Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 6 credit card scams and how to avoid them. Also in the news: A new episode of the SmartMoney podcast on COVID impulse spending and building credit while paying off debt, how Black Friday shopping could look very different this year, and making a plan to repay your borrowed 401(k) money.

6 Credit Card Scams and How to Avoid Them
Crooks don’t have to steal your card — just your card information. Keep your money and your identity safe.

Smart Money Podcast: COVID Impulse Spending, and Building Credit While Paying Debt
Finding the right payoff method for your debt.

Black Friday Shopping Could Look Very Different This Year
Lining up for doorbusters could be a thing of the past.

Make a Plan to Repay Your Borrowed 401(k) Money
Start thinking of a payoff strategy.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Is it okay to never have a credit card? Also in the news: How to organize important documents simply and safely, can a credit card company lower your credit limit, and how to try and prevent your eviction.

Is It OK to Never Have a Credit Card?
Using credit cards responsibly is one way to build your credit history — but it’s not the only way.

How to Organize Important Documents Simply and Safely
What you should keep and for how long.

Can a Credit Card Company Lower My Credit Limit?
Cardholders are seeing an increase in reductions.

How to Try and Prevent Your Eviction
23 million renting families could lose their homes by September 30.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Smart ways to establish credit in 2020. Also in the news: 3 strategies to recover from holiday overshopping, the pros and cons of merging money when married, and how to downgrade your Chase card without losing your points.

Smart Ways to Establish Credit in 2020
Sorting through the options.

Overshopped in December? Try These 3 Strategies to Recover
Beating the holiday shopping hangover.

Does Marriage Have to Mean Merging Money?
A look at the pros and cons.

How to Downgrade Your Chase Credit Card Without Losing Your Points
A change in annual fee has customers thinking twice.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 freebies with your student loans. Also in the news: How to stem ‘subscription creep’, how baby steps can get your credit life rolling, and everything Apple isn’t telling you about its new credit card.

5 Freebies With Your Student Loans
Loyalty discounts and academic assistance.

How to Stem ‘Subscription Creep’
Stop paying for that movie subscription you never use.

Baby Steps Can Get Your Credit Life Rolling
One tiny step at a time.

Here’s Everything Apple Isn’t Telling You About Its New Credit Card
Reading the fine print.



Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 6 ways to build your credit in less than an hour. Also in the news: Investing in international stocks, why you should invest in the stock market even if it scares you, and where to find the best Memorial Day sales.

6 Ways to Build Your Credit in Less Than an Hour
60 minutes to better credit.

Investing in International Stocks: A Road Map
Diving into the international market.

Invest in the Stock Market, Even if It Scares You
Take a deep breath.

Where to Find the Best Memorial Day Sales
Find the best savings.

Q&A: Building an emergency fund beats out building credit

Dear Liz: I am trying to raise my credit scores, which are very low. I have one negative mark on my account from a paid collection and I just got my first secured credit card. I have a bit of extra money right now and I’m wondering what’s the best way to use it to raise my scores. Should I get another secured credit card from a different issuer, get a secured 12-month loan through my financial institution or something else?

Answer: People rebuilding their credit often overlook the importance of an emergency fund. Having even a small amount of savings can keep a financial setback, such as a decrease in income or an unexpected expense, from causing you to miss a payment and undoing all your efforts to boost your scores. You can start with just a few hundred dollars and slowly build the fund over time.

Adding an installment loan can assist with building credit as well, but a secured loan may not be the best option if money is tight. The cash you deposit with the lender as collateral for the loan won’t be available again until you pay off the loan. Consider instead a credit-builder loan, in which the money you borrow is placed in a savings account or certificate of deposit to be claimed when you’ve finished making the monthly payments, typically after one year. That means you can keep the cash you already have for emergencies. Credit-builder loans are available from some credit unions and Self Lender, an online company.

You’ll want to make sure both the credit card issuer and the installment loan lender are reporting your payments to the three credit bureaus. If your accounts don’t show up on your credit reports, they’re not helping to build your scores.

In addition to making payments on time, you’ll want to avoid using too much of the available credit on the card. There’s no bright line for how much to charge, but typically 30% or less is good, 20% or less is better and 10% or less is best. Use the card lightly but regularly and pay it off in full every month because there’s no advantage to carrying a balance.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 back-to-college lessons on building credit. Also in the news: Focus on just one thing in order to retire early, 4 salary negotiation tactics that actually work, and what you need to know before switching to a cheaper phone plan.

5 Back-to-College Lessons on Building Credit
Preparing for a solid future.

To Retire Early, Focus on Just One Thing
Save like mad.

4 Salary Negotiation Tactics That Really Worked
How to get what you’re worth.

What You Need to Know Before Switching to a Cheaper Phone Plan
There will be changes.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Credit report with score on a desk

Today’s top story: How your selfie could affect your life insurance. Also in the news: How to build credit in exactly 250 words, why you need to get to work on building your unemployment fund, and why the credit scoring system is about to get less awful.

How Your Selfie Could Affect Your Life Insurance
That brunch selfie could raise your life insurance rates.

How to Build Credit in (Exactly) 250 Words
Short, sweet, and effective.

Get to Work on Building Your Unemployment Fund
Don’t waste anymore time.

The Credit Scoring System Is About to Get Less Awful
Big changes are coming this fall.

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.

The best ways to build credit now

Once, building credit meant taking on debt — sometimes expensive debt like a car loan or a credit card with a high rate.

Today, it’s possible to build a good credit score in a year without a big chunk of cash upfront or a large debt at the end. You can make yourself look better to lenders while keeping more money in your pocket. In my latest for the Associated Press, how to build credit the right way.