Online Calculator for Credit Card Purchases

Paying with a credit card may cost you more than you think.  Depending on how fast you pay off your credit card bill, the interest could exceed the sale or coupon you used in the purchase.  Find out exactly how much that credit card annual percentage rate (APR) will cost you with this easy online calculator. This free online calculator is provided by Jeff Atwater, State of Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, on his website http://www.myfloridacfo.com/YMM/Calculators/CostOfCredit.aspx.  Enter the purchase price, APR, and amount you plan to pay each month, then the calculator will show you how much total interest you will owe, and how many months it will take to pay off the purchase with interest. You may want to adjust how much you are willing to spend on the initial purchase (get a less expensive item), or be more aggressive at paying your credit card bill (pay more each month).  Knowing how much (and for how long) you will be paying can help you make better budgetary decisions for your financial fitness and overall purchasing power.   Read More

Infamous Black Tuesday

Today is Thursday, but in 1929 the 29th of October fell on a Tuesday…so did the Stock Market.  In more recent history, we have encountered the Great Recession.  While we continue the recovery, sometimes old credit card debt comes back to haunt, making consumers victims of Zombie Debt. Zombie Debt is debt that has been dead for a while, but does not know it is dead, and walks the streets looking for a victim.  The problem with Zombie Debt is that the debt is matured when the consumer fails to make payments.  Once the debt is matured, then the Statute of Limitations clock begins to tick, and runs for five to seven years (depending on which state the credit card is initiated). Another problem with Zombie Debt is that Zombie Debt collectors will say anything to get you to reanimate the debt; they whisper sweet nothings like, “Send us five dollars.” Beware, even a penny can resurrect the dead debt. Even if you already have a Judgment against you for this debt, you could be faced with a second Judgment for the same debt. The business model for collecting on Zombie Debt is based on numbers—debt-buyers purchase debt in bulk […] Read More

Social Security Reminder

Your Social Security benefits were not meant to be used to pay off a credit card debt in Small Claims Court.  If you are living off Social Security, you may be able to claim those benefits as exempt from a debt collection judgment.  The key to that exemption is that you have to claim it.  Just because you are eligible does not mean you automatically get it. August 15, 1953 is the anniversary of when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, providing financial assistance for the elderly, the blind, the disabled, and the unemployed.  While everyone should pay their bills, people have to be able to stay in their homes, feed themselves, and put gas in their cars.  Therefore, do not promise Social Security income to cover a collection judgment; claim an exemption instead. Seek competent legal advice to learn more about exemptions from judgment.  You can learn more at St. Johns County Legal Aid at 222 San Marco Avenue in St. Augustine (no appointment necessary to pick up a free pamphlet about collection exemptions and how to claim them).  Even if you do not qualify for Legal Aid, they have a lot of pamphlets […] Read More

Holiday Hangover on Your Credit Cards?

The holidays are over and the credit card bills are coming in.  Before you pawn the diamond ring of your current marriage, you may want to take a look online to see what funds may be available to you through unclaimed property held by the State of Florida. Jeff Atwater, Chief Financial Officer of Florida has over a billion dollars’ worth in dormant accounts and things people have left in safe deposit boxes.  There is no cost to claim it, and no statute of limitations to make a claim.  A free online search could put dollars in your pocket.  For more information and to search what may be available to you, go to the State’s Division of Accounting and Auditing Bureau of Unclaimed Property website at https://www.fltreasurehunt.org/. Read More

Credit-Building New Year’s Resolutions

The spin cycle of revolving credit goes something like this:  you spend what you do not have on items you cannot afford, so you charge purchases on a credit card where your debt racks up large interest fees.  You can break the cycle and build better credit with these simple New Year’s resolutions: Pay your bills on time every time No new credit – do not open new credit accounts or take out new loans Pay down large balances Make a budget and stick to it – you can use the free online budget provided by the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-1020-make-budget-worksheet.pdf May you have a prosperous new year! Read More

Steps to Better Credit

Are you receiving calls from creditors and collection agencies?  Working overtime to try to keep up with your bills?  Using your savings to cover daily expenses?  These can be signs of bad credit.  While bad credit is a problem—it makes getting a new loan more expensive or impossible—there are steps you can take to improve your credit score. The basics are basics include pay your bills on time, pay down outstanding balances, and stay away from new debt.  Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi offers these further tips to personally manage your debt: Set up a household budget to guide your spending patterns. The budget should detail your monthly income, as well as your monthly expenses. Your budget should outline a spending plan which insures that your income will exceed your expenses each month. Don’t go any deeper in debt! Put your credit cards away and make a concerted effort to refrain from accumulating any more debt in the coming months. Pay cash or use a debit card. If you must charge something in an emergency, use the card with the lowest interest rate. Use daily money-saving strategies to free up more money. Cut out needless expenses and save money where […] Read More

Shopping for Better Credit

There are 31 shopping days left until Christmas.  Minimize the holiday hangover on your credit card bills with a spending budget. Generally you do not want to max out your credit cards or open new lines of credit if you are trying to build credit (as for a home, auto, or student loan in the near future); however, holidays can be tough.  A budget can help you stay on track for your spending and saving goals. If you can talk, text, and wrap presents, you can make a budget.  The State of Florida has a free online holiday budget calculator at http://www.myfloridacfo.com/YMM/Calculators/Holiday.aspx. …And remember to pay your bills on time every time. Read More

No Defense? No Problem

Debt collectors are standing by to take up to 25% of your paycheck.  Did you have trouble paying your credit card bill?  Maybe you did not notice the Small Claims Court suit filed against you (or you did not know what to do about it)?  No problem.  If you did not show up to your court date the debt collector has a simple remedy:  Get a default judgment against you that allows him to take 25% of your paycheck every payday. That is no big deal, right?  After all, what is a quarter of your earnings?  What would you use that money for anyway—Rent?  Groceries?  Gas to get to work?  Everybody can give up 25% of their net income, right? Everybody should pay their bills; however, you should not have to decide whether to pay your credit card bill or put food on the table.  There are exemptions you can file to protect certain incomes so that you can pay for basic needs.  Exempt incomes include: Income of head of household at a certain level Social Security benefits Pension Disability The key to an exemption is you have to claim it.  Even if you have an eligible exemption, you do […] Read More

Payback is Heck with Consumer Debt

Being in debt is bad.  Having up to 25% of your wages garnished, or having your bank account swept clean without advance notice can be a life-affirming experience…not in a good way. In Florida, debt collectors can take up to 25% of your net pay for things like old credit card debt, medical bills, and/or student loans.  Or they can sweep your bank account for the amount that you owe without prior notice—you wake up one day and whatever you owe them, that money got disappeared.  Later when you receive that notice of garnishment, you also get a form to file for exemption.  Everyone should pay their bills, but you have to be able to stay in your home, feed yourself, and put gas in your car—that is why certain incomes are eligible for exemption, like head-of-household at a certain level, pension income, Social Security benefits, or disability. The key to that exemption is that you have to claim it.  Just because you are eligible does not mean you automatically get it. Seek competent legal advice to learn more about exemptions from judgment.  (You do not need an appointment to pick up a pamphlet at Legal Aid about collection exemptions […] Read More

What’s In Your Wallet?

Whether it is your paycheck or bank account, debt-buyers are standing by.  While garnishment used to be the purview of child support, it has begun to share the spotlight with debt-buyers, and in Florida, they can take up to 25% of your net income, or sweep your bank account for everything in it. Debt-buyers purchase delinquent accounts in bulk for pennies on the dollar.  Their business model is a numbers game:  they know they will not collect on every account, but they have so many of these accounts that they will make a profit, despite their losses.  Furthermore, if they can get a money judgment against you, they can wait up to twenty years to collect. Often these are delinquent accounts that wind up in Small Claims court for amounts less than $5,000—old credit card debts and medical bills.  The claim may not start as a large amount, but the interest piles up. Just because you owe money does not mean you lack rights. Consumer debt comes with a lot of paperwork.  A Small Claims Court notice can get lost in the shuffle, the consumer does not show up in court (or does not defend) and the debt-buyer wins by […] Read More