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.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

shutterstock_101159917Today’s top story: When and how much a Fed rate hike will cost you. Also in the news: The art of lowering your bills, how to become Social Security savvy, and why you should check your credit report after getting married.

Fed Rate Hike: When and How Much It Will Cost You
What to expect when the Fed pulls the trigger.

Ace the Art of Lowering Your Bills
Treat it like a science.

Are You Social Security Savvy?
What you know and don’t know.

Check Your Credit Report for Inquires After You Get Married
Checking for changes.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

teen-creditToday’s top story: What to know about cash-back shopping websites. Also in the news: Tips to slash unnecessary monthly expenses, what you need to know about online bill pay, and the factors that affect your credit card’s interest rate.

What to Know About Cash-Back Shopping Sites
Getting rewarded for shopping!

4 Tips to Slash Unnecessary Monthly Expenses
Cutting out the fat.

Online Bill Pay: What It Is and Why You Should Use It
Making your bill paying life easier.

The Factors That Affect Your Credit Card’s Interest Rate and How to Tell If Yours Is Too High
What’s driving your rate?