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High credit scores take time to build, and they're worth guarding. Here's what you can do to keep the numbers high.

By Feb 10, 2014 1:55PM

This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site on MSN MoneyIt can take years to build a high credit score, but it can disappear in what feels like an instant. I heard from many people who experienced this during the recession. Sounding almost shell shocked, they’d tell me about how their credit scores had dropped, adding “Before this I had an 800 FICO” or “I had great credit for 35 years.”

Credit cards © Imagemore/Getty ImagesThere are certain unpreventable things that can derail a good credit score: a terrible accident or serious illness, for example, or a natural disaster.

But for most people with good credit, there are relatively simple things we can do to minimize the chances that we’ll experience a serious slide in our scores. Here are five of them.


If you're eager to get a big sign-up bonus or waiting to cash in your points, the waiting game can be frustrating. Here's what to expect.

By Feb 7, 2014 6:48PM

This post comes from Jason Steele at partner site

Credit card issuers have a simple way to get customers to apply for their credit cards -- pay them to do so. Nearly all reward credit cards offer some sort of sign-up bonus to new applicants in the form of points, miles or cash back. But when do cardholders receive those bonuses?

Couple Making Online Purchase © Fuse, Getty ImagesEager reward  card users want to know when they will receive the rewards they earn each month for spending, but the credit card issuers don't make it easy for customers to know when this will happen. Instead of widely publicizing the formula they use for issuing rewards, they rely on vague statements such as "Allow one to two billing cycles" to receive rewards.  

Thankfully, their formula is not terribly complicated.

How to know when your bonus will be issued

Cardholders will typically receive their promised points, miles or cash back when their statement closes following their fulfillment of the terms of the specific credit card offer for which they applied.


Credit card fraud is the main reason credit card issuers are moving to a new, PIN-based system. Well, new to the U.S., anyway.

By Money Staff Feb 7, 2014 6:09PM

This post comes from Tom Gara at partner site The Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal on MSN MoneyIt’s a payment ritual as familiar as handing over a $20 bill, and it’s soon to go extinct: Prepare to say farewell to the swipe-and-sign of a credit card transaction.

Beginning later next year, you will stop signing those credit card receipts. Instead, you will insert your card into a slot and enter a PIN number, just like people do in much of the rest of the world.

Woman swiping a credit card © Rubberball, Mike Kemp, Rubberball, Getty Images

The U.S. is the last major market to still use the old-fashioned signature system, and it’s a big reason why almost half the world’s credit card fraud happens in America, despite the country being home to about a quarter of all credit card transactions.

The recent large-scale theft of credit card data from retailers including Target and Neiman Marcus brought the issue more mainstream attention, leading to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this week. Executives told the senators that once the country transitions to the new system — which includes credit cards embedded with a microchip containing security data — these kind of hacking attacks will be much more difficult to pull off.

The shift is coming though: both MasterCard and Visa have roadmaps for the changeover, and both have set October, 2015 as an important deadline in the switch. But why has it taken this long, and how will the changeover work for card users and businesses?


Even if your payment history has been flawless, one mishap has the ability to hit your credit score below the belt.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 7, 2014 2:09PM

This post comes from Allison Martin at partner site Money Talks News. 

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyYou're looking through your bank statements and realize that you've missed a credit card payment. Or money's tight, so you've decided this month's payment will have to be delayed.

Whether intentional or unintentional, nothing good comes from late credit card payments.

Woman writing in check book © Bruce Laurance/Digital Vision/Getty ImagesWhat happens to your credit score?

Depending on your card issuer, it may cut you some slack and give you time to get caught up. Here are a few other potential consequences:

  • Reports to credit bureaus. Once 30 or 60 days have passed, your late payment will be reported to the credit bureaus and will remain on your credit report for seven years.
  • Fees, fees and more fees! Be prepared to get hit with a late-payment fee of as much as $35 as soon as you miss the deadline. You may also be assessed a penalty APR, which will not revert back to normal until six months have lapsed in which you have made timely payments. And please note that this higher APR will still apply even if you are participating in a promotional period with lower interest.

Some issuers are shifting from joint accounts, but there is still a way you and your partner can share a card.

By QuinStreet Feb 6, 2014 4:02PM

This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site on MSN MoneyAh, the married life. That (hopefully) happy state in which you and the one you love do everything together.

In the financial world, there are certainly plenty of ways you and your spouse can manage Couple Making Online Purchase © Fuse, Getty Imagesyour money hand-in-hand. You can buy a house together, open a joint checking account together and even buy life insurance together.

With all that togetherness, you may be surprised to learn the one thing you might not be able to do to together is get a joint credit card.

A flurry of news reports have recently surfaced regarding a decision by Chase to discontinue offering joint credit cards. Given speculation that the change was prompted by a new federal rule, it makes you wonder if shared accounts are on the path to extinction.


They HBO show stands in stark contrast to the excess of 'Sex and the City.' Fans of Lena Dunham's show can actually glean some tips for getting by in New York.

By Feb 6, 2014 3:44PM
This post comes from Elizabeth Sheer at partner site on MSN Money
Like generations of young people before them, the cast of HBO's "Girls" came to New York to make careers in the arts -- writing, acting, music. In the meantime, Hannah Horvath and her cohort have been working entry-level jobs, often in coffee shops.

Lena Dunham in a scene from HBO’s series ‘Girls’ © JoJo Whilden/HBO/APFor two-plus seasons, creator Lena Dunham's characters have been learning to live in an unforgiving, extremely expensive city on practically nothing (with more or less family support). This post-recession striving stands in stark contrast to Carrie Bradshaw and her Manolo Blahniks on "Sex and the City," HBO's other show about four women in New York. Fans of "Girls" can even pick up some tips for living in the big city. Warning: Potential spoilers ahead.

That recent ice storm in the South stranded many in their cars for long hours, illustrating the need to have a car emergency kit.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 6, 2014 2:18PM

This post comes from Nancy Dunham at partner site Money Talks News. 

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyThat recent ice storm in the South wreaked havoc on traffic, stranding countless Atlanta motorists in their cars for many hours, even overnight.

A car sits in a ditch along with other abandoned cars after running off the roadway due to a snow storm in Atlanta, Georgia, January 29, 2014 © Tami Chappell/ReutersMariano Castillo, a CNN editor, recounted on CNN's website:

I have given up my stubborn plan to make it home and have a cup of hot cocoa no matter the time. I found a 24-hour Taco Bell, spent my last $5 on a quesadilla and am closing my eyes in my trusty RAV4. I wonder what I will awake to.

His was one of many frightening stories in the CNN report. In a way, Castillo was lucky because his car was not disabled and he was able to park off the highway. Also, there wasn't a child or a physically impaired person in the vehicle.

The bottom line: As the winter weather continues to howl, consider rejuvenating your auto's emergency kit.

The supplies will at least make you more comfortable if you're stranded, and could save your life.

Here are ideas for your car kit from our often snowbound friends at  and


If you start now, you can reasonably expect to save enough money to pay for that long-awaited summer vacation.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 6, 2014 1:22PM

This post comes from Allison Martin at partner site Money Talks News

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyWouldn't it be nice to have your summer vacation paid for prior to your departure?

Well, with a few slight adjustments to your spending habits, you can be well on your way to creating a vacation fund. And after a few months, you may end up with a stash much greater than you anticipated, along with a new toolbox of money-saving tools to help you achieve other financial goals.



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