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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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:

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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:

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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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Credit Card Signup Bonus Hunting Hurts Credit Score

Citi HSBC AMEX Credit CardsIf you were in the market for a credit card before the Great Recession, you probably remember the rich rewards companies were offering for you to use their card. Credit was flowing freely and unless you were being paid a $100 gift card to sign up for a card, it probably wasn’t even worth your time! The 25,000 mile or $200 gift card promotions were there for the taking, especially if you had a good credit score. When the economic slowdown hit, those offers dried up. Credit card companies started closing accounts and it was rare to see a good offer unless you had a fantastic credit score. Credit card companies were playing defense.

Well, I don’t know if it’s a recovery based on the economic statistics, but the credit card companies must thinks so because the offers have been coming back in the last year or so. While you won’t see as many $200 or 25,000 frequent flyer mile promotions, they are certainly out there and it may be tempted to go on a signup spree to get all that free cash. I don’t think anyone, except the credit card companies, would begrudge you if you did!

It’s important to know what applying for credit cards, whether it’s one card or eight, will have a negative impact on your score.

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American Express Prepaid Card $25 Promotion

American Express® Prepaid CardAmerican Express is really amping up their promotions for their prepaid cards. Last month, they were offering a $10 bonus when you opened and loaded a card with $50. This month, they’re bumping it up to a $25 complimentary gift card when you load a card with $200 or more. The complimentary gift card is nominally higher ($25 instead of $10) but the amount you have to deposit is more. Instead of getting 20% of your loaded amount as a gift card, you’re only getting 12.5%. Still, it’s a return that trumps anything you can get elsewhere so if you have $200 and a desire to jump through a hoop or two, this could be a nice promotion for you.

I didn’t look that closely to the card the last time I wrote about the promotion but it’s has a few features I didn’t know prepaid cards offered. First off, the fact that there are no monthly/annual fees and purchase fees is something you won’t see from prepaid offers from some shadier places. Next, and this is the rare part, you get purchase protection, fraud protection, and even roadside assistance.

Promotion ends August 31st.

Terms & Conditions:
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