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Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.



Guidelines For Paying Down Your Credit Card Balances

Because credit cards usually have the highest interest rates of any of your debt, it is advisable to pay off any credit card debt you have as quickly as possible -- even if this means using your savings. If you spend $1,000 to pay off a credit card with a 17% interest rate, it's as though you've earned a guaranteed, risk-free 17% after-tax return on your investment. It's really difficult to beat that with any other investment.

Should you need cash in an emergency, you can always take a cash advance from your cards if necessary.

If your current health condition poses a greater risk of death than normal for your age, consider credit life insurance on the cards.

There are three guidelines to paying down credit card balances as quickly as possible:

Guideline 1. Pay the bill as soon as possible

Send whatever extra money you have to the credit card company as soon as you get the money -- so long as you have the money to pay the next minimum monthly payment and the other bills you need to pay.

If you have an Emergency+Fund, consider using money in it to pay down the debt. You are probably not earning interest on the money in your fund anything like the amount you are paying on the credit card balance. You can get additional money from the credit card later if you need it to pay for the expenses that would have been paid from the "Just in case" fund.

Note: if you pay money to the credit card company in between bills:

  • Don't be surprised if it doesn't show up on your next bill. Your payment and the bill may cross in the mail, or the payment may be received too late to show up on the bill. It will show up on the following bill.
  • Don't try to calculate the interest you'll owe on the balance by just comparing the amount you paid to the amount you owe. The interest calculation is more complicated than that.
  • Often you can access and pay your accounts through the bank's online service center.

Guideline 2. Try not to pay late

Credit card companies charge late-payment fees up to $35, even for a payment one day late. Many cards will also increase your interest rate if you are late twice within a certain time period -- an interest rate that sticks for the rest of the time the card exists. Even worse, late payments are usually reported to credit bureaus.

Guideline 3. Pay more than the minimum

Always pay more than the minimum, even if it's only a few dollars. If you're only making minimum payments on your debt only, it'll take a long time to pay it off. In fact, when you add interest on top of the interest you already owe, your debt probably increases if you only pay minimum payments.

For help creating a debt pay-down plan, try the calculators at offsite link. offsite link, offsite link.

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How To Transfer Credit Card Balances

If you are currently carrying credit card balances that you don't expect to be able to pay off soon in full, consider transferring your balances to cards with lower rates. Some credit card companies are offering zero percent (0%) interest on balance transfers. Eliminating interest can help pay off debt much faster - even if you only have zero or low interest for a short period of time. For example: If you have a $10,000 balance with interest at 18%, and pay $250. a month, it will take 38 months to pay off the debt. It will also cost $3,200 in interest.  If the interest is 0%, you will pay off the balance almost one year earlier.

Before you make the transfer from a credit card with a higher amount of interest to another credit card, watch for the following:

  • Balance transfer fees-fees charged for transferring a balance from another credit card. As a general matter, transfer fees range from 3% tro 5% of the amount being transferred. While it may sound like a no-brainer to switch from a higher rate of interest to a lower one, this may not be the case once you add in the transfer fee. Do the math.
  • Expiration of the low "introductory rate" that most cards offer. This rate may be in effect for only two to six months. If you don't qualify for cards with low introductory rates, work on building your credit rating so that you might qualify in the future.

Set an alert in your calendar for when the rate will increase. If you haven't paid off your debt by then, consider switching once again.

NOTE: Keep your old credit card open even after transferring the balance to another credit card.  You may need the credit in the future to pay uninsured medical bills. While it is important to keep credit available if possible, the downside is that having too much credit and too many open credit lines can damage your credit rating.

How To Ask For A Lower Rate Of Interest On Your Credit Card

Consider calling each of your credit card companies to ask for a lower rate of interest.

Before you call, think of whatever arguments you can use that would help them agree to give you a lower rate of interest. For example:

  • If you have other credit cards, you can threaten to transfer your balance to another account. Or 
  • You could explain the problem as something that happened one time (because of your health?), and that from now on you'll be able to keep the balance current.
  •  You could even tell them that if the rate is low enough, you will transfer a balance from another account to this one so the company will make more interest even with a lower interest rate. (Before you actually legally agree to the transfer, read the section above about transferring credit card balances.)

If the representative you speak with balks, ask for a supervisor.

How To Consolidate Your Credit Card Debt To Lower Your Interest Rate

If you have equity in your home

Consider using a home equity debt-consolidation loan to pay down your debt.  Your interest rate on the home equity loan will almost always be better than that on credit cards, plus it'll be tax-deductible while the interest on your credit card debt isn't.

Just make sure you'll be able to make the payments on the home equity loan to avoid losing your house.

Unsecured Loans

You might also be able to consolidate your credit card debt with an unsecured loan -- a loan which is not secured by real property or other specific asset. Be careful. This only works if the new loan has a lower rate of interest than your credit cards. Most loans of this type charge an interest rate higher that that on your cards, but you may be able to find one that's lower.

Don't be lured by offers to consolidate your loans. You'll be better off working with a consumer counseling agency or working out your own repayment plans with the credit card companies.

NOTE: When moving a balance from a credit card, it is advisable not to close the account. In fact, it is advisable to at least use a credit card every six months, or even better, every three months. Credit card companies have been known to close accounts because of inactivity. An account closure for whatever reason can hurt your credit score which can impact your ability to get more credit when you need it, and other unexpected areas such as automobile insurance premiums. (The result of a closure is that you automatically increase the percentage of total available credit you are using. This decreases your credit score.)