When Exactly is the Last Minute?

When making a last-minute credit card payment by phone, the definition of “last minute” matters. Does the company consider the day to end when they close at five, or at midnight? Are they assuming Eastern time or some other time zone?

Even if you usually pay ahead of time, it couldn’t hurt to call and find out when their “last minute” is, and make a note of it. Things happen sometimes, and you may want to know at some point in the future.

If it happens that you miss the last minute and incur a late fee, it can’t hurt to call and explain what happened. Maybe they’ll reverse it, especially if you have a strong previous payment record.



Thinking of Co-Signing a Loan?

Think about this: three out of four co-signers end up paying the debt themselves.

Co-signing isn’t just a recommendation or a personal reference. It’s a financial obligation.

Even the most conscientious person can lose their job or get sick, and then you’re stuck with either paying their debt or taking the hit on your own credit report.

Your Credit Score, Find it, Fix it

Having a good credit score can save you money. It makes you eligible for lower interest rates when you need to borrow money. It can make your insurance rates lower. Some employers now use credit scores as part of deciding whom to hire. The FICO credit score scale runs from 300 to 850. Above 700 is good, above 750 is excellent. is a good free resource. They show you most of what a credit report would show you, right there online. Some credit cards will show you your FICO score on their websites.

Everyone is entitled to one free credit report from each of the three bureaus every year. You can get them at http://www.annualcredit or (877) 322-8228. (Do NOT confuse this with the site with the catchy ads. Their report is only “free” with a paid membership.)

The three credit bureaus can be contacted at:

Different bureaus may have different errors. If you’re getting ready to apply for something big like a mortgage, you’ll want to check all three. If you’re not, then checking different ones a few months apart will monitor your credit more closely than one yearly request of all three at once.

Finding and correcting errors on your credit report is an important first step to improving your credit score. In the identifying information section, look for wrong spellings of your name and for names that aren’t even yours. Look for an address you never had, wrong birthday and wrong social security number. This part is very important, to prevent suffering for someone else’s bad credit. If you have a common name, or are a Jr. or a Sr., this is vital.

In the credit accounts section, look for anything you will want to dispute with the credit reporting companies. These include:

  • Accounts that aren’t yours
  • Negative entries (except bankruptcy) that are more than seven years old
  • Negative entries your spouse received before your marriage. (Positive ones can just as well be left there.)
  • Entries that show as past due even after it was wiped out in bankruptcy
  • Negative entries that aren’t true. It’s your account, but you never paid late.
  • Watch for repeats: sometimes the original creditor reports an account and then a collection agency reports the same account.

In the credit inquiries section you’ll see a record of anyone who asked about your credit, such as if you applied for a credit card. Having too many of these will look bad. If you find any that you didn’t authorize or that are more than two years old, you can dispute them. Your own inquiries about your own credit don’t count against you.

In the public records section you can dispute any paid tax liens or judgments that are over seven years old. You can dispute bankruptcies more than ten years old that don’t have a specific code such as chapter 7, chapter 13, etc.

Send the list of disputes to the credit bureau. They then have to check with the reporting entity to verify it. If the creditor doesn’t respond, or admits it’s inaccurate, the bureau will remove the entry from your record.

If the creditors don’t update their records, they may send in the same wrong information again the next time they report to the credit bureau. For this reason, it’s smart to do this kind of cleanup just before applying for something important. That way any stubborn errors won’t have come back yet during your application process. Then follow up at least every year to make sure the errors stay gone.

What if you have a negative item which is true, but there are reasons for it such as illness or divorce? You are allowed to send a one-page letter to the credit bureau with a request that it be made part of your file. An effective letter will explain briefly and calmly what happened. Most importantly, it will show why such a thing is unlikely to happen again in the future.


What if you have no credit history or have bad credit? One option is to get a pre-paid credit card. You pay the company up front and your limit on the card is the amount you paid them. This allows you to have a credit card on your credit record, without getting in over your head spending too much with it. They do charge fees for this, so do the math to see if it’s going to be worth it to you. Having a bank account and a phone or other utilities in your name is also a good start to building or rebuilding credit.


Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.


Credit – Times Have Changed

If you’re near my age, you remember when it was “good” to have some credit, and to use it. Now, they want you to have a lot of credit, and use as little as possible. When I say ‘use,’ I mean carry a balance from month to month and owe interest, not pay with a card and pay the card in full each month.

“They” are most impressed if you have a very large amount of AVAILABLE credit. Large credit lines, with small or zero balances.

I agree with them. I think the most effective use I can make of my credit is to keep it active by using the card, and keep it clean by paying it off either in the same month or within a month or two. The main benefit to me of a credit card is to be able to pay for something like a car repair that costs too much to pay out of pocket. Then I have a month or two or three to pay off that expense gradually.


Read more about getting and maintaining good credit in my book:

Overwhelmed with Student Loans?

Lucky for me I’m so old my entire four year college education cost $6,000. On the other hand, at that time my loan payments were my second largest expense after rent.

Now, the cost of education is so high I have trouble comprehending it. If your student loans are killing you, here’s something that might help:

Common Bond seems like a sensible way to get loans under control.

Here’s a review:

As with anything, compare costs and consider all the possibilities.

Tell Your Card Issuer In Advance

Many debit and credit card issuers now watch our accounts for activity that isn’t normal for us, to nip theft in the bud. If a home-body suddenly starts charging airfare and hotels, often they will place a temporary hold on the card until they can contact the customer and confirm that this unusual usage is legitimate.

If you’re not a gamer at all and suddenly buy a raft of them, the card issuer wonders if the card was stolen. They don’t know your grand kids want those for Christmas.

If you aren’t prepared for this, it can slow you down in paying your normal bills and activities with that card.

You can save a little aggravation by calling the company before starting an uncharacteristic series of purchases.

Wonderful review

I am so moved by this review. “Tightwad Gazette of the 21st Century” is exactly what I wanted people to think about it:

“Great book!, February 18, 2014

By Lita McRiley “Sorlina”See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

This review is from: Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely (Kindle Edition)

This book is jam-packed with tips, ideas, and strategies for saving money. It’s the Tightwad Gazette of the 21st century… internet addresses for DIY help, encouragement for readers, personal anecdotes, this book has it all. To top it off, it’s delivered in a light, easy to read style that isn’t preachy or judgmental. A very helpful, and enjoyable, read!”

The Tightwad Gazette has been the “bible” of thrifty living. My hope was to make it the ‘old testament’ and mine the ‘new testament’, and it seems I have succeeded.