Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ways to Save Money on Credit Repair

Credit repair can get expensive. You’ll need access to your credit reports and credit scores during the credit repair process, first so you’ll know what you need to repair and then so you can tell if your efforts are paying off. Single credit reports are about $10 — add your credit score with your report and you’ll pay upwards of $20. If you want all three credit reports and credit scores, expect to pay up to $40 each time you order your reports and scores. Order all three credit reports and credit scores four times in a year, and you’ve spent $160.

Credit monitoring isn’t any cheaper. Monitoring for all three credit reports and scores costs as much as $30 per month. That’s $360 for an entire year of credit monitoring services.

There are ways to save money on credit repair by getting your credit reports and credit scores for free. Be careful with which method you use, some free (and cheap) methods end up costing you if you don’t take specific steps to avoid the cost.

Free Credit Report
Thanks to a law passed in 2003, you have a right to order a free credit report from each of the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) each year. Though all the bureaus offer some type of free credit report, these aren’t the reports guaranteed by Federal law. Instead, to order this annual free credit report, you must go to Only your credit report is available free through this website.

Free Credit Score is a site where you can get access to your credit score for free at any time and as often as you’d like. Credit Karma is sponsored by advertisements so you never have to pay for your credit score. You don’t even have to enter a credit card number! The credit score you get at Credit Karma is the TransUnion risk score and it’s based on the information in your TransUnion credit report.

Free Credit Report and Score gives you free access to your Experian credit report and credit score year round, but the report and score are only updated twice a year. So, if you order your credit report and score in January, you can view it until June, but it won’t reflect any changes made during those other months. Like Credit Karma, Quizzle doesn’t ask for a credit card number and won’t charge you to see your free credit report and credit score.

Using Free Credit Score Offers
After the Federal government introduced a law requiring free credit report websites to send consumers to, these sites all started offering free credit scores instead. There are several free credit score websites around, so you can get plenty of free credit scores, but there’s a catch. All the free credit score sites only give you a free credit score if you sign up for a trial to their subscription credit monitoring service. You must give them your credit card number and cancel the subscription within the specified time period to avoid being charged. If you don’t cancel your subscription, your credit card will be charged for the service until you cancel it.

Expect to be hassled a little when you call to cancel the service – the customer service representative will try to talk you into keeping the service or get you to sign up for something else. Just keep repeating no and eventually they’ll cancel the service for you.

If you use a combination of these free credit report and score methods, you can monitor your credit history for free during your entire credit repair process.

About the Guest Author
Ed O’Brien is a seasoned writer in personal finance, specializing in Credit Repair. You can find more of his articles located at

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Do You Want a Black Credit Card?

There are a couple of black colored credit cards that some people refer to as "high roller" cards. These are the most elite of credit cards and stand in a class of their own. The best known of these is probably the American Express Centurion Card. This is the original "black card."

Technically, the Centurion Card is not a credit card. It is actually a "charge card" and users are expected to pay off the balance each month. There is a one-time activation fee of $5,000 and an annual fee of $2,500. There are no spending limits and many exclusive benefits come with the Centurion card.

The application for the Centurion card is by invitation only. If you want to hold a Centurion Card, you must first have an American Express Platinum card, and have spent at least $250,000 on the card in the past twelve months. The Centurion card is so exclusive, that even the website is designed to be cryptic and vague for outsiders.

A less costly alternative to the Centurion card is the Visa Black Card. It is designed to compete with the other black card. The Visa Black Card is a traditional credit card with an annual fee of $495. While the annual fee is much less than the Centurion card, it is still pretty steep for most people.

Visa Black Card users can choose to receive a 1 percent cash back return or airline points. The Visa Black card offers some exclusive benefits and perks such as access to over 600 airport lounges worldwide and luxury gifts for special occasions. The card provides a 24-hour concierge service that is ready assist with personal, business and travel needs and accommodations. They can help with finding the perfect gift, the perfect room, or even make dining reservations at exclusive restaurants.

The Black Card is issued by Barclay's Bank of Delaware, and limits the number of members that it accepts. Personally, I carry a U.S. Airways Dividend Miles MasterCard that is also issued by Barclay's Bank of Delaware. I can attest that their customer service is pretty good (for a credit card company, that is).

So there you have it. Are you willing to pay the annual fee for these exclusive extra bonuses?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Understanding the Stock Market

The daily results of trading on the Stock Market are everywhere. The numbers scroll across the bottom of the TV screen, fill the morning paper, and affect people’s mood. Because the results of trading on the stock market are so prevalent in the news, it is a good idea to form a fundamental understanding of the stock market. A familiarity with the market can allow you to better understand the role it plays in our complex society.

The stock market exists for the trading of shares, the fundamental elements of a company’s value. A share represents equity, or ownership, of a company. A company sells shares, or equity, to raise capital, usually to expand. A buyer, the investor, purchases shares or stock of a company to receive a share of the company’s profits and to share in its growth. Stock sales serve both parties admirably well, letting a corporation share its future profits with investors while raising interest free capital.

The Stock Market Itself
The stock market exists to facilitate and control sales of stock from publicly traded companies. A privately held corporation becomes publicly traded when it offers shares, representative of tiny pieces of equity, to the market in an Initial Public Offering or IPO. Once sold, these shares can then be traded at stock exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange or the NASDAQ. Publicly traded shares will change in value as investors buy and sell them, hoping to take advantage of gains in share value.

What Price?
The price of a stock on any given day is driven by price expectations in the near or distant future. Day traders and other short-term investors use the daily volatility of stock prices to profit, while long-term investors consider distant future share price projections based on company growth. These two types of investors, through supply and demand expressed in buying or selling, are the key factors in establishing a share’s value.

Daily Volume and Indexes
Trading on the stock market is vast. To help people better understand it, numbers are reported out each day in two forms: volume and value.

Volume, total number of shares traded, points to the overall vigor of business because it represents the interest level in trading. Strong activity means buyers consider profits likely. While this number indicates activity, it doesn’t reveal much about value.

Value is most often considered through indexes such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500. These indexes consider the aggregate values of trades with losses offsetting gains to determine if shares trended up or down. Since the market is so large, indexes are based on selected inputs, most of which are carefully selected stocks representative of the industries traded in the market. Looking at this sample gives an idea of the change in value of the entire market. People are, of course, happiest when they hear the market value is up, but an index doesn’t necessarily mean a particular stock is up in value; an index is a reading of a particular cross section of the market.

Since most people don’t own stocks directly, market fluctuations aren’t critical daily data, but a basic understanding helps put all those numbers in perspective.

About the Guest Author
When he's not reading about the latest auto news, Miles Walker looks at auto insurance comparisons over at CarinsuranceComparison.Org. His latest article reviewed car insurance Texas.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Discover Card Cash Back at Supermarkets

Get cash back when using your Discover Card. I am not talking about the Discover Card Cashback bonus that you earn for making purchases on a Discover Card. Rather, I'm talking about using the Discover Card in a supermarket, and then choosing cash back as a option during checkout. Discover card refers to this checkout option as "cash over". Here in Silicon Valley, California, I usually get my cash back from Safeway. While Discover Card limits you to $120 in "cash over" per day, Safeway only allows you get up to $60 per transaction.

This cashover works out to be a nice interest free loan since I pay off the card every month. It also saves me a trip to the ATM. It used to be that you would also earn cashback on the cash over amount. But now, Discover Card separates out the "cash over" part from the "purchases" part of your transaction, and you no longer earn a cashback bonus on the cash over amount.

Warning: I do not recommend this strategy to people who run a balance on their credit card, and end up paying interest charges on the money.

If you don't have a Discover Card yet, I suggest that you apply for one to take advantage of this deal. A few of the offers that Discover currently has are $150 Gift Certificate, a 0% promotional balance transfer interest rate, and a card that offers travel reward miles.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Are We Supposed to Feel Sorry for This Person?

I came across a post on a site called which discusses a recent article in the New York Times. The article describes the case of Susanna Wilson of Grass Valley, California. Susanna is 70 years old and has "not a penny" of retirement savings despite having at one point earned an income of $65,000 a year. While she currently receives about $1,400 in monthly income (mostly from Social Security), Susanna has accumulated $9,000 in credit card debt -- what she jokingly refers to as "MasterCard futures".

The article goes on to mention that Susanna is part owner of several tracts of some timberland in northern California. Her house is valued between $150,000 to $200,000, and a financial planner has suggested that she consider a reverse mortgage. Nevertheless for many readers, the concept of an Under Accumulator of Wealth (UAW from The Millionaire Next Door) comes to the mind.

Articles like this one ( and the one about Law Professor M. Todd Henderson: We are the Super Rich ) tend to draw a lot of comments, many of which are, umm, shall we say "unsupportive". Here is one such comment (edited):

Are we supposed to feel sorry for this person because she never saved any money? She lives in Grass Valley in a nice house and has $150K in equity? Can she take a reverse mortgage and get a monthly check from the bank? She also owns timberland in northern California that she won’t sell because it has dropped in value? She never invested any of her earnings over the years… Her choice. Give me a break! This woman is better off than 90% of the people on this planet. For real. Cry me a river. Am I missing something here?

You can see this post and its many comments here. And for reference, I am also linking to the original article in the New York Times: A Reverse Mortgage Can Help Those With No Retirement Savings.

Should we feel sorry for Susanna Wilson? What is your opinion?


Friday, April 1, 2011

Guest Post: Plastic Containers in Microwave

A dioxin chemical causes cancer, especially breast cancer. Dioxins are highly poisonous to the cells of our bodies. Don't freeze your plastic bottles with water in them as this releases dioxins from the plastic. Recently, Edward Fujimoto, Wellness Program Manager at Castle Hospital, was on a TV program to explain this health hazard. He talked about dioxins and how bad they are for us. He said that we should not be heating our food in the microwave using plastic containers.

This especially applies to foods that contain fat. He said that the combination of fat, high heat, and plastics releases dioxin into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body. Instead, he recommends using glass, such as Corning Ware, Pyrex, or ceramic containers for heating food. You get the same results, only without the dioxin.

So such things as TV dinners, instant ramen and soups, etc., should be removed from the container and heated in something else. He reminded us that a while ago some of the fast food restaurants moved away from the foam containers to paper. The dioxin problem is one of the reasons.

Also, he pointed out that the plastic wrap, such as Saran, is just as dangerous when placed over foods to be cooked in the microwave. As the food is nuked, the high heat causes poisonous toxins to actually melt out of the plastic wrap and drip into the food. Cover food with a paper towel instead. This article should be mentioned to anyone important in your life.