I am officially the owner of a 3-year-old, new-to-me car and a $9,300 auto loan. If you've been following my student loan debt saga, this news may come as a surprise. I'll admit I've had a couple brief moments of buyer's remorse since signing the papers, but despite all that, I firmly believe I made a good financial decision.

It was all my fault, and I felt awful about it. Worse yet, I was stuck with it, unless I got a break.

I'm talking about a $25 late payment penalty fee on a department store credit card that I opened within the last few months. As so many people have, I signed up for the card at the checkout counter, largely for the discount, and didn't really concern myself with the interest rate. But I would pay it all off in a big hurry, so I didn't have much to worry about - or so I thought.



A substantial number of young people are bucking tradition and putting off marriage until they feel more financially secure, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.

Serving as the elected leader of the Cayman Islands is no day at the beach. Just ask William McKeeva Bush (no relation to the American political family), the first and now former premier of the Caymans, whose term in office ran from his election in May 2009 until his arrest and subsequent ouster from office in December 2012. Bush is currently being tried on 11 counts related to charging nearly $50,000 at hotels and casinos in Florida, Las Vegas and the Bahamas to his government credit card during his first year in office. He also faces three counts of importing explosives without a valid permit; no word on whether he charged them.

If you're struggling to build or rebuild your credit, you may want to look into obtaining a small dollar loan from a nonprofit lender.

Some of the skills that help you win your fantasy league can also help you make a smart decision with your credit card.

Here are six things about picking a credit card that I learned from playing fantasy football:



Why do unpaid loans take seven years to expire from your credit report? Good question. Industry experts don't know how the period came to be embedded in the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Even one of the authors of the 1970 law isn't sure.

It's easy to become overwhelmed by complex reward programs and, as a result, neglect some really useful card benefits, miss out on earning as many reward points or miles as possible or even, god forbid, unknowingly lose hard-earned points. If you want to start making the most of your credit card's travel rewards program, here are three things I've learned along the way that help me get the most out of mine:

Medical debts are wounding consumers with unfair black marks on their credit reports, consumer advocates told Congress this week. Complex medical bills, aggressive debt collectors and error-prone credit reports are a toxic combination for consumers' financial well-being, critics say.

More than five years have passed since the Great Recession formally ended in June 2009. But for many Generation Xers, it's still not over.

Commission-driven collectors have little incentive to steer borrowers toward programs that help them make affordable payments and complete their degrees, according to a consumer advocate group.

Working through college may put students at risk for a more expensive and longer education experience, but a part-time job after class can do more than soften the financial blow of rising tuition costs.

After debts were erased in bankruptcy, Chase Bank left them marked "unpaid" on people's credit reports as a pressure tactic to boost collections, a class-action lawsuit charges. The bank denies it, but a bankruptcy judge ruled the case has enough merit to get its day in court.

When a family member told me they're skipping college in order to avoid the extra debt, I couldn't bring myself to tell them that they're making a huge mistake. A lifetime of low earnings makes it tough to get by. But so does crushing debt. Here's what the numbers from new studies say.

Recently, I got a shiny new credit card. "Oh, the places you can go," I thought. Then I thought of Virginia's former First Couple, Robert and Maureen McDonnell, convicted of corruption after racking up more than $90,000 in credit card debt.

If your credit card issuer has already sent you a new card featuring a metallic square on its face, congrats. You're ready for the national shift to a data-encryption card technology known as EMV. In fact, you may be more prepared than the majority of U.S. retailers.

Soon after my husband and I found out we were expecting, I drew up a list of "must-have" baby items -- ranging from a car seat and stroller to baby sunscreen. At the time, I thought I was being selective. But when I added everything up, I was shocked: It would cost us nearly $2,000 to purchase the items on my list -- and I hadn't even included diapers and baby clothes, apart from a few basics.

Summer is just winding down, but I've already seen holiday countdowns on the Internet. It may seem crazy early, but retailers are already prepping for holiday shopping season. And if you have your finances' best interests in mind, maybe you should be, too.

I'm turning 30 in a few weeks and, according to some personal finance experts, I've only completed a fraction of the financial moves I'm supposed to have made by now.

Carrying student loan debt can make you question your life choices, stay in more often on Friday nights and promote higher levels of ice cream consumption and now there's data to prove it.

Believe it or not, the same strategies master negotiators use to broker multi-million-dollar business deals can also net you big discounts with retailers, financial institutions, and service providers.

Lenders, potential employers or landlords aren't the only one clamoring for access to your personal credit history. Some health care providers use it to decide whether or not patients can afford costly medical treatment. And even the federal health insurance marketplace, HealthCare.gov, uses it to verify applicants' identities.

The new cardholder perks have worn off and reports of rising APRs, complex rewards programs and the spending temptation the card creates have settled in and you're ready to close your retail credit card account. However, you might have other options. Here are a few suggestions based on common retail credit card woes:

In its attempts to hold colleges, universities and vocational schools more accountable for the student debt they generate, the U.S. Department of Education has so far pleased few. Its proposed gainful employment rule is suffering a Goldilocks syndrome in which the public complains it's either too hot (goes too far) or too cold (not far enough). So far no one seems happy with the temperature as it stands.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is taking a fresh look at costly overdraft fees and is considering imposing new rules on the controversial practice.

If you are getting ready to head off to college for the first time (or are a parent preparing to drop your college kid off at school), here are six things you can do before leaving home to make sure you're more financially prepared for college than I was.

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