Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What's rotting in your wallet?

Okay, so biodegradable credit cards don't work the way I hoped for a moment.

The idea of having a credit card that falls apart before you hit your limit seemed intriguing. But what Discover actually came up with a few months ago is a card that spiffs up the local landfill after expiration.

Some of the credit card reforms apparently headed for passage in Washington may be similarly misleading. Curbing some of the tackier things card companies do to consumers probably helps, but consumer watchers say we still need to take control of our credit ourselves.

Plus, the proposed reforms won't help one group of borrowers who are among the fastest growing users - nearly six in 10 small business owners who are using plastic to keep their enterprises going until the stimulus kicks in. These guys may be heading for a real jam, because a major lender announced it's cutting off credit to maybe a million of these businesses because of soaring default rates. That leaves borrowers scrambling for other sources.

The surest solution to potential credit problems, obviously, remains paying off loans on time. But if that isn't possible, know what you are getting into, financial author Jennifer Openshaw recommends. And start scouting for alternate credit sources ahead of time, she advises.

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