the bustle of everyday life, it can be difficult to keep
up with all the trends and issues that affect your
wallet as a consumer. For example, did you know thereís
potential for a new tax on your Internet service and
that the formula for calculating credit scores is
are four consumer news items you should know about.
the Internet for the first time. If Congress doesnít
act by Nov. 1, Internet service could be taxed by states
and local governments, meaning you could have an even
higher cable and phone bill than you do now.
1998 federal law, called the Internet Tax Freedom Act,
has forbidden such a tax in most states. But renewing
the act, while not controversial, has become entangled
in the Senate with a different issue: the collection of
sales tax on goods sold via the Internet, such as a tax
on a book sold by Amazon.com.
the deadline expires with no resolution or extension,
state and local governments in all states could collect
sales and communication taxes on Internet service, not
only access for your home Wi-Fi network, but your
smartphone service too. Taxes for an individual could
amount to an extra $15 to $20 a month ó or about $200
a year, some observers say.
service providers want the service to remain tax-free.
For example, when the bill to keep Internet service
tax-free passed the House in July, Comcast, in a
statement, "urged" the Senate to act before
Canning, executive director of the Internet Tax Freedom
Act Coalition, said much is at stake.
clearly billions of dollars that could be imposed on
consumers," she said. "And itís not only an
issue for consumers, but for businesses of all
FICO scores donít matter ... yet. Lost in the news
about how the most-used credit score brand, FICO, has
changed its formula for calculating scores was an
important fact: It wonít matter, at least for a while.
which says its brand of scores is used by 90 percent of
U.S. lenders, said its new model, to be released this
fall, ignores old collection agency accounts that have
been paid off or settled, and it discounts bad medical
debt because itís not a good indicator of
good news for millions of would-be borrowers who might
be able to get loans they otherwise would be rejected
for. But lenders are not obligated to buy the new
version of FICO scores, just like you can continue using
the old operating system on your computer after a new
one is released. It could be years before use of the new
score is widespread, said John Ulzheimer, credit expert
advice? If youíre someone who has old debts in
collection because of medical bills or old debts that
have since been settled or paid off, shop around for
loans and hope to hit on a lender using FICOís newest
version, FICO 9, due to be released this fall.
you want to leverage the consumer-friendly aspects of
FICO 9, then youíve got to find a lender thatís
actually using it," Ulzheimer said. "That
underscores the importance of not only shopping for the
best deal from lenders, but also the best credit-scoring
you have old paid-off collections, itís especially
important to shop around. First, your score is likely to
change dramatically. Second, FICOís rival
score-provider, VantageScore by Experian, also changed
its scoring system, and it claims that hundreds of
lenders already use its score that ignores those
paid-off old debts.
if youíre a consumer who has good credit but for a few
paid collections, it would be considerably easier for
you to find a lender who uses the VantageScore than it
would be to find one that uses FICO 9, at least right
now anyway," Ulzheimer said.
you never defaulted on a debt, none of this affects your
free credit reports. The official place to get your free
credit report once a year is AnnualCreditReport.com. You
can get one free report a year from each of the three
credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.
recently, Credit Karma, a personal finance website,
announced that through its site, it will let you see one
of those reports ó from TransUnion ó for free more
often, even weekly.
Credit Karma will try to nudge you toward financial
products, such as applying for credit cards, youíre
not obligated. Note that this is not about your credit
score. Instead, itís about the reports that scores are
based upon. (Credit Karma also provides one of the
lesser-used scores for free, from TransUnion.)
will have to provide the last four digits of your Social
Security number to access your reports. Itís important
to monitor credit reports to find errors and possible
fraudulent use of your identity.
only downside is that credit information can vary among
credit bureau reports, and Credit Karma gives you
frequent access to just one of the three.
advisory. Virtual currencies, such as bitcoin, XRP and
Dogecoin, might seem like a good alternative payment
system online or even an investment, but they carry
significant risks. So much so that the Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau issued an advisory recently,
calling them the "Wild West" of financial
products. It said these forms of electronic money often
have unclear costs, volatile exchange rates, and the
threat of hacking and scams, and that companies may not
offer help or refunds for lost or stolen funds.
currencies are not backed by any government. Bitcoin,
for one, fell as much as 80 percent against the dollar
in a single day this year, exposing investors to massive
potential losses. Recently, a bitcoin was valued at less
than $500 but had been valued at more than $1,000 over
the past year.
who encounter a problem with a virtual currency product
or service can now submit a complaint with the CFPB at
and industries sponsor polls released almost daily that
reveal seemingly interesting consumer "facts."
But the rigor of some of the surveys can be suspect,
sometimes the result of an unscientific online poll on
an organizationís home page. Others put more work into
for fun, here are some recent findings.
average household spends nearly $670 on back-to-school
shopping, according to the National Retail Federationís
2014 Back-to-School Survey. But GoBankingRates found
that 84.3 percent of Americans feel that less than $500
is more reasonable, with more than half saying the
budget should be less than $200.
bookstores are known for price gouging, says DealNews,
but it turns out that textbooks arenít the only items
they sell at a premium. DealNews researched online
bookstores of six universities and found that laptops
and tablets are sold at higher-than-average prices,
sometimes costing up to 135 percent more than
back-to-school deals on the same computers.
poll released by GoBankingRates and The Penny Hoarder
unearths a statistic that is startling, if accurate: 73
percent of Americans have less than $1,000 saved or donít
have a savings account at all.
study by Cheapism found that consumers shopping at
warehouse club Costco can save 25 percent over
conventional retail stores on such items as food,
clothing and electronics. Thatís plenty to cover the
$55 Costco membership fee, Cheapism concluded, conceding
that a limited selection at Costco is a weakness.