Credit Column

Whether you love it, hate it, or love hating it, credit is a part of our capitalist experience and one that is a double edged sword. Use it responsibly and you’ll discover that the leverage it provides can enrich your life considerably. Use it irresponsibly and you’ll discover that the leverage it provides can put you in a deep hole of debt that can take years to recover from.


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Will your holiday shopping affect your credit score?

Shopping CartI had an interesting question hit my inbox the other day – it was a little long so I won’t paste it here but the basic question was whether holiday shopping will have an effect on your credit score. The reader’s concern was that he’ll be doing a lot of his holiday spending on credit cards, in order to maximize his credit card rewards, and he plans on buying a house next year and doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize his credit score. 1% rewards sounds great unless it costs you 1% on a mortgage!

My first inclination was to answer that there was no way your holiday shopping could affect your credit score… but it might actually affect your score.

(click here to continue reading…)

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Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card Promotion: 50,000 Points for $2000 Spend in 3 Months

This offer is no longer available.

Southwest is easily one of my favorite airlines and so far even that allegiance hasn’t pushed me to sign up for their credit card. This latest offer might change my mind though because this latest promotional offer for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card is worth nearly $800 in Wanna Get Away Fares (that’s their cheapest option fares when you book online). $800 can get me almost five flights between Baltimore Washington International (BWI) and my parent’s house on Long Island (ISP).

The deal is this, apply for the card and then spend $2,000 in the first three months to receive 50,000 bonus points worth $800 in Wanna Get Away? fares. There is a $99 annual fee that is not waived for the first year, so you effectively get $701 in Wanna Get Away? fares but each year you renew you get 6,000 bonus points. Those points are worth $100 in fares so it’s a wash if you fly on Southwest (which would be the primary reason to get this card anyway).

(click here to continue reading…)

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5 Credit Cards with Awesome Perks You Didn’t Know About

Credit CardBy now, many of us are well aware of most of the pros and cons associated with credit cards. Indeed, you are probably aware of common credit card perks, like rewards programs and even rental car collision coverage. However, there are some even lesser-known perks that come with various credit cards, depending on which card you get.

You might surprised at some of the awesome perks that are available to you, if you just pick the right credit card:

(click here to continue reading…)

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Walmart and American Express Introduce Bluebird – An Alternative to Debit and Checking Accounts

The banking landscape is changing, and free checking accounts are becoming harder and harder to find. In an attempt to capture those customers who may feel that they need to unbank or seek an alternative to traditional banking which is becoming more and more expensive, Walmart has partnered with American Express to offer a new card, billed as an alternative to debit and checking accounts, called “Bluebird.”

Dan Schulman, group president, Enterprise Growth, American Express states, “Bluebird is our solution to help consumers who currently may be poorly served by traditional banking products. It allows them to easily and safely move, manage, and spend their money. In an era where it is increasingly ‘expensive to be poor,’ we have worked with Wamart to create a financial services product that rights many of the wrongs that plague the market today”
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7 Consumer Profile Reports You Didn’t Know About

Credit Report - Before and AfterMany of us are familiar with credit reports and credit scoring. Chances are, that you are familiar with the credit reports issued by the “big three” credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. These credit reports form the basis of credit scoring models that you are probably familiar with, including:

  • FICO
  • Vantage
  • Individual credit scores offered by each of the three credit major credit bureaus

These aren’t the only consumer credit measures out there, though. Informations about your habits as a consumer, and the way you conduct business is out there, and available for others to see. Here are 7 consumer profile reports that you might not be aware of:

(click here to continue reading…)

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Wallaby: One Card to Rule Them All

A little over a month ago, I looked at our credit card system and wondered if it made any sense to optimize our credit card rewards. We “only” use two credit cards and so our system is dead simple. If I’m in a restaurant, use the Citi Forward. If I’m not, I use my Costco TrueEarnings Amex card (we also have a third card, a Capital One card, for international use but since our international travel is limited the card is shelved until we travel). I know plenty of people who have more than four cards and while I don’t share their love of optimization, or at least their adherence to it, I would optimize if it were simpler.

I see the optimization issue as having two parts – spending and paying. The spending part refers to the card you pull out at the store. The paying part refers to paying the bill when it’s due. There’s a new company out there that will help you with the spending part – they’re called Wallaby. They’re still in beta and while I signed up, I haven’t used it yet (or even seen it).

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BillGuard Review: Personal Credit Card Statement Watchdog

One of the cool companies that I met at Fincon2012 was BillGuard. BillGuard analyzes your credit card transactions and tells you if they find anything deceptive or fraudulent. The beauty if their system is that they collect all this information and they can see trends – companies behaving badly, trying to sneak fees or other charges past you, or clever scammers and thieves stealing in a way your credit card company can’t detect.

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How to Use Credit Karma [Video]

It’s no secret I’m a fan of Credit Karma, but I’m hardly alone in the world of personal finance bloggers. Plenty of people enjoy their service and part of the reason has to do with how they were first to market with a monitoring system. Since then, companies like Credit Sesame (also a great company with a great service, I recommend both) have also appeared offering scores and services from different bureaus, but Credit Karma was first – that’s probably why people always think of them first.

At a minimum, I use Credit Karma as part of my DIY identify theft protection system, but the service has plenty of other bells and whistles worth your attention. I thought I’d put together a few short videos (in shiny HD!) explaining how to use the other features of Credit Karma’s website. In this case, it’s their Score Center and their Report Card & Credit Simulator. Be sure to watch the videos in full screen HD if possible.

(it’s been a while since I did a video and I did these in one take… so be kind! :) )
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