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Balance transfers can be an effective way to pay down debt. But they shouldn't be used as a way to delay payment.

By Karen Datko Aug 31, 2010 8:08AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.

 

In the last few years, I've received a lot of questions about balance transfers from people looking for an edge in battling their credit card debt.

 

A few years ago, most cards with balance transfers didn't have a transfer fee and, with comparable post-promotional interest rates, the transfer itself was an easy "yes." A 12-month 0% period meant a borrower got a full year to catch up on their debt, as long as they didn't accumulate more.

Nowadays, with balance-transfer fees and less favorable post-promo rates, the decision isn't as obvious. Fortunately, I believe a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation is enough to help you decide whether a balance transfer makes sense financially for you.

 

How did they rip off 1.35 million credit cardholders? Tiny amounts billed to poorly labeled merchants.

By Teresa Mears Aug 30, 2010 8:11PM

How do you steal $10 million and get away with it?

 

An international credit card ring stole its millions a few dollars (or less) at a time, placing bogus charges of 20 cents to $9 on 1.35 million credit and debit cards. Most were never challenged.

 

As we wrote previously, there are ways to protect yourself against such fraudulent charges. But business professor Randall Stross, writing in The New York Times, raises an interesting point: Why do banks give you so little information on your credit card statement about the companies with which you've done business?

 

Advertisements for license plate sprays and covers say they render those pesky red-light cameras ineffective. A new study shows they don't work.

By Karen Datko Aug 30, 2010 6:44PM

The red-light camera -- is there any more-hated traffic control device? From California to Texas and points beyond, the debate about their use rages. (We covered the pros and cons of them here.)

But what if you could apply a cover or spray to your license plates to neutralize the devices? Some products are marketed to do that: The spray or cover supposedly reflects the camera's flash and overexposes the photo, rendering it useless.

 

Sorry, folks. A new study of some of those products by the Los Angeles Police Department -- experts on the "California stop" -- shows they don't work and, in some cases, actually improve the image quality.

 

Do you feel more comfortable discussing your finances online?

By Money Staff Aug 30, 2010 5:51PM

This post comes from Jaidev Shergill, founder and CEO of Bundle.com, at TheStreet.com.

 

Money. Sometimes it seems it's all we ever talk about. The economy, unemployment figures, Wall Street bonuses -- all are major topics of conversation. But when it comes to discussing our personal money issues -- credit card debt, student loans, retirement savings -- Americans can be pretty tight-lipped.

Anecdotal evidence from the dining room table suggests that people would rather talk about their sex lives than discuss personal money matters, even with intimates, friends, and family.

 

Industry survey blames economy, but high-pressure sales tactics may also play a role. Many families believe they are underinsured.

By Teresa Mears Aug 30, 2010 2:31PM

The number of Americans with individual life insurance policies is at its lowest level in 50 years, and 30% of Americans have no life insurance at all.

The figures come from the "Trends in Life Insurance Ownership" study, which the industry group LIMRA conducts every six years. This year's survey reports that the percentage of households with life insurance has declined since 2004, from 78% to 70%. Of the 35 million American households without life insurance, 11 million include children under 18.

 

Parents will spend more this year than last on their schoolchildren. But will they spend it wisely?

By Stacy Johnson Aug 30, 2010 11:51AM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at Money Talks News.

 

Welcome to the end of August -- the second-most beautiful time of the year, at least for retailers. After Christmas, back-to-school season is when they rack up their biggest sales figures.

But, like Christmas, if you don't shop smart, you could end up paying too much or buying stuff that'll end up in the back of a closet or bottom of a drawer.

 

Hint: Let others do most of the cooking.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 30, 2010 11:02AM

A former co-worker hosted a potluck for me during a recent visit to Alaska. I was the guest of honor but gently urged the hostess to tell me what I might contribute. It wound up being deviled eggs and two 12-packs of Diet Coke.

Someone suggested that potlucks would be a good subject for a frugality column. I laughed. Then I realized that she was right. If I were unemployed or underemployed, I'd be attending or hosting potlucks as often as I could get away with it.


Consider that:

 

Credit cards can be the chainsaw of personal finance unless you use them correctly. Here are some essential behaviors to master.

By Karen Datko Aug 30, 2010 10:02AM

This post comes from J.D. Roth at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.

 

Recently, we had a great discussion about the socioeconomic implications of credit card rewards programs (or lack of implications, depending on your viewpoint). The conversation wasn't nearly as tedious as my description makes it sound.

In response to that article, Califia e-mailed:

(Could you provide) a quick elaboration of this statement from your recent post: "I've gone from anti-credit card to pro-credit card -- but only for those who can use them responsibly." How do you define "responsibly"? Why did you change from anti to pro?

I think I've written plenty about the whys behind my switch from anti-credit card to pro-credit card. But it occurred to me that I've never really elaborated on the hows.

 

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