Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Can your credit card help you get a refund on a canceled trip? Also in the news: 9 alternatives to payday loans to consider during the COVID-19 crisis, what to do before adopting or buying a puppy, and how to earn more reward points on your next grocery run.

Can My Credit Card Help Me Get a Refund on Canceled Trips?
Your card may have travel protection.

9 Alternatives to Payday Loans to Consider During the COVID-19 Crisis
Other options to high interest loans.

Do This Before Adopting or Buying a Puppy
What to do before getting a quarantine buddy.

How to Earn More Rewards Points on Your Next Grocery Run
Cards are offering more practical rewards.

How to ask your bank or lender for help

Many banks, credit card issuers and other lenders have promised to help those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. They’re offering to defer or reduce payments and waive interest charges and rebate fees for those who have lost jobs, had their hours reduced or otherwise lost income to the COVID-19 crisis.

The help usually isn’t automatic, however. You have to ask for it — and ask the right way.

In my latest for the Associated Press, the important questions to ask your bank or lender.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to know before accepting COVID-19 credit card relief. Also in the news: You can now get free weekly credit reports, how to get money to family and friends in a crisis, and what your small business should do with its Paycheck Protection Program loan.

What to Know Before Accepting COVID-19 Credit Card Relief
Beware the fine print.

You Can Now Get Free Weekly Credit Reports — Here’s How to Use Them
Keeping a close eye on your credit.

How to Get Money to Family and Friends in a Crisis
Watch out for fees.

Your small business got a Paycheck Protection Program loan. Now what?
The best ways to strategize.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Cancel your travel credit card due to Coronavirus? Ask for a retention offer first. Also in the news: What to do when a family member or friend needs money, and before opening a new credit line, check for this restriction.

Cancel Your Travel Credit Card Due to Coronavirus? Ask for a Retention Offer First
Banks don’t want to lose your business.

A Friend or Family Member Needs Money. What Do You Do?
Things to consider before writing that check.

Should College Savers Opt for Student Loans This Fall?
Interest rates have plummeted.

Before Opening a New Credit Line, Check for This Restriction
One word: Iowa.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How COVID-19 payment accommodations may affect your credit. Also in the news: Mortgage “relief” and “refinance” searches spike during outbreak, why retailers host sales during the outbreak, and how to get Coronavirus relief payments for kids if you don’t files taxes.

How COVID-19 Payment Accommodations May Affect Your Credit
How the CARES Act affects credit reporting.

Mortgage ‘Relief’ and ‘Refinance’ Searches Spike During Outbreak
The Coronavirus has people examining their mortgages.

Another Email? Why Retailers Host Sales During Coronavirus Outbreak
Retailers are struggling.

How to Get Coronavirus Relief Payments for Kids If You Don’t File Taxes
Keep checking the IRS website.

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.