What to Do With Seasonal Pumpkins: 21 Fun, Creative Ideas

It’s the season of the pumpkin and there are so many uses for these oversized orange gourds beyond a toothy jack-o’-lantern. (Yes, pumpkins hail from the gourd family.)

By no means are we suggesting you skip the time-honored tradition of carving that happy or scary face into a hollowed-out pumpkin. Carve diem. Seize the pumpkin. After all, they are at their cheapest this time of year.

When grocery stores and farmers markets are full of pumpkins this time of year, buy two. Carve one and save the other for one of our 21 uses for pumpkin. You can use one pumpkin for toasted seeds, pie and maybe even soup, depending on how big it is.

Pumpkins: They Aren’t Just For Jack-O’-Lanterns Anymore

Whether it becomes a tasty snack, home decor or a science project, your pumpkin has endless possibilities. While true penny hoarders like the idea of repurposing carved pumpkin after halloween, it’s not the best idea. In the warmer Southern states, it’s likely the pumpkin is mushy and well-past its prime after being exposed to the elements for a week or more. Plug, bugs.

Eat Your Pumpkin

We found a pumpkin recipe for every part of your gourd — even those stringy guts.

While carving pumpkins aren’t quite as flavorful as other varieties (such as sugar or pie pumpkins), they’ll still work for any of these dishes. They do have thinner skin, though, which makes them easier to careve.

Pro Tip

You’ll find the best prices for pumpkins at farmers markets, independent seasonal stands and church pumpkin patches. The average pumpkin costs about $3 but expect to pay more for an oversized gourd. 

1. Make Pumpkin Puree

While it doesn’t sound appetizing on its own, pumpkin puree is a versatile use of fresh pumpkin.

It’s incredibly versatile: You’ll be able to use the puree in pumpkin muffins, breads and soups — even a delicious Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Pumpkin puree is the base for most of the delicious dishes on this list.

Creating the puree is simple: Boil, bake or steam your pumpkin, according to Good Housekeeping. If you are in a cold climate and your carved pumpkin is still good enough to ease, make sure to cut off and discard any burned sections or leftover wax if you lit it with a candle.

The puree freezes well for future use. Store it in zip-closure freezer bags, filled and partially flattened for easy stacking.

2.  Brew Pumpkin Spice Latte

Tempted by the versions offered at seemingly every coffee shop? Instead of dropping $5 on a pumpkin latte that may not contain any pumpkin at all, make your own.

There are plenty of recipes for making your own. Here is a favorite.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup milk, ideally 2%, for the latte (if you’re making cafe au lait, 1/2 cup milk will give you a 2:1 coffee/milk ratio)
  • 1 espresso shot for the latte (or 1 cup drip coffee)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mixture (or mix your own with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg blend)
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: cinnamon sticks and/or maple pumpkin butter as garnish

Measure and pour milk into a saucepan on your stove. Add in pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup, pumpkin puree and vanilla extract. Stir well. Heat the mixture on medium/hot heat, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, brew coffee or espresso. For cafe au lait, use  a pumpkin spice blend such as one from Dunkin’ Donuts or Trader Joe’s.

Remove milk from the stovetop once it’s hot, just about to boil,  and use a milk frother to froth it. The mixture should double in size and create a nice foam. If you don’t have a frother, you can find one online for less than $20 (such as this one) or use your blender.

Once milk is frothed, combine in a mug with espresso or coffee. Garnish with pumpkin pie spice. If you’d like, add a cinnamon stick or drizzle with a bit of maple pumpkin butter.

A pumpkin beer sits by two pumpkins.
Getty Images

3. Enjoy a Pumpkin Cocktail or Pumpkin Beer

For those looking for something a little stronger than a latte, leave it to Ree Drummond, the Food Network’s Pioneer Woman, to come up with 15 cocktails that include pumpkin as a key ingredient.

4. Bake a Pumpkin Lasagna

Need a fall dinner idea for the family or company? Try this yummy vegetarian Pumpkin Lasagna.

Taste of Home calls it a “comforting fall dish” — who doesn’t love those?

5. Make Pumpkin Butter

This seasonal treat is delicious on toast, in smoothies or on oatmeal. You can make it all year if you freeze extra pumpkin puree.

Check out this simple Pumpkin Butter recipe on Oh She Glows. Bonus if this is important to you: It’s vegan.

6. Snack on Roasted Seeds

They’re a classic snack for a reason. A handful of roasted  pumpkin seeds is a delicious way to get iron, magnesium, zinc and a healthy dose of fiber.

Roasting them is simple — dry out the seeds and bake them on a baking sheet with olive oil and salt — but play with toppings to find one that works for you: salt and pepper, chili powder or cinnamon are all good options. The most difficult thing about making them is getting rid of the clingy strings after you dig them from the pumpkin.

Here’s one of many recipes out there in the pumpkinverse.

7. Make Vegetable Stock with the Guts

While the flesh and seeds are often popular foods, the stringy insides of pumpkins usually go straight to the trash (or compost). No more!

Try adding them to other veggie bits (carrot tops, onion ends) to make a flavorful stock.

8. Bake Pumpkin Gut Bread

If you’re looking for something a little heartier than soup, try this recipe for pumpkin bread from Diana Johnson of Eating Richly. She calculates that making two loaves costs about $2.

9. Cook Pumpkin Risotto

Another way to put those guts to use: pumpkin risotto. Scroll down to find the recipe for this delicious Pumpkin Risotto, which Gothamist editor Nell Casey adapted from the New York Times.

10. Make Pumpkin Pickles

If you’re pickle-obsessed, you’ll want to try these babies. For a sweeter pickle to go with desserts or cheese platters, make Pickled Sugar Pumpkin from Serious Eats.

Looking for something with a little more kick? Try these South Indian pumpkin pickles from Promenade Plantings.

11. Dry Pumpkin Skin into Chips

Don’t worry, we didn’t forget the skin of the pumpkin.

Here is a great way to make Pumpkin Crisps that burst with color, crispness and flavor.

Decorate With Pumpkins

You can’t go wrong with pumpkins in your decor all the way through Thanksgiving. Try one or all of these throughout the season.

12. Use Pumpkins as Serving Bowls

File this idea under “brilliant:” Save on decorations (and dishwashing) by using pumpkins as serving bowls for soup or cider.

Here’s an easy way to make a pumpkin bowl from Sanam Lamborn of My Persian Kitchen.

13. Turn a Pumpkin into a Planter

Keep the fall festivities going by using your pumpkin as a planter for a small potted plant.

The planter will last for several weeks, and then you can plant it directly in your garden to decompose.

14. Create a Pumpkin Bird Feeder

Perhaps even the birds like to celebrate a change of season with different decor.Offer them a new dining room and make our neighbors smile with this simple bird feeder from Instructables.

People enjoy a thanksgiving meal with pumpkins on the table as decoration.
Getty Images

15.  Decorate the Thanksgiving Table

No need to spend extra money on table decorations — plan to keep a pumpkin or two, and you’ll be all set. Use Pinterest for ideas and inspiration. In their natural orange, they are warm and traditional. Spray paint them white and pumpkins become elegant and fairy tale like.

Your pumpkins will make it to Thanksgiving, as long as you choose wisely. An uncarved, healthy pumpkin “can last 8 to 12 weeks,” Cornell University horticulturalist Steve Reiners told NPR.

16. Make Pumpkin Snowmen

Why not try this cute, crafty way to give some post-fall purpose to your pumpkins. You’ll get an early start on your winter decorating — or if you’re feeling entrepreneurial, you could even try selling your creations.

Get Creative

If you don’t want to cook or decorate with pumpkins, what else can you do? Try one of these fun ideas.

17. Relax With a Pumpkin Face Mask

Out late at a Halloween party? Recharge your skin with pumpkin’s good-for-you vitamins A, C and E.

You’ll only need to add honey and milk, according to this simple recipe from Beautylish. Add these non-pumpkin ways to your list of ways to  to save money with DIY beauty products!

18. Build a Pumpkin Catapult

Here’s a great way to get a final use out of the smoke-singed, smelly carved pumpkin that weathered the heat or cold on your front step. Build a pumpkin catapult, also known as a trebuchet.

(Just make sure you have enough wide open space.)

19. Transform a Pumpkin Into a Canvas

This is a great chance for kids to have fun creating art with pumpkins, especially if they’re a little young for carving tools.

The best part? All you need is some butcher or craft paper, a few paper plates, stickers or paint. The Artful Parent offers plenty of  the details. Decorating the pumpkin without carving it keeps it in good shape to cook with.

20. Save the Seeds

Not a fan of eating the seeds? Instead, hold onto them to plant in your garden next spring.

Growing your own pumpkins will save you money — and let you enjoy even more homemade treats next year.

21. Compost Your Pumpkin

At the very least, your leftover pumpkin can help you grow an incredible garden next year. Cut it into smaller pieces and toss it in the compost pile, then mix it into your soil next spring.

Former Penny Hoarder staffers Heather van der Hoop and Katherine Snow Smith contributed to this report. 

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

6 Places to Get Low-Cost or Free Mammograms (Without Insurance)

One of the best ways to stop breast cancer in its tracks is early detection (it works).

Though every woman should do breast self-exams each month, women over 40 should also consider getting a mammogram — an X-ray that examines breast tissue — every one to two years. (Here are specific guidelines.)

If you’re younger than 40 but have risk factors for breast cancer, you might need a mammogram, too; ask for your doctor’s recommendation.

But whatever your age, don’t avoid mammograms because of their cost.

6 Places That Offer Low-Cost or Free Mammograms

Women today have a bounty of ways to get free and low-cost mammograms. Here are six options.

1. Your Doctor

If you’re 50 or older, the Affordable Care Act requires your insurer to cover screening mammograms every two years with no co-payment. More information is available here.

Medicare and Medicaid also cover the cost of mammograms.

2. The National Breast Cancer Foundation

The National Breast Cancer Foundation partners “with medical facilities across the country to provide free mammograms and diagnostic breast care services to underserved women.”

Click here to search for a location near you.

3. The Susan G. Komen Foundation

This breast cancer organization has affiliates in 120 American cities.

According to its website, its affiliate network “is the nation’s largest private funder of community-based breast health education and breast cancer screening and treatment programs.”

To learn what resources are available in your area, search for your local affiliate here. Prefer to speak to someone? Call the organization’s breast care helpline at 1-877-GO-KOMEN (1-877-465-6636), and the representatives will help you find low-cost options in your area.

4. The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program

The CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program “provides breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services to low-income, uninsured and underinsured women across the United States.”

To qualify for this screening, you should be between the ages of 40 and 64, have no insurance or insurance that fails to cover screening exams, and live at or below 250% of the federal poverty level.

You can find out more information about your state or territory here.

5. The YWCA

Some YWCA chapters provide breast cancer screening and education to women who have no insurance or who are underinsured.

Contact your local YWCA to see if it offers affordable mammograms.

6. Your Local Imaging Center

According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, many imaging centers offer reduced rates during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is in October.

You can search for a local mammography center on the FDA website.

To learn more about mammograms — including how they work and how to prepare — check out this PDF from the Komen Foundation.

Whatever you do, don’t wait!

Susan Shain is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Former SEO analyst Jacquelyn Pica assisted with research.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

What Is A Derogatory Mark On Your Credit Report?

A derogatory mark can have a major impact on your credit report, and consequently, your credit score. Both of these are major considerations anytime you go to apply for a loan or credit card, so it’s important to understand what’s hurting your credit.

derogatory accounts

While just about any negative item on your credit report is considered derogatory, there are several distinctions to be made for each type.

Find out the basics of derogatory marks and how each kind affects your credit. Then you can decide on the best course of action to fix your finances.

Once you get your credit score up, you’ll benefit from better interest rates and larger loan balances. Getting there starts with getting rid of derogatory items, so keep reading to find out everything you need to know.

What is a derogatory mark?

A derogatory mark refers to any negative item listed on your credit reports from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

These items are reported from participating companies, such as credit card companies, lenders, mortgage servicers, and phone carriers.

Most derogatory marks stay on your credit report for seven years. However, some are more severe and can last as long as ten years from the time of the account’s last activity.

It’s crucial to understand the different types of derogatory items so you know how you can avoid adding any new ones to your credit report in the future.

Here’s a rundown of some of the most common derogatory marks. We’ll then show you exactly how to find them on your credit report so you know precisely what might be affecting your credit.

Late Payments

Perhaps the most common derogatory mark you can have on your credit report, a late payment can be reported by a creditor after it is 30 days past due.

It’s then upgraded to a higher level of severity every 30 days, so you could also see late payments that are 60, 90, or even 120 days late. Your credit score drops further for every 30 days the payment remains late.

Collections

Once an account has been charged off by a creditor, it’s written off as a loss for tax purposes and sold for pennies on the dollar to a collection agency. This usually happens after the debt is 120 days late and results in having a collection account on your report.

Bankruptcy

If you’ve entered into bankruptcy over the last several years, it will be listed on your credit report. It’s part of the trade-off for absolving a large portion of your debt. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy lasts seven years from your filing date, while a Chapter 7 bankruptcy lasts for ten years.

Tax Lien:

Tax liens occur when you fail to pay your taxes. Unfortunately, any unpaid tax lien stays on your credit report indefinitely (and can lead to other serious consequences like wage garnishment). A paid tax lien should drop off your credit report seven years after it was filed.

Foreclosure:

A foreclosure happens when you fall seriously behind in your home mortgage payments.

The exact timeline for having the bank foreclose on your house varies depending on your loan agreement. However, it typically begins between three and six months after you first started missing payments. It stays on your credit report for seven years from the filing date.

Civil Judgment:

If you’ve ever lost a civil lawsuit that resulted in you owing debt to the plaintiff, then you probably have a civil judgment on your credit report.

Judgments can remain on your credit report for seven years unless you never pay the owed debt. In that case, it could be renewed for another seven years. In some states, it could continue being renewed indefinitely.

How to find derogatory marks on your credit report

To find out which derogatory items are currently active, you’ll need to order your free credit report from each of the major credit bureaus. Different creditors may only report information to certain credit bureaus, so it’s essential to get all three. Federal law allows you to request a free credit report every 12 months from each credit bureau.

Once you’ve downloaded your credit reports, scour each one carefully. Some of the credit bureaus help you find derogatory items quickly. Equifax, for example, gives a quick summary at the top of your credit report that lists “potentially negative information.”

You can use this as guidance for spotting your derogatory marks. However, it’s still a good idea to look at each page individually. Check for delinquencies under all of your accounts. Then, look at anything listed under Negative Accounts, Collections, and Public Records (that’s where you’ll find judgments, bankruptcies, and tax liens listed).

How do derogatory items affect your credit?

It’s clear that derogatory items affect your credit, but exactly how does that happen? First of all, each one lowers your credit score. Just how much your score will drop depends on a number of factors.

Less serious infractions like a 30-day late payment may not cause an enormous drop and actually become less influential over time once you’ve repaid the debt. But major negative items can cause bigger drops in your credit score, especially if you had a higher score to begin with.

Just like minor negative items, major ones won’t hurt you as much over time, especially after the first two years, but it’s still an incremental change. Although it takes just one single financial event to hurt your score, it can take years to repair your credit score after one or more derogatory items.

Limited Access to Credit

In addition to hurting your credit scores, derogatory marks limit your access to credit. Even if your score begins to rebound a few years after the item was filed, potential lenders and credit card companies still see it listed on your credit reports.

That raises a big red flag for them because they are unsure whether or not you’ll be able to meet your financial commitment to them. It causes a lot of uncertainty, which is not something lenders like, especially if you have other troubling items like large amounts of debt.

Depending on a variety of other factors in your application, you might not get approved for the loan or credit card. If you do get approved, derogatory items can affect the quality of your loan terms. This includes how much interest you’ll pay, how much money you can borrow, and how long you have to repay the funds.

Is it possible to get derogatory marks removed from your credit report?

Yes, it is possible to have them removed before they naturally age off. By law, credit reporting agencies may not list any information that is not accurate, fair, or unverified.

That’s why it’s so important to review your credit reports and make sure all the information is correct. If it’s not, you may dispute each one you disagree with.

The credit bureau is required by law to investigate your dispute and resolve the matter within 30 days.

You can dispute both closed and open derogatory marks and can do it either on your own or with the help of a professional. There are pros and cons associated with each method, so do your research to find which one better suits you.

Disputing a Derogatory Mark on Your Own

Perhaps the best reason to dispute negative items on your own is that it’s free. You’ll have to do a lot of research to find the most effective methods, but if you are living paycheck to paycheck, this is your best option.

After all, putting yourself further into debt isn’t going to do your credit score any good. But you’ll need to be careful that you don’t make any mistakes that could actually end up hurting your credit score even more.

For example, paying an old collection may actually renew the period it stays on your report, depending on your state’s statute of limitations.

You also don’t want to offer too much information in your dispute letter. It’s the credit bureau’s job to verify the accuracy and fullness of each item. Check out our resources on dispute letters to get started on the process.

Getting a Professional to Help with Disputes

If you can spare the relatively low cost of hiring a credit repair company to help with your disputes, it may be a worthwhile expense.

A quality credit repair firm (like the ones we’ve reviewed) typically has a decade or more of experience handling derogatory mark disputes. They know the law inside and out so that they can take the best possible approach at disputing each item.

Lexington Law Firm, for example, has both lawyers and paralegals on staff to help you. You can read our full review of them here. Beyond the technical expertise, a credit repair company also saves you the time and aggravation it takes to oversee disputes, especially if you have several.

Get a Free Consultation

Most firms offer a free consultation before you sign up to use their services. That call gives you a chance to go over your credit history and hear their plan to fix your credit. It’s a low-pressure way to get more information about how they can help you.

No matter which route you take, you should know that bad credit is not permanent. There are plenty of ways to fix it. If you avoid any new derogatory marks, then your score has nowhere to go but up as current marks age and cause less damage to your credit.

You can even be more proactive by strategically disputing those marks and getting them removed from your report early.

Request your credit reports today so that you can figure out the best game plan for your own credit repair process. If you’re intimidated, contact a professional to help point you in the right direction.

These 7 Restaurants Are Offering Better Pay and Perks to Fill 125K Jobs

“We’re Hiring.” “Join our Team.” “Interview. Get a Free Meal.”

Marquee signs at restaurants around the country show food service employers are still desperate to fill thousands of jobs — and they’re upping their offerings with signing bonuses and higher wages.

Average hourly wages for non supervisory positions in the food and beverage industry surpassed $15 in July, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

We checked out Indeed, Glassdoor and chain restaurant websites to find the ones offering the best pay and bonuses. If you’re looking for full- or part-time work, consider these employers first.

7 Restaurants Offering Signing Bonuses or Higher Pay

McDonald’s: 65,000 jobs

McDonald’s raised hourly wages for all of its existing employees and new hires earlier this year to $11 to $17 for entry-level positions. It can’t mandate the same for franchises, which make up 95 percent of all stores, but it is encouraging them to raise their wages, too.

It’s also hoping to entice new hires with paid time off (no details announced on how much) and financial aid for education. McDonald’s will offer qualifying crew members $2,500 a year toward college tuition and $3,000 to managers.

Wages: $11 to $17 for entry level positions; $15 to $20 for shift managers, according to the company.

Perks: College tuition aid, high school diploma program, free ESL program, some paid time off.

How to apply: Go to the McDonald’s website.  

Starbucks: 17,000 jobs

The coffee giant is looking to fill 17,000 jobs across the country. A few clicks on a map on the company website lets applicants know what jobs are available in their area.

Wages: Average hourly wage for baristas is $12, while average annual salary for managers is $59,000, according to Glassdoor.

Perks: Parental leave, up to $10,000 reimbursement for adoption, surrogacy or fertility procedures, 100% tuition reimbursement for a bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online program, 401(k) matching.

How to apply: Go to the company website.

Papa John’s: 15,000 jobs

The pizza chain announced plans in July to spend $2.5 million on referral bonuses and employee appreciation bonuses at corporate-owned stores through the rest of 2021. Existing employees who refer a friend to an interview that results in a hire get $50 as does the new employee. Employees are also eligible for up to $400 in appreciation bonuses paid in increments through the rest of the year.

Wages: An average of $10 an hour for team members, according to Glassdoor.

Perks: College tuition reimbursement for a full degree.

How to apply: Go to this link.

Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar: 10,000 jobs

This longtime staple in casual dining is seeing triple digit sales increases thanks in part to a country song called “Fancy Like” by Walker Hayes that details how he celebrates on payday. “We fancy like Applebee’s on a date night, got that Bourbon Street steak with the Oreo shake,” the lyrics say. The song has even inspired a viral TikTok and Instagram dance craze.

Sales at Applebee’s stores open at least a year were up 102% for the three months ending June 30 compared to the same three months in 2020. To keep up with this surge in customers, the  “neighborhood” restaurant is looking to hire 10,000 people across the country.

Wages: Average hourly wage for servers is $10, for line cooks it’s $13 and managers make an average of $53,000 a year.

Perks: 401(k), health insurance

How to apply: Go to this link.

IHOP: 10,000 jobs

IHOP is hoping to fill 10,000  jobs under its trademark blue roof at all of its 1,600 restaurants, with in-person and virtual interviews in a more streamlined process.

Wages: Servers make an average of $12 an hour, line cooks make an average of $13 an hour while managers make an average annual salary of $56,000, according to Glassdoor.

How to apply: Interested applicants can check out openings here.

Chipotle Mexican Grill: 5,000 jobs

The Mexican favorite needs to fill more than 5,000 positions. To attract more employees it has raised crew members’ pay to $11 to $18 an hour, resulting in an average hourly wage of $15. It’s also offering referral bonuses to employees who help recruit a new hire. A referral that results in a new crew member is worth $200, while a referral for an apprentice or general manager gets a $750 bonus.

Wages: $11 to $18 per hour

Perks: Pay increases, referral bonuses, 401(k), expanded college tuition coverage for degrees in agriculture, culinary and hospitality.

How to apply: Go to the Chipotle website.

Jersey Mike’s: 2,500 jobs

This sub shop is offering a variety of signing bonuses at many of its 2,000 restaurants around the country. One very determined franchise owner in Santa Cruz, Calif., recently promised a $10,000 hiring incentive for an assistant manager, $5,000 for a shift manager and $500 for other full- or part-time employees. Other franchise owners are offering $100 signing bonuses. New hires get the bonus once they are on the job for six weeks.

Wages: Average hourly wage of $13 an hour.

How to apply: Interested applicants can check out the website

Katherine Snow Smith is a freelance writer and editor in Chapel Hill, N.C. 

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How To Delete Medical Collections From Your Credit Report

When you’re sick or injured enough to need significant medical care, the last thing you want to think about is how you’re going to pay your medical bills. But, even more distressful is just how much medical debt collections on your credit report can impact your financial future.

medical bills

With medical bills remaining the largest factor for Americans declaring bankruptcy, it’s clear that the nation’s largest epidemic is actually medical debt.

So, what can you do to keep them from ruining your finances? Is there a way to get your credit back on track once you’ve been saddled with immense medical debt?

It’s not always easy, but there are strategic actions you can take to decrease the effect medical bills have on your credit score. Read on to find out what they are.

How Medical Bills Affect Your Credit

The good news is that medical debt only impacts your credit if it gets sent to a collection agency, and they report it to the major credit bureaus. The bad news is that there is no way to know how quickly your healthcare provider sends unpaid bills to collections.

However, recent rules have been implemented by the credit bureaus to help make the process more transparent to consumers once the debt is reported.

Credit Scoring Changes

As of 2017, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion wait until an unpaid medical bill has been delinquent for 180 days before adding it to a consumer’s credit report.

This is helpful because the health insurance process is slow, and even if something is covered, even partially, reimbursements may take time to process.

As soon as you find out your medical debt is going to collections, it’s wise to figure out the date of delinquency. Then you’ll know how much time you have to get the outstanding medical bill taken care of.

Once it’s on your credit report, it’s displayed as an unpaid collection, and it will stay there for seven years.

When you pay it off, it will show as being paid but remains on your credit report for up to seven years. Your credit score takes a big hit initially, but the collection weighs less heavily as time goes by.

Unpaid Medical Bills

Currently, all unpaid medical bills are equally weighed on the FICO 8 scoring model, but the newest version, FICO 9, does not count medical collections as heavily as other types of debt.

Unfortunately, it’s likely to take time for most lenders to implement the new credit scoring model when analyzing loan applications. VantageScore 3.0 doesn’t count paid collections at all but isn’t used as widely as FICO.

Even if you don’t know of any medical debts on your credit reports, it’s a good idea to check your report every year just to make sure. You can get all three of your credit reports for free to ensure all your information is accurate.

Collection agencies must follow specific protocols for notifying you of delinquent debt, but they don’t always do that.

Plus, even if you’ve paid off a collection, there may have been an error in updating the status from unpaid. So check your report to make sure an obscure medical collection isn’t dragging down your credit without your knowledge.

How to Delete Medical Collections From Your Credit Report

Even if you try your best to avoid having your debt go to medical collections, it’s sometimes impossible to avoid.

The unfortunate truth is that nearly 20% of Americans have unpaid medical debt. So what can you do once it’s there? You have a couple of different options for getting medical collections removed from your credit reports.

If you can pay the medical bill, you might be able to convince the debt collector to remove the item from your credit report. Of course, they are not obligated to do this, but it’s worth asking.

If you were never notified about the amount owed or were wrongfully charged, contact the original medical provider and ask them to remove your account from collections and pay them directly. If that doesn’t work, file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Disputing Medical Collections

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the credit bureaus to investigate all disputes. So when disputing errors on your credit reports, whether they’re medical-related or not, it’s important to document every step you take.

Make copies of everything: your medical bills, receipts, and letters to and from the healthcare provider or debt collector. If you reach an agreement on the phone, ask the other party to send confirmation in writing so that you have a record of the arrangement.

If your credit history indicates that a paid medical bill is still unpaid, you can dispute the account with the credit bureaus directly.

Dispute with All 3 Credit Bureaus

When disputing medical collections, you have to file a dispute with each credit bureau reporting the account on your credit report. The credit bureau must follow up with you within 30 days of receiving your complaint, so mark your calendar to make sure they do.

When dealing with large amounts of debt, try your best to avoid it going to collections and showing up on your credit report. Ask your health care provider for assistance in coming up with a payment plan that works for both of you.

Check for Inaccuracies

Never be afraid to negotiate. You will also want to check for errors on your collection account. Even if your medical collection doesn’t appear on your credit report, it’s wise to see if there are any errors on your medical bill. Check that the delinquency date and payment status are accurate because it’s all too easy for someone to have made a clerical error at some point.

Request payment records from your doctor’s office and/or review old credit card statements and canceled checks to ensure everything matches up correctly.

While it takes a good deal of time and persistence, your diligence can often result in medical debts staying far away from your credit report.

How to Prevent Medical Bills from Destroying Your Credit

Just as it is with our physical health, prevention is the best cure for our financial health. So once you’ve recovered from your medical issue, start figuring out what your medical bills are going to look like.

Get Ahead of Your Medical Debt

Find out what expenses your health insurance company covers and what you’ll be responsible for yourself. Do this as soon as you can. Then, you won’t be surprised by any medical bills that arrive in the mail with a looming payment deadline.

Prepare in advance as much as possible so you can start making payments. It’s an unfortunate reality you have to deal with even when you’ve already been through health issues.

Pay Your Bills Monthly

When you first receive a bill and can’t pay it off right away, contact the medical provider to determine if you can sign up for a monthly payment plan.

Payment plans with hospitals and doctor’s offices typically don’t charge interest. And they usually won’t send the medical debt to a collection agency if you make regular payments.

You can also consider applying for a low interest personal loan if your provider doesn’t offer monthly payments. Of course, it’s never ideal to have to pay interest on top of the principal balance, but it could prevent you from having the collection account go into delinquency and showing up on your credit report.

Negotiate the Bill

You also have the option to negotiate with the medical facility. Most medical providers would rather receive partial payment than no payment at all. It also saves them the hassle of sending the delinquent amount to a debt collection agency. Simply call the billing department and ask for a better rate.

It’s also helpful to confirm that you’re being billed the correct amount. Since insurance companies often negotiate lower rates, you should still be eligible for those rates when you’re picking up costs through a deductible — but those savings aren’t necessarily reflected in your bill.

Ask for Forgiveness

Another tactic is to ask for balance forgiveness altogether. Again, this can be done directly through your care provider and should be attempted before your debt goes to a collection agency.

Write a letter to the provider explaining your financial situation and how burdensome your monthly payments have become.

This is most effective if your insurance company charged the care as out-of-network because they will have already paid the provider for in-network services.

That means the provider has already received some payment for the work completed. This tactic isn’t a sure thing, but it’s definitely worth the try when your debt is weighing you down.

Make a Deal with the Collection Agency

If a debt collector contacts you, offer to pay right away with the contingency that they don’t report it or remove it from your credit report. Hopefully, you can work out a plan to pay the debt and get back on track, even if it takes a while.

You want to avoid having any medical collection accounts appear on your credit report at all costs. Not only are they difficult to remove once they are on there, just one medical item can drop your credit score by as much as 100 points.

What to Put in a Pet Emergency Kit in Case Disaster Strikes

Whether it’s hurricanes, wildfires, blizzards, tornadoes or flash floods, it seems no place is immune from a weather disaster — which means every pet owner should have an emergency plan for their fur friends.

Unfortunately, many people in a rush to escape must leave behind pets. For those who do take their animals with them, it can be a struggle to arrange last-minute travel or find shelters that allow pets.

Plus, last-minute care, boarding and supplies can be severely overpriced.

It’s important to have an emergency preparedness plan for when disaster strikes — and it should include a pet emergency kit.

Emergency Preparedness for Pets in 3 Steps

It’s a good idea to begin preparing to keep yourself, your family and your pets safe at the start of your area’s emergency season. Here’s a disaster preparedness checklist for your pets.

1. Assemble a Pet Emergency Kit

When you gather supplies for an emergency kit for yourself and your household, don’t forget to put a disaster kit together for your furry friends, too. Make sure you have this kit handy regardless of whether you think you will evacuate your home — weather conditions can change rapidly and unexpectedly.

Here’s what your pet emergency kit should include, according to PetsWelcome.com:

  • A collar and ID tags with a name and contact information (if the animal doesn’t wear one regularly).
  • The phone number and address for your vet and a vet emergency clinic in the area you’ll be staying.
  • Updated medical records and tags in a waterproof bag or sleeve.
  • Medications (your vet may be able to give you an extra supply if your pet depends on the drugs to survive) and a pet first aid kit — here’s a checklist of what it should include.
  • Current photos of your pet to help with identification if you become separated.
  • A few copies of your pet’s feeding habits, notable behaviors, medication schedule and medical conditions, if applicable, in case the pet has to be boarded or placed in foster care suddenly.
  • A small toy, pillow, blanket or bed that brings your pet comfort.
  • Weather-related accessories that keep your pet safe and calm (thundershirt, booties, paw balm, supplements, flotation device).
  • Food and water bowls, plus extra food and treats. (And don’t forget a manual can opener, if necessary.)
  • Plastic waste bags, paper towels, lightweight cat litter and a travel-size litter box. (And a small flashlight for late-night bathroom trips.)
  • Dry shampoo, wipes, a towel and whatever else you may need for a quick cleanup.
  • A leash, harness and travel crate that is comfortable even over long periods of time.

After you’ve packed your kit — including the first aid supplies — check it every few months to refresh items that have expired or need to be replaced.

2. Get Ready Before Disaster Strikes

Before bad seasonal weather or disasters are expected in your area, there are some things you should do to ensure your pet will remain safe and well cared for.

Here’s what to do now, before a natural disaster arrives:

  • If your pets are overdue for any shots, take them to the vet now so you’re not left scrambling to make an appointment while a storm approaches. An unvaccinated pet may not be allowed into shelters, hotels, boarding facilities or foster care.
  • Contact hotels, motels and emergency shelters on your planned evacuation routes to ensure they accept pets. (Specify that you are seeking information on emergency evacuation situations, and they may be able to explain their “in case of emergency” procedures and allowances.) Make a list of the places that do.
  • Make a list of any veterinarians or boarding facilities along your planned evacuation routes in case you are required to drop off your pets as you’re seeking shelter with your family.
  • If your evacuation plan includes staying with family or friends in another region, contact them to ensure they are OK with your pets staying, too.

3. Take Care of Your Pets During the Emergency (or Find Someone Who Can)

If you have to leave your home, don’t leave your pets behind.

Pets who are left behind in emergency situations are often sent to animal shelters or homes in another area — or could end up lost or dead.

Pro Tip

Weather-related disasters aren’t the only emergencies. In addition to preparing your emergency kit, ask a family member or friend who can take care of your pets if you become ill.   

If you are evacuating, don’t leave your pet locked in your home with extra bowls of food and water. You can’t guarantee how long you will be gone, how severely the weather will affect your home or how your pet will react when left alone for so long under stressful conditions.

Do not leave a pet tied to a fence, light post or telephone pole or turn your pet loose to roam freely outside. Do not leave pets locked in a car, on a boat or otherwise stranded. This is considered animal cruelty, and you may be fined or worse.

If you become separated from your pet for any reason, first contact the animal control agency in your area, then check with Find My Lost Pet for a list of websites that have information on animals rescued amid a natural disaster.

A pet is a huge responsibility, and part of that responsibility is keeping your animal pal protected during an emergency situation.

Just remember, preparation is the key to keeping yourself and those you love (humans and animals) safe.

Grace Schweizer is the social media manager at The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How To Get In The 800+ Credit Score Club

Having a high credit score might not make you a VIP at the airport or the hottest restaurant in town, but being a member of the elite 800 Credit Score Club comes with plenty of its own perks.

woman relaxing

Think low interest rates on every loan you apply to, higher limits on your credit cards, and the best rewards programs you can find.

When you realize how much money you save because of these benefits, you’ll definitely prefer this VIP list to any other. We’ll take you step-by-step and show you exactly how you can get your credit score in the 800s.

What is the 800 Credit Score Club?

As the name suggests, it’s an informal term for individuals with the very highest credit scores.

Your FICO credit score can range anywhere between 300 and 850, so if your credit scores are above 800, you are among the best of the best.

In fact, only about 18% of Americans can count themselves as members of this prestigious group.

There are several factors contributing to such a strong credit score, and many of them take both time and strategy.

But by putting some forethought into how you manage your finances, it’s entirely possible to increase your credit score dramatically. And if you’re going to have a goal, why not aim high?

What are some of the benefits of having an 800+ credit score?

For starters, you will enjoy easier and faster loan approvals whether you’re applying for a mortgage or a car loan. It won’t take the bank too long to approve you with a FICO score of 800 or above.

You will also receive much better credit card offers that offer the best rewards, exclusive access to concerts, sporting events, etc., and the lowest interest rates. On top of that, you will also receive the best insurance premiums.

How to Get an 800+ Credit Score?

To get your FICO score up to at least 800, you need to look at your credit report in a strategic manner. All of the information contained in your report contributes directly to how your credit score is calculated.

So if you know the best things to have on your credit report and regularly work towards establishing those practices, your credit score will automatically increase to reflect those positive items. Let’s take a look at each tactic, one by one.

1. Review Your Credit Report

Your first task to prepare yourself for 800 Club membership is to request and review a copy of your credit report every year. You won’t be able to see your credit score with the free credit report, but you can check the accuracy of your information.

It also helps to catch identity theft if someone has stolen your personal information and fraudulently opened credit accounts under your name.

Make Sure You Get All Three

Remember that you have three credit reports from the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

You can request all three from AnnualCreditReport.com once every twelve months. It’s a great service to take advantage of to help track your progress towards the 800 Club.

No matter what your financial goals might be, working your way into the 800 Club can only help your chances of achieving them.

With some planning, some time, and maybe a few phone calls, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the progress you can make in raising your credit score. And if you stick with it long enough, you’ll eventually cross the threshold into the revered 800 Club.

2. Be Consistent with Your Payments

Paying your bills on time is probably the single most important thing you can do for your credit score. And this doesn’t just apply to your loans and credit card payments!

Many different types of businesses can report delinquent payments to credit bureaus, including cell phone carriers and utility companies.

Late Payments Hurt Your Credit Score

Technically, any late payment over 30 days has the potential to show up on your credit report and lower your credit score. Plus, the longer you wait to make the payment, the bigger effect it has on your credit score.

That’s because late payments are categorized by how past due they are: 30 days, 60 days, or 90 days. Each one causes an increasing drop in your score.

A one-time late payment of 30 or 60 days won’t hurt your score too much and won’t have much of an effect after two years. However, that all changes when you have frequent late payments because the scoring model is made to predict how likely you are to go to a 90-day delinquency.

Once you get to that point, your credit score will be damaged for up to seven years. And if your payment is sent to a collection agency, you’ll really notice a sharp decline in your credit score.

So if you want to make it into the 800 Club, pay attention to your monthly due dates and make sure you pay everything on time.

3. Get Negative Information Removed from Your Credit Reports

If you happen to have negative items on your report, it is possible to get them removed. You have a couple of different options. One is to request a goodwill adjustment from the creditor who reported the late payment. This is a great tactic for long-time customers who rarely make a late payment.

If you still owe the money, you can also negotiate to have the item removed from your credit report by agreeing to sign up for automatic payments on the money you owe.

You can also request that a late payment entry be removed if the information is inaccurate or the creditor cannot verify the information within the required timeframe.

Another option is disputing the negative items with the credit bureaus. By law, you have the right to dispute any information contained in your credit report that you deem to be inaccurate, incomplete, unverifiable, obsolete, or questionable. Credit repair companies can help you with this.

4. Pay Attention to the Amount of Debt You Owe

After your payment history, the amount of credit you utilize (or the amount of debt you owe) is the most important determinant of your FICO credit score.

It actually accounts for 30% of your entire FICO score. So this one is important, and it does take a little more strategy than simply paying all of your bills on time.

Credit Utilization

When your credit score is calculated, the scoring model looks at all of the credit you have available to you, and it then compares that number to how much you’ve actually used.

If all of your credit card lines let you borrow up to $10,000 and you carry a balance of $3,000 across all of them, you’re utilizing 30% of your available credit.

Here’s where things start to get tricky. Your credit score is also affected by how that debt is spread out across each line of credit. So if that $3,000 balance is all on one credit card and you don’t have any debt on the other cards, your score will still suffer because you’re maxing out that one card.

If you can’t pay off your balance in full each month, try to spread it out over two cards or put the balance on the card with the biggest limit (assuming your interest rates are comparable). That way, you won’t have to worry about one maxed-out credit card hurting your credit score.

Debt-to-Credit Ratio

Overall, you want your debt-to-credit ratio to be no more than 25-30%. You can figure this out with a simple calculation: Amount of Debt / Amount of Available Credit. Then, you divide the two numbers and multiply your answer by 100 to get the percentage.

If your percentage turns out to be higher than 30%, you should prioritize paying down your debt so you can work your way towards a higher credit score and eventually earn that 800 Club membership.

Type of Debt

It’s also important to realize that the type of debt you have also affects your credit score. The more revolving debt (like credit cards) you have, the lower your credit score will be.

Installment loans like a mortgage or your student loans aren’t viewed negatively because they add value to your overall financial picture.

5. Don’t Open Unnecessary Accounts

In your quest to join the 800 Club, don’t make the rookie mistake of opening extra accounts just to increase your available credit. This hurts your credit score in a couple of different ways.

The first is that your credit score will dip about 5-10 points for each credit inquiry on your report. The damage to your credit score only lasts a year, but the inquiry itself stays listed on your report for two years.

Length of Credit History

Opening a new account can also hurt your credit because the length of your accounts and the number of new accounts are both contributing factors.

You want to keep your oldest accounts open, even if you don’t use them anymore, because they make your average length of credit longer, just as newer accounts will lower that average.

couple on vacation

Increase Your Credit Limit

If you want additional credit available on any of your credit cards, you can ask your credit card issuer for a credit limit increase on one of your current accounts.

As long as you’ve paid on time and have been a good customer, you’ll probably be a strong candidate for getting a larger limit on your credit card. That helps your debt to credit ratio without hurting your length of credit.

While you’re on the phone with the credit card issuer, see if you can negotiate a lower rate. It won’t help your credit score, but it will help your wallet! All the better if you put those extra savings towards paying off your debt faster (which will actually help your credit score).

Secured Versus Unsecured Loans — And Ways You Can Wield These Powerful Tools

Sure, you could mow acres of lawn with a weedeater, dig a hole with a pitchfork or nail a screw with a hammer. You’d be turning an old adage on its head by working harder, instead of smarter, however. Like tools, loans are much more effective, and easier to maintain, when you wield the right loan product for the job at hand – whether that’s buying a new car, taking out a mortgage or consolidating high-interest credit card debt.

Knowing what an unsecured loan is and how it compares to a secured loan, can help you choose the right loan type, so you can do things like sand down high interest rates, hammer away at debt or take an ax to large expenses to chop them into manageable monthly payments.

So what is an unsecured loan exactly? What is a secured loan? And what’s the best way to take advantage of them?

Consider this your quick-start guide to the characteristics of secured and unsecured loans, as well as a primer on how you can use them to repair or renovate your finances.

What a Secured Loan Is — and the Best Ways to Use It

When you think of “secured loans,” think collateral. Collateral provides lenders security against non-payment, or “default.” Instead of having to navigate the legal system to recoup a loan that wasn’t paid in full, the lender can take possession of the collateral a borrower submitted to guarantee the loan.

Having to put up a car, real estate or other valuable assets as collateral for a loan is a sobering thought. But you can’t blame lenders for wanting to ensure an applicant is serious about repaying the loan.

Common types of collateral for secured loans: automobiles, real estate, investments, insurance policies and cash accounts.

Backing a loan with collateral not only affirms your commitment to repayment — it can also raise your chances of approval for that loan, especially if there’s plenty of room for your credit score to improve. With less risk to the lender, it’s often easier to land a secured loan than an unsecured loan, though the latter is still the most common type of personal loan.

Check out some of these common use cases for secured loans:

  • Financing a new car: You don’t need pristine credit to buy a car, since the car itself can serve as collateral.
  • Mortgaging a home: Just like financing a car, you can buy a home with a secured loan.
  • Building credit: If you have bad credit or none at all, you can use your own money as collateral to get a small line of credit from a bank. With responsible use, that credit line could grow.
  • Emergency money: If you need money and don’t have great credit, you can borrow money by using collateral such as a car title or jewelry.
  • Business loans: If you don’t qualify for an unsecured loan, or need more than offered, you could land a secured loan by backing it with high-value assets, such as real estate or business inventory.

Pros of Secured Loans:

  • Lower interest rates
  • The potential to borrow larger amounts
  • Easier to qualify for, since they involve less risk to the lender
  • Lower credit score requirements

Cons of Secured Loans:

  • Approval could take longer as assets are reviewed
  • Have to leverage assets, risking repossession or foreclosure in cases of loan default
  • Smaller loans or shorter terms may not be available

In the approval process for a secured loan, lenders also factor in your creditworthiness:  Your debt-to-income ratio, credit scores, the value of your assets, employment status and the health of your accounts. These factors typically weigh more in the application process for unsecured loans.

A woman hugs the steering wheel of a car she wants to buy.
Getty Images

What an Unsecured Loan Is and How to Use It

It’s what it sounds like, yet not exactly so.

Unsecured loans don’t require the security of collateral. Instead, a potential lender will review your creditworthiness to determine if they’ll extend you an unsecured loan.

While an unsecured loan doesn’t require you to put up collateral like a secured loan, the bank still has recourse to recoup the loan, should you fail to repay it in full. In their toolkits, banks have legal options, such as lawsuits and wage garnishment, which they can use to protect themselves against defaulted loans.

Here are some common use cases for taking out an unsecured loan:

  • Debt consolidation: A single lower-interest loan to consolidate all of those high-interest credit cards and other debt.
  • Emergency money: A solid emergency fund isn’t always enough, but a significant line of credit can bail you out in an emergency.
  • Big-ticket items: Spread out big purchases to fit a large item into your monthly budget.
  • Buying a car: You can use a personal line of credit to purchase an automobile from a private seller.
  • Home improvement: Homeowners can use a personal loan with a fixed interest rate to make home improvements without using the home as collateral, which is required with other options, like a HELOC.
  • Weddings: Some couples opt for a personal loan to cover large expenses, like weddings.

Pros of Unsecured Loans:

  • No need to leverage any assets as collateral
  • Faster approval process, since there’s no need to evaluate assets
  • The potential to take smaller loans

Cons of Unsecured Loans:

  • Higher interest rates
  • Higher credit scores required

How a Secured or Unsecured Loan Can Impact Your Credit Scores

While there’s usually no impact for looking into a secured loan or an unsecured loan, your credit scores could take a mild to moderate hit once you actually apply. That hit to your credit scores may come from the hard inquiry to your credit file, as well as the rise in debt that comes from using the loan.

But if you’re seriously considering a personal loan, then you probably aren’t shortsighted and can appreciate the beauty of the long game.

In the long run, that hard inquiry will fall off your credit file. And if you keep up with your loan payments, your score could begin to trend upward in a matter of months.

Paying that loan every month will help improve your payment history. And if you’re using that loan to pay off credit card debt, you could score points by lowering your debt-to-credit ratio.

Proving you can responsibly pay off a loan is one of the more impactful things you can do to improve your credit scores. And it could help you secure even better loan terms the next time you go looking for a secured or unsecured loan.

Shopping for Secured and Unsecured Loans

So now that you’re up to speed on the key distinctions between a secured versus unsecured loan, there’s still a little more work you need to do to secure the funds you need.

You might find it tempting to jump onto the first pre-approved offer from lenders with names you’ve heard of, especially if the terms are solid, but you could be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t compare offers.

Shop for the best loan terms available for your credit profile by using a loan-comparison tool like Fiona. Fiona searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds.

If your credit score is at least 620, its platform can help you borrow up to $100,000, with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.

And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes. Once you choose your loan, you could see your money in just a few days. And by the way, your information is totally safe — the website uses higher encryption security than many banks.

Fiona will also show you additional offers from other lenders — because comparing your quotes can help you save even more money in the long run.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How To Remove Kohl’s Late Charges From Your Credit Report

You probably signed up for your Kohl’s card years ago as a way to earn a discount when you shop. These cards are easy to sign up for but because you don’t use them very often, they’re even easier to forget about.

Kohl's store

But if you’ve missed payments on your Kohl’s card, these will be reported to the three major credit bureaus and can cause a big drop in your credit score. Fortunately, it is possible to have Kohl’s late charges removed from your credit report.

How Does a Kohl’s Late Payment Affect My Credit Score?

If your Kohl’s payment is more than 30 days late, your creditor may choose to report it to the credit bureaus. The payment will be listed based on how late it is or whether it’s already been charged off.

According to Equifax, even one missed payment could cause your credit score to drop. And any derogatory marks on your credit report will stay there for up to seven years.

The degree to which a late charge affects your credit score depends on several factors. Here is a brief overview of how credit reporting agencies evaluate late payments:

  • How recently the late charge occurred
  • How many days late the charge is
  • The size of the payment
  • Whether you have a history of paying your bills late

Your payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score so missed payments matter quite a bit. According to FICO data, one payment that’s 30-days late could cause your score to drop by 60 to 110 points.

How Can I Remove Kohl’s Late Payments From My Credit Report?

Late payments can be a drag on your FICO score and affect your lending decisions for years to come. Fortunately, it is possible to get these charges removed by taking the following steps.

1. Review Your Credit Report

Just knowing your credit score isn’t going to shed much light on how you can improve your score. It’s also a good idea to regularly review your credit report from the three major credit bureaus:

  • Equifax
  • Experian
  • TransUnion

Reviewing your credit report will help you see if anything is amiss. And you want to review all three because each bureau does things a little bit differently.

When you review your three reports, look for any late charges associated with your MyKohl’s Charge Card account. This will tell you when the charges were reported to the credit bureaus and how many days overdue they are.

If there are inaccurate late payments on your credit report, you can contact the credit bureau to have them removed. But if the charges are accurate, then the credit bureau will be unlikely to remove them for you. So your next step is to contact Kohl’s directly.

2. Send Kohl’s a Goodwill Letter

If you have a history of paying your bills on time and this was just a one-time slip-up, Kohl’s may be willing to remove the charges if you send them a goodwill letter. It’s not impossible if you have a history of making late payments, but it will be harder.

A goodwill letter is a request to your lender or creditor to remove a missed payment from your credit report. Kohl’s is under no obligation to honor your request. If they agree to it, this is known as a goodwill adjustment.

To improve your chances, you should explain why you missed the payment and include any relevant documents. For instance, it will help your case if you’ve already repaid the charges.

Or if you missed the payment due to some type of emergency, you should include documentation of this. Here is a sample goodwill letter you can use to get started.

Since you’re asking them to do you a favor, you should never be rude or take a negative tone with Kohl’s. And make sure you follow up by phone or email within 30 days of sending the letter. There’s always the chance your letter could get overlooked or sent to the wrong person.

3. Request Pay-For-Delete

If your late payments have been sent to a collections agency, you can also try sending your creditor a pay-for-delete letter. This is a letter requesting that the charges be deleted from your credit report in exchange for you paying the account in full.

This is some disagreement about pay-for-delete letters and whether they are the best strategy for improving your credit. Sending a pay-for-delete letter won’t necessarily work but if you go about it the right way, it can’t hurt to try.

If your creditor agrees to your request, make sure you receive this agreement in writing and keep it in your files. And once they’ve agreed to the arrangement make sure you repay your debt in full.

4. Work With a Professional

Negotiating with your lenders to have your Kohl’s charges removed can be time-consuming and frustrating. And at the end of the day, your creditor may not agree to remove the charges.

So if you find yourself at a dead-end, you can try working with a professional credit repair company to improve your credit score. Make sure you choose a reputable company with the experience to help you resolve these issues.

How Can I Get the Late Fees Waived?

Kohl’s charges late fees up to $38 for every missed payment. If you’ve missed quite a few payments, this can add up quickly.

Your first priority should be addressing any damage to your credit report but once that’s done, it doesn’t hurt to try to get the late fees waived. You can contact Kohl’s and ask them to reverse the late fees.

If you’re a long-term customer and have a history of making your payments on time, they may be willing to remove one or two late fees.

Going forward, it may be worth it to consider auto-payments or just paying off the card entirely so you don’t run into this situation again.

Summary

Your payment history is one of the most important factors considered on your FICO score. So if you’ve accidentally racked up late charges on your Kohl’s card, this can have a serious impact on your credit score.

Fortunately, it’s possible to work with your lender and have these charges removed. But keep in mind, removing derogatory charges from your credit report is only half the battle.

Going forward, make sure you pay your bills on time and adopt good financial habits. This is the best way to build strong credit for years to come.

6 Places to Get Cheap or Free Flu Shots This Year

A woman reacts to getting the flu shot.

Ana Farfan reacts to getting an influenza vaccine shot at Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas. LM Otero/Getty Images

In case this news gets lost amid the COVID-19 noise, listen up: Flu season is upon us.

Having two potentially deadly viruses that share some of the same symptoms makes getting the flu vaccine important for both protecting yourself from the flu and reducing the strain on health care facilities responding to the coronavirus.

The good news: Getting vaccinated doesn’t have to be expensive. Here’s where to get a flu shot for cheap or free — plus where you could actually snag flu shot deals after getting your shot.

Where to Get Cheap or Free Flu Shots

The annual flu vaccine can help protect you from getting the flu and reduce the severity if you do contract it. 

The CDC recommends flu shots annually for everyone 6 months and older. 

Although September and October are the ideal times to get vaccinated, the CDC notes that you can get a vaccine so long as the flu virus is circulating — flu season doesn’t officially end until around April or May.

If you have health insurance, you’ll likely be able to get a free flu shot. But even if you don’t have insurance, you can still find affordable — and sometimes free — options.

Pro Tip

Some providers may have limited supplies of the flu vaccine, so check with your location before you go.

Ready to protect yourself from the influenza virus? Here’s where to go for your shot.

1. Local Retailers, Grocery Stores and Pharmacies

Many places you already shop offer free flu shots, and some pharmacies and stores will even throw in a special deal or coupon to save money on a future purchase. 

Pro Tip

Some providers may have limited supplies of the flu vaccine, so check with your location before you go.

Just by showing your insurance card, you can get a free shot. If you don’t have insurance, you can typically get the shot for less than $50 at the following businesses:

Costco 

You don’t need to be a member of the warehouse club to use a Costco pharmacy. And even if you don’t have insurance, you can get a flu vaccine starting at $19.99. Walk-ins are welcome, or click here to book an appointment online.

CVS 

Get your flu shot at CVS pharmacy or its Minute Clinic. Through Dec. 31, CVS is offering a $5 coupon off any shopping trip of $20 or more when you get a flu shot at one of its locations. Click here for the details and to schedule an appointment.

Kroger 

You can make an appointment to get a flu shot at Kroger Health’s pharmacies. Click here to book online.

Publix 

The grocery chain typically welcomes walk-up flu shot appointments at its in-store pharmacies, but this year it is also offering an online service that allows customers to schedule an appointment and sign consent forms ahead of time, which you can do by clicking here. Publix provides free flu shots through most health insurance plans, including Medicare.

Rite Aid 

The pharmacy chain is offering free flu shots with most insurance plans. You can get vaccinated as a walk-in patient or schedule an appointment online. Through Sept. 30, Rite Aid will give you $5 off a purchase of $25 or more if you get a flu shot at one of its locations.

Safeway 

Although there’s no appointment required, the grocery chain recommends filling out this consent form before you visit to get an immunization. It could really be worth your trouble for the flu shot deals. In addition to getting a free flu shot with most insurance plans, you get 10% off your next grocery purchase up to $200. Some Safeway locations are also offering drive-up flu shot clinics.

Target 

Stop by a CVS pharmacy at Target — walk in or schedule an appointment. Flu shots are free with most insurance plans.

Walgreens 

Get your free flu shot at this pharmacy chain with most insurance plans. You can either walk in or schedule an appointment at the pharmacy chain.

Walmart 

The big box chain is offering low-cost and free flu shots at its 4,600 locations nationwide. Find a Walmart location near you to get your immunization. Flu shots are also available at Sam’s Club locations with no Sam’s Club membership necessary.

2. Your Doctor and Urgent Care Clinics

If you have health insurance, you can get a free flu shot at a variety of places, including your doctor and urgent care clinics.

While the shot may be free, the office visit may not be — check before you make an appointment or show up at a clinic.

3. Your Workplace

If your office closed due to the pandemic, your employer might not be offering free flu shots this year. However, if you’re still showing up to work, it doesn’t hurt to ask your human resources department if your company would sponsor an on-site flu vaccination.

4. Your College Campus

If you’re a college student attending classes on campus, there’s a good chance your college may offer flu shots at no cost. Most times, all you’ll need is your student ID.

5. Community Health Centers

Community-based health centers are available in areas with limited access to affordable health care services. They provide services regardless of a patients’ ability to pay and charge for services on a sliding scale. 

Depending on where you live, your local health department may offer free flu shot clinics, regardless of your insurance status. Locate a center near you by clicking here.

6. VA Health Centers

If you’re a veteran enrolled in the VA health care system, you can get a no-cost flu shot at a VA health care facility or an in-network retail pharmacy or urgent care location near you. Just present a valid, government-issued identification and this flyer.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com