Archive for the ‘credit/debt’ Category

Clark Howard: Deals on shipping can still be costly

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


Retailer expectations of sluggish Christmas sales are creating a lot of opportunities for holiday shoppers.

Walmart has introduced free shipping on 60,000 items with no minimum purchase required. This new sales ploy even allows the purchase of big electronics items. Additionally, the prices at Walmart’s website are, in many cases, cheaper than at its brick-and-mortar stores.
But there’s both more than meets the eye and less than meets the eye to this deal.

On the positive side, you can score great deals on products that go well beyond the inventory in stores. But it’s not equivalent to Amazon’s free shipping. Walmart can take up to five days to get your shipment underway, not delivered to you. Amazon, however, will often have it to you the next day. Yet Walmart’s prices will probably undercut Amazon.

Beware store …

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Average Atlanta credit balances lowest since 2002, but delinquencies climb

The average credit card debt carried by metro Atlantans is down nearly 13 percent  since the recession began. At $5,946, the average balance is its lowest since the second quarter of 2002 according to credit reporting agency, TransUnion.

If you raised a brow, it’s understandable.

Behind the pretty numbers is a rather ugly reality, says chief executive officer Odysseas Papadimitriou. Nationally, charge-offs — accounts that are ordinarily 180 days delinquent and have been erased — have grown. While credit card debt decreased $12 billion in the second quarter compared to the previous quarter, banks charged off $21.8 billion over the same period, according to the Federal Reserve. That means consumers actually accumulated $9.8 billion in debt.

“It’s trending the wrong way,” Papadimitriou said. “The alarming thing is that it’s 250 percent higher than the same quarter last year. Consumers are going to end the year with $26 billion more in debt than 2009. The …

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5 disastrous financial moves and how to avoid them

Every week, our team of certified financial planners answers your questions and share their thoughts on relevant issues of the day like saving for retirement, college planning, budgeting, reducing debt, refinancing and more.

Ted Jenkin of oXYGen Financial

Ted Jenkin of oXYGen Financial

Today, planner Ted Jenkin from oXYGen Financial discusses five disaster financial moves consumers often make — and can avoid.

1) Buying More Home Than You Can Afford- This is my top one as it will truly cripple your long term financial plan.   Years ago, I had heard of a very simple financial ratio called the primary obligation ratio. It said that your mortgage payment shouldn’t be much more than 28% to 34% of your total gross monthly income.   Use that statistic in conjunction with putting 20% down on your home purchase and you will typically avoid this number one financial disaster.

It is impossible to squeeze into a home financially like you would a car or some other one-time purchase.  Many people forget the cost of …

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7 signs of debt trouble: When you’re in over your head

A fire-breathing debt monster causing nightmares is a sure sign of financial trouble. But not all distress is so pronounced. Danger lurks, even in more quiet environments. There are indicators that you could be in over your head, with or without the sleepless nights or upset stomach.

Among the most disconcerting behaviors is denial. Flipping quickly through the pages of bad book is a lot easier than trudging through one bad line after another.

“Not sitting down and adding up what you owe is a dangerous sign,” said Alan McKnight, an Atlanta-based certified financial planner with Kays Financial Advisory Corporation. “A lot of people think they can out-run it. They say, ‘If I can just make a little more, I’ll fix it.’ The problem, with credit especially, is that it can overwhelm you. It’s almost impossible to out-run it.”

It’s not impossible to turn things around, though. McKnight said the first step is paying close attention to your money-related habits. Here are at …

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Keeping the repo man away: What to do when you fall behind on car payments

For any number of reasons, people find themselves unable to make their car payments. The repo man is no one’s friend, at least not during his working hours. They are big, bad, mean and scary. But, they’re just doing their job. When you don’t pay your lender, they show up, sometimes at all hours of the night.

Richard Grosvenor gathers information before repossessing a car. AJC file photo

Richard Grosvenor gathers information before repossessing a car. AJC file photo

Here are three ways to avoid having your car repossessed, based on the blog. For full details on each, click on the above link. Here’s a snapshot:

1. Call Your Lender – Get on the phone with the company that lent you the money for the car and talk to them about your situation. They should be open to working with you and keeping your business. They don’t want a charge-off.

2. Consider a Refinance – If you’re past that point, consider asking your lender about a refinance. Yes, you can refinance a car loan. By extending the term, you could potentially lower your payment to …

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Credit score contestant wins $850 prize with a 103-point jump

When 26 people toed the line to compete for an $850 grand prize in a credit score challenge, they didn’t take off with a sprint.

Tiffany Gray is presented with her award by CredAbility director of education, Mechel Glass. Gray won the $850 grand prize.

Tiffany Gray is presented with her award by CredAbility director of education, Mechel Glass. Gray won the $850 grand prize. Photo credit: Rana L. Cash, AJC

Rather, it was a methodical, five-month pace for the contestants who began their quest in January. While 33-year-old Tiffany Gray finished ahead of the pack, they were all winners with 16 of the 26 improving their scores, and six of those by 40 points or more. Gray was awarded a gift card during a presentation in front of members of the CredAbility staff Thursday.

“She didn’t just raise her score a little; she raised it a lot,” said Mechel Glass, director of education for CredAbility.

Gray, who works in computer support, improved her score 103 points out of a possible 286 — 564 to 667. Jerson Sanchez finished with the highest overall score, going from 731 to 755.

“Lenders look at 750 as a …

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Credit score contest leads to positive results

This is the fourth story in an occasional series following contestants in the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta’s credit score challenge.

Jason Benton would not have stepped foot in a car dealership a year ago.

“They would’ve laughed at me,” he said.

This time, Benton could walk in and leave with a straight face — and a new car. His 2004 BMW “just died,” leaving the 31-year-old husband and father of two in immediate need of transportation.

Thanks in part to what he’d learned as a contestant in the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Atlanta’s credit score challenge, he went about his car search wisely. Over the course of one weekend, he shopped for his car. Since credit reporting agencies recognize inquiries during a 14-day stretch as a singular search, your credit score isn’t repeatedly dinged. In the end, Benton settled on a 2010 Ford Escape.

Buying the car “hurt my score a little bit, but only by a few points,” he said. After falling from a …

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Credit counseling agency draws the line with predators

By the time someone calls or goes online to seek financial counseling, their back is most likely already against the wall. Lurking on the other end, too often, are companies more likely to take advantage of the situation than assist in making it better.

Sometimes, the names of those companies are so similar to legitimate ones, it’s hard to distinguish at first blush. That is a primary reason one of the area’s mainstays, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta, changed its name this week after 46 years to CredAbility.

“There are names that are confusingly similar,” said Bill Cloud of the Georgia Office of Consumer Affairs. And not all of those are putting consumers’ needs first.

Since the start of the recession in 2007, the Better Business Bureau has received more than 3,500 complaints about debt settlement companies. Attorneys General from 10 states, not including Georgia, have taken action against numerous companies in the last 36 months.

“Our …

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Answers to your questions about credit scoring and credit reports

Earlier this month, Experian director of public education, Rod Griffin answered questions about credit scoring and credit reports. The live chat event was moderated by editor-in-chief Dan Ray. Experian is one of three credit reporting agencies. Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked credit questions. Note: The questions and responses have been edited for clarity.

Q: How many credit cards and installment loans should a person have to create the best score?

A: There is no perfect number. What really is important is that you manage the cards that you have well. Make all the payments on time and keep the balances low. All you really need is one or two. If you do that you’ll have a good credit history and a good credit score.

Q: When do foreclosures drop off your credit, or do they?

A: Eventually they will. The good thing about credit history is that it is not permanent. All of the negative information eventually falls off and for foreclosures it’s …

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Get your credit questions answered

Credit scores and credit reports often baffle even the most informed consumers.

You can get answers to many of your questions on Thursday when credit reporting agency Experian and host a live, interactive town hall meeting at  2 p.m.

Consumers can submit questions to Rod Griffin, Experian’s director of public education, and Daniel P. Ray, editor in chief of Responses will be streamed in live video. In addition to watching the video chat live, consumers can submit questions in advance by clicking here, or by posting questions on Twitter using hashtag #AskExperian.

I’ll listen in and share many of the questions and answers live. Also, remember to go to my colleague Henry Unger’s The Biz Beat blog each week to get your questions answered by Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Atlanta.

What credit related questions do you have?

Follow me on Twitter @atlbargains and on Facebook at AJC Atlanta Bargain Hunter

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