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J. Lo's Credit Woes

How embarrassing. It appears that when Jennifer Lopez tried to check out at a celebrity-studded fundraiser recently, her credit card was rejected. Twice.

Most of us can feign shock and slink off anonymously to double-check our balances on Quicken. But not Mrs. Marc Anthony, one of the world's richest divas under 40, according to Fortune. Her credit conundrum hit the celebrity gossip blogs faster than you can say, "Hugh Grant in an alley ...." But don't worry. According to onlookers, J. Lo worked out a payment plan and quickly got her swag -- four ball gowns.

Seems we weren't that far off last September when we conjectured that J.Lo has lousy credit. We were speaking theoretically, of course, since The Smoking Gun hasn't yet devoted a section to Celebrity Credit Reports.

Credit scoring is one of the few areas where the unmanicured masses trump the rich and fabulous. Extreme wealth stumps the credit-reporting companies. The formulas that Equifax (NYSE: EFX  ) , Experian, TransUnion, and Fair Isaac (NYSE: FIC  ) use for determining creditworthiness scream "Tilt!" when faced with multiple mortgages and lines of credit that could pay for solid gold replicants of fawning fans.

Our dirty-blonde finances, on the other hand, are comparatively straightforward -- that is, if you consider 11 credit commitments to be uncomplicated. According to the Fair Isaac site myfico.com, that's how many obligations appear on the average American's credit report. Fewer than four out of 10 of us have a 30-day (or more) late payment on file. Almost half indicate credit card debt of less than $1,000. But 10% show $10,000 or more on plastic.

In cutthroat Hollywood terms, the average American's credit score is barely attractive enough to get the bartender's attention . on a slow night. But don't pity the little people. There are 11% who easily slip by the bouncer at the bank with a FICO credit score of 800 or above, according to Fair Isaac. And 1% of the population boasts a head-turning credit score of 850. That's a perfect "10" in La-La Land.

So what's up with J.Lo's spending snafu?

An ex wrecking her credit. The only thing worse that a divorce is the effect it can have on your credit score. She may think that those first-marriage credit blunders are history, but unless they separated their debts the right way, her ex-spouse (or, rather, her ex's finances) may still be dragging Jenny's name through the mud.

Joint account snafus. Maybe hubby Marc spent a little too much time at the shopping mall. Banks don't care which party went on a spending bender. They just want to get paid. They'll besmirch each joint cardholder's credit report until they're satisfied with the outcome.

Sneaky credit card tricks. We can't dismiss the possibility that the lending industry had a role in J. Lo's credit woes. Keep your eye on the card dealer, because an overdue bill may be the cause of a suddenly shrinking grace period or other sleight-of-hand moves her bank might have made.

User error. Maybe a mean-spirited checkout worker who didn't get a callback for the irritable bowel syndrome medication commercial faked the credit card rejection in a karmic payback. (We advise Ms. Lo to check her Visa bill when it arrives in the mail for double billing.)

Don't worry, Jen. We've all had our embarrassing financial moments. Just throw on some lip gloss and a baseball cap, ditch the paparazzi, and, like Gigli, this too shall pass.

Credit tips for J. Lo's credit woes:

Dayana Yochim's Gigli has beendocumented on these very pages. She owns no shares of any companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy comes in aflattering one-size-fits-all boot cut.


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