Opening Credits

Erica Sandberg helps people who are just getting started with credit and credit cards in her weekly reader Q&A column, "Opening Credits."
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 Opening Credits

How to access elderly parent's credit reports -- If you suspect card fraud, the best way to find out is through a credit report ... (See Fraud)

Ask for a lower APR; you just might get one -- If your credit's in good standing, the odds of being granted a lower APR are in your favor ... (See APR)

If mom opens cards in your name, it's family fraud -- Start with a conversation, then get a police report ... (See Fraud)

Once balance is paid off, your credit limit is restored -- New to credit? Here's how charging and repaying affects your credit limit. ... (See Limit)

When a 'friend' racks up $11,000 on your card -- Your options? Take her to civil court, pay the debt or stop paying and risk being sued yourself ... (See Options)

How to fix credit after dad opens card in son's name -- Son rejects dad's card offer, but finds out dad opened one anyway ... (See Credit)

Will incorrect income on car application jeopardize loan? -- The bigger problem lies in taking on a car payment you can't afford ... (See Loan)

Creating a credit history for kids under 10 is too early -- Wait until kids hit their teens to add them as authorized users to your card ... (See Kids)

Deceased father's accounts dragging down son's scores -- Knowing exactly how dad's accounts got on son's credit is first step ... (See Scores)

Is secured card best for rebuilding credit post-bankruptcy? -- If your score is high enough, you may qualify for a regular, unsecured card ... (See Credit)

Card options expand when bankruptcy falls off credit report -- At last, 10 years have passed since bankruptcy. Which card should you try for? We'll help you come up with a plan ... (See Post-bankruptcy)

Safeguard accounts from card-stealing family member -- Keep cards safe and don't store details online to prevent fraudulent charges from happening ... (See Fraud)

Understanding how a card's billing cycle works -- Depending on when issuers report to the bureaus will impact credit scores ... (See Billing)

How unwanted card, hard inquiry impact credit scores -- The inquiry will ding your score, but the new credit line may help ... (See Card)

Unpaid fees from canceled card can end up in collection -- When a card is canceled, triple-check that no balance remains ... (See Fees)

New card application may renew debt collection -- If you have debt in collections, creditors may come calling once they see you are seeking more credit ... (See Debt)

Lowering credit limit on new card can hurt scores -- The higher the credit line, the better, as long as balances stay low ... (See Scores)

Canceling new card won’t offset hard inquiry score impact -- Once you apply, the damage is done. But responsible use over time is the cure ... (See Impact)

Paying down existing balances trumps need for secured card -- Getting rid of current debt will boost score more than getting a new card ... (See Score)

Set rules when adding child to your card for foreign travel -- As an authorized user, you can keep track of his charges and know he's covered in case of an emergency ... (See Travel)

Minor's co-signed bank account at risk of parents' garnishment -- Even if a minor earns the money, it's a parental asset , and one that would tempt a debt collector ... (See Garnish)

What types of income qualify on card applications? -- Gross or net? Household income or wages? Breaking down income qualifications when applying for a card ... (See Income)

Dispute duplicate student loans entries on credit reports -- When a loan is bought and sold multiple times, it can create credit report havoc ... (See Duplicates)

Low utilization boosts balance transfer deal approval odds -- Zero percent balance transfer deals are often reserved for those with high credit scores ... (See 0% deals)

Walmart MoneyCard prepaid card does not build credit -- If you're looking to build up your credit, prepaid cards are the wrong path to take ... (See Prepaid)

How to build credit when you're not a US resident -- Getting a U.S. address and Individual Taxpayer Identification Number are the first steps ... (See Credit)

Used right, subprime cards can help rebuild credit -- Subprime or secured cards can pave the way to a better credit score ... (See Subprime)

How a secured card's security deposit works -- Your deposit acts as your credit line and is refunded once the card is closed and the balance paid off, minus any fees ... (See Secured card)

While in credit recovery, apply for new card with care -- To maximize your score and get the best new card possible, pay off balance on old card first ... (See Score)

With high credit score, adding new travel card not a problem -- With responsible use, adding another card to your arsenal has advantages ... (See Reward)

Secured card, patience needed to boost score -- Improving a credit score requires many cycles of consistently paying debt ... (See Score)

Wait for bankruptcy discharge before applying for credit -- Only in a few circumstances will new credit be allowed during bankruptcy proceedings ... (See Discharge)

Getting, building credit requires an income -- Issuers want to see that you have the ability to repay what you borrow ... (See New to credit)

Charging after bankruptcy filing can backfire -- Racking up card chages during a time of repayment can lead to trouble ... (See Chapter 13)

Best card to build credit post-bankruptcy -- A secured card is often your best bet after bankruptcy discharge ... (See Secured card)

Do you list gross or net income on card applications? -- Issuers want to see your gross income, among other items ... (See Income)

Steps to build credit as a permanent resident -- A secured card is an ideal credit-building tool for those new to the U.S. ... (See Permanent resident)

Don't apply for multiple balance transfer cards -- Multiple hard credit inquiries will ding your credit score ... (See Hard inquiries)

Use caution when adding a friend as an authorized user -- No matter what your repayment arrangement is, you are ultimately responsible for any debt ... (See Authorized user)

Stop debt collector's harassing phone calls -- There are laws to protect people from debt collection harassment and abuse ... (See Debt collection)

New to credit? Build score with car loan, secured card -- Adding different types of credit accounts helps build your credit score ... (See Credit score)

How closed accounts affect credit history, scores -- Closing excess cards will have an impact, but maybe not as bad as you think ... (See Closed accounts)

Canceling an unactivated card can hurt credit scores -- The lender already checked your credit and the loss of a new credit line could ding score ... (See Canceling card)

Baby-sitting money counts as income on card application -- If the work is steady and can be counted on in the future, it can be listed as your income ... (See Income)

Police report needed to fix credit after mom steals child's ID -- Filing it will allow credit bureaus to repair damage from parental identity theft ... (See ID theft)

Go from good to excellent credit with first (and only) card -- Employing good credit habits early paves the way for a great credit score ... (See First card)

Rehabilitating student loan won't raise score immediately -- It takes seven years to erase the credit score damage of a default, but don't let that deter you; the benefits begin right away ... (See Rehabilitate)

Parental conservators can block access to finances, credit -- Parents took over legal responsibility for son in credit card debt, filing bankruptcy on his behalf, and preventing him from getting credit on his own ... (See Conservators)

Charging bills can help your score if you pay early, often -- Avoid interest charges and debt by paying in full, and keep your credit utilization low by paying more than once a month ... (See Charging bills)

Closing only card means no score, no mortgage -- With no credit activity, no credit score can be generated, which eliminates the possibility of you being approved for a mortgage ... (See No score, no mortgage)

Great credit score means you should reap rewards -- The longer you've used credit successfully, the less harm you'll do by getting some new cards, and big sign-up bonuses make it worthwhile ... (See Reap credit rewards)

Card issuer unlikely to hold a grudge for very old debt -- Once bad payment history falls off a credit report, card issuers are more likely to approve credit ... (See Issuer grudge)

Emancipated 17-year-old rejected for credit -- She can live independently, but banks won't issue her a card ... (See Rejected)

Closing a new card won't undo credit score hit -- Even if you haven't used the card, you've suffered ding to your score already. Why not keep it, since it may be of use? ... (See Credit score)

Once student loans are paid, a second card may be in order -- One option to keep scores climbing is to open another card ... (See Credit score)

Card tips for rebuilding credit after bankruptcy -- After bankruptcy, how many cards will it take to rebuild credit scores? ... (See Credit scores)

After 10 years abroad, credit record must be restarted -- Even the most pristine credit record will be erased by a decade of inactivity. Starting over will require patience and work. Here's how. ... (See Rebuilding credit)

Authorized users don't have to share credit reports -- Getting added to another's card doesn't mean they are privy to your private information ... (See Authorized user)

Debt can be voided if signer was a minor -- Unpaid medical bills can generally be disputed if incurred before the age of 18 ... (See Minors)

Credit score impact of store card financing deals -- Financing a big-ticket item short-term shouldn't have long-term credit score impact ... (See Store card)

Steps to remove yourself from mom's card -- It's best to apply for a new card before removing yourself as an authorized user on another ... (See Authorized user)

When credit card interest is applied -- Newbies often don't know that most cards can be used without paying interest ... (See Credit building)

Help your score rebound after card issuer closes account -- Ways to recover your score after losing an open credit line ... (See Closed card)

How to build a credit score with your first card -- Should you use the card a little or a lot to ramp up your credit score? ... (See First card)

Mom steals ID, racks up debt, ruins daughter's credit -- Reluctant to turn her mom in, a daughter now faces thousands in debt that she can't repay ... (See Theft)

How a balance transfer card can boost FICO score -- Opening a new line of credit can boost your rating by reducing your overall debt-to-credit-limit ratio ... (See Balance transfer)

Don't let new card's annual fee take you by surprise -- When applying for a new card, take the time to review its fee structure before you sign up ... (See Fees)

Report ID theft, even if the card was never used -- If a card card account was fraudulently opened but not used, it's still a crime, just as someone who broke into your house but didn't manage to steal anything is still a crook ... (See Theft)

When does interest begin accruing on charges? -- For those new to credit, it helps to know how interest can add to your balance ... (See When interest charges begin)

Score impact of maxing out 3rd line of credit -- Maxing out credit cards is never a good idea, but as long as you pay them off quickly, your score will rebound ... (See Maxing out cards)

Credit score impact of multiple balance transfers -- Moving debt from one balance transfer card to another can damage your credit ... (See Transfer)

Don't be duped into signing up for a store credit card -- Protect your credit by refraining from spontaneous store sign-ups ... (See Retail card)

I changed my mind: Can I cancel new card, avoid annual fee? -- Know all card fees before you apply or else you may be stuck with a card you don't want ... (See Annual fee)

Computer financing options for credit newbie -- A 20-year-old weighs a loan versus a credit card for new computer purchase ... (See Options)

New US resident must rebuild credit -- Unfortunately, a positive credit file built up in another country doesn't follow you here. Here's how to start over ... (See Credit building)

How to tell if a 'friend' stole your identity -- Sharing too much information with sketchy "friends" can put you at risk ... (See ID theft by "friend")

Cover sudden pet bills with emergency card -- Having a $0 balance card on hand to cover an unexpected vet bill can be a smart move ... (See Pet insurance vs. emergency card)

Saving for laptop trumps financing 'deals' -- With a little motivation and patience, you can save hundreds by saving for that new laptop purchase instead of opting for a financing deal ... (See Saving versus borrowing)

Pay off loan with balance transfer card? -- Using a 0 percent balance transfer card to pay off a high-interest personal loan can be smart if done right ... (See Loan pay off)

How debt management plans affect your credit -- If severely in debt and behind on payments, your credit score is already hurting. Entering into a debt management plan can only help by showing timely payments ... (See DMP)

Canceled cards boost debt utilization ratio -- When you cut several cards from your wallet, you can reduce a big credit score hit by increasing the credit limits on your remaining cards ... (See Credit limits)

When no credit history leads to card rejection -- You need credit history to get a credit card, but issuers won't give you one unless you have credit. What's a college graduate student to do ... (See Credit history)

Don't let fear compel you to cancel your first card -- You may have been raised to believe that cards can lead to a life of debt, but if you handle them responsibly, they are great tools to build a positive credit rating ... (See First card)

Bankruptcy should be removed automatically from credit reports -- The notation that you have filed a Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy should be deleted automatically from your credit reports after seven or 10 years -- but you better check ... (See Bankruptcy)

Credit check not needed for public school loans -- Federal school loans, such as those given after applying for the FASFA, don't take credit into account. So going back to school already in debt could add up quickly ... (See Student loans)

Recovery from bad credit: 1st steps -- Restoring your credit after letting all debts go into default takes resolve and a bit of negotiation savvy. These steps will help you get back on track ... (See Credit recovery)

Financing a new laptop? Do the math first -- A 0-percent finance deal to buy a new computer is almost too good to pass up for one consumer. But being new to credit, this might not be the best way to go ... (See Financing)

Quickly opening, closing accounts makes scores dip a bit -- After following bad credit advice, a reader worries that by closing two cards she just opened, she did some irreparable damage to her credit score ... (See Credit score)

18 and ready for first card: Begin here -- Having successfully handled a small car loan, an 18-year-old with a part-time job seeks advice on whether she can qualify for her first credit card ... (See First card)

Help! I opened cards fraudulently, ran up big card debt -- At just 17, a young man fraudulently opens multiple card accounts without his parents' consent and says he's severely in debt. What are his options? ... (See Card debt)

How a card's introductory APR works -- Exactly how does an introductory period APR work and what are the consequences of not paying off the entire balance before that period expires? ... (See Intro APR)

Apply for your first credit card, then remove yourself from Dad's -- Preserve your authorized user credit history when applying for your own card. Once approved, you can then safely remove yourself from the shared account ... (See Apply)

Managing 10 cards or more? 4 rules -- Successfully managing 10 or more credit card accounts requires a certain amount of supervision, particularly to prevent fraud. But if you can handle them well, go for it ... (See Multiple cards)

How credit charging limits work -- It may be obvious to more experienced cardholders, but for newbies, knowing how credit limits work gives you the power to avoid expensive mistakes ... (See Credit limits)

Should a student have more than one card? -- While there is no reason a young adult can't manage multiple cards, juggling so many may present more challenges than a student may expect ... (See Too many cards)

Steps to take when a family friend steals your card -- When someone you know fraudulently uses your card and racks up big debt, you have to file a police report in order to clear up your credit ... (See 'Friendly' fraud)

Jobless grad with student loans, $29,000 card debt ponders bankruptcy -- A recent graduate not only has student loan payments, but card debt of almost $30,000 -- and no job. Is bankruptcy her only answer? ... (See Bankruptcy)

You can't boost secured card limit with extra cash -- A college student with a secured card wants to increase his credit limit and asks whether giving the issuer more cash will do the trick ... (See Credit limit)

Tips to rebuild credit after living abroad -- After living overseas for five years, bringing a dormant U.S. credit file back to life takes a few smart moves combined with a little patience ... (See Rebuilding US credit)

Mom offers daughter balance transfer deal -- A 28-year-old's mom offers to pay off $2,400 in card debt, but then wants to cut daughter loose as an authorized user on her card ... (See Authorized user)

Ex didn't pay up, so your student loan defaulted? Go after him -- The court said he had to pay half of his ex-wife's student loan, but he shirked, and she isn't making enough, so now the loan's in default ... (See Default)

Shared card leads to collection mess after a bankruptcy -- When Dad declared bankruptcy, the debt collectors shifted their attention to his daughter to collect a $3,600 balance on the credit card they shared ... (See Shared card)

Employed grad with no debt gets rejected for new card -- With no debt, a job and regular payments on a low-limit card, a recent grad wonders what she has to do in order to get approved for a new card ... (See New credit)

Negotiation is key for defaulted student loan -- When a private student loan is in default, bringing the loan current may require a lump-sum payment as well as written proof of what you can afford to pay ... (See Default)

Co-signing backfire ruins chance to lease an apartment -- A kindhearted gesture backfires for a man who co-signed his sister-in-law's lease: She broke her lease, left a debt, ruined his credit and his ability to rent a new home ... (See Co-sign)

Credit reports key to detecting fraud -- If you suspect someone is trying to open a card account in your name, fraud alerts and credit report monitoring can stop thieves before they start stealing ... (See Fraud)

How to fix credit report damage from authorized user status -- A mom added her daughter as an authorized user to her card seven years ago, but then filed for bankruptcy. Her dad asks if it's too late to get the card off his kid's credit report ... (See Credit report)

Credit reports hold longer memory than issuers -- You let a card go unpaid for years, then finally paid the account off. The odds of the card issuer remembering your behavior aren't as big as the credit bureaus ... (See Unpaid)

When new to credit, top rewards cards may be out of reach -- A student about to graduate wants a top-tier travel rewards card to be her first card, but her short credit history may not let her qualify -- yet. Here are the steps to take ... (See Qualifying for rewards)

Angrily closing an unused card can hurt credit score -- After applying for a new balance transfer card, only to discover the credit limit too small, he closed the account in anger and now wonders if he acted too fast ... (See Closed card)

Best ways to manage a secured card -- Before you apply for a secured card, it's best to know what fees will be charged and whether that card will be the best fit for your credit profile ... (See Secured cards)

Preparing your cards for overseas travel -- Planning a trip abroad? Make sure your card (and a backup card) has EMV chip technology, no foreign transaction fees and notify your issuer of your plans ... (See Cards abroad)

Tips for detecting card theft -- Yes, there are crooks out there waiting to steal your card info, but if you're vigilant you can stop them before they do too much damage ... (See Theft)

Credit card life after bankruptcy -- After bankruptcy, issuers will be wary of lending to you. Applying for a secured card is a way to boost your FICO score and show lenders you can be trusted again ... (See Bankruptcy)

New to US? A primer on how to create, build a credit history -- If you're new to the U.S., our credit reporting system can be daunting. Here's a primer on how to create and build a credit profile ... (See New credit)

When is a bankruptcy officially discharged? -- The day you no longer are responsible for debt repayment after you file for bankruptcy depends on whether you filed under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 ... (See Discharge)

Preapproved vs. pre-screened card offers: a big difference -- At first glance, a preapproval letter from a credit issuer can seem like an official invitation to a hot new nightclub. Yet when you arrive, you may be rudely turned away. ... (See Preapproved)

Yay! 3 cards paid off. Now what? -- Paying off card debt brings immeasurable relief, but once the balance is zero, do you keep the cards open or close them immediately? ... (See Paid off)

Small banks, credit unions keep debit rewards programs alive -- Three years after big banks started pulling the plug on debit card rewards programs, many small banks and credit unions are finding surprising success in offering similar rewards to their customers ... (See Debit rewards)

Bad debt but good income? Your credit can be fixed -- For a price, lenders are willing to forget your old credit sins, as long as you have enough income to prevent any new ones ... (See Income trumps debt)

Debt collector can't back out on deal, if it's in writing -- If a debt collector ignores an agreement for monthly payments and ramps up the threats, you just have to produce the written agreement. You did get it in writing, didn't you? ... (See In writing)

How unpaid medical debts affect credit scores -- Ignore unpaid medical bills at your own peril: You may have healed, but your credit score may stay sick for a long time ... (See Medical debt)

Child charged merchandise on mother's account? Return it -- A child who charged merchandise without permission needs to learn a lesson; have her stand by as Mom calls the card company -- and the cops ... (See Unauthorized)

On-time payments cure the stinkiest credit -- With not much credit or income, a reader's best ally is time and a lengthy series of on-time payments, says Erica ... (See On-time payments)

Paying, not purchasing, improves credit scores -- If you already carry a balance, don't worry about making new purchases -- just pay down your debt on time and your credit score will rise ... (See Purchases and credit scores)

Billed before credit card is activated? ID theft danger! -- If you receive a credit card statement before you received and activated the card, you need to act quickly. You may be a victim of fraud ... (See ID theft)

Lower credit limit surprise nearly spoils a sale -- The checkout counter is a bad place to find out your card's credit limit has been dropped to $100. Good payment habits should prevent such surprises ... (See Credit limit)

Don't just transfer a balance, pay it down -- It's worthwhile to transfer a balance if the only other card is a dud -- but do the math and have a plan to whittle that balance down ... (See Balance transfer)

How quickly is my card payment posted? -- It can take a few days for your card issuer to post your payment -- and for someone with a low-limit card, that can matter a lot ... (See Payment posting)

During Chapter 13 bankruptcy, secured cards tough to get -- Banks may reject your credit card application, even for a secured card, while you're under the strict money diet imposed by a Chapter 13 bankruptcy ... (See Secured card)

Should I pay in full, even after a debt settlement? -- If it's been years since the settlement, and the credit damage is mostly behind you, it's best just to let go. Focus on what's ahead, not what's behind you ... (See Settled)

How to perform a credit transfusion on your spouse -- It's a tricky and dangerous procedure, but it's possible: The spouse with good credit can absorb the bad-credit person's debt by balance transfer ... (See Credit transfusion)

Ah, to be young and have a near-perfect credit score -- A 23-year-old has a 772 FICO score and a $45,000 credit limit spread over four credit cards. Will another card move him closer to financial perfection? ... (See Young credit)

Best card to send with kids to Europe -- His two 20-year-olds head to study abroad this fall, armed only with their debit cards. Dad wants to know if he get supply them with a credit card, too ... (See EMV)

Can I use my credit card after bankruptcy? -- There is no specific amount of time you have to wait before you can start charging again after bankruptcy. In fact, it can even help rebuild your credit ... (See Bankruptcy)

Student loan payments choking new grad -- With student loan payments taking up 57 percent of her income, a new grad ponders defaulting as she can't see how she can keep up ... (See Default)

Don't default on a stipulated judgment -- When you agree to pay a creditor a reduced, but fixed amount each month to satisfy an old debt and then default, you risk having to pay the full balance ... (See Stipulated judgment)

Son uses dad's card after he dies -- Believing the card he shared with his dad was a joint account, the son kept using the card after Dad's death. But he was just an authorized user, so who's to pay the bill? ... (See Debt)

Making sure bad debts are gone from your credit report -- Still paying a collector for an old debt? It should eventually fall off your credit report. But take care or it could linger longer ... (See Old debts and credit reports)

Include all debts in a management plan -- When going into a formal debt management plan from a credit counseling agency, you can't keep several credit card accounts open. That defeats the purpose of getting out of debt ... (See DMP)

Credit card approval tips for new immigrants -- New to the U.S.? Until you understand the American credit rating system, expect to be continually rejected for new credit cards ... (See New to U.S.)

How many is too many credit cards? -- If you've got great credit, 0 percent promotional deals are there for the taking. But does having too many paid-off cards a good or bad thing? ... (See Too many cards?)

Stop obsessing over a perfect credit score -- When your FICO credit score is just 70 points shy of a perfect score, is it really worth the effort to push it all the way to the top? ... (See Credit score obsession)

Restoring credit score after defaulting on student loan -- Deferring student loan payments doesn't last forever. When they come due, it's time to pay up or suffer the credit consequences ... (See Student loan default)

Closing excess cards without hurting credit score -- With a wallet full of retail cards, just how do you go about closing the extraneous ones without incurring too much credit score damage? ... (See Closing cards)

Psst! A hot tip on debt elimination companies: They're bogus -- So the guy at the airport lounge was saying how a debt elimination firm cost just $49 to cut all debt. It's real, right? Erica splashes cold water in a reader's face ... (See Debt elimination )

Tips for getting that first credit card -- The path to getting your first credit card may be bumpy at first, but if managed properly, the road to easy credit becomes a smooth ride ... (See First credit card)

Will prepaying card bill help credit score? -- Paying your credit card bill as early as possible is a good habit, but it won't help your score any more than paying it on time ... (See Prepaying a credit card bill)

Yes, get a second credit card, if you used the first wisely -- But beware: If you're not paying off the balance every month on your primary card, applying for a second card won't help and could get you into trouble ... (See Second card)

How soon after bankruptcy can you get new credit cards? -- With a Chapter 7 bankruptcy almost behind you, how soon is too soon to start applying for new credit? And will you be approved? ... (See Post-bankruptcy)

What kind of plastic can you get with fair credit? -- With FICO scores in the low 600s and numerous hard inquiries on his credit reports, will card issuers accept or reject his card application? ... (See Fair credit)

What's the big deal about secured cards? -- When your credit is trashed or you have a thin credit file, building up a solid credit score can be within reach by just signing up and using a secured card ... (See Secured cards)

Using your card for fast cash is costly -- Sometimes a cash advance from your credit card can be a lifesaver, but high fees, interest charges make them costly for routine cash flow fixes ... (See Cash advance)

Great degree, great job, but no credit -- Recent college grads shouldn't expect to be granted easy access to credit once they land a job. Building a great credit score takes time, patience ... (See New credit)

When's a good time to drop dad's card? -- His dad helped him get off to a good credit start by sharing a card with him during college. Now, at 23, it's time to drop dad's card and get his own ... (See First card)

Make sure your first card is a good fit -- Shopping for your first credit card is much like finding that perfect pair of jeans -- it has to fit your income as well as be age and credit appropriate ... (See First card)

Getting rid of old medical debt -- When old medical debt is keeping you from moving ahead with your life, it's time to take action. Either pay it off or work out a debt settlement with collectors ... (See Medical debt)

Turned down for secured card. Now what? -- After being turned down for a secured card, which is designed for people with bad credit, are there any other options to rebuild your credit? ... (See Rejected)

Can too many credit cards mess up your credit score? -- When a review of your credit report says you have too many card accounts open, will your otherwise stellar credit take a nosedive if you cancel some? ... (See Too many cards)

Fiancee leaves ex with big pre-wedding debts -- He gave her his credit card to buy a $3,600 dress and financed a $9,000 ring. Then she left the country, taking it all with her. What's a jilted lover to do? ... (See Wedding debt)

Do card issuers remember my very old mistakes? -- If you defaulted on credit card debt years ago, so long ago that the debt is off your credit report, what are your chances of getting a new card with the same issuer? ... (See Old debt)

Mom illegally adds daughter to joint card -- A recently married daughter finds out her mom used her name to open a joint account without her permission or knowledge ... (See ID theft)

Pre-screened offers don't guarantee card approval -- All those enticing zero percent card offers that come in the mail don't mean that you'll be approved for them, and can even hurt your credit score ... (See Offers)

Rebuilding your credit as an authorized user -- Becoming an authorized user on a spouse's credit card can help you rebuild your credit but you need to understand your responsibilities and be committed to using the card wisely ... (See Rebuilding)

Is a card account open if it isn't activated? -- If you apply for a card, get it in the mail and then choose not to activate it, does the account still get listed on your credit report? ... (See Unactivated card)

How 'authorized user' status can help build US credit -- New to the U.S.? There are several ways to start building a good credit history, most notably by becoming an authorized user on another's credit card ... (See Authorized user)

Credit score impact of settling past-due accounts -- When you have numerous credit accounts that are seriously past due, is the best solution to settle the accounts or try to pay them in full? ... (See Settle or pay in full?)

When being an authorized user is useless -- Her brother added her to his card to boost her credit, but the issuer doesn't report card activity for authorized users. What are her options? ... (See Authorized user)

Will a debt management plan hurt your credit score? -- When you enter a debt management plan, one of the requirements is to close open card accounts. How will that action affect your credit score? ... (See DMP)

What to look for in an emergency credit card -- Unless you have huge sums of cash, have an emergency card handy -- one that won't cause extra problems if you actually use it ... (See Emergency card)

Help! My husband's ruining my credit -- They opened a joint credit card together and then her husband went "crazy" charging things they couldn't afford. To make matters worse, he stopped paying the bill ... (See Joint credit)

Is daughter liable for shared card debt with mom? -- Mom tried to boost her daughter's credit by putting her on several credit cards, but then Mom passed away. Who has to pay the balances? ... (See Shared credit)

How canceled cards impact credit scores -- When a card is canceled, the only way it can hurt your credit score is by reducing your credit utilization ratio -- or if you behaved badly with it ... (See Canceled card)

6-step credit-building plan for a struggling single mom -- A low-income, young single mom with school and another baby coming wants to handle credit wisely, but she'd better have a plan to avoid debt ... (See New credit)

First credit card tips and advice -- An 18-year-old wants to know just how a credit card works and how it should be used before she applies for one ... (See First credit card)

Options for card approval without a credit history -- At 21, he was turned down for a secured card. His grandfather offers to co-sign on a card with him, but will that be his best choice? ... (See Young credit)

Wife of inmate worries about his card debt -- Her husband is in prison for five years, and he left behind $7,000 in card debt that she can't pay. Will she be pursued for the debt by collectors? ... (See Debt and prison)

Can old debt threaten a great credit score? -- His credit score is in the mid-700s already, but a debt collector is calling about an old debt. Will ignoring the calls threaten his creditworthiness? ... (See Credit score)

Credit-building tips for new US citizen -- He opened a U.S. card with a passport and business account. Now that he's moved here and has an SSN, he wants to know how to build a good credit score ... (See Credit tips)

Does canceling an unactivated card hurt credit scores? -- She applied for a low-limit, high annual fee card and never activated it. Now she wants to cancel it. How will that impact her credit score? ... (See Credit score)

Will paying off a bad loan early boost credit score? -- If you can afford to pay off a high-cost loan, do it. Don't stick with a bad loan in the false belief that it will help build your credit score ... (See Car loan)

Why stealing your dead BFF's identity is wrong -- Her best friend dies, so she "offers" to help the widower out by doing his finances. Then she applies for credit in her deceased friend's name as an "experiment." Hmmm. ... (See Fraud)

When does bad debt fall off credit reports? -- If you have debts that went into collections and were later discharged in bankruptcy, when can you expect those marks to be erased from your credit reports? ... (See Debts)

Late fees inflate balance of forgotten card -- She opened a card, charged $100 and then Hurricane Sandy hit and she forgot all about it. Now it's in a collector's hands and the balance is $300 ... (See Card default)

Student with no job denied credit -- With student loans as her only income source, it's no surprise that a medical student is turned down for a higher-limit Amazon card ... (See No job, no plastic)

Starting an 18-year-old on the road to credit -- His parents sank into debt after marriage, but learned from their mistakes. How do they stop their 18-year-old son from repeating history? ... (See Young credit)

Will credit score suffer with new card cancellation? -- Just how much will your credit score be impacted if you open a new credit card, pay it off right away, and then cancel it? ... (See Cancel a card)

Debt vs. savings: Who gets paid first? -- When facing student loans and other debts, saving for emergencies may seem counterproductive. But without a cushion, you're more likely to face financial peril ... (See Debt vs. savings)

Asking for a lower interest rate, higher limit on your credit card -- Following a brief lapse, a reader has restored her good payment habits and wants a higher credit limit and lower interest rate. Will her wishes be granted? ... (See Issuer requests)

Disabled son charges card to the max, then gets sued -- He can't work and lives off of $712 a month and maxed out a credit card. Now he's being sued. His mom worries the court will garnish his disability payments ... (See Sued for debt)

Soon-to-be college grad seeks adult plastic -- Graduating from college means new beginnings and responsibilities, including putting that student credit card aside and applying for grown-up plastic ... (See Student cards)

Credit score impact of settling a debt or paying it in full -- A debt collector can wipe its hands of you if you accept the settlement offer on a delinquent debt, but how does that impact your credit score? ... (See Settling debt)

Authorized user's credit score in jeopardy on shared card -- When he was 14, his dad added him to a card account to boost his credit score. Now Dad is mismanaging the card and hurting his son's credit score ... (See Authorized user blues)

Steps to rebuild a thin credit file -- After getting into credit card trouble almost 10 years ago, he gave up using plastic. Now he wants to try again with a new card, but how can he qualify? ... (See Thin credit )

Mom defaults on card shared with daughter -- A mom tried to do the right thing by adding her daughter to her credit card account, but then she stopped paying. How will that affect her daughter's credit rating? ... (See Authorized user)

Emancipated minor wants to start building credit -- Just how does a recently emancipated soon-to-be 17-year-old go about building his credit without parental consent? ... (See Emancipated minors and credit)

Does closing a newly activated credit card hurt your credit score? -- She accidentally activated a card, but already has two in her wallet. Will canceling a card she never used hurt her credit score? ... (See Credit scores)

He's new to credit, behind on bills, worried about job hunt -- He started off on the right foot by getting credit and paying bills on time, and then he moved, lost his job and fell behind on payments ... (See Missed payments)

What lump sum offer will debt collectors settle for? -- With $80,000 of student loan debt in default, he wonders if there are any industry standards for settling for less than he owes with the collection agency ... (See Debt settlement)

How to mend your bad credit rating -- If you have horrible credit, it doesn't mean it's ruined forever. Knowing how you got there and how to make things right can help ... (See Digging out of bad credit)

When a cardholder dies, is the authorized user liable for any balance? -- When a primary account holder for a credit card dies, an authorized user on the card wonders if he is now responsible for the card's balance ... (See Authorized users)

Credit card lessons for college students -- What started out as an emergency card in college can morph into big, long-term debt if you're not careful. Plan carefully before moving on to another card ... (See College credit)

How to rebuild credit after defaulting on several cards -- She defaulted on several credit cards years ago, and was even sued for payment on one of them. Now she wants a new credit card. Will she qualify? ... (See Card default)

Co-signed loans and your credit history -- A mom co-signed her son's student and car loans. Now that he's employed, she wonders if she can get those loans off her credit reports ... (See Co-signed loans)

Once you reaffirm an old debt you can be sued -- Debt that has passed the statute of limitations should prevent debt collectors from suing you -- unless you mistakenly reaffirmed that the debt is yours ... (See Re-aging debt)

Which is best for holiday shopping: Layaway or credit cards? -- She wants to get a leg up on her holiday shopping, but wonders if layaway or using her credit card is a better choice ... (See Layaway or credit?)

Is student loan co-signer at risk if bankruptcy looms? -- With shared responsibility for a student loan, a mom worries that when her daughter files for bankruptcy, the mom's credit will be at risk ... (See Student loan co-signer)

Why opening and closing news card doesn't build credit -- A college student wonders if opening a new card and using it a couple times and then closing the account will help his credit score ... (See Open and shut credit)

Does co-signing a mortgage put house at risk for unpaid credit card debt? -- A disabled mom co-signed for her son's home loan, but now she's being sued for credit card debt. Is her son's house in jeopardy? ... (See Co-signer risks)

Can't get credit after bankruptcy? 3 reasons -- After you emerge from bankruptcy, getting credit can be tricky if you still have certain debts, aren't earning enough or apply with the wrong bank ... (See Credit after bankruptcy)

Dependable borrowers with only one credit score -- If your bank or credit union doesn't report your payment activity to all three credit bureaus, you may find easy borrowing to be an uphill climb ... (See Credit reports and scores)

Want a rewards credit card? Clean up your credit score first -- A young man wants a rewards credit card for his new job, but his credit history is sketchy, which may also impact his new career ... (See Rewards cards)

What qualifies as a 'good' FICO credit score? -- Even if you screwed up big time just once, you can still have a good credit score. And if you fix the mistake, it can be even better ... (See Good credit score)

How to build good credit with your first credit card -- Whether you are a U.S. national or not, you need to follow the same steps to building good credit by responsible use of your first credit card ... (See First credit card)

When does a debt management plan make sense? -- A single mom has racked up big card debt and also plans on going back to school. Would a debt management plan reduce her financial struggles? ... (See Debt management plans)

New U.S. immigrant credit rules of the road -- The U.S. credit system's rules are not easy to grasp for those new to the country, and understanding can be clouded by some common credit reporting myths ... (See New credit)

Church treasurer seeks credit card for purchases -- Nonprofits can benefit from well-managed credit cards, but what type of plastic would serve those type of organizations best? ... (See Church credit card)

Sued for debt, harassed by debt collectors -- A single and unemployed mom was sued for debt she owed two years ago. Now she's being harassed by collectors and wonders how to get them to stop ... (See Debt collection)

What is the credit score impact of canceling an unused credit card? -- A reader regrets that he opened a retail card and now wants to cancel it before he activates it. How much will that cancellation hurt his credit score? ... (See Cancel a credit card)

Credit card management 101 for new college students -- A high school student getting ready for college wants to know exactly how to manage her first credit card without getting into debt ... (See First credit card)

How debt management plans impact credit scores -- If your spending and debt are out of control, a visit to your local credit counselor can help -- but will entering into a debt management plan destroy your credit? ... (See Debt management plans)

Best way to establish credit? Why, get a credit card, of course -- What's the best way to swim your way to good credit? You can dog-paddle with a secured card or attempt the butterfly with a strong swimmer as your co-signer ... (See Building a credit history)

Never trust roommates to pay your bills: Erica Sandberg -- If a bill's in your name and your credit is on the line, trusting someone else to pay it on time in your absence is a mistake that can haunt you for seven years ... (See Roomie credit damage)

With six cards already in your wallet, would another one hurt? -- A 25-year-old with six credit cards in her wallet already wants to know if adding yet another card to the mix will help or hurt her credit score ... (See How many credit cards?)

Get a late start on building credit? Steps to boost score, qualify for a mortgage -- At 39 with just one credit card, a reader wants to boost her credit score to qualify for a mortgage in the near future. What are her options? ... (See Late start on credit )

Erica Sandberg: Does rehabilitating a student loan require a fee? -- If your federal student loan is in collections and you want to start paying again, beware of collectors who want to charge you an upfront fee ... (See Rehabbing student loans)

Erica Sandberg: Student loan default squeezes broke mom -- His mom co-signed on his student loan, which went into default and she's now destitute. Our expert sternly outlines what he has to do to fix things ... (See Student loan default)

Erica Sandberg: Steps to getting that first credit card -- Without a solid credit history of making payments on time, qualifying for a low-interest credit card will be hard. First, you have to take baby steps ... (See First credit card )

Erica Sandberg: Getting debt free means stashing credit cards -- Sure, there are all kinds of credit products out there, but if you're trying to whittle down debt, the best option is to live a plastic-free life for a while ... (See Stash the plastic)

Erica Sandberg: Don't co-sign a loan while in bankruptcy -- If you filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the last thing you should consider is co-signing a car loan for anyone, including your partner ... (See Co-signing loans after bankruptcy)

Erica Sandberg: Why getting debt help may hurt new credit access -- The reasons that led you into a debt management plan may be the same reasons why credit card issuers keep turning your down for new credit ... (See Credit card rejection)

Erica Sandberg: 2 ways to start building a credit history -- You want your first credit card, but no bank will give you one without an established credit history. How do you go about proving you're a good credit risk? ... (See First credit card)

Erica J. Sandberg: When it's OK to get a second credit card -- You've been faithful to paying on time with your first credit card, but the limit is low. How do you know when it's a good time to get a second credit card? ... (See Getting a second credit card)

Erica Sandberg: Know where you stand before you apply for new credit -- To know what kind of credit card you can qualify for, you first need to know your credit score and pull your credit reports ... (See Applying for credit)

Erica Sandberg: Credit score tips for new U.S. residents -- New to the country? Be aware that there are multiple credit scores, and good credit practices can quickly build a great credit score ... (See Credit score tips)

Erica Sandberg: Rules for using your first credit card -- Your first credit card can be an opportunity to build good credit or create a financial disaster. Follow these guidelines and avoid getting in over your head ... (See First credit card)

Erica Sandberg: Issuer increases your interest rate, do you cancel credit card? -- When a card issuer notifies you of a interest rate change, you have several options, including canceling the card. But is that the best choice? ... (See Canceling a credit card)

Erica Sandberg: How to build good credit with your first card -- Sure, your first credit card probably came with a low credit limit, but use it wisely and progress slowly to build a strong credit history ... (See First credit card)

Erica Sandberg: How to move student loans out of default -- Hollywood is missing out on a blockbuster horror movie: Student loans gone bad. Getting defaulted student loans back on track can drive you mad ... (See Student loans)

Erica Sandberg: Will banks lend again after your bankruptcy? -- A series of unfortunate events can suddenly lead to bankruptcy, but is the hit to your credit one that marks you for life? ... (See Getting a loan after bankruptcy)

Erica Sandberg: What to do when a family member uses your credit card without your permission -- When family members help themselves to your credit cards without your knowledge, you have every right to report that as a theft to the police ... (See Family credit card theft)

Erica Sandberg: Can you sue an authorized user for nonpayment? -- Protect yourself from authorized users on your credit card charging up a storm on your card and then leaving you with a huge unpaid balance ... (See Authorized users)

Erica Sandberg: 6 tips for finding the right debt management plan for you -- Before you enter into a debt management plan, be sure to pick a credit counselor whose style and competence are a good match for you ... (See Debt management plan tips)

Erica Sandberg: Do debt management plans hurt your credit score? -- With $35,000 in debt, a couple decided to get help by entering into a debt management plan. But they worry how a DMP will impact their credit scores and future purchasing power ... (See Debt management plans)

Erica Sandberg: First credit card? Follow these best practices -- Managing your first credit card the right way can set the stage for building up great credit. Used wrongly and you may spend years fixing your mistakes ... (See First credit card)

Erica Sandberg: You can pay someone else's debt and not be liable for it -- A daughter elects to help her dad with his collection payments, but he wonders if she will then be held responsible for the debt ... (See Paying someone else's debt)

Erica Sandberg: Dad racks up charges on son's credit card -- A father fraudulently opened a credit card in his son's name and charged $5,000. Now he can't pay more than the minimum. What are his son's options? ... (See Credit card fraud)

Erica Sandberg: What happens when you're sued for a credit card debt -- If a court summons over an unpaid debt arrives, the worst thing you can do is ignore it because if you don't show up, they'll win by default ... (See Sued over credit card debt)

Erica Sandberg: How settled card accounts impact your credit report -- Settling a delinquent account for less than you owe may be good for your wallet, but it's not so good for your credit reports and score ... (See Settled accounts, credit reports)

Erica Sandberg: Mom's on hook for daughter's card debt -- A daughter uses bankruptcy to delete debt only to discover her mom is responsible for $24,000 on a credit card she co-signed more than 20 years ago ... (See Co-signers and card debt)

Erica Sandberg: Who do you pay when a debt goes into collection? -- When an unpaid debt is charged off and sold to a collector, who do try to negotiate a settlement with: the original creditor or the collector? ... (See Debt collection)

Erica Sandberg: One easy step to build a U.S. credit history -- A good salary and U.S. residency doesn't mean you'll be issued a credit card the first time you try. You have to start slow and be patient ... (See Building U.S. credit)

Erica Sandberg: Don't jeopardize great credit with new credit -- When your credit score is already high, but not high enough, there are ways to boost it without applying for a new credit card ... (See Get a higher credit score)

Erica Sandberg: Trying to escape a high APR via a balance transfer -- Trying to transfer a spouse's high-interest debt to your balance transfer card? Not all issuers will allow that to happen ... (See Balance transfer card)

Erica Sandberg: Choosing the right credit card for a new business -- Our expert outlines common money mistakes new business owners make when starting a new business on credit ... (See First business credit card)

How young is too young for credit? Do you add an infant to your card account? -- In an effort to build a strong credit file for their child, a parent wants to know if adding his newborn as an authorized user to his card is a good first step ... (See Too young for credit)

Erica Sandberg: Can I go back to college if student loans are in default? -- Unpaid student loans can haunt you for the rest of your life, but shouldn't keep you from pursuing your dreams of finishing college ... (See Unpaid student loans)

Erica Sandberg: In marriage, maintain your own credit -- Combining finances can be great, but it's important to maintain at least one credit card in your own name to protect your personal credit rating ... (See Marriage and credit scores)

Erica Sandberg: Make sure your payments make a dent in your debt -- Debt payments that don't seem to diminish your total debt can get frustrating. You have three options: pay more, seek help or bail ... (See Debt repayment tips)

Erica Sandberg: How low can an authorized user go? -- What's wrong with this picture when a reader asks if an authorized user on a credit card wants to open other accounts in the primary card holder's name? ... (See Authorized users)

Erica Sandberg: Have residency, but no credit? -- You may have to jump through a few hurdles, but getting credit when you are a permanent U.S. resident shouldn't be too hard ... (See Establishing credit)

Erica Sandberg: 7 questions to ask before you do a balance transfer -- A zero-percent balance transfer card may sound like the perfect solution to your high-interest debt problem, but that's not always the case ... (See Balance transfer credit card)

Erica Sandberg: Is 'unfreezing' a card a good thing? -- After a bank "freezes" your card due to nonpayment and a maxed-out status, will thawing it out help or hurt your credit score? ... (See Card suspension)

Erica Sandberg: The pitfalls of shared card accounts -- Our expert clarifies the differences between authorized users, co-signers and joint account holders, along with who shares payment responsibilities ... (See Shared card accounts)

Erica Sandberg:Can you build credit by paying off card after every use? -- If you use your plastic for everyday purchases, but pay off the balance the next day, will your credit score rise? ... (See Paying debt quickly)

Erica Sandberg: Steps to starting over after losing everything -- Re-entering the workforce after a long-term illness in which you lost everything can seem daunting, but starting somewhere can make all the difference ... (See Starting over)

Erica Sandberg: 3 steps for early money management -- Setting up financial goals when you're young can set the stage for success if you stick to a budget and set aside money regularly for the things you want ... (See Money management for youths)

Erica Sandberg: In a debt management plan? No new credit for you -- If you have negotiated with lenders through a credit counseling service to pay down your debt, the last thing you want to do is take on new loans ... (See Debt management plans)

Erica Sandberg: Boost savings with temporary budget cuts -- How do you save thousands over a short period, especially when you have a tendency to overspend? First, see where you stand ... (See Boost savings)

Erica Sandberg: Set up charging rules on co-signed card -- A financially reformed mom co-signed on a card for her college-bound son, but worries that he may return her to financial ruin ... (See Co-signed credit card)

Erica Sandberg: Weigh all costs when doing a balance transfer -- When thinking about transferring your balance to a lower rate card, you need to do the math and have a plan before you card-hop ... (See How to evaluate a balance transfer)

Erica Sandberg: Retirement funds off limits for debt repayment -- At 29, a reader proposes dissolving some or all of his 401(k) to pay off $37,000 in debt. Our expert says there are other, much safer, options available ... (See 401(k) debt solution?)

Erica Sandberg: Getting a credit card at age18 presents challenges -- It's not impossible, but qualifying for an unsecured credit card at the age of 18 presents unique challenges ... (See Qualifying for credit at age 18)

Erica Sandberg: New resident's quest for U.S. plastic -- Having lived in the U.S. for two years now, a reader wants to know how to go about picking -- and getting approved for -- a new credit card ... (See New U.S. credit)

Erica Sandberg: Getting your foot in the credit door -- Young, educated and debt-free, a reader keeps getting turned down for a credit card and wants to know how to get her credit started ... (See How to get your first credit card)

Erica Sandberg: The path to good credit after college -- Follow these four lessons on how to build a great credit profile after you graduate from college ... (See Path to good credit)

Erica Sandberg :How do banks determine a credit card's credit limit? -- When banks issue you a credit card, how do they figure out how much credit to give you? Part of it is secret, the other part not so much ... (See Credit limits)

Erica Sandberg: Will student's credit suffer if mom doesn't pay school loans? -- A mom wants to know if if her son's credit will be in jeopardy if she cannot make the payments on a Parent PLUS college loan ... (See Student loans)

Erica Sandberg: Beware of debt relief phone call promises -- A woman wonders if those debt relief phone callers can help cut her $20,000 in credit card debt in half ... (See Debt settlement)

Erica Sandberg: Payment options for high-interest credit card debt -- Asking a credit card company to lower the interest rate on your debt can produce a variety of answers -- most of which you will not like ... (See High-interest card debt)

Erica Sandberg: Steps to make good on a defaulted student loan -- A reader wants to make good on a defaulted student loan and wonders how to go about "rehabilitating" it ... (See Student loans)

Erica Sandberg: Daughter's credit at risk when mom defaults -- A mom defaulted on three credit cards where her minor child was an authorized user. She wonders if her daughter's credit is in jeopardy ... (See Piggybacking)

Erica Sandberg: Rejected: How your credit history impacts card approvals -- A student is rejected for a new credit due to a limited credit history and wonders what he can do to boost his credit scores further ... (See Credit history)

Erica Sandberg: Digging out of the depths of divorce debt -- It's not uncommon to be saddled with debt post-divorce. But when you're too depressed to deal with it, asking for help is your first priority ... (See Divorce and debt)

Erica Sandberg: Are credit protection plans worth the cost? -- In all her years working with people with credit problems, our expert has never heard someone exclaim, 'My credit protection plan was a lifesaver!' ... (See Credit protection plans)

Erica Sandberg: Want to kick-start kid's credit? You've got options -- A parent asks how he can help his children establish credit. Our expert lays out his options ... (See Student credit)

Erica Sandberg: 5 steps to keep your bad credit from hurting your relationship -- A bride-to-be with iffy credit is worried about ruining her husband's sparkling credit. Our expert gives her a five-step plan to keep his credit in the clear. ... (See Credit and marriage)

Erica Sandberg: The case of the mysterious credit card balance -- A reader recently got a statement for a credit card account he says he doesn't remember having. Our skeptical expert helps him to unravel the mystery ... (See Credit card mystery)

Erica Sandberg: How to prioritize different types of debt -- A reader with several different types of debt can't figure which to tackle first. Our expert offers a plan to help her prioritize what she owes. ... (See Debt priorities)

Erica Sandberg: How new U.S. residents can build a credit history -- A new U.S. resident wants to build good credit but is baffled by the credit scoring system. Our expert shows him how to get started on the road to great credit ... (See Building credit)

Erica Sandberg: Unhappy with student loan terms? Consider these options -- A dad co-signed with his daughter on a student loan. He wants to pay it off soon, but he doesn't like the terms of the deal. Our expert lays out his options ... (See Student loan terms)

Erica Sandberg: Can issuers close inactive credit card accounts without telling you? -- A reader is surprised that an old, dormant credit card account was closed and he wasn't told. Our expert says this is neither illegal, nor uncommon, and offers some advice ... (See Closed credit card account)

Erica Sandberg: Mom ruined your credit? 7 steps to recover it -- A young man is starting his career with bad credit, thanks to his mom stealing his identity years before. Our expert outlines how he can get his credit back on track ... (See Recover from ID theft)

Erica Sandberg: Card account closed? You still may be charged some fees -- A reader carries a balance on a closed credit card account and wonders why she's still being charged a maintenance fee. Our expert tells why that's not only legal, but common. ... (See Credit card maintenance fees)

Erica Sandberg: How to keep unethical debt collectors at bay -- A debtor says she's being harassed by an unethical debt collection agency. Our expert lays out the steps she can take to make the harassment stop ... (See Unethical debt collectors)

Erica Sandberg: What to do when a family member steals a minor's identity -- A woman's minor stepson is facing collections for fraudulent debt rung up by a family member. Our expert offers steps to help clear the boy's name and, potentially, take the perpetrator to court ... (See ID theft)

Erica Sandberg: When a co-signed credit card goes bad -- A dad has been blindsided by a massive debt on a credit card that he co-signed with his daughter and then forgot about. Our expert details where he went wrong -- and how he can make things right. ... (See Co-signed credit card)

Erica Sandberg: The truth about Social Security benefits and wage garnishment -- Social Security benefits, in most cases, can't be taken as part of a wage garnishment. But a reader wonders how can tell those funds apart from other types of monies ... (See Social Security)

Erica Sandberg: Spouse won't stop spending? Get a 'financial divorce' -- If a spouse repeatedly overspends, do what you can to rein in the bad spending habits -- but also protect your credit by separating yourself financially ... (See Financial divorce)

Erica Sandberg: The pros and cons of debt management plans -- A reader says he regrets entering into a debt management plan because of its impact on his credit. Our expert says his old, free-spending ways, not the plan, caused the damage ... (See Debt management plan)

Erica Sandberg: How to handle unethical debt collectors -- Our expert tells a reader that he has some recourse against the debt collector that is using some questionable tactics in pursuit of his defaulted student loan ... (See Debt collectors)

Erica Sandberg: What authorized users can and can't do with your credit card -- Our expert reminds a reader that authorized users on a credit card account can't successfully request an increase to that card's credit limit. And, she says, that's a good thing ... (See Credit card authorized user)

Issuers may freeze, seize your bank account if you pay late on credit card -- Can you have your bank accounts frozen and money taken from them by an issuer if you don't pay your credit card bills on time? Depends on where you live ... (See Freeze, seize bank accounts)

Erica Sandberg: Her best money advice of 2010: Excesses of youth -- Letters from a pair of ethically challenged youths gave our 'Opening Credits' columnist her two favorite questions of 2010 ... (See Money advice questions)

Erica Sandberg: 'Hard' vs. 'soft' credit pulls - The type of inquiry can affect your score -- How your credit record is pulled will affect your credit score: One type of inquiry is harmless, the other will cost you points ... (See Hard vs. soft credit pulls)

Erica Sandberg: How to shop for the best rewards credit card for you -- A flustered reader seeks advice on finding a great deal on a new rewards credit card. Our expert walks her through what to do. ... (See Best rewards credit card)

7 ways credit card debt can be hazardous to your health -- Credit card debt won't just wreck your financial health. It can take a real toll on your body, too, says our expert, who has seen it happen many times ... (See Debt stress)

Erica Sandberg: Unsure what to save for first? Follow these top 5 savings priorities -- A college student with a young child wants to get her financial life in order. Our expert tells her that one of the keys to success is getting her priorities straight when it comes to money ... (See Savings priorities)

Erica Sandberg: Deep in debt? Focus on repayment, not credit scores -- A student with a five-figure debt wonders why his credit score is so high. Our expert says he should focus instead on getting his debt paid down ... (See Credit card debt)

Erica Sandberg: Wondering who holds your delinquent debt now? Check your credit report -- A reader wants to know which company currently holds his delinquent debt. The answer, our expert says, can be found in his credit reports ... (See Delinquent debt)

Erica Sandberg: 9 steps for restoring trust after hidden debt is revealed -- A wife is worried sick about debt she has hidden from her husband. Our expert offers her practical tips to help once her secret is revealed. ... (See Secret debt)

Erica Sandberg: Think twice before sharing credit card accounts with kids -- Moms and dads, beware of making your adult kid an authorized user or joint account holder on your credit card. It's noble to want to help, but their mistakes can clobber your credit. ... (See Authorized user)

Erica Sandberg: Need to pay off debt fast? Prepare to make sacrifices -- A reader is in a big hurry to shed a big debt. Our expert says it can be done quickly, but it'll won't be easy. ... (See Paying off card debt)

Erica Sandberg: The dark side of credit piggybacking -- A mom who has fallen on hard times laments that her struggles are hurting her son's credit, since he's an authorized user on her card. Our expert tells her how to clean up the mess ... (See Piggybacking)

Erica Sandberg: Paying down debt on fixed income: Tough, but possible -- A reader on disability is seeking help with paying her sizable credit card debt while on a fixed income. It won't be easy, our expert says, but a realistic budget will help ... (See Opening Credits)

Act fast when hit by credit card fraud, even if mom and dad were to blame -- A student had her credit ruined several years ago when her parents stole her identity and ran up debts. Now the collectors are coming after her. Our expert helps steer her toward clearing her name and credit. ... (See Parental ID theft)

Kids aren't responsible for parents' old debts, no matter what collectors say -- A reader's parents are delinquent on an old bill for her private grade-school tuition. Now that she's an adult, collectors are coming after her for payment. Our expert advises her what to do. ... (See Minors and debt)

Empower your child to pay off his credit card debt with these 4 steps -- A mother is seeking guidance for her debt-ridden son. Our expert offers some common-sense steps to pay the debt down, but it won't be easy. ... (See Card debt)

Been 'preapproved' for a credit card? Sorry, you may not get it -- A reader who's never had a credit card in her own name wonders why she's getting rejected for preapproved credit cards. Our expert explains that preapproved doesn't always mean that you're a cinch to get the card. ... (See Preapproved)

6 steps for handling your 1st credit card wisely -- A reader just got her first student credit card and wonders what to do with it once she's "done" with it. Our expert tells her, but not before offering some tips for using her card wisely. ... (See First credit card)

You're eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but should you file? -- A reader who has fallen on hard times wonders if Chapter 7 bankruptcy is right for her. Her lawyer says yes. Our expert says she's not so sure. ... (See Chapter 7 bankruptcy)

4 steps to settling privately funded student loans -- A reader has defaulted on private education loans and wonders what his options are. Our expert offers some key steps he can take to ease his burden ... (See Student loans)

Bad credit can hinder job search, but doesn't always -- A reader is concerned that her poor credit -- which went south during her current bout of unemployment -- is wrecking her chances of getting her next job. ... (See Credit score)

Erica Sandberg: Is a balance transfer credit card right for you? -- A reader has $6,000 in debt on a high-interest credit card. She's considering getting a low-interest balance transfer card, but is right for her? Our expert gives her the scoop. ... (See Balance transfer)

3 steps to take after destroying mom or dad's credit -- A son who did major damage to his father's credit wants to make things right. Our expert gives advice on how to get his credit -- and his relationship with his dad -- back on track. ... (See Repairing credit)

Take these steps to repair your credit after ID theft by parent -- A parent steals a kid's identity. It's an all-too-common story, but with patience and discipline, it can be overcome if it happens to you. ... (See Identity theft by parents)

Co-signing your kid's credit is great, unless it endangers your credit -- A mom is considering co-signing on a credit card for her 18-year-old daughter. Our expert says that while helping your family is noble, it's important to do so with great caution ... (See Co-signing credit for a child)

Widow likely isn't liable for late husband's debts -- A widow from California is still unclear if she's liable for her late husband's card debt. Now she's received a 1099-C Cancellation of Debt form. Our expert says she shouldn't worry. ... (See Credit card debt)

Is bankruptcy right for you? Our 7-point checklist will tell you -- A reader is fed up and is considering bankruptcy, but she doesn't know if it's wise for her. Our expert offers a 7-point checklist to help her make the right choice. ... (See Bankruptcy checklist)

3 reasons not to co-sign for college students' credit cards -- The Credit CARD Act makes it harder for students under 21 to get credit cards. Thus, a 21-year-old student wants to charge his classmates to have him co-sign on a credit card. Our expert explains why this is a really bad idea ... (See Co-signing student)

5 simple steps to a faster debt payoff -- A reader's credit card statement showed him what it would cost to pay off his debts in three years. He wants to do it sooner. Our expert tells him how ... (See Debt payoff)

Elderly father's Social Security income likely safe from garnishment -- A reader worries that her elderly father's Social Security income will be garnished to pay back a credit line from the bank. Our expert says she probably doesn't have to worry ... (See Social Security and garnishment)

Are you stuck with bigger-than-expected bar bill? Depends -- A reader wants to know if he's on the hook for a higher-than-expected bar tab on his credit card after a night of partying with his friends ... (See Credit card bar tab)

8 steps toward recovering from youthful money mistakes -- A reader wants to pay off her card debts before going back to school. Our expert lays out an eight-step plan to help her do just that ... (See Pay off debt)

Without co-signer, minor's debt likely off-limits to collectors -- A reader could no longer make payments on a card he got when he was a minor and is now dealing with collections and even a possible wage garnishment. But given his age when he signed, is the debt his responsibility? ... (See Minors and credit)

Charge card vs. credit card: What's the better choice? -- A student with excellent credit wants a second credit card. Our expert lays out her options. ... (See Charge vs. credit)

5 steps to tackling debt while unemployed -- An unemployed reader is deep in debt and desperate. Our expert offers five tips for getting herself back on track ... (See Paying off debt)

3 reasons young homeowners may get turned down for loans -- A reader who recently bought a house also wants to buy a motorcycle, but he's frustrated that he can't get a loan. Our experts preaches patience and the virtues of budgeting wisely ... (See Loan rejection reasons )

Which of the 4 types of debt-help companies is right for you? -- Deep in debt but not ready for bankruptcy? Consider these types of companies, but beware: credit help comes in many forms, and not all of them are good for you ... (See Debt help)

Minors likely bear moral -- not legal -- responsibility for fraudulent debts -- Legally, minors likely bear no responsibility to repay credit card debts -- even if built up fraudulently. Morally? That's an entirely different matter. ... (See Minors and credit)

Collectors can try, but can't legally collect a minor's debts -- Handle with care demands for payment on old, forgotten amounts, and don't pay what you don't owe out of fear or ignorance ... (See Old debt)

Lost your credit card? Your credit report can help -- If you lose all your information about one of your credit cards, don't panic. All the answers you need likely can easily be found in your credit report. ... (See Lost credit card)

Want to boost your credit? Co-signing with parent still an option -- Young people looking for a credit boost can still co-sign with their parents, even with the passage of the Credit CARD Act. In fact, if the young adult doesn't have his own source of income, it might be his only choice. ... (See Credit)

Putting off dealing with debt problems will only make them worse -- Our expert tells a struggling college student to stop avoiding her debt problems or they will only get much worse. ... (See Debt)

3 easy steps to simplify your financial life -- Sick of living in financial chaos? Get it all under control without outside help. Here are three steps to get you on your way. ... (See Chaos)

3 ways to rebuild your credit after wage garnishment -- Consistent, timely student loan payments made via wage garnishment don't reflect positively on a credit report. But there are a few steps you can take to improve your standing. ... (See Rebuild)

How to clear a minor of responsibility for card debt in 5 steps -- A worried grandparent wants to know how she can make sure that her grandson isn't held liable for debt on a credit card that his mother got in his name. ... (See Fraud)

Want to avoid a rate hike? Don't carry a balance -- The best way to deal with a looming credit card interest rate hike is to not carry a balance on your credit card. ... (See APR)

3 common credit mistakes -- and how to fix them -- One credit mistake can easily lead to another and to another, as one reader found out the hard way. Her mistakes were common -- and easily avoidable. ... (See Mistakes)

Are you liable for late spouse's card debt? -- A widow being pursued by debt collectors wants to know if she is legally responsible for her late husband's credit card debts. The answer's not so simple. ... (See Liable)

Get help ASAP when debt leads to suicidal thoughts -- Debt, no matter how high, is never a reason to end one's life. If credit card debt has spawned thoughts of suicide, get help from friends, family or professionals. ... (See Help)

Think twice before lending your credit card -- or it will cost you big -- If you let someone -- such as your underage daughter -- borrow your credit card, watch their spending carefully. If they go overboard, you're likely responsible. ... (See Beware)

Bulk up your thin credit in 4 easy steps -- When getting started with credit, the key is to start small, then build up gradually over time. These four easy steps can get you on your way. ... (See Thin credit)

Come clean about debts before they damage your relationship -- Our expert advises a young man to tell his fiancee of his credit woes now -- or risk doing a world of damage to his relationship with the most important person in his life. ... (See Secrets)

How to read FICO's explanations of what's hurting your credit score -- Those recommendations you see on a credit report about how to improve your score are sometimes nothing more than stock responses and shouldn't be taken so literally. They aren't actually personalized to your exact situation. ... (See FICO)

The 4 best and worst things about credit cards -- A college student asks a simple question: What are the most beneficial and detrimental things about credit cards? ... (See Best and worst)

'No payment, no interest' credit card deal? No way -- Make no mistake: If you've got a credit card with a balance, you've got a minimum payment to make each month. If you don't make it, you're asking for trouble. ... (See Minimums)

You're likely not liable for medical debt accrued as a minor -- If your parents agreed to pay for a surgery you had as a minor, but they fell behind on payments, debt collectors have no right to come after you for the money -- even if you're no longer a minor. ... (See Medical debt)

How to cope when spouse's secret credit card debts come to light -- When you learn your spouse has piled up huge credit card debts in secret, it's best to face the issue directly and honestly, and then make a plan for paying the debt off. ... (See Secrets)

5 key federal laws help protect credit cardholders -- There are many federal laws that are in a credit cardholder's corner, and it's important that prospective and current cardholders are knowledgeable about their legal rights. Here are the top five laws covering consumer credit that you need to know. ... (See Laws)

Minors seeking a credit card will need a helping hand from mom and dad -- A 16-year-old reader wants to know how she can get her own credit card. The answer: with a little help from mom or dad. ... (See 16)

Living off credit cards alone for a year is a terrible idea -- Credit cards were never meant to be used to replace income over a long period of time, and using them that way can bring big trouble. ... (See Debt)

Avoid headaches with this 5-step plan for traveling with credit cards -- Most people don't consider their credit cards when they're traveling overseas. That's a mistake. These 5 steps will get you and your cards abroad and back safely. ... (See Travel)

Don't let delinquent debt keep you from getting a mortgage -- Getting serious about buying a house someday? Those delinquent debts have got to go or your dreams of home ownership may remain just that -- a dream. ... (See Home)

Act fast to remove authorized users when your credit goes south -- Authorized users on your credit card account suffer when your credit hits the skids. Our expert shows how to remove those users to minimize the damage. ... (See Bad credit)

Trade credit card for debit? Remember your credit score -- A reader asks: If I use my debit card all the time instead of my credit card, what impact will that have on my credit score? ... (See Debit)

Cure your defaulted student loan in six steps -- If you default on a student loan, the law gives you a second chance if you make regular, 'reasonable and affordable' payments. ... (See Default)

Getting money back from a collection agency? Good luck with that! -- In all her years of credit advising, our expert's never heard of someone paying a collection account and then attempting get the money back after changing his mind -- until now. ... (See Money back)

Patience, persistence are keys to raising your credit score -- An impatient reader may not like the answer, but the the keys to raising your credit score from the depths are consistency, persistence and -- yes -- time. ... (See Time)

Spouse's passing doesn't absolve widower of joint card debts -- Grief over a spouse's death and the need for money to get a new place to live after her passing doesn't absolve a widower of the obligation to pay down joint debts.. ... (See Widower)

Authorized users don't have to pay for cardholder's missteps -- If you're an authorized user on someone's credit card and the account holder makes a few wrong moves, you don't have to suffer. Our expert shows how you can protect yourself if this happens to you. ... (See Undo)

When hit with extra fees on auto lease, pay them on time or else -- Our expert warns that whether you're talking about a credit card, a car lease or any other type of debt, the best thing you can do for your credit is to pay what you owe -- in full and on time. ... (See Fees)

Don't fall for these 7 common credit card myths -- There are so many common credit card myths that when our expert is asked for the biggest myth, she responds with seven really big ones. ... (See Myths)

Stash your plastic when closing on a home -- Going on a credit card spending spree right before closing on a home is unwise. It can even jeopardize your mortgage. ... (See Closing)

To avoid debt, give your credit your respect and attention -- Don't fear credit cards, our expert tells a reader. Handle them responsibly by giving them your respect and your attention, and they can be more useful than scary. ... (See Respect)

Don't blame 'credit card game,' blame irresponsible player -- A reader who is $49,000 in debt and frustrated with the "credit card game" asks what would happen if she went cold turkey on plastic once she's paid off her current debts. ... (See Game)

Don't worry if resold student loan clutters up credit report -- A student loan that's been resold multiple times appears multiple times on a reader's credit report -- once for each time it was sold -- and he wants to know if some of them can be removed. ... (See Loans)

6 times when it's OK to cut up your cards -- A reader asks Opening Credits a simple question -- "When do credit cards get cut up?" -- that doesn't have a quick, easy answer. ... (See To cut or not to cut?)

Is it possible to pay off debt TOO quickly? -- A reader asks whether paying off his huge debts in one fell swoop, thanks to an inheritance, can raise red flags and damage his credit. ... (See Paying off)

Can mom do time for daughter's possible credit card crime? -- A mother nervously asks if she can be charged because she knows that her 16-year-old daughter has 10 credit cards. She might not like the answer. ... (See Crime)

When money woes hit home, take stock and make a plan -- Our expert offers a plan for a family with two young children, a $4,800 monthly mortgage payment, $14,000 in credit card debt and suddenly has been hit with a job loss. ... (See What to do)

Adult daughter with thin credit needs to learn independence -- A concerned mother asks for advice on helping her 28-year-old daughter jump-start her credit, but our expert says mom should think twice before getting too involved. ... (See Thin credit)

Are you responsible for your late parent's debts? -- One nervous reader asks whether a credit card company can come after her to pay for her father's debts after he passes away. ... (See Debts)

Priortize payments wisely to knock down debts -- A reader with about $35,000 in debt to various creditors asks our expert which of her many debts she should pay off first. ... (See Priorities)

When negotiating debt, original creditors and third-party collectors differ -- If negotiating to reduce past due credit card debt, the rules and negotiating strategies differ between original creditor, third party collector. ... (See Debt)

Thinking of buying an $8,000 motorcycle on a credit card? Weigh all options before your purchase -- A reader wants to use a new credit card to buy his dream motorcycle, but our columnist suggests waiting and weighing all his options before making the purchase. ... (See Dreams)

Should you bother paying off really old debts? -- A reader whose wife has decade-old credit card debts wonders what will happen to her credit report and score if she does -- or doesn't -- pay them off. ... (See Old debt)

Good credit history doesn't go away when card canceled -- If your only credit card gets closed, don't worry. That good credit history that you built will live on, even as the card becomes just a memory. ... (See History)

6 ways to help rebuild son's or daughter's credit rating -- You'd love to cure all your child's credit ailments, but unfortunately, you can't. As a parent, there is only so much you can do. Your real power lies in providing guidance, information, and encouragement. ... (See Rebuilding)

Keep that first credit card after you've paid off your debts -- A taste for free food or gifts has lured many a college student into credit card debt. But when that debt is paid off, should you cancel that card or keep it around? ... (See Opening Credits)

Encourage, teens, other children to learn good savings habits -- An early interest in saving money is to be commended! It gives children a head start on a lifetime of good financial habits. ... (See Savings)

Minimum payments mean maximum trouble with debt -- One reader learns that just making the minimum payments on her credit cards each month can lead to a never-ending debt spiral of negative amortization, where your debt keeps rising even if make payments and stop charging. ... (See Minimum payments)

Credit card authorized users, joint account holders: Know the difference -- The differences are significant between authorized users and joint account holders -- especially in payment responsibilities. ... (See Opening Credits)

Canceling an old card with a bad history isn't always smart -- Canceling unneeded credit card accounts might seem to be a good idea, but it can be a mistake for your credit score. ... (See Bad idea)

Giving your kids a jump start on their credit -- By adding your child as an authorized user on your credit account, you'll be giving your kid a leg up -- provided your credit is good. ... (See Piggybacking)

Options when facing a credit card interest rate increase -- Credit card issuers can jack up your interest rate at any time, for any reason, and increases are tougher to duck than before. ... (See Rate increase)

How different are Visa, AmEx, MasterCard and Discover? -- A reader looking for their first credit card wants to know the differences among Visa, American Express, MasterCard and Discover. ... (See Cards)

Minor's credit card contract raises legal, ethical questions -- A credit card contract with 17-year-old is likely not enforceable -- with some exceptions. However, continuing to run up debt on that card raises some tricky moral and ethical questions. ... (See Ethics)

Consider these factors when deciding to cancel credit cards -- A reader with 11 credit cards wants to know how cancelling several of her cards will impact her credit score. ... (See Credit score)

5 tips for protecting your credit during marriage breakup -- Marriage breakups are messy, messy things. However, taking these five steps can help you protect your credit during this trying time. ... (See 5 breakup money tips)

Don't take the bait when you receive a 'phishing' e-mail -- Legitimate companies don't ask for your private, personal information via e-mail. Don't let a logo lure you into a 'phishing' scam or in can cost you. ... (See Fraud)

Too much fast food can be hazardous to your credit -- No, where you eat doesn't have an impact on your credit score, but that's not the full story. While paying plastic for that Big Mac won't hurt your credit score, it might just make issuers think that you're a credit risk. ... (See Fast food)

When hit by ID theft, take these 4 steps to make things right -- It's awful to have to start your credit life by cleaning up a mess that you didn't make. The good news, though, is that you definitely can clean it up. ... (See ID theft)

Take these 3 steps when bank account seized by collectors -- You can't stop or reverse the seizure of your bank account to repay outstanding debts, but you can take steps to protect your other assets and rebuild your credit. We'll lay out what you should do. ... (See Seized)

Are three cards too many? Not if you use them wisely -- There's no one answer to how many cards are too many. Lots of variables come into play, including how you use the cards and how you make your payments. ... (See Too many cards?)

Do your homework when shopping for your first credit card -- No credit history definitely doesn't mean that you can't get a credit card. It does, however, mean that you'll have fewer options, making it crucially important that you do your homework. ... (See First credit card)

Disabled daughter needs advocate in dealing with debt -- A worried mom asks how she can help her disabled daughter who is unable to make minimum credit card payments. ... (See Disabled)

Give the gift of credit card know-how this holiday -- Thinking of giving your kids credit cards this holiday? The best gift you can give them is an education in credit, and is a terrific place to start. ... (See New credit)

Negotiate debt payment plans before disaster strikes -- When financial disaster is looming in your household, be proactive. Contact your creditors and explain your situation before times get darkest, and issuers might be willing to work with you. ... (See Negotiate)

If dear old dad steals your identity, turn him in -- When a parent commits identity fraud against a child, emotions can run high. But given the choice between protecting your parent or your good name, choose the latter. ... (See Parental ID theft)

Higher limit or second card will impact your credit score -- If you think your credit limit's too low, you may consider either asking your current issuer for a higher limit or getting a second card. Either way, don't forget to consider the impact the move will have on your credit. ... (See Credit limits)

7 tips for handling your first credit card -- When college students and credit cards mix, the results can be troubling. Here are seven helpful hints to keep yourself or your kids from falling quickly into the debt trap. ... (See Tips)

Opening Credits: Better credit can improve your job prospects -- Going for a first job? Great. Buff your credit report as well as your resume, because employers these days look at both ... (See Opening Credits)