Martin Merzer

Martin Merzer

Martin Merzer covers a wide variety of topics for A major media journalist for more than 35 years, Merzer has written for many big city newspapers, wire services and other publications. Among his areas of specialty: reporting, analyzing and writing about financial affairs and business news.

Martin Merzer's stories for

Study: Law creates many too broke to file for bankruptcy -- A decade after a federal bankruptcy reform law took effect, a new class of Americans has been created: the permanently insolvent ... (See Too broke for bankruptcy)

Lifting Cuba restrictions means easier credit, debit use -- Consumers will find it easier to pay for things in Cuba after President Obama lifts restrictions on use of U.S.-issued credit, debit cards there ... (See Cuba)

Poll: More Americans expect to be in debt forever -- A new survey conducted by asks Americans when they expect to get out of debt; 18 percent of those in debt say "never" ... (See In debt until death)

Survey: 3 in 4 Americans make impulse purchases -- A national survey by of 1,000 adults found more than three out of four Americans confess to making impulse purchases ... (See Impulse)

4 tips to minimize impulse buying -- Impulse buying is a popular habit, but not always a good one. If you're an impulsive buyer wondering how to avoid making another unplanned purchase, here's how to help keep your spending in check. ... (See Impulse buying tips)

Poll: Asking for better credit card terms pays off -- A survey finds few credit card customers ask for a lower interest rate or late fee waiver, but those who ask usually succeed ... (See Poll: Just ask )

Poll: Cash or card for $5 purchase? -- The younger you are, the more likely you are to prefer debit or credit cards for payments of under $5, a new poll shows ... (See Small payments)

Poll: Cash or card for $5 purchase? -- The younger you are, the more likely you are to prefer debit or credit cards for payments of under $5, a new poll shows ... (See Small payments)

Poll: As card fraud rises, so do false alarms -- As data breaches soar, so do credit card fraud false alarms that block or flag legitimate credit card transactions, says a new poll ... (See Fraud false alarm)

Banks expect credit to ease near pre-recession levels -- A Fed survey of senior loan officers finds bankers expect a hefty increase in credit card growth, the first big jump since the Great Recession ... (See Card lending easing)

GAO urges changes in college-provided debit cards -- A federal report questions the fairness of a new breed of college-provided debit cards and urges transparency on the deals -- and the fees charged students ... (See College debit cards)

Credit cards: our moral guardians -- When it comes to arbiters of morality and integrity, we look toward the Ten Commandments, our moms and -- in a strange and largely unnoticed new trend -- the corporate behemoths that issue our credit cards ... (See Guardians)

Curses! Foiled again! FBI warns of tinfoil 'feed horn' scheme -- Federal officials are warning merchants -- and credit card customers whose cards have been stolen -- of a new, decidedly low-tech scam called the "Feed Horn Scheme" ... (See Feed horn scam)

Data breach protection: 10 tips -- When your card data may have been stolen by hackers in a data breach, it's no time to panic, but do be vigilant and ready to take action if unauthorized charges show up ... (See Data breach protection)

CFPB report: On-campus credit card deals fading away -- The lucrative, once-secret bank deals with colleges for on-campus access to students are fading, but on-campus debit card deals are rising to take their places ... (See Campus credit card deals)

Mysterious 'Tips for Jesus' leaves behind enormous tips -- Wait staffs across the United States are hoping for a visit from an anonymous customer with a credit card and a taste for outrageous generosity ... (See Tips for Jesus)

GAO: Information resellers quickly invading personal lives -- Data collectors know and resell your buying preferences, investments, ailments, favorite sports, hobbies and political leanings -- and need to be reined in, the government agency says in a report ... (See Information resellers)

FTC to Aaron's: Shut down your rental computers' peephole webcams -- Consumers who rented Aaron's Inc. computers were subject to a nasty privacy invasion: spyware that captured their every activity at home, including what the FTC terms 'intimate activities' ... (See Spycams)

Controversy erupts over credit card payments for guns -- A credit card processing company's decision to stop authorizing legal gun sales from a large North Carolina gun shop has ignited a full-bore controversy over firearms and freedom ... (See Guns)

Report: We've learned our lesson about using credit cards -- We've learned a lesson from the recession, says a report from a bankers' trade group, with cardholders paying lower interest, carrying lower balances ... (See Lesson learned)

Buying legal marijuana with a credit card still banned -- The new easing of federal enforcement of marijuana laws doesn't lift a ban on credit cards being used at legal pot dispensaries ... (See Marijuana banking)

Survey: Card satisfaction hits 7-year high -- Though impenetrable financial terms and opaque rewards programs still plague cardholders, we are increasingly satisfied with our plastic ... (See J.D. Power)

Certegy fined $3.5 million for violating Fair Credit Reporting Act -- The FTC has accused credit reporting agency Certegy of maintaining and reporting inaccurate information about thousands of check-paying customers, resulting in a $3.5 million fine. ... (See Certegy)

Congress aims to level the online gambling playing field -- Two bills being considered in Congress would regulate poker and other forms of online gambling, and could impose consistency on a patchwork of state laws. But it's a complex subject that blends gaming, morality, money-laundering and credit cards ... (See Online gambling)

Study: Credit card debt causes people to forgo medical care -- A study by a pair of University of Michigan sociologists finds people who are ill and don't seek treatment because of the cost are more likely to have credit card debt than other forms of debt ... (See Medical care and card debt)

FTC fraud survey: 1 in 10 American adults swindled -- Weight-loss scams, prize promotions, membership rip-offs lead the phony pack in the Federal Trade Commission's survey of swindles ... (See FTC fraud survey)

FTC report: 1 in 5 Americans has a mistake in credit report -- If applied to the 200 million Americans with credit reports, the Federal Trade Commission's findings would mean 40 million have a credit report mistake ... (See Credit report mistakes)

BBB, NFL warn: Super Bowl scams can injure unwary 49er, Ravens fans -- This year's Super Bowl is a hot ticket, but the BBB and NFL merchants warn of rip-offs that can put a big hit on your wallet ... (See Beware Super scams)

Heavy debt a major turnoff, especially for women, survey finds -- Attitudes regarding debt loom large over any relationship, and that's especially true for women, who find heavy debt a huge turnoff, says a survey ... (See Debt's a turnoff)

States limit welfare debit cards to ban tobacco, alcohol, lottery, porn purchases -- Prodded by abuses, states pass laws preventing food stamp and welfare debit cards from being used to buy tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets and porn ... (See Benefit cards)

Prototype credit card, up for auction, drawing interest -- A crudely constructed but historic credit card with the first magnetic stripe expected to fetch more than $10,000 at auction ... (See Historic credit card)

'Welcome to the US; show us your papers -- and your cards -- In a move to thwart money laundering and terrorists, proposed U.S. border-crossing rules would include a new intrusion: travelers would have to declare prepaid cards' value ... (See Prepaid cards)

With federal law vague, online gambling advocates try to find wild cards at state level -- For online gambling advocates, the federal landscape has become cloudy, so they're turning to states, hoping to rack up smaller wins there ... (See Online gambling)

American Express to refund $85 million for marketing, debt collection violations -- Federal regulators have forced American Express to refund $85 million to 250,000 customers over its marketing and collection practices ... (See AmEx refund)

'Innocence of Muslims' filmmaker's credit card crime connection -- The reputed creator of the anti-Muslim video that incited mob violence in the Middle East is a convicted credit card con artist and bank fraudster, court records show ... (See 'Innocence' filmmaker's credit card crimes)

American Express, Discover lead J.D. Power credit card satisfaction survey -- It's been four years since a recession-and-regulation racked card industry smacked down its customers. Now, a survey says, satisfaction is creeping back up ... (See Satisfaction)

Chase agrees to $100 million settlement over minimum payment hike -- The giant credit card issuing bank agreed to pay for its 2009 decision to suddenly boost its "fixed' minimum card payments from 2 percent to 5 percent ... (See Settlement)

Students shedding credit cards as recession, new law sink in -- The nation?s college students finally may be absorbing a lesson that won?t count in class but will improve their life skills: how to responsibly handle credit cards ... (See Students cut cards)

Though bad debts fall, lawsuits over collection practices rise -- Consumers are paying credit card bills on time more often and filing fewer bankruptcies, so why are lawsuits over debt collection soaring? ... (See Collection lawsuits)

Indicted online poker kingpin returns to US to face beefed-up charges -- Arrested in N.Y., Full Tilt Poker CEO Raymond Bitar is accused in a new federal indictment of miltimillion-dollar credit card-based Ponzi scheme ... (See Online gambling CEO arrested)

Federal officials challenge payday lending from tribal sovereign entities -- Native American tribes have long had rights of sovereign immunity -- but are those rights being abused in the case of payday loans and extreme interest rates? ... (See Tribal-based payday lenders)

Tips to avoid problems with prepaid calling cards -- The Federal Communication Commission and Consumer Reports offer tips to prepaid calling card purchasers before they buy, plus where to turn if something goes wrong ... (See Prepaid calling cards)

FCC: Prepaid calling cards remain 'a trap' -- PINs that don't work, murky fees, short fuse expiration dates and higher-than-advertised rates are among the prepaid calling cards' continuing flaws, says the federal agency ... (See Prepaid calling cards)

Study: Despite new law, credit cards finding their way to students -- A 2009 law aimed at curtailing access of students under 21 to credit cards hasn't worked, a study says, as card issuers found ways around the restrictions ... (See Student credit)

'Forgiveness ratings' finds credit card issuers unforgivable -- If something goes wrong, Americans are willing to forgive their grocers and auto dealers. Their credit card issuers? Nah. The credit card industry is dead last in a new 'forgiveness' survey ... (See Card issuers unforgivable)

Survey: Students fail the credit card test -- According to a multicampus survey of college business students, only a small fraction pay off their credit card debt each month or know their interest rate ... (See Financial literacy fail)

FTC privacy report backs a 'Do Not Track' Web option, better credit data access -- In backing a 'Do Not Track' option online, the agency also says high-tech data mining companies must abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act ... (See FTC privacy report)

Supreme Court backs credit card binding arbitration -- The court's 8-1 ruling is a setback for consumer groups, who see arbitration as a contract clause that gives card issuers an unfair edge in disputes ... (See Credit card binding arbitration)

'Continuity billing' scams cause continuous credit card pain -- It's an increasingly common credit card scam: You agree to one small purchase and then get billed over and over ... (See Continuity billing scams)

Review asked of rule that hurts access to credit of stay-at-home moms -- A rare, bipartisan congressional group has challenged the fairness of an 'independent income' test for those who apply for credit cards ... (See Congress independent income )

Discover expects U.S. 'enforcement action' over its marketing practices -- How the card issuer sold to consumers its fee-based add-on programs such as ID theft protection to consumers has drawn fire ... (See Discover and FDIC)

J.D. Power survey finds consumers happier with their credit cards -- American Express, Discover once again top the annual survey of consumer satisfaction with their cards ... (See 2011 credit card satisfaction survey)

How Capital One buying HSBC credit card accounts affects consumers -- Some 27 million U.S. cardholders awoke Wednesday to a new bank when Capital One bought HSBC's card portfolio. Here's what they should expect ... (See Card deal)

It's not fibbing, it's fraud: legal consequences of lying on a credit card application -- Telling a lie about your income on a credit card application isn't fibbing, it's fraud, and you can be jailed for it, as a Rochester, N.Y., man discovered ... (See Credit card application fraud)

Feds lay down rules for contacting relatives of deceased debtors -- Collecting money from the relatives of deceased debtors is fine, new federal guidelines say, but debt collectors must be transparent about what they do ... (See Death and debt colletion)

10 million bank customers may see free money coming from overdraft lawsuit settlement -- Bank of America's $410 million settlement is 1st of 30 lawsuits filed over 'biggest to smallest' debit posting practice that maximized fees; refunds are sought for 10 million customers ... (See Bank of America settlement)

Fed report: Credit card payments to college schools, alumni groups still lucrative -- With scrutiny up on once-secret credit card marketing deals with college groups, the payments are down, a Fed report said Thursday ... (See College card marketing deals)

FTC: was $275 million ripoff. Site shuttered, multimillion dollar con alleged -- allegedly served as the enforcer for other dishonest websites in a multimillion dollar scam. Its business model: to shut up ripped-off credit card holders by threatening them with blacklistling ... (See BadCustomer, big scam)

Representatives ask for review of rule limiting credit cards to stay-at-home spouses -- A Fed rule limiting credit availability of stay-at-home spouses should be studied to see if it hurts them, a quartet of U.S. representatives said in a letter Friday ... (See Independent income rule)

New rule protects exempted funds from garnishment orders -- For debtors who face frozen bank accounts due to a garnishment order, a new rule prevents exempted funds from being temporarily seized ... (See Wage garnishment)

Lawsuits over credit card debts spike in California, Nevada, Florida -- Courts officials in Nevada, Florida and California -- the states hardest hit by recession -- report they're seeing a parade of credit-card debt cases ... (See Credit card debt lawsuits)

Government shuts down 3 largest poker websites, indicts founders -- Dramatically raising the stakes in its battle against online poker and the credit card transactions that have fueled it, the U.S. government has indicted the founders of the three largest poker websites and shut down the sites ... (See Credit cards and online poker)

Fed survey: Recession robbed net worth of 6 in 10 American families -- A Federal Reserve survey puts numbers to what we already know: The 2007-2009 Great Recession took a horrible toll on most families ... (See Recession robbed net worth)

New Fed rule limits credit cards for stay-at-home parents -- As of Oct. 1, 2011, only individual income, not household income, can be considered when issuing credit cards, a new regulation says, which will cut into stay-at-home spouses' ability to get credit on their own ... (See Household income )

Using credit, debit card to buy gas now a major financial decision -- 'Blocks' or 'holds' on your debit or credit card funds, along with spiking high prices, can drain an account faster than a gashog drains a tank ... (See Cards and high gas prices)

San Antonio leads the list of 25 cities with most credit card debt -- Overall, debt is down, but Texas, Georgia, Florida cities are all well-represented in the list of cities whose citizens rack up the most card debt ... (See Cities with most debt)

Survey: Recession still hurting saving, retirement funds -- A national survey finds that the lingering effects of the recession are causing more Americans to become concerned about its impact on their personal finances ... (See Recession's financial effects linger)

Debt collectors seek right to 'robocall' cell phones -- The next debt collection battleground is your cell phone. Debt collectors say autodialing debtors is good for consumers, but the move may add to its image as a pest ... (See Debt-collection robo-calls)

Free credit scores become more available to borrowers -- On Jan. 1, 2011, federal law changed, broadening access to credit scores for consumers who have been turned down for a loan or get one at less-desirable terms ... (See More free credit scores)

Bill allowing online gambling - but not by credit card - passes House test -- Online gambling may make a comeback: A law that would permit it passed a House panel, but credit cards are still barred from the poker table ... (See Online gambling bill)

FTC report on ATM 'emergency' PIN numbers throws up its hands -- Congress mandated a year ago that the FTC study whether it's feasible to create ways for people to summon emergency at ATMs. Dunno, the long-awaited study says. ... (See Emergency ATM PIN)

1 in 10 Americans has given up or had taken away credit cards in past 8 months -- A poll shows that consumers' newfound frugality and card issuers' punitive actions have caused a mass migration away from credit cards. ... (See Give up)

Poll: On eve of credit card reform, few understand what new law holds -- Significant numbers of consumers are unaware of the most important elements of the new package of credit card rules. Worse, many have erroneous assumptions about what the new rules do address. ... (See Credit CARD Act of 2009)

'Emergency PINs' to summon help at ATMs: Law could bring urban myth to reality -- It's not true: Punching your ATM's PIN in reverse won't summon the cops. But Congress liked the urban myth enough to mandate a study of the idea. ... (See Reverse PIN)

Haiti disaster brings out charity scams -- Disasters ignite donations from generous Americans, but it also brings scammers out from under their rocks. How to tell legitimate charities from the con artists. ... (See Scams)

More credit card issuers ditch mandatory binding arbitration -- With legal pressure rising against the often-criticized way to resolve disputes, card issuers are abandoning compulsory arbitration and recasting their agreements with consumers. ... (See Arbitration)

Enforcement delayed on Internet gambling ban -- Federal regulators gave credit card-wielding gamblers -- and the banking industry -- six more months before an Internet gambling ban goes into effect. ... (See Delay)

Gift card regulations: Fees, expiration limited by US law -- Clearer disclosures of gift fees terms and conditions were mandated by the Fed in August 2010 and still impact gift cards today. ... (See Gift cards)

Toys R Us joins retailers offering layaway plans -- 'Pay now, buy later' plan feeds on consumers' new distaste for debt. ... (See Layaway)

Reform law, recession lead to 'retro' credit card offers -- New card programs offer payment control, plain vanilla features, but consumers still face a rocky road. ... (See Retro)

Going to your parents for a loan? Hit up Dad first, poll says -- According to a new poll conducted by Gfk Roper for, male parents are 15 percent more likely to pay off $20,000 or more of their kids debt. ... (See Dad)

J.D. Power survey shows growing number of people dissatisfied with credit cards -- The latest J.D. Power and Associates credit card satisfaction survey found that overall credit card satisfaction plunged to a record low ? only 703 on the 1,000-point scale. ... (See Survey)

Fed report: Lenders again tighten credit card loan standards, but not as much -- Credit card issuers again cut credit in the second quarter of 2009, as did lenders of many kinds, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve. ... (See Tighter)

Survey: Credit card, collection complaints growing quickly -- The nation's fastest growing consumer complaints involve aggressive collection tactics for credit card and many other debts, says a survey released Thursday. ... (See card complaints)

Credit card binding arbitration system crumbling -- A controversial, but common practice in the credit card industry -- requiring consumers to go to arbitrators rather than the courts when disputes arise -- appears on the verge of collapse. ... (See Credit card arbitration)

Leading arbitration firm abruptly quits the business after lawsuit -- A lawsuit by Minnesota's attorney general caused a quick retreat by the leading firm that provides binding arbitration services to millions of credit cardholders. ... (See Credit card arbitration)

Bankruptcy filings return to pre-reform-law pace -- Largely due to the recession, a 2005 law clamping down on filing had only temporary impact. ... (See FIlings)

Study: Credit card statements 'virtually incomprehensible' -- Research finds that indecipherable credit card statements aren't just an American problem; they cause head-scratching worldwide. ... (See Study)

European Trade Commission: U.S. overstepping bounds in enforcing onling gambling ban -- The European Commission ruled this week that U.S. laws that ban most forms of online gambling discriminate against European companies and violate international trade agreements. ... (See Gambling)

Rep. Frank introduces bill to allow online gambling -- Don't bet on it quite yet, but you soon might be able to use your credit card to place online wagers, legally and without giving your card numbers to -- and funneling your money through -- a foreign company. ... (See Gambling)

Credit card forbearance programs offer reprieve from debt -- Major credit card issuers' programs that allow temporary relief for overstretched cardholders are busier than ever, and some of the issuers are improving them. ... (See Forbearance)

Unlawful Internet Gambling Act regulations finalized for credit card issuers -- New federal regulations take effect Jan. 19, 2009, that require credit card issuers to enforce a bewildering set of federal regulations aimed at stopping online gambling. ... (See Regulations)

Online gambling a multibillion dollar industry -- Internet gambling started around 1995 and has grown into a multibillion dollar industry. ... (See Online gambling)

More Americans getting free FICO scores -- Fair Isaac inks deal to let credit union members see once-secret score at no charge. ... (See FICO)

Student credit card issuers losing their welcome on campus -- Despite the big money many colleges earn from making deals with card issuers, some schools and states are clamping down on giving banks access. ... (See Unwelcome)

Tips for college students considering credit cards -- Consumer advocates and college officials offer advice to students who may not be familiar with the world of credit cards ... (See Credit)

Consumers, credit bureaus grapple with 'thin file' credit score problem -- Thin is good -- unless it's your credit file. There it can be a problem, since lenders are wary of consumers who haven't already taken out loans. ... (See Thin file)

How HUD evaluates nontraditional credit for FHA mortgages -- Here are some of the guidelines issued in 2008 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for establishing and evaluating nontraditional credit histories. ... (See Nontraditional credit)

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Updated: 06-27-2019