Saturday, November 29, 2008

Protect Your Credit During the Holiday Season

With the economy slowing and holidays just around the corner, many consumers may be looking to credit cards to help them get through the heavy shopping season. While that may be a good short-term solution, you want to make sure you don't overlook the long-term impact on your credit rating. After all, the actions you take today could hang over your head for years to come--and may make it tough for you to get the home loan or car loan you want in the future.

To help you make sure you manage your credit cards--and your credit score--during the upcoming holiday spending season, follow these steps:

Double-check your card limits. Many credit card companies today have started lowering credit limits. That means you have less credit available, but it also may mean that your credit score is about to take a hit. That's because approximately 30% of your credit score is based on the amount you owe in relation to your available credit. So, if a credit card company cuts back your limit, you may find that you're suddenly almost maxed out. That's not a good sign for your long-term credit score rating.

Ask, pay down, or move around. If some of your credit limits have changed or are nearly maxed out, you can take a few steps to help alleviate the problem. First, consider simply asking for a higher limit to your card...not necessarily to use up with spending, but to allow more unused credit line to be available and therefore boost your credit score. You can also pay more money to the cards that are near the credit limit, if you can. Or, if you have cards with little to no remaining credit line, transfer some of the larger balances onto the cards with lower balances. That'll give you a more... well... balanced financial picture.

Leave home without it. One of the best tips for the holiday season is to: make a budget, identify specific items, and then leave home without your credit card. Instead, bring just enough cash to purchase the items on your list. That will help you resist the urge to impulse buy, and keep your credit card balances lower.

Pick a card... not just any card. If you can't bring cash, make a credit card plan. Identify specific items that you'll pay for on specific cards. By making a plan and spreading your purchases to different cards, you won't overspend and you won't risk running up one or two cards that are near the credit limit, which will hurt your credit rating.

Resist card offers at the counter. Retailers are famous for offering "savings" when you open a credit card. But those savings often don't outweigh the long- and short-term negatives. For one thing, opening a new account--or multiple accounts in a short period of time--can negatively impact your credit score. In addition, consumers often spend more than planned when a new card is suddenly available. So this holiday season, resist the temptation.

Stay active. If you have older cards that you don't use, make sure you keep them active. For one thing, some of those older cards help establish a longer history of positive credit. For another, the available credit on those older cards can help keep your credit score higher because it improves your overall debt-to-credit ratio. To keep those cards active, make sure you charge one or two items on them throughout the year... like, say, when you go shopping for the holidays. Then, pay them off when the bill comes in.

Always pay on time. Your payment record is a very large part of your credit score, so it's crucial that you have an idea how your holiday shopping will impact your credit card bills and that you make a plan to pay those bills on time. If you have trouble for any reason, contact your card companies right away to work out a plan that helps you pay down your debt... and save your credit rating from a huge hit.

Information compliments of Wendy Tannenbaum

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fighting Medicare Claim Denials

When an insurance company denies a claim in whole or in part, it is possible to appeal their decision. The same is true with Medicare claims...and in fact more than half of Medicare appeals are successful. If you, a family member, or a friend have had a Medicare claim denied, the following information can help you successfully appeal the decision:

Time Frame: If your Medicare claim is denied for less than the full amount, you can ask for a "redetermination" but you must do so within 120 days. Download the Medicare Redetermination Request form at, or call 800-633-4227 to receive a copy.

Common Denials: The denial you received will include an explanation, which you will need to contest in your appeal. Ask your doctor to write a letter addressing the reasons in the denial and include this letter with your appeals form.

Common denials include:
The treatment, prescription, or medical service is unlikely to cause your health condition to improve: Fight this by having your doctor write a letter explaining why the care is necessary. Medicare is required to look at your total condition, not just your chance for a full or partial recovery.

You are likely to require care for a very long time: Medicare coverage is not limited to treatments that work quickly, so ask your doctor to write a letter explaining that the treatment is making some positive difference or is expected to.

The prescription dosage level is greater than what is normally prescribed, or the drug prescribed is not normally prescribed for your health problem: Have your doctor write a letter explaining why the unusual drug or dosage is medically necessary. For instance, you may be allergic to the medicine normally prescribed.

You do not qualify for Medicare-covered home care because you are not homebound: Under Medicare rules, homebound does not mean that you are completely unable to leave your home or that you are confined to a bed. It does mean that you require assistance and that it takes considerable effort for you to leave your home. Ask your doctor to write a letter describing in detail how difficult it is for you to leave your home.

Be Persistent: If your first appeal is denied, you can file as many as four more appeals. And the more appeals you file, the greater your odds of success. While your first appeal is made to the same group that denied your initial claim, subsequent appeals are made to independent arbiters.

For more information, visit