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Micro-saving: a personal finance resolution you can keep


Micro-saving: a personal finance resolution you can keep

Published 1/9/12  (Modified 1/17/12)

Micro-saving: a personal finance resolution you can keep By Justin Boyle

This holiday season, I had a chance to catch up with some members of my extended family. I learned that a musician cousin of mine (let's call him Mark) had recently pulled himself back from the brink of bankruptcy and gotten his debt under control, which (no offense, Mark!) came as a small surprise.

I called Mark in Key West, to congratulate him as well as try and learn his secret. There were some pretty standard money management techniques involved, like consolidating debt and hunting up the best savings account rates and credit card APRs he could find, but there was another piece of the puzzle that I think merits sharing. For the past two years, Mark had been doing something he called "micro-saving." ...

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How do the new credit card rules affect you?

Published 3/16/11  (Modified 3/28/11)

How do the new credit card rules affect you? By Jim Sloan

In recent months Americans in general have been making a determined effort to pay down their credit card debts. Maybe you've been part of this, changing your spending habits, and using your paycheck to pay down your credit card debt along with your student loans. That effort will only be helped by new legislation passed last year to combat some of ham-fisted habits of credit card companies.

How do these new regulations affect you?

New financial regulations to limit customer exposure to fees and rate hikes

New restrictions on credit card companies--and credit card users, for that matter--come from a combination of the 2009 Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act and new Federal Reserve regulations mandated by the law. The Fed's rules, according to the law, must make sure that late charges and penalties--a major source of taxpayer headache and credit card company income in recent years--are "reasonable and proportional." The rules apply to many types of credit cards, from high interest credit cards to zero balance transfer cards to even the best cash back credit cards.

Just how effective the new law and regulations will be remains to be seen. But as a consumer, it's important for you to keep in mind what your rights are.

Credit cards and credit scores

Some of the new regulations are related to not only to credit cards but also to your

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Like surgery, medical credit cards offer risks and rewards

Published 1/12/11  (Modified 3/9/11)

Like surgery, medical credit cards offer risks and rewards By Joe Taylor Jr.

If you feel awkward getting asked to open a store credit card when you're shopping for blue jeans, imagine what happens when you get the same offer in the emergency room.

Medical credit card applications abound at the offices of dentists, doctors, and even veterinarians. While relaxed approval processes make these cards appealing to Americans in need of urgent care, critics of medical credit cards warn that the cure for long term medical debt might be worse than the disease. Do these credit cards deserve their bad rap?

How medical credit cards hit the market

It was unheard of for earlier generations of Americans to let medical bills go unpaid. Our parents and grandparents couldn't run the risk of bumping into the neighborhood doctor at church or in the supermarket with outstanding invoices hanging over their heads.

Over the years, deductibles and co-insurance ceilings got larger, forcing health care providers to take on greater risk. Practices got bigger, too, enabling more of us to slide our medical bills to the back of the stack without feeling very guilty. Lenders partnered with medical providers to offer easy applications, using many of the same techniques perfected in retail stores.

Shifting medical credit cards from emergency coverage to elective financing

With finance charges and payment options similar to retail credit cards, most consumers found terms reasonable enough to get them through a crisis. However, the medical credit card market kicked into high gear

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12 easy steps to use eBay and pay down holiday credit card debt

Published 12/29/10  (Modified 3/9/11)

12 easy steps to use eBay and pay down holiday credit card debt By Jim Sloan

Our family loves the holidays, but every year after the tinsel and pine needles have been vacuumed up, we find ourselves with a couple of small problems: Too much credit card debt and a couple of heart-felt gifts we really don't want and can't return.

The answer for us has been pretty simple: eBay. By selling some of our unwanted stuff--sometimes it's Christmas gifts and sometimes it's just items we find in the garage when we put the decorations away--we're able to put a dent in that debt, even when we've used zero percent credit cards.

If this sounds like something you'd like to try, here's a 12-step program to help you use eBay to whittle down that credit card debt:

1. Start small. If you're new to eBay, begin by selling something that's easy to price, easy to photograph and easy to ship. This way you can practice setting up an auction, monitoring your sale and making sure you get good feedback from your first buyer right off the bat. This small transaction will also give you an idea about how costs and commissions work on eBay.

2. Sell something new. New goods are easier to price and sell than used goods. If your Aunt Florence gives you linen napkins every year and you're starting to

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Pay off debt with 0 interest balance transfer credit cards, but read the fine print

Published 12/20/10  (Modified 3/9/11)

Pay off debt with 0 interest balance transfer credit cards, but read the fine print By Lisa Tortorello

If you are like most people, you probably cringe when it is time to pay the bills. It is a chore almost as dreaded as spending a Saturday afternoon at the post office and dry cleaners. Perhaps the most frustrating and stressful bills to open are those from credit card companies.

If you carry a balance like most of us do, every month you may be battling the disappointment of a cemented balance. This means that you are actively trying to reduce your credit card debt by sending more than the minimum payment each month, and have vowed to no longer use your cards unless absolutely necessary, but your balance does not budge - it seems to be stuck in the cement. In fact, it may even increase due to steep interest rates that outrank the amount you are paying every month.

Several years ago, the credit card bills stuffed in your mailbox were probably accompanied by an equal number of offers to transfer your higher-interest balances to zero interest credit cards with no balance transfer fees. This could have certainly helped you chisel your balances out of their concrete cells.

While those zero percent balance transfers are no longer weighing down your mail carrier's bag like in years past, there are still a few out there that can help you pay down your balances more quickly.

Zero interest credit cards - not zero risk

While

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Should you pay off credit cards with a home equity line of credit?

Published 11/30/10  (Modified 3/8/11)

Should you pay off credit cards with a home equity line of credit? By Joe Taylor Jr.

During the real estate boom of the early 2000s, paying off a credit card with help from a home equity loan seemed like a no-brainer. After all, housing prices in most parts of the country were skyrocketing. Why would you pay double-digit interest rates on a credit card when you could cut those finance charges in half or more?

In hindsight, all those refinance deals might not have been the best ideas. Where property values declined, some homeowners found themselves underwater on second mortgages and home equity lines of credit (HELOC). Now that banks have recapitalized and mortgage rates have dropped to all-time lows, home equity loans look attractive again.

Benefits of paying down high interest debt

With many credit card issuers changing their business strategies after the financial crisis of 2008, interest rates rose while credit limits dropped. Meanwhile, new federal regulations forced banks to increase monthly minimum payments on most unsecured credit card accounts. For some consumers, this double whammy wrecked monthly budgets and even caused a cascade of late payment and over-the-limit penalties.

If that scenario sounds familiar, a home equity loan could help you reboot your personal finance portfolio. Instead of surfing balance transfer credit cards and making multiple minimum payments, a mortgage refinance lets you pay just one or two lenders. Because the FICO score and other credit reporting tools review the percentage of

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