Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How much car insurance do you really need? Also in the news: As major credit card issuers pull back amid COVID, startups stepped in, reboot your budget to prepare for reopening, and when to expect a refund for your $10,200 unemployment tax break.

How Much Car Insurance Do You Really Need?
Too little car insurance and you’re financially vulnerable. But too much, and you’ll overpay. Here’s what to know.

As Major Credit Card Issuers Pulled Back Amid COVID, Startups Stepped In
Some products that were launched or expanded in 2020 don’t bother with credit checks at all and instead look at your income and bank account. They also charge no interest.

Reboot Your Budget to Prepare for Reopening
As states ease COVID restrictions and vaccinations pick up, here’s why it’s time to take a look at your finances.

When To Expect a Refund for Your $10,200 Unemployment Tax Break
What will happen if you filed your taxes before the new stimulus.

Q&A: Paying taxes with plastic

Dear Liz: I am selling a rental property that I have owned for several years. I know I could do a 1031 exchange, which would allow me to put off the tax bill by investing in another commercial property. But I just want out. I’ll pay the capital gains tax and invest the rest of the proceeds. I am considering paying the taxes by credit card and taking on the 3% premium to get rewards points offered through the card issuer. Is this a dumb idea, or does it have some merit?

Answer: The companies that process federal tax payments have processing fees of just under 2%, not 3%. You’ll still want to make sure you get more value from your rewards than you pay in fees, and that’s not a given. If your card offers only 1.5% cash back, for example, charging your taxes doesn’t make a lot of sense. But the math changes if you can get more than 2% in rewards, or if you could use the charge to help you meet the minimum spending requirements for a new credit card with a generous sign-up bonus.

If you do charge your taxes, you’ll obviously want to pay the balance in full before incurring any interest.

Q&A: Refreshing an old credit card

Dear Liz: I have and use three credit cards, two of which offer cash-back rewards. The third has no rewards program, so I would like to get rid of it and replace it with a new card that offers cash back or miles. But I’m afraid if I cancel this card my credit score will take a hit, especially since the card has a big chunk of my overall credit limit. What do you suggest?

Answer: You can ask the issuer for a “product change,” which allows you to swap one card for another without closing your account. Typically, your history with the old card is simply transferred to the new one, as is your credit limit.

The new card must be from the same issuer and you usually won’t qualify for any sign-up bonuses. But you won’t risk damaging your scores by closing one account and applying for another.

Research the issuer’s offerings and know which card you want before you call. This is usually a fairly routine process, but if you encounter any resistance, just mention that your other option is to cancel the card. If you’ve been a good customer, the issuer probably will want to keep your business.

A product change also can be a good idea if you want to switch from a rewards card with a high annual fee to one with a lower fee, or no fee. Any rewards you’ve already earned may not be transferable, so be sure to ask.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Will travel costs change as vaccines roll out? Also in the news: How to pick the right credit card for a major purchase, why your dog needs liability insurance even if they’re perfect, and how to save money by knowing your credit card’s closing date.

Will Travel Costs Change as Vaccines Roll Out?
With travel demand likely to increase, the price of flights and hotels will also rise if travelers wait to book.

How to Pick the Right Credit Card for a Major Purchase
That big-ticket item could earn you loads of rewards, or you could snag a lengthy no-interest period to pay off the purchase.

Why Your Dog Needs Liability Insurance Even if She’s Perfect
Personal liability, umbrella and animal liability coverage can keep your finances safe if your dog hurts someone.

Save Money by Knowing Your Credit Card’s ‘Closing Date’
Payment due date vs. closing date.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to pick the right credit card for a major purchase. Also in the news: How to adjust your credit card strategy for 2021 travel, three factors to consider (and one to ignore) when choosing investment funds, and how you can deduct masks as a medical expense on your taxes.

How to Pick the Right Credit Card for a Major Purchase
That big-ticket item could earn you loads of rewards, or you could snag a lengthy no-interest period to pay off the purchase.

How to Adjust Your Credit Card Strategy for 2021 Travel
A new survey finds many Americans are planning trips this year. Credit card spending rewards can help cover costs.
When Choosing Investment Funds, Look at 3 Factors, Ignore 1
Forget about word of mouth.

How You Can Deduct Masks as a Medical Expense on Your Taxes
Find out how to qualify.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What free college might actually look like. Also in the news: How to get rid of credit card debt by opening another card, how to fix credit report errors, and how to figure out the size of your next stimulus check.

What Free College Might Actually Look Like
Separating fact from fiction.

One Way to Zap Credit Card Debt? Open Another Credit Card
Yes, getting a balance transfer credit card means yet another piece of plastic — only this kind may let you pay down debt over time at 0% interest.

Your Credit Report May Be Wrong — Here’s What to Do About It
Complaints about credit report issues surged in 2020. Here’s how to verify the data that makes up your credit score.

Figure Out the Size of Your Next Stimulus Check With These Calculators
See what you’ll get in the next round of checks.

Q&A: How to keep your lightly used credit cards from closing

Dear Liz: I had a credit card that didn’t expire until 2024 but the issuer closed my account because it hadn’t been used in a few years. During these difficult times, I didn’t want to get into a lot of debt by using too many cards. The issuer should have let me know this could happen so that I could have used it at least once a year.

Answer: You’re smart not to want to charge your way into debt. If you want to keep a credit card from being closed for inactivity, though, you need to use it — and probably more than once a year.

One way to do so is to charge a recurring cost, such as a streaming video subscription, to the card. You can set up the payment to be automatic as well. You should still review the account’s transactions every month to ensure everything is working as planned and no fraudulent charges have been made. But otherwise, this approach is a low-effort way to keep open your access to credit.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Changed travel plans on the menu this Thanksgiving. Also in the news: Online shopping already hit holiday-lvel peaks this year, when you can apply for a credit card after bankruptcy, and how the pandemic has made the racial retirement gap worse.

Changed Travel Plans on the Menu This Thanksgiving
Three in 5 U.S. adults who had Thanksgiving travel plans say these plans have been affected by the pandemic, according to a NerdWallet survey.

Online Shopping Already Hit Holiday-Level Peaks This Year
Shopping looks a little different this year.

When Can I Apply For A Credit Card After Bankruptcy?
Your options are limited.

The pandemic has made the racial retirement gap worse. Here’s how individuals can close it.Closing the racial retirement gap for people of color, even in this pandemic, could begin with broadening access and financial education.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Don’t skip these steps when borrowing parent student loans. Also in then news: How to build a home office without breaking the bank, medical student borrowing slows, and the easiest way to lower the interest rate on your credit card.

Don’t Skip These Steps When Borrowing Parent Student Loans
Assess your financial situation and talk openly with your child before borrowing parent student loans.

How to Build a Home Office Without Breaking the Bank
Decide where you’ll invest to make a home office that’s comfortable and productive, as well as affordable.

Med Student Borrowing Slows, but Debt Still an Issue
In the class of 2019, 73% of medical students took out loans; their median debt was $200,000.

The Easiest Way to Lower Your Credit Card Interest Rate
Get ready to spend some time on the phone.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 7 Halloween headaches and how insurance can help. Also in the news: Your battle plan for buying a home with a VA loan, what college and student debt changes are likely after the election, and the best credit card for food delivery apps.

7 Halloween Headaches and How Insurance Can Help
What to do when you get tricked.

Your Battle Plan for Buying a Home With a VA Loan
Choose experienced professionals to guide you through the VA loan process, and bring some cash to the table, even if you don’t plan to make a down payment.

Trump vs. Biden: What College and Student Debt Changes Are Likely
What to expect from both candidates.

The Best Credit Cards for Food Delivery Apps
Finding tasty discounts.