Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to stock up wisely, emergency or not. Also in the news: Some rental owners could get an extra tax break this year, how to unlock the debtor’s prison of student loans, and the most important money move that women aren’t making.

How to Stock Up Wisely, Emergency or Not
No panic shopping.

Some Rental Owners Could Get an Extra Tax Break This Year
The new QBI.

Unlock the Debtor’s Prison of Student Loans
Looking for relief.

This is the most important money move that women aren’t making
It’s time to invest.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How Gen Z (and everyone else) can combat spending regret. Also in the news: How to spot a good car salesperson – or a bad one, 4 money lessons from ‘Love is Blind,’ and 9 savings strategies to boost your finances.

How Gen Z (and Everyone Else) Can Combat Spending Regret
Prioritize what’s important to you.

How to Spot a Good Car Salesperson — Or a Bad One
Don’t get a lemon of a salesperson.

4 Money Lessons From ‘Love is Blind’
Lessons from Netflix’s new reality show.

9 savings strategies to boost your finances
Gamifying can help.

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.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Concerned about Coronoavirus? How to prepare your house, mind and bank account. Also in the news: 3 ways Millennials are getting money right, what to buy (and skip) in March, and 6 moves to make if you’ve saved more than $1,000 in your checking account.

Concerned About Coronavirus? How to Prepare Your House, Mind and Bank Account
Practical steps.

3 Ways Millennials Are Getting Money Right
Forget the avocado toast trope.

What to Buy (and Skip) in March
Deep discounts on tax software.

If You’ve Saved More Than $1,000 in Your Checking Account, Make These 6 Moves
Don’t let it sit there.

Q&A: To build credit, try this set-it-and-forget-it trick

Dear Liz: I have little credit history and my Experian credit score is about 620. My wife has no credit history. We are in the process of increasing our creditworthiness. I have an unsecured credit card from my credit union. She will be getting a secured credit card. We will use these lightly and regularly, paying them off each month. Does using my credit card to pay a utility bill each month work for building credit?

Answer: Absolutely. As long as your credit cards report to all three credit bureaus, your on-time payments will build your scores.

To make things easier, you could set up a recurring charge and automatic payment. Utilities typically allow customers to pay their bills automatically with credit cards, and credit cards usually offer the option of paying automatically each month. You’re normally given three options: paying only the minimum, paying in full or paying a set dollar amount.

Recurring charges ensure your card shows regular activity, while automatic payment should eliminate the risk of missing a payment. A single skipped payment could be a significant blow to your credit scores.

Another option to consider is a credit builder loan, which many credit unions and community banks offer. Typically, the amount you borrow is placed into a savings account or certificate of deposit while you make payments.

When you’ve paid the loan in full, usually after 12 months, you claim the cash. The payments help build your credit, and the cash could be the start of an emergency fund.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: When and how to say no to extended car warranties. Also in the news: How to save money with used baby items, medical expenses you can deduct on your taxes, and why you really need to set up automatic credit card payments.

Extended Car Warranties: When and How to Say No
Don’t pay for something you may never use.

New Baby? Save Money With These Used Items
You’ll only use them for a brief time.

Which medical expenses can you deduct on your taxes?
No, you can’t deduct your medical weed.

You Really Need to Set Up Automatic Credit Card Payments
Never miss a due date again.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: I travel-hacked a college tour and saved $3,000 miles. Also in the news: How to fight back against being an online fraud target, 3 essential budget categories, and where to find deals on National Pizza Day.

I Travel-Hacked a College Tour and Saved $3,000
An Amtrak sale inspired me to use points, miles and other travel rewards for an upcoming tour with my daughter.

You’re an Online Fraud Target — Fight Back
Millennials are a big target.

3 Essential Budget Categories
Lining up your three buckets.

Where to Find Deals on National Pizza Day
One of the best fake holidays.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How ex-offenders can rebuild with a bank account. Also in the news: Determining how much you should spend on rent, how to have a baby even if you’re worried you can’t afford it, and how to handle awkward financial conversations.

How Ex-Offenders Can Rebuild With a Bank Account
Starting over.

How Much Should I Spend on Rent?
How to determine what you really can afford.

How to have a baby, even if you’re worried you can’t afford it
Advice from new parents and financial experts.

How to handle that awkward financial conversation
When to swallow your pride.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to avoid PMI when buying a home. Also in the news: Getting to know your scary new car, 8 African-American financial gurus to follow for 2020, and how to recertify your student loan repayment program.

How to Avoid PMI When Buying a Home
Ways around private mortgage insurance.

Get to Know Your Scary New Car
Figuring out the bells and whistles.

8 African American Financial Gurus to Follow in 2020
Learn their financial goals for 2020.

How to Recertify Your Student Loan Repayment Plan
Mark the date on your calendar.

I travel-hacked a college tour and saved $3,000

Amtrak’s “buy one, get one” spring sale got me started.

My teenage daughter and I had used a similar two-for-one deal last year to take an overnight train trip from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon. This year, she wanted to use her spring break to check out colleges in Chicago as well as the Pacific Northwest. When Amtrak announced the return of its companion fare sale, I thought a couple of nights on a sleeper train might be a good way to start our college tour. She agreed.

At the same time, I noticed that we had travel rewards piling up all over the place: points, miles, free anniversary nights at hotels, even a Southwest companion pass that had yet to be used. At NerdWallet, we’re always telling people to spend rather than hoard their rewards, which get less valuable over time thanks to program devaluations.

So I decided to see how much I could save on one 10-day trip. In my latest for the Associated Press, find out what the grand total was and how we pulled it off.