5 Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store

To most grocery shopping in a chore, and stores are even now adding curbside pickup so you do not have to even deal with the store.  For the remainder of the population that does their own shopping, there are a few ways to save money at the grocery store.

Do Not Go on an Empty Stomach

The grocery store can be an overwhelming place with all of the items that look good to purchase, even more so if you go in hungry.  Do yourself and your wallet a favor and eat before you go in, and that will eliminate a good start of unnecessary purchases that you probably would have made otherwise.

Use a Store Rewards Card

It would be silly to not use a Kroger Plus card when it comes to shopping, as it seems that most items in the store are cheaper.  Put your phone number associated with your card in each time and see the savings start to add up.  Not to mention the fuel rewards points continue to rise, giving you savings off gallons at the pump. The same can be said for credit cards that offer generous cash back rewards on grocery purchases. Some like AMEX offer up to 6% back on your purchases, up to a maximum of $6,000 annually that is. But make no mistake, those with poor credit aren’t candidates for cards with these types of benefits. Check into companies like Lexington Law here, aaacreditguide.com/lexington-law/, they can be quite helpful when trying to repair ones credit score.

Shop Mid-Week

If you go into your grocery store on Tuesday-Thursday you will notice more items on sale and even more rewards if you put in your store card info, such as 10 for $10 or buying 5 items to get additional savings.  In addition to saving more money, it is nice having the store to yourself, as most people shop on the weekends.  Try going on a Tuesday evening around 9:00pm and you will be able to complete your entire shopping and be in and out quickly.

Stick to the Perimeter of the Store

If you shop along walls of the store you will find your fresh foods such as meats, fruits, vegetables, and dairy.  The center aisles are where the processed and junk food sit, more appealing to the eye and stomach, and are typically unnecessary purchases that only hurt the wallet, and your waistline.

Stay Away from the End Caps

As you make your way around the store you will see an end cap facing you as you pass every aisle, but keep pushing the cart and stick to your plan.  Stores like to set up this display to make it look like the items are selling or on sale, but chances are that they are not doing either.  If you really want to purchase the product, go find the original spot of the item and really see if it is on sale.

Looking for a Store Credit Card? Don’t Look Here

Store credit cards can sometimes seem like the bargain of the month, especially when you’re standing at the cash register, ready to check out, and the pretty cashier tells you that, if you “sign-up today”, you’ll get an extra 10, 15 or 20% off of your total purchase.

While that discount certainly will lower your cost at the register, the fact is that if, you don’t pay it off directly at the end of the month, there’s a good chance you’re going to pay through the nose for those purchases because most credit cards that you get from retail outlets have APR interest rates that are insane.

According to credit card comparison website CreditCards.com, in a survey that they recently performed including 61 major retail credit cards, those cards are coming with increasingly high APR rates. In fact, they averaged 23.23% as opposed to a 15.03% for all credit cards in general, which is up over 21% since 2010.

If that doesn’t alarm you, maybe these numbers will; if a consumer spends $1000 on a retail store credit card and only makes the minimum payments, it would take them six years to pay off that $1000 and, by the end of that six-year period, they will have paid $1840 for that item, an 84% markup!

A number of things have brought about this increase in retail credit card interest rates, including the Credit Card Act of 2009,  which put into effect much stricter rules on the fees that retail credit cards can charge their consumers. The industry immediately began looking for ways to make back some of the money that they lost, and even more money that they lost during the recession. Analysts also believe that, as the Federal Reserve rates continue to rise, retail credit card rates will rise with them.

Charles Tran, the founder of CreditDonkey.com, a credit card comparison website, says that “a good retail credit card is hard to find,” adding that “many store credit cards are skimpy on the benefits and loaded with high interest rates.”

Now, to be honest, some retail credit cards do have some benefits to consumers who shop at their store often. Perks like discounts, rewards and special sales for cardholders, and introductory interest rate of 0%, make them very appealing.

The catch however is when you don’t pay your retail credit bill in full at the end of every month or if you happen to miss a payment. As noted in the example above, the interest rates you’ll pay on your typical retail credit card are phenomenally high and, if you miss a payment, you can expect severe penalties.

According to CreditCards.com, the 5 retail credit cards with the worst APRs are, in alphabetical order;

  1. My Best Buy Preferred. Between 25.24 and 27.99%, depending on your particular credit score
  2. My Best Buy. The same as #1
  3. Office Depot personal credit. 27.99%
  4. Staples Personal Account. 27.99%
  5. Zales. 28.99%

Unless you’re a consumer pays off your retail credit card balance in full every month, a retail credit card is simply a bad idea. Unless you shop at the store very often and get a lot of different perks and discounts, their interest rates are so high that it makes any discount you might get negligible. Also, even if you do pay your balance in full and on time every month, it might make more sense to use a cash back card instead.

What’s being done to prevent Credit Card Fraud?

As credit card fraud becomes a multibillion-dollar problem, putting an exact figure on what’s become a huge nationwide problem isn’t exactly easy. “It’s difficult to quantify what the costs of fraud are,” said David Pommerehn, senior counsel for the Consumer Bankers Association. He points to the fact that, as far as what consumers and businesses are paying for the problem, fraud linked costs are wide-ranging and extremely high.

A recent report by a Javelin Strategy & Research called “2014 Identity Road Report” says that since 2012, credit card  fraud rose nearly $3 billion as it reached $11 billion total losses in 2013. Al Pascual, a senior analyst at Javelin, says that “We saw a significant jump from 2012 to 2013,”, in what experts are saying is the understatement of the year.

Pascual expects the problem to continue to grow until the day that credit card companies, as well as merchants, completely embrace cards with computer chips embedded in them. These EMV cards (for Europay, MasterCard and Visa) have computer chips that can be encrypted as well as security systems that can be tokenized, an ability that Pascual says will reduce fraud significantly.

In their report Javelin said that, in 2013, over 80% of all consumers nationwide had been somehow impacted by credit card fraud, to the tune of approximately $106 per incident. This number includes the money itself as well as other costs like taking time off to deal with the problem, legal costs, notary costs, mailing costs and so forth.

The only bit of good news is that, when it comes to covering these losses, consumers normally don’t have a lot of responsibility due to the fact that credit card purchases have extremely limited user liability. Credit card issuers, merchants and processors are the organizations that take the brunt of the losses.

Many of these losses include what are known as “card not present” purchases, those made via mail order, over the phone or online. In most cases, the payment processor such as merchants and acquirers are the ones who pay these fraudulent bills. When it comes to charges that are disputed by merchants and processers, called “chargebacks”, the issuing card is normally the one to absorb the losses.

There are other costs that are linked to the fraud as well, including reissuing cards to consumers who have had them stolen, something that costs between $2. and $10. apiece, as well as helping customers resolve these sticky situations.

“The pre-emptive cost of reissuing a portfolio comes at a great cost to the industry,” Pommerehn said.

EMV technology, which has been around for several years, is finally getting the push that it needs after the huge credit card fiasco at retailer Target last year. The reason that they’ve been dragging their feet for so long is that the cost to adopt the new technology is expected to be in the multi-billions of dollars, including upgrading ATM machines, point-of-sale systems and new credit cards. In many cases these are things that retailers themselves will need to purchase.

In the end however it seems that, finally and begrudgingly, many businesses are willing to spend the money needed to make the changes so that they can better protect their customers and, more importantly, their bottom line.

Getting a Tax Lien off of your Credit Report – Part 2 of 2

Hello and welcome back for Part 2 of our 2 part blog about getting a tax lien taken off of your credit report. In Part 1 we talked about what exactly a tax lien is and why it negatively affects someone’s credit report. In Part 2 we actually get into the meat of the subject and show you exactly how you can qualify for the new Fresh Start program and what you need to do to have your tax lien withdrawn. So if you’re prepared, let’s go!

The first thing to do is simply determine if you qualify. There are a number of things that determine qualification and they include;

  • If the tax liability that you owed has been satisfied or paid and your actual tax lien has been released.
  • For the last three years you’ve complied completely with your individual tax filing, your business filing, and information returns (where applicable)
  • You are now current on any estimated tax payments that you owe as well as federal tax deposits (where applicable)

It’s important to note that even if you haven’t yet pay the IRS exactly what you owe, you may still qualify for the new Fresh Start program if the taxes you owe are less than $25,000 or if you have set up a direct debit installment agreement with the IRS that lets them take payments out of your bank account automatically. There are, to be sure, a number of other requirements you’ll need to meet, one of them being that you’ve made at least 3 of your direct debit installment payments and that any previous installment agreement has not been defaulted upon. The rest of the qualifications are on the IRS website.

Step 2 is to fill out and send in the application to have your tax lien withdrawn. If you’ve read the qualifications above and you believe you qualify, you’ll need to fill out IRS form 12277, the Application for Withdrawal. It’s a simple form with one page that needs to be filled out as well as one page of instructions, and needs to be completed and sent to the IRS.  If they approve your withdrawal, they’ll send you an answer that says “will file form 10916(c), Withdrawal of Filed Notice of Federal Tax Lien, in the recording office where the original NFTL was filed and provides you a copy of the document for your records.” Once they do this, it means that you’ve got a written record that your tax lien has been withdrawn. Congratulations!

Once this happens you should directly ask the IRS to notify any and all credit reporting agencies of the tax lien withdrawal (by mail) or, if you don’t want to rely on the federal government to do this for you, you can simply supply a notice to the major tax reporting agencies yourself. After they process your request, your tax lien will be withdrawn from your credit report and your newly refreshed tax scores will be recorded as if the tax lien never existed.

Keep in mind something very important; this is NOT a process that you need a credit repair firm to handle for you, so if you are considering paying one because they’ve told you that you can’t do it yourself, they’ve been giving you false information. You can ask your tax professional to help you do this of course, but frankly it’s quite simple and something that most people should be able to accomplish on their own.

The final question that needs to be answers is simply this; will your tax lien withdrawal help your credit score? The fact is that, in most cases, getting this removed will help your credit score to go higher. How much higher depends on where your credit score actually was when the tax lien was issued and what’s happened between the time it was issued and today. A number of other factors that will affect your exact  score include how old the lien was and any other information that you already had on your report when it was filed.

With that in mind, reviewing your credit score before the lien is removed is a good idea, as well as following up with a new credit report a few months after it’s been taken care of.

Of course in some cases, such as when an item on your credit report is very old or a person has extremely bad credit to begin with, having a tax lien taken off of their credit report might not help their scores at all. Still, the fact remains that not having a tax lien on your credit report is something that definitely will help it either now or down the road, when you finally get your other financial affairs in order.

Getting a Tax Lien off of your Credit Report – Part 1 of 2

One of the most negative items that can appear on your credit report is a tax lien. The reason it’s so bad is because it causes your credit scores to really take a drop. What’s worse is that under Federal tax laws and unpaid tax lien will actually remain on a person’s credit report indefinitely (although usually most credit bureaus remove them after about 10 years).

If you’re suffering the aftereffects of a tax lien on your credit report, there is some good news. You can actually get that tax lien off of your credit report completely and, in most cases relatively quickly. The reason that more people don’t do this is simply because they don’t know about this solution. Let’s take a look at how it works, shall we?

First you need to know what an NFTL is. That’s the code that the IRS uses for a Notice of Federal Tax Lien, lets creditors know that, because of taxes or a tax debt that that you still owe them,  the IRS has an interest in your property. When you can’t pay the taxes on your property the IRS files an NFTL automatically when you owe $10,000 or more in taxes. Once this happens, the major credit reporting agencies pick up this notice and, since they consider tax liens extremely negative, in most cases your credit score will drop precipitously. In fact, tax liens have a similar effect on your credit score than bankruptcy (which is to say, not good).

As of March 2013 it was reported by the Taxpayer Advocate that over 307,000 of these NFTLs have been filed, a drop of 50% over the same time period in 2011, although it’s a number that shows that there are still quite a few people who have been affected by the housing bust.

Between 2011 and 2012 however, something called the “Fresh Start” initiative was implemented by the IRS, something that most homeowners are NOT aware of. It’s a series of policy changes and other procedures meant to help taxpayers who are facing collection from the IRS due to overdue taxes.

One of the changes in the Fresh Start initiative allows certain taxpayers to request a withdrawal of their tax lien even if their actual taxes have yet to be paid in full. Using this new policy a taxpayer can request to have their tax lien withdrawn if their circumstances meet the IRS’ criteria, something we’ll explain in Part 2 of this 2 Part blog.

The good news is that, as reported by the Taxpayer Advocate, nearly 7000 lien withdrawals were issued by the IRS as of March 2013. This is an almost 20% increase over the same time period in 2012 but, unfortunately, is still a far cry from the actual number of people who qualify for the program that either aren’t aware that it exists or don’t know the best way to take advantage  of the new rules.

The best news however is that, when you come back in the next day or two for Part 2, we’re going to show you exactly how to take advantage of the new Fresh Start initiative with specific instructions that you can use to apply for withdrawal of your own tax lien. We’ve seen the positive results that this can have on a credit report and, when you come back for Part two, we’ll show you how to get the same result yourself. See you then.

Merchant Credit Cards: What you should look for, and lookout for

The holiday shopping season is just around the corner and many retailers are going to make a big point of offering their customers a store credit card. Oftentimes these offers come with a sign-up bonus in the form of a certain amount of discount on any purchases made that same day and, while it may be tempting to fill out that application and get that card, the question is simply this; is it a good idea?

To answer the question we put together this blog with several things that every consumer should consider before getting a merchant credit card. Enjoy.

  • How long is the cards grace period? This is the very specific amount of time that a cardholder has in order to fully pay off their balance without having to pay any interest. Most cards have a 30 day grace period but there are some that don’t which means that, once you make purchase, you start paying interest the very next day.
  • Are there any promotional financing terms, and what are they? Many store credit cards offer interest-free financing on new purchases. The CARD Act of 2009 requires that these terms extend for at least a six month period of time but it’s definitely a good idea to know exactly how much time that you’ll have pay off your balance before they start charging you interest.
  • What is the merchant’s standard interest rate? If you don’t pay your balance in full and on time every month, the interest rate that a credit card will charge you is called the “standard” interest rate. This rate begins when any promotional financing offer that they have extended to you expires. With rates ranging from 6% all the way up to nearly 30%, it’s a good idea to know what interest rate you’ll be paying once you are promotional period runs out.
  • Does the merchant have any other ways to get a discount? While the carrot that merchants hang in front of their customers is the immediate discount available if they sign-up for their merchant credit card, many stores will give you a discount without asking you to apply for a new credit line. If, for example, you give Kohl’s your email address they will send you a discount coupon via email. You can also get your Kohl’s coupon code from Coupon Sherpa to snag additional savings. Some merchants will give you a discount coupon if you “like” them on Facebook. Before you get that merchant credit card you should definitely ask if they have any other means of giving you a discount.
  • Are you trying to keep your credit score high or build new credit? Remember that every time you apply for a new credit card it will affect your credit score. If you have a limited credit history you will more than likely benefit from getting a new line of credit but, if you open up too many credit cards into short a time period, your credit score could actually drop (at least temporarily).
  • is the card that the merchant is offering a store charge card or an actual credit card? Some cards that are offered are valid only in the store where they were given whereas others belong to Visa or MasterCard and their wider payment network. While both can be worthwhile to have, you should definitely know which of the two types that you are getting when you fill out the application.
  • Is their sign-up offer generous? While saving 10% on the purchases that you make that day is very appealing, the savings might not end up being all that large. In contrast, there are many credit card companies that offer huge sign-up bonuses that will give you lots of points, lots of frequent flyer miles or be worth literally hundreds of dollars in cash. Since it’s unwise to sign up for every new credit card that you’re offered, it only makes sense that you should sign up for the cards that will give you the best incentives.

Simply put, knowing exactly what a merchant is offering when you sign up for their credit card, and knowing exactly the terms, interest rates and other details of the offer, is vital. If you go into a contract blindly you could end up paying a heck of a lot more money in fees and interest then you actually saved when you signed up. At the end of the day, the goal of these merchants is to make a profit. While their offer may seem “generous”, the real goal of offering you the card in the first place is to entice you to spend more of your hard-earned money.

 

5 Reasons Your Credit Score Matters During Retirement

Thoughts of retirement conjure up many things, perhaps including exotic travel, long walks and even a second career. Retirement is the prize after years of work. What probably doesn’t come to mind when you think of retirement is your credit score.

You may think that you can just stop monitoring your credit score once you retire, but this may not be true. While you’re (hopefully) not racking up more debt during retirement, here are five reasons you should still put effort into ensuring that your credit history stays clean and your credit score stays high:

1. Refinancing your mortgage. Sure, the goal is to go into retirement debt-free, but almost 40 percent of households headed by seniors ages 60 to 64 carry a mortgage, according to a study by the research group Strategic Business Insights. If you’re one of those adults heading into retirement still saddled with a mortgage, a high credit score can be a big help.

A good FICO credit score gives you the ability to refinance your mortgage when rates drop, which could save you significantly on your monthly mortgage payments. If you get into a financial pinch, a cash-out refinance could also give you immediate access to cash, though this is recommended only in limited circumstances.

2. Getting the best rewards credit card. It can be a great idea to use a credit card for everyday expenses during retirement, since a good card can let you rack up rewards. And as long as you’re paying off your card in full every month, you don’t have to worry about paying interest.

People with the best credit scores have access to the best rewards credit cards – especially platinum-level travel cards. If you plan to travel at all during retirement, using a card like this could seriously offset the costs of airfare, hotel fees and more – all at no extra cost to you.

3. Keeping great insurance rates. Car and homeowners insurance companies use credit scores as part of their price metrics. The higher your credit score, the more responsible you look in general, which means lower insurance premiums.

Even during retirement, you should shop around for insurance once a year or so, to see if you can save any money with a new company or plan. And if your credit score is still high, you’ll have access to better deals and more negotiating power with insurers.

4. Helping you spot identity theft. This is less about your credit score than your credit report, but it still applies. Retirees who think their credit scores don’t matter at all may completely put them out of mind and stop monitoring their credit history.

Unfortunately, senior adults are prime suspects for identity theft, and those who don’t regularly check their credit reports run the risk of not knowing when they’re victimized. Even if you don’t plan on ever using credit again, you should check your credit report every few months to look for suspicious activity or mistakes.

5. Second acts. The meaning of retirement is getting a makeover. For many people, retirement doesn’t mean not working; it means finally doing work you love. While many second acts do not require much capital investment, some do. Whether in the form of a home equity line of credit or an unsecured loan, a good credit score can help retirees raise capital at attractive rates to fund their second career.

 

7 Tips to Improve Your Credit Score After Bankruptcy

Declaring bankruptcy is a decision that not only impacts your finances but also the state of your credit score. While your score may decrease after financial hardship, there are practical and real ways to improve it and get back on a better financial path.

Before you start taking steps to fix your credit score, it is important to know what the score is and why it’s so important to your financial future. When you apply for any type of credit — credit cards, car loans, mortgage or rental agreements, student loans — the financial agency first looks at your credit history to determine if they should lend to you or not. Many lenders use FICO scores as part of those decisions. If your FICO scores are in the mid 700s or above, that generally means you have good credit and it shouldn’t be difficult for you to get approved, provided you meet lenders’ other requirements.

How Do I Improve My Credit Score?

It is important that you understand what happens when you file a bankruptcy. A bankruptcy can remain on your credit report for up to 10 years and there is a good chance your FICO score will be low until you have started rebuilding your credit. You can take the following steps to start raising your scores after bankruptcy.

1. Review Your Credit Report

The first step is knowing where you are and where you need to go. You should obtain a copy of your credit reports and make sure there are no errors or inconsistencies. You can try Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card for an overview of your credit standing and an explanation of how it’s broken down, and you can request one free copy of your credit report per year from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion at AnnualCreditReport.com.

2. Pay Bills on Time

Your payment history makes up 35% of your credit score. One of the easiest ways to improve your score is to always make sure you pay bills on time.

Tip: Set up reminders on your calendar to pay bills every month by the due date. Many banks and creditors offer services that allow you to set up your payments electronically so you don’t forget.

3. Apply for Credit…Cautiously

If you didn’t keep a major credit card account open during your bankruptcy, it’s a good idea to get one after your bankruptcy has been discharged. You may have to start with a secured card, which requires that you place a security deposit with the issuer. Once you get the card, it’s perfectly fine to pay the bill off in full each month. You don’t have to carry balances on your credit cards to build good credit.

4. Add a Loan Down the Road

Once you have gone a year or two post-bankruptcy, consider getting a car loan or line of credit. If it’s a car loan, buy a vehicle that is affordable and that you can pay off successfully. You may receive a higher interest rate to start. Shop around for the best rate, and keep in mind that once you have raised your credit scores, your next interest rate on a loan will likely be lower.

5. Beware of Credit Repair Services

You may receive offers from credit repair services promising to help repair your credit. Make sure you thoroughly investigate these services before you use them. Their fees can be expensive. There are many ways you personally can rebuild your own financial future for no cost (compared to services that charge). In this case, DIY is often best.

6. Know Your Limits

Again, once you begin re-establishing credit, it is crucial to know the limits on your credit cards and to keep your balances well below them. You may have a very low limit due to your credit history. That’s OK. Use your cards sparingly and continue paying the bill on time.

7. Do Not Close Accounts

You may think you’re doing the right thing by closing lines of credit and swearing off all credit cards. This action does far more damage to your credit than you think. Closing accounts reduces the amount of credit you have available to you. This leads to lower credit scores. It’s best to keep the credit lines open. If you’re tempted to spend, cut up the card.

The most important lesson to learn is to be patient. The road to bankruptcy did not happen overnight. And neither will the road to improving your credit. By following the guidelines above, the road to a better financial future and improved credit score is possible.

How To Dispute Errors On Your Credit Report

You’ve probably heard of “sticker shock,” but what about credit rejection shock?

This is what can happen when you apply for a new line of credit – a new airline miles credit card, or maybe even a mortgage – only to find yourself rejected for reasons you can’t understand. Worse, when you get a good look at your credit report, you find there are entries you don’t even recognize, let alone agree with.

How can you correct something that’s been listed on your permanent record by one (or all) of these huge credit bureaus? Does this mean your credit is forever doomed? For starters, there’s no need to panic, or fly into a rage. Unfortunately mistakes on credit reporting are not all that uncommon. And even though it’s a pain in the neck, there are steps you can take to redress the situation. It’s most important to stay persistent, and document the process.

Know What You’re Up Against
Get a copy of your credit report from all three leading agencies. You can do this online or by phone from each of the big services: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Each credit report is broken into several sections, including a section covering your personal information, credit report requests, accounts in good standing, credit items and potentially negative items.

Analyze each of the three reports thoroughly and determine the accuracy of all of the information they contain. A lot of what is on the report should be known to you, such as a loan you took out; what you are looking for is errors. Make a list of any items you think are questionable, negative or clearly errors. (Also note any discrepancies among the three credit reports). This will give a starting point on resolving issues and potentially improving your credit rating.

Document and Dispute                           
If you find genuine mistakes on your report, there are several steps that should be taken to resolve them.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the credit reporting agencies are responsible for correcting inaccuracies and incomplete information on credit reports. This allows you the freedom (and responsibility) to contact the reporting agencies, which publish the documents, to correct any inaccuracies you may find.

Write a Dispute Letter
When writing your dispute letter to the credit bureaus, be sure to include a clear explanation of your reasoning, along with any relevant evidence or documentation that helps support your case. You should make photocopies of all your correspondences, and be sure to send everything via registered or certified mail, so you’ll have a record of when it was sent and received.

Stay In Contact
When you contact the agency, it is required to investigate the issue within 30 days. The agency will pass on the dispute and information within it to the entity (person, business or other organization) that provided the information to the credit agencies in the first place. The information provider must also investigate the complaint and report its findings back to the reporting agency.

If it is deemed that you are correct, then the change is made on your credit report and you should have a more accurate credit report. If your dispute isn’t resolved, for whatever reason, you can ask to have your dispute statement included along with your credit report when anyone accesses your report.

Keep a Paper Trail
As you start to send letters and officially challenge your creditor and/or credit bureaus, you’ll need to create a good, organized system, such as a checklist or spreadsheet, to keep track of all your correspondences and where each issue stands. This may seem like overkill but it could come in handy; often it takes repeated phone calls and letters before you achieve resolution, so it’s helpful to have records of previous times you have written or called, along with copies or notes on the company’s response every time. Each time you have a phone conversation with a creditor, be sure to record the date and time, the name and title of the person you spoke with, and whatever was agreed upon as a result. Even after you’ve managed to resolve an error, it’s a good idea to hold onto your paperwork for at least a few years; it’s not uncommon for an item you’ve worked hard to remove to somehow, someday, reappear. That’s when having a paper trail will be invaluable.

Negative but Accurate
If some information on your report is unpleasant, but accurate, then unfortunately you can’t erase it – unless you were never notified of the problem. If you were never informed, then you are entitled to dispute the report, thanks to a provision of the new Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA). You dispute this type of situation in the same manner you do with the mistakes illustrated above.

Legal Help
If after much time and work the disputed item still has not been deleted or changed to your satisfaction, you may go back to steps 1, 2 and 3, and start again. There is no charge for requesting a reinvestigation. If you truly feel you’ve been wronged and the bureaus/agencies won’t help you, it may be time to contact a lawyer. This is when you’ll be glad you made sure to track and save all the careful documentation you’ve been keeping of your efforts up to this point. If you’ve got a late payment or penalty that’s still in dispute, but that you can’t get the bureau to budge on it, you can take some comfort in knowing that these negative marks will be erased completely in seven years.

Always Another Day
Lastly, don’t beat yourself up.Many people find themselves in the situation of having to challenge a credit report. The key is to be organized and polite, but persistent. The steps to follow seem easy enough, but you’ve got to have patience, because credit bureaus are not always very cooperative. Clearly, your own credit report is your No.1 concern and you should treat it as such, but credit companies and bureaus have other priorities, so you have to keep at it and stay on top of things yourself. Above all else, that’s the sure cure for credit rejection shock.

Are you paying Credit Card Fees that you shouldn’t be paying?

Of all the mistakes that people make with credit cards (and boy are there a lot of them) one of the biggest is thinking that any and all credit card fees must be paid and simply can’t be avoided. The fact is, credit card companies are businesses just like any other and if you don’t like the fees and surcharges that they are charging you, you have all the right in the world to look for another company. There are also many fees that  can be reduced to a more palatable level. With that in mind we put together a short blog about the top 5 most common credit card fees, what they are and how to avoid them (or at least reduce them). Enjoy.

Your credit card’s annual fee is # 1 on the list as more and more credit card issuers are charging an annual fee for their cards. Many credit cards still don’t have an annual fee however and using one of them is the easiest way to avoid having to pay it. If you do have a card with an annual fee that you’d like to keep there are several things that you can do to either reduce your annual fee or to avoid it altogether including;

  • Waiting for the credit card to offer  a way to avoid the annual fee. Usually this is good for new applicants only and only good for the first year but it’s better than nothing.
  • Sign up for a card with a large bonus for signing up. If you sign up for a credit card that has a $50 annual fee but is offering $800 worth of points, the annual fee suddenly becomes quite trivial in comparison.
  • Since annual fees aren’t exactly set in stone you can always call your credit card company and negotiate with them to lower it. If you allude to the fact that you will cancel your card if they don’t do something you’ll find you get a much more likable response.
  • Canceling your card may seem like a drastic step but, if your credit card company won’t budge, it might be your only option. If you end up missing the card you can always sign back up for it and possibly get a new sign-up bonus as well. Waiting for 12 to 18 months will probably be needed before you can reopen with that same company.

If you do a lot of overseas traveling you have probably seen a foreign transaction fee on your monthly bill. This is among the most controversial fees the credit card issuers charge as not only do the banks exchange currency at the best possible rate (for them and for you) but many still tack on a 3% foreign transaction fee because, well, just because. Thankfully there are  a number of credit cards that have done away with this controversial fee, including Capital One and Discover. If foreign travel is on your agenda and you’re not keen on paying an extra 3% every time you make a purchase or withdraw money while away, using these credit cards is a very viable option. Either that or bring travelers checks.

As far as late fees are concerned there is one sure way to never get charged  this extra fee; don’t pay your bills late. We’re not being facetious, we’re just being frank. If you’re a forgetful person then you definitely should take advantage of automatic payments and electronic billing so that you won’t have to worry about forgetting to pay a bill or one being lost in the mail. There are even a handful of cards that won’t charge you late payment fees but you’ll have to find them on your own because we’re not going to give you information about something that might help you to do something that’s so financially destructive. (Sorry. You’ll thank us later.)

When it comes to cash advance fees the best advice we can give is this; never use your credit card to get a cash advance. If you are like many of us and you rely on your credit card to get cash you  should find a bank credit card with a bank that doesn’t charge ATM fees. There are still a few of them out there and, if their interest rates and so forth jibe with the card you are currently using, you may wish to switch. There are some experts that think using a credit card to get cash advances is so bad, financially speaking, that they recommend not even setting up a PIN code with your credit card so that there’s never any temptation to do so.

Lastly there’s the balance transfer fee, a 3% fee to transfer a balance from one credit card to another. Again there are a handful of credit cards that don’t have balance transfer fees so try and find one that doesn’t. Many credit cards also offer interest-free financing on new purchases and, if you’re faced with the choice, we recommend that you use a 0% offer to purchase something rather than a balance transfer after you purchase it to pay it off.

There are other fees associated with credit cards to be sure but these are worst. Hopefully we’ve given you a little insight into how they work and what you can do to avoid them. Right now credit cards are still a vital necessity for many people but, in the near future, there’s a good chance that we will be doing away with them as payments become completely electronic and we use smartphones and tablets with Wi-Fi connections to pay for goods and services rather than swiping plastic. (Of course you can bet that there will be fees on this also.) Until that time, use the tips above to help keep the damage to a minimum and come back to visit us sometime soon. See you then.