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Financial Trick or Treat: Sweet Deals, Scary Mistakes

The world of personal finance is a lot like Halloween: Filled with treats if you're good (and clever), but rife with tricks if you're not careful. Here's some savvy advice that will keep your money tree from getting TPed, and help you bring home a pumpkin full of sweet rewards.

How to Raise Your Odds of Getting a Mortgage

It doesn't look like the housing market will come roaring back anytime soon, but with historically low interest rates, now's a good time to buy. The hard part is that banks in the post-bubble era are notoriously stingy with that cheap money, so figuring out how to get a smile out of a mortgage lender is task No. 1.

Personal Bankruptcy Filings Fall, but Hold the Applause

In this cloudy economy, we're all constantly hunting through the news and statistics for silver linings. Here's one that looks promising: In the first nine months of 2011, personal bankruptcy filings decreased 10% compared to a year earlier -- but experts say hold the applause.

1 in 4 Spouses Is Willing to Cheat ... Financially

Your sweetheart may be keeping a big secret from you, and it's not that there's some other guy or gal. It's the truth about their money. According to new poll from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 24% of respondents wouldn't tell their spouse if they were experiencing financial difficulties.

How Paying the Rent Can Boost Your Credit Score

In these shaky economic times, your credit score carries more weight than ever, which means building a credit history is vital. Paying bills on time is one thing that buffs up your score, but until now, paying your rent meant nothing. Credit bureau Experian and RentReporters.com are changing that.

Cash-Strapped Americans Can't Break Overdraft Habit

Overdraft fees are like a movie monster that just won't die. No amount of public outrage or regulation can slay the beast. But the banks aren't the only ones casting overdrafts in financial sequels: Truth is, consumers keep breathing life into the overdraft dragon.

Americans Ring Up 'Mind Boggling' Debt in Q2

Habits are hard to break: Just when you think you're firmly in control, you backslide again. According to CardHub.com, U.S. consumers accumulated a staggering $18.4 billion in credit card debt in the second quarter -- 66% more than they accumulated in the same quarter a year ago.

What to Do First: Save or Pay Down Your Debts?

For many households, it's a personal fiance dilemma: Should they try to pay down debt first, or build up savings? In the aftermath of the Great Recession, opinions have clearly tipped toward the ditch-your-debt side. But that's not always the right answer.

Less Need Now to Read Your Credit Card's Fine Print

It appears that complaints from consumers and regulators about the lack of credit card transparency at banks have not fallen on deaf ears. According to CardHub.com's 2011 Credit Card Application Study, the 10 biggest issuers of plastic have significantly improved transparency this year.

How to Dig Yourself Out of Credit Card Debt

U.S. credit card debt shrank 5% in the second quarter from a year ago, approaching 10-year lows. It's not just due to banks, which have written off uncollectible debts. Consumers have been taking control of their finances, tightening their belts and working second jobs to pay off their credit card bills.

Keeping Your Credit Card Numbers Safe

With all the hackers in the headlines, you might be feeling more hesitant to offer up your credit card numbers while doing your online shopping. Virtual credit-card numbers, provided by many banks and credit-card issuers for free, can help. Here's how to use them -- and why you should still remain vigilant about checking your account if you do.

The Trouble with Online Payday Loans

If you're strapped for cash and need money quickly, an online payday loan can be tempting. But these high-interest loans can lead to financial trouble. Here are some tips on selecting a provider, as well as some alternatives to payday loans.

How Paying the Wrong Bills Costs You Money

Should you pay the last $100 on credit card with 10% annual interest, or $100 of a card with $1,000 and 15% interest? Paying off higher-interest card first saves you money, but consumers often choose to close out cards with the smallest balance anyway.

Embarrassing Money Issues Men Have

Embarrassing money issues can rear their ugly heads at any time, putting any of us in situations that can be downright cringe-worthy. But unlike...

Prepaid Cards: Which Ones Are Worth the Fees

CardHub.com recently put five of the most well-known prepaid card issuers under the microscope to see how useful their products are based on fees and features. Which offers the best deal? The answer might surprise you. But the real question is should you use a prepaid card at all.

Can't Get Credit? You May Be Living in the Wrong State

Credit is ever so personal, and ultimately it's your responsibility -- but it's not solely about you. Your state's creditworthiness can impact you too. For that reason, CardRatings.com's recently released rankings of the 10 Best and Worst States for Consumer Credit is worth a look-see.

Denied Credit? New Fed Rule May Interest You

Have you ever been turned down for a loan? Had your credit line slashed or interest rate bumped up? Well, starting Thursday, banks and other lenders will be required tell you a bit more about why. The FTC and the Fed are implementing a new rule requiring lenders to show consumers the credit score data they used to make their decision.

Stock-Based Loans: Quick Cash, but Watch Your Assets

If you need cash and have investments you don't want to sell, a stock-based loan may sound like a good idea. But the unregulated stock-based loan industry can be a risky way to tap into the value of your portfolio, warns the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

How to Earn, Use Your Credit Card Rewards

If you've been racking up credit card rewards, summer is the perfect time to use them. In fact, a new survey suggests that more Americans plan to do just that -- cashing in their credit card rewards as a money-savvy way to enjoy everything from quick weekend getaways to extended overseas vacations -- during the summer months.

Rent-to-Own Is a Big Ripoff, Says Consumer Reports

No credit check, low weekly payments and carry it home today? If you think rent-to-own stores' deals are too good to be true, you're right. They're a rip-off that leave unwary consumers paying the equivalent of up to 311% interest, according to a new investigation by Consumer Reports.

How to Prep for a (Possible) Double-Dip Recession

Is America headed for the Great Recession, part two? The talking heads are still in heated debate on the issue. But for those of us who aren't pundits, there's a more important question: What should we be doing now, just in case economic lightning does strike twice?

Obama's Balanced Approach to the (Household) Budget

During an impromptu drop-in at a conference of personal finance writers, President Obama was asked: How does he approach his own household finances? His response was timeless, irrefutable, and not quite consistent with his prescription for the federal government.

Bank Overdraft Fees Still Plague American Consumers

Last year, the government changed the rules on debit card overdrafts, requiring banks to get customers' permission before allowing transactions that would lead to penalty fees. But despite the new rules, overdraft fees continue to be an expensive pain in the neck for millions of Americans.

When It's Worth It to Pay a Financial Guru

America is DIY Nation, but in certain financial situations, a do-it-yourself strategy can make a bad situation much worse, because in investing and money matters, most of us don't know what we don't know. Here are eight times in your life when the high stakes demand that you call in the experts.

Eight Money Lessons for New College Grads

Members of the Class of 2011, you're about to be tossed head first into the real world, and -- surprise -- you probably need a little more education about how to handle your personal finances. Here's a Cliffs Notes crash course in Money 101.