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Have you ever had a credit or debit card transaction declined for insufficient funds when you thought you had money in your account? You may have a credit or debit card "hold," reserving funds that you haven't spent.

Merchants and service providers set a credit or debit hold on a purchase when the total isn't known at the time the card is run, and the item or service can't be reasonably returned (for example, a tank of gas or a hotel stay). Holds are a cushion to cover possible final purchase amounts.

Consider pay-at-the-pump gas stations. When you swipe your card, the merchant can't know if you're filling a tank or just topping off – or how much gas your car holds. You may only have enough available credit for a few gallons but could fill the tank once the card is approved.

With a credit hold, station owners temporarily reserve enough of your credit limit to cover whatever the merchant designates as a limit – which may be far more than a full tank cost...

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You want to throw a holiday party but simply cannot afford to spend big bucks in the process. The holidays are full of expenses already without dropping hundreds or even thousands of dollars on festivities. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to cut down on holiday party costs and still create a great atmosphere. Consider these suggestions to help you party on a budget.

  • Invitations – Keep the invitations as simple as the circumstances will allow. What is appropriate depends on whom you are inviting. If you are throwing an informal party, make your own simple and whimsical paper invitations, or simply save on paper and postage and go completely paperless. If appropriate, consider invitations via e-mail or social media.

    If paper invitations are a must, consider alternatives such as a postcard that costs less to mail. At the very least, look for sales and clearances on fancier stationery. If you want more credit, check out our list of <...

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Thanksgiving is a time to relax and enjoy a nice dinner with your loved ones. You don’t want to spend it stressing over the Thanksgiving budget; you want to spend it having an enjoyable day with friends and relatives, and relaxing on the couch with a tryptophan-induced nap.

Try these tips to save dollars on your holiday spread and avoid worrying about holiday budgeting woes.

  1. Host a Potluck – Split the mealtime burden up by making Thanksgiving a potluck dinner. Not only will this distribute the economic burden among the Thanksgiving table, it offers a chance for new and interesting side dishes and desserts. You may end up with some tasty variations that become new family traditions.

    You may want to coordinate the dishes with all of the expected guests so you don’t end up with 15 desserts a...

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You've set up a lame date for the upcoming weekend but you're hoping a better offer comes along. If one does, you're ready to accept it and cancel your earlier date. You're hedging your bets, so you won't be sitting home alone on Saturday night.

That logic applies to real estate transactions as well. Perhaps you've received an offer for your home that's disappointing, but you expect a better offer to come along. Maybe you want to make an offer on a home but you need to sell your existing home to make the deal work financially.

In the real estate world, you can address these issues with a bump clause.

A bump clause in a real estate transaction adds a contingency that one party must meet before the sale can be finalized. Bump clauses get their name because the clauses give the seller the right to accept another offer and "bump" the original offer if the buye...

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Hackers are like any other type of thief. They look for easy targets and take advantage of them. Are you an easy target in the eyes of identity thieves?

Let's assume that you've taken basic prevention steps, like using anti-virus software and securing your router to prevent hackers from getting directly into your system. Have you considered these other five ways to keep personal and account information safe?

1. Use Strong Passwords – Surely, you've moved past "password" or "12345678." The best passwords contain upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols – but how do you remember them?

Try inserting characters in regular patterns into names you'll remember. For example, if your dog's name is Rex, try "R!e@x#1$". See the pattern? Check your computer keyboard.

To make it easier, use the same basic pattern but add an identifier in front ...

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Black Friday arrives on Friday, November 23. Do you plan to join the frenzied early sales with hundreds of your fellow consumers, scour the Internet for online bargains as soon as you've digested your Thanksgiving turkey, or wait until the first shopping wave dies down and take your chances a little later in the day?

Whatever your strategy, a battle plan is important – and battle planning requires reconnaissance. Here are a few Black Friday predictions to consider as you formulate your plans.

Spending Increases – Here's an easy prediction – people will spend more over the period from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday than they did last year. BestBlackFriday.com predicts an average spending of $340.33 per consumer, up almost $5 from last year.

The online spending component is exploding. Last year marked the first time that Black Friday online shopping topped $5 billion. BestBlackFriday.com predicts $5.8 billion, an increase of mo...

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What happened to your credit score? It's dropped considerably since the last time you checked, and you have no idea why.

Maybe one or more of these events is behind the decrease.

1. Missing Payments – On-time payments is one of the biggest factors that make up your credit score.

Make all credit card and loan payments by the due date to avoid a credit score hit. Verify that automatic payments are working, and if a change is made, verify with your creditor that you won't miss a payment during the transition.

2. Using Too Much Of Your Credit – Your credit limit is just that – a limit, not a target. When you get close to your credit limits, creditors see increased risk. Are you racking up more charges than you can pay off given your regular expenses?

Keep your total credit in use at any one time (your

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Veterans Affairs (VA) loans are invaluable for homebuyers. Their advantages include little or no money down, qualifying with a lower credit score, competitive interest rates, potentially lower closing and auxiliary costs, and no private mortgage insurance requirements.

VA loans are administered through approved lending institutions and backed through an entitlement of up to $36,000. This entitlement can guarantee a home loan of up to 484,350 without a down payment and possibly higher in some high-cost counties.

You may qualify for a VA loan if you're an active duty service member, a veteran in good standing, a current or discharged National Guard or Selected Reserve member, a spouse of a service member who died on active duty, or a spouse of a veteran who died as a result of military service. Your lender will require a Certificate of Eligibility, which requires different evi...

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By Andrea Woroch

The upcoming holiday season may have you feeling joyous and anxious at the same time thanks to all the seasonal expenses, gift purchases and travel costs you will take on in several short weeks. Those who don't prepare ahead may find themselves relying heavily on credit cards and, ultimately, be in debt come January. In fact, a survey shows Americans racked up an average of $1,230 of debt over the holidays in 2018, which they expected to takeat least three months to pay off. Some consumers only planned to make minimum payments, which means they'd be paying off that holiday debt for years to come. Given today's high interest rates, taking on credit card debt over the holidays can become increasingly hard to manage and add up in fees.

Luckily, you still have time to prepare ahead and line up your finances in time for the holiday. Just follow these seven money moves to avoid debt this jolly season.

1. Book travel now.

Typic...

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