Credit, Credit Cards & Debt

A Quick Guide for Credit, Debit, and Prepaid Cards

Learn how the cards work and what consumer protection is available for each type of card.

Advance-Fee Loans

Ads and websites that guarantee loans or credit cards regardless of your credit history may be tempting, but remember: Legitimate lenders never "guarantee" or say you're likely to get a loan or a credit card before you apply, especially if you have bad credit, no credit history, or a bankruptcy. Read more

Background Checks: Tips for Job Applicants and Employees

Applying for a job? Here’s what to know about background checks and consumer reports. Find out when an employer can conduct a background check and what they can ask. Learn about steps employers must take before they use a background check and what to do if an employer finds something negative. Get tips about different types of background checks – criminal history, credit reports/financial information, or medical conditions. Learn what to do if you think an employer used a background check to discriminate against you based on race, national origin, color, sex, religion, disability or age.

Check, Credit, and Debit Card Purchases (GA)

When you pay by check, debit, or credit card, businesses often need information about you so they can be sure they'll get payment.  However, Georgia law sets limits on the information they can collect.

Choosing and Using Credit Cards (WI)

Chances are you've gotten your share of "pre-approved" credit card offers in the mail, some with low introductory rates and other perks.  Many of these solicitations urge you to accept "before the offer expires." Before you accept, shop around to get the best deal. Read more.

College Financial Aid Scams (WI)

Unscrupulous companies guarantee they'll get you a scholarship or grant, if you pay them an advance fee.  Before you pay anyone for help, investigate the company and talk to a guidance or financial aid counselor.  Read more about how to find legitimate help.

Consumer Action Handbook

The Consumer Action Handbook  is one of the federal government's most informative and popular resources. Information in the guide empowers consumers to make smart decisions and get assistance with problems and questions. The guide is  available in Spanish as Guía del Consumidor.

Consumer Alternatives for Receiving Income Tax Refunds

There are different ways for taxpayers to get income tax refunds. Learn about refund anticipation options and questions to ask Learn about refund anticipation options and questions to ask before you choose a refund anticipation product, and get information about tax preparation.

Consumer Law Information (AL)

This page provides links to some of Alabama’s most frequently requested consumer-related laws. This is not an exhaustive list of all Alabama consumer laws. Please remember this Office cannot serve as your attorney or give you legal advice.  The following laws, as well as many other consumer laws, may be accessed through this website.

You may access The Code of Alabama here.

Information for people of different literacy levels and those who want practical, concise information. Read about credit, debt, identity theft, avoiding scams, budgeting, and managing money. This free material is available in English and Spanish.

Credit and Debit Card Blocking (WI)

Have you been told you're over your credit card limit, or had your debit card declined, when you know you have credit available or money in your account? If this happens shortly after you stayed in a hotel or rented a car, it may be caused by card “blocking.

Credit Card Chargebacks (WI)

As a credit card user, you have rights under state and federal law that allow you to get a refund on your credit card in some situations. The refund comes as a chargeback. Read more.

Credit Card Loss Protection

Scam artists are calling people and lying to get them to buy credit card loss protection and insurance programs, but you can handle many problems on your own. If you didn't agree to a charge, don't pay it, and follow the credit card issuer's procedure to dispute charges. Read more

Credit Insurance

If you apply for a mortgage or personal loan, you may be asked if you want to buy credit insurance, or it may be included in your loan proposal. Credit insurance protects the loan in case you can't make your payments, and it is optional; you don't have to buy it. It's against the law for a lender to include credit insurance or other optional products in your loan without your knowledge or permission. Read more

Credit Repair: How to Help Yourself

You see the ads in newspapers, on TV, and online. You hear them on the radio. You get fliers in the mail, email messages, and maybe even calls offering credit repair services. The fact is there’s no quick fix for creditworthiness. You can improve your credit report legitimately, but it takes time, a conscious effort, and sticking to a personal debt repayment plan.

Credit, ATM and Debit Cards: What to Do if They're Lost or Stolen (WI)

Many people find it easy and convenient to use credit cards and ATM or debit cards. The Fair Credit Billing Act and Electronic Fund Transfer Act offer procedures you can use if your cards are lost or stolen. Read more.

Credit, Debt & Charge Cards

Credit, charge, or debit? Each method lets you pay for products and services and each has unique characteristics. If you’re shopping for a credit card, it’s important to compare fees, interest rates, finance charges, and benefits.

Dealing with Debt Collectors

If you're behind on payments, you'll probably hear from debt collectors. Federal law gives you rights in dealing with debt collectors. It's important to understand those rights.

Debt Adjustment Companies (GA)

Personal debt can easily get out of hand, and sometimes outside help seems the only answer.  The services of debt adjustment companies exist to fill this need. Learn how Georgia law regulates the activities of debt adjustment companies.

Debt Collection Guide (NYC)

This guide tells consumers what they need to know when dealing with debt collectors.

Debt Collection Tips – Know Your Rights and Protect Yourself

Everyone should pay their debts, but sometimes people fall behind due to job loss, unexpected medical bills, divorce and other problems.  And sometimes debt collectors cross the line, illegally harassing debtors or even attempting to collect debts from people that they don’t owe. Consumer Federation of America’s tips on debt collection help you understand your debt collection rights and avoid debt collection scams.   

Debt Reaffirmation (GA)

Have you recently filed a bankruptcy petition under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, or are you considering the possibility?  If so, there is some very important information you should know.

Debt Relief or Bankruptcy?

A debt dilemma because of illness, unemployment, or overspending can seem overwhelming. When you work to get solvent, watch for ads that seem to offer quick fixes. The ads promise debt relief, but rarely reveal that might mean bankruptcy. Although bankruptcy is an option to deal with financial problems, it’s generally considered the option of last resort. Read more

Debtors' Rights - Protecting yourself from debt collection lawsuits

This 16-page guide helps consumers who owe money understand how to avoid a debt collection lawsuit, what the legal process is if they can’t avoid being sued, their rights if they lose the suit and how to file a complaint against a debt collector.

Disputing Errors on Credit Reports

Your credit report contains information about where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s credit reporting companies. Learn how to monitor and edit information in your credit report to keep it accurate.

Extended Fraud Alerts and Credit Freezes

If you are a victim of identity theft and have created an Identity Theft Report, you may want to place an extended fraud alert or a credit freeze on your credit file. Read more about the differences between these options and steps to take.

Fair Credit Billing

Have you ever been billed for merchandise you returned or never received? Has your credit card company ever charged you twice for the same item, or failed to give you credit for a payment? These errors can be corrected with patience and knowledge of dispute settlement procedures of the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA).

File a Complaint with the FTC

The FTC is the nation’s consumer protection agency. If a business doesn’t make good on its promises or cheats you out of your money, the FTC wants to know.

Filing for Bankruptcy: What to Know

If you plan to file for bankruptcy, you must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within 180 days before you file. You must also complete a debtor education course before your debts can be discharged. Read more

Get Real Debt Help

Having trouble paying your credit card bills? Is your home in danger of foreclosure? These tips from Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Action, Consumers Union, and the National Consumer Law Center® warn consumers about debt relief scams and provide advice about how to get help from legitimate sources.

Get Your Truly Free Credit Report (video)

Your credit report can affect your ability to get a loan or a job – and it can help you spot and stop identity theft. Find out how to order your credit report for free.

Home Equity Loans & Credit Lines

When you consider a home equity loan or credit line, shop around and compare loan plans offered by banks, savings and loans, credit unions, and mortgage companies. Shopping can help you get a better deal.

Home Equity Scams (WI)

If you own a home, it’s likely to be your most valuable asset. If you take out a loan based on the equity you have in your home, you may be putting that valuable asset at risk. Read more.

Managing Credit – Made Simpler

The BBB's Managing Credit — Made Simpler has three customized versions that give credit users the strategies and guidelines they need for specific financial situations. Read more

Money Smart: A Financial Education Program

This financial education curriculum from the FDIC concentrates on helping consumers develop financial skills and positive banking relationships.

Mortgage Assistance Relief Scams (WI)

The federal Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) rule and state law make it illegal for companies to collect any fees until a homeowner has actually received an offer of relief from the lender and accepted it. Read more.

National Consumer Protection Week Video

Watch and share this video to find out more about National Consumer Protection Week and how you can help the people you know fight fraud and scams.

Negative Option Offers

We all like a great bargain but before you give out your credit card number to a company online, find out more about that too-good-to-be-true deal. Sometimes what you are really signing up for is repeated shipments of products that are automatically billed to your card.

Payday Lending (Video)

Need cash quickly? If you get a payday loan, the fees add up unless you pay it back in full when it’s due. This video tells why.

Payday Loans (CFA)

Consumer Federation of America's website provides information about high-cost small dollar loans, including payday loans, car title loans, bank overdrafts, and refund anticipation loans.  For payday loans, consumers can click on their state to check the legal limits and requirements that apply and to find contact information for their state regulators.  Research and reports, testimony and consumer advice are also available on the website.

Payday Loans (FTC)

Ads on the radio, television, internet, and in your mailbox refer to payday loans, cash advance loans, check advance loans, post-dated check loans, or deferred deposit loans. The Federal Trade Commission says that no matter what you call them, these small dollar, short-term, high-rate loans from check cashers, finance companies and others come at a high price. Read more

Paying Down Credit Card Debt

Your credit card interest rate and monthly payments affect how much your purchase will cost over time and long it will take to pay off your debt. Read more

Problem with Payday Loans (NYC)

This document explains to consumers that payday loans are illegal in New York.

Protect Your Credit -- Order and Check Your Free Credit Reports Each Year (CT)

You don’t need to buy anything to get your free annual credit reports from the three nationwide consumer reporting companies.

Ready, Set…Credit (WI)

A credit card is a great financial tool. It can be more convenient to use and carry than cash, and it offers valuable consumer protections under federal law. Read more.

Scholarship & Financial Aid Scams

Unscrupulous companies may "guarantee" they can get a scholarship for a student, or will "give" them a scholarship if they pay a fee. The company may give the student nothing for the fee, or tell them they were chosen as "finalists" and must pay another fee. The FTC cautions students to watch for signs of a scam.

Settling Credit Card Debt

If you've maxed out your credit cards you may feel overwhelmed. The Federal Trade Commission explains how you can get out of the red without spending a whole lot of green.

Student Loan and Education Resource List

This concise, five-page guide provides resources to help beginning students figure out what their college education financing options are, what they can afford, which schools are worth the cost and how to get the student loan process started. Current and former students can benefit from the sections on loan repayment and what to do if the loan goes into default. The publication includes resources specifically for veterans.

Teens & Money

The Teens & Money section of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s has information for middle- and high-school students and their teachers. The videos, calculators, lesson plans and games cover saving, spending and managing money. Learn more

The Credit Score is an informational tool developed by the Consumer Federation of America and VantageScore Solutions. By taking the quiz, consumers can increase their knowledge about credit scores and improve them.

Time-Barred Debts

Collectors may not be able to sue you to collect old debts. Debt collectors have a limited number of years — the "statute of limitations" — to sue you to collect. After that time, unpaid debts are considered "time-barred." By law, a debt collector can't sue you for not paying a debt that's time-barred. Read more

Toolkit: Manage Your Debt

Use this FINRA Investor Education Foundation toolkit to learn more about credit scores, managing credit and making better financial decisions. Learn more

Using a Credit Card

Whether you use your credit card to buy a laptop or laundry soap, you have rights and responsibilities under the law. Getting a grip on the safe use of credit cards can help you avoid a credit calamity.

When a Company Blocks Your Credit or Debit Card

If you’re near your credit limit or you have a low balance in your bank account when a block is placed, your card could be declined for additional purchases. To avoid surprises at the cash register, learn about blocking and how to avoid it.