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Court finds American Express actions heavy handed, unlawful

How would you feel as a Texas consumer if you wanted to use a particular credit card at a store but were constrained from doing so because another card issuer forbade the merchant from accepting the card?

And how would you feel upon learning that the card company imposing terms was slapping a comparatively higher transaction fee on the merchant for using its card, resulting in higher costs being passed along to you and other consumers?

Is DOJ mortgage fraud focus now shifting to criminal penalties?

One thing that the great national mortgage crisis of recent years readily signifies is that complex books often have many chapters.

A new one is currently being written, authored by outgoing U.S. Department of Justice Attorney General Eric Holder. Prior to turning his post over to successor Loretta Lynch, Holder has directed attorneys in his department to take a close look at mortgage fraud securities cases that might turn up individual wrongdoers for prosecution in criminal cases.

Is there a silver lining to continuing "zombie" foreclosures?

What might conceivably be the upside in an increased number of for-sale signs being seen in any American neighborhood that result from foreclosure and repossession?

For many people in Texas and elsewhere, those signs are clearly just dismal reminders that struggles persist for many homeowners. Even years after the so-called Great Recession and the monumental fallout from the nation's housing crisis, problems persist across the country for homeowners who just can't remain above water on their mortgage obligations.

Many Americans continue to cite money as top stress inducer

Work-related stresses? Check. Sleepless hours at night spent thinking about family responsibilities? Check. Money worries? Check -- underscored and in bold.

Americans worry about a great deal of things, which is understandable, given the nightly parading across the television screen of stories relating to terrorism, geo-political conflict, climactic change, legislative malaise on Capitol Hill and so forth.

Can federal regulators set interest limits on payday loans?

As loan vehicles, so-called “payday loans” are highly singular animals. Largely unregulated by federal authorities, a national industry comprised of such lenders has sprung up across the country, which includes many participants in Texas.

There is certainly a wide divide existing in the opinions of industry commentators regarding the particulars of such loan instruments. On the one hand, and as noted in a recent media overview discussing payday loans, they have been termed “scams” by consumer groups. On the other hand, a spokesperson for the country’s biggest payday lending outfit calls them “a viable credit option.”

It might be useful to think of a payday loan as synonymous with a burning match held between the fingers of a cold person in the woods. That individual might be able use the match in a timely and effective manner by quickly lighting a fire. Conversely, of course, holding onto the match for too long yields another result entirely; it renders the person who would profit from its use a victim by burning indiscriminately.

Medical debt: often easy to incur and hard to eliminate

Here’s the bottom-line question underlying the focal point of today’s blog post: Why is medical debt such a huge problem in the United States?

And, indeed, it is a big problem. A writer in one media article focusing on this singular type of debt states that the legacy of the 21st century thus far is medical debt “from which the average American simply cannot escape.”

One quick and obvious explanation for the medical debt trap that ensnares many people in Texas and nationally is that medical outlays often confront an individual or family unexpectedly.

That makes budgeting for them unlikely in most cases. It’s simply hard to anticipate a broken arm or cancer and dutifully set up an account to pay for it months in advance of its occurrence.

The decision to file for bankruptcy: getting the facts is key

For many people in Texas and elsewhere, the decision to file for bankruptcy is anything but casual. Filers often wrestle with the decision for many months, vacillating on whether to take advantage of the legal remedies provided by this debt-relief option or to continue struggling to make material inroads on their debt.

Bankruptcy is associated with personal failure in the minds of many people. We acknowledged that in an article addressing bankruptcy filings posted some time ago on our website, noting that some debtors regard the bankruptcy option “as a last resort to … financial troubles and the coward’s way out.”

It is lamentable that some people think that way, because the truth is actually far different. Our above-cited article also notes that any stigma attached to bankruptcy “has lessened as it becomes more widespread and accepted.”

Are recent credit card debt-related findings, comments worrisome?

We noted in a recent blog post that, although credit card debt collectively owed by Americans is currently down from its all-time peak of a few years ago, a clearly discernible trend now shows that such debt is once again rising. We queried in our blog post dated November 19, 2014, whether that was bad news, good news or essentially a non-starter at all as a news item.

Steady card use at some level is of course good and necessary, with healthy spending on cards (however that might be defined) helping to fuel economic growth through new purchases and job accretion, resulting in a repetitive spiral that drives the economy upward.

Recent findings from credit card search and comparison websites, though, coupled with remarks from inside commentators on the credit card industry, show troubling signs that credit card use is once again becoming problematic for many consumers.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; what it is, what it does

It is probably safe to say that American consumers are at least as savvy and circumspect as their counterparts in other countries across the globe.

After all, the United States virtually created large-scale capitalism, with its market economy dwarfing all other national economies. Sellers and buyers transact many millions of times each day across the country regarding a wide universe of goods and services, and the spoils go to the victor.

OK, that last sentence above is likely a bit dramatic. Perhaps a better way to spotlight what is a central reality in American business exchanges is to simply note this: The unwary get fleeced.

Should I focus on credit card payments first, or medical debt?

That above headline query is guaranteed to turn off just about anybody this time of year, right on the cusp of the winter holidays and just when many consumers in Texas and nationally are actually taking on additional debt for gifts and other purchases.

And, yes, it’s virtually a thumbs-down inquiry at any time of the year, and a real headache for many people who do indeed face daunting financial challenges stemming from multi-sourced payment exactions.

Many people are fortunate enough to deal with both their outstanding credit card debt and medical bills without much of a problem, but that select group is far from being all-encompassing. Moreover, it doesn’t often contain individuals who suddenly find themselves facing medical bills from entirely unforeseen circumstances.

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