Ask Finney: REAL ID rules, Social Security goes "direct," student loan consolidation

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7 On Your Side's Consumer expert Michael Finney answers your questions, every weekday on ABC7 Mornings.

7 On Your Side's Consumer expert Michael Finney answers your questions, every weekday on ABC7 Mornings. Submit your video questions and tune in at 6 a.m.

Question 1:

Gordon from Oakland asked: If I have a California driver's license and a U.S. passport, do I still need to apply for a REAL ID card for domestic flights after October 1, 2020?

Answer 1:

No. You do not. The federal government is tightening I.D. requirements for domestic flights. Some driver's licenses meet the new standards, but the current California licenses do not. Travelers may either bring their passports on domestic flights or get a new driver's license called REAL ID. The new rules don't go into effect till 2020, so you have time to decide.

Question 2:

Richard from San Jose asked: I was informed by Social Security that I need to sign up for direct deposit or direct express. Do I have any options?

Answer 2:

You can pick which bank you use, otherwise, there aren't a lot of options. New rules state everyone signing up for social security must get direct deposit either to a bank account or a debit card. If you are currently getting a check, the government is urging you to switch to direct deposit. It is cheaper for the government and safer for the recipients. My advice is to just go through the process and get it done. You can ask for an exemption, but you had better have a pretty good excuse ready.

Question 3:

TJ asked: I borrowed subsidized and unsubsidized student loans from the government. Should I consolidate into one loan for a lower interest rate?

Answer 3:

A lower interest rate is good, but not the only thing to consider. When you consolidate your loans with a private lender, you lose important rights. For instance: Sometimes student loan payments are matched to how much you earn. Consolidated loan payments don't do that. Also, some government loans are dismissed because of community service or duration of payments. If you consolidate your loans, that is no longer an option. Finally, you can only consolidate your loans once. There are no do-overs. In short, carefully read all the fine print.
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