Monday, December 29, 2008

Reducing Paperwork Containing Personal Information

If you are planning to make a few home improvements or if you need to make some repairs to your home before putting it on the market, you may want to consider hiring a contractor to help you get the job done. Even if you are a do-it-yourselfer, hiring a contractor may be a good idea because it will increase your chances of getting the job completed in a timely fashion and that it will be competed according to building codes. This way, you can get the property on the market sooner and, hopefully, will get it sold in a more time manner. At the same time, you need to make certain that the contractor you hire is one that is reliable and that will get the job done right. With these helpful tips, you should be able to find the right contractor for the job.

Tip #1: Contact Multiple Contractors

When looking for a contractor, it is important for you to explore multiple options. Therefore, you should call at least three different contractors before you select the one you will work with. This way, you can compare what each contractor has to offer and make certain you hire the one that will provide you with the best work and the best prices.

Tip #2: Make Certain the Contractor is Licensed in Your City or State

Most states require contractors to be licensed in order to providing contracting services, so make certain the contractor you are considering is properly licensed. If licensing is not required, ask the contractor to provide you with information about the professional trade organizations he or she belongs to as well as where he or she was educated.

Tip #3: Check References

When you contact the various contractors on your list, ask each of them to provide you with references that you can check. Be certain to obtain references from individuals who have worked with the contractor within the past year. This way, you will receive timely information when you call and check the references you are provided with.

Tip #4: Make Certain the Contractor is Insured

Before hiring a contractor, you need to be certain he or she is properly insured. This way, you don't have to worry about facing liability issues if a problem should arise. At the very least, the contractor should have Workmen's Compensation liability insurance in place. Don't just take the contractor's word for it, though. Contact the contractor's insurance agency to check on the effective dates of the policy. You may also want to ask your contractor to name you and your property as co-insured when it is time to start the job.

Tip #5: Hire Someone with at Least 5 Years of Experience

Although you may be able to save some money by hiring a contractor that has only recently started his or her business, it is generally best to hire someone with at least 5 years of experience. This way, you can be more certain the contractor will be reliable and has solid business practices.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Monday, December 22, 2008

5 Easy Steps for Creating a Budget

The best way to get your finances under control and to keep your credit looking pristine is to create and to follow a budget. Yet, many people struggle when it comes time to develop a budget and, therefore, they never actually create one they can use. By following these five simple steps, however, you can easily develop a budget that will help you stay on top of your finances and avoid getting into financial difficulties.

Step #1: Determine Your Income

Determining your income is easier for some people than it is for others. While some people earn a regular salary each week or work a consistent number of hours each week, others work irregular hours and cannot be certain how much they will earn week from week. If you fall in the latter category, you will need to determine a monthly average in order to get an idea of how much money you have to work with each month.

Step #2: List Your Expenses

Now that you know how much money is coming in each month, you need to calculate how much is going out. Write down all of your monthly expenses so you can get an idea of how much you spend each month. Expenses that should be listed include:

• Auto Insurance Payments
• Car Loan Payments
• College Savings
• Credit Card Payments
• Dry Cleaning
• Entertainment
• Groceries
• Internet Expenses
• Mortgage Loan Payments
• Refuse Pick Up
• Retirement
• Telephone Expenses
• Utility Payments

Be sure to gather together all of your regular bills and expenses so you can get a true idea of how much money is going out each month.

Step #3: Categorize Your Expenses

With your expenses listed, you should now categorize them according to which ones are fixed expenses and which ones are variable. Your fixed expenses are those that you have to pay each month, while variable expenses are those that you may be able to scale back on if necessary.

Step #4: Compare Your Income to Your Expenses

With the help of a calculator, you can now add up your monthly expenses and expenditures. If you are making more money than you are spending, creating a budget will be pretty simple. If you are spending more than you are earning, however, you will need to make some adjustments in order to make certain your bills are covered.

Step #5: Adjust Your Expenses

If you are spending more than you are earning, it is time to look at your variable expenses and start trimming some fat. Look for areas where you can cut back and then create a monthly budget for that particular type of expense. For example, if you are spending $150 per month on eating out and you are $100 over budget, you might scale this expense down to $50 per month or you may bring it down to $100 per month and then cut the other $50 somewhere else.

In order to make certain your budget is still working for you, it is important to revisit it every few months or every time there is a change in your income or expenses. That way, you can be sure to stretch your dollars as far as possible!

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Answers to Common Social Security Number Questions

Have you ever really stopped to think about the importance of your Social Security number? Nearly everyone has one of these numbers, yet not everyone fully understands the significance of their Social Security number or why it is so important to keep it properly protected.

What is a Social Security Number?

A Social Security number is a number that is unique to each individual. As such, it is almost like a digital fingerprint that helps differentiate individuals from one another. For that reason, your Social Security number is used to when completing certain important transactions and when setting up financial accounts. In addition, your Social Security number is used to keep track of your annual earnings from year-to-year so your Social Security benefits can be determined once you have reached the appropriate age.

When is a Social Security Number Needed?

There are many situations during which your Social Security number may be needed. Some of the documents and circumstances during which you may need your Social Security number include:

• Completing tax forms
• Filling out employment records
• Opening bank accounts
• Completing stock and property transactions
• Opening credit card accounts

If you are asked to provide your Social Security number for any other purpose, you should use extreme caution in order to make certain you are not victimized by a thief or putting yourself at risk of having your personal information breached.

How Can I Keep My Social Security Number Private?

Although your Social Security number is a very important number that you may need to use on occasion, it is important for you to take steps to keep your Social Security number private. If a business requests your Social Security number, for example, ask if you could use an alternate number instead. The same is true if you live in a state that still places Social Security numbers on its residents' driver's licenses.

Some job applications also request Social Security numbers as part of the application process. Rather than placing your number on an application that may pass through many hands, write a note stating that you will provide that information if you are called for an interview or when the employer wishes to conduct a background check.

You should also exercise caution when saying your Social Security number out loud in public places. If you are giving your number to a merchant or healthcare provider that has a reason for needing the number, for example, it is best to write it down on a piece of paper rather than saying it out loud. If it is necessary to speak it out loud, be certain to whisper and to ask the merchant or provider to do the same. Similarly, do not place your Social Security number on your checks and do not allow merchants to write this information on them either.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

7 Tips for Protecting Your Personal Information

When it comes to keeping your identity and finances protected, it is essential for you to know how to responsibly handle your sensitive information. Even the simplest of actions could put your finances at a significant risk. Therefore, in order to keep yourself better protected, be certain to follow these simple steps for handling your information in a responsible manner.

Tip #1: Review, Review, Review
Each time you receive a bank, credit card or phone statement, be certain to check it carefully for unauthorized use. The sooner you notice and report improper use, the better your chances of catching the thief and putting an end to the problem.

Tip #2: Go Automatic
An increasing number of companies are allowing customers to make automatic payments rather than sending out statements. Take advantage of this option in order to reduce the number of paper bills and checks going through the mail. You should also consider using the Internet for paying bills and conducting your banking transactions in order to reduce the amount of paperwork containing your personal information.

Tip #3: Get Shredding
Any time you throw away personal documents, be certain to shred them first. This advise holds true when it comes to pre-approved credit card offers, as a thief can use one of these offers to apply for a card in your name.

Tip #4: Use Gel Pens
Oddly enough, using a gel pen when writing your checks can help keep you protected from fraudsters. This is because gel ink contains tiny particles of color, which get trapped in the paper and make it more difficult to engage in check washing.

Tip #5: Watch Your Digits
Some banks will automatically assign the last for digits of a customer's social security number as his or her PIN. If your bank engages in this practice, be certain to change your PIN right away. You should also consider talking with a bank representative and requesting that this practice be abandoned.

Tip #6: Check on Business Practices
Before completing applications or using your credit card to make purchases, learn more about how the business stores or disposes of your personal information. When filling out a loan application, for example, the company should keep your application locked up or shred it if your loan is not approved. Similarly, businesses should keep your credit card information locked up where it cannot be easily accessed by a thief. If you are not convinced that the business is careful with your personal information, take your business elsewhere.

Tip #7: Store Checks Safely
If you have canceled or duplicate checks, be certain to store them in a safe location. Checks typically contain some very sensitive information, including your account number, your phone number and possibly your driver's license. Use caution storing this information in a rented storage locker, as storage lockers are frequently targeted by robbers.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

5 Steps for Avoiding Identity Theft

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Dos and Don'ts of Avoiding Losing Your Home to a Thief

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the sagging housing market seems to have increased the number of scam artists who are trying to take advantage of innocent homeowners. In addition, scammers are becoming even bolder with who they try to swindle. Whereas homeowners who were struggling to make their house payments were once at the top of the scammers' lists, the FBI reports that they are targeting those who are making regular payments as well.

Identity Theft and Home Loss

Two of the most common scams these shysters are implementing involve stealing the homeowner's identity. For example, the scammers may establish a line of credit based on the equity of a person's property. They then drain out the line of credit and leave the homeowner holding the bill. Another scam involves tricking the homeowner into singing over the title and then selling the home out from underneath the owner. While the owner can avoid losing his or her home to these con artists, it generally costs thousands of dollars and takes a great deal of time to prove who is the rightful ower.

Dos and Don'ts of Home Scams

In order to avoid being taken advantage of these scam artists, it is important to follow a few simple dos and don'ts. These include:

Do: Call your mortgage company if you are experiencing financial troubles. Discuss your situation with the loss mitigation department and see if there is a way you can work together to save your home.

Don't: Fall for promises made by individuals or "companies" who claim that they will help you save your credit or get a new mortgage with a new, lower monthly payment rate.

Do: Proceed with caution in any dealings regarding your home or home equity. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Don't: Sign away your ownership rights. No matter how convincing the person sounds, there is rarely a legitimate reason for signing over your home. Before signing over rights, contact your attorney and make certain the deal is legitimate.

Do: Read all paperwork thoroughly before signing. In addition to making certain you fully understand the paperwork, you should also avoid signing any contracts or documents with blank spaces.

Don't: Allow yourself to panic and make snap decisions. Scam artists prey on those who are desperate and, therefore, make quick decisions that they hope will provide them with a quick solution.

Do: Get it in writing. If you have finally struck what seems to be a good and legitimate deal, be certain to get it all in writing. Verbal agreements are difficult, if not impossible, to hold up in court.

By following these simple dos and don'ts, you can dramatically decrease your chances of being taken advantage of while making certain to get your finances properly squared away.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fixing Errors on Your Credit Report

Your credit report is one of the most important documents you have when it comes to obtaining the best interest rates possible. In fact, if your credit report shows too many problems with your financial history, you may actually be turned down for loans, credit cards and even insurance. Even a seemingly small error can have a major impact on your credit score and on whether or not your loan is approved. Therefore, it is important for you to check your credit report on a regular basis and to correct errors on your report as soon as possible.

Obtaining Your Credit Report

Obtaining your credit report is actually a simple process. In fact, you are entitled to receive a free credit report once per year. In order to get your free credit report, you can simply call 877-322-8228 or visit

Once you receive your credit report, be certain to check over all of the information that it contains. This includes checking to make sure all of your credit cards and loans are listed on the report and that the credit limits and the loan amounts are properly listed. In addition, make certain your payment history is correctly listed on the report and that all of the dates are correct. It is particularly important to be certain the dates your accounts were opened are accurate, as even a difference of a year or so can dramatically affect your credit rating.

Fixing the Mistakes

If you do discover mistakes on your credit report, you only need to follow a few simple steps. First, you need to write a letter to the credit reporting agency that details the errors you have found. If you have documents to support what you are claiming, you should include copies of these documents with your letter. Be certain to keep the originals in case the duplicates become lost in the mail.

When writing your letter, be sure to clearly identify the problems you have found and to explain why you are disputing the information. Then, request that the information be removed or corrected. You should send this letter via certified mail and you should request a return receipt. This way, you have a definite timeline of when you sent the letter. This is important because the credit reporting agency has 30 days to either correct the error or to notify you that the change you have requested will not be made to your report.

If the credit reporting agency determines that a change does need to be made to your credit report, that agency will also report the change to the other two credit reporting agencies. Therefore, there is no need to report the information to all three companies. If the information does not get changed, on the other hand, you have the right to provide a short statement to be included on your report. While this may not help your credit rating, it can be beneficial because it gives your potential lender more detailed information about the situation that lead to the bad mark on your report.

As a responsible consumer, it is important for you to check your credit report once per year. Not only will this help ensure its accuracy, it can potentially save you hundreds of dollars by keeping your interest rates down.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Buying and Building Green Homes

If you are looking for a new home or if you are planning to have a new home built, you might be interested in purchasing a home that is LEED certified. A home that is LEED certified is one that has earned a Leadership in Energy and Environmental certificate from the U.S. Green Building Council. In order to receive this recognition, the home must meet certain “green” criteria.

Why Consider Green Construction?

There are many reasons to consider purchasing or building a home to meets LEED certification criteria. The most obvious reason is because of the positive effect it has on the environment. By selecting building materials according to their eco-friendly attributes and by installing appliances and other goods that are better for the environment, you will be playing your part in protecting the environment.

Another reason to think green, however, is more about finances. The reality is that an increasing number of people are looking for homes that are environmentally-friendly. In addition, more states and cities are passing legislation to require green construction or to provide incentives to those that meet certain criteria. Therefore, by purchasing or building a home that meets LEED certification criteria, you will be ahead of the game and your home will likely increase in value quickly.

Weighing the Costs

When it comes to green construction, the downside is the fact that it generally costs more to build than standard construction. At the same time, it is less expensive to implement a green design when building a home rather than trying to add green elements later. In addition, the money you will ultimately save with a home that is more energy-efficient will be greater than the initial investment. Nonetheless, coming up with the money to build an eco-friendly home can be difficult on some home buyers, particularly first time home buyers.

Making a Home “Green”

There are a number of things that can make a home “green,” ranging from the building materials to implementing methods for reducing energy waste and waste reduction. Some of the building materials that are implemented in green building include those materials made from:

• Plant material that is rapidly renewable, such as straw and bamboo
• Lumber derived from forests that have been certified for being managed in a sustainable manner
• Recycled products, including stone and metal
• Non-toxic materials

To be the most eco-friendly, the materials should also be extracted and manufactured locally as well.

To reduce energy use, the home should utilize high-efficiency insulation and windows. It may also have the windows and landscaping installed in such a manner that the trees provide shade to the home in the summer but allow heat through the windows in the winter, thereby helping to reduce the costs involved with climate control.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Monitoring Credit Cards to Prevent Identity Theft

In order to keep your finances and your credit report protected, it is important to take certain steps to protect yourself against identity theft. Unfortunately, thousands of people become victims of identity theft every year and trying to clean up the mess can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Credit cards are among the most popular tools that thieves use to get their hands on information from unsuspecting victims. With these simple tips, however, you can reduce your risks significantly.

Tip #1: Don’t Carry Too Many Credit Cards

Many people carry all of their credit cards and debit cards with them everywhere they go. This leaves you open to having all of your accounts compromised if your wallet or purse gets lost or stolen. Instead, carry only one or two credit cards with you and your ATM card if necessary. It is also a good idea to leave debit cards at home, as they provide thieves with instant access to your checking account and they do not provide you with the same identity theft protection as credit cards.

Tip #2: Don’t Let Your Credit Card or Debit Card Out of Your Site

Many identity thieves steal your account information easily and quickly by simply swiping your card through a special device called a skimmer. This is generally most common with waiters and waitresses when they take your credit card from your table and to the register in order to pay your bill. With your credit card information successfully stolen, the thief can then have an online shopping spree or even make a counterfeit credit card using your account information.

Tip #3: Photocopy All of Your Credit Cards and Accounts

As soon as you get a new credit card, debit card, or account statement, make a photocopy and store them in a secure place other than your purse or wallet. Make certain to photocopy the account numbers, the customer service telephone number, and the expiration dates. This way, the information is easy to find if your cards become lost or stolen or if your accounts are used in a fraudulent manner.

Tip #4: Hang on to Credit Card Receipts

When paying for items with a credit card or debit card, never through the receipt in the trash. Part of your credit card information will be contained on the card and, in some cases, your entire account number may be printed on the receipt. Instead, put the receipt in your purse or wallet where it is safe and then make sure the receipts match up with your monthly statement when it arrives.

Tip #5: Don’t Give Out Information Over the Phone

Unless you initiated the phone call and you are talking to a trusted business, never give out your credit card information over the telephone. Many thieves call their victims directly and can tell very convincing stories – they may even already have some of your personal information – but you still should not give out information. If the caller claims to be from one of your credit card companies, hang up and call the customer service number on the back of your card to check on your account.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Friday, September 5, 2008

American Express Settles Lawsuit Against MasterCard

Anyone that carries an American Express or a Discover credit card is well aware that it can sometimes be difficult to find a merchant that will take the card. While some merchants choose not to accept these cards because they don’t wan to pay the interchange fees associated with them, some also choose to carry only MasterCard or Visa because there are simply more banks doing business with these credit card companies. This fact, however, may soon be changing.

American Express just recently settled with MasterCard over a case that came before the Supreme Court in 2004. According to the lawsuit, both MasterCard and Visa were in violation of antitrust laws because they took steps to prevent member banks from doing business with American Express and Discover card. The two credit card companies promptly filed suit and sued for the damages resulting from the loss of revenue they suffered.

On June 25 of this year, American Express finally settled with MasterCard – to the tune of $1.8 billion. The amount of the settlement made this one of the largest antitrust suits to ever take place in the United States. American Express had already settled its suit against Visa last year, at which time the company received a settlement of $2.25 billion.

American Express won’t be getting a windfall from MasterCard all at one time. Rather, the company will pay American Express a total of $150 million per quarter over the next 12 quarters. Visa, on the other hand, had to pay $1.5 billion of its settlement upfront. Despite the quarterly payment system, MasterCard plans to book a $1 billion charge to its current fiscal quarter because of the lawsuit.

The extra money comes just in time for American Express, which has been experiencing some financial troubles as borrowers continue to be delinquent on their payments while simultaneously borrowing less.

MasterCard and Visa have not been affected by the economy in quite the same way, however, because the two companies do not actually collect payments from credit card users. Rather, they simply collect a fee every time a credit card with their logo is used. American Express, on the other hand, collects similar fees from every transaction but also extends credit to its cardholders. As a result, MasterCard and Visa are still doing quite well with the current economic conditions because consumers are still using their credit cards to make purchases.

Despite the lawsuit settlement, MasterCard also saw a rise its shares on the same day the settlement was announced. The rise, which was equivalent to 3.4%, put the value of the shares at $289.79. American Express, on the other hand, so a decline in the value of its shares with the current value being $40.94.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Thursday, August 28, 2008

5 Simple Steps to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft When Online

Although the Internet is a very convenient resource to use and can offer you opportunities for amazing deals, you also put yourself at risk of identity theft every time you use it. Therefore, it is important to take a few steps to keep your computer and your personal information properly protected so you don’t become a victim of identity theft. With these 5 simple steps, you can reduce your risk identity theft while still enjoying the use of your computer.

Step #1: Install a Firewall

A firewall prevents hackers from being able to gain access to the personal information stored on your computer. If you use the Internet, your information is particularly vulnerable to attack if you do not have a firewall installed.

Step #2: Install Virus Protection

Without virus protection, viruses and worms can attack your computer and cause significant damage to your system. In addition, these viruses can seek out personal information and then send it out to people you don’t know. Be certain to install a quality virus protection program that updates on a regular basis and be sure to keep it updated on your computer.

Step #3: Use Passwords

When it comes to accessing account information on the Internet, the company you are doing business with will likely force you to set up a password before you can access your information. When setting up passwords, be certain to choose ones that are not easy to crack. The password should contain at least six to eight letters and should incorporate both upper case and lower case letters. You should also use symbols or numbers in your passwords.

In addition to password protecting your online accounts, you should also assign passwords to any personal and financial information you have stored on your computer hard drive. This way, if a hacker is somehow successful or if your computer is lost or stolen, this information will be protected.

Step #4: Only Do Business with Companies You Trust

While you may come across some great deals on the Internet and you may feel tempted to make a purchase, you should never do business with a company you are not familiar with. It is very easy for a thief to set up a fake website in order to collect your credit card information. In addition, make certain all transactions you make are on a secured website. You can easily tell if a website is secured by looking at its address. If you see the letter “s” after “http,” you are on a secured site.

Step #5: Ignore Phishing Emails

Many con artists send out “phishing” emails in hopes of catching a sucker. These emails are often written to look as if they are coming from a trusted financial institution. They might ask you to click on a link in order to verify account information, but that link will take you to a fake website where the thief will steal the information you provide in order to gain access to your account. Legitimate companies do not send out these types of emails. If you are still concerned, however, contact the company directly and check on the status of your account.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Government Regulations May Keep Consumers Better Informed

Government Regulations May Keep Consumers Better Informed

Having a problem on your credit report can have devastating consequences. For example, if your credit report has a mistake on it that makes you appear to be irresponsible with your finances, you may not get approved for a home loan. If you are approved, you may have to pay a higher interest rate than you should have to pay. In some states, insurance companies also look at credit reports in order to determine the rates they will charge their customers. This means that one simply mistake could potentially cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year.

Luckily, if the Federal Reserve and the Federal Trade Commission get their way, you might not have to worry about this any longer.

Keeping Consumers Informed

Back in 2003, Congress directed these two federal agencies to create a system that would help protect consumers from being negatively affected by erroneous information on their credit reports. More specifically, Congress wanted lenders to be required to notify consumers about the information they found on the credit report that caused them to turn down their loan applications or that caused them to get a higher interest rate.

Although it took a few years to complete, the two agencies have finally published their proposal for accomplishing this task. In fact, the proposal was published in the middle of May and is now open to three months of public comment. If all goes well, the plan may be implemented later this year.

How it Works

Through the proposed system, the process of notifying consumers about credit issues would actually be quite simple. Basically, if a lending institution pulls your information and finds that you do not qualify for its best rate, the loan officer would have to provide you with notification in one of two primary ways. These include:

• Providing you with your credit score as well as a graph showing how your score compares to other applicants as well as the factors that caused your score to be lower. The written notice would also need to provide you with information for contacting your credit bureau in order to obtain a full report.
• Providing you with a tiered pricing grid, which only has to be sent to those applicants that have a score in the lowest tiers.

While this legislation will help consumers become more aware of their possible credit problems, there are still many that are likely to slip through the cracks. For example, lenders would only be required to send notifications to those that have a score that is significantly different from the majority of applicants. Therefore, individuals applying for a mortgage loan that specializes in providing loans to people with poor credit may not qualify for notification because the majority of applicants also have poor credit. Despite its little pitfalls, however, it is definitely a step in the right direction toward keeping consumers better protected and informed.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Federal Reserve Auctions Loans to Banks

Due to the economic problems that are affecting countries around the globe, many banks are reluctant to lend money to each other – let alone to consumers. As a result of this credit crunch, businesses and individuals cannot get their hands on the money they need to stay afloat. Obviously, this results in a catch 22 situation that only worsens the strength of the economy. After all, if banks are not in a situation to extend loans to consumers, consumers will not be able to purchase big-ticket items and the economy will falter. Similarly, without the help of loans, businesses cannot expand or hire additional workers.

In an effort to ease this problem, the Federal Reserve has auctioned $75 billion in loans to banks that are experiencing financial hardships. The goal is to help them overcome their credit problems so they can once again be an integral part of the economic cycle.

This program actually started back in December and this most recent auction is the 13th one to take place during that short time period. With this auction, banks were asked to pay a small 2.26% interest rate on short term loans that are good for only 28 days. In all, 73 institutions placed a bid and the Federal Reserve received bids for $95.9 billions worth of loans - $20.9 billion more than what was up for auction.

Obviously, banks are responding favorably to the program, which is meant to help them get over their credit problems. Of course, the fact that the need outweighed the available funds is not a very good sign.

The Federal Reserve has made some additional changes in an effort to alleviate the credit crunch. For example, the Federal Reserve has agreed to directly provide investment firms with emergency loans. Until now, this privilege was reserved only for commercial banks.

The Federal Reserve also lowered interest rates by one quarter percent point to 2 percent back in April. According to James Bullard, who is the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the central bank does not have any immediate plans to make further cuts in interest rates.

"My sense is that the U.S. economy will be able to post stronger growth in the second half of this year despite the ongoing financial crisis and the drag from the housing sector," he said in a speech at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Such growth is likely to make the inflation outlook a more pressing concern for the Fed in the second half of this year."

Nonetheless, lending institutions are still struggling and are finding it difficult to extend credit to borrowers. Until this credit crunch is remedied, the economy will continue to have problems with getting back on its feet.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

TransUnion Corp May Soon Reach a Settlement for Class Action Suit

In an interesting turn of events, the credit reporting bureau TransUnion Corp has settled a $10 billion class action suit. As a result of the settlement, millions of people may be able to access their credit scores for free while receiving some additional benefits that will help them keep their credit safe.

Why the Lawsuit?

For quite some time now, TransUnion Corp has been battling charges that were filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. According to the suit, the company sold information about its consumers to a variety of retailers and lenders. The suit alleges that the information was customized to suit the needs of these lenders and retailers, who then used the information for marketing purposes. According to Federal law, the private credit information of consumers cannot be sold unless special circumstances have taken place, such as when a consumer applies for a loan. Therefore, selling this information to lenders and retailers is a direct violation of the law.

What Will Consumers Receive?

If the settlement, which still has to be reviewed in Federal court, is finalized, approximately 160 million people throughout the United States will be affected. Those that are included in the class action suit, which is thought to have the largest number of plaintiffs ever included in one class action suit, will receive free access to their credit scores. Although Federal law currently allows consumers to receive a free copy of their credit reports each year, it does not call for providing consumers with their actual scores.

In addition to receiving free access to their credit scores, the plaintiffs in the case will also receive either six months of the basic credit reporting services and a cash payment or they can choose to receive nine months of enhanced services. The basic service normally sells for $59.75, while the enhanced service includes more detailed information such as an insurance score and a mortgage rate simulator.

How Will Consumers Benefit?

All consumers can benefit from receiving free access to their credit scores and from the credit reporting service. Those that are in financial trouble because of the mortgage collapse or those facing other financial economic problems, however, will particularly benefit from the service. This is because the service provides them will immediate access to their credit information and they can find out their credit scores at any time, which means they can make wiser financial decisions. The service is also set up to notify consumers when changes take place in their files, such as when an new account is opened in their name, which is beneficial when it comes to fending off identity thieves.

Experts in the field are astounded by what TransUnion Corp is offering in the class action suit. Ken McEldowney, who is the executive director of Consumer Action, has referred to the settlement as being “mind-boggling” and “astonishing.” He went on to say, “It’s everything we tell consumers that they need to find out if they have problems with their credit. They are getting information on how to improve it and information about whether they are credit worthy.”

About the Author:
Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Reasons to Use a Business Credit Card

Are you a small business owner? If so, you might want to consider applying for a business credit card. Although the interest rates on credit cards can be quite high, if you use your card responsibly and if you pay it off at the end of each billing cycle, having a credit card can be a real asset to your business. Or, if you do need to carry a balance for a period of time, you can take advantage of great introductory offers that will actually provide you with a rate that is lower than a conventional bank loan.

Obtaining Start Up Money for Your Business

Applying for a new credit card in your business’ name can be a great way to help you get the start up money you need in order to get your business off the ground. Rather than go through the trouble of applying for a conventional loan, you can use your credit card to make the purchases you need to get your business started. With many credit cards offering 0% APRs for the first twelve months of membership, you may be able to get your business started and get the card paid off before the interest rates kick in. Of course, if you don’t get the card paid off, you may face a high interest rate. So, make a solid business plan before you start making purchases.

Enjoying the Convenience of a Credit Card

There is no doubt that using a credit card to make your business purchases is very convenient. Most merchants and service providers accept credit cards for payment, which is far easier than carrying around a checkbook or cash. In addition, when you keep your expenditures on your credit card, it is easy to keep track of what you spend each month. In fact, if you choose to get credit cards for your employees, a business credit card will even break down your statement for each employee. That way, you can see precisely what your employees are spending. In most cases, you can even individualize the credit limits for each employee so you can be certain no one’s spending gets out of control.

Getting Credit Card Rewards

There are many potential financial rewards associated with using a business credit card. First, if you use a rewards credit card, you will earn points or cash back for the purchases you make. If you pay off your balance at the end of each month and you have a rewards credit card, you can actually make money with your credit card rather than lose it. In addition, many business credit cards offer discounts with merchants that business owners typically use, such as with stores that sell office supplies. Finally, the fact that your business name and logo can be put on your credit card has the reward of personal satisfaction – and may actually help you find new customers when you pull out the card and the cashier sees your logo on the side.

About the Author:
Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Monday, May 19, 2008

Should You Get a Credit Card?

If you don’t have a credit card, you may be wondering if getting one is the right move for you. After all, we have all heard the horror stories involved with credit card usage – it is certainly very easy to let spending get out of control and to find yourself buried in debt. At the same time, there are many benefits associated with using a credit card as well. Therefore, in order to determine if getting a credit card is a good move for you, you should explore the pros and cons of credit card ownership.

Benefit #1 of Credit Card Ownership: Convenience

One of the greatest benefits of having a credit card is the fact that they are so convenient to use. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere and are much easier to keep track of than cash and checkbooks. When it comes to pumping gas, you don’t even have to go inside when you have a credit card!

Drawback #1 of Credit Card Ownership: Debt

If you aren’t careful about your spending, it is easy to get yourself buried in debt. Once you add finance charges to your debt, you can find yourself paying hundreds of dollars each month for the convenience of credit card usage. Research has proven that people spend more when they use credit cards – so be careful and monitor your spending if you decide to get a credit card.

Benefit #2 to Credit Card Ownership: Protection

Having a credit card provides you with extra protection that you don’t get when you make purchases with cash, checks, or even debit cards. In fact, you are legally obligated to pay only $50 if someone takes your credit card and makes purchases with it. In many cases, the credit card company will waive the $50 as well. In addition, several credit cards offer purchase protection, extended warranty coverage, and even insurance coverage when you rent vehicles or when you travel.

Drawback #2 to Credit Card Ownership: Taxes

When it comes to taking out a loan, using a credit card isn’t necessarily your best option when it comes to saving money. Even if you happen to get a pretty good interest rate on your credit card, you may be better off using a home equity loan if you are taking out a big loan. This way, you can deduct the interest fees on your taxes. The finance charges you pay through a credit card are not deductible.

Benefit #3 to Credit Card Ownership: Rewards

Most credit cards offer some sort of rewards program. If you pay your credit card bill off at the end of the billing cycle, you can completely avoid finance charges while earning rewards with your credit card. Depending upon how much you spend, you could potentially earn hundreds of dollars each year with rewards credit cards.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Thinking About Transferring a Balance? Know What You are Getting Into Before You Complete the Transaction

When you receive an application from a credit card company in the mail, it may include an invitation to transfer your credit card balances to the new credit card. Or, you may even receive periodic invitations from your current credit card to complete a transfer at a low interest rate. You may be tempted to complete one of these transfers, and it is possible that performing a balance transfer is a good decision, but you need to know exactly what you are getting yourself into before you go ahead with the transaction.

Pay Attention to the Fees

While the credit card may be offering a balance transfer rate that is much lower than the interest rate you are currently paying, there may be a number of fees associated with the transfer as well. Generally, these fees are determined by calculating a percentage of the amount you are transferring and, while there may be a cap on how much you can be charged for a balance transfer, you can still end up paying over $100 to transfer your credit card balances. When all is said and done, the money you save on interest may be less than the money you are paying toward fees. Therefore, before you complete a balance transfer, be certain to find out about the fees that you will have to pay for the transaction.

Consider the APR

When you receive that enticing offer from the credit card company, the interest rate will likely be quite low. As a result, it will seem like a great idea to transfer your balances. Don’t just look at the introductory rate, however, as the ultimate rate of the credit card may be much higher than what you are currently paying. For example, you may receive a card with an introductory rate of 0% on balance transfers, but it reverts back to the standard 19.99% interest rate after the introductory period is over. Some cards will keep the low interest rate in place until the balance is paid off, but this is not always the case. Therefore, either make certain you pay the card off within that introductory period or don’t bother to make the transfer. Otherwise, you will likely spend more in finance charges if the ultimate APR is higher than what you are currently paying.

Find a Great Deal and Make a Plan

Some people try to evade their credit cards by jumping from one card to the next. Bouncing from one card to the next in an effort to keep your finance charges down will not pay off in the long run. Sure, it will help keep your finance charges, but the only way to take care of the problem is to work out a plan that allows you to get the debt paid down. So, rather than trying to work out a plan for transferring your balances over and over again, work on creating a plan that will allow you to get the debt paid off completely.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Credit Card Fees You Didn’t Know About

Do you know that you are paying for the convenience of using a credit card, even if you don’t make your purchases in plastic? Or, do you realize that using a rewards credit card to make a purchase actually cuts into the profits of the merchant you are purchasing from? Most consumer do not know that using a credit card actually costs merchants each time that card is swiped. In fact, credit card use has been a very touch subjects for many merchants and several of them are banding together to try to bring about a change.

Understanding Interchange Fees

When a place of business decides to provide its customers with the option to pay with a credit card, that business has to set up an account with a credit card processing company. The transactions then filter through that company in order to ultimately land in the merchant’s bank account. Along the way, however, several fees are taken out of the transaction. Among these fees are interchange fees.

Interchange fees are set fees that banks charge for completing the credit card transaction. These fees are typically assessed as a percentage of the transaction amount, with the average fee being 2%. Therefore, if you purchase an item for $10 at a store, $0.20 of that transaction is paid to the bank in the form of an interchange fee.

Effects on Pricing

Although a $0.20 fee for a $10 purchase may not sound like a whole lot, these interchange fees really add up for merchants. This is particularly true with smaller “mom and pop” establishments that already have very small profit margins. If they purchase an item for $8 and sell it for $10, for example, the $0.20 interchange fee leaves them with only $1.80, but much of this goes toward paying employees and otherwise keeping the establishment running. Therefore, many smaller businesses are claiming that interchange fees – which continue to go up – are effectively running them out of business.

For smaller stores dealing with interchange fees, they are faced with a conundrum: they can choose to stop accepting credit cards, but they may cause them to lose a great deal of business, or they can simply accept the credit card fees. In an effort to try to break even, many of these merchants choose to raise their prices to compensate for the interchange fees. Of course, if they raise them too much, they will no longer be competitive and business can suffer.

Rewards credit cards pose an even greater problem for some businesses because the costs of providing cardholders with these rewards is often passed onto the merchant. American Express is notorious for having hire interchange rates because of its rewards program, which is precisely why some businesses choose not to accept American Express credit cards.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Selecting the Right Credit Card For You

If you are like most people, your mailbox is overflowing each week with credit card applications. It is no secret that credit card companies are actively seeking new credit cardholder and, as a result, many are offering some pretty good deals to those looking for a new credit card. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean all of the credit card offers are best for you. Therefore, you need to take a few things under consideration in order to make certain the credit card you apply for is the right one for you.

Take a Look at Your Financial Situation

Your current financial situation is one factor you should consider when trying to decide on the right credit card. If you have a tendency to carry a balance from month to month, for example, you should look for a credit card with a low interest rate. This way, you will pay as little as possible in finance charges each month.

Choose the Right Rewards Card

If you do pay your credit card in full each month, you should apply for a rewards credit card. With a rewards credit card, you will be able to earn points or other benefits every time you make a purchase with your card. These credit cards tend to have a higher interest rate when compared to non-reward credit cards, but that won’t be an issue if you continue to pay the credit card in full each month.

Of course, you also need to consider the type of rewards credit card you should apply for. By considering your lifestyle and examining your spending habits, you can choose the credit card that will provide you with the most rewards possible. If you tend to spend a lot of money at restaurants, for example, you should choose a rewards credit card that provides you with a greater return on these purchases and rewards you with gift certificates to your favorite restaurants.

Help Build Your Credit

If you have poor credit, you might want to consider applying for a pre-paid credit card. With a pre-paid credit card, you send money to the card ahead of time and the amount of money you send to the card becomes your available spending limit. These cards often have fees associated with them, however, so be certain to shop around in order to find the one with the lowest fees. In addition, make certain the card reports cardholder activity to at least one of the three major credit reporting bureaus. Otherwise, using the card won’t help you rebuild your credit. If the card activity is reported, on the other hand, responsible use of the card can help you rebuild your credit rather quickly.

Although many credit card offers may contain attractive introductory offers, you should take time to consider your options before you actually complete an application. In this way, you can find the credit card that is best suited to your lifestyle and that will help you keep your finances properly under control.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tips for Avoiding Filing for Bankruptcy

Are you struggling to pay your bills on time? Are you feeling overwhelmed by the debt? Do you feel as if your only choice is to file for bankruptcy? If so, you might want to take a few steps in order to avoid having to actually file. Filing for bankruptcy is a serious issue that will haunt you for years to come. Therefore, you should do as much as you possibly can before you take such an extreme measure.

Contact Your Creditors

One of the most important steps you can take is to contact your creditors directly. Many people facing financial problems choose to ignore the phone calls and to throw away the reminder notices sent by their creditors. Pretending you aren’t in debt won’t help you with the situation. Rather, you need to take a proactive approach. Don’t wait for your creditors to contact you. Instead, call them and try to work out some sort of payment plan. Most creditors will work with their clients if they explain their situation and present a repayment plan to them. Not only will this make your bills more manageable, it will also help prevent you from having to file for bankruptcy in order to get out from under your debt.

Consolidate Your Debt

In many cases, you can make it easier to repay your debt I you consolidate the debt you currently have. Consolidation can help you reduce the amount you have to pay each month and you can potentially get a lower interest rate than what you are currently paying on your debt. In order to get the best interest rate, however, you should look into consolidating your debt before you have started to fall behind on your bill payments. This way, you will still have a good credit rating and you will qualify for a better interest rate.

Talk to a Credit Counselor

If you are struggling with making arrangements with your creditors or if you are unable to consolidate your debt, you might want to consider obtaining the services o a credit counselor. A credit counselor can help you take a closer look at your current financial situation and find ways for you to overcome your debt. In addition, a credit counselor may be able to work with your creditors and find ways to reduce your interest rate or your payment amounts. This way, you will be able to get your finances back on track.

Filing bankruptcy is a decision that can cause you problems for years to come. It can make it difficult or even impossible to obtain a loan or a credit card. In addition, it can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in extra finance charges because of the higher interest rates you will pay when you do get a loan. Follow these simple steps and prevent bankruptcy from happening to you.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tips for Increasing Your Credit Score

Are you planning to apply for a loan or new credit card any time soon? If so, you might want to check out your current credit rating before you complete that application. After all, if your credit rating is poor, you may find yourself spending a huge amount of money on finance charges and interest payments. In order to avoid tossing your money away because of a low credit score, you should put off the loan for a little longer and build up your credit score. By following these simple tips, you can build up your credit score faster than you may have thought possible.

Tip #1: Pay Your Bills on Time

The single most important thing you can do in order to increase your credit score is to simply pay your bills on time. Just one late payment can truly wreak havoc on your credit score. Even unusual bills, such as late fees to your library for books you returned late, need to paid. Otherwise, your failure to pay may be reported to the credit reporting bureaus and your credit score will be negatively impacted.

Tip #2: Check Your Credit Report

The federal government has determined that everyone is entitled to receive free copies of their credit reports. You can order yours by going to After you receive your free credit report, look it over for errors. Even a seemingly small error, such as showing a lower credit limit than you really have on your credit score, can have a negative impact on your credit score. Be certain to report any errors you find to the credit reporting agency as soon as possible. That way, the bureau can look into the error and make any necessary changes.

Tip #3: Pay Down Your Credit Cards

Your credit score is partially determined by your debt to credit limit ration. The more debt you have as compared to your available credit, the greater risk you become. For example, if you have a credit card with a $2,000 limit and you are carrying a debt of $1,800, this will actually hurt your credit score more than if you had a credit limit of $6,000 and you were carrying the same balance. Similarly, it is usually better to have $1,000 of debt spread over two credit cards than to have $1,000 in debt on one credit card.

Tip #4: Don’t Cancel Credit Cards

Although we all know that having too many credit cards in your wallet can be financially dangerous, it is a bad idea to cancel the credit cards that you already have. When you cancel your credit card, you lose all of the credit history you have acquired through the card. As a result, your credit rating will take a downward spiral.

Tip #5: Don’t Open New Credit Card Accounts

It is important to resist the temptation to open up several new credit card accounts. The more your credit report is accessed by lending institutions, the more your credit score is damaged. It is easy to get caught up in the thrill of applying for department store credit cards – particularly since they often provide very attractive benefits to new applicants – but the inquiries into your report makes it look as if you are trying to gather as much credit as possible. This makes you an increased credit risk to potential lenders. Therefore, you should hold off on these applications until after you have received the loan you are really wanting to acquire.

About the Author: Shannon Kietzman is a well known author and trusted resource. Shannon regularly writes for . For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Friday, April 4, 2008

Tips for Getting the Most from Your Rewards Credit Card

Are you thinking about getting a reward credit card? If so, you are not alone. A growing number of people are deciding to take advantage of the perks that rewards cards provide. When used properly, rewards credit cards can put some extra money in your pocket. Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to take full advantage of their rewards credit cards and are actually losing more money in the process. By following these few simple tips, however, you can manage to get the credit card companies to pay you for using their card.

Tip #1: Pay the Balance in Full Each Month

This first tip is probably the most difficult one for many people to follow. A number of people have grown to depend upon their credit cards and are accustomed to carrying a balance from month to month. If your current financial situation has you in a crunch and you have to carry a balance, don’t carry one on your reward credit card.

Reward credit cards generally have a higher interest rate than credit cards without any frills. Although you may be getting a 1% cash back rebate with the purchases you make with your credit card, you may be paying 5-10% more in interest. As a result, you will actually be losing more than you gain when you use your reward credit card. If you can’t pay off all of your expenditures each month, you should only charge what you can afford to pay on your rewards credit card and place the remaining charges on a credit card with a lower interest rate.

Tip #2: Know How to Make the Most Money with Your Card

If you have more than one reward credit card, make certain you know how you can earn the most money with each one. For example, some reward credit cards pay a higher percentage of return on gasoline purchases while others pay more when you purchase groceries or travel-related items. Know the specialty area of your credit card so you use the one that will pay you the most when you make your purchases.

Tip #3: Take Advantage of Special Program Offers

Some reward credit cards specialize in offering “no hassles,” but most of these types of cards do require paying special attention to specific guidelines. For example, you might have to sign up in order to participate in some cash back programs. With some cards, you might have to sign up every three months in order to be eligible for a higher percentage rebate. If you don’t sign up, you may still receive a smaller cash back award but you won’t get as much from your credit card as you could be getting.

Tip #4: Spend Your Points Wisely

Depending upon the reward credit card, you may have the option to spend your points in a variety of different ways. For example, you might be able to get cash back with your credit card points or you might be able to trade in your points for gift certificates or other types of rewards. When you trade in the points for something other than cash, you often get a greater value for your points. For example, 1000 points may be enough to help you earn $10 but those same points may be traded in for a $20 gift certificate to a restaurant. If you enjoy eating at one of the available restaurants, trading in your points for a gift certificate will help you stretch your points further.

Tip #5: Pay Your Monthly Bills with Your Credit Card

Look over your monthly bills and see if you have the option to pay them with your credit card. By paying your regular monthly bills, such as your utilities, cable or satellite and telephone, you can make some extra cash with your reward credit card. Since you already have planned a budget that will allow you to pay these bills, you should have no problem paying off the balance at the end of each month. Paying off your utilities with your reward credit card is almost like getting free cash!

For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Thursday, February 21, 2008

How much does your credit score drop when a foreclosure is added?

Information about the specifics of credit scoring is largely emphirical and based on trial and error. The Fair-Isaac company, who pioneered credit scoring, is very secretive about the exact working of their software.

In addition, credit scores compute ALL the information showing in your credit report each time it is calculated. Changes in your debt to available credit, other derogatory information (like late payments and collection accounts) and when these things occured are taken into account.

History, specifically what has taken place in the last twelve months, is factored a full 35%. So if the foreclosure was within that time period and was removed, your score would recover a significant amount of points. If the foreclosure was older, it would not impact your credit score nearly as much.

For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Monday, February 18, 2008

Preventing Identity Theft (Tips and Activities)

Prevention Tips
Reduce your chances of being a victim of identity theft by remaining vigilant in all financial matters and taking precautions to protect your personal identifiers.

Identity thieves can find ways to exploit your personal information in all avenues of your life. At work, at home, and on the Internet, your daily activities offer multiple opportunities for criminals to obtain your personal information.

Making yourself aware of the issues and information is the first step in safeguarding against identity theft. By making a slight change in your daily routine, you may be able to thwart a criminal from obtaining your personal information.

Your Personal Financial Matters
1. Order and closely review copies of your credit report from each national credit reporting agency once a year.

2. Empty your wallet of extra credit cards and IDs. Close all unused credit card or bank accounts.

3. Shred pre-approved credit applications, credit card receipts, bills, and other financial information you don't want before discarding them in the trash or recycling bin.

4. Remove your name from mailing lists for pre-approved credit lines by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688).

5. Remove your name, phone number and home address from marketing lists by contacting the Direct Marketing Association. This will not prevent your name from being placed on all marketing lists, but it removes your information from many of them.

DMA Mail Preference Service
P.O. Box 9008
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008

DMA Telephone Preference Service
P.O. Box 9014
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014

6. Only release your personal data (social security number, date of birth, bank account or credit account numbers, etc.), to agencies who require it for action you have initiated. Never give this information to unsolicited telephone callers or over the Internet.

7. Contact the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and request assignment of an alternate driver's license number if it currently features your Social Security number. Furthermore, submit a request to limit access to the personal information on your Driver's License under the Driver Privacy Protection Act.

Your Daily Activities
1. Ensure that your PIN numbers cannot be observed by anyone while you're utilizing an ATM or public telephone.

2. Never leave receipts at bank machines, bank counters, trash receptacles or unattended gasoline pumps.

3. Memorize your social security number and all passwords. Do not record them on any cards or on anything in your wallet or purse.

Your Mail
1. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery.

2. Deposit outgoing mail in post collection boxes or at your local post office.

3. Contact your creditor or service provider if expected bills don't arrive.

4. Never put your credit card or any other financial account number on a postcard or on the outside of an envelope.

5. Beware of promotional solicitations through the mail or telephone that offer instant prizes or awards and seek to obtain your personal information or credit card numbers.

On the Internet
1. Use caution when disclosing checking account numbers, credit card numbers, or other personal financial data at any web site or on-line service location unless you receive a secured authentication key from your provider.

2. Don't email your personal data unless you use encryption technology

3. Be very careful when giving information on unknown web sites, especially ones found in Spam e-mails

4. Do not give out your checking account information on the internet, unless you are dealing directly with your bank's website.

5. Make sure every transaction you engage in on the Internet is over a secure connection, you should see a lock in your browser window, as well as "https" in the browser window.

6. Consider making a secondary, disposable online identity with an incorrect address, phone number using a "free" email account.

For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Choosing a Credit Card

Shopping around for a credit card can save you money on interest and fees. You’ll want to find one with features that match your needs.

This information can help you

  • Understand the features of credit cards
  • Compare credit card features and costs
  • Know your rights when using your credit card
  • File a complaint if you have a problem with your credit card
For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why pay for credit repair services when you can do it for FREE?!?

When it comes to repairing your credit, you're the best person for the job.

Credit repair scam artists will charge you anywhere from $500 to $1,500 or more upfront, and promise you everything from a new Social Security card to perfect credit.

But these companies can't do anything for you that you can't do for yourself -- for free -- and they might ultimately do more harm than good.

What should you do if you have bad credit? Here are 10 tips that are designed to improve your credit history and raise your credit score:

1. Pull a copy of your credit history. Each credit-reporting bureau is required to give you one copy once a year. You should pull copies from each of the bureaus, since they sometimes collect different data.

2. While you're there, buy a copy of your credit score from Equifax offers a FICO score, also known as a Beacon score, which is from Fair Isaac, the company that created the concept of credit scoring. Most creditors will pull a FICO score, so you should see what they're seeing. Your credit score will give you a snapshot of what your credit information means to your creditors. The FICO score runs from 350 to 850. The higher the number, the better. Your target should be to have a credit score of at least 720.

3. Check your credit history thoroughly. You're looking for errors, misinformation and negative information that might count against you. File a dispute with the three credit-reporting bureaus if you spot any errors. Some credit reports have serious errors in them, so fixing these will boost your score.

4. Understand what kind of debt you're facing. Make a list of everything you owe, the interest rate each debt carries, and the minimum payment due each month. Then, prioritize your debt: mortgage, real estate taxes, credit cards and medical bills should be paid in that order.

5. Negotiate with your creditors for a lower interest rate. Paying less in interest means more of your payment each month goes toward paying down your balance. If you have a good credit score (over 720 is a starting point), you should be able to find other credit cards featuring zero percent to 5 percent in interest for the first year, or for the life of a balance transfer (check out sites like and to compare credit-card offers.) Just be sure you read the fine print: Some credit cards require you to charge on the new account each month or face a stiff fee.

6. Pay down the debt with the highest interest rate first. Pay your mortgage and home equity loan and lines of credit in full each month. Then, make sure you have enough cash to make all of the minimum payments due on your debt each month. Then, throw any spare cash at the debt that carries the highest interest rate first. Once you've paid down that debt, transfer all of the extra cash you're paying each month to the debt with the next-highest interest rate, and so on.

7. Pay everything on time, even if you can make only the minimum payment. The most crucial component of your credit history and credit score is your ability to pay your bills on time each month. Paying on time shows your creditors that you take your debts and obligations seriously. Even one late payment can seriously damage your credit history and credit score, even though it can take a year's worth of on-time payments to start to heal your credit history and raise your credit score. It doesn't seem fair, but that's how the credit industry works.

8. Don't charge more than 25 percent of your maximum available credit limit. If you carry a credit-card balance that is a higher percentage of your available credit limit, your credit score will go down. Why? Because creditors believe if you charge the maximum on your credit cards, it means you can't properly manage your credit. You're better off spreading out your debt between three or four different cards than having it all piled on one card.

9. Don't open and close a lot of accounts. Again, a credit score tells current and future creditors how likely it is that you won't pay back your debts. It assesses how risky a borrower you are today. Every time you apply for a new credit card, that creditor pulls a copy of your credit history from the credit-reporting bureaus. That "inquiry" gets reported on your credit history. Too many inquiries in a short period of time signals that you may be getting low on your available credit and need more cash. Even though you might be interested in getting 10 percent off your first purchase for opening a new account, it looks different to a prospective creditor.

10. Don't share credit (except with a spouse). It's easy to tell someone that you'll "co-sign" a credit card, student loan or a mortgage loan application, especially if it's someone you've known for a long time. But it's also easy to wind up in a situation where that friend or relative stops paying his or her bills (for whatever reason) and your credit will take a big hit. Once you're a co-signer for a loan, you're legally obligated to make those payments -- whether or not you can afford them. So think carefully before you agree to co-sign a loan, and nip the problem of bad credit before it begins.

Article source - Inman News

To get even more valuable advice from Ilyce, visit her Personal Finance and Real Estate Center.

For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

Monday, January 7, 2008

New Threats To Your Credit Score (MSNBC.COM)

Everyone knows that an unpaid creditor can leave a mark on your record for years to come. But now, even your health club or local librarian can lower your score.

Most people know, and can accept, that an unpaid credit card bill can wind up in a collections account that will devastate their credit scores.

But did you know that your credit also could suffer from an unpaid parking ticket, a traffic fine you ignored or a forgotten library book?

A growing number of local and state agencies are using private collection companies to boost their revenues. More than 600 public libraries from Eugene, Ore., to Broome County, N.Y., turn unpaid accounts over to private collectors like Unique Management Services. Cities and courts hire others, including Municipal Services Bureau, to track down overdue parking, traffic and court fines.

Many collection agencies quickly report these overdue accounts to at least one of the three major credit bureaus, and the black marks send consumers' credit scores tumbling. Anyone who's had a spat with a phone company, health club or an insurer turn into a collection knows that this is a pretty big club to waive over the heads of consumers.

Article source:

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Credit/Debt 2008 New Year's Resolution

Have you been thinking about what you’d like to change for the New Year? Most New Year's resolutions involve improving health or getting rid of a bad habit. Don't forget about improving your financial health and your bad credit habits in the new year. As you resolve to make some changes this year, add one or more of these credit/debt New Year’s resolutions to your list.

Get your free credit report

Since each of the three credit bureaus is required to give you a free credit report each year, there's no reason you shouldn't be checking it. Monitoring your credit report helps you detect identity thefts, ensure creditors are reporting your information correctly, and enables you to take action on credit/debt problems before they get worse.

Clean up your credit report

Don't take for granted that the information contained in your credit report will be accurate. Mistakes happen all the time. It;s up to you to correct those mistakes. Disputing credit report information is free and can often be done online when you check your credit report.

Get out of debt

If you don't have a detailed plan for getting out of debt, you can expect to carry the debt for the rest of your life. Once you make the decision to pay off your debt, you can begin making a plan. Even if your plan spans ten, fifteen years or more, it's better than not having a plan at all.
Make a Get Out of Debt Plan

Repair your credit

Need to fix bad credit? What are you waiting for? The New Year is as good a time as any to start repairing your credit. First, figure out what's causing your bad credit. Then, plan a solution for each of those things. Put your plan into action and you’ll be on your way to better credit.
Do It Yourself Credit Repair

Use credit wisely

Have you been using credit in a way that encourages debt? Changing those spending habits won't be so hard to do. At first, it will take conscious effort on your part. After making good credit decisions for a few weeks, you'll find that good spending habits start to come naturally.
Do's and Don'ts of Using Credit Cards

Improve your credit score

Your credit score influences whether or not you get approved for new credit cards and loans. It also affects the interest rate you pay. Lower credit scores risk denied applications or high interest rates. Improving your credit score improves your ability to get good credit card and loan terms.

Learn more about credit

Many people learn about credit by making mistakes. That wouldn't be such a bad way to learn if credit mistakes weren't so costly. Spend some time this year learning more about credit and understanding the process. You'll be surprised at how information can protect you from costly credit mistakes.

Start an emergency fund

When you have an emergency fund, you don't have to resort to credit or loans when a financial emergency arises. Building an emergency fund can take less time than paying off a credit card used to cover an emergency expense.

Pay less interest

Essentially, interest is the cost of having credit. The money you pay in interest pads your creditors' pockets when it could be padding your own. You can pay less in interest by negotiating lower interest rates or paying your balances off sooner (or both). Transferring balances to a zero percent interest rate balance transfer credit card can also temporarily reduce your interest payments.

Stop paying late fees

Paying late fees is another unnecessary expense that goes to your creditors. Not only do late payments result in late fees, you might also see a spike in your interest rate and a drop in your credit score. These negative results can be avoided by paying your credit card bills on time.

For more info and to order your credit report with FREE credit score please visit

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