Sunday, February 13, 2011

Prevent Identity Theft - Protecting Your Credit

Stop Identity Theft
Every day you do many things that can put your personal information at risk, though you may never thinking twice about it. How many times have you written a check at the store or given your credit card information over the phone?

What Is Identity Theft

Identity theft happens when a perpetrator assumes someone's identity for personal or financial gain, like stealing a credit card to make financial transactions in the victim's name. This is one of the fastest growing crimes in American with an estimated 11 million people having their identity stolen every year.

How To Prevent Identity Theft

1. Don't give out your personal information unless you initiated the contact or know the person or company with whom you are dealing. Also, never give out personal information, such as a Social Security number or bank account number, in response to an email. Legitimate businesses will never ask you to do this.

2. Don't give out your credit card number when ordering online unless it's encrypted and the site is secure. Look at the first part of the Web address on your browser to be sure it starts off with "https://."

3. Never write your Social Security number, driver's license number, or telephone number on checks or credit card receipts.

4. If you need to have your computer repaired or if you choose to sell or donate it, be sure to remove all documents with personal information from your hard drive beforehand.

5. When throwing away letters, statements and receipts, be sure to shred them first. This includes pre-approved credit card applications, store receipts and utility bills. "Dumpster divers" can get a hold of your personal information if these items are thrown in the trash.

6. Cancel all credit cards that you haven't used in the last six months. Open credit is a prime target for thieves.

7. Order your credit report at least twice a year from all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) and report any mistakes to the credit reporting agency in writing.

Report Identity Theft 

If you're a victim of identity theft, contact your local police department as soon as possible. If your identity was stolen in one jurisdiction but used in another, you may have to report the crime in both jurisdictions.  Also, be sure to contact your credit card companies and bank.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Advantages of Mutual Fund Investing


There are more investors than not who are using mutual funds since they're one of the easiest investments to use. Their all the more popular since they require little knowledge of the financial markets. Should you invest in them?  Let's take a look at a few of the main advantages that mutual funds offers investors.



Professional Management

Mutual funds are run by fund managers, who are essentially watching over your investment daily. There is almost no other place where you get that kind of investment management without paying huge management fees.



They're Liquid
 
Any investor can sell his shares in a mutual fund any day that the stock market is open. Compare that to investing in real estate, CDs or even stocks that have low trading volume which can takes weeks to months to liquidate your stake. The liquidity of mutual funds gives any investor the ability to get out of the investment quickly if needed.

Diversification

Mutual funds invest in tens or even hundreds of different stocks, bonds or money markets. Trying to duplicate this type of diversification in your own portfolio would result in very high trading fees, not to mention huge headaches from trying to monitor hundreds of stock positions.

Low Fees

Mutual funds have very low fees due to their ability to take advantage of economies of scale. Since mutual funds are pooling the investment dollars of so many investors they can buy stocks in larger quantities which leads to lower fees for mutual funds investors. Numerous mutual funds have fees that are under 2 or 3%.


They're Growing

Mutual funds are growing at a feverish pace as more and more investors put their money in them. But considering the great advantages that mutual funds offer the average investor all the way up to guy with the multi-million dollar portfolio, it’s really no surprise.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Balance Transfer Credit Card - Choose Wisely

O balance transfer credit card
It's a plastic ocean out there with so many banks and financial institutions racing to sell you their zero balance transfer credit card. And with a long list of credit cards available in the market it's easy to feel intimidated and confused about which card to choose.

It's so easy to choose the wrong card and later regret your decision once you find yourself knee-deep in problems with this credit card account.

Never pick up a 0 balance transfer credit card without weighing all the facts first. Here are some tips that can help you decide which type of credit card to choose.

Choosing A Credit Card

The first thing you'll want to think about is why you actually need a credit card.  Is it because your current credit card has a higher interest rate?  Or do you need a business credit card? Would you prefer a card for regular purchases and another for emergencies only?  The average person would need no more than two credit cards, while a business owner may need three or four to cover both personal and business expenses.

Types Of Credit Cards

Regular cards/Business cards 

These are cards that give you a spending limit based on your income. The business card is just like a regular card, except that it may come with some schemes that dangle carrots before you.

Debit cards 

These are cards that are linked to your bank account and they charge your account the minute you swipe the card. You cannot carry forward a balance with a charge card. Nearly all can be used wherever regular credit cards are and some even offer a cash-back incentive if you choose to use it as a credit card (though the money is still taken out of your bank account immediately).

Reward cards 

These are credit cards that earn you points every time you use them for purchases. You can then use these points to redeem everything from outdoor grills and show tickets to trips.  Truthfully, it takes a long time to rack up enough points to purchase even a smaller item, though bigger spenders enjoy reward cards.  

Bad Credit History

These cards carry a low spending limit and a higher rate of interest. The positive side of them is you can usually build up your credit again--if you're careful. Sometimes though, paying cash is better than the astronomical interest rates, yearly fees, and other fees some of these credit cards for people with bad credit carry.


Prepaid Credit Cards

These cards are what the name suggests and are usually given to teens and kids by their parents. Money is put on the card and the card is valid until the deposited money on it is depleted.

Secured Credit Cards 

These cards are usually used by people with bad credit, have gone through bankruptcy, and sometimes by those who have no credit history. They require that the cardholder deposit a certain percentage of the credit limit upfront into their bank accounts. For example, to get a $200 credit card you'd need to deposit $200 into their bank account. If you make regular payments on time these companies sometimes lift the deposit and give you an actual credit card.

Compare Card Details

Once you have decided what kind of a credit card is right for you, do a comparison between different brands of cards. Compare their annual percentage rate (APR) and also check whether they carry an annual fee. This is important because some cards carry huge annual fees.

What grace period or no-payment period do they offer? How do they calculate the interest? Find out if the interest is an introductory rate, whether rates of interest will vary on cash withdrawals, billing cycles, penalties on balance transfers, and so on.

If you follow these basic guidelines you will find the right credit card for your circumstances and be able to transfer your current balance(s) onto a zero balance transfer credit card. Although, this is the easy part,the difficult part is maintaining a credit card and keeping your credit history clean.