While the theft of sensitive consumer information is never a good thing, some situations may be more manageable for consumers than others, one of which is the most security breach involving the nation's largest arts and craft store chain, Michaels Stores Inc.

You can bid on a Magic Johnson trading card from the NBA's short-shorts era on eBay, order the 2000 R&B album, "My Thoughts," by Johnson's first Magic 32 Records artist Avant on Amazon, or download video of the Hall of Famer's short-lived, late night Fox TV talk fest, "The Magic Show," on YouTube.

But if you want your very own "The Magic by Magic Johnson" prepaid MasterCard, you'd best step lively because, come June 30, that sucker is going to be slam-dunked forever. And no, not by Larry Bird.



If you're in the market for a new checking account, you should have an easier time comparing fees. A new study from the Pew Charitable Trust found that a growing number of banks are simplifying their account disclosures -- making it easier for consumers to quickly scan a list of fees. However, once you settle on a new account, watch out for fee gouging. The same study also found that a large number of banks are still nickel-and-diming their customers.

When a topic is covered over and over, it's easy to become numb to the news and its effects, no matter how dire. For me, one of those topics was personal information security. Between national news stories about mass data collection and seemingly never-ending major retailer security breach sagas, I have felt it was one of those burned-out topics.

The big credit bureau Experian is making VantageScore credit scores available for free via banks and credit card issuers.

It's not always easy to get stubborn credit report errors permanently cleared from a report. But if a group of Democratic senators get their way, consumers will one day have a much easier time forcing legitimate errors off their reports.

There is nothing like a sign-up bonus chase to make you feel like a criminal. I fell quickly. One day I was an upstanding, 750+ FICO scorer. The next, a shifty-eyed drugstore loiterer sharing the modi operandi of money launderers and kidney dealers.

It never hurts to learn a new budgeting method or how to invest for retirement, but it's just as important for your financial well-being to learn how to build and maintain good credit.

Usually when we talk about student debt, we're referring to the loans undergraduates take on to finance their educations. But a new report from the New America Foundation suggests that graduate school students may be having an even tougher time affording their degrees.

Working on a story about familiar fraud helped me develop a good understanding of just how damaging identity theft can be, especially if it begins when a victim is young. Child identity theft in particular isn't the easiest thing to resolve, so when I caught wind of what state governments are doing to help stop this type of fraud before it begins, I was immediately interested.

When strapped for cash and hit with an unexpected bill, some may feel as if they have no other choice but to turn to a payday lender. But new research from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shows that taking out one of these short-term loans could just sink you deeper into debt.

Setting positive examples is a good place to start, but teaching a child about money may require more than giving them an allowance or showing them how to use coupons.

Card users are clamoring for tighter security, as security breaches continue to hit the headlines. But will peace of mind come at a price? A case in Canada shows how more secure cards come with more responsibility for cardholders.

It all started with an innocent email from our rewards columnist, Tony Mecia: "Have you seen this deal for the Citi Executive AAdvantage card?" he asked. You get 100,000 frequent flier miles after spending $10,000 in three months. So began what I'm calling the Amazing $10k Race.

If people are willing to create false online identities to find love, I don't think it's farfetched to think others wouldn't edit their Facebook profile if they knew it could help them score a car loan or credit card.

Confusing card disclosures may not be around for much longer. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced this week it's working on a much simpler prepaid card disclosure that it hopes will make it much easier for consumers to do card comparisons.

By law, lenders are required to send you a free copy of your credit score if they reject your application. Along with the free score that lenders are supposed to send you, you should also receive a brief summary or "reason code" that, in theory, explains why your credit score is low.

But for many loan applicants, the codes they receive are so cryptic and jargon-heavy that they're nearly as bewildering as the scores themselves.



Last week I came home to a notice from the police department stuck on my apartment door about reported mail theft in my immediate area. The notice explained that two incident reports have been filed and outlined several steps individuals can take to protect themselves if they think sensitive information might be compromised. One of the suggestions was to place a fraud alert on your credit. If you have never used a 90-day fraud alert to protect your credit in the event of actual or potential fraud, I suggest doing so for these reasons:

Despite improvements to the credit report dispute system, consumers are still having a hard time getting credit report errors fixed.

Since money plays such a big role in everyone's lives, rich or poor, it seems we should have no problem talking about it. After all, public discussions about gay marriage and legalizing marijuana are fairly commonplace and money isn't nearly as controversial as those topics, right? Wrong. According to a survey conducted by Wells Fargo, 44 percent of Americans feel that personal finance is the most difficult topic to discuss, trumping death, politics and religion.

The global payments firm MasterCard says that if it knows where you are, it can help protect you from data theft -- and send you targeted coupons.

Maybe that first date outfit isn't so important after all. It's that three-digit credit score number that has fast become more important than your bright smile and charming personality for landing a second date with your love interest.

When news of the Target data breach started hitting the headlines in December, I started watching my credit card statement like a hawk.

I was lucky, and surprised, to find I'd come out unscathed (at least so far). Then talk of the security provided by chip-enabled credit cards started making the news, and I chalked up my good fortune to the fact I'd switched last year to a chip-enabled card to ease my European travels. I figured that must have saved me from a world of hurt.

The next surprise came from learning that despite all the hoopla over chip-enabled cards, these kinds of cards currently do nothing to help consumers in cases like this.



If you're struggling to beat an online shopping habit, you may want to take a moment to organize your desk. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that tidying your home or office could help curb your urge to spend.

Women have gained a lot of financial freedom over the last century. Thanks to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act passed by Congress 40 years ago, we can now hold our own credit cards, manage investment accounts and demand equal pay for equal work. In short, women have the power to be completely financially independent, if we so choose.

New research from the Federal Reserve shows that signing up for health insurance coverage may not only protect you from financial disaster, such as an unexpected trip to the emergency room, it may also boost your long-term credit history.

As a recent college graduate who has entered the workforce armed with both credit and debt, I'm learning a lot about credit that really would've been useful a few years ago. Had I known what I know now, I could have saved myself some worry and eased into the credit world a little more smoothly.

About

They're the pieces of plastic we love, and love to hate. Get the latest news, tips, research and more from the CreditCards.com staff.

Archives

Other Voices and Blogs

Useful Links

Subscribe to Taking Charge