October 2009 - Posts - Dollar Stretcher Guest Bloggers
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October 2009 - Posts

  • Latest Credit Card Numbers Show Recovery May Be Slow

    by Bill Hardekopf

    The September performance numbers from credit card issuers show the economic recovery may not happen as quickly as politicians are predicting.

    The delinquency rates, the percentage of accounts where payments are overdue by at least one month, have increased for five of the six top credit card companies when comparing the September rates to August. (American Express reported an identical delinquency rate.)

    In addition, the default rates for issuers are still at very high levels. However, the silver lining in the statistics is that five of the six top issuers reported decreases in their default rates in September (only Capital One posted an increase).

    These high delinquency and default rates could mean that consumers might continue to see rate and fee increases in the coming months, as well as credit limit decreases on their credit card accounts.

    Bank of America has the highest annualized card write-offs (14.25% in September) and payments at least 30 days overdue (7.53% in September). Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis said that the company is looking at changes that need to be made in its credit card infrastructure and other ways it can make money. Just last week, Bank of America announced that it is adding an annual fee to select accounts.

    Issuers can't continue losing money. They have to find ways to make up the revenue, even if this angers Congress and consumers. To make matters worse for issuers, some fees and rate hikes will be prohibited after certain provisions of the CARD Act goes into effect in February. Congress is also considering changes to the interchange fee.

    Here are the delinquency rates by issuer for August and September. These represent the percentage of accounts where payments were at least 30 days overdue (at least 35 days for Citigroup accounts):

     

    August

    September

    Bank of America

    7.47%

    7.53%

    Discover

    5.35

    5.57

    Citigroup

    5.38

    5.50

    Capital One

    5.09

    5.38

    JP Morgan Chase

    4.48

    4.69

    American Express

    4.10

    4.10

     

    Here are the default rates by issuer for August and September. These are the annualized percentages of credit card write-offs:

     

    August

    September

    Bank of America

    14.54%

    14.25%

    Citigroup

    12.14

    10.15

    Capital One

    9.32

    9.77

    Discover

    9.16

    8.69

    American Express

    9.00

    8.40

    JP Morgan Chase

    8.73

    8.12

    Bill Hardekopf is CEO of LowCards.com, a site that simplifies the confusion of shopping for credit cards. It is a free, independent website that helps consumers easily compare credit cards in a variety of categories such as lowest rates, rewards, rebates, balance transfers and lowest introductory rates. It also gives an unbiased ranking and review for each card. The LowCards.com Complete Credit Card Index is the most objective and comprehensive resource on the Internet which allows consumers to compare rates for all 1060 credit cards offered in this country.

  • Freezer Cooking

    by Susanne Myers, The Hillbilly Housewife

    As a busy mom, I love being able to make bigger batches of some of our favorite family meals and then freezing half or more for later. I developed quite a few different freezer cooking strategies including cooking double (or even triple and quadruple) batches of food, cooking a different freezer meal alongside what you’re cooking for dinner, etc.

    One of my family’s favorite freezer meals is baked taco beef squares. I can easily make a double batch of this, have one for dinner and freeze the other one.  Here’s the recipe.

    Baked Taco Beef Squares

    1 lb. lean ground beef
    1 C Cheddar cheese, shredded
    1 C Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
    1 (4 oz.) can green chilies, drained and chopped
    1/2 C bottled taco sauce
    2 large eggs, lightly beaten

    Set the oven temperature to 350 degrees and allow the oven to heat. Break up the beef in a large skillet. Position the skillet over medium heat. Brown the meat for 10 minutes or until completely cooked through, stirring occasionally. Drain the meat well and return to the skillet. Stir both types of cheese into the meat. Add the chilies and stir to combine. Pour in the taco sauce and blend it in well. Add the egg and stir until completely combined. Spread the mixture evenly into an 8 inch square baking pan. Bake 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes 6 servings

    To reheat, partially thaw in the refrigerator. Place in a casserole dish and cover loosely with foil.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and heat the casserole for approximately 35 minutes or until completely heated through.

    Since you’re browning ground beef with this recipe, here’s another quick freezer meal tip. Buy your ground beef in bulk and then brown all of it at the same time, seasoning it only with a little salt and pepper. Drain off any excess oil, then allow the beef to cool a bit before packaging it in single use portions into freezer bags and sticking them in your freezer. Then when you’re ready to make spaghetti meat sauce, tacos or a casserole that uses cooked ground beef, just grab it and cook with it.

    If you’re thinking ahead, you can stick the frozen ground beef in your fridge in the morning and it will be thawed and ready to use in your recipe by the time you get back. If you’re like me and forget to do that half the time, you can either defrost it in the microwave or heat it in a skillet until it’s thawed.

    If you’d like more freezer cooking tips, get Freezer Cooking Made Simple. As a thank you for participating in my frugal blog tour, I’d like to give you a special coupon that will allow you to order the freezer cooking made simple guide for $5.00. Use coupon code STRETCHER$5

    Of course 20% of all sales during the month of October will be donated to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. Again, I would like to encourage you to leave a comment and share your tips and ideas. I will randomly pick one person to win a copy of the Freezer ebook as well as several recipe collections that complement and expand on the Freezer Cooking Made Simple cooking made simple guide.

    Susanne Myers is responsible for HillbillyHousewife.com website. You may want to check out the HillbillyHousewifeClub.com, a membership site for frugal minded moms where we share recipes, tips and plenty of resources to help us all stretch each dollar to the max.

  • Collection Complaints? What To Do If You Are Harassed By A Bill Collector

    by David Moakler

    New hotline designed to report the abusive actions by rogue bill collectors. Consumers may call the Collection Complaint Hotline. If they have been victims of abuse, they may turn the tables and seek compensation. Settlements are being awarded to consumers.

    Waxhaw, NC September 1, 2009 -- When senior citizen Dorothy Jones got home from having heart surgery, she thought the worst of her troubles were behind her. Then she got a call from a debt collector who didn't care that she was recently hospitalized. "He called me a thief, a liar, and said he was glad I wasn't his grandma." After days of the calls and abusive language, Jones found herself back in the hospital due to the stress and anxiety. Weeks later, she received a large check as a result of the collector's obnoxious behavior.

    Victims like Dorothy can now call the Collection Complaint Hotline at (800) 379-0688. Since many collection agencies still believe that being "nice" doesn't get the bill paid, some continue to use threats or find other ways to harass to get people to pay up. According to the FTC, collection complaints have risen steadily since 2003. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a code of conduct which collection agencies must follow by law. If they continue to call you at work after you ask them not to, or treat you rudely, or disclose your debt to any third parties, you may be entitled to money damages. "If they violate the requirements under the law, a victim can receive a speedy settlement, typically around $1500," says attorney Jeffrey Hyslip. In addition, the debt collector is required to pay the attorney fees for anyone that successfully sues them. Consumers can call the hotline to speak with a counselor about a troubling experience they are having with a collection agency. If a violation is found, the department will file a collection complaint and seek compensation from the collector. Hyslip, a former debt collector himself, has assisted over 5000 consumers with collection complaints. The group has helped victims recover over $3 million in the form of settlements. The Collection Complaints Hotline has been a useful ally for numerous consumer groups.

    For more information, contact the Collection Complaint Hotline (800) 379-0688. This is a free hotline for consumers. The department receives a portion of the proceeds from settlements reached. Therefore, no fees are due for the service unless a settlement is paid to the victim.

    The Collection Complaint Hotline is one of several relief hotlines managed by CareConnect USA. Families and employees can connect with resources for financial relief nationwide. Their other help lines include assistance with Debt Relief, Mortgage Relief, Tax Relief, and Free Bankruptcy Advice. All hotlines can be found at CareConnectusa.org.

  • Financial Planning Week: What are you doing to reach your financial goals?

    Fort Lauderdale, Florida – A New Horizon (www.anewhorizon.org/) is one of the nation’s leading nonprofit 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) credit counseling organizations, announcing its support for Financial Planning Week which is October 5–11, 2009.  This is going to be FPA's (Financial Planning Association) eighth annual Financial Planning Week.

    During Financial Planning Week, FPA is going to try and build the public's awareness of the financial planning.  Many people are so busy with life itself they forget to take care of finances.  We try to remind people everyday that it is important to manage their finances wisely. “Financial Planning should not be confined to investments. It should include the wise and sound use of credit; and when that credit has exceeded the families ability to pay, a reputable credit  counseling agency, like A New Horizon, should be consulted” Said Steve Stark Chief Operating Officer With financial literacy and monthly articles on our website, reminding people to take care of money matters.

    Ways to Celebrate Financial Planning Week you can:

    • Make sure you checkbook is balanced.
    • Open up a savings account for your children.
    • Pay above your minimum on your credit cards.
    • Make a budget worksheet and see where your expenses are going.
    • Start to save for the holidays and make a budget for it. Don’t go overboard
    • Get with a financial planner and plan for the future.
    • Set monthly financial goals and try and keep them.
    • Instead of going out to eat often eat at home
    • Make a savings jar that your family can put change into
    • Go over all your bills and cut where you can (Ex : Cable bill, cell phone bill)
    Just doing some of these may help you financially and assist you in continuing doing them in the future. “It’s like the old adage I have seen from Hugh D, Culver about Time Management “people don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan”. It’s the same principal for individuals and families to achieve financial wellness.” Said Peter Carvalho, New Business Development

    A New Horizon has been providing Credit Counseling Services since 1978 including Debt Management and Financial Literacy  Celebrating over 14 years as A 501 (c)(3) Non-profit Organization  ISO-9001:2000 Certified  Operating Nationwide & in Puerto Rico  Headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

    If you would like more information on this matter please contact Stuart Lieberman who may be reached at (800) 556-1548 Extension 1126 or at slieberman@anewhorizon.org A New Horizon – www.anewhorizon.org

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