When it comes to dealing with debt and clearing your credit, what you don't know really can hurt you.
Working with a credit counselor won't ding your credit score. Honest. Yet some people seem to think it will, according to a survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
The fact is, credit counselors don't report to the credit bureaus. Seeking help from a professional, nonprofit credit counseling agency can help you fix what's wrong with your finances -- which will ultimately improve your credit score.
Besides: How does your credit report look right now?
"What about the eight months you haven't paid your Macy's card? Dings to your credit score already exist," notes NFCC spokeswoman Gail Cunningham.
Five common themes emerged from the 2013 survey, including the notion that asking for help would damage your credit score.
Hurricane season is coming. But storms can happen at any time. Here are six smart things to do to get your home ready before the storm hits.
Hurricane season begins on June 1, and now is the perfect time to take steps to protect your home (and finances) from the storms -– rather than waiting until a storm approaches and scrambling to get ready.
1. Consider a home generator
Not only will you be more comfortable with lights, electronics, your refrigerator and air conditioning, but the generator can also help you avoid other problems when the power goes out -- such as flooding when your sump pump stops working or mold that can grow if your basement floods when your air conditioning is on the blink, too.
You may even get a 5% discount on your homeowners insurance if you install an automatic standby generator, which is powered by natural gas or propane and turns on automatically after detecting a power outage. The most common is 17 kilowatts, which powers 16 circuits, says Roy Cranford, president of generator dealer CDS Emergency Power, in Baltimore. The generator costs about $4,000, plus about $3,500 for installation (to connect to your electrical system and gas or propane line).
Think you know all the cheap travel tips? You don't. But these veteran travelers do. Read on for the details.
This post comes from Susan Johnston at U.S. News & World Report.
Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer travel season, and according to travel booking website Orbitz.com, more than three-quarters of Americans are planning to take a summer vacation. To ensure your hard-earned travel dollars go as far as they can, U.S. News talked to veteran travelers and experts to reveal these under-the-radar money-saving tips.
1. Call before booking online. Making travel arrangements through the Internet may be convenient, but it doesn't always guarantee you the best deal. Nicole Lapin, editor-in-chief of Recessionista.com, recommends calling a hotel around 4 p.m. local time on Sunday afternoon and asking to speak with a manager or supervisor. The person answering calls at the hotel's toll-free number may not have the power to cut you a deal, but the hotel's local manager or supervisor often does. Mention you're celebrating a birthday or anniversary, or use Lapin's strategy: "I've seen the rate of $199 per night in the past. I was wondering if you could match that? Maybe there's a room in the back that isn't as coveted?"
This strategy can work with airline tickets, too. "It's a myth that all the available inventory is available on the Internet," says Peter Greenberg, travel editor at CBS News. "We go online because it's easy, but we do so at our own peril if we're looking for a deal."
In some cases, booking by phone may incur an extra fee, so Greenberg recommends that consumers compare the price they can get online to the one offered by phone, and factor in any extra fees. "They only charge you the phone-booking fee if you book by phone," he says. "Anytime you get on the phone, you still have 24 hours in which to pay for your ticket. Hold that fare, go online and see if you can beat it."
2. Go against your traveler type. Another way to save on hotel stays is to choose properties that are less crowded and thus have an incentive to discount their rooms. "Go after business hotels for weekend stays, and go after leisure hotels for weekdays," suggests John DiScala, veteran traveler and founder of travel website JohnnyJet.com.
"Business hotels are packed Sunday through Thursday, and then they're pretty much empty on the weekends. They're always looking for folks, so they'll offer really good deals."
Certain chains such as Marriott tend to cater to business travelers, but DiScala says it's also somewhat dependent on the destination. Traveling during off-season or shoulder season (the period before or after peak tourism season when the weather is still nice, but fewer people are traveling) is another way to capitalize on lower hotel prices thanks to supply and demand.
3. Ask about repositioning flights or cruises. Airlines use repositioning flights to move aircrafts from one airport to another, and the same applies to cruise lines, which typically reposition ships twice a year. These flights or cruises tend to be cheaper but provide services similar to traditional offerings, according to Greenberg. He suggests asking about these options on the phone.
Pat and Wayne Dunlap, who have chronicled their travels to 100 countries on Unhooknow.com, have taken five repositioning cruises, including from Miami to Barcelona and Vancouver to Japan. Repositioning cruises tend to be longer than traditional cruises, so if you're short on time, this might not be for you. However, the Dunlaps use their time at sea to relax and research the rest of their trip using the travel books they bring along. Once they arrive, they typically explore the destination and later use frequent flyer miles to return home, since repositioning cruises are one-way.
4. Follow the disaster. The Dunlaps have booked some of their most affordable vacations by traveling to destinations other tourists may have ruled out because of natural disasters or political issues. Three years after the SARS outbreak in China, many American tourists were still reluctant to visit the country. But the Dunlaps visited China for a fraction of what it would normally cost because the Chinese government subsidized the trip to encourage tourism. "We investigated it and saw that it was all clear so we took advantage," Wayne says.
Last year, they visited the Greek Islands after reports of austerity in Athens scared away other tourists. "There was devastation in Athens, but the rest of the country was just fine, especially the Greek Islands," Wayne says. "We went during peak season, walked in and were negotiating rates with them."
Greenberg says tourists should consider visiting Egypt and Haiti for these reasons. "The first thing they're going to rebuild is the infrastructure for travel and tourism," he explains. "You get to immerse yourself in a culture and not be in a crowd." Still, using common sense is key to safely executing this strategy. "If the entire country is involved in civil war, that's another story," Greenberg adds.
5. Consider alternate airports. Instead of defaulting to the closest -- or biggest -- airport, consider others nearby. "Let's say you're flying out of New York," says DiScala, who runs the website AlternateAirports.com to help travelers identify airport options. "Instead of typing in 'LaGuardia,' type in 'NYC,' (and) get all NYC airports including Newark and JFK.
Every city has an alternate airport." If you're buying several tickets, the cost savings can really add up, he adds. Don't forget to factor in the time and cost of transportation to where you're staying to make sure an alternate airport makes the most sense.
More from U.S. News & World Report:
- Free mobile apps for cheap summer travel
- 5 low-cost ways to have summer fun
- 6 easy ways to lower your summer cooling bills
Google Wallet still lags behind Paypal in terms of brand awareness and use, but smartphone transactions will become the new normal with the younger generation.
In an effort to boost the popularity of its mobile payment system, Google this week announced that it is integrating Google Wallet with Gmail. Customers who’ve linked Google Wallet to their bank account or maintain a balance with Google Wallet can simply click the dollar icon on their Gmail to make a payment.
It’s not the first time Google Wallet introduced new features. Last year, it launched a pilot Google AdWords business credit card for small businesses in the U.K. and flirted with the idea of a Google Wallet card for consumers too.
But there are signs that there is untapped demand for mobile payments. Just one-fifth of young Americans ages 18 to 30 always carry cash, according to a new survey by CouponCodes4U, a discount code website. Nearly half said cash would not be used in the future.
“It’s a generational trend,” says Brent Shelton, a spokesman for deal site FatWallet.com. And some 72% of Gmail users are under the age of 34, according to a survey by Hunch.com, a personalized recommendation site.
Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act begins in October. The scam says you're already eligible.
It can be a bit confusing to be on the receiving end of one of these calls. The caller pretends to be from the federal government, calling to inform the victim that they've been chosen to be part of the first group to get insurance cards under the Affordable Care Act.
This is when it's time to hang up ...
Is it ever a good idea? That depends on who's doing the borrowing and who's doing the lending.
This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.
These days it wouldn't be surprising to find the practice even more widespread. With banks paying basically nothing, lending money to a trusted friend or relative isn't just a nice thing to do. It could be a smart thing to do.
And that leads us to this week's question:
At dinner the other night, friends were talking about their daughter in law school. She was complaining that interest on the money she needed to borrow for the coming year would be 7%. Her dad said, "Talk to Grandpa. He'll lend you the money for 3%." My spouse piped up with "For 3%, I'll lend her the money." I can think of some pros (we are getting no return on our cash) and a lot of cons (we're not a bank). What does Stacy think?
Is lending money to family, friends or anyone else a good idea?
If I had to give a one-word answer to this question, I'd simply say "no," for the reason offered by Shakespeare: "Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend . . . ."
Your No. 1 priority needs to be keeping safe. But after that, you can save yourself some grief by making careful records -- and keeping all your receipts.
This post comes from Cindy Waxer at partner site Insure.com.
Renting a home at your destination often makes sense, but scammers can turn your dreamed-of vacation into a big disappointment. Here's what to look for -- along with 4 potential signs of trouble.
You can get taken in a variety of ways, and they all involve making you believe you're getting something you're not. And with summer vacations fast approaching, scammers are just waiting for you to pounce on their "deals."
In the recent case of a group from Texas that paid $6,200 to rent a home in Hawaii, the house was there, but it was unusable. When they showed up, they found the pool was filled with green sludge. The toilets were smashed. Not what you'd expect for more than $6,000.
Others, often responding to online classifieds, pay money only to find there's no rental waiting for them when they arrive.
But the experience of renting a vacation home need not be a nightmare.
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When it comes to dealing with debt and clearing your credit, what you don't know really can hurt you.