Ask the Bitches: What’s the Difference Between Credit Checks and Credit Monitoring?

The world of personal finance is full of terms designed to confuse and waylay the innocent. Yet you are a beautiful and mysterious adventurer on the exciting journey of life! You do not have time to parse the different meanings of seemingly synonymous financial terms like “credit checks” and “credit monitoring.”

Fortunately, we’re a coupla’ nerds with nothing better to do.

Recently, an anonymous follower (we’ll call them “Pudding Cup” because I assume that, like pudding, they are both sweet and smooth) asked:

Dear Piggy and Kitty, I have a question. I just got an email from the auditing office of my state saying that the unemployment filing host “Accellion” was hacked and they don’t think anything happened, but are offering a free year of credit monitoring. I have no idea what that would do or how I would use it to make sure nothing bad happened? Also doesn’t monitoring your credit (somehow?) make it worse? Would this be helpful or not really?

In short, Pudding Cup has mixed up two distinctly different concepts to do with credit: credit monitoring and credit checks. I’ll detangle the two below.

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Case Study: Held Back by Past Financial Mistakes, Fighting Bad Credit and $90K in Debt

Case Study: Held Back by Past Financial Mistakes, Fighting Bad Credit and $90K in Debt

Hi, it’s me again—your Good With Money Friend! It’s time for another case study. This time we’re talking about how to recover from past financial mistakes.

You guys really enjoyed our first case study. It tackled problems related to student loan debt, employment instability, and paying through the nose for rent in a high cost of living area. I’ve been hoping to do another one, but all of my friends’ most recent money issues have been too specific to their situations to be helpful to a broader audience.

Until now!

A friend reached out, asking for help repairing her damaged credit score. So she scheduled a 30 minute call with me to discuss her options, because I’m literally that bitch.

Obviously it turned into a ninety-minute call, mostly because I love the sound of my own voice. (Vocal fry ’til I die!) But really because the more we talked, the clearer it became that her credit score wasn’t her main enemy on the battlefield for financial stability. It was like a machine gun a mile away: an easy threat to identify, making a huge racket and scaring the shit out of everyone, but not actually that threatening in her present circumstances.

If you’ve struggled with debt, or you want to hone your Good With Money Friend skills, read on. Hopefully hearing about her situation will help some other folks!

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Dafuq Is a Down Payment? And Why Do You Need One to Buy Stuff?

Dafuq Is a Down Payment? And Why Do You Need One to Buy Stuff?

“What is a down payment?” In an ideal world, no one would need to ask themselves this question because no one would need one! Expensive things like cars and houses and college educations would be a lot more affordable. Enough so that we could pay for them with the money that we already have. And we’d all have mountains of it.

But unless you have a Scrooge McDuckian money vault at your disposal, buying a car or house or bachelor’s degree in cash is probably impossible. Down payments are necessary because of how our world works. Today we’re going to teach you what they are, when you need them, and how to use them to your advantage.

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Refinancing or consolidating your student loans can save you a lot of money, but only if you do it at the right time, for the right terms.

When (and How) to Try Refinancing or Consolidating Student Loans

Friends, does this sound familiar?: You’re describing the crushing emotional and financial burden of student loan debt, and the grown-up you’re speaking to says something like, “Wow, that sounds really rough, have you thought about *refinancing* and also ma’am this is a Wendy’s??”

And having no idea what the fuck that actually meant, you drove forward to the next window, dabbing at your eyes with the crumpled receipt for your vanilla Frosty, weeping in confusion and sadness and brain freeze?

I knew it. I KNEW it wasn’t just me!

Yes that’s right, my lambs: we’re talking about student loans again. This time we’re discussing your options for refinancing or consolidating student loans.

What the fuck do these mysterious terms even mean? What’s the difference between the two? How do you know if one is right for you—and if it is, how do you actually do it? Be amazed as we reveal the secrets!

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We get many letters from 18 year olds like "I submitted 9 applications and no one will give me a credit card!" Here's the reason for that.

A Hand-Holding Guide to Getting Your First Credit Card

I got my first credit card at age eighteen. I was a high school senior, I’d just been accepted into college, and the world was my goddamn oyster (just slightly less like salty snot). The year was 2005… and getting that shiny little piece of plastic was just about as easy as putting out my hand and asking for it.

Times have changed. We now live in a post-2008 Recession world, and getting your first credit card has become markedly harder. This is probably why we constantly receive questions from eighteen-year-olds like “I’ve submitted nine applications and no one will give me a credit card. What do???”

The Ramseyan debt purists will say “Do without it, you fool!” But we believe a credit card can be an extremely useful weapon in your financial arsenal. Just look at what happened when Kitty and her boyfriend tried to rent an apartment together and couldn’t because he had no credit!

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Podcast Episode 003: "My parents have bad credit. Should I help by co-signing their mortgage?"

Season 1, Episode 3: “My Parents Have Bad Credit. Should I Help by Co-signing Their Mortgage?”



When life stresses me out beyond belief, I find nothing more soothing or rejuvenating than reading about petty dramas I’m not personally involved in.

Neighbors feuding in all caps on Next Door; running blogs dragging the shit out of marathon cheaters; Facebook mommy groups erupting into explosive schisms over international geopolitics. Ahhhh… reading them is like slipping into a warm bath. So juicy! So low-stakes! With so much to fret about in my life, it’s nice to pause and contemplate the completely optional frettings of random other people I will likely never meet.

Which is why I love Reddit! And I’ll occasionally pull random questions that feed the drama-devouring beast within me interest me! Today’s question was found on r/personalfinance, a board where I lurk on the reg for obvious reasons…

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As best I can tell, there are two likely reasons for the prevalence of this misconception. Sadly, they both link back to perfectly true, but often misunderstood, facts about how credit works.

Let’s End This Damaging Misconception About Credit Cards

I don’t know who started the rumor that carrying a balance on credit cards is good for your credit score, but I think they should be drawn and quartered.

You shut your pie hole, Poppins. This is serious.

Of all the damaging misconceptions about personal finance we’ve had to correct over the course of running Bitches Get Riches, this is by far my least favorite. And it keeps popping up again and again in questions from our followers! Why? How? Who is teaching all of our darling kangaroo babies such a terrible way of handling their credit cards?

Until I can find the culprit and give them their just desserts (hot oil? The rack?), I have made it my mission to set the record straight.

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Dafuq Is Credit and How Do You Bend It to Your Will?

We’ve been getting a lot of variations on the same question recently: “How dafuq do I credit?”

How indeed? A lot of our readers are struggling with not only maintaining a good credit score, but with even understanding credit in the first place.

It’s one of the many money terms I have the sneaking suspicion everyone else in my high school class was taught on a day I was absent.

Thus, I’ve been left to figure it out for myself over the years. And what I’ve found is reassuring: credit is not nearly as scary or complicated as you’ve been led to think. But like a pack of trained raptors, it must be treated with care and attention lest it rend you limb from limb.

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The best way to pay off credit card debt

The Best Way To Pay off Credit Card Debt: From the Snowball To the Avalanche

The Harvard Business Review recently published a study on “the best strategy for paying off credit card debt.” Set aside for a moment the idea that you should try not to rack up credit card debt in the first place (shit happens, no judgment). This study benefits the millions of Americans who are literally $800 billion in collective credit card debt according to the Federal Reserve. So it’s a problem that needs a solution.

The researchers tested a couple of different methods for credit card debt reduction:

  1. Dispersing payments equally across every credit card each month.
  2. Concentrating as high a payment as possible on one account at a time.
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I've come to think that's the ideal role for credit cards to play in a debt-free person's life.

Why You Might Not Need Your Emergency Fund

Excluding my mortgage, I’m a debt-free individual. That means my credit card is a pretty lonely lil’ guy. He doesn’t even get to live in my wallet. He’s entombed in my office with my library card, my old student ID, and that Best Buy gift card with only $3.52 left on it. He has a zero-balance and a $10,000 limit.

I used to keep $6,000 in cash squirreled away as part of an emergency fund—enough to make a few rent payments if I lost my job or had to cover an unexpected accident deductible. I was very lucky, and none of those things ever came to pass; but this meant my emergency fund sat in my savings account, slowly depreciating. Meanwhile, I was toying with the idea of closing my credit card altogether—after all, I never used it.

But eventually, I saw a wonderful opportunity to justify that card, and put my emergency fund to better use: I invested the $6K and designated my credit card as my new emergency fund. I’ve come to think that’s the ideal role for credit cards to play in a debt-free person’s life.

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