Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 times your credit card issuer can raise your interest rates. Also in the news: 3 DIY options for making a will online, how to split insurance in a divorce, and how much you can make in the freelance economy.

5 Times Your Credit Card Issuer Can Raise Your Interest Rate
How to avoid the bump.

Making a Will Online: 3 DIY Options
Doing it yourself.

How to Split Insurance in a Divorce
Deciding who gets what.

How Much Money Can You Make in the Freelance Economy?
Setting your own schedule.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Fed point fingers as ‘Debt Relief’ companies prey on student loan borrowers. Also in the news: Distressed borrowers say student debt help was anything but, why investors care about rate hikes, and why your credit cards shouldn’t retire when you do.

Feds Point Fingers as ‘Debt Relief’ Companies Prey on Student Loan Borrowers
Looking for easy targets.

Distressed Borrowers Say Student Debt Help Was Anything But
Compounding a problem.

Why Investors Care About the Fed (and Rate Hikes)
The impact on investments.

Credit hit: Why your credit cards shouldn’t retire when you do
Building credit is still important.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 4 ways to ride the rising interest rates wave. Also in the news: Why you should set your own credit card limits, reasons why credit isn’t as boring as it sounds, and more than 1 million student loan borrowers are in default.

Fed Rate Hike: 4 Ways to Ride Rising Interest Rate Wave
Only the third increase since the 2008 financial crisis.

Set Your Own Credit Card Limits and Improve Your Life
Knowing your limits.

3 Reasons Credit Isn’t as Boring as It Sounds
It’s about more than just cards.

More than 1 million borrowers defaulted on their student loans last year
The amount owed by borrowers has increased 17%.

Tax refund predators are waiting

People who don’t have much money during the rest of the year can become big targets during tax refund season.

For those living paycheck to paycheck, tax refunds — which average around $3,000 — may be the largest chunk of unobligated cash they see all year. Retailers hope to get some of that money, but so do debt collectors, buy-here-pay-here car lots, and purveyors of interest-free loans that come with fat fees. People flush with cash need to proceed with caution.

In my latest for the Associated Press, how to protect yourself from tax refund predators.

Q&A: Will closing high-interest cards hurt your credit score?

Dear Liz: I have a few credit cards with very high interest rates — in the mid-teens. My FICO has improved (805 to 830) and I carry little or no balance on the credit cards. I have contacted the issuers asking for lower interest rates but they won’t budge. I have other credit cards with single-digit interest rates. I would like to close the credit cards with the higher interest rates and understand that I may see a drop in my FICO score. How long will take to get my credit score back in the 800s? Is this a wise move?

Answer: Sites that offer credit scores often also have simulators that estimate what might happen if you take certain actions, such as closing cards. You’ll note, though, that these simulators come with plenty of caveats that add up to: Your mileage may vary. A lot.

The reality is that it’s often tough to predict exactly how account closures will affect your scores or precisely how long those scores will take to recover. That doesn’t mean you can never close a card. For example, if you’re not using the card and you’re tired of paying an annual fee, then closing it can make sense if your scores are good and you’re not going to be in the market for a major loan, such as a mortgage. (You don’t want to close or open other accounts while you’re in the process of getting a loan.) If your scores drop a bit, it won’t be a crisis.

Closing a bunch of accounts at once, however, is generally not a good idea — particularly if you’re just doing it to “show them who’s boss.” If you’re not paying interest on these cards, their rates are irrelevant.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Determining the best way to do your taxes. Also in the news: Refinancing an FHA loan, what’s next for the stock market, and why now is the time to hunt for higher rates on your bank accounts.

Determining the Best Way to Do Your Taxes
Finding the way that works best for you.

FHA Streamline Refinance: 5 Strict Conditions
Meeting the tough requirements.

Trump’s in, Dow Hits 20,000: What’s Next for the Market?
Looking at the market under a new administration.

Now’s the time: Hunt for higher rates on your bank accounts
It’s a year of rising interest rates.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to find a good tax preparer. Also in the news: Excuses for delaying retirement savings, what the TCF bank suit means for you, and why used cars usually have higher interests rates.

How to Find a Good Tax Preparer (and Write Off the Bad Ones)
Finding good help during tax season.

Excuses, Excuses When Delaying Retirement Savings
No more excuses.

What TCF Bank Suit Means for You: Defend Against Overdraft Fees
What opting in really means.

Why Used Cars Usually Have Higher Interest Rates
Guarding against risk.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

interest-rates-300x225Today’s top story: 7 questions and answers about the fed rate hike. Also in the news: How to avoid the Social Security tax bubble, how the fed rate hike could affect your student loans, and how not to be tricked by retailers’ “regular prices.”

Fed Rate Hike: 7 Questions (and Answers)
What you need to know.

How to Avoid the Social Security ‘Tax Bubble’
Know how and when Social Security benefits are taxed.

Fed Rate Hike: What It Means for Student Loans
How your loans might be affected.

Don’t Be Tricked by Retailers’ Unreal Regular Prices
Don’t fall for the bait-and-switch.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

imagesToday’s top story: How President Trump could affect your student loans. Also in the news: Why your student loan interest rates are so high, costly mistakes when sending money online, and money tips for new parents.

5 Ways President Trump Could Affect Your Student Loans
With a new administration comes new rules.

Why Are Your Student Loan Interest Rates So High?
Why you’re paying so much in interest.

3 Costly Mistakes When Sending Money Online
Don’t spend more than you have to.

New Parents: Save Money (and Sleep Better) with These 5 Tips
You do remember sleep, don’t you?

Great credit is a powerful tool

Credit report with score on a desk

Credit report with score on a desk

Credit scores are a financial tool, but whether they’re a lever or a hammer depends on how good they are.

You can leverage great scores into great deals — on loans, credit cards, insurance premiums and cell phone plans. Bad scores can hammer you into missing out or paying more.

The lifetime cost of higher interest rates from bad or mediocre credit can exceed six figures. In my latest for the Associated Press, how to save thousands of dollars in interest by building great credit.