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The Credit Guy

Archive of questions from people who have questions about credit cards and debt issues, and expert advice to help them cope.

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Kim McGrigg: Are 'free miles' really free? -- Frequent flier rewards cards usually carry annual fees, so that free flight isn't truly free, but if you handle your card right it can be pretty close ... (See Frequent flier)

Todd Ossenfort: The Credit Guy's top 5 money tips -- After writing his column for the past three years, columnist Todd Ossenfort leaves his readers with these top five financial lessons ... (See Top 5 money lessons)

Todd Ossenfort: Can collectors come after your inheritance? -- Public records are perused by debt collectors. If they find out you've inherited a chunk of cash, don't be surprised if they come out of the woodwork ... (See Debt collection)

Todd Ossenfort: Neglecting one credit card bill can ruin your credit -- A reader has four credit cards, but only wants to pay on three of them. He wonders what will happen if he follows through ... (See Not paying credit card bills)

Todd Ossenfort: Merchants shouldn't add processing fee, surcharge for accepting credit cards -- A business can't charge you more for a product or service if you pay with plastic, but they can offer a discount to those who pay with cash or check ... (See Credit card fees)

Todd Ossenfort: Be vigilant if you suspect ID theft -- A reader questions whether he should be concerned about a credit card offer sent to his home, but directed to a distant family relative ... (See Identity theft)

Todd Ossenfort: Ignoring debt lawsuit can lead to wage garnishment -- When a court summons appears about an unpaid debt, it is best not to ignore it. Creditors can get orders to garnish your wages and seize funds from your bank account ... (See Wage garnishment)

Todd Ossenfort: Stop paying or file bankruptcy: Which path is less painful? -- A low-income senior citizen read advice that instead of filing for bankruptcy protection, he should just stop paying his credit card bills ... (See Bankruptcy protection)

Todd Ossenfort: When is a debt too old for collection? -- A reader is being pursued for a debt that is 13 years old and wonders if the debt is really his. Lucky for him, the debt is too old to collect on ... (See Old debt)

Todd Ossenfort: Credit card use rights die with the account holder -- Family members want to keep using their dead mother's credit card -- even though the issuer has closed the account. There are legal -- and moral -- issues here ... (See Credit card use after cardholder's death)

Todd Ossenfort: The right way to build good credit over time -- If you use credit wisely and build a solid credit history when you're young, you can save yourself a lot of pain and misery down the road ... (See Building credit)

Todd Ossenfort: Harassed for debt that's not yours? Here's how to make it stop -- A flustered woman is sick of getting calls from collectors about debt that isn't hers. The good news, our expert says, is that she can make it stop. ... (See Debt harassment)

Todd Ossenfort: Getting out of high-interest credit card debt -- A disabled wife's $14,000 high-interest card debt is crippling her husband's ability to continue to pay the minimum amount due ... (See High-rate card debt)

Todd Ossenfort: Get a better credit score by mixing up types of credit -- It takes more than paying off one credit card every month to obtain an above-average credit score. You need to show that you can handle different types of credit ... (See Boost credit score)

Sometimes bankruptcy is the ONLY way out -- If you've been out of work for a long time and sold everything you own to get by, paying your creditors and worrying about your credit rating takes a back seat ... (See Bankruptcy)

Todd Ossenfort: When does debt get too old to collect? -- Each state has a statute of limitations on credit card debt, which prevents collectors from taking you to court after a certain period of time ... (See Statute of limitations)

Todd Ossenfort: Disputing, removing joint-account holder causes headaches -- Whether you're an authorized user or a joint account holder, mistakes and confusion may reign when trying to sever a credit relationship ... (See Shared credit accounts)

When a credit card minimum payment increase becomes unaffordable -- A reader's credit card minimum payment skyrocketed to the point where some months he can't afford to pay it. What are his options? ... (See Minimum payment increase)

Todd Ossenfort: When debt collection makes your life miserable -- A reader reduced a regular payment to her creditor by half and wants to know how much worse things are going to get ... (See Credit card debt collectors)

Todd Ossenfort: Does saving trump carrying a high card balance? -- A reader has saved $70,000, but continues to pay only the minimum on a $14,000 card debt. Our expert shows questions her logic ... (See Savings vs. debt)

Todd Ossenfort: Divorce doesn't dissolve joint card debt -- If you don't close joint card accounts after a divorce, then you're still responsible for paying any balances -- no matter who used the card ... (See Credit card debt, divorce)

Learn your credit card billing cycle to avoid late charges -- The Credit CARD Act has changed the rules for billing and how payments are applied; know them to avoid surprises -- and trouble ... (See Credit card billing cycles)

Todd Ossenfort: Inherent risks exist when co-signing a car loan -- A reader wonders whether she should co-sign on a car loan for a student who needs a car to commute to college ... (See Co-signing risks)

Todd Ossenfort: Use caution when assuming another's debts -- A reader wants to transfer her partner's card debt to a card in her name. Our expert outlines the steps to take as well as the risks she's taking on. ... (See Credit card balance transfer)

Todd Ossenfort: Student loans in default: What are your options? -- A reader has amassed huge student loans, but dropped out of college and is making only $200 a week. She wonders what her options are. ... (See Student loan default)

Todd Ossenfort: After a breakup, who's responsible for card debt? -- If you allow your significant other to become an authorized user on your card account, you're stuck with the bill, no matter what happens ... (See Authorized user)

On a fixed income with debt collectors calling -- A reader's parents are being pursued by debt collectors wonders how they can pay when they have no assets and are living on fixed incomes ... (See Debt collection)

Todd Ossenfort: When the CARD Act backfires on you -- A reader with multiple low-rate promotional card balances has found that the new CARD Act is thwarting her attempt to pay down several balances ... (See Credit CARD Act)

Your options for reducing a high credit card APR -- If your card issuer won't lower your high rate APR, you have several options -- including moving to a new card ... (See Credit card APR)

Todd Ossenfort: 7 ways to ensure a financially successful marriage -- Tying the knot? Know that finances are one of the top five reasons for divorce. Here's how to keep your money and marriage together ... (See Money and marriage)

Credit Card FAQ: Todd Ossenfort: How do you get debt collectors off your back? -- Each day this week, our columnists will answer one of our readers' most frequently asked questions. Our series begins with a focus on debt collectors ... (See Debt collectors)

Divorce and credit card debt don't mix -- While a decree can assign payment responsibility for joint credit card debt, if your ex doesn't pay as agreed, your credit is at risk ... (See Card debt and divorce)

Credit CARD Act doesn't prevent new fees -- While the new law does regulate a lot, what it doesn't do is prevent card issuers from imposing creative new fees, such as "maintenance" fees. ... (See Credit CARD Act)

Todd Ossenfort: Can a credit mistake caused by co-signing keep me from renting a home -- A reader co-signed a loan, which was defaulted upon. Now she needs to rent a home. Are her options as bleak as she thinks? ... (See Bad credit and renting)

Pros and cons of paying off old debt -- Yes, paying it off will look good to lenders, but you may not want to restart the clock on debt that has passed the statute of limitations ... (See Paying off old debt)

Debt in collections: Do you settle or pay in full? -- Once your debt goes into collections, you can choose to pay the full amount or negotiate a lower amount. Which choice looks better on your credit report? ... (See Debt collection)

Minimum payments won't dent high-interest debt -- When only making minimum payments on card balances with varying APRs, the higher-interest debt is only going to go up until you pay more than is required ... (See Credit card minimum payments)

Financial reform opens access to free credit scores -- Financial reform rules now require lenders that turn you down or give you a higher rate to provide you access to a free credit score ... (See Free credit scores)

Transferring mom's balances to your cards? Not so fast -- Yes, you want to help, but if you allow a family member to transfer a balance to your credit card account, you are legally liable for that debt ... (See Credit cards)

Ignoring delinquent debt can lead to wage garnishment -- The longer your debt goes unpaid, the more likely you'll be forced to pay through a court order to garnish your wages. ... (See Wage garnishment)

Does an authorized user's bad credit hurt the account's owner? -- Co-mingling credit with friends or family via co-signing or authorized users is best to be avoided at all costs. ... (See Authorized users and credit scores)

Getting financially fit at 50 isn't too late -- A reader is 50 years old, has credit card debt and no savings. She wonders if she'll end up homeless someday. Our expert gives her some good news. ... (See Starting late on retirement saving)

Don't fall prey to aggressive debt collection tactics -- Debt collectors know what buttons to push, so if you've never dealt with them before, you may agree to a repayment plan that you can't afford ... (See Debt collection tactics)

Be careful not to start the clock on time-barred debt -- A reader whose debt has run past the statute of limitations in her state wonders if she should still pay what she can. ... (See Old debt)

Does credit card interest accrue after death? -- When a cardholder dies, a variety of factors come into play in determining how, when and if a balance and interest gets paid. ... (See Debt and death)

Only credit card payments over the minimum go to high APR balances -- If you are only paying the minimum payment for a card with multiple APR balances, then the new law doesn't cover how the issuer applies that payment ... (See CARD Act)

Comparing desperate options: bankruptcy vs. debt negotiation -- With savings spent, deep in debt and jobless, a reader's choices are all unpleasant. Go in with eyes open ... (See Desperate money choices)

Authorized users aren't liable for card debt -- Collectors trying to collect outstanding card debt from an authorized user are barking up the wrong tree. Here's what to do. ... (See Authorized user)

Chalk one up for the credit card bank lobbyists! -- The CARD Act requires monies paid only ABOVE the minimum payment to be applied to higher interest rate balances ... (See CARD Act)

Credit card interest rate relief applies to joint accounts for military couples -- If credit card accounts are held jointly by military spouses, then they qualify for interest rate relief under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act ... (See Active duty credit)

Late credit card payments don't justify rate hikes anymore -- With the passage of the Credit CARD Act, if you're a little late with a payment, you're protected against an instant interest rate hike. ... (See Rate hike)

If you miss your credit card's opt out notice, you pay the price -- If you missed your credit card issuer's notice of an interest rate hike and didn't opt out in time, you're left with three choices. ... (See Opt out)

How to pay off $11,000 in card debt in three years -- A reader wants to pay off $11,000 in debt on four credit cards in less than three years. Our experts shows him several strategies to help him reach his goal. ... (See Strategy)

Your options aren't pretty when a relative gets plastic in your name -- When a family member steals your identity and racks up credit card debt in your name, you have two options -- neither of which is easy. ... (See ID theft)

Forgiven debt resurfaces at tax time -- The IRS is one creditor you cannot ignore. If you receive a 1099-C in the mail for forgiven debt, you have to declare it as income. ... (See IRS)

CARD Act prevents sudden rate hikes, not annual fees -- As issuers struggle to recoup lost fee revenue, many are instituting annual fees on their credit cards. The good news is that your APR is protected. ... (See Fees)

You can be sued for nonpayment of credit card debt -- The road of not paying your credit card accounts is not a pretty one. Expect late fees, higher APRs and, eventually, collections. ... (See Debt)

When even the minimum payment on your credit card is too much -- When making your credit card's minimum payment becomes impossible, you have options. One of those options does NOT include paying less than the minimum. ... (See Too much)

7 simple ways to create an emergency savings fund -- You may feel stranded without a credit card, but the sooner you come up with an emergency cash fund, the less reliant you'll be on plastic ... (See Cash)

Is reaffirming credit card debt during bankruptcy wise? -- When filing for bankruptcy, a reader want to reaffirm credit card debt, with the hope of still being able to use the card. Chances are slim the card will still be usable. ... (See Reaffirm)

Your options when paying the minimum isn't possible -- When living from paycheck to paycheck, any disruption in income can have immediate effects on your financial situation, including not being able to pay the minimum on your cards. ... (See Help)

After medical bills lead to wage garnishment, consider bankruptcy -- When a wage garnishment cuts your living expenses substantially, prioritize what's left, buy time and consider bankruptcy. ... (See Wage)

Debtor determined to become debt-free needs a plan -- A reader wants to start the new year with a sound financial plan to rid himself of debt and clean up his credit report. To do that will require commitment and a plan. ... (See 2010)

How to resolve a bogus medical bill -- There are steps to take to prevent a bogus medical bill from appearing on your credit report and to deal with it once it shows up. ... (See Bogus)

Sorry, you can't opt out of a credit card rate increase from promotional rate -- Promotional (teaser) APRs are temporary and that was disclosed when you got the credit card, so you can't opt out of the new, higher rate. ... (See Teaser rate)

Tough choice: credit card debt vs. down payment on a car loan -- Yes, you can raise your credit score by paying down card debt, but you don't want to get upside down on a car loan in the meantime. ... (See Cash)

The mystery of multiple opt outs explained -- Your rate's jacked, so you opt out and continue to pay off your balance at the old APR. But then your rate increases again. What gives? ... (See Opt-out)

A desperate debtor's option: hardship programs -- Your debt's sky high and even meeting the minimum payment is out of reach. Here's hope: Some card issuers will allow you to enter into a hardship program to help you meet your obligations, but on more reasonable terms ... (See Hardship)

When your credit's still married and you're not -- Jointly held credit card accounts can still haunt you years after you divorce. Make sure your ex is off and stays off your credit report. ... (See Divorce)

Explore all options before declaring bankruptcy -- You may think bankruptcy will solve all your debt problems, but it also creates a whole new, lasting set of issues that will take a long time to recover from. ... (See Bankruptcy)

In default on car loan: What to do? -- If you are in default on a car loan, but want to make amends, it might help to sit down with the lender and discuss possible payment options. ... (See Default)

How to pay $12,000 in credit card debt quickly -- When it comes to paying off card debt, it's important to remember that there's no quick fix. Determination and patience will do the trick. ... (See Pay off)

Debt can slow down retirement goals -- Debt happens. But how you handle it depends on whether you take charge of it or you allow it to take charge of you. ... (See Budget)

How credit card interest charges accrue on a daily basis -- With daily periodic interest charges adding to your credit card balances, the odds of making a dent in your debt by paying just the minimum is minimal. ... (See Interest)

What to do when debt triples your income -- When your debt load is more than triple your income, it's time to seek a solution. Debt counseling, debt settlement and possible bankruptcy can set you free. ... (See Debt and disability)

Mystery debt: A collector's goof becomes your recurring problem -- Prepare for a hassle if a collection mistake has your name on it -- phone calls and certified letters are in your future. ... (See Goof)

The risks you incur when you co-sign -- Once you co-sign on a credit card, your rights to get out of the deal are limited, but you are still completely liable if the original account holder defaults. ... (See Risky)

Options are limited for bad credit customers -- If you've got a bad credit history in this tight credit market, the odds of getting a credit card with a great interest rate are slim. ... (See APR)

The risks you face when co-signing a loan -- When you co-sign on a loan and the original borrower stops paying, your credit report and credit score take a hit, too. ... (See Co-signer)

Options for dealing with a minimum payment increase -- As issuers try new ways to bring in cash, cardholders may face boosted minimum payment requirements. If you can pay the new minimum, you should, and stop carrying a balance in the future. ... (See Hike)

Creditors care about original loan documents, not court agreements -- In divorce, lenders will go after all who agreed to pay, no matter what a court decree says about who should pay. ... (See Divorce)

You have new rights to keep your old rate -- Under the new credit card law, you can cancel your card and pay off your balance at the existing APR if the issuer hits you with a rate increase ... (See CARD Act)

Learn your options when dealing with crushing medical debt -- Communicate, and secure your housing and transportation first, says The Credit Guy. ... (See Medical)

Just one day late can hurt that credit card rate -- Even if you're tardy in paying your credit card bill by a single day, it can trigger a rate increase. ... (See One day)

Killing off the credit card balance that refuses to die -- Late charges, over-the-limit fees, interest rate hikes and cash advance fees can all prevent you from paying down that previously unrelenting credit card balance. ... (See Balance)

Active military personnel protected from interest rate hikes -- The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act offers interest rate limit protections for active duty military personnel. All you have to do is ask, and prove that you've been called to serve. ... (See SCRA)

Considering bankruptcy? Use the 'divide by 60' test to see if you should -- Take your unsecured debt and divide it by 60 to see whether you're a candidate for bankruptcy, says Todd Ossenfort, The Credit Guy. ... (See 60)

How being an authorized user can hurt your credit score -- If you are an authorized user on someone's credit card account and that account is not in good standing, it will drag down your credit score. ... (See Credit)

Your options when credit card minimum payments skyrocket -- Credit card issuers can change conditions on short notice, including the minimum payment. ... (See Payment )

How your credit score reflects paid-off accounts -- When you pay off your card, the impact to your credit score should be fairly immediate. But if the account was in arrears, you won't like what you see. ... (See Paid)

Personal loan vs. credit card cash advance to pay for wedding -- For one-time events such as a wedding, go with the loan -- the rates are usually much cheaper. ... (See Loan)

Allowing friends to use your credit card = mistake -- After the charges, it may be too late to hold someone else responsible for debt run up on your card with your permission. ... (See Friends don't let friends charge)

When family members ruin your credit -- Authorized users on your credit card have two freedoms: to rack up debt on your account and to bail when it comes to paying it off ... (See Family)

Hit with an APR hike? Keep the card or cancel? -- Until the new credit card laws take effect in 2010, your issuer can still change the terms for any reason. If hit with an APR increase, you have two choices: keep it or cancel it. ... (See Changes)

With credit card bills, don't be late, negotiate -- Reaching out before the bill is due damages your credit score the least, says The Credit Guy. ... (See Negotiate)

The ugly side of debt collection -- Debt collectors would much rather settle for less than the full amount and get it all at once than receive a small amount each month. ... (See Collection)

Your options for negotiating outstanding debt -- If your income has been dramatically reduced, then you may qualify for some assistance from the creditor that might not negatively affect your credit score. ... (See Score)

Ignoring debt collectors won't make them go away -- If you've lost your income, ignoring the debt collectors' calls won't make them go away. You've got to step up, tell the truth and work toward a solution. ... (See Debt)

Can my Social Security benefits be garnished for credit card debt? -- Be at ease; your Social Security can't be garnished for credit card debt. But you still need to get a budget together. ... (See Garnish)

Laid off, stuck with company credit card bill -- If you are an authorized user on your company card, then you aren't responsible for payment, but that might not stop collectors from harassing you for it. ... (See Company card)

Now's the time to let lenders know you're struggling -- Lenders are aware of the issues facing more and more consumers, and have put in place many measures to help -- but they can't help if they don't know you are struggling. ... (See Help)

Ex-wife maxes out joint cards: Who pays? -- Divorce is at best unpleasant and at worse very painful. Plus, the lingering separation of finances can add to the pain for years. ... (See Maxed out)

Retired, widowed, overcome by credit card debt -- Seniors with credit card debt who live just off Social Security may have to make some tough financial decisions in order to live within their income. ... (See In debt)

Hit with a credit card interest rate increase? Do you cancel card over APR hike? -- When hit with a rate increase on your credit card, it's important to weigh several factors when deciding to keep the card or cancel it. ... (See Choices)

How to handle credit card bills when pink slips loom -- For those who are struggling to make credit card payments now or will if they lose their jobs, rising interest rates could present a real problem -- but there is help. ... (See Pink slip)

New citizen tips for building good credit -- Part of the process in becoming an established U.S. citizen is to start building a solid credit history. ... (See Credit)

Tiny payments don't keep creditors away -- Contrary to urban legend, making a small payment won't keep the creditors away; you have to pay at least the minimum payment. ... (See Payment)

When credit card debt ruins retirement -- When credit card debt dulls the glow of your golden years, you have options: reverse mortgages, bankruptcy or credit counseling. ... (See Retirement)

How to keep credit scores up when card limits are slashed -- With credit card issuers slashing cardholders' available credit, keeping balances down can help maintain a good credit score ... (See Credit limits)

Not all issuers allow you to opt out of rate increases -- When hit with a sudden increase to your APR, most card companies allow you to opt out, keep the old rate and pay off the balance, but not all are so kind. ... (See Opt out)

Lessons in paying off delinquent debt -- Settling an old debt won't necessarily improve your credit score, but it can free you of the collection process and to know that you made good on your obligation ... (See Old debt)

Income down, bills up. Time for credit counseling? -- When faced with spiraling debt, seeking advice from an accredited debt counselor will help you consider your options. ... (See Options)

When loaning money, weigh your own financial situation first -- When helping someone out financially, a good rule of thumb to consider is if the assistance would immediately or in the future cause havoc with your own personal finances. ... (See Loan)

Suspect identity theft? How to check for, fix ID theft or fraud -- You can opt out of unwanted mail solicitations, but a sudden flurry could be a hint that new credit has been opened in your name. ... (See Credit reports)

Here's how to help young adults with bad credit -- Many young adults find themselves in credit card debt with no means or knowledge on how to get themselves out. Here's some advice. ... (See Credit lessons)

How to keep a small business credit card limit from being cut -- Those who rely on small business cards with high limits to keep their shops running need to be proactive. ... (See Keeping your credit limit)

Strategies for escaping a too-expensive auto lease -- If you signed an lease that turns out to be unaffordable, you have a few options, but most aren't pretty. ... (See Lease)

Ignoring old debt can come back to haunt -- Lenders view delinquent, but paid off debt better than delinquent unpaid debt. ... (See Bad debt)

Creating a plan to pay off $60,000 in credit card debt -- A reasonable amount of time to pay off unsecured debt is five years or less, so in order to pay off $60,000, expect to pay about $1,300 a month ... (See $60,000)

The rules behind getting a free credit report -- FACTA provides that the three major credit reporting bureaus must provide a free copy of your credit report every 12-month period. ... (See FACTA)

How debt settlement works, how it affects credit scores -- Debt settlement lets you escape part of your debt, but at a price to your credit score. ... (See Score)

Help! My APR's been hiked to 27.99 percent -- Credit's tight and your card issuers are reacting by boosting interest rates. Your choices are either to pay off the balance or transfer to another card. ... (See Balance transfer)

Building a credit history without credit cards -- Living without credit cards can lead to a "thin" credit file where lenders don't have enough evidence that you are a good credit risk. ... (See Thin file)

Disabled vet seeks relief from credit card debt -- A disabled veteran living on a fixed government income is overcome by credit card debt and seeks a way out. ... (See Help!)

Leaving country won't avoid wage garnishment -- Leaving the country to escape credit card debt doesn't guarantee that it will be gone if and when you come back. ... (See No escape)

Using retirement to pay off high debt isn't the answer -- Using retirement funds to pay down high credit card debt isn't the best solution. Creating a budget and living within your means is. ... (See Budget)

Emergency fund money critical in a crisis -- If you don't have an emergency fund, now's the time to create one -- especially as banks tighten their credit standards. ... (See Cash in hand)

Credit recovery advice: Start slow, do it right this time -- When pulling out of bankruptcy, it's important to understand how you got there in the first place in order to avoid getting there again. ... (See Credit limits)

Taking on new debt in an economic downturn -- During economic instability, it is wise to reconsider the need to take on additional credit lines. ... (See Ease up on credit)

How balance transfers impact your credit score -- The ratio between how much credit you have available and how much credit is used is calculated as part of the amounts-owed category when calculating your credit score. ... (See Pay it off)

The pros and cons of charging a luxury car on your credit card -- While charging a luxury car on your credit card may yield a lower interest rate, the risks are higher than a traditional fixed rate loan. ... (See Rolling credit)

Laid off, but stuck with corporate card bill -- A recently laid-off employee, who turned in his corporate credit card, is receiving bills for charges on his old card and wonders who is liable for the debt. ... (See Company bill)

Can you really afford that car loan? -- Buying a car with a high interest rate loan can get burdensome down the road -- especially if hard times hit and you're stuck with a loan worth more than the car. ... (See Wheels)

Patience is key to credit score repair -- It takes time and patience for your credit score to rise after you pay off neglected credit card debt, says columnist Todd Ossenfort. ... (See Raising your credit score)

Opting out of a credit card rate increase? Keep records! -- When opting out of a credit card interest rate increase, it is critical to keep copies of your letter and mail receipt in case the issuer decides to up the rate again. ... (See Opting out)

Cancel that credit card, take the credit score hit -- Yes, canceling a credit card can hurt a credit score, but it's worth it if you're struggling, says The Credit Guy. ... (See Credit score)

Add positive information to your credit report to balance the negative -- To help boost your credit score after paying off delinquent accounts, you need to add some positive information to your credit report that will help balance the negative. ... (See Credit scores)

Do airline rewards programs trump cash rewards programs? -- With credit card rewards programs so prevalent, The Credit Guy Todd Ossenfort weighs the benefits of frequent flier programs versus cash back rewards programs. ... (See Touch choice)

Steps to take to repair your credit -- When repairing your credit score, it's best to just start making payments on bad debt rather than trying to negotiate the balance down, says Todd Ossenfort, 'The Credit Guy.' ... (See Credit score)

When is a credit card's 'fixed rate' not really fixed? -- If you sign a credit card agreement with an issuer that claims to practice 'universal default,' your 'fixed' interest rate can be raised at any time. ... (See Fixed rate)

After creating a debt management plan, stick to it -- columnist Todd Ossenfort strongly recommends that once you're in credit counseling, stick to the goals set up in a debt management plan and avoid temptation to get into more debt ... (See Debt management plan)

Canceling a credit card vs. keeping a bad one: Compare costs -- Weighing the true cost of canceling a credit card with an annual fee: How much will it hurt your credit score? ... (See Canceled credit card)

VantageScore credit score product combines three scores into one -- The VantageScore, introduced in 2006, credit scoring product combines Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit scores into one score. ... (See VantageScore)

When a family member steals your identity -- Here are the steps you can take when a family member steals your identity to open credit accounts in your name. ... (See ID Theft from Family member)

Saving for emergencies, retirement come before paying off credit card debt -- Creating an emergency fund and contributing to your retirement fund should always come before paying off credit card debt. ... (See Credit card debt)

Managing on-time credit card payments -- When transferring balances to 0 percent cards, it's critical to make on-time payments or you'll lose out. ... (more)

Good credit customers: Shop around for the best interest rates -- If you have good credit, it pays to shop around for lower interest rates. ... (more)

Helping your college-age child establish credit -- Students with their first credit card can be dangerous, so parents of should help their college-age children create a spending plan, says The Credit Guy. ... (See Student credit)

Are you a credit card rookie? Here's how credit cards work -- There are all kinds of credit cards with all kinds of different rules. Make sure you pick the right card for you. ... (See Choosing a card)

Authorized user or joint account holder? -- There are major differences between an authorized user and joint account holder for credit card accounts. One is liable for unpaid balances and the other is not. ... (See Sharing credit)

Questions to ask to check out your credit counselor's credentials -- Before you hire a credit counselor, make sure you check out their credentials. ... (See Credit counseling)

Card issuers apply payments to lower interest rate balances first -- Balance transfers, cash advances and purchases typically have different APRs. Card issuers apply payments to lower interest rate balances first. ... (more)

Credit inquiries and your credit score -- The Credit Guy explains how credit inquiries negatively impact your credit score and how long these inquiries remain on your credit report, as well as advises readers to not needlessly shop for credit. ... (See Credit score)

Is your credit card ripe for fraud? -- When credit card account information is stolen, the thief uses your card information to request a change in the billing address and an additional card. The thief can then use your account for as long as it takes you to realize that your card has been compromised. ... (See Credit card fraud)

Understanding how credit scores work -- Find out all the different elements that are considered when your credit score is compiled. ... (See Credit scores)

Improving credit to refinance a truck or auto loan -- Steps to take to build a strong credit score. ... (See Rebuilding a credit score)

Credit, credit scores and walking away from truck, auto lease -- Seven months after leasing a new truck, a woman realizes she's in too deep and needs to get out of her lease. ... (See Leasing a car)

Starting over and getting new credit after a bankruptcy -- A woman pays off her bankruptcy and is ready to build her credit again. ... (See Bankruptcy)

Consider all options before filing for bankruptcy, says The Credit Guy -- The reason that bankruptcy is recommended only as a last resort is because of the personal and financial toll a bankruptcy has on a person or family, The Credit Guy advises a reader. ... (See Bankruptcy)

Car's too small, loan's upside down -- A woman who needs a bigger car but who is upside down on her car loan should focus on paying down the debt before looking at bigger vehicles, says The Credit Guy. ... (more)

Rich lady, big overdue card debt -- A woman with $16,000 in delinquent credit card debt, but plenty of money to pay it off, needs to do more than just write a check if she hopes to avoid repeating her mistake, says The Credit Guy. ... (more)

Keeping up credit while in jail may not be possible -- It's noble to want to help a jailed friend keep up his credit score while serving time, but unless you want to pay his bills, some things just aren't possible, says The Credit Guy. ... (more)

Dad co-signed, I messed up his credit. Now what? -- You ruined Dad's credit score by running up a big debt on a card he co-signed for you, but no, you didn't cost him his house, The Credit Guy advises a reader. ... (more)

How to opt out of credit card rate increases -- If you've been notified that your interest rate is going to jump, you may be able to pay your credit card off at the old rate, but you lose use of the card. ... (more)

When do credit card balance transfers make sense? -- Having a firm repayment plan makes the difference, The Credit Guy tells a reader. ... (more)

Pay off credit card debt or declare bankruptcy? -- It's painful, but a reader who took $13,000 in credit card cash advances and lost it to an Internet scam needs to pay the money back, says The Credit Guy. ... (more)

Q&A: Pawn off $10,000 credit card debt on son? No way! -- The Credit Guy, who answers readers' questions for, thinks this parent can pay off the delinquent bill. ... (more)

Expert Q&A: Budget for debt, but not too tightly -- A recent college graduate saddled with debt needs a spending and paydown plan, but it's bound to fail unless it includes some fun, says The Credit Guy. ... (more)

Ask The Credit Guy: Should I do credit rehab myself? -- Credit counselor Todd Ossenfort, aka The Credit Guy, answers a reader's question about whether it's wise to embark on do-it-yourself credit repair. ... (more)