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Ask Me Anything: Secured Cards, Nail Polish Stains and More

Every day, it seems, my virtual mailbag fills up with mail from my dear readers. Many messages include questions about everything you can imagine and some that are beyond imagination! Today, I’ve chosen to answer a small sampling of them.

Dear Mary: I ruined my credit starting about 10 years ago, in the usual foolish way people do with nonpayment and slow payment. Even though I am much more careful and responsible now, I cannot shake the bad credit history. Do you have any suggestions to help me get a credit card? As you know, some transactions, such as car rentals, are impossible without a credit card or debit card. My bank told me they no longer offer secured cards. — Patricia D.

Dear Patricia: Negative credit items will come off your report automatically after seven years; a bankruptcy will stop being reported to the credit bureaus after 10 years. Your report should be cleaning itself if your missteps took place that long ago and your credit reports show a definite change in behavior.

As for getting a secured card, go to the Index Credit Cards website and scroll down the left sidebar to “Credit cards for bad credit.” You will get a list of cards available, including each one’s terms. Read them very carefully. A secured card, by the way, is an excellent way to build your credit. Just make sure that you are not shooting yourself in the wallet by opting for a card that has excessive fees.

Dear Mary: How do I get red nail polish out of gray carpet? Is this even possible? — Betty

Dear Betty: Yikes, this is one of the biggest challenges ever. But there is a way. Get some nonacetone nail polish remover that has no fragrance or color added. Next, use a white cloth to perform a test on a hidden part of the carpet (inside a closet or on a piece of remnant) by blotting remover on the carpet. If color transfers to the cloth or the carpet fiber “melts,” call a carpet care professional. If you determine that your carpet is color safe, apply the remover to the stained area. Do not rub; simply blot. This may take some time. Just keep blotting until the polish is gone.

If a stain remains, make a solution of 1 teaspoon blue Dawn dishwashing liquid and 1 quart warm water. Apply enough solution to cover the stain, and let it soak for five minutes. Blot the excess moisture and rinse with warm water. Blot thoroughly with a clean cloth. If the stain reappears after drying, repeat. That should do it.

Dear Mary: We will need a new stove soon. On preliminary pricing, it will cost about $1,800 to replace. We’ve just moved in, and I am not sure when (or whether) we will be remodeling the kitchen.

What are your suggestions for a cheap stopgap option? Sears wants $600 to fix the problems with the current oven and advised getting a new one because it is 15 years old. — Cristy M.

Dear Cristy: I’d go with getting your current stove repaired. Let’s say you remodel in five years. If you opt for a new stove now, you may feel compelled to design your new kitchen around a five-year-old stove you purchased to fit an existing space. By repairing your current stove, you’ll not only save money now but also give yourselves more options when it’s time to start over. A lot can happen in five years. I wonder if perhaps the salesman was thinking more about his commission than your best interests when he suggested you should buy a new stove.

Dear Mary: My mother passed away in April, and she had a credit card balance of $3,500. I had been paying her bills while she was in a nursing home and had no income. As her son, am I now responsible for this credit card debt because she has passed away? — Frank G.

Dear Frank: Unless you are named on the account as joint owner, the credit card company, upon notification of her death, will look to her estate for full payment. This means that if she left assets (a home or anything else of value), they must be liquidated to pay her creditors before those assets can be distributed to her heirs. Generally, that will be handled by the executor of her estate (though laws vary from one state to another). If there are no assets, the credit card company has to eat the loss due to the risk they took by lending the money to the credit card account owner.

You specifically mentioned credit card debt; however, I feel compelled to tell you that under Pennsylvania’s filial support law, children can be held responsible for a parent’s unpaid nursing home bill.

Nolo Press has excellent self-help books and information that may help you settle her estate, which includes notifying her creditors, without spending a lot of money on attorney fees. I am sorry for your loss and wish you well in this difficult time.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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