from disaster with a bug-out bag, and the credit move than can bump your score in 30 days.

Lock Down Your Data After Equifax Breach — Right Now
Immediately.

Health Insurers Ease Rules for Harvey Victims
Checking your options.

Protect Critical Documents From Disaster With a ‘Bug-Out Bag’
Be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

The credit move that can bump up your score in 30 days
Pay your bill early.

Credit bureaus ease medical debt pain for a few

Too many Americans have bad credit because of unpaid medical bills. That’s not likely to change anytime soon, despite two reforms in how those bills will be reported to the credit bureaus.

Starting Sept. 15:

—There will be a 180-day waiting period before unpaid medical debts can show up on people’s credit reports.

—Medical collections will be deleted from credit reports if they’re paid by health insurers.

Credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion agreed to the new standards as part of two settlements with state attorneys general in 2015. The changes in medical debt reporting were designed to help people whose bills fell through the cracks between their health care providers and their insurance companies, says Chi Chi Wu, a staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center.

In my latest for the Associated Press, find out who these changes are expected to help.

Q&A: Making sure your free credit report really is free

Dear Liz: Please tell me again how to get my free credit report each year.

Answer: You can get a free annual look at your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com. If you search for “free credit report,” you may wind up at a look-alike site, rather than the federally mandated one. A good clue that you’re on the wrong site will be if you’re asked for a credit card number.

Your free reports don’t include free scores, which are the three-digit numbers lenders and others use to judge your creditworthiness. Your bank or credit card companies may offer free scores, or you can sign up with one of the many sites that offer them. Keep in mind that there are different types of scores, and the one that you’re seeing may not be the same as the ones your lenders use.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to lower your monthly mortgage payment. Also in the news: 5 things to do before changing careers, a Labor Day look at America’s workforce, and 3 myths that could tank your credit score.

How to Lower Your Monthly Mortgage Payment
Taking the first steps.

Want to Change Careers? Do These 5 Things First
Preparing for change.

Hard at Work: A Labor Day Look at America’s Workforce
Where we’ve been and where we’re going.

3 myths that could tank your credit score
Don’t believe the hype.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Costly subprime credit cards offer little help. Also in the news: Take charge of your credit score with your credit report, why you should consider a mortgage recast, and four ways to manage your credit card debt.

Costly Subprime Credit Cards Offer Little Help, NerdWallet Study Finds
Just digging a deeper hole.

If You Want a Good Credit Score, Read Your Credit Reports
Studying up.

Why You Should Consider a Mortgage Recast
Save on your monthly payment.

4 ways to manage your credit card debt
Getting it under control.

Black marks fall off credit reports in July

Starting July 1, the credit scores of up to 14 million people could begin to rise as credit reports are scrubbed of nearly all civil judgments and many tax liens.

Consumer advocates hail the data’s deletion as a long-overdue victory for people whose scores were unfairly dinged by inaccurate information. Others worry the changes could inflate the scores of risky borrowers and have a catastrophic impact on lenders.

People shouldn’t expect an immediate jump in their scores, however.

In my latest for the Associated Press, how the process will work and when you can expect to see changes.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to assess your credit card needs after divorce. Also in the news: Generation Z is off to a strong start with credit, why your friend has a better credit score than you, and how to ensure your gift cards don’t go to waste.

How to Assess Your Credit Card Needs After Divorce
How to determine what you need.

‘Gen Z’ Off to Strong Start With Credit, Analysis Shows
The fiscally responsible generation?

Why Your Friend Has a Better Credit Score Than You
Sifting through the possibilities.

How to ensure your gift cards don’t go to waste
Don’t toss away free money.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to take the heat off your summer budget. Also in the news: How to find out if you’ll owe taxes on an inheritance, 3 things your student loan servicer might not tell you, and what happens to your credit score when you transfer a balance.

How to Take the Heat Off Your Summer Budget
Keep your costs in check.

Find Out If You’ll Owe Taxes on an Inheritance
Don’t spend all that money quite yet.

3 Things Your Student Loan Servicer Might Not Tell You
They’re not always forthcoming.

What Happens to Your Credit Score When You Transfer a Balance?
Looking at the numbers.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 7 tax tips for new college grads. Also in the news: Why many people don’t know the cost of bad credit, how to travel on the cheap, and the death of payday loans.

7 Tax Tips for New College Grads
It’s a whole new tax world.

How Costly Is Bad Credit? Many Don’t Know, Survey Shows
A look at just how expensive bad credit can be.

To Travel Cheap, Steer Clear of These Booking Flubs
Don’t make these mistakes.

Payday loans are dying. Problem solved? Not quite
The slow death of payday lending.

Q&A: So many credit scores — here’s how to get yours

Dear Liz: You recently discussed FICO scores. Please let me know how I can get mine. My bank says it can only give my husband his score because he is the principal on our account.

Answer: Remember that you don’t have one FICO credit score, you have many. Lenders use different versions and generations of the FICO formula. In addition, FICOs will differ based on which credit bureau was used. So your bank may give your husband a FICO Bankcard Score 2 based on information from Experian, while an auto lender might use a FICO Auto Score 5 from Equifax. These scores almost certainly will differ from his FICO 8 scores, which are the most commonly used scores. The FICOs for credit cards and autos typically are on a 250-to-900 scale, while FICO 8 is on a 300-to-850 scale.

Anyone can get free FICO 8 scores based on Experian data from Experian’s consumer site, Freecreditscore.com, and from credit card Discover at Discover.com. Several other credit card issuers — including American Express, Bank of America, Chase, Citi and Wells Fargo — offer FICOs of various kinds to cardholders.

If you want to see a broader range of your FICO scores, you can buy a three-bureau report from MyFico.com for about $60 that includes FICO 8s, FICO 9s and the most commonly used scores in mortgage, credit card and auto lending from each bureau.