To Her Credit

Expert Sally Herigstad helps women navigate the ups and downs of credit by answering reader questions weekly for
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 To Her Credit

Interest rate reversal may be due to military debt protections - -- The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act caps interest rates at 6 percent during active duty period. ... (See Interest rate reversal)

Remove authorized users before filing for bankruptcy - -- When things start to go south, immediately remove any authorized users to prevent bad credit marks from showing on their credit reports. ... (See Authorized users)

Avoid paying interest during your card's grace period - -- There are two ways to pay off a balance and one saves you from paying interest. ... (See Grace periods)

Dad used my credit card to go on vacation - -- You can file fraud charges and get the charges removed if your dad was not made an authorized user on the card. ... (See Credit card theft)

Why you shouldn't lend out your debit card to a friend - -- If your card is lost, misused or anything else goes wrong, your finances and good name can suffer. ... (See Lending out debit card)

I mistakenly paid off my late husband's card. Can I get a refund? -- The odds of getting an issuer to refund a payment are slim to none, unless it was made to a stranger's account. ... (See Card payment refund)

Should my parents sell their home to pay off card debt? -- It's better to take the time to craft a thoughtful approach to getting out from under debt obligations. ... (See Selling house to pay debt)

What to do when permission to use a card is revoked -- If you are given authority to use a card and then that permission is revoked, make repayment arrangements for unapproved charges in writing. ... (See Permission to use card revoked)

Q&A: Unlink your bank account from deceased relative's card -- Having paid his bills with your account does not make you liable for the balances, nor does it give the creditors any reason to sue you. ... (See Bank account linked to deceased relative's card)

Will my issuer close my card accounts when I retire? -- If you keep the cards open and active and pay on time, having a reduced income shouldn't cause an issuer to close your accounts. ... (See Closed card accounts)

One late card payment: What's the credit damage? -- Even with an optimal credit history, your score can drop almost 100 points just due to one mislaid bill. ... (See One late payment)

How to get repaid for charges on a card you lent out -- Allowing someone to use your card is worse than giving them access to your checking account as you can lose money you don't have yet. ... (See Lent card)

Risks of keeping one card open during bankruptcy -- Once an issuer learns of the bankruptcy, it may close the card as you are now viewed as a higher risk. ... (See Bankruptcy)

How to stop debt collectors from contacting you about a relative -- Collectors are allowed one phone call in an attempt to find someone, but after that, they are breaking the law. ... (See Debt collection )

Avoid raiding retirement accounts to pay credit card debt -- Draining retirement funds to repay card debt can leave you destitute in your golden years. ... (See Retirement accounts)

When a balance transfer card trumps a debt consolidation loan -- When you only have one large, high-interest card balance, it's often easier and simpler to apply for a balance transfer card with an extended 0 percent promotional offer than a bank loan. ... (See Consolidation loan)

Can an authorized user transfer debt onto shared card? -- When sharing a card, it's best both parties agree to a certain code of honor about how the card will be used. ... (See Authorized user)

Q&A: Do I have to pay US debts if I now live abroad? -- It’s tempting to just ignore debts when they are on the other side of the world, but if you were ever to return to the U.S., your credit score would be toast ... (See Home abroad, debts in U.S.)

How to undo fraud charges when thief is a family member -- When you don't want to file a police report on a family member who stole your card, you're stuck with the responsibility of paying the bill. ... (See Family fraud)

Q&A: Is shared CD at risk if I file for bankruptcy? -- If listed only as a beneficiary, then no; but if jointly owned, perhaps ... (See Bankruptcy and CDs)

Whoops! I used my deceased sister's card -- Any charges made after death need to be reimbursed immediately ... (See Death)

Can't pay card bills after medical crisis: What to do? -- If you have no assets and have protected funds, you are considered "judgment proof" ... (See Crisis)

Am I liable for check-cashing, credit card scam charges? -- The rules that provide zero liability don't help if you gave someone your card ... (See Scam)

Will canceling card prevent charges from going through? -- Getting rid of the card won't void any charges you made to it ... (See Cancel)

Can authorized user be arrested for card charges? -- If the primary accountholder gave you a card, then he is liable for the balance ... (See Arrest)

Should I take out personal loan to pay off $25,000 card debt? -- A personal loan is one option; just make sure you're getting the best rate you can ... (See Loan)

Why do I keep getting rejected for a new card? -- Even though you repaid the balance, don't expect complete forgiveness ... (See Rejected)

Finding the best card to pay for child care expenses -- Paying child care bill with plastic is fine, but only if you can pay off the balance every month ... (See Child)

Looking for no-fee, 21-month balance transfer card -- Most long-term 0 percent balance transfer deals have a fee, but the savings can still be substantial ... (See No-fee transfers)

Is it worth disputing card opened fraudulently at 17? -- Once the account is paid off, its score impact will eventually fade ... (See Score)

Retrieving CVV, expiration date on deceased's credit card -- If the primary cardholder dies, an authorized user cannot use the card anymore ... (See CVV)

Executor not personally liable for deceased's card bill -- The estate is responsible, and state laws have to be followed ... (See Death)

How does a merchant know my new card number? -- Oftentimes changing your card number won't stop a merchant from charging your account ... (See Charges)

Options for getting out of expensive car loan -- Once you sign the papers, your choices are limited ... (See Car loan)

Can husband report wife for using his card to pay bills? -- He gave permission, then changed his mind and is now claiming fraud ... (See Fraud)

Can I use deceased brother's cards to pay for his funeral? -- Even as an authorized user, using cards of a deceased cardholder is fraud ... (See Fraud)

Should I liquidate my 401(k) to pay my husband's back taxes? -- He owes the IRS and wants his wife to cash in her retirement plans to pay the debt ... (See IRS)

Can an ex make you pay debt on his card? -- It's her debt on his card, but he said he'd pay it. Then he changed his mind ... (See Ex)

Authorized user not liable for ex's card balance -- Legally, an authorized user is just a guest and not liable for balances ... (See Liability)

How to handle elderly, sick parent's credit card debt -- When income is limited and medical needs great, card debt goes to the back burner ... (See Debt)

How to boost low score to qualify for a mortgage -- One option is to be added as an authorized user on a family member's card ... (See Mortgage)

How residual interest can keep you from a $0 balance -- You thought you paid off your card, until the next statement shows you didn't ... (See Residual interest)

Don't let a card's annual fee take you by surprise -- When a card's annual fee comes due, you have choices ... (See Fees)

Stopping thief who's opening cards in deceased mother's name -- The first step is to file a police report. Then contact the credit bureaus. ... (See Theft)

What to do if new collector re-ages old debt on credit report -- If a collector changes the date of default, that's illegal ... (See Re-age)

How to file 1099-C on behalf of a deceased spouse -- The tax fallout from a 1099-C may not be as bad as you think ... (See 1099-C)

How to handle 1099-C for individual debt when married -- It was her debt, so is it better to file taxes separately instead of together? ... (See 1099-C)

Using inheritance to pay off student loan debt -- It's time to get the kids involved in paying off their share of college debt ... (See Debt)

Why APR keeps rising on closed card with a balance -- Closed card's APR still rises when the Fed raises rates ... (See APR)

On disability with $15,000 in card debt: Is house at risk? -- Take these steps to prevent issuer from filing home lien ... (See House)

Got great credit? Cancel that unwanted store card -- With a score in the 800s, it's safe to cancel a card you never wanted in the first place ... (See Credit)

Can a card issuer charge interest on late fees? -- Yes: Forgetting to pay a bill can leave you paying interest on top of fees ... (See Interest on fees)

You loaned out a card, got stiffed? Go to small-claims court -- You still have the pay the bill, but can pursue a civil suit ... (See Bill)

Card debt's being charged off, now what? -- What to expect when an issuer decides to wipe your debt off its books ... (See Charge-off)

Self-employed can't be garnished, but can be sued -- Collectors have other options to recoup unpaid card debt ... (See Debt)

New accounts should have only minor credit score impact -- Something's wrong if a new credit card and a new utility account cause a big credit score drop ... (See Scores)

How to remove old debt from credit reports -- If a debt is older than decade, it should have fallen off your credit report ... (See Debt)

House lien from unpaid card debt shouldn't be a surprise -- No one can put a lien on your house without notifying you ... (See Lien)

Withholding payment over late pay dispute unwise -- Find another way to express your displeasure or else collectors will come calling ... (See Dispute)

Elderly dad can't cover card bills and assisted living -- Adult daughter asks if she can just stop paying on dad's card debt ... (See Debt)

Your options when a parent is financially irresponsible -- A child can take over with power of attorney or guardianship ... (See Take over)

Facing the consequences for unauthorized shopping spree -- He gave her his card number to pay rent, she went online and splurged. Now it's getting ugly ... (See Spree)

Balance transfer can help reduce new grad's card debt burden -- A 21-month 0-percent deal can reduce the pain of repaying high-interest debt ... (See 0%)

The case against credit card piggybacking -- The odds of something going wrong are high and it's better to let others build their own good credit habits ... (See Piggybacking)

Card debt will be charged interest even if account is closed -- Even if a credit card is closed, the lingering balance will continue to accrue interest until the debt is paid off ... (See Interest)

Help! I maxed out 5 cards to 'help' online boyfriend -- Retired woman falls for scam, racks up $35,000 she can't pay back ... (See Scam)

Micropayments help debt management, credit scores -- Typically, lenders will allow multiple payments, but if not, find out why ... (See Payments)

Social Security benefits protected from garnishment -- As long as your benefits are direct deposited to your bank, creditors can't take them ... (See Debt)

Use home sale proceeds for new home first, debt later -- Buy a new home first, create emergency fund and use what's left over for student loan debt ... (See Sale)

85-year-old mom has $25,000 in card debt -- Her adult children's behavior is keeping their mom on the debt hook ... (See Mom)

Dispute card accounts opened fraudulently by ex-spouse -- You have to take the proper steps to get the issuers to acknowledge the accounts aren't yours ... (See Fraud)

Premarital debt weighs on new marriage -- Bringing delinquent debt into a new union can strain joint finances ... (See Debt)

Living together doesn't create common-law marriage or debt liability -- Keeping accounts separate can protect funds in case partner is sued for repayment ... (See Debt)

Be wary of whose card you piggyback on -- If the credit bureau deems the account illegitimate, you'll be out of luck ... (See Piggyback)

Deceased mom's debts take priority over inheritance -- After debts are paid, then what's left over can be disbursed among any heirs ... (See Heirs)

Teen falsifies birth date, gets card, charges $500 -- Her mom will pay off debt, but asks if her teen will come under fire from the issuer ... (See Teens)

Stop soon-to-be ex from sticking you with joint debt -- Take steps now to protect your finances before you get in front of a judge ... (See Divorce)

Best way to allocate lump sum across multiple card debts -- You can pay high-interest debt first or knock off an entire balance for motivation ... (See Debt)

Warn the ex's girlfriend about his IRS tax debt -- If you and your ex owe the IRS, the new girlfriend deserves to know ... (See Taxes)

How to graduate from debit-only to being a credit card holder -- Don't let fear hold you back from opening a credit card. Used properly, they're a useful tool. ... (See Debit)

Volunteering for jail isn't the answer to debt -- When debt gets deep, don't despair there's help ... (See Jail)

Aging father's big card debt puts his home at risk -- With equity in his home, he risks creditors slapping a lien on it for repayment, or worse, a forced sale. ... (See Home)

Personal funds generally safe once debt is uncollectible -- Once the statute of limitations has passed, garnishment fears should be allayed ... (See Debt)

Settling parent's financial affairs after death -- Locating insurance, paying bills a challenge when a parent dies suddenly ... (See Death)

Card issuers need court judgments to seize debt payments -- Behind on card payments? Issuers can't withdraw debt payments straight from your -- or your spouse's -- bank accounts without legal action ... (See Debt)

How card debt liability changes after final parent dies -- Unless the account is co-owned, card debt is paid by the estate, and is among the last debts in line ... (See Death)

Options for escaping penalty rate APRs -- Six months of on-time payments can force a rate review ... (See Penalty rate)

Authorized user kept charging on deceased dad's card -- Five years after her father died, daughter wonders who is liable for the balance ... (See Liability)

'Injured spouse allocation' tax form can shield spouse from debt -- Couple's return is seized for repayment of wife's student loan ... (See Loan)

Is widow obligated to repay husband's debt consolidation program? -- If she co-signed the contract, then she will be required to repay ... (See Debt)

Quick fixes for temporary repayment problem -- When life throws a curveball and you can't pay your bills one month, here's what you can do ... (See Bills)

Getting a refund tougher if you buy with debit card -- Late or nondelivery refunds not fully guaranteed with debit purchases ... (See Dispute)

Don't tap IRA to pay back taxes -- Cashing out IRA may cause you to end up with yet another tax bill ... (See IRS)

Will debt settlement hurt authorized user's credit? -- A quick call to issuer to remove authorized user will protect guest cardholder ... (See Settlement)

What to do about card debt when on a fixed income -- Paying off card debt doesn't solve problem of not having enough to live on ... (See Debt)

Co-signed card leaves mom's credit in ruins -- When her daughter couldn't pay the bill, collectors turn to her mom ... (See Co-sign)

Car lien shouldn't come as a surprise -- People just can't randomly attach liens to your property without notice ... (See Car lien)

What to do when kids charge $2,500 to your card for iTunes -- When kids use a card to rack up charges without your knowledge, you should dispute the bill ... (See iTunes)

How an unpaid debt affects selling your property -- An unpaid debt isn't a property lien, and shouldn't hamper home sale ... (See Liens)

Authorized user not covered by service member's APR protections -- The SCRA won't help lower card APR for an active-duty authorized user ... (See Military)

Don't fall for collector's threats on really old debt -- If the debt is past the statute of limitations, it's too old to collect ... (See Debt)

Spousal identity theft is fraud, so fight it -- To avoid liability for the debt, you'll need to report the fraud ... (See Spousal ID theft)

Lost job? Budget, don't stop card payments -- Prepare a bare-bones budget and cut all nonessential spending before you stop paying on cards ... (See Job loss)

For tax purposes, card statements aren't detailed receipts -- Don't rely on your card statement if you want a precise record of spending; keep that original paper receipt ... (See Receipts)

Card owner's dementia, death make it hard to prove theft -- The neighbor of a man with dementia went to town with his card. After his death, it's hard to distinguish theft from generosity ... (See Dementia, death and card theft)

Mom has Alzheimer's and $20,000 in card debt -- If Social Security is all she has to live on, she may be judgment-proof ... (See Alzheimer's)

Restoring credit after authorized user status goes bad -- When the primary account holder stops paying the bill, all users associated with the account suffer ... (more)

Settling debts for half of what's owed isn't easy -- Banks aren't in the business of paying 100% and only getting 50% back ... (more)

Options when 'written off' debt reappears on credit report -- Just because a debt is not listed on your credit report, doesn't mean you're not still responsible for it. Here are options to take care of the debt ... (See Written off debt)

Can I get away with maxing out my credit, filing for bankruptcy? -- Deliberatly maxing out cards with no intent to pay, then filing for bankruptcy could give a "fresh start." But it's a big risk, and morally dubious ... (See Max out)

Options for getting a handle on a $37,000 debt -- With a good income but lots of debt, a 72-year old single woman needs to plug the money leak first ... (See Debt options)

Don't agree to debt repayment you can't afford -- Stick to your budget and your guns when dealing with pushy debt collectors ... (See Debt collection)

Mortgage after bankruptcy, divorce: You need time -- Low mortgage rates will not be available immediately after filing for bankruptcy. But patience and credit-building will help in getting a loan at a decent rate ... (See Mortgage after bankruptcy )

Mom's Medicaid leaves no money left for debt repayment -- Plus, recently transferred assets may be voided by Medicaid ... (See Medicaid)

Joint card account means sharing gambling charges -- Getting a fraud alert for the gambling you charged on a joint credit card is a sign to come clean ... (See Gambling)

Forgotten card leads to post-divorce strife -- Shared cards during a marriage can create havoc after it's dissolved ... (See Shared cards)

Even paid-off cards usually canceled in bankruptcy -- If a card has no balance, you'll still end up losing it ... (See Credit cards during bankruptcy)

ID thief may pay bills on stolen card, but needs to be turned in -- Police and card issuer need to know about the crime ... (See ID theft)

Wife has lower score, but gets better prescreened card offers -- Her husband's credit score is over 800, so why are issuers ignoring him? ... (See Scores)

Halt card spending until after mortgage closes -- Going on a card-spending binge before you close can jeopardize your home loan ... (See Credit cards and mortgages)

Don't ignore summons for unpaid card debt -- You may have nothing to fork over, but not responding can cause further damage ... (See Summons)

How to stop identify theft of a deceased family member -- Cases of family members stealing an identity are more common than people might think. ... (See ID theft)

Ex still charging on old joint card account -- She thought all the cards had been closed. Years later, she finds out she was wrong ... (See Joint account)

Yes, raid kid's college fund to pay $30,000 card debt -- College funds are good and important, but if they jeopardize a family's financial health, hard decisions have to be made ... (See Raid college fund)

Clearing authorized card user account information -- The simplest way to remove negative information generated from an authorized user account is to be removed from the account ... (See Authorized user)

Out of 11 cards, which 7 do I cancel? -- Having a zero balance on all the cards makes credit score impact minimal ... (See Canceling a card)

Secured card may be best when on a fixed income -- With your deposit as your credit line, you can't spend more than what you can repay ... (See Secured card)

Collectors can't win judgment without proof of debt -- A collector cannot win in court without proof that a debt is yours ... (See Proof)

Build credit before house hunting -- The desire to own a home may be strong, but with no credit, it's just a dream ... (See Home buying)

Statute of limitations doesn't wipe credit slate clean -- Once a debt has passed the statute of limitations, that doesn't mean it gets wiped off your credit report ... (See Old debts)

Getting US loan after living abroad not easy -- Without a current credit history and score, and after living abroad for years, getting bank approval for a U.S. loan is tricky ... (See Loan)

Don't ignore divorce decree debt mandate -- If the court says you're liable for a debt, even if the bank says you're not, pay up or expect to face a contempt charge ... (See Divorce)

Chasing rewards points backfires when debt piles up -- If a family member who's an authorized user racks up debt on a rewards card, there may be other, less-traditional options for getting it paid back ... (See Chasing rewards)

Mom with dementia sued for card debt -- By the time a credit card issuer files a lawsuit for unpaid debt, it's already late in the debt-collection process, but you still have options ... (See Dementia)

Dissolving joint debt post-divorce dicey -- Dragging out joint debt obligations after divorce opens door for all sorts of problems ... (See Post-divorce debt)

Finally got a zero balance? Good! Now change credit strategy -- After paying off retail cards and shedding all debt, don't slam the door on credit. Keep accounts open and maybe use one occasionally to keep your score up ... (See Paid off)

Defaulted business cards result in tax liability -- Canceled business card debt can resurface as income owed to the IRS ... (See 1099-C)

Don't succumb to lure of debt settlement firm -- Don't pay someone to reduce your debts when you can do it yourself for free ... (See Debt settlement)

Even for old debt, settling beats other options -- Even if the statute of limitations is almost up for an old debt, you're better off settling than ignoring the debt or declaring bankruptcy ... (See Settling old debt)

401(k) accounts protected from collection -- After out-of-work husband runs up $30,000 on his wife's card, his wife wants to know if her 401(k) can be tapped for repayment ... (See Debt collection)

Help! Ex left me with $45,000 in card debt -- A 75-year-old is stuck repaying $45,000 her ex racked up on three cards. ... (See Divorce debt)

Cut prescreened offers to reduce theft temptation -- When your mailbox is flooded with card offers, it may be best to opt-out to reduce any risk of a thief trying to apply for credit in your name ... (See Opt-out)

Teen's secret charges discovered by parents -- His parents report more than $2,000 in unapproved card charges, but discover the culprit is their son. Is it too late to call off the investigation? ... (See Teen card fraud)

Husband opened cards, ran up debt in your name? It's fraud -- After her husband racked up thousands on cards he opened in her name, step one in cleaning up the mess is reporting his fraud ... (See Husband fraud)

1099-C snarls mortgage qualifying -- An incomplete tax form and an old charged-off debt may cause mortgage underwriters to turn down your home loan application ... (See Mortgage qualifying )

Debt relief scam mars victim's credit rating -- Debt relief scams often tell victims to stop paying debt accounts, leaving their credit rating in shambles due to defaults and delinquencies ... (See Debt relief scam)

Sharing a card with a parent can be risky -- Being an authorized user on your elderly mom's card can either help or hurt your credit rating, depending on how well she manages credit ... (See Parent's card)

It's not fraud if you lend your card out -- The odds of prosecuting someone for card fraud for using your card when you gave your permission are pretty fruitless ... (See Card fraud)

Collectors still calling after a 1099-C 'Cancellation of Debt' tax form -- Just because you received a 1099-C and may have paid taxes on an unpaid debt, that doesn't mean you're free from collection attempts ... (See 1099-C)

Pay down debt before adding teen to card -- A mom who wants to add a 17-year-old to one of her card accounts should reconsider: Her daughter really doesn't need one, and Mom needs to get her own balances under control ... (See Adding teen to card)

How to get back overage on card accounts -- You charged an item, paid the card bill, but then returned your purchase, leaving a credit on your card. Do you just spend it or can you get that cash back? ... (See Card overpayment)

Sharing medical cards not allowed -- Medical card expenses are generally reserved for the cardholder, family members and even pets, but not your latest girlfriend or boyfriend or BFF ... (See Medical cards)

Unpaid joint car loan sullies ex's credit -- She was in charge of payments, but neglected to tell her fiance when they were late. Now that they've broken up, she wants to know if she can fix his credit ... (See Car loan)

Is husband liable for wife's $50,000 card debt? -- A wife is carrying $50,000 in debt over several cards and wants to know if her husband be will responsible for repayment if she dies before it's paid off ... (See Card debt)

Don't default on co-signed loan to teach son a debt lesson -- Letting a car loan go into default to show a kid what happens is a lot like driving the car into a wall to show him what happens if you don't use the brakes ... (See Co-signers)

Living on disability, with $8,000 in card debt -- With no assets and only disability income, repayment options are nonexistent and bankruptcy too expensive for a cardholder with $8,000 in card debt. ... (See Disabled)

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)

There's no quick credit score fix -- Credit scoring formulas are as complicated as our often-tangled personal lives. There are no quick fixes, so keep your focus on the big things, such as on-time payments ... (See No quick fix)

Over-limit card scam fools cardholder -- A cardholder gave her bank info over the phone to her card issuer to prevent an over-limit charge. But it probably wasn't her bank who called, but a thief ... (See Scam)

Want a mortgage? Ditch cash-only, build a credit history -- Unless you have the cash to buy a house, you'll need a mortgage. And you can't get a home loan without some kind of credit history ... (See Cash-only)

Avoid late payments by setting up auto bill pay -- Life happens, and when it does, it's easy to forget a credit card payment. To protect your credit score and avoid fees, stop late payments before they occur ... (See Late pay)

Inheritance spent, bankruptcy looming -- She inherited $36,000, but instead of paying her credit card debt, she spent it. During bankruptcy, does she have to reveal where the money went? ... (See Bankruptcy disclosure)

Parent's nursing home costs take priority over card debt -- Before moving into a nursing home, her dad paid his card debt out of Social Security income. Now that income goes to the nursing home ... (See Prioritizing debt)

Adding yourself to spouse's card is fraud -- Taking the liberty of adding yourself to your spouse's card as an authorized user is considered fraud, and you could be charged with identity theft ... (See Authorized user fraud)

Have a balance transfer financial strategy -- Yes, comparison shop for low rates and fees, but more importantly, know how a transfer will fit into your financial big picture ... (See Balance transfer strategy)

Options limited if authorized user refuses to pay charges -- Call it authorized-user blackmail: A daughter adds her dad to her card, he runs up the balance, but threatens to stop payments if she closes the card ... (See Authorized)

Balance transfer impact on your credit score -- Moving a high-interest card balance to a lower-interest card you already have shouldn't hurt your score, but there are other issues to consider ... (See Balance transfer)

Credit rehabilitation programs don't do anything you can't do -- The money you give to a credit rehabilitation company could be better spent paying down debt because what those companies do you can do yourself ... (See Credit rehab)

Your rights if a merchant charges you but delays shipping -- You ordered your item and your card was charged, but the merchant takes forever to ship. Do you have any rights to demand faster shipping? ... (See Delayed shipping)

Joint truck lease leaves widow in a lurch -- Leasing a new truck with your spouse doesn't seem like it would be a big deal, unless all of a sudden one spouse is left making the payments alone ... (See Lease)

Charged items have a low risk for repossession -- If someone charges your gift on credit, but then doesn't pay the bill, the odds of it being repossessed are slight. But the risk does exist ... (See Repossess)

Odds slim when suing authorized user for unpaid debt -- You can go after a used-to-be friend in court for not paying you back for charges on your card. You could also ask nicely or write it off ... (See Suing an authorized user)

Be careful with inheritance, spending before bankruptcy filing -- If you're about to file for bankruptcy, what do you do when you know you're about to inherit some money? Can you spend it? ... (See Inheritance)

How balance transfer cards help or hurt credit scores -- Moving high-interest card debt to a 0 percent balance transfer card can help your credit scores, but only if you play by the rules ... (See Balance transfers and credit scores)

Wrong account info doesn't absolve debt responsibility -- If your card account lists an incorrect Social Security number as yours, that doesn't give you a free pass on paying any debt you've racked up ... (See Wrong info)

Seniors vulnerable to credit card fraud -- As people get older, even when they are intellectually still very sharp, it seems to become more difficult for them to determine who to trust and when ... (See Fraud)

Maxed out cards? Don't open another one -- She's maxed out five credit cards and can't pay what she owes on them, but asks if it's OK if she can use the new credit card she got ... (See Maxed out)

Did Macy's ruin my credit when it closed, reopened my card account? -- A shopper is concerned that her credit score is ruined when Macy's closed her old card after issuing her a new one. Don't worry, Sally says ... (See Closed credit card)

Fines owed to city exempt from bankruptcy -- In most cases, back taxes, student loans, child support and fines owed to a governmental body are exempt from being discharged in bankruptcy ... (See Fines)

After illness, cards maxed out, turned down for loans -- When illness results in rising card balances and the banks won't give you a loan to pay them off, what paths can you take to get help? ... (See Maxed out cards)

Tax lien won't impact shared credit card -- When adding someone with a tax lien to your card as an authorized user, that won't open any doors to the Internal Revenue Service ... (See Uncle Sam)

Ways to pay off high-interest debt -- Saddled with expensive debt? Instead of looking for new creditors, figure out why you're in debt in the first place and what you can do to lower it ... (See High-interest debt)

For co-signers, IRS won't count forgiven debt as income -- If you co-sign on a loan and the borrower defaults, you're on the hook for the debt, but if you reach a settlement, you shouldn't have to pay taxes on the forgiven amount ... (See Taxes and co-signing)

Authorized users and charge cards -- Authorized users can't mess up a credit utilization ratio for charge cards, because there's no ratio to upset. However, late pays still damage credit ... (See Charge cards)

Walk away from co-signed loan? No such thing -- Her mother defaults; her kids need student loans. What's a serial co-signer to do? Step No. 1: Put down the pen ... (See Co-sign no more)

Talk to lender before letting debt go to a collector -- If you're late on debt payments, don't just let it go to collections. Your original lender has more loan workout options to offer ... (See Let debt go?)

Mom piggybacked on realty agent's troubled account. What now? -- A real estate agent convinced an elderly woman to sign on to the agent's credit card account to build credit history. But now the agent is bankrupt and collections agents are calling. How can the woman's daughter help? ... (See Piggybacking)

Mom opened checking, credit accounts in my name, left a mess -- Fraud, even by a family member, is a crime that should be reported in order for you to start the process of salvaging your credit ... (See Family fraud)

Law caps service members' rates on old debt, not new -- Put down the credit card, soldier. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act lowers interest rates only on balances incurred before going on active duty ... (See Military)

Fighting garnishment of low wages for medical debt -- A Washington state resident being pursued by collectors for an overdue medical bill can stop attempts to garnish her wages because her earnings are below a legal threshold ... (See Garnish)

They divorced, he died, she's stuck with his $40,000 student loan -- Even though they were divorced before his death, she co-signed on his $40,000 student loan, which means she's asked to repay. What are her options? ... (See Student loans and death)

Divorced woman still cleaning up ex's financial mess -- Five years after their breakup, a woman is trying to see if there's a way to undo the financial damage her ex dumped on her and she unwisely kept ... (See Ex's mess)

Foreign boyfriend's check-cashing request sounds like fraud -- The Internet has created an industry of romantic swindlers whose sole purpose is to rob you by making you think with your misplaced heart ... (See Swindler)

Lowering your interest rate: HELOC vs. 0% credit card -- Transferring credit card debt to a lower-interest card or home equity line of credit may help you become debt free faster -- if you're careful ... (See Balance transfer)

Take care before giving a debt collector your bank account information -- In some cases, debt settlement may be the right option, but verify first that you owe the debt, and then dole out the dough yourself ... (See Bank account)

On disability, facing interest rate creep -- She was on her card's hardship plan to keep her APR low, but then the company changed ownership and her rates keep rising. Is there any recourse? ... (See Hardship rate)

Clean up credit before finding new apartment -- When trying for a new lease, the marks on your credit left by an eviction are harder to remove than stains on an old carpet ... (See Apartment lease)

Stop paying your late mother's credit card debt -- Some advice for a daughter who has continued to pay her deceased mom's card bills for five years, and still owes $3,000: Stop. Now ... (See Death and debt)

Property liens shouldn't be a surprise -- Property liens can be an effective way to get repayment on debts owed, but they're not easy to get and often involve a court judgment ... (See Lien)

Disabled? How to discharge federal student loans -- After taking out student loans to earn a degree, medical issues kept her from pursuing her career. Now 65, she owes big, and a discharge may be her best bet. Here's how to win one ... (See Discharge)

Old debts come back to life with 1099-C -- When an old, unpaid debt gets written off, chances are that you'll receive a 1099-C cancellation of debt notice, meaning Uncle Sam wants his cut ... (See 1099-C)

After divorce, ex leaves joint debts unpaid -- You're never really free of an ex-spouse as long as you have credit card and other debt together. When one stops paying, what recourse do you have? ... (See Ex's debts)

Wife finds another woman's credit card under bed -- Her husband doesn't know whose it is, so what's a perplexed wife to do when she finds, under her bed, a credit card belonging to another woman? ... (See Lost card)

While hiding from abusive ex, she falls behind on loan payments -- A mom and her kids went into hiding to escape an abusive husband last year, but now she's worried how to make good on her lapsed car payments ... (See In hiding)

Ex's ID theft thwarts new couple's finances -- His ex-wife racked up debt in his name on a secret credit card, but agreed to pay if off in the divorce. But how does he clear the debt off his credit reports? ... (See Ex-debt)

Single mom struggling with card payments -- A single mom living paycheck to paycheck wonders how she can clear up the charge-offs and late payments listed on her credit reports ... (See Credit score)

Keeping a card balance to boost credit score is dumb advice -- Some financial "experts" claim that carrying a small balance on your credit cards is good for your credit score. It's time to kiss that myth goodbye ... (See Balance)

She took cash advances on his card, then he died. Does she owe? -- A woman worries that the cash advances she made as an authorized user on a now-deceased man's card will raise the ire of his family ... (See Liability)

How to undo unauthorized card charges -- When you provide a merchant with your card for one item but other items get added to the bill without your permission, it's time to file a dispute ... (See Dispute)

Parent with dementia and a $40,000 debt: Who's liable? -- The cost of an assisted living facility has left no room for even the minimum payments on mom's credit cards. What's an adult daughter to do? ... (See Dementia and debt)

Bad idea: using credit cards to pay for a move -- Relocating to another state without a job, emergency fund or a place to live is just bad planning. Living off credit cards until your ship rolls in is even worse ... (See Living on credit)

Husband's secret debt destroying marriage -- He opened new cards without his wife's knowledge, racked up debt and now can't afford the minimum payments. Should she leave him or give him another chance? ... (See Secret debt)

Resolve medical debt before marriage -- A young couple wants to tie the knot, but his unpaid medical debt looms over them. Should they go ahead with their wedding plans or put them off until the debt is cleared? ... (See Medical debt)

Is family responsible for mom's debt? -- An 89-year-old mom is carrying $20,000 in card debt from purchasing gifts for loved ones. Will the family be liable for the debt when she dies? ... (See Mom's debt)

Debt judgment puts inheritance at risk -- When expecting an inheritance after you've had a judgment against you for unpaid debt, don't worry -- that money doesn't automatically go to creditors. But worry: They'll come looking ... (See Inheritance and debt)

Forging hubby's signature on a card application -- Forging a spouse's signature here and there may be OK, but never on a credit card or loan application, and not if it's done secretly ... (See Forgery)

Ex-wife racks up debt on joint accounts -- When a marriage is over, joint accounts should be severed. If not, an ex's financial misbehavior can come back to haunt you ... (See Divorce debt)

Mom co-signed, now stuck with student loan payments -- When a parent co-signs a student loan for a child, the assumption is usually that the child will make payments after they graduate. But sometimes, things backfire ... (See Co-signing)

Who pays card bill after parent dies? -- Once a parent passes, all bills should go through his or her estate. Even if you used the card with permission prior to death, if it's not your card, it's not your bill ... (See Liability)

Will closing a new, unused card hurt my score? -- If you just got new plastic, but a more attractive offer comes in the mail, would it be OK to cancel the first card and apply for the second? ... (See New card)

Headed overseas? Get an EMV chip card -- If you're headed to Europe, it would be wise to upgrade your magnetic-stripe card to a chip card as many countries have migrated to EMV technology ... (See EMV)

Wage garnishment laws differ by state -- If you're served with a summons for unpaid debt, where you live will determine whether a creditor can recoup funds through wage garnishment ... (See Garnish)

Elderly mom racks up card debt, check-cashing loans -- A daughter needs advice on how to help her elderly mom who has $25,000 in card debt and is relying on check-cashing loans to get by ... (See Breaking debt cycle)

Can a minor be sued for using an adult's credit card? -- When a young person is given an adult's card to make purchases, but then the adult cries foul and threatens to sue, is the child liable for the charges? ... (See Minor)

Can you negotiate medical debt with collectors? -- Yes, you can negotiate over delinquent medical bills with a collection agency, but paying less than what is owed has consequences ... (See Medical debt)

Student loan repayment troubles? Don't delay -- If a student loan ends up in default, your options for repayment become limited, and get worse after wage garnishment ... (See Student loans)

Building good credit doesn't happen quickly -- Paying on time for a few months will not drastically change a credit score, especially if you've lapsed in the past. But with patience and time, your score will rise ... (See Good credit)

Don't share accounts with elderly parents -- Having a joint account with an elderly parent can have serious consequences, including being liable for debts, lawsuits and collection efforts ... (See Joint accounts)

Pay off card charges before bill arrives -- If you budgeted for an item you put on plastic, pay it off right away instead of waiting for the bill to arrive. That way, you'll reduce any interest adding to the balance ... (See Interest charges)

Daughter racks up debt on deceased dad's card -- Not knowing she was just an authorized user, a daughter continued to use her dad's card after he died. Now the issuer closed the card and wants quick repayment ... (See Authorized user)

Husband won't stop charging on joint card -- Sharing a joint credit card can be hard if one spouse uses the card too often and can't pay off the balance. Do they kill the card or get will that make things worse? ... (See Joint credit)

Found your lost purse? Good, but don't use those canceled cards -- If that lost purse or wallet turns up and you've already reported the cards missing, it's too late. Wait for the new ones, and next time, don't carry so many ... (See Lost purse)

Divorce and card debt in community property states -- She's an authorized user on her ex-husband's card, but since they live in a community property state, she's not off the hook ... (See Divorce debt and community property )

Why not leave country and bail on student loans? -- Sure, you can leave your debts behind -- and your family and friends, too. But there are repayment options that can help ease your burden. ... (See Student loans)

Sister opens cards using Mom's identity -- One sister abuses Mom's trust by charging thousands to cards opened using Mom's Social Security number. The other sister keeps it a secret ... (See Stealing Mom's ID)

Old car debt hounds ex-wife -- What do you do do when your wages are garnished to pay for a repossessed car that was jointly owned by you and your ex? ... (See Joint debt)

Foreign exchange students can build a US credit score -- A 20-year-old Chinese student living in the U.S. wants to build an American credit score, and she can: Scores aren't just for U.S. citizens ... (See Foreign student scores)

Divorcing? Your kids don't need a money martyr -- Sally sharply arches her eyebrow at a one-sided divorce settlement that gives him the house, her the debt -- and a self-imposed college fund obligation on top of it all ... (See Divorce and debt)

Stuck with card debt with no job, assets -- She has no work or personal property and cannot afford to pay her card bill. Can she still be pursued for the debt even if she has nothing? ... (See Card debt)

Will card debt scare off student loan lenders? -- With high card debt, no job and a desire to return to school, will qualifying for a student loan be insurmountable? ... (See Student loan)

Student loan co-signer on the hook for delinquency -- A wife co-signed her husband's student loans, which he defaulted on when he lost his job. Should she pay off the balance or not? ... (See Student loan)

Pay off debt vs. settle it: Which is better for your credit score? -- With $4,000 in card debt and five months behind on the bill, she wonders if settling the bill or paying it off is better for her credit score ... (See Credit score and settlement)

Is wife liable for ex's card debt? -- When a spouse has thousands in secret card debt and then files for divorce, exactly who is responsible for repaying that debt? ... (See Ex's card debt)

Stop the debt shuffle, and figure out why you owe so much -- You have $55,000 in card debt. Now you want to borrow against a life insurance policy? Stop. Look at why you're in debt before you go any deeper ... (See Debt shuffle)

Will canceling cards hurt a great credit score? -- Her credit score is 790, but with seven credit cards open, she wonders if she can cancel some without hurting her score ... (See Canceling cards)

Deceased husband's debt haunts wife -- Three years after he passed, his wife receives a 1099-C form for his credit card debt cancellation. Does she have to report this on her income tax return? ... (See 1099-C)

How long does old debt stay on credit reports? -- If a debt is reported as being charged off and passes the state statute of limitations, when does it drop off your credit report? ... (See Old debt)

How to clear a judgment from your records -- She repaid the collector after a judgment was placed against her, but the judgment remains after the collector folded. How does she clear the record? ... (See Judgments)

How old debts can lead to seized assets -- Just because you think a debt is beyond the statute of limitations doesn't mean you can ignore a court summons or bill collector lawsuits ... (See Old debts)

Out of cash, out of work and in debt -- An unemployed couple can't find work in their new state of residence, keep using plastic to get by, but can't keep up with their credit card bills ... (See Unemployed)

Do medical bills show up on credit reports? -- She wants to buy a house, but wonders if her medical bills are what's keeping potential lenders from offering to help her with a mortgage ... (See Medical bills)

Should you pay off card debt slowly or all at once? -- If you're carrying credit card debt, is it better for your credit score to pay it all off in one fell swoop or in smaller installments? ... (See Card debt repayment)

When authorized user status works against you -- A 27-year-old with less-than-stellar credit is only jeopardizing her credit more by adding herself to her mom's card with a really high balance ... (See Authorized user)

After a debt judgment, inheritance may be at risk -- She's being sued for past due credit card debt. Can her creditors go after any inherited property or cash down the road? ... (See Debt judgment)

On disability, can't pay high card debt - is home at risk? -- Coping with a major illness and massive credit card debt, a woman wonders if the card issuers can take her house if she stops payments ... (See Illness and debt)

When does it make sense to roll card debt into a refinance? -- A couple with huge card debt and high-interest mortgage wonders if rolling the card debt into a new, low-rate refinance makes sense ... (See Refinance)

Credit report marred by multiple collectors' marks over one loan -- If a delinquent debt is finally settled, can you get the multiple collectors' notations on your credit report removed? ... (See Credit reports and bad loans)

Quick ways to create a credit history for lenders -- With down payment in hand to buy her first home, but no credit history, a young woman is frustrated by repeated rejections from lenders ... (See Credit history)

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)

How to handle collection calls after a loved one dies -- A widow is being hounded by debt collectors over her deceased husband's unpaid card debt. What are her rights and how can she stop the calls? ... (See Card debt after death)

Beware of co-signing student loans for your kids -- A mom co-signed for her kids' student loans, and now payments are way overdue. Mom's credit score is tanking as result. What are her options? ... (See Co-signer risks)

One late pay won't ruin a credit score - and needn't kill a new romance -- If a guy on a date tells you his credit score got ruined by one late payment while he was on vacation, there's probably more to the story ... (See Late paying lover)

Please help me - I spent too much on Christmas -- She budgeted for holiday gifts, but went way over for the kids. And then, kablooey! There went the car, and here come the bills. Now what? ... (See Holiday budget blues)

Can debt collectors call relatives? Who and when? -- She owes a debt, but has been avoiding the debt collector's calls. So the collector calls her mother and shares private information. Is this legal? ... (See Debt collection)

How to deal with card debt in unemployment -- A single mom is laid off with a son in college and has lots of credit card debt. Will turning to a credit consolidation company help or hurt her dilemma? ... (See Laid off, in debt)

Will high credit card balance hurt recent grad's credit score? -- A mom wonders if her college grad daughter's high credit card balance and regular payments will help build a good score or hurt it ... (See Credit scores, high balances)

Credit cards and Asperger syndrome -- A 29-year-old with Asperger syndrome and under her mother's guardianship wants more freedoms, including a credit card of her own ... (See Asperger syndrome)

Can multiple card payments raise your credit score? -- If you use your card a lot, making multiple payments in the months reduces your credit utilization, which can help boost your credit score ... (See Multiple payments)

How does settled debt impact your credit score? -- With four credit cards in collections, she wonders about the impact of paying less than what she owes ... (See Settled credit card debt)

When to drop a credit card with a monthly fee -- You got the card to rebuild your credit, but it has served its purpose and now its monthly fee is adding up. Do you keep it or cancel it? ... (See Credit card fees)

Charge-backs: How to win disputes over services you didn't receive -- There are steps to follow when disputing a charge on your credit card, including keeping a paper trail of receipts and promises made by merchants ... (See Credit card charge-backs)

Using and signing spouse's credit card is fraud -- An ex-wife is saddled with the credit card debt that caused her divorce, but now her ex wants to sue her for fraud for using his credit cards ... (See Credit card fraud)

Spouse isn't immune to bankruptcy's impact -- When one spouse files for bankruptcy, the other spouse could still be on the financial hook ... (See Bankruptcy)

Can an executor use deceased's credit card to pay for expenses? -- A sibling asks whether it is appropriate for the executor of her sister's estate to use her dead sister's credit card to pay the interment costs ... (See Credit card use after death)

When automatic credit card bill payments can hurt your credit -- Yes, it's nice not to have worry about late payments when you set up automatic bill pay, but sometimes things can go really wrong if you don't pay attention ... (See Automatic bill payments)

Cleaning up your credit score before a house purchase -- Forget the myth that no debt translates to a bad credit score. The fact is the less debt you have, the more a potential mortgage lender will like you ... (See FICO score)

Steps to take to stop debt collection robocalls -- There are steps you can take to stop those annoying debt collection agency robocalls from calling you nonstop for days on end ... (See Debt collection robocalls)

Do you have to tell credit card companies a parent in debt has died? -- A daughter doesn't plan to tell her dad's creditors of his death when he passes, and plans on cleaning out his bank accounts without going through probate ... (See Credit card debt and death)

What to do when a friendly loan goes unpaid -- Lending money to family and friends is risky, especially if you charge that loan to your credit card. What do you do when the bills go unpaid? ... (See Loans to friends)

Debt collectors have to prove the debt is yours -- Not sure that debt is yours? When pursued by collectors, you have the right to ask them to prove that the debt they want paid is truly yours ... (See Debt validation)

Removing yourself from a spouse's credit cards -- Authorized user or joint account holder? Depending on your status, there are different rules for getting your name off a credit card ... (See Joint credit)

Steps to take to clear credit reports of fraudulent card account -- Getting an issuer and the credit bureaus to clear your record of a fraudulent account takes time and patience -- as well as a little know-how ... (See Credit bureau dispute)

How much income tax do you pay on canceled credit card debt? -- If you settled to pay less than you owe on credit card debt, the IRS will consider the forgiven amount as income, which may impact your taxes ... (See 1099-C)

Bankruptcy's effect on marriage -- A single woman in Florida, whose house is underwater, is considering bankruptcy. She worries how that will affect her chances at marriage ... (See Bankruptcy and marriage)

Why a spouse may be turned down for joint credit card: Sally Herigstad -- A couple wants to have a joint credit card, but the bank refuses to add the husband to the wife's card. Our expert tells her why ... (See Joint credit)

Is inheritance threatened by bankruptcy filing? -- Courts don't like people filing for bankruptcy shortly before they get an inheritance, so there are rules about when those funds are truly yours ... (See Inheritance at risk)

Is it wise to use IRA funds to pay off mortgage? - Sally Herigstad Q&A -- Paying off a mortgage when you retire, even if you have to use retirement funds to do so, sounds very appealing. But is it wise? ... (See Paying off mortgage)

Offsetting the impact of a canceled credit card: Sally Herigstad -- When a card issuer surprises you by canceling your card, what steps do you have to take to make sure your credit score won't suffer? ... (See Canceled credit card)

Sally Herigstad: How to fix surprise credit report errors -- You're ready to buy a home, pull your credit reports and find mysterious negative items on them, hurting your chances for the best interest rates. What do you do? ... (See Fix credit report errors)

Sally Herigstad: Protect against credit card debt liability when serving as power of attorney -- Her brother stole her elderly mom's credit cards, so she now has power of attorney and canceled the cards. But will doing so damage her credit in any way? ... (See Elderly credit card debt)

Sally Herigstad: Protecting funds from garnishment when disabled -- Being sued for uncollectable credit card debt when you are disabled seems cruel, but you still need to take the steps to defend yourself ... (See Disabled, in debt)

Protect credit scores when canceling a credit card -- You'll ding your credit score by canceling a card, especially your oldest, but you can minimize it by boosting the limits on other cards ... (See Cancel a credit card)

Sally Herigstad: Should one spouse take full debt responsibility? -- A married couple with joint card debt wants to transfer the balance to a lower rate card. Should the better credit score spouse take on the burden alone? ... (See Joint card debt)

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)

Sally Herigstad: Can you use dad's credit card when he's ill? -- An adult child is taking care of her dying father and wonders about the legality of using his plastic to pay for bills and medical expenses ... (See Using dad's credit card)

Sally Herigstad: Dealing with a spouse's secret credit card debt -- When one spouse repeatedly lies about credit card debt and keeps it a secret, what's the other spouse to do? ... (See Secret credit card debt)

Sally Herigstad: How to get a mortgage with no credit history -- A 27-year-old with no credit history is going to have to jump through extra hoops to qualify for her first mortgage ... (See First mortgage, no credit)

Sally Herigstad: How to help elderly mom get out of credit card debt -- When fixed income seniors are faced with insurmountable credit card debt, what can family members do to help? ... (See The elderly and credit card debt)

Sally Herigstad: 'Residual interest' makes credit card bills tough to pay off -- You thought you paid off your card's entire balance, but then you're hit with not one, but two, bills saying you still owe. Why? ... (See Credit card residual interest)

Sally Herigstad: Defaulted car lease can lead to wage garnishment? -- If you stop paying your car lease, expect to be sued for the balance, and if you don't pay up, wage garnishment might be next ... (See Wage garnishment)

Sally Herigstad: Old, unpaid debts can resurface at any time -- You can change your name and move to another state, but old, unpaid debts have a sneaky way of finding you and ruining your credit ... (See Old credit card debt)

Sally Herigstad: Reduced payment plans not offered by all credit card issuers -- Need help getting your credit card payments reduced for a while? Be prepared to get different answers from your card issuers ... (See Reduced credit card payment plans)

Sally Herigstad: Rebuilding credit doesn't mean going back into debt -- A couple trying to recover from financial disaster want to know the best way to go about building up their lackluster credit scores ... (See Rebuilding credit scores)

Sally Herigstad: It's never too late to learn how to manage your money -- Whether you're 18 or 50, taking the initiative to find out how to manage your money -- and your debt -- can prove to be fiscally satisfying ... (See Personal finance know-how)

Sally Herigstad: How fast can I make a credit score comeback? -- Rebuilding good credit after running up bad debt requires time and patience, but every on-time payment helps the score-healing process ... (See Rebuilding credit)

Sally Herigstad: Laid off, but still liable for ex-employer's card debt -- An employee opened an AmEx business card in her name for her company, got laid off, and is now being held liable for the debt ... (See Small business debt)

Sally Herigstad: Don't restart the clock on expired debts -- If a collector attempts to contact you on a debt that has passed the statute of limitations, don't ignore him, but also don't reaffirm the debt ... (See Time-barred debt)

Sally Herigstad: Ex racks up $40,000 on joint credit cards -- After finally becoming debt-free, an ex-wife is dismayed to find her ex has racked up card debt on two old credit cards in her name ... (See Divorce and credit card debt)

Sally Herigstad: Can bankruptcy tap surprise inheritance? -- Having filed for Chapter 13, a woman discovers a surprise inheritance and worries whether she has to turn over the funds to her trustee ... (See Inheritance and bankruptcy)

Sally Herigstad: Joint cards don't dissolve with divorce -- Getting divorced? If you jointly share credit cards, be prepared to cancel those cards and dissipate the debt before things are finalized d ... (See Divorce, credit cards)

Sally Herigstad: Do you marry someone who has big debt? -- He may be Prince Charming, but marrying someone who is carrying a lot of debt can put a serious crimp in your ability to plan for the future ... (See Marriage and debt)

Sally Herigstad: Dealing with unethical debt collectors -- If a collector threatens to throw you in jail over an unpaid debt, it's time to read him your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ... (See Fair Debt Collections Practices Act)

Don't play around with card phone scams -- When a telephone caller promises a lower credit card rate, but needs your card number for confirmation, hung up fast ... (See Phone scam)

How to handle money when married, but living apart -- When a couple decides to live in different states, what is the best way for them to handle previously conjoined financial matters? ... (See Money and separation)

Sally Herigstad: Will bankruptcy stop wage garnishment? -- Before you even think of filing bankruptcy, make sure you've explored all the wage garnishment exclusions that you may qualify for ... (See Wage garnishment)

Sally Herigstad: When does a debt get too old to collect? -- Hoping that your debt will get too old to be collectible is a risky proposition, not to mention a bit unethical ... (See Statutes of limitations on card debt)

Steps to recover from spousal fraud - -- Giving one spouse full financial control can open the door to fraud -- and you won't know about it until the damage is done ... (See Financial fraud)

Sally Herigstad: Divorce, debt and community property states -- Dividing up assets and debt in divorce is complicated enough, but even more so when you've lived in states with different property laws ... (See Community property laws)

Sally Herigstad: Can wages be garnished before court date? -- If you've been served for past-due debt, don't wait until the official court hearing to respond or you may find your wages garnished before you're prepared ... (See Wage garnishment)

Sally Herigstad: Who pays secret debt in divorce? -- When a spouse living in a community property state has secret debt that comes to light during a divorce, just who has to pay for it? ... (See Secret debt in divorce)

Sally Herigstad: Tying up card debt when death's near -- A reader with cancer has only a few months to live and worries that the balance on her unpaid card debt will fall to her husband ... (See Credit card debt and death)

Sally Herigstad: When bankruptcy makes sense -- With a sick spouse, $20,000 in credit card debt and a small salary, a woman wonders just how she is going to make ends meet.You probably can't, says Sally ... (See When bankruptcy makes sense)

Sally Herigstad: What benefits are exempt from garnishment? -- An unemployed Oregonian worries that her unemployment and Social Security will be garnished for unpaid credit card bills ... (See Wage garnishment)

Sally Herigstad: Dissolving debt dissipates marital discord -- When too much debt keeps your family down, taking steps to pay it off can open up new doors of opportunity ... (See Debt and family)

Sally Herigstad: Is an heir liable for her parent's credit card debt after death? -- A daughter inherited $70,000 from her father's estate, but it turns out he owes $400,000 in credit card debt. Will she have to forfeit her cash? ... (See Death and card debt)

Sally Herigstad: Can debt judgments follow you overseas? -- If you leave the country -- and your debts -- behind, what are the chances that collectors and the law will find you to make you pay up? ... (See Leaving debt in U.S.)

Sally Herigstad: Protect elderly parent's credit card from others -- Unfortunately, some adult children feel no guilt about using their elderly parents' credit cards and racking up debt in their names ... (See Elderly financial abuse)

Sally Herigstad: Bad contractor's collection threats -- When a contractor threatens to sue for unpaid bills on lousy and unfinished work, what are your options? ... (See Contractor complaints)

Sally Herigstad: Some spend lavishly right up to bankruptcy court -- A reader is miffed that his brother continues to spend on lavish vacations and purchases, even though he has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy ... (See Spending prior to bankruptcy)

Sally Herigstad: Who pays fiance's credit card debt if he dies? -- If your intended carries a lot of credit card debt, make sure that your name is not on any of the accounts until after you marry ... (See Credit card debt and death)

Sally Herigstad: When good gift cards go bad -- Retailers, like people, go bankrupt, leaving creditors holding the bag. So when it comes to gift cards, limiting your exposure may be best ... (See Gift cards and bankruptcy)

Sally Herigstad: Help! Ex-spouse won't pay on co-signed car loan -- Even if your divorce decree says he has to pay, the bank doesn't care and has every right to go after the co-signer for payment ... (See Divorce and co-signed loans)

Sally Herigstad: How likely is it you'll be sued for unpaid debt? -- The likelihood of being sued for not paying outstanding credit card debt depends on a variety of factors, but take action before that happens ... (See Odds of being sued for debt)

Sally Herigstad: Keep creditors at bay during bankruptcy filing -- Her lawyer went on vacation before her filing was finished, and now she's being sued by a creditor. What are this reader's options? ... (See Bankruptcy filing)

Sally Herigstad: Will bankruptcy impact an authorized user? -- Without a job and in debt, a wife considers bankruptcy, but asks if her husband is liable for debt on a credit card on which is an authorized user ... (See Authorized user, bankruptcy)

Sally Herigstad: How to deal with a debt limit meltdown -- For those dependent upon government assistance, the threat of suspended payments as a result of the current U.S. budget stalemate causes panic ... (See Debt meltdown)

Sally Herigstad: Protecting your credit when your spouse is bipolar -- When marrying someone who can go on a manic spending spree, the two of you need to agree on financial transparency and a game plan ... (See Manic spending sprees)

Sally Herigstad: Duped by son, mom stuck with $20,000 debt -- What is a 76-year-old woman to do when she co-signs on credit cards and a car loan for her adult son and then he files for bankruptcy? ... (See Co-signing dangers)

Sally Herigstad: Stopping an adult daughter abusing mom's credit -- What steps do you take when your sibling won't stop racking up charges on your elderly mom's credit card without approval? ... (See Elderly abuse)

Sally Herigstad: It's a bad idea to pay one credit card and stop paying the others -- A reader wonders what would happen if she tried to pay off one credit card bill first and not pay on the others. Our expert says she'll only make matters much worse ... (See Stop paying cards)

Sally Herigstad: Collectors can refuse partial payments -- Our expert dispels the myth that submitting a partial payment on an old debt will prevent a collection agency from taking you to court ... (See Debt collection myth)

Sally Herigstad: Computer stolen? What to do now to prevent ID theft -- If you act quickly once your computer is stolen, protecting your identity can be like putting out a small fire, instead of having to call the fire trucks ... (See Identity theft)

Sally Herigstad: How many times can creditors buy old debts? -- Negative credit information should fall off your credit report after seven years, but sometimes collectors disregard the rules ... (See Get rid of old debt)

Sally Herigstad: Inheritance rules after you've filed for bankruptcy -- A reader wants clarification of the 180-day rule about inheriting money after you've filed for bankruptcy ... (See Bankruptcy and inheritance)

Sally Herigstad: How canceled debt can come back as a tax bill -- After her debt was written off in 1998, a reader is socked with a tax bill for $1,392 for the debt cancellation. She wonders if this is legal and if she really has to pay it ... (See 1099-C tax for canceled debt)

Sally Herigstad: Years of caregiving can lead to bankruptcy -- A reader gave up everything to care for her ailing mom and now faces mounting debt, no money and no job. Is bankruptcy the answer? ... (See Bankruptcy and debt)

Sally Herigstad: Seek help for unexpected medical bills -- After being mugged, an uninsured reader is socked with a huge ambulance bill she can't afford to pay. Ignoring the bill will only make things worse ... (See Medical bill help)

Sally Herigstad: Government benefits protected from garnishment -- A disabled woman is being harassed by collectors for an unpaid $300 credit card bill. A new law protecting government assistance funds is on her side ... (See Protected from garnishment)

Sally Herigstad: The care and feeding of livestock and card debt -- An unemployed reader with $30,000 in card debt wonders how she's supposed to feed her horses, llamas and large dogs ... (See Big pets and big debt)

Sally Herigstad: 5 steps to take when debt collectors threaten to put a lien on your home, property -- The FTC prohibits collectors from threatening to put a lien on your property for unpaid debt -- unless they really intend to follow through ... (See Property liens)

Sally Herigstad: Why co-signing on a card for an ex is a mistake -- An elderly divorcee co-signed on a credit card to help her ex-husband. Then he died, leaving her to deal with the collection calls and debt ... (See Credit card co-signing)

Sally Herigstad: Don't settle on a debt for more than you can pay -- When a debt goes into collections, don't agree to a payment plan that you can't realistically pay each month. Explore your budget and your options first ... (See Debt collection)

Sally Herigstad: Charged interest after your card is paid off? -- Don't be surprised if you are billed for "residual interest" on your next billing statement -- even after you finally paid the card off ... (See Residual interest)

Sally Herigstad: Paying the IRS back for its mistakes -- When the IRS sends you a check by mistake, don't think you can cash it and spend the money without the IRS catching up to you later ... (See IRS mistakes)

Sally Herigstad: Protecting your credit during a divorce -- When faced with divorce, it's important to seek the advice of an attorney before agreeing to leave your home or trying to pay off joint debt ... (See Divorce and debt)

Disabled and in debt: Three choices -- A woman living on disability with credit card debt wants to stop paying the $5,800 she owes. Our expert outlines her choices. ... (See Disabled and in debt)

Sally Herigstad: Using a deceased spouse's plastic is illegal -- Once a spouse dies, card accounts in his name only need to be closed immediately. Using that plastic in his name is considered fraud ... (See Credit cards and death)

Sally Herigstad: Bankruptcy can steal inheritance, even if it hasn't yet been received -- A reader wants to file for bankruptcy, but worries the judge will tap her deceased father's lawsuit settlements bequeathed to her to pay off her debts ... (See Bankruptcy and inheritance)

Sally Herigstad: Jobless adult children rack up debt on mom's cards -- Three grown sisters have defaulted on $40,000 they racked up on their mother's plastic and wonder what they can do to fix the situation ... (See Charging on mom's plastic)

When you marry Mr. Debt, be prepared to pay -- Exchanging vows with a debt-laden spouse doesn't make his debts yours, but it puts your relationship on high alert from the get go ... (See Marrying into debt)

Sally Herigstad: Retiring mom stuck with daughter's college debt -- A 60-year-old mom wants to retire this spring, but wonders if she can afford to as she co-signed on her daughter's unpaid student loan debt ... (See Co-signed student debt)

Sally Herigstad: Put off marriage until after bankruptcy -- A reader wants to get married and then file for bankruptcy. Our expert warns her of starting off a marriage on such uneven financial footing ... (See Marriage and bankruptcy)

Sally Herigstad: Laid off: Which bills HAVE to be paid? -- You saved for a rainy day and it's raining. After being laid off, a reader watches her emergency funds dwindle and wonders which bills she can stop paying ... (See Laid off, in debt)

Sally Herigstad: Basic rules for business card usage -- A reader who started her own company questions advice recommending that she use her business credit card for both personal and business charges ... (See Business credit card)

Sally Herigstad: Foreclosure's impact on married couples -- When a mortgage is in one spouse's name, if you choose to foreclosure, the impact to the other spouse's credit can depend on whether you live in a community property state ... (See Credit and foreclosure)

Sally Herigstad: Best ways to spend a $25,000 windfall -- A reader inherited $25,000 and has myriad debts to pay, but can't figure out how to divvy up the money among all her creditors ... (See Windfalls and debts)

Sally Herigstad: Will bankruptcy filing hurt ex-spouse? -- A divorced woman is ready to file for bankruptcy in a community property state, but is worried that her ex-husband may be pursued for her unpaid debts ... (See Bankruptcy and divorce)

Sally Herigstad: Avoid sharing credit with elderly parents -- A reader, whose elderly mom can't get credit in her own name, wonders if it's OK to add mom as an authorized user on her credit card ... (See Authorized user)

Sally Herigstad: Pay off balances or close accounts to boost credit score? -- A reader wants to know if closing card accounts or paying down her balances will improve her credit score ... (See Credit score)

Sally Herigstad: You can run from debt, but you can't hide -- A woman who left an abusive relationship also left her debts behind. Our expert asks her to face the music as she can't hide forever ... (See Leaving debt behind)

Sally Herigstad: Retired, deep in debt. Is bankruptcy the answer? -- After years of borrowing, a retired couple is drowning in credit card debt. Is bankruptcy the only way out? ... (See Retired, in debt)

You found someone's lost debit card. Should you pick it up? -- What do you do when you find a lost debit card on the sidewalk? Some experts say you're in for a host of trouble if you pick it up ... (See Lost debit card)

Sally Herigstad: Is a wife liable for her husband's student loans? -- A concerned wife is worried about her liability for her husband's student loan debt in the event that he passes away ... (See Student loan debt and death)

Sally Herigstad: 3 ways to pay off your mortgage early -- With $65,000 and 12 years left to go, a reader wants to know how to go about paying off her mortgage in five years or less ... (See Mortgage payoff plan)

Sally Herigstad: When nonpayment lands you in court -- A woman is being sued by her credit card company for nonpayment, and she wonders if it makes any difference if she shows up for a court date or not ... (See When card issuers sue)

Sally Herigstad: Disabled and in debt: What to do? -- A reader who is temporarily disabled and unable to work wonders how in the world she can pay on her large debts. Our expert offers some advice ... (See Disabled and in debt)

Paying off joint debt brought into a marriage -- When both partners bring substantial credit card debt into a marriage, it will take a joint effort in order to pay the debt off ... (See Joint card debt)

Sally Herigstad: There's no easy way to make debt disappear -- A couple facing wage garnishment wants to know where to turn to get rid of debt. Our expert warns against believing those debt elimination scams. ... (See Debt elimination)

Sally Herigstad: Options available for buying a home with bad credit -- Just because you're credit's not great doesn't mean that you won't be able to buy a home. It's just a little harder and a little more costly ... (See Bad credit and buying a home)

A newlywed's nightmare: hidden debt -- A new wife gets an unpleasant surprise from her new husband when he reveals that he has $20,000 in debt that he'd been keeping secret ... (See Hidden debt)

Sally Herigstad: Don't allow debt collectors bully you -- Debt collectors can be intimidating, but don't let them coerce you to making payments that leave you flat broke ... (See Debt collection bullies)

Plastic neophyte questions logic of getting credit -- An employed college grad wonders whether she should or shouldn't get that first credit card. ... (See First credit card)

How a new credit card affects your credit score -- A reader "accidentally" applied for a new Costco American Express card and believes that it might hurt her credit score ... (See Credit score)

How to transform a good credit score to great -- Each day this week, our columnists will answer one of our readers' most frequently asked questions. Today, we focus on how to boost your credit score. ... (See Great credit scores)

Sally Herigstad: Best to clean up debt in your home country -- When moving to Canada, it's in your best interest to make sure all your debts are paid back home. Here's why ... (See Moving to Canada)

Sally Herigstad: 4 common myths about debt and marriage -- A reader has suspicions her husband is having an expensive cash-only affair, using plastic to cover household expenses. Is she liable for that debt? ... (See Credit cards and marriage)

Sally Herigstad: Do you marry someone who's deep in debt? -- A woman wonders if she'll ruin her credit by marrying a man who has $150,000 in debt. Our expert says no, but be careful to keep romance and finances separate. ... (See Debt and marriage)

Sally Herigstad: Don't pay a collector's dubious old debt without proof -- If a collector calls wanting payment on a very old debt that you don't remember, odds are that you are being scammed ... (See Dubious debt)

Don't retire card debt with 401(k) savings -- While it may be tempting to cash out retirement accounts to pay down card debt, you'll most likely regret that decision later ... (See Retirement and debt)

How to control elderly dad's financial blunders -- A reader wonders how to get her 84-year-old father to rein in his frivolous spending out of fear that he'll eventually get scammed ... (See Elderly finances)

Losing your job doesn't mean you have to file for bankruptcy -- A reader just lost her job and has $60,000 in credit card and student loan debt. She's considering going bankrupt, but our expert says that's not going to solve her problems ... (See Lost job and bankruptcy)

Tips to handle online debit card theft -- Your physical card doesn't have to disappear to be stolen. Online card thieves just need your card's number for signature-based transactions ... (See Online debit card theft)

Your car loan: Finance or pay it off? -- A reader wants to know if it's better for her credit standing to pay off her car loan or to continue financing for the life of the loan. ... (See Car loans and your credit)

Premeditated card default for ailing father? -- A reader with a poor, ailing father wants to know if she'll be liable for racking up debt on his credit cards -- knowing full well he has no assets to pay ... (See Credit card default)

Get angry at your overdue debt, not your lender -- You've fallen behind on your payments and you're angry at the carmaker who's asking for the payment you agreed to make? Get real ... (See Get angry at debt)

Not signing your credit cards has its hazards -- Contrary to popular myths, not signing your credit card or writing "See ID" in the signature place does not prevent identity theft. ... (See Credit card signature)

The problem with paperless credit card bills: It's easy to forget to pay -- Sure, going paperless is good for the Earth, but not so good for your credit score if you forget to pay your bills. So have backups, or automate ... (See Paperless bill pay tips)

Paying off debt on a fixed income isn't easy -- When your debt is high and your income is fixed, the ability to pay off credit card debt can be challenging. Our expert offers some advice ... (See Fixed income debt options)

An elderly couple's options for dealing with debt -- Health issues and a limited income prevent an elderly couple from paying a big outstanding debt. Our expert offers some options ... (See Debt payment options)

Bankruptcy doesn't absolve spousal support payments -- A reader wants to know if her ex-husband files for bankruptcy, will her spousal support disappear? ... (See Spousal support)

Bankruptcy protects against wage garnishment -- A reader who filed bankruptcy is contacted by an old creditor who threatens wage garnishment. Does she have to pay the debt or not? ... (See Wage garnishment)

There's no easy fix when you're maxed out on credit -- If you're young and already maxed out on credit, it's time to buckle down, pay it off and clear the path for a less stressful future ... (See Maxed out credit cards)

Too many credit cards increases liabilities -- If you have more cards than you can keep track of, then it's time to close some accounts ... (See Too many credit cards)

4 ways to shorten lengthy credit card payoff -- Once the interest rate on a card with a large revolving balance is jacked up, you have to explore options other than paying the minimum ... (See Card payoff)

How a widow should handle collection calls on late husband's 'debt' -- More than four years after her husband died, a widow begins receiving collection calls on debt that may be the result of identity theft ... (See Collection calls)

What types of income are protected from wage garnishment? -- Typically, retirement and disability income are exempt from being tapped for the repayment of unpaid debt. ... (See Protected.)

Paying bills by money order gets expensive -- Fear of being turned down by a bank for a checking account can be unfounded. There are ways to find out if you're eligible to have an account. ... (See Bills)

Credit card charges made by children are invalid -- When minors use your credit card without your knowledge, the law protects them -- and you -- from having to pay for their mistakes. ... (See Minors)

Best use for inheritance: pay debt or create savings? -- A reader inherited some money and is on a mission to be debt free, but wonders whether it wouldn't be smarter to put that cash toward retirement instead. ... (See Free)

Protecting the elderly from credit card collections -- Credit cards and their associated terms and conditions can get very confusing for the elderly who also suffer from dementia. Here's what you can do to help. ... (See Dementia)

Tips for rebuilding your credit after divorce -- A disabled domestic violence survivor and divorcee not only needs to rebuild her life, but also her credit. ... (See Rebuild)

Forget chocolates, lend your credit rating for Valentine's Day -- Chocolates? Diamonds? How about doing your sweetie a favor by giving her a better credit rating for Valentine's Day. ... (See Score)

Negotiating down card debt and your credit score -- You can ask a card company not to report your debt settlement to the credit bureaus, but there's no guarantee that it will comply. ... (See Score)

6 common money mistakes women make -- After more than two years writing for, "To Her Credit" columnist Sally Herigstad recaps the most frequent financial errors women make ... (See Mistakes)

Take steps to prevent bipolar card splurges -- One of the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be overspending. To prevent rampant shopping, there are obstacles you can set up to derail your urge to splurge. ... (See Bipolar)

Resist racking up debt to get back at cheating spouse -- You think hitting where it hurts -- his wallet -- will satisfy your hurt? Don't go there as you may end up paying dearly for your revenge. ... (See Revenge)

Daughter's card abuse hurts mom as authorized user -- A mom wants to be removed as an authorized user from her daughter's delinquent credit card account. Luckily, it's not that hard. ... (See Help)

Don't hide debt problems from collectors, friends or family -- Secrecy about financial troubles only makes them worse. Being more open and building a support system can help you get through the tough times. ... (See Honest)

Hold collectors at bay by keeping accounts current -- When faced with multiple bills, it's better to pay a little on all of them rather than paying down one bill first and making the others wait. ... (See Debt)

Adult son racks up $20,000 on mom's cards -- When an adult child abuses a parent's trust and charges more than $20,000 on joint cards, it's time to get tough and start selling his stuff. ... (See $20,000)

8 tricks to not rack up card debt during the holidays -- Here are some tactics you can use to enjoy the holiday season without racking up a lot of credit card debt. ... (See Debt)

Can debt collectors garnish Social Security? -- Social Security benefits are usually protected from debt collectors, but you need to take certain steps so those funds are never frozen. ... (See Garnish)

How to escape the credit card fee cycle -- Once you miss a payment or pay less than the minimum, you're setting yourself up for a never-ending spiral into the credit card fee abyss. ... (See Fees)

How bad credit affects a new marriage -- If your credit is bad and your new spouse's is good, you need to take certain steps not to taint the good credit spouse. ... (See Bad credit)

Help! My husband's debt is ruining our credit -- Before marriage, her credit was great. Now, her husband's debts are making their lives unmanageable. Is there hope? ... (See Married)

There's a cost to paying less than you owe -- Before you jump at the chance to pay less than what you owe, think about what settling your debt will end up costing you. ... (See Costly)

When the no-interest, same-as-cash deal clock runs out -- If you aren't diligent about paying off a balance during the a no-interest period, you face the high-interest gauntlet. Here's what you can do. ... (See Interest-free period)

Health care cards carry same credit risks -- Sure, you can charge that MRI, but be warned: health care credit cards are the same -- or worse -- than regular credit cards. ... (See Health)

Will cash gifts, inheritance go to creditors after bankruptcy? -- If you recently filed for bankruptcy and are now looking at an inheritance, it's best to make other arrangements for that cash or it could end up going to your creditors. ... (See Cash)

Debt collectors must prove the debt is yours -- A reader is being harassed for debt that she doesn't think is hers. Take these steps to take to prevent debt collection abuse. ... (See Proof)

Beware of 'fake' grandkids calling for cash -- Be warned! A popular scam is proliferating where a "grandchild" calls a grandparent asking for emergency cash or credit card info. ... (See Scam)

Protect yourself from estranged husband poaching your good credit -- If an estranged spouse uses your identity and 'poaches' your good credit, he may have committed fraud. Protect yourself first then decide whether to put the screws to him ... (See Really estranged)

Does credit card debt follow you if you move overseas? -- Moving overseas doesn't mean you strand credit card debt acquired in the States -- especially if you ever plan on returning home ... (See Abroad)

What you stand to lose if you don't pay your credit card bill -- A reader wonders just what would happen to her if she just stopped paying her credit card bill. Legal action, garnishment and property liens, our expert warns. ... (See Pay up)

Best to apply cash to credit card debt or down payment? -- A reader wants to know whether it is wiser to use a lump sum of cash to pay off credit card debt or dump into savings for a future house down payment. ... (See Cash)

Credit card issuers don't make hardship programs easy -- It's a Catch-22. Though you've kept up payments until now, you can't pay anymore. But your issuer won't work with you until you start missing payments. What to do? ... (See Hardship)

10 ways to pay down credit card debt -- A young family with $35,000 in credit card debt wonders whether filing for bankruptcy is the solution. It isn't, says our expert. ... (See Debt)

70 years old with $20,000 in credit card debt -- A senior citizen wants to know how she can manage to pay down $20,000 in credit card debt when she's unemployed and on a fixed income ... (See Broke)

What are your rights when opting out of a rate increase? -- You can't opt out of a rate increase after the stated deadline, but you may be able to freeze the account at the old rate. ... (See Opt out)

Can one spouse's bankruptcy destroy the other's credit? -- If your spouse files for bankruptcy, your credit score may or may not be impacted, depending on where you live and what you owe. ... (See Bankruptcy)

Create a separate credit identity after divorce -- If you are still an authorized user on an ex's credit cards, your credit score is dependent on their payment behavior. Your best bet is to get your own credit. ... (See Divorce)

Protect your credit score during divorce -- When facing divorce, avoid at all costs racking up mounds of credit card debt as you want to be able to start off your new life without undue financial stress. ... (See Divorce)

Starting a credit life after a spouse's death -- A widow wants to know what she needs to do to keep her mortgage and lines of credit after her husband's death. ... (See Death, debt and credit)

Avoid bankruptcy during messy divorce -- The last thing you need to do as you start your new, independent, financial life is to put yourself through the trauma of going bankrupt. ... (See Divorce)

When your ex doesn't pay on joint accounts -- If you rely on your ex to pay down on joint accounts after a divorce, expect to be disappointed. ... (See Joint disaster)

Does it matter who is the primary account holder? -- In times past, creditors may have only reported credit history for the primary account holder -- usually the man. Times have changed. ... (See Primary)

Take responsibility for card overspending -- We know times are hard, but when you rack up credit card debt, it's no one else's financial burden but your own. ... (See Your debt)

Protecting your credit score when paying down debt -- It's a Catch-22: you opt to pay down your credit card debt, but then your credit limit gets cut. What's a cardholder to do? ... (See Cut)

When elderly parents abuse credit cards -- A reader's 80-year-old mother has charged $120,000 on various TV shopping channels. What's a daughter to do? ... (See Mom)

A practical guide of what to expect when filing for bankruptcy -- American bankruptcy laws were created for catastrophic events, where debt resolution can give you a fresh start and let you become a productive, contributing citizen again. ... (See Bankrupt)

Purchase protection on balance transfers -- If you transfer the balance of a credit card purchase to another card, does the original purchase protection still apply? ... (See Transfer)

What's the best way to pay the IRS? -- When faced with a tax bill, it's important to weigh all payment options carefully or you'll end up paying a lot more than you owe. ... (See IRS)

Stop the temptation of credit card convenience checks -- If you never plan to use the blank 'convenience' checks from your credit card company, consider asking your credit card company to stop sending them. ... (See Checks)

Why do credit cards have expiration dates? -- When your credit card renews, it's important to re-evaluate and renew any automatic payments. ... (See Expire)

Who's liable for charges on dead dad's credit card? -- An authorized user wonders who's liable for charges on her deceased father's credit card ... (See Liable)

Teaching adult children financial responsibility -- Co-signing, when done successfully, is like a set of financial training wheels. It should be used only as a temporary measure until the young person is a little less wobbly. ... (See Kids)

Joint accounts: Till debt do you part -- Having a joint credit card with your spouse doesn't cause your credit histories to mix. But missing a payment will affect both credit scores ... (See Credit)

Don't be caught off guard by limited purchase protection -- Many assume when we make credit card purchases, the credit card companies will side with us in a dispute. That's not necessarily so. ... (See Fine print)

10 grandchildren + $100,000 in card debt = bankruptcy? -- Even though bankruptcy may seem like the answer to clean the debt slate, if you don't change your situation, it won't help at all. ... (See $100,000)

What happens to prepaid cards when a business is sold? -- Most business owners follow both logic and good business sense and honor prepaid cards. Sometimes, however, you run into someone who doesn't. ... (See Prepaid)

Good credit cardholders lumped in with bad -- Banks are pulling back more than ever before to limit the amount of risk they have, so even perfect payment clients are compromised ... (See AmEx)

Mad at your credit card issuer? You still have to pay -- Mad at your credit card issuer? While you may resent having to pay that bill, choosing not to pay it will hurt you even more. ... (See Mad)

Exercise caution when selling jewelry to pay down debt -- Selling off jewelry to pay down credit card debt can be a good idea -- as long as you don't get ripped off ... (See Jewels)

Steps to take to pay off old debt -- Your credit report may not reveal all past debts, but contacting creditors may restart the clock on the statute of limitations. ... (See Old debt)

How to avoid debt collectors' fees -- Debt collectors often try to tack on a separate fee to your debt, which is governed by law and has to be reasonable. ... (See Collectors)

When medical problems hit, bankruptcy can make sense -- Bankruptcy laws were created for catastrophic situations, not for carelessness. However, filing should be done only when other options have been considered. ... (See Last resort)

Canceled debts will lead to IRS tax -- When collectors discharge old debts, they will report that to the IRS as income to you, leaving you with what could be a hefty tax bill. ... (See Discharged debts)

How to keep debt collectors at bay -- No matter what your circumstances, you have the legal right to ask collectors to stop harassment ... (See Collectors)

Financial steps to take when you're sinking in debt -- When you're behind on your mortgage and credit card bills, figuring out how to stay afloat may seem impossible, but there are drastic measure you can take to keep from sinking. ... (See Sinking)

Leaving debt behind in another country -- Although credit scores don't cross borders, don't bank on being able to just move away from your money troubles. ... (See Bailing on debt)

The wisdom of bailing family members out of debt -- if that fresh start comes too easily, in a few years they can be back in line looking for another fresh start, and another. ... (See Helping out)

Just say no to store credit cards -- There are too many reasons why you shouldn't want a credit card for every store in the mall, so pass up those one-time discounts. ... (See Stores)

Elderly mother can't pay $14,400 in credit card debt -- An 83-year-old woman can't meet her minimum credit card payments on $14,400 in credit card debt. ... (See Helping mom)

When collectors come after you for ex's unpaid debt -- It's an all-too-common problem: Your ex defaults on credit card debt on a joint account, so collectors are coming after you. What are your options? ... (See Ex-spouse)

Paying less than minimum won't ward off garnishment -- Paying less than the minimum amount won't ward off garnishment. It's best to contact creditors directly to work out a payment plan. ... (See Small payments)

Behind on car lease payments: What to do? -- When facing repossession of your car for falling behind on lease payments, it's best to try to ask for more time rather than steal the car. ... (See Behind)

Take control of debt, avoid bankruptcy -- Bankruptcy is not the easy solution to debt reduction -- it's expensive, takes time and paperwork and destroys your credit rating for almost a decade. ... (See Bankruptcy)

Don't use 401(k) to pay back taxes -- Consider the tax and penalty implications when thinking about tapping 401(k) funds to pay back taxes. ... (See Hands off that fund!)

Learn the three Cs of credit: Credit score, capacity to pay, collateral -- When deciding whether to finance an item over time, consider the three Cs of credit to see if it will hurt your credit score. ... (See Credit tips)

Wage garnishment after unemployment -- A closer look at how wage garnishment works when you lose your job, get a severance package and get unemployment. ... (See Rules)

When debt collectors don't play by the rules -- When debt collectors don't reveal how much you owe, you have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to find out how much you owe, how much you paid and what your interest rate is. ... (See Consumer rights)

In times of financial uncertainty, follow timeless advice -- In this economy, it's important to keep a clear head and not heed the financial advice of all the doomsayers. ... (See Proceed with caution)

Why getting a small business card is smart -- When starting up a small business, it's important to keep business and personal expenses separate for tax purposes. ... (See Start up)

Ignoring outstanding debt won't make it go away -- Unpaid credit card debt won't magically erase itself from your credit report after a certain time -- it will impact your life for decades. ... (See Head in sand)

How credit card balance transfers affect your credit score -- When a consumer is faced with a high-rate card, switching to a lower-rate card is smart, if you do it right. ... (See Balance transfers and credit score)

Can credit repair companies ruin your credit score? -- With $23,000 in credit card debt, can a credit repair company erase or reduce that debt legally without hurting your credit score? ... (See Repair)

It's fraud when an ex opens credit cards in your name -- It's theft when an ex uses your Social Security number to open credit cards in your name, and should be reported to the police and credit bureaus. ... (See Fraud)

Unpaid car lease fees can ruin your credit -- When the lease is over, but over-mileage fees remain, don't leave them unpaid or your credit will take a big hit. ... (See Car lease fees)

Before you refinance, clean up your credit score -- When refinancing your home, it's best to check your credit score for errors or delinquencies so that any dings can be repaired before you apply for the loan. ... (See Refinancing)

Will cashing in retirement funds help my credit score? -- To Her Credit columnist Sally Herigstad advises a reader not to cash in all of her retirement in order to pay down credit card debt in an attempt to raise her credit score. ... (See paying off debt)

Steps to take when collectors violate your rights -- As a credit card account authorized user, you have no financial responsibility for this account, and the bank knows it. That doesn’t stop unscrupulous companies from trying to collect, however. ... (See Collections violations)

How one spouse's good credit score can boost a poor credit score -- There are ways your good credit score can boost your spouse's poor credit score, but make sure you both set up solid financial goals first and don't stray from the plan, says To Her Credit columnist Sally Herigstad. ... (See Credit score)

When is a debt too old to go into collection? -- Saddled with an 8-year-old credit card debt, a senior citizen living on just Social Security wants to know what her rights are. ... (See Old debt)

Is selling your house to pay down debt a good idea? -- A reader who has $75,000 in credit card debt wants to know if selling her house to pay off debt is a good idea. ... (See Credit card debt)

To detect fraud, credit card issuers monitor all your purchases -- Credit card company fraud departments monitor their cardholders purchases to detect unusual patterns or purchases. ... (See Credit card fraud)

Improve your credit score by keeping credit card balances low -- Experts now say you should be using no more about 50 percent of your available credit -- not the 67 percent you are using now. ... (See Credit score)

Retired, with $70,000 in credit card debt -- Tips on how to reduce astronomical credit card debt on a fixed income. ... (See Credit card debt)

Charging up a storm before filing bankruptcy is considered fraud -- Thinking of loading up your credit cards before you file bankruptcy is considered fraud. ... (See Credit card fraud)

Debit vs. credit: Which offers more protection? -- Debit card issuers are increasing consumer protections similar to credit cards. ... (more)

When a child obtains a credit card, who's liable for debt? -- A 15-year-old charges up $2,000 in credit card debt. Her parents wants to know who is responsible for paying off the balance. ... (more)

3 things you should never check daily: your weight, your stocks and your credit score. -- There are three things you should never check daily: your weight, your stocks and your credit score. ... (See Credit score)

How canceling a credit card will impact your credit score -- Elements to consider when canceling a long-standing credit card and how that cancellation will impact your credit score. ... (more)

When balance transfers make sense -- There's no sense in delaying balance transfers to lower interest rate credit cards if your credit is good. ... (more)

Two years behind on credit card payments -- How do you even begin to pay back credit card debt that is two years old? ... (See Credit card debt)

Self control and credit cards -- Don't shun credit because you've had trouble with overspending in the past. A strategy of taking on credit in small doses is better for you, says Sally Herigstad. ... (See Credit card management)

How to ask for a lower credit card interest rate -- Armed with a phone, a good payment history and lots patience for time on hold, To Her Credit columnist Sally Herigstad asked for and got lower interest rates on her credit cards ... (See Credit card APR)

To co-sign or not to co-sign -- A mother wants to help her daughter buy a house, but due to the daughter's bad credit, will have to co-sign the loan. 'To Her Credit' columnist Sally Herigstad weighs the benefits and the risks of co-signing on someone else's loan. ... (See Joint credit)

Establishing credit after divorce -- A stay-at-home mom who finds herself divorced with no credit of her own gets a path to her own credit history from 'To Her Credit' columnist Sally Herigstad. ... (See New credit)

While paying off debt, learn investing, says 'To Her Credit' columnist Sally Herigstad -- If put off investing, you may get bogged down in trying to pay off your debts and never be able to start your portfolio. ... (See Saving for retirement)