If you use credit cards, keeping in control of how you manage them is a must.
Aside from paying your bills on time, there are other ways to stay on top of your credit. Even canceling your cards every now and then can be beneficial, provided the reason(s) behind doing so will help your credit in the long run. These reasons to cancel make sense when you are experiencing credit chaos. Always check with an expert before "pulling the plug," but act in a timely manner to make the most of your money.
Cancel before crisis www.wisebread.com
You Saw Fraudulent Charges on Your Card
Wait a minute! You were in Virginia when your card was used to pay for a $500 dinner in Manhattan! Looks like someone got a hold of your card number and treated himself to Champagne and caviar. Along with reporting the issue to the card company at once, it may be a smart idea to cancel the card too.
As Cheat Sheet explains, "In situations where your credit card was stolen or lost, your card issuer will usually close the account and issue a new card. However, if a business is making unauthorized charges, your best choice is to close the card. For example, if you signed up for a monthly service and then decided to cancel, but the business is still charging you even after you've notified it about the issue, keeping the card might not be in your best interest."
Credit.com adds, "You may want to close your account rather than risk having to fight to get charges reversed in the future." Save yourself from ongoing hassle by nipping the situation in the bud before you've got a garden to tend to.
The Annual Fees are Through the Roof
Credit cards provide convenience, but we pay the price with fees that can be absurd. As The Motley Fool points out, "High-end credit cards usually come with annual fees to account for all the perks they provide, but how much are they really worth? Some simple math can show whether the combined value of your rewards is greater than the fee you're shelling out every year."
Before canceling, see if you can get the fee down…no, it isn't set in stone. As Cheat Sheet recommends, "Before closing your card, you can try to negotiate for a lower rate or fee. If your efforts are not fruitful, it's time to move on. High fees will lengthen the time it takes to pay down your debt."
You've Been Overspending
Some people don't realize how much they're spending when they whip out that little piece of plastic and splurge. Even little items add up quickly, leaving folks flabbergasted when the monthly bill arrives. If you're the type to overspend, particularly when using your card, it may be time to quit cold turkey, at least until you gain some self-control.
According to The Motley Fool, "Nearly 60% of Americans have maxed out a credit card at least once in their lives, according to an American Consumer Credit Counseling survey. Overspending with credit can leave you saddled with balances that increase by the day thanks to high APR interest, potential late fees, and max-out penalties. If you can't control yourself, it's a good idea to close your credit cards -- even the ones with remaining balances. You'll still be able to pay off your debt, but you won't be able to keep making charges."
You're Getting Divorced
Divorce is painful enough – and the financial aspects of splitting only add more headaches and hassles. According to Credit.com, "If you are separating or getting divorced from someone with whom you share a joint account, go ahead and close it. Otherwise, as long as the account is open, you are fully responsible for any bills your soon-to-be-ex runs up."
Start fresh financially once those cards are dealt with, and leave zero room for more back and forth battles over the bills.
Do you really need all those? www.greenamerica.org
For information on applying for a new credit card, see the best way to go about it before signing up.
When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.