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15 Types of Credit Cards

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The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Whether you’re a seasoned cardholder or a first-timer, you may be surprised at how many types of credit cards are available. Depending on your credit score and the length of your credit history, you may not be able to qualify for the ones with the most favorable terms and lowest interest rates. But chances are, there’s a card that fits your needs and—if used responsibly—may help you build credit.

Broadly speaking, there are four different types of credit card categories:

  1. Cards That Help Build Credit
  2. Cards That Can Save You Money
  3. Cards That Offer Cash Back and Rewards
  4. Cards for People With Bad Credit

Here, we’ll break down each category, discuss the specific card types and explain each one’s unique benefits so that you can make the most of your card.

Cards That Help Build Credit

If you’re new to the world of credit, you may be wondering how to build credit quickly, without going into debt. If you’re in college, you may have the added load of student debt. When you’re just starting out, it’s important to find a card that’s right for you and manage it carefully to start your credit health out on the right foot. You may even be able to earn some rewards along the way.

Cardholders ages 18 – 22 have an average credit score of 672.

1. Student Credit Cards

Student credit cards operate exactly the same way that standard credit cards do. The main difference is that their total credit limits tend to be lower. Additionally, since they are marketed toward students who likely don’t have much of a credit history, the requirements for approval are typically more lenient. 

Benefit: Some student cards offer incentives for good grades, like a small cash reward for each school year that you earn a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Example: Discover it® Student Cash Back

2. Starter Credit Cards

Starter credit cards are designed for those with little to no credit history. Consider getting one if you’ve never had a line of credit, or if you have one that hasn’t been open very long. These cards typically don’t offer great rewards programs or cash-back incentives, and they come with high interest rates. However, if you can find one with no annual fee, it can be a great option to begin building credit.

Benefit: Establish your credit and build a solid payment history with this type of credit card, which is generally easy to qualify for.

Example: Capital One Platinum® Credit Card

3. Joint Credit Cards

Unlike authorized user credit cards, joint credit cards require both parties to apply together. Both parties are equally responsible for paying the balance. Therefore, late or missed payments may ding both credit scores—while consistent, on-time payments will benefit both scores. 

Benefit: If a person doesn’t have a high enough credit score to qualify for a good credit card, they may consider applying with their partner for a joint credit card with more favorable terms.

Example: Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Cards That Can Save You Money

Sometimes applying for a credit card is a strategic move. Maybe you want to transfer your balance to a card with a lower interest rate, avoid paying interest for an introductory period or customize features for your business. These cards can help you save money—your way.

Approximately 74% of credit cards have no annual fee.

4. Zero Percent Purchase APR Credit Cards

Sometimes cards will offer temporarily lower APRs for an introductory period. Cards that boast zero percent APR don’t require you to pay interest on new purchases for a set amount of time, usually about 12 months. 

Benefit: Save money on interest by borrowing money essentially for free. Just make sure to pay off your balance by the time your introductory period is over to avoid interest charges.

Example: U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

5. No Annual Fee Credit Cards

Many credit cards charge annual fees for the convenience of having the card and for the benefits and rewards they offer. Depending on how elite the card is, these fees can be up to $450 or more. However, almost three-fourths of cards offer no annual fee—and many of these still come with decent cash back programs. Scan your credit card offer or the terms and conditions to make sure your card has no annual fee. 

Benefit: Save an average of $58 each year by avoiding unnecessary annual credit card fees.

Example: Citi® Double Cash Card

6. Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Similar to zero percent purchase APR credit cards, balance transfer cards offer temporarily low introductory rates—but specifically for balance transfers. This is a great option for those who want to save money on a high-interest credit card. Rather than closing the unfavorable card—which may lower your credit score—a balance transfer may be a better option.

Benefit: Avoid paying hefty amounts of interest by transferring your balance to a card with a much lower introductory rate. 

Example: Wells Fargo Platinum Card

7. Business Credit Cards

If you’re a business owner, you may want to apply for a credit card specifically for business use. This will help you separate personal and business expenses, and the rewards may help your business save money. You’ll then begin to build business credit. To apply you’ll need decent credit and either a federal tax ID or employer identification number (EIN).

Benefit: Enjoy business-specific perks like higher credit limits, expense management reports and the ability to add more cards for employees. 

Example: Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi

Cards That Offer Cash Back and Rewards

In order to get the most out of their spending, most cardholders gravitate toward credit options that offer cash back and rewards. 

Cardholders carry an average of 4.1 cards, 2.4 of which are rewards-based.

8. Cash Back Credit Cards

Cash back credit cards allow you to earn a certain percent—typically ranging from one to five—of the money back every time you make a purchase with the card. Some issuers will pay this amount annually, while others pay monthly.

Benefit: Find a card that allows you to customize where you get your cash back. For example, certain cards allow you to earn five percent cash back in a store category of your choice.

Example: Chase Freedom Unlimited®

9. Retail Credit Cards

Retail or store credit cards are offered by specific businesses and can only be used to make purchases with that store. While these cards aren’t ideal for everyday purchasing needs, they’re a great way to earn generous rewards with stores that you frequently shop at. There are over 300 store credit cards available, from Walmart and Target to Lowe’s and JCPenney. 

Benefit: Store cards typically don’t charge annual fees, don’t require excellent credit and offer substantial first-purchase discounts as well as long-term cash back rewards.

Example: Amazon Prime Store Card

10. Hotel Credit Cards

Hotel credit cards are affiliated with a specific hotel chain and offer rewards on a “points” basis. Typically, they’ll offer some points for purchases made at unrelated businesses such as grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants. But the main attraction is the bonus points earned on eligible purchases made directly with the hotel. 

Benefit: Earn generous sign-up bonuses, rewards when you spend money on hotel bookings and yearly free nights. 

Example: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

11. Airline Credit Cards

Certain credit cards offer rewards on purchases made with a specific airline, while others allow you to earn rewards with any airline or travel-related expense. These rewards rack up in the form of “miles.” For example, many cards offer two miles for every one dollar spent on flights. 

Benefit: For frequent travelers, airline credit cards are a great way to score free and discounted flights.

Example: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

12. Gas Rewards Credit Cards

Not to be confused with gas station credit cards—which operate like retail cards—a gas station rewards card offers cash back when you pay at the pump. It can be used anywhere, but you’ll enjoy bonus rewards at gas stations.

Benefit: Earn up to three to five percent cash back on gas purchases, often with no annual fee and a zero percent introductory APR. 

Example: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

13. Charge Cards

Charge cards operate in exactly the same manner as regular credit cards, except for one major caveat: you must completely pay off the total balance each month. Failure to do so results in late fees and penalties and will cause a drop in your credit score. On the flip side, they typically come with sizable initial bonuses and rewards.

Benefit: Enjoy higher credit limits and generous point systems—oftentimes offering up to five points per one dollar spent.

Example: ThePlatinum Card® from American Express

Cards for People With Bad Credit

If you’re struggling to get approved for credit cards, loans or other lines of credit because of bad credit, don’t be discouraged. There are credit cards with terms designed specifically for those with poor credit. 

Approximately 12% of Americans have a FICO score below 550.

14. Secured Credit Cards

Most credit cards are unsecured. This means that you are not required to put up a security deposit. Secured cards, on the other hand, require an up-front payment to act as collateral in the event that you can’t pay your balance. Credit card issuers see borrowers with bad credit scores as riskier, so this deposit helps mitigate some of that risk

Benefit: Secured cards give borrowers with poor credit access to credit when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to qualify for a card.

Example: Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

15. Prepaid Cards

Prepaid cards aren’t technically credit cards, because they don’t involve borrowing money. Instead, a cardholder loads a set amount of money onto the card, and purchases are subtracted from the card’s balance, similar to a gift card. The spending limit then renews if and when the card is reloaded. 

Benefit: Prepaid cards help you stay within a budget and avoid getting into credit card debt.

Example: American Express Serve® FREE Reloads

What Type of Credit Card Is Best?

Ultimately, the decision for which card to get is up to your personal preferences and financial goals. However, there are a few good rules of thumb when looking for the best credit cards. Remember to read the terms and conditions carefully before signing up. Generally, cards with any of the following perks may be worth pursuing:

  • Zero percent introductory APR
  • Low APR after the introductory period
  • Sign-up bonus
  • Solid rewards or cash-back program
  • No annual fee

All of the different types of credit cards may seem daunting at first, but once you understand the unique benefits of each one, you’ll be able to find a card that fits your needs. Remember that—regardless of credit card type—good credit management is the key to keeping your credit healthy. After years of on-time payments, low credit utilization, a good mix of credit and few hard inquiries, you’ll be well on your way to your best score yet.


Reviewed by Kenton Arbon, an Associate Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Kenton Arbon is an Associate Attorney in the Arizona office. Mr. Arbon was born in Bakersfield, California, and grew up in the Northwest. He earned his B.A. in Business Administration, Human Resources Management, while working as an Oregon State Trooper. His interest in the law lead him to relocate to Arizona, attend law school, and graduate from Arizona State College of Law in 2017. Since graduating from law school, Mr. Arbon has worked in multiple compliance domains including anti-money laundering, Medicare Part D, contracts, and debt negotiation. Mr. Arbon is licensed to practice law in Arizona. He is located in the Phoenix office.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

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Credit Cards

Should you pay down debt or save for retirement?

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rebuilding credit

While establishing a comprehensive, workable budget is undeniably one of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy financial life, it can also be one of the most difficult. For those who are struggling with personal debt, building a budget can be particularly challenging. When the money coming in has to stretch like a contortionist to cover expenses, it can be hard to determine where to focus — and where to trim.

Sometimes, the battle of the budget can come down to a choice between dealing with the present — and thinking about the future. When your income is running out of stretch, do you pay off your existing debt, or do you start saving for retirement? At the end of the day, the solution to that particular dilemma depends on the type of debt you have and how far you are from retiring.

If you have high-interest debt, pay it down

When considering how to allocate your budget, it’s important to understand the different kinds of debt you may have. Consumer debt can be categorized into two basic types: low-interest debt and high-interest debt, each with its own impact on your credit (and your budget).

In general, low-interest debt consists of long-term or secured loans that carry a single-digit interest rate, such as a mortgage or auto loan. Though no debt is the only real form of good debt, low-interest debt can be useful to carry. For instance, purchasing a home with a low-interest mortgage can actually save you money on housing costs if you do your homework and buy a house well within your price range.

High-interest debt, on the other hand, typically has a hefty double-digit interest rate and shorter loan terms, such as that of a credit card or payday loan. High-interest debt is the most expensive kind of debt to carry from month to month and should always be priority number one when building a budget.

To illustrate why you should focus on high-interest debt above everything else, consider a credit card carrying the average 19% APR and a $10,000 balance. If the balance goes unpaid, that high-interest credit card debt will cost $1,900 a year in interest payments alone. Now, compare that to the stock market’s average annual return of 7%, and it becomes clear that you’ll see significantly more bang for your buck by putting any extra funds into your high-interest debt instead of an investment account.

If you are having trouble paying off your high-interest debt, there may be some steps you can take to make it more manageable. For example, transferring your credit card balances from high-interest cards to ones offering an introductory 0% APR can eliminate interest payments for 12 months or more. While many of the best balance transfer cards won’t charge you an annual fee, they may charge a balance transfer fee, so do your research. You’ll also want to make sure you have a plan to pay off the new card before your introductory period ends.

Most balance transfer offers will require you to have at least fair credit, so if your credit score needs some work, you may not qualify. In this case, refinancing your high-interest debt with a personal loan that has a lower interest rate may be your best bet. Make sure to compare all of the top bad credit loans to find the best interest rate and loan terms.

If you’re nearing retirement, start to save

The closer you get to retirement age, the more important it becomes to ensure you have adequate retirement savings — and the more pressure you may feel to invest every spare penny into your retirement fund. No matter your age, however, paying off your high-interest debt should always remain the priority, as it will always provide the best rate of return (as well as likely provide a credit score boost).

Indeed, no matter how tempting it becomes, you should avoid reallocating money you’ve dedicated to paying off high-interest debt to save for retirement. Instead, the focus should be on re-evaluating your budget to find any additional savings you can. To be successful, you will need to make a strong distinction between want and need — and, perhaps, make some tough lifestyle choices.

Though simply eliminating your daily coffee drink won’t magically provide a solid retirement fund, saving a few bucks by homebrewing while also eliminating a pricey cable bill in favor of an inexpensive streaming service — or, better yet, free library rentals — can add up to big savings over the course of the year. The ideal strategy will involve overhauling every aspect of your lifestyle, combining both large and small cuts to develop a lean budget structured around your long-term goals.

Of course, while you should never allocate debt money to your retirement savings, the reverse is also true. It is almost always a horrible idea to remove money from your retirement account before you hit retirement age — for any reason. Withdrawing early means you will be stuck paying hefty fees for withdrawing money early and, depending on the type of account, you may also have to pay significant taxes.

Aim for both goals by improving income

As you take the necessary steps to pay off debt and save for retirement, you may have already stretched the budget so thin it’s practically transparent. In this case, it is time to consider ways to improve your overall income. Increasing the amount you have coming in not only provides extra savings to put toward your retirement, but may also speed up your journey to becoming debt-free.

The easiest solution may be to look for ways to increase your income through your current job; think about taking on additional shifts or overtime hours to earn some extra cash. Depending on your position — and the time you’ve been with the company — consider asking for a pay raise or promotion, as well.

If you do not have options to make more money at your day job, it may be time to find a second job. Look for opportunities that provide flexible schedules that will accommodate your regular job; many work-from-home positions, for example, can easily fit into most work schedules. Doing neighborhood odd jobs, such as babysitting and dog walking, may also provide a solid income boost without interfering with your existing job.

For some, the need to pay off debt and improve retirement savings can be more than just a source of stress — but a hidden opportunity to begin a new career adventure. Instead of being weighed down by yet more work, use the desire to better your budget as a reason to explore the profit potential of a passion or hobby. Starting a small online store, part-time consulting service, or other small business can be a great way to improve your income and your overall happiness.

While it may sound intimidating, starting a side business can be as simple as putting together a professional looking website and doing a little marketing legwork to spread the word. And no, building a website isn’t as scary — or expensive — as it seems, either. A number of the top website builders now offer simple drag-and-drop interfaces perfect for putting together a professional-looking web page in minutes (without breaking the bank).

Learn how you can start repairing your credit here, and carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.



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How does a loan default affect my credit?

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loan default

Nobody takes out a loan expecting to default on it. Despite their best intentions, people sometimes find themselves struggling to pay off their loans. These types of struggles happen for many reasons, including job loss, significant debt, or a medical or personal crisis.

Making late payments or having a loan fall into default can add pressure to other personal struggles. Before finding yourself in a desperate situation, understanding how a loan default can impact your credit is necessary to avoid negative consequences.

30 days late

Missing one payment can further lower your credit score. If you can pay the past due amount plus applicable late fees, you may be able to mitigate the damage to your credit, if you make all other payments as expected.

The trouble starts when you (1) miss a payment, (2) do not pay it at all, and (3) continue to miss subsequent payments. If those actions happen, the loan falls into default.

More than 30 days late

Payments that are more than 30 days past due can trigger increasingly serious consequences:

  • The loan default may appear on your credit reports. It will likely lower your credit score, which most creditors and lenders use to review credit applications.
  • You may receive phone calls and letters from creditors demanding payment.
  • If you still do not pay, the account could be sent to collections. The debt collector seeks payment from you, sometimes using aggressive measures.

Then, the collection account can remain on your credit report for up to seven years. This action can damage your creditworthiness for future loan or credit card applications. Also, it may be a deciding factor when obtaining basic necessities, such as utilities or a mobile phone.

Other ways a default can hurt you

Hurting your credit score is reason enough to avoid a loan default. Some of the other actions creditors can take to collect payment or claim collateral are also quite serious:

  • If you default on a car loan, the creditor can repossess your car.
  • If you default on a mortgage, you could be forced to foreclose on your home.
  • In some cases, you could be sued for payment and have a court judgment entered against you.
  • You could face bankruptcy.

Any of these additional consequences can plague your credit score for years and hinder your efforts to secure your financial future.

How to avoid a loan default

Your options to avoid a loan default depend upon the type of loan you have and the nature of your personal circumstances. For example:

  • For student loans, research deferment or forbearance options. Both options permit you to temporarily stop making payments or pay a lesser amount per month.
  • For a mortgage, ask the lender if a loan modification is available. Changing the loan from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate, or extend the life of the loan so your monthly payments are smaller.

Generally, you can avoid a loan default by exercising common sense: buy only what you need and can afford, keep a steady job that earns enough income to cover your expenses, and keep the rest of your debts low.

Clean up your credit

The hard reality is that defaulting on a loan is unpleasant. It can negatively affect your credit profile for years. Through patience and perseverance, you can repair the damage to your credit and improve your standing over time.

Consulting with a credit repair law firm can help you address these issues and get your credit back on track. At Lexington Law, we offer a free credit report summary and consultation. Call us today at 1-855-255-0139.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.



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How to identify credit repair scams

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The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

If you have poor or damaged credit and want to repair it, you may have considered using a credit repair service to help. Unfortunately, there are many companies and individuals that want to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers needing help with their credit. 

While there are legitimate companies that can help you repair your credit, there are also credit repair scams that are only after your money and your information for identity theft purposes. To keep both safe, we created this guide to help you tell the difference between legitimate credit repair companies and credit repair scams.

Five signs of a credit repair scam

There are many things credit repair companies are not allowed to do or promise customers. If it sounds like it’s too good to be true, it probably is, and you should steer clear of that company. We’ve put together a list of signs you should watch out for when working with credit repair companies.

1. Guaranteed results

Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA), credit repair companies cannot guarantee results. Here are a few common examples of false promises unethical credit repair companies might make:

  • Improvement to your credit score
  • Results in a fixed time period
  • Removal of all of negative items, even if they are accurate

2. Up-front payment is requested

The CROA prohibits credit repair companies from asking for any payment before they render services. Many scammers know that most consumers don’t know this and, as a result, promise a quick turnaround on credit repair for a large upfront payment.

Some illegitimate credit repair companies may not allow you to cancel unless you pay a fee. All credit repair companies are required by law to give you at least three days to cancel services with them and there is no penalty for canceling.

3. Claims a new identity is needed 

A credit repair company can’t promise or offer you a new identity. Anyone offering you a new identity is a fraud. Besides guaranteeing results, scammers may try to promise you a clean slate with a new Employer Identification Number (EIN) or a Credit Privacy Number (CPN).

They tell you to use these numbers on your future credit applications instead of your Social Security Number. We explain more about common credit repair scams below.

4. Don’t explain your legal rights

Credit repair companies should explain your legal rights to you from the beginning. These are a few common things an unethical credit repair company might do.

  • Tells you not to contact the credit bureaus directly
  • Doesn’t give you a copy of the contract to review before signing
  • Fails to inform you that you can repair your credit yourself without the help of a credit repair company
  • Leaves out important information from the contract, like the date services will be executed or the amount you will pay

If you feel like the company isn’t telling you everything or refusing to answer your questions, you should seek services elsewhere.

5. Asks you to misrepresent information

Finally, an unlawful credit repair company might ask you to misrepresent your information. This can range from unlawfully using an EIN or CPN number in place of your social security number to claim you are a victim of identity theft when you’re not.

five signs of a credit repair scam

Common credit repair scams 

You’ll most likely see credit repair companies illegally promising results. However, it’s important to familiarize yourself with other scams so you understand what is and is not legal. We highlighted a few common ones below.

File segregation schemes 

A file segregation scheme is when a company or individual offers to give you an Employee Identification Number (EIN) to use in place of your Social Security Number when you apply for credit. It’s illegal for companies to do this, and it’s illegal for consumers to obtain one to use in place of their Social Security Number. 

Credit privacy numbers 

Like an EIN, a Credit Privacy Number (CPN) is created by scammers to use in place of your Social Security Number when applying for credit. Simply put, a CPN is a fake Social Security Number. Usually, these are created using somebody else’s identity, and using one can be considered identity theft. 

Tradeline renting 

Tradeline renting is when you pay for authorized user status so that the tradeline shows up on your credit reports to improve your score. This doesn’t repair any negative information on your credit, but adding a positive tradeline to your credit report can boost your score.

While this isn’t necessarily illegal, it can get you into trouble. There is nothing wrong with a loved one adding you as an authorized user. However, if you pay to “rent” a tradeline from a stranger, you don’t know how it will impact your credit and it may be a scam to get your money. 

credit repair scams to watch out for

What to do if you are scammed

There are a few things you can do if you realize you’ve fallen victim to a credit repair scam. Take a look at your options below.

who to report a credit repair scam to

Can credit repair companies fix your credit?

Yes, a legitimate credit repair company can help you work to remove inaccurate negative items from your record that may be damaging your credit score. Here are ways to recognize a legitimate, expert credit repair company. Although you can work to repair your credit yourself without a credit repair company, ideally a credit repair company would make the process much easier. Here are some signs of a legitimate, expert credit repair company:

  1. They create a repair strategy custom to your unique situation. A good credit repair company will customize their course of action only after evaluating your credit reports and credit history. Everyone’s credit history is different, and their approach to repairing your credit should reflect that. 
  2. Maintain communication with you during the process. A credit repair company that maintains scheduled calls, emails or any other form of communication with you will help you stay up-to-date with their progress. They shouldn’t keep you in the dark as they’re conducting their services. 
  3. Informs you of your rights from the beginning. At the time of signing, a credit repair company should provide two documents: a disclosure of your right to repair your credit yourself and a detailed contract of services.
  4. Make realistic claims about their services. Like we said above, credit repair companies cannot guarantee results. A legitimate credit repair company will not guarantee timeframes or point changes, but they can guarantee the delivery of services—access to credit monitoring tools, or letters delivered on your behalf. 

How to safely repair your credit

Making payments on time and disputing inaccurate information on your credit reports can help you repair your credit. While you can do this on your own, a professional credit repair firm like Lexington Law Firm will make the process easier and more efficient.

Lexington Law Firm proudly adheres to CROA to make sure we give our clients the best experience possible. For over a decade, we’ve helped clients challenge information that is unfair, inaccurate and unsubstantiated. Give us a call today for a free, personalized credit report consultation.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

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