Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to do if your parents need financial help. Also in the news: Why no new debt is the best holiday gift to your family, AmEx cardholders report account shutdowns, and why you should get a health insurance cost estimate even if you’re not buying coverage.

What to Do If Your Parents Need Financial Help
Balancing your needs with theirs.

The Best Holiday Gift to Your Family? No New Debt
The gift that won’t keep on taking.

AmEx Cardholders Report Account Shutdowns
Self-referrals appear to be the culprit.

Get a Health Insurance Cost Estimate Even If You’re Not Buying Coverage
You could be eligible for a subsidy.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Time your credit card application this bonus-friendly season. Also in the news: Debt and housing costs are making it harder to save for retirement, a 2019 holiday shopping report, and how to spend your extra FSA money.

Time Your Credit Card Application This Bonus-Friendly Season
‘Tis the season for bonuses.

Debt, Housing Costs Make It Harder to Save for Retirement, Americans Say
An uncertain future.

2019 Holiday Shopping Report
Will a looming recession curb holiday shopping?

How to Spend Your Extra FSA Money
Don’t leave money on the table.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: SmartMoney podcast on how to pay off debt faster. Also in the news: What to expect when requesting a credit limit increase, why you should always pay in local currency when traveling, and 10 money mistakes millennials should avoid.

SmartMoney podcast: ‘How Can I Pay Off My Debt Faster?’
Tips from the experts.

Requesting a Credit Limit Increase? Here’s What to Expect
Question and answerr

Why You Should Always Pay in Local Currency When Traveling
Avoid markups and fees.

10 Money Mistakes Millennials Should Avoid (No. 10’s a Shocker)
These mistakes could come back to haunt you.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How kids influenced by social media push parents to overspend on back-to-school shopping. Also in the news: How one man paid off nearly $120K of debt in 5 years, the number one airline rewards program, and the pros and cons of giving your child a credit card.

Back-to-School Shopping: Kids Influenced by Social Media Push Parents to Overspend

How I Ditched Debt: Whipping Up a Payoff ‘Tornado’
How one man paid off nearly $120K of debt in 5 years.

This is the No. 1 airline rewards program
Did your favorite airline make the list?

How young is too young for a kid to have a credit card?
The pros and cons of giving your child access to your card.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Don’t be duped by these phone and email scams. Also in the news: Help with checking your finances, how a single mom paid off nearly $80K in debt in eight months, and 1 in 5 Americans are hiding this financial secret from their spouses.

Don’t Be Duped by These Phone and Email Scams
Watching out for scammers.

Can’t Bear to Check Your Finances? Here’s Help
Ignorance isn’t bliss.

This single mom paid off $77,281 of debt in eight months—here are 5 steps she followed
Time to track everything.

1 In 5 Americans Are Hiding This Financial Secret from Their Spouses
Transparency is key.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Is your debt good or bad? Also in the news: How to get a copy of your tax returns or an IRS transcript, why you might not get $125 in Equifax settlement money, and 13 tips for throwing a budget-friendly kid’s birthday party.

Is Your Debt ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’? It Depends
How to determine what you’re dealing with.

How to Get an IRS Transcript or Copy of Your Tax Return
Keep a copy handy.

Why You Might Not Get $125 in Equifax Settlement Money
Don’t spend that money just yet.

13 Tips for Throwing a Budget-Friendly Kid’s Birthday Party
Cut costs without cutting the fun.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Dodge dealership dread with online used car sellers. Also in the news: What first-time home buyers should know about fixer-uppers, how to save for the future when it’s uncertain, and how long it takes for paid debt to be reported to credit bureaus.

Dodge Dealership Dread With Online Used Car Sellers
Car shop from your couch.

What First-Time Home Buyers Should Know About Fixer-Uppers
Don’t get trapped in a money pit.

How to save for the future when it’s uncertain
An emergency fund is crucial.

Here’s How Long It Takes for Paid Debt to Be Reported to Credit Bureaus
Be patient.

Q&A: How to boost your credit score before you buy a house

Dear Liz: I am trying to purchase my first home. I have a 20% down payment for the price range that I am looking for. The issue I am running into is that I have relatively new credit and my credit score is not great at all. I had to go to the emergency room two years back with no insurance and have medical expenses that went into collections. I am now in a financial spot to pay them off. These are the only negatives on my credit report that are unresolved. Will paying these off get my credit to the point that I can buy a home? I am lost as to how to get my score where it needs to be.

Answer: Unfortunately, paying collection accounts typically doesn’t help your credit scores, especially the scores used by most mortgage lenders.

Since you’re new to credit, you may not realize that you don’t have just one credit score. You have many. The two major types are FICO and VantageScore. The latest versions of each (FICO 9 and VantageScore 3.0 and 4.0), ignore paid collections. In addition, FICO 9 and VantageScore 4.0 count unpaid medical collections less heavily against you than other unpaid debts.

But mortgage lenders typically use much older versions of the FICO score, which count all collections against you even if they’re paid.

That said, it would be tough to get a mortgage with unpaid collections on your credit report. Since you have the cash, you may be able to negotiate discounts so that you can resolve these debts at a somewhat lower cost. (Collectors typically would much rather get a lump-sum settlement than wait to be paid over time.)

You’ll also want to get some positive information reported to the credit bureaus to help offset the negative information. The fastest way to do that would be to persuade someone you know who has good credit to add you as an authorized user to one of his or her credit cards. This person doesn’t have to give you the card or any access to the account. Typically, the account history will be “imported” to your credit reports, which can help your scores as long as the person continues to use the card responsibly.

Another way to add positive information is with a credit-builder loan, offered by many credit unions and Self Lender, an online loan site. Usually, credit-builder loans put the money you borrow into a savings account or certificate of deposit that you can claim after you’ve made 12 on-time payments. This helps you build savings at the same time you’re building your credit.

Secured credit cards also can help. With a secured card, you make a deposit with the issuing bank of $200 or more. You get a credit limit that’s typically equal to that deposit. Making small charges on the account and paying it off in full every month can help you build credit without paying interest. You’ll want a card that reports to all three credit bureaus, because mortgage lenders typically pull FICO scores from all three bureaus and use the middle of the three scores to determine your rate and terms.

How debt ‘solutions’ could dig you in deeper

Americans are slipping ever deeper into hock. To cope, many people turn to debt consolidation loans, cash-out mortgage refinancing and retirement plan loans that promise relief but could leave them worse off.

Paying off high-rate debt such as credit cards with lower-rate loans may seem like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, many of these loans have hidden costs and drawbacks. And consolidation by itself can’t fix the problems that led to the debt in the first place. In my latest for the Associated Press, how such loans can make matters worse.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: There’s more than one way to slay a debt. Also in the news: How to know when it’s OK to spend, 3 steps to spring cleaning your credit card debt, and what to do when you desperately need help with medical bills.

There’s More Than One Way to Slay a Debt
These key points could help.

How to Know When It’s OK to Spend
Loosening the purse strings.

3 Steps to Spring-Cleaning Your Credit Card Debt
Time to shake the dust off.

What To Do When You Desperately Need Help With Medical Bills
Looking into medical debt forgiveness.