Dear Liz: I asked for a credit limit increase on my Visa card from $5,000 to $20,000. I was turned down because of not enough income. I was very disappointed and wonder what if anything I can do to reverse the situation.
I am a 77-year-old retired widow who owns my home with no mortgage. My annual income is around $50,000 from Social Security and my required minimum distributions from IRAs. I have no debt. My investments and savings obviously don't count. I was about to charge $12,000 in airline tickets and wanted to take advantage of the cash back on the credit card. I always pay my credit card bill in full every month. I feel discriminated against.
Answer: Imagine you’re a lender and one of your customers suddenly demands that you quadruple the amount you’ve agreed to lend her, with the resulting credit line equal to 40% of her income. That might give you pause.
Or perhaps not. Credit card issuers have different policies about when to grant or deny credit, and those policies can change over time as they try to manage the risks of their lending portfolios. Also, issuers may be less generous to their longtime customers than they are to the new customers they’re trying to attract.
Understanding all that can help you formulate a game plan to get what you want. One option is to call the issuer, explain your situation and ask for a temporary credit line increase so you can book those tickets.
Another (and certainly more lucrative) option would be to apply for a new credit card with a fat sign-up bonus from a different issuer. Several cash-back cards offer rewards of $150 to $200 once you spend a certain amount within the first few months, and you would meet that requirement easily with your ticket purchases.
If you’re willing to consider something other than a cash-back card, you can check out travel rewards cards that offer points or miles. Several have bonuses that can translate into $400 or more of free travel.
Applying for a new card might temporarily drop your credit scores a few points, but that shouldn’t be a concern if you’re not planning to apply for a major loan in the next few months.
Don’t rush when setting up your living trust
Dear Liz: Your column recently answered a question about whether a living trust was the right move, and I thought you mentioned a free online form or worksheet that one could download and fill out. Where can I find that?
Answer: Many sites offering free software or forms are actually subscription services. You typically use a credit card to sign up and are charged a monthly fee after the free trial period ends. If you can wrap up your estate planning in short order and cancel before the fee kicks in, your trust may be free — but given what’s at stake, it’s not a good idea to rush.
After all, if you make a mistake with your estate planning that’s revealed after your death, you can’t come back and fix it. That means your desire to save a few bucks could cost your heirs dearly.
At a minimum, you should consider consulting with an attorney to ensure you’re not making obvious errors. Some of the do-it-yourself sites, including LegalZoom and RocketLawyer, offer the option to consult with a lawyer. RocketLawyer, a $40-a-month subscription service, has a seven-day free trial. LegalZoom sells a $269 living trust package that includes a 30-day free trial of its subscription advice service. After the free trial, the subscription costs $15 a month. Legal self-help site Nolo has an online living trust form for $60 that doesn’t include advice, but you can use Nolo’s attorney directory to find an expert you can hire for a review.