As the New Year begins and resolutions are bandied about one of the more common promises for the New Year is to get a handle on one’s personal finances. Retirement accounts, emergency funds, savings and credit accounts, everything involving a consumer’s finances should be reviewed and tracked for the coming year.
To help this effort, we’ve provided a list of some of the top online resources for consumer finance.
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), a 2003 amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, requires credit reporting agencies to provide consumers a free credit report once a year, upon request. This website provides an easy way for consumers to request their free annual reports.
BankRate Monitor is the pioneer in providing online interest rate information. Originally a print publication that began in 1976, the online version appeared in 1996, providing interest rate comparisons from different banks and lending companies. Today, BankRate Monitor provides consumers with financial advice, loan calculators and interest rate comparisons for auto loans, credit cards, mortgages and more.
The online site for the Better Business Bureau, this is a database containing entries for merchant members of the BBB, as well as a listing of complaints filed by consumers against businesses. The BBB site is a good resource for helping to confirm whether online businesses are legitimate.
The CFPB was established in 2010 as a result of the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. The CFPB is a government-run site and states as its mission “…to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans.” Since its inception, the CFPB has moved to begin actively monitoring consumer loan and financial services providers. The CFPB website is particularly useful for submitting complaints about specific providers.
This publication has been around for over seven decades, testing products and providing impartial recommendations for consumers. Their website makes this valuable resource more readily available. They still test products, but they also provide tips and guides on consumer and personal finance issues as well.
The website for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation provides consumer protection information, financial news, industry analysis, as well as business and consumer resource links. As the agency tasked with nurturing consumer confidence in our banking system, the FDIC prevents panicked runs on banks by ensuring customer deposits in FDIC-insured institutions.
In addition to providing information about the Federal Reserve System, this website provides lots of informative tools for consumers. They also provide games and educational tools to teach kids about sensible money matters.
Although the FTC regulates interstate trade, one of its strongest focuses is on consumer-related businesses and commerce. In recent years, the FTC has become more proactive in educating the population about consumer issues, especially with regards to consumer fraud.
The website Mint.com is one of the most popular and effective personal financial management tools on the web today. It allows users to track and manage all their accounts with one easy-to-use portal. Its most useful tool, however, is probably its budget generation and tracking app. Best of all, it’s free to use.
Although the federal government has become increasingly involved in consumer finance matters, most consumer financing and fraud issues are still handled within each states. Criminal and anti-fraud matters are typically overseen by the state’s attorney general’s office. The NAAG website provides contact information for the attorney general in each state.