How To Use A Secured Card To Rebuild Your Credit

by Shelton on April 30th, 2014

filed under Secured Credit

Who among us hasn’t needed a second chance? Or a first opportunity? For the millions of Americans who were battered by the Great Recession and came out of it with a tattered credit score, plus the legions of young people who haven’t had a chance to earn and spend money wisely, these are not abstract questions.

Even though the emergence of financial products like prepaid debit cards have made it easier to get some of the ease and benefits of plastic, solid credit still matters. Try to buy a house or a car and you’ll quickly learn how important it is. If you have bad or no credit, you’ll be turned down for a loan or offered an ugly interest rate.

This is where secured credit cards come in. Secured cards are a bit like a bicycle with training wheels – a tool to practice on and demonstrate your capacity to operate something bigger, faster and potentially more dangerous. Unlike unsecured credit cards, the secured variety typically requires a cash deposit in order to establish a credit line. If you put down a $500 deposit, you’ll have a credit limit of $500 (keep in mind that the money you put upfront is not used to pay off monthly charges). This initial deposit is the bank’s way of insuring that it doesn’t get burned if you do not pay your bills.

The best thing about secured credit cards is that, in most cases, the issuer reports your repayment behavior to the three main credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian Experian and Equifax. Translated, this means that paying your bill on time and following the terms and conditions of the card can, over time, boost your credit score. This makes a secured credit card an extremely valuable tool if, and this can’t be emphasized strongly enough, you are timely and consistent in paying your bill.

Still, there are red flags to watch out for with secured cards. Start by making sure that any secured card you consider will, in fact, report to the three main credit bureaus. If they do not, and your goal is to establish good credit, you’re wasting your time. Like any financial product, it is important to know that not all secured cards are equal when it comes to fees. Shop around. While secured cards generally have higher fees than unsecured ones, there can be big differences in the interest rates, activation charges and account maintenance fees. It’s also smart to know the card issuer’s policy regarding returning your initial deposit when you close the account. Sometimes it can take a few days to get your money back.

Be careful to avoid any secured credit cards that do not have a payment grace period. If it does not, that means you will pay interest on any charge you make from the moment your card is swiped. “With no grace period, there is no way to avoid paying interest,” says Amber Stubbs, editor of CardRatings.com. “With regular credit cards you can avoid interest altogether if you pay your statement in full.” Fortunately, the lack of a grace period is a rarity, although the Horizon Gold Card is one that does this. Also watch out for limitations on how you can use the card. The Horizon card, for instance, can only be used to make purchases on a Horizon outlet store website.

None of these cautions are meant to scare you away from using a secured credit card to rebuild your credit. But being aware of some of the potential problems will allow you to safely ride your training wheel equipped bike without falling into potholes or getting run off the road.

Curtis Arnold is a credit expert and co-founder of BestPrepaidDebitCards.com

HPD: Stash of cash, drugs, weapons found after Kingwood shooting

by Shelton on April 30th, 2014

filed under Business Loans

KINGWOOD, Texas — An investigation is underway following a shooting and a drug bust in Kingwood early Thursday, Houston police said.

Officers were called to the 300 block of Forest Center Drive at Kingwood Place around 1 am

Police said they found one male shot in the leg outside an apartment complex. Police stopped the driver of a black BMW that was leaving the scene and said they found cocaine, marijuana, weapons and a bundle of cash inside.

Police said the shooting victim and the man driving the BMW are roommates who were the victims of an apparent robbery.

According to HPD, an unknown number of suspects went to the victims apartment and held them at gunpoint, shooting one of the men and taking his Cadillac.

The gunmen got away.

There was no early word on what charges the man in the BMW may face.

AdviceIQ: Millennials’ credit scores

by Shelton on April 30th, 2014

filed under Credit Scores

AdviceIQ: Millennials credit scores

Millennials Credit Scores Submitted by Mary Beth Storjohann on Fri, 03/21/2014 – 3:00pmYour credit score ranks as one of the most important numbers in your young adult life. Heres what to know as you build

Storing Your Cash In This Type Of Convertible? The Mattress Might Be Better

by Shelton on April 30th, 2014

filed under Business Loans

I like to call convertible bonds issued by companies with so-called investment-grade credits “converts for people who hate converts.” A kinder, gentler way to describe them might be “bonds convertible into stocks that already have convertible-like properties.”

Make no mistake: stocks are not only the most commonly discussed major investment class but also the riskiest, by far, at least in terms of principal protection. When you start moving beyond a CPA’s idea of risk (loss of original principal) toward an economist’s or future retiree’s (loss of purchasing power), then stocks start looking less risky. When you take a relatively cautious stock with reasonable income and low volatility, and then layer the protection of a convertible bond on top of it, you start running the risk of being overly safe. Kind of like the person who drives 15 miles per hour in a 25 zone, just to be extra safe. That person, in fact, stands a terrific chance of being rear-ended–the driving equivalent of investing in securities appearing safer than they actually are. The market’s tendency to overpay severely for investment-grade securities only compounds the problem.

Consider the Prologis Prologis 3.25% convertibles maturing in just under 11 months. Prologis, by the way, owns and operates industrial real estate, largely distribution and storage facilities. It’s an important business, but also a reasonably predictable one. Warehouses don’t change as fast as websites. As such, Prologis operates as a real estate investment trust. It pays a dividend of about 3.3% and its stock is one of the least volatile equities you’ll find.

Attractive yield and fairly predictable price action–these are things investors seek from convertibles. But with Prologis, the stock already gives you these features. Granted, again, stocks don’t assure principal protection. You don’t need to be an accountant to understand that. But if you think protection is worth so much, consider where the Prologis convertible trades and whether you’re getting any protection worth talking about.

The bond is quoted around 116 with the stock just below 41. A theoretical model, using aggressive inputs, values it at about 111. If the bond were going to be outstanding for another five or six years, this overvaluation wouldn’t be as troubling–you could amortize it at about a percentage point a year, and perhaps some of the bond’s favorable qualities could compensate. But this is an 11-month bond. Since convertible bonds resolve to fair value at maturity (either getting principal back or converting to stock), this excess premium is going to be a severe drag on returns. How much?

Let’s say Prologis stock appreciates about 4% over the next year. Combined with the equity’s dividend, that’s a total return of 7.5%. A reasonable expectation on a fairly safe stock in a low-rate environment. The convertible should do just fine, right?

Wrong. The convertible would actually experience a 5% capital loss. Even with the coupon income, convertible investors would be in the hole a couple of points on a stock that did what it was supposed to do.

What if the stock falls, say, 5%? Surely that’s where the convertible protection pays off.

Actually, no. The convertible would lose nearly 12%. That’s the overvaluation coming home to roost.

Now, some of you will point out that I’m looking at single-digit stock moves. You buy convertibles for volatility, you say. And you have something of a point. A 50% drop in Prologis stock won’t do any more damage to these bonds over the next 11 months than a 5% decline. And if the stock gains 50%, well, the bonds will give you about three-quarters of that performance.

But if you’re investing based on a warehouse REIT making 50% annual moves, then you’ve got to ask yourself a question. Do you feel lucky? Well, do you?

WMass women learn about controlling their finances

by Shelton on April 29th, 2014

filed under Finances

THINKSTOCK

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) Hundreds of women from across western Massachusetts were in Holyoke Friday morning to learn how to have a stronger financial voice in their families. 22News was there to find out some of the challenges women face when it comes to money matters.

In many households, mom keeps the ship running from scheduling, to feeding the group. Wives and mothers tend to be in charge of some finances, but may be left out of other decisions because they dont speak up.

“Women have traditionally been budgeters but not necessarily involved in investing. You hear women say Im bad with money or I dont understand it or the stock market is not for me,” said Amanda Steinberg of Dailyworth.com.

But in the next 15 years women will become equal to men as breadwinners, and theyll also inherit some two-thirds of the nations wealth.

Now theres an increased awareness of the need for women to expand their financial knowledge; to take a more active role in investing, rather than delegating decisions to a husband or financial planner.

“Its all about control and confidence. You cant take control until you are confident. Education first and getting the knowledge you need in order to make decisions,” said Mary Pajak, who is the financial literacy coordinator at Bay Path College.

Pajak told 22News in order for women to guarantee security later, they have to take action now by budgeting, establishing and maintaining good credit, and saving.

Some of the workshops at this mornings Heart of Money seminar included negotiating, saving for college and retirement, and caring for parents financially.

Pot, pills and cash lead to Palm Coast arrest

by Shelton on April 29th, 2014

filed under Business Loans

PALM COAST, Fla. — A man and woman were arrested Wednesday after a K-9 deputy and his handler located pills, marijuana, cocaine and cash in the couples vehicle.

According to a release from the Flagler County Sheriffs Office, Sloane Book was charged with:

– Possession of a controlled substance
– Possession of paraphernalia (two counts)
– Possession of cocaine

Cleo Holmes III was charged with:

– Possession of a controlled substance without a prescription
– Possession of a legend drug without a prescription
– Possession of marijuana under 20 grams

Book and Holmes were spotted on Bolder Rock Drive in a 2000 Volkswagen Golf with a broken windshield, the release detailed. Book, who was driving, did not allow deputies to search the vehicle while Holmes exited the car and complied with deputies.

K-9 Tag detected narcotics and deputies smelled burnt marijuana coming from the vehicle.

In Holmes pocket, deputies reportedly found:

-$800 in cash
-Two small bags of marijuana
-41 Propanolol Hydrochloride pills
-46 Methadone pills

In the vehicle, deputies reportedly found:

-Syringes, spoons and other paraphernalia
-Four Dilaudid pills
-Seven bags of cocaine

Holmes was booked into the Flagler County Detention Facility on a $3,000 bond while Book was given a bond of $5,250.

Colleges beginning to offer students debt safety net

by Shelton on April 28th, 2014

filed under Debt Consolidation

Dear Mary: I have been approached by debt consolidation for them to consolidate all my credit card debts into one lump sum with the promise to possibly be out of credit card debt in as soon as two years. Is this a good option? Is it something to pursue? — Karen D., email

Dear Karen: Run, don’t walk, away from anyone who approaches you offering debt consolidation. These are scam artists. They will make all kinds of promises, tell you to stop making your monthly payments and instruct you to send those funds to them instead.

They’ll promise to hold the money and use it to negotiate with your creditors. Do not believe this! They’ll disappear and you’ll be left holding the bag — and in default with all of your credit card companies. This is not a good option, and it is not something you should pursue.

Dear Mary: I made the detergent you published in your newspaper column and just love it. I’ve shared samples with my friends and have many of them making their own. Thanks again for your wonderful column. — Valla C., Louisiana

Dear Valla: I’m so happy to know that you and your friends are enjoying the homemade laundry detergent. Isn’t it just the best? And it’s so cheap to make — only about five cents a wash load! Here’s a link to the recipe and photo tutorial (everydaycheapskate.com/detergent) in case there is a reader anywhere who has not given this a try. Thanks for your kind words.

Mary invites questions at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, PO Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Planning for Retirement,” released in 2013. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Polypore Announces New 650 Million Senior Secured Credit Agreement and …

by Shelton on April 27th, 2014

filed under Secured Credit

(Menafn – GLOBE NEWSWIRE via COMTEX)

Polypore Announces New 650 Million Senior Secured Credit Agreement and Redemption of 7.5% Senior Notes

CHARLOTTE, Apr 08, 2014 (Menafn – GLOBE NEWSWIRE via COMTEX) —- Company uses cash on hand and new credit agreement to refinance existing credit agreement, fund the redemption of 7.5% senior notes and reduce total leverage

— Refinancing to generate approximately 20-25 million of annualized interest expense savings

— New credit agreement provides flexibility to pursue growth and value creation opportunities as cash continues to accumulate

Polypore International, Inc. PPO, a global high technology filtration company specializing in microporous membranes, today announced that it has entered into a new senior secured credit agreement led by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo Securities LLC, as joint lead arrangers and joint book managers. The 650 million senior secured credit agreement consists of a 500 million amortizing term loan facility and 150 million revolving credit facility which mature on April 8, 2019.

The Company intends to use borrowings under the new term loan and revolving credit facility in conjunction with cash on hand to repay all outstanding obligations under the existing senior secured credit agreement and for redemption of its 365 million callable 7.5% senior notes (CUSIP 73179VAF0), (collectively, the Transactions), resulting in a lower overall level of debt.

The redemption of the 7.5% senior notes, lower interest rates under the new credit agreement and a reduced level of total debt are expected to materially reduce interest expense after the Transactions are completed, which we expect to occur in the second quarter of 2014. On a pro forma basis for the Transactions as though they occurred on January 1, 2014, annualized interest expense would be in a range of approximately 15-20 million, excluding one-time items related to the Transactions and depending on variables such as market interest rates, hedging strategies and average revolver borrowings. In 2013, Polypore recorded total GAAP interest expense of 39.5 million.

Commenting on the new senior secured credit agreement, Lynn K. Amos, Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Secretary said, We are pleased with the terms of this new commitment from a core group of lenders who understand the growth potential and consistent cash generation capability of our business. This refinancing reinforces our strong financial foundation and enables us to substantially lower interest costs, while providing flexibility to pursue growth and value creation opportunities as we continue to accumulate cash.

In addition, the Company filed a Current Report on Form 8-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission with additional detail on the senior secured credit agreement. A copy of the 8-K can be viewed on the Companys website www.polypore.net.

About Polypore International, Inc.

Polypore International, Inc. is a global high technology filtration company specializing in microporous membranes. Polypores flat sheet and hollow fiber membranes are used in specialized applications that require the removal or separation of various materials from liquids, primarily in the ultrafiltration and microfiltration markets. Based in Charlotte, NC, Polypore International, Inc. is a market leader with manufacturing facilities or sales offices in nine countries serving six continents. See www.polypore.net.

Forward-Looking Statements

This release contains statements that are forward-looking in nature. Statements that are predictive in nature, that depend upon or refer to future events or conditions or that include words such as expects, anticipates, intends, plans, believes, estimates, and similar expressions are forward-looking statements. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results and performance to be materially different from any future results or performance expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. These factors include the following: the highly competitive nature of the markets in which we sell our products; the failure to continue to develop innovative products; the loss of our customers; the vertical integration by our customers of the production of our products into their own manufacturing processes; increases in prices for raw materials or the loss of key supplier contracts; our substantial indebtedness; interest rate risk related to our variable rate indebtedness; our inability to generate cash; restrictions contained in our senior secured credit agreement; employee slowdowns, strikes or similar actions; product liability claims exposure; risks in connection with our operations outside the United States, including compliance with applicable anti-corruption laws; the incurrence of substantial costs to comply with, or as a result of violations of, or liabilities under environmental laws; the failure to protect our intellectual property; the loss of senior management; the incurrence of additional debt, contingent liabilities and expenses in connection with future acquisitions; the failure to effectively integrate newly acquired operations; lithium market demand not materializing as anticipated; the absence of expected returns from the intangible assets we have recorded; and natural disasters, epidemics, terrorist acts and other events beyond our control. Additional information concerning these and other important factors can be found in Item 1A. Risk Factors of our most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and subsequent reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Such forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this press release. Polypore expressly disclaims any obligation to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in Polypores expectations with regard thereto or change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any statement is based.

CONTACT: Polypore International, Inc.
Investor Relations
(704) 587-8886
investorrelations@polypore.net

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(C) Copyright 2014 GlobeNewswire, Inc. All rights reserved.

Bill Mandates Free Credit Scores for Everyone

by Shelton on April 26th, 2014

filed under Credit Scores

A proposed bill in the United States Senate would mandate all consumers have access to free annual credit scores.

The Stop Errors in Credit Use and Reporting (SECURE) Act is designed to reduce the problems consumers experience through errors in their scores.

SB 2224 is sponsored by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CN). It gives consumers access to meaningful credit scores free of charge annually.

This is similar to the service currently offered through AnnualCreditReport.com, where consumers can see their credit reports from all three credit bureaus for free once a year. However, consumers must pay to see their credit scores on this site. That would change under the SECURE Act.

In todays economy, it is critical that consumers have access to a safe and reliable way of checking their credit reports and scores, said Brown in a statement.

Providing this information will help consumers keep better track of their credit and correct issues before a problem grows, he said. Credit report errors can lower consumers credit scores and lead to higher interest rates.

The SECURE Act provides a good framework for holding credit reporting agencies and creditors accountable for making sure credit reports are fair and accurate,” said Pamela Banks, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union. “Giving consumers free access to their credit score will help consumers know where they stand with lenders and others when it comes to their credit record.

Several credit card issuers are currently showing cardholders their FICO credit scores on their monthly statements: Discover, First Bankcard and Barclay. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is urging all issuers to provide free credit scores.

In light of recent breaches, sometimes cash is better

by Shelton on April 26th, 2014

filed under Business Loans

Breaking news such as the massive data breach at Experian or Target now seems common. Leaving aside the victims of actual fraud, I hear constantly from people whove had to swap out every debit and credit card, or whose cards were unilaterally replaced by their bank. This causes all sorts of problems.

Sometimes it makes you long for the days of cash. While cash is not practical for everything, there are very compelling reasons to consider it or other alternatives instead of those debit cards.

Of course, you also have to watch where you get your cash, too. Criminals are good at installing near-invisible skimmers on ATMs. These steal your card information and then a miniature camera over the keypad steals your PIN. Its everything a thief needs to drain your account.

Avoid out-of-the-way ATMs in isolated areas. When you can, use ATMs in a restricted-access foyer. You should also hold your hand over the keypad when you enter your PIN. This blocks a camera from seeing what youre doing.

Now that you know how to safely get cash, heres where you should use it.

o Gas stations. ATMs arent the only places criminals can install card skimmers. Gas stations are a favorite target for thieves. Last year, four men were arrested for allegedly stealing $2.1 million using skimmers at gas stations in the South. The skimmers were installed in the pumps and were even equipped with Bluetooth, which allowed the thieves to come by and extract the collected numbers and PINs wirelessly.

To keep the odds in your favor, use cash. If nothing else, use a credit card at a gas pump. Its not widely appreciated that consumer responsibility for debit-card charges are different than they are for credit cards. Credit-card charges are easier to contest, and youre only liable for up to $50 of fraudulent purchases.

With a debit card, you have to report a fraudulent purchase within a few business days for the $50 liability limit to kick in.

o Restaurants. Restaurants, too, can be a source of trouble. Some unscrupulous servers bring handheld card skimmers to work to swipe your card info. Even low-tech thieves can just write down the card numbers.

To make matters worse, many restaurants use older computer systems for processing cards. These are easy for hackers to install card-swipe software, as in the Target hack. The price paid can be quite high; Subway got hit in 2011 by Romanian hackers, who got away with $10 million from 150 restaurants.

One of the lesser noted aspects about the coming end to Microsofts XP operating system is that many restaurants and ATMs still use the XP infrastructure.

o Stores. Restaurants and gas stations make juicy targets: a steady steam of customers, some not from the area. The same goes for stores. For small purchases cash is the way to go. Use cash at the grocery store or while buying clothes. For larger purchases, use a credit card instead of a debit card. Again, you have less liability than you do with a debit card.

Bonus tip: Some people use cash at stores to avoid the store tracking what they buy. However, stores can still track your purchase history if you still swipe a loyalty card.

o Online. OK, you cant use cash online. But please, use a credit card, not a debit card. The fraud protections are better and a hacker cant overdraft your bank account with a credit card. You dont need to be fighting overdraft fees on top of everything else.

You can also check with your bank to see whether it offers one-time credit card numbers for online buying. Since each number only works once, it wont do a hacker any good to steal it.

Of course, one drawback to using a credit card is the interest payments if you dont pay on time. This site can show you the real cost of using a credit card.

Finally, I know this is a lot of work, particularly when it seems that everyone is busy and overworked; but remember as well to check your bank statements and credit reports regularly for suspicious activity.

On the Kim Komando Show, the nations largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on todays digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, newsletters and more, visit komando.com. Email her at techcomments@usatoday.com.