Archive for the ‘credit/debt’ Category

Clark Howard: Credit scores really do matter

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Listen to Clark's live radio show 8-10 p.m. weekdays on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Listen to Clark's live radio show 8-10 p.m. weekdays on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Credit education is coming back in vogue at big banks and some credit unions.

As just one example, Wells Fargo has a limited-time offer for customers where they’ll give you a free credit score and free credit report through Nov. 15.

Unfortunately, the score you get is not your real FICO score. It is a made-up score that’s assessed based on the bank’s own proprietary scoring model.

The only real, true credit score is from Fair Isaac, the myFICO people. But this option from Wells Fargo gives you kind of like a temperature reading of how you’re doing with your credit.

I’ve talked in the past about CreditKarma.com as another option for getting your free non-FICO credit score as well.

Why is your credit rating important? A report from …

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Clark Howard: Tailor rewards credit card to your spending

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Listen to Clark's live radio show 8-10 p.m. weekdays on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

Listen to Clark's live radio show 8-10 p.m. weekdays on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB.

A new tally from Consumer Reports has named the nation’s top three cash-back credit cards.

The November 2012 issue of Consumer Reports lists Fidelity Rewards American Express as just about the best card out there. There’s no annual fee and you get 2 percent cash back when you link it with a Fidelity account.

This could be a good place to look if you’re a refugee from the defunct 2-percent-cash-back Charles Schwab credit card. The money can either go into a 529 plan, a Roth IRA or the Fidelity equivalent of a checking account and it’s your money to spend.

Next on the Consumer Reports list is American Express Blue Cash Preferred. This card has an annual fee of $75, and it’s skewed to favor those who spend heavily on groceries and …

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Free hot dog, free yoga and more

Woo-hoo! The weekend has arrived. Get it started with some free stuff…

EE6Ai3LUxDuUBw-640mFree Hot Dog: Use the Scoutmob app to get a free hot dog at Pete’s Polar Parlor & Dog House, 2566 Shallowford Road, Atlanta. The deal is good for one free regular hot dog and for dine-in service only. If you don’t have the app on your smart phone, download it, show up at Pete’s and click on “use the deal.”

Free Yoga: On Saturday, Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., Tough Love Yoga, in conjunction with Lululemon and the 2012 Atlanta Pride Festival, present YoGaga! This free session takes place at the Active Oval in Piedmont Park (enter at 12th or 14th street). Guests are invited to wear Lady Gaga inspired outfits while getting the kinks out to the tunes of Mama Monster. All experience levels are welcome.

Free credit score: Not to bring you down, but if you don’t know your credit score it can hurt you. I posted this on Facebook earlier this week, but wanted to share here as well.

From now until Nov. 15, Wells …

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Wes Moss: Where can I really get a free credit check?

Certified financial planner Wes Moss provides personal finance advice and accessible investment strategies. His guest post appears here weekly.

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB

Wes Moss hosts 'Money Matters' Sunday mornings on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB

Flipping around the TV the other night, I came across yet another new ad for freecreditscore.com — you know, the one with that shaggy guitar player and his annoying band? I suppose it’s a good commercial because I remember it, but what about the product? Are such “free” offers really free?

There are dozens of sites with similar offers. They promise to give you a free credit report, and/or your credit score, usually when you sign up for a free trial of their credit monitoring service. The credit report is a listing of the recent activity related to your credit, including loan balances, open accounts and any legal action taken against you related to borrowing.

Want a new credit card? A lower insurance bill? A better loan rate on a car or home? Your …

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Get a $25 credit toward Small Business Saturday

You know you’re shopping at an independent store when a Labrador retriever lies happily sprawled out in the back aisle.

Small Business Saturday, the Nov. 26 shopping day driven by American Express, focuses on local, independent retailers. For many it’s a welcome respite from the big-box chaos on Black Friday.

If you’d rather spend your hard-earned dollars at local mom-and-pops and you have an American Express card, simply sign up to get a free $25 statement credit you can use toward Small Business Saturday. Registration is limited. Credit cannot be used at large or national chain stores. View the sign-up page for more details.

– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter

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Clark Howard: Use layaway option for debt-free holidays

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

ClarkHowardWalmart is reintroducing layaway to help shoppers play Santa Claus on a cash budget this holiday season.

The nation’s largest retailer is the latest to breathe new life into this very old way of shopping. Sears, Kmart and Toys “R” Us have all done layaway plans for the past few years and are doing them again this season.

Here’s how layaway worked in the past: You’d go into a store during the fall and put a deposit down on a sale item that you wanted to give someone at Christmas. (Traditionally, your deposit was noted on a piece of carbon paper in the days before the computer era.) Then you would pay additional money toward the outstanding balance in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Usually by the second week of December, you’d be required to have finished paying off the balance in full. If you didn’t pay it off in full …

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Clark Howard: Do you have good credit? Then get rewarded

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

ClarkHowardLooking for the best credit card in America? I’m still standing by a prior recommendation if you’re someone who pays your bill in full every month.

Consumers have been shedding credit card debt at an incredibly fast pace. I read in Barron’s that the outstanding balances at the nation’s biggest credit card issuers are down by 20 percent to 50 percent from their peaks three years ago. Sure, a small percent of us defaulted, but the larger majority of us paid down those balances.

Now the banks have credit card portfolios that aren’t as profitable. So for those with solid credit scores, you’re probably having your mailbox bombed with pre-approved offers for new credit.

My wife must have a better credit profile than me. It’s not unusual for her to get three pre-approved offers a day. All the offers she gets are back to the …

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Run away from these credit cards

Thinking about opening a new credit card? Stay away from these nine, which have been deemed the “Credit cards from hell” by CNNMoney.

Among them? The Hooters MasterCard, with an APR of 25.45 percent and an annual fee of up to $48 for the first year, plus $4 per month after that.

But it’s not the worst on the list. Not by a long shot.

More from the story:

That makes this card among the worst in terms of restaurant-branded credit cards, according to John Ulzheimer, personal finance expert at SmartCredit.com.

“Even if you have excellent credit, it looks like you’ll get a rate of more than 16%,” he said. “You can definitely find a better card than that with excellent credit — and if you’re credit isn’t so good, you’re certainly going to get hit with that 25.4%.”

Have you ever gotten sucked into using a “credit card from hell”? What didn’t you know before you signed up for it?

4/26 update: Looking for other ways to save money? Read about Stephanie Barr, Atlanta’s own couponer, who …

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Wes Moss: 10 exercises to get in better financial shape

Wes_Moss-for-Web-smaller-fiCertified financial planner Wes Moss provides personal finance advice and accessible investment strategies. His guest post appears here weekly.

I received an invitation to be on Q100 FM’s Bert Show last week and was asked to provide ideas that could help anyone make 2011 a better financial year. The guidance I offered can help anyone, regardless of age or circumstance. And while I only had time to talk about three of the ideas on air, here’s the full list of 10.

1. Write It Down – Today is the first day of the rest of your financial life, which makes it the perfect time to write down your goals on paper. As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you are going, you’ll never get there. Make time to map out your course for 2011 (and beyond) in every area of your life, including personal finance. There’s a strange power in doing so, plus you can refer back to these goals over the years to make sure you are on track.

2. Go on a debt diet today – Yes, all that credit card debt …

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Credit cards’ extras can help your holiday shopping

It’s the debt-free way of living. Never use credit cards, always use cash and avoid getting sucked into those rewards programs, right?

You’re half-right. If you’re in debt, it’s wise to stay away from credit cards. But if you pay off your cards each month, using them for holiday shopping could have huge benefits.

Check your cards to see what bonuses you might be ignoring, but here are the main benefits.

Product protection: Credit cards will usually let you return items the manufacturer won’t and can include travel insurance of up to $2,000 a year if you have to cancel airline tickets.

“More and more people are shopping online these days with credit cards,” said John McCosh of CredAbility, an Atlanta-based nonprofit credit counseling service. “And a credit card protects you if the delivery is wrong.”

Card protection: If a card is lost or stolen, many issuers will cover part, if not all, of any fraudulent charges. But if you lose a lot of cash, it’s gone.

Extended warranties:

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