Year in review: 2016's most popular credit and debt stories
Canadian consumers are a smart bunch, wanting to make the best decisions about credit and debt, judging by the most read stories in 2016.
Readers showed an eclectic mix of interests, including how to get a U.S. dollar credit card, how to build credit in Canada and explanations for authorization holds and what debt collectors can and can't do. Also making the list were stories on understanding the statute of limitations as it applies to old debt, figuring out what to do if your debt is sold to a collections agency, and learning how to win a chargeback dispute.
You may have taken the precautionary step for years, calling your credit card issuer before going on vacation. However, some banks have phased out this safety measure, citing better fraud detection systems. As a result, major banks including TD, CIBC and RBC scrapped their "let us know before you go" recommendation in 2016.
You love Fido as much as any other family member, so when illness strikes, paying for emergency medical care is a must. Canadian readers wanted to know about financing options when pet medical bills arise. There are plenty of options, such as brokering a payment plan with a veterinarian, seeking financial help from a nonprofit or relying on Canadian veterinary schools for discounts.
Hotels, restaurants, gas stations, car rental firms and even travel agencies can place authorization holds - also called pre-authorizations - on your credit card, sometimes using up thousands of dollars of available credit on your card. These holds can be a nuisance, or worse, as such a high hold amount on your card can bar you from making other purchases.
Debt collectors are notorious for being aggressive, but there are strict codes of conduct they must follow. Consumers worried about debt collectors' scare tactics can push back by knowing their rights.
If you purchase an item and it doesn't come on time or in the condition the retailer promised, you can try a chargeback to reverse the transaction to get your money back. Visa, Mastercard and American Express each have detailed reason codes for your chargeback. There are no consumer protection laws specifically tied to chargebacks, though, making getting one an uphill climb in some cases.
When your debt is sold to a collections agency, you're no longer answering to your credit card company, so what happens next? For starters, your credit rating takes a beating and your unpaid account will show up on your credit report for up to seven years from the date of your last payment.
It's been a tumultuous year around the world and many readers outside Canada may have looked into how to build a financial history in this country. Newcomers are starting from scratch: they need to familiarize themselves with Canadian credit reports and scoring, open a bank account, and get a secured credit card to establish a credit history.
Maybe you're shopping online with U.S. retailers, or you often travel across the border. Either way, getting a U.S. dollar credit card helps with paying in U.S. currency and avoiding foreign transaction fees. All five of Canada's major banks offer a U.S. dollar credit card, but there are factors to consider in picking the best card for your needs.
This year's shaky Canadian dollar had consumers looking into what to do about currency conversion costs. The majority of Canadian credit cards apply a 2.5 per cent foreign exchange fee, applied after the purchase amount is converted into Canadian dollars. But these fees vary depending on the credit card and bank.
If you're sitting on debt you haven't made a payment on for years, you could have an out, depending on your province's statute of limitations. This law stops creditors from legally suing you over your debts after a certain window of time - across the country, the cutoff ranges from two to six years from your last payment. This was 2016's most-read story, which suggests consumers' curiosity about this potential loophole to deal with untouched debts.
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