What money questions and challenges are vexing you most these days? AARP editors gathered a list of common issues and asked top financial industry pros for their best advice and viable solutions.
1. Credit card hell
"I was late one time — one time! — on my credit card bill, and the interest and late charge was $100."
Most issuers will waive an occasional late fee — and possibly the interest associated with paying late — especially if you’re a good customer. It’s usually as simple as calling and asking nicely. You can offer a brief, truthful explanation and offer to set up automatic payments so this doesn’t happen again. In fact, according to a 2020 Bankrate poll, 82 percent of credit card holders who asked for a late fee waiver got at least some of the charges erased.
—Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst, Bankrate.com
2. Taxman troubles
"Suddenly, my property taxes are $150 a month more than they were."
Either your property’s assessed value has increased (perhaps due to the recent run-up in home prices) or the tax rate in your area has gone up. In the first case, you can appeal the value increase with your local assessor’s office. (Some put a time limit on appealing, so check that first.) There will be a form to fill out, and a hearing. If there is a mistake on your property record, such as an incorrect number of rooms, or you can prove the assessed value is not supported by sales of homes like yours, you can get your value lowered. If your tax rate has increased, find out whether your state provides tax abatements or exemptions for older residents. Many do. Check the website of your state’s department of revenue to learn how to apply for any such an abatement.
—Larry Clark, director of strategic initiatives, International Association of Assessing Officers, Kansas City, Missouri
3. Paying for what?
"My hotel bill had all these extra fees they never mentioned when I booked the room online."
The most common is a resort fee, also called a destination fee, amenities fee or resort charge. Each hotel determines what that covers — perhaps a pool, gym or Wi-Fi. If you learn about the extra fee when checking in, pull up a screenshot or email of your booking showing the lower advertised total and request that the fee be canceled. If you don’t do that, and during your stay you don’t use the amenities, politely ask at checkout to have it removed. They might agree.
—Palo Cvik, CEO, SmarterTravel, Cambridge, Massachusetts