National Consumers League

From the Experts Blog

NCL staff is hard at work for you playing watchdog on a variety of issues. Get to know the latest From the Experts!

Congratulations, Class of 2008! Now Pay Up

While millions of college students are frantically trying to land their first real job and secure affordable housing, many are also racking up the credit card debt.

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that almost 25 percent of college students will take on credit card debt in order to pay for their education.

Savvy grads know that having a solid credit history pays off for a bunch of reasons. Here are a few: when applying for a job, securing loans and purchasing auto or homeowners insurance.

Need a crash course in building a positive credit history?

  • Use credit responsibly. Start establishing a good credit record now. The longer and more stable your credit history, the higher your credit score. Try to pay off your credit card balance in full each month. Only keep the credit cards you need, and don’t use more than 30 percent of the credit available to you on your credit cards. Use cash instead of plastic whenever possible.
  • Set up a budget and stick to it. Figure out exactly how much money you are earning and how much you owe. Write down all of your expenses for a couple of months to get a realistic sense of what you are spending, and where you may be able to cut back.
  • Pay bills on time. Consider setting up automatic payments so you are never late. This will help to build a strong credit history. A pattern of late payments not only lowers your credit and insurance scores, but late fees and interest payments can add up and make it harder to pay down the balance.
  • Monitor your Credit Report. Check your credit reports at least once a year. If there are mistakes, get them corrected quickly.
  • Visit the Insurance Information Institute’s Web site for more tips on chipping away at your debt, and building good credit.

Do you have any tips for recent grads? Share them here!


What’s for Lunch?

According to researchers at Cornell University, the average person makes more than 200 food choices a day! Isn’t that, well, nuts?

Most survey participants guessed that they only make 15 food-related decisions each day. What a disconnect! So, not surprisingly, the researchers found that we make many of these decisions – about portion size, for example – unknowingly, and end up overeating without even realizing it.

The Washington Post recently reported on America’s youth obesity crisis. So much bad news on this subject these days – where’s the good news? Here’s some: our LifeSmarts program offers key nutrition facts and resources – as well as tips on a variety of other subjects – to help students make better food choices and to become healthy and responsible consumers. Right now the program’s in “Spring Training.” Check it out!


What's next for the foreclosure crisis? Reality TV!

Groan. According to U.S. News and World Report, the mortgage and foreclosure crisis is hitting the airwaves, subject of a new reality tv series called The Foreclosure Shoppe. No matter your opinions of the reality tv genre, you've got to wonder about whether this kind of treatment will help bring the issue to new audiences or turn people off from learning about the issue. With millions of Americans -- and consumers from around the world -- being exposed to the housing crisis, any focus on the issues can't hurt, right? Here's some news about consumers being affected by mortgage scams.


Hitting the Pavement? Choose Sales Job Wisely!

With summer just around the corner, many teens are on the prowl for the perfect job. NCL has partnered with the Direct Selling Education Foundation to offer advice to young adults considering door-to-door sales jobs. We have created two new brochures filled with tips to help keep teens and consumers safe by avoiding joining or buying from unethical traveling sales crews, which have been known to cause harm to both crew members and consumers!

Teens, be sure your contract spells out the terms of your agreement.

  • How, when, and in what form will you be paid?
  • Will the company pay for your living expenses (food, travel and housing)?  Will this be deducted from your income?
  • What are the working conditions?  Ask about the hours, travel, and living arrangements.
  • If you’re not completely comfortable with the answers, don’t agree to work for the company, it’s not worth the risk!

Want to learn how to spot the difference between a legitimate sales person and a traveling sales crew scam? Read more here.

Stay tuned for more tips from NCL this summer to help millions of teens avoid dangerous jobs.


Good Ol' Fashioned Spam

The Federal Trade Commission announced yesterday that it's cracking down on deceptive telemarketing operations. Through Operation Tele-PHONEY, the FTC has filed federal district court complaints against 13 alleged bad guys. NCL was recently featured in a story on National Public Radio's Marketplace about traditional, snail mail spam -- something that many of us have come to forgotten with the focus, in recent years, on avoiding email spam and fraud. Read the story or listen to it here.