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Archive for August 2013

You've been flagged by ChexSystems. Now what?

Published 8/29/13  (Modified 9/3/13)

You've been flagged by ChexSystems. Now what? By Peter Andrew

Given that the story of my personal finances has been punctuated by small and not-so-small disasters, it's pretty amazing that I've never been flagged personally by ChexSystems. But for those who have been flagged by the company, is there any hope of clearing the record and regaining access to most checking accounts?

What is ChexSystems?

ChexSystems is like a credit bureau in that many financial institutions check with it before opening new accounts. Also like those bureaus, it's a "consumer-reporting agency" under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and some other federal laws.

However, there are some important differences between ChexSystems and a credit bureau. ChexSystems doesn't continually monitor a range of your accounts for late payments and other minor delinquencies. Nor does it deal in credit scores.

Instead, it maintains a register (some might call it a blacklist) of people who've fallen foul of their banks or credit unions.

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4 ways to avoid the office spending trap

Published 8/22/13

4 ways to avoid the office spending trap By Holly Johnson

A couple of years ago, my husband and I worked together at a local funeral home. Unbeknownst to me, an unexceptional weekday turned out to be "Administrative Professionals Day." I had never heard of this "holiday," but when I arrived that morning I found a large vase of fresh-cut flowers at my desk. The card read "Happy Administrative Professionals Day" and was signed by a few co-workers, including my husband. "What a nice gesture," I thought as I started the day's work.

Then I got the bill.

Apparently, another co-worker had arranged the surprise for the three administrative workers in our office. And although my husband thought it was strange that he should have to buy his wife flowers for this seemingly contrived holiday, he agreed to participate. After all, he didn't want to be the only person who didn't take part.

But after realizing that I had effectively bought my own flowers, I no longer felt very appreciated at all. "Some people love to spend other people's money," I later said to my husband, shaking my head.

Resisting office spending

The pressure to spend on workplace functions is common in many offices. In these settings, well-meaning coworkers may appear to hunt for situations that separate you from your hard-earned cash.

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3 oft-overlooked ways to add savings

Published 8/16/13

3 oft-overlooked ways to add savings By Jeffrey Steele

Though much of my life, I've had a reputation as a tight-fisted, penny-pinching pinchpenny. "The cheapest guy I ever met," is how one friend of 30 years refers to me, with just a hint of a smile crinkling her face.

Am I bothered by my reputation as an abstemious tightwad? Not a whit. I see it as evidence of my other reputation as a true rebel. In a society where the Great Marketing Machine informs us we are to spend every cent we have (and even some we don't) on items to help us keep up with the Joneses, I enjoy my standing as a non-conformist who marches to his own personal finance drummer.

Among ways I pinch pennies are three oft-overlooked approaches to economizing and building a savings account. I recommend them, having profited from each.

1. Coupon books

Thanks to Groupon and similar businesses, we've all become aware of deal-of-the-day coupons. For some of us, coupons have been a way of life for longer than many Groupon users have been alive.

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6 ways to wreck your credit without knowing it

Published 8/9/13

6 ways to wreck your credit without knowing it By Justin Boyle

I was at the house of a songwriter friend of mine who recently came back from a tour of Texas and Oklahoma, and he showed me an unusual souvenir he picked up on the road: a bill for the credit card he used to buy gas for the trip.

While that might not be a strange souvenir for most people, for him it was practically unheard of. As long as I'd known him, he had never had a credit card. He had been careless with credit in his early 20s, and for years he had been unable to get a decent rate from a credit provider.

After years of collection-agency calls and a near-bankruptcy, he's far from careless now. But not everyone has had the opportunity to learn good borrowing behavior the hard way.

If you don't want to learn the hard way, here are six things you may want to avoid as you build your credit history.

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No card, no problem: 4 online payment alternatives

Published 8/2/13

No card, no problem: 4 online payment alternatives By Holly Johnson

Recently, my husband and I decided to plan a vacation with a couple of our friends. After batting some ideas around, we all decided that we wanted to go to Mexico. Of course, I immediately started perusing the Internet for a deal.

Since we wanted to go as cheaply as possible, we considered a lot of resorts and a lot of dates in order to find the least expensive vacation package that was out there. After a few weeks of searching, I came upon an amazing travel deal on one of the online comparison sites. Excited, I called my friend. "I found the deal of a lifetime," I said. "Are you ready to book?"

"Totally ready," said my friend. After going over the details for a few more minutes, I suggested that she hop on the Internet so that we could book at the same time. Unfortunately, we had a problem. "Ummm … I don't have a credit card or even a debit card," she said. "How am I supposed to pay for this?"

I was completely caught off-guard. With so many transactions being completed online, doesn't everyone need to have at least one card?

Credit and debit card alternatives

With so many products being bought and sold over the Internet, it should be no surprise that there are now a variety of ways to make purchases without a credit or debit card.

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