Avoid credit; seek out change

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Going shopping or to dinner or happy hour? Planning a vacation? Another reason to pay cash for discretionary items: Credit card interest rates are rising.

Average card rates rose again recently, making for an average increase of just over one full point for 2006, according to the weekly IndexCreditCards.com Credit Card Monitor. The average rate for consumer credit cards without rewards programs rose to 13.8 percent, up from 12.6 percent on Jan. 1.

Got a rewards card? Average rates are 15.18 percent, up from 13.64 percent at the start of the year.

It pays to shop around. To find rates and terms on hundreds of cards, go to IndexCreditCards.com or Cardweb.com. Both sites also feature calculators for figuring out how long it will take to pay off your credit card balances.

Change is good

I found a truly odd blog recently. It’s called “Change is Good,” and it’s where some guy logs in the loose change he finds every day. Since 1998, he’s found nearly $600.

Weird, huh? Yet kinda interesting. Part of me thinks I should do that. It’d be cool to someday – 10 years from now – be able to say I flew to Hawaii on random coins I picked up that other people had overlooked.

On the other hand, I question whether I’d be as dedicated as this guy. He literally gets his hands dirty.

Check out this entry from Sept. 22, 2003: “I found 12 cents, two pennies and a dime. I found the first penny encrusted in some mud on my way to the gym. I found the second penny at the gym. I found the dime at work.”

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Amy Baldwin covers money-related topics for 20- and 30-somethings in “Out of the Red.” Have a question about your personal finances? Contact her at abaldwin@charlotteobserver.com.

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