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Dealing With Credit Card and Time-Share Companies

Financial expert Jane Bryant Quinn answers readers' questions

Credit Cards and Timeshares

Jane Bryant Quinn is a personal finance expert for AARP.

Q: My husband died this year. Our credit cards are jointly held. Do I have to contact the card companies to have his name taken off the account?

A: You're named on the cards, so you're still entitled to use them. But yes, tell the issuers. They'll find out anyway, during routine checks of Social Security numbers. Your husband is listed as "deceased." As a result, any account with his name on it will no longer receive a credit score, says John Ulzheimer of CreditSesame.com. By law, lenders are not supposed to pull the credit of a surviving spouse unless there's evidence of inability or unwillingness to pay, says Gerri Detweiler of Credit.com. Some of them will simply ship you a new card. But others will make you reapply, based on your own income. If they think it's insufficient, they can raise the card's interest rate or even refuse to reissue it. To me, that flies in the face of the spirit of a law intended to protect spouses. But what's new about that?

See also: Maximize Your Social Security Benefits

Q: How do I get rid of a time-share I no longer need and can't afford?

A: Unwanted time-shares are a glut on the market. Most of them have little or no resale value. Here's great advice from Brian Rogers of the Timeshare Users Group (TUG):

1. Lower the price of your share to $1 and list it on TUG, Craigslist, eBay and similar sites. To attract buyers, offer to pay the closing costs and perhaps a year of maintenance fees.

2. Write (don't call) your time-share's homeowners association, asking it to take the property back. It might, if you give good reasons (poor health, don't travel anymore, retired and can't afford the fees). You might have to write several times.

3. Don't get sucked in by a middleman who promises — for a mere $2,000 to $5,000 — to help you donate the time-share to charity and deduct its "value" on your tax return. Taking a big write-off for a property that can sell for only $1 amounts to fraud.

Jane Bryant Quinn is a personal finance expert and author of Making the Most of Your Money NOW.

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