Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 7 credit card rules you can break in an emergency. Also in the news: How Gen X can start tackling its credit card debt, 6 tips to help your portfolio weather the coronavirus crash, and how to prep for and spend your government relief check.

7 Credit Card ‘Rules’ You Can Break in an Emergency
Times are different.

How Gen X Can Start Tackling Its Credit Card Debt
Don’t put it off any longer.

6 Tips to Help Your Portfolio Weather the Coronavirus Crash
Slow and steady.

How to Prep for and Spend Your Government Relief Check
Getting the most from your check.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Relief checks may be coming, but scammers are already here. Also in the news: 3 ways credit cards can help you ride out a crisis, your student loan bill is still due during a pandemic, and how to save energy while you’re stuck at home.

Relief Checks May Be Coming, but Scammers Are Already Here
Scammers never miss an opportunity.

3 Ways Credit Cards Can Help You Ride Out a Crisis
Preserving your cash.

Your Student Loan Bill Is Still Due During the Pandemic
Interest is halted, but you still need to pay.

How to Save Energy When You’re Stuck at Home
Keeping your electric bill in check.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Your last chance for high CD rates is right now. Also in the news: How a credit card can help home improvement plans, how to search for scholarships without getting lost in spam, and a new episode of the SmartMoney podcast on credit scores.

Your Last Chance for High CD Rates Is Right Now
The impact of Fed rate changes.

Got Home Improvement Plans? How a Credit Card Can Help
Rewards and sign-up bonuses.

How to Search for Scholarships, Not Get Lost in Spam
Finding legit offers.

SmartMoney Podcast: ‘Why Did My Credit Scores Suddenly Drop?’
Sorting through the reasons.

Q&A: This innocent oversight can torpedo your credit scores

Dear Liz: My wife just had a credit card closed due to late payments, and we need some advice. It was a mileage card that she stopped using, but in November she made a charge for $120. She forgot about the charge, and in December they added the annual $60 fee. We weren’t monitoring the card, as it wasn’t being used, so we missed paying the two charges for three months. They closed the account and refused to reopen it even after we paid the balance.

This was an account my wife had for 17 years, always making payments on time, with a $26,000 credit line. Is there a way to get the company to reopen the account? Would you suggest writing a goodwill letter asking the bank to remove the account from our credit record? This was a stupid oversight on our part, and now I fear it’s going to kill our credit score!

Answer: Let’s take the good news, bad news approach.

The good news is that there is no such thing as a joint credit score. If this account was in your wife’s name alone, then only her credit scores have been affected. If you were an authorized user on the card, then the late payments may be affecting your scores as well, but you have some recourse. You can call the issuer and ask to be removed as an authorized user from the closed account, or you can dispute the account with the credit bureaus and (hopefully) get it removed that way.

Now, the bad news. If your wife’s credit scores used to be high, they aren’t anymore. That first skipped payment probably knocked 100 points or more from her scores. The next two skipped payments just exacerbated the damage. The account’s closure didn’t help matters, but most of the damage happened when she missed the first payment.

She can try writing a letter asking the issuer for mercy, but she shouldn’t get her hopes up. The issuer no longer wants her business and has little incentive to accommodate her.

Fortunately, credit score damage isn’t permanent, but it may be a few years before her scores are back to where they were.

This is a good reminder to consider putting all credit accounts on automatic payment, so at least the minimum payments are made each month. It’s also smart to monitor at least one of your credit scores and get alerts if there’s a sudden drop. Many banks and credit cards offer free scores, as do financial websites.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Why credit card loyalty is no virtue. Also in the news: the SmartMoney podcast tackles saving for a down payment, how to decide between buying, fixing, or building, and how to talk to a real human at the IRS without waiting on hold forever.

Why Credit Card Loyalty Is No Virtue
At least 1 in 5 consumers are carrying the wrong card.

SmartMoney Podcast: ‘How to Save for a Down Payment’
Look for the best interest rates.

Buy, Build or Fix: What’s Best for First-Time Home Buyers?
Tough decisions.

How to Talk to a Real Human at the IRS Without Waiting on Hold Forever
The best times to call.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How I ditched debt: rebounding from bankruptcy. Also in the news: A new episode of the SmartMoney podcast on maximizing travel rewards, what the Coronavirus means for your home loan and mortgage rates, and what happens to your credit card if you move internationally.

How I Ditched Debt: Rebounding From Bankruptcy
How one couple paid off nearly $180,000 of debt.

SmartMoney Podcast: ‘How Can I Maximize My Travel Rewards?’
Getting the biggest bang for your buck.

What the New Coronavirus Means for Your Home Loan and Mortgage Rates
There’s a new interest rate cut.

What Happens to Your Credit Card if You Move Internationally?
It’s complicated.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: When the market drops, play the long game with retirement savings. Also in the news: Is booking a last-minute spring break flight with miles a good idea, a credit union’s new card goes all-in with 3X points, and how to get a credit card when you’re already in debt.

When the Market Drops, Play the Long Game With Retirement Savings
Don’t panic.

Ask a Points Nerd: Should I Book Last-Minute Spring Break Flights With Miles?
The Points Nerd weighs in.

Credit Union’s New Card Goes All-In With 3X Points
A Florida credit union is about to get popular.

How to Get a Credit Card When You’re Already in Debt
When you need a little wiggle room.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How the IRS knows if you cheat on your taxes. Also in the news: 3 reasons to pay for spring break with a travel credit card, alternative options if you can’t find an affordable FHA-approved home, and why the bank holds your deposit for 9 days on new accounts.

How the IRS Knows If You Cheat on Your Taxes
They’re always watching.

3 Reasons to Pay for Spring Break with a Travel Credit Card
Racking up points.

Can’t Find an Affordable FHA-Approved Home? You Have Options
Alternative options.

Why the Bank Is Holding Your Deposit for 9 Days
The downside of a new account.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to navigate your most dangerous decade. Also in the news: 5 questions to ask before you share a credit card, how to use your tax refund to polish your credit, and how to save on your cell phone bill without a family plan.

How to Navigate Your Most Dangerous Decade
Your fifties can be daunting.

5 Questions to Ask Before You Share a Credit Card
Preventing future disagreements.

How to Use Your Tax Refund to Polish Your Credit
Giving your credit a little boost.

How to Save on Your Cell Phone Bill Without a Family Plan
Discounts aren’t just for families.