Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 8½ birthdays that can affect your finances. Also in the news: How to navigate the costs of starting your van life, how to befriend your money and reap the benefits, and how long something stays on your credit report.

8 ½ birthdays that can affect your finances
Mark your calendars.

How to Navigate the Costs of Starting Your Van Life
Turning a vehicle into a home requires research and often a big budget. Here are some tips for getting started.

Befriend Your Money and Reap the Benefits
Looking at your money as a friend.

How Long Does Something Stay on Your Credit Report?
Most credit activity stays on your report for seven years.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: IRS Free File and how to get free tax preparation or free tax help in 2021. Also in the news: How women investors can rewrite their financial futures, options for people who can’t afford their tax bills, and beware of lender’s mistakes in your credit report.

IRS Free File & How to Get Free Tax Preparation or Free Tax Help in 2021
Here’s where to get free tax software, free tax preparation and free tax help this year.

How Women Investors Can Rewrite Their Financial Futures
When preparing for a secure retirement, women can be disadvantaged. But careful planning and intentional actions can help reduce roadblocks to financial health.

5 Options for people who can’t afford their tax bills
If you can’t afford your tax bill, consider an installment plan or an offer in compromise if you qualify.

Beware of Lenders’ Mistakes in Your Credit Report
Another reason why it’s important to monitor your credit report.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to do if a fair credit score cuts your credit card options. Also in the news: Should you use points and miles to book 2021 travel, should you purchase travel insurance for your summer vacation, and how often you should be checking your credit report.

What to Do If a Fair Credit Score Cuts Your Credit Card Options
If you have only average credit, appealing credit cards aren’t as easy to come by. But you do have some choices.

Ask a Travel Nerd: Should I Use Points and Miles to Book 2021 Travel?
If you’ve been sitting on a pile of travel points, now might be a good time to start planning how to use them.

Do I Need Travel Insurance for My Summer Vacation?
If you’re making nonrefundable bookings, you might want to consider a travel insurance plan.

How Often Should You Be Checking Your Credit Report?
More often than you’d think.

Q&A: When credit scores are fine

Dear Liz: I was once told that the reason my credit score wasn’t higher was an insufficient credit history. Now I am doing what you have recommended by charging a monthly security alarm service to one credit card, a weekly church donation to another and satellite TV to a third. All are paid off each month. I checked my credit score recently and read that the reason my score isn’t higher is that I now have too many cards with balances. My score is around 860 but the comment concerns me. Should it?

Answer: Most credit scores are on a 300 to 850 scale. If your score is at or near the top of that range, you’re doing fine. Scores over 760 or so generally get the best rates and terms from lenders (the cutoff is often 740 for mortgage lenders). Higher scores just get you bragging rights.

The services that provide you with credit scores often give you automated reasons why your scores aren’t higher. Those messages can be helpful when you’re trying to build or rebuild credit. The higher your scores, though, the less helpful those messages seem to be. Even if you could fix the “problem” they’re pointing out, there’s no guarantee your scores would increase.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to shop during Medicare open enrollment. Also in the news: Don’t wait to apply for student loans for next year, 6 things you should add to your pandemic travel kit, and how to handle a suspicious inquiry in your credit report.

Medicare Open Enrollment: How to Shop
Two Medicare-related open enrollment periods offer a chance to switch your coverage. Here’s how to compare plans.

Don’t wait to apply for student loans for next year—some of the money could actually run out
Apply for the FAFSA now, there is ‘a lot of risk in applying late’

6 things you should add to your pandemic travel kit
It’s a whole new ballgame.

How to Handle a Suspicious Inquiry in Your Credit Report
Contact the lender directly.

Q&A: Weekly free credit reports

Dear Liz: In a recent column, you wrote that credit reports are now available weekly from AnnualCreditReport.com. Most people understand that they are entitled to a free credit report once a year via that site. Please explain what is meant by “now available weekly?” By signing up for a paid service from one or more of the credit reporting agencies, or for free, or what?

Answer: AnnualCreditReport.com was created to provide free annual reports, but now you can get your free reports every week.

If you navigate to AnnualCreditReport.com, you’ll see an announcement from the three credit bureaus that the site will provide free credit reports weekly until April 2021.

Free means free. You don’t have to pay or provide credit card information, although the bureaus may try to sell you credit monitoring or other services.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Credit score drop? How to diagnose why and what to do next. Also in the news: A new episode of the SmartMoney podcast on the safety of Bitcoin, what to do if you’re struggling with IRS delays, and what to do about your FSA contributions if your child care is closed.

Credit Score Drop? How to Diagnose Why, and What to Do Next
Time to check your credit report.

SmartMoney Podcast: ‘Is Bitcoin Safe?’
A look at the popular cryptocurrency.

Try these workarounds if you’re struggling with IRS delays
Tips on how to get help.

What to Do About Your FSA Contributions if Your Child Care Is Closed
The IRS has made some changes.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Be first in line for college aid by filing the FAFSA now. Also in the news: What to expect when requesting a credit line increase, four ways to supplement your college financial aid, and preparing your finances for the holidays.

Be First in Line for College Aid by Filing the FAFSA Now
Get it done today.

Requesting a Credit Limit Increase? Here’s What to Expect
You could see a “hard pull” on your credit report.

4 ways to supplement your college financial aid
Covering the costs beyond tuition.

It’s Time to Prepare Your Finances for the Holidays
Stores are already decorating for Christmas.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Charged an overdraft fee? Expect to pay $35 at banks, $26 at credit unions. Also in the news: This year’s important Black Friday dates, how to catch up on holiday savings, and why you shouldn’t use credit apps as a substitute for checking your credit report.

Charged an Overdraft Fee? Expect to Pay $35 at Banks, $26 at Credit Unions
Something to consider when choosing where to put your money.

When Is Black Friday? Hint: It’s Not Just One Day
Important dates to keep in mind.

No holiday savings yet? Here’s how to build your funds fast
There’s still time to catch up.

Don’t Use Credit Apps as a Substitute for Checking Your Credit Report
You still need to make sure your report is accurate.

Q&A:Closing credit accounts

Dear Liz: I paid off and closed two large home equity lines of credit in April, but these HELOCs still appear on my credit report. The lender says they reported the transactions to the credit reporting agencies “immediately” and that the delay in having them removed is the credit bureaus’ fault. Are they right? What is required?

Answer: Closing a credit account won’t remove it from your credit reports. Furthermore, positive or neutral information can be reported indefinitely. The only time limit applies to negative information, which typically must be removed after 7 years.

If the lines of credit are showing as open accounts on your credit reports, then you certainly can file disputes with the credit bureaus and ask that the account status be updated. But since closing credit accounts usually can’t help your credit scores and may hurt them, you probably don’t need to be in a rush to make sure this information is reported accurately.