Freezing Your Credit

In the age of paperless transactions, identify theft is something that virtually all of us are susceptible to. If your identity is stolen, the consequences can be severe, and in some cases, can take years to recover from. One way to be proactive against fraud and defend yourself from identity theft, is to freeze your credit report with each of the three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. 

Placing a credit freeze on your credit report will stop identity thieves from being able to open new accounts, lines of credit, or make any large purchases in your name, regardless of whether or not they have your Social Security number or any other sensitive information. 

What a credit freeze means

A credit freeze is a process that shuts off access to your credit reports at your request. Without your verified consent, your delicate information cannot be acquired. This means that if someone were to attempt to apply for credit in your name, your report would come up as “frozen,” and therefore the creditor would not be able to see the information needed for the application to be approved.

You can unfreeze your credit at any time by using a PIN or a password. 

Reasons to freeze your credit

It might be a good idea to freeze your credit if you’re experiencing any of the following situations:

  • Your data has been compromised in a data breach: It happens. If you’ve been a victim of a data breach and personal information related to your identity has been leaked or made vulnerable to cyber criminals, a credit freeze can offer you some extra protection. 
  • You have reason to think you’ve been a victim of identity theft: Perhaps you’ve checked your credit recently and noticed open accounts that you don’t recognize. Maybe you’ve been getting phone calls from collections agencies requesting payments from accounts you know you didn’t open. While a credit freeze won’t be able to stop them from using accounts a thief has already opened, it can stop them from opening any more. 
  • You want to protect your child from identity theft: According to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, parents and legally guardians of children 16 years old and younger have the right to open a credit account for their child with the sole purpose of putting a freeze on it to protect them from identity theft. 

How to freeze your credit 

The process of freezing your credit is simple but does require a few steps. You will need to get in touch with each of the three major credit bureaus one by one and request a credit freeze:

  • Experian: Contact by phone at 800-349-9960 or go to their website.
  • Equifax: Contact by phone at 888-397-3742 or go to their website.
  • TransUnion: Contact by phone at 888-909-8872 or go to their website.  

The credit bureaus will ask you for your Social Security number, your date of birth and other information to verify your identity.

Once you freeze your credit, your file will be unattainable even if a thief has sensitive information such as your social security number or date of birth. If you need to use your credit file, you can unfreeze your credit report at any time. 

How to unfreeze your credit

Once you’ve frozen your credit file, it will be remain blocked until you decide that you would like to unfreeze it. You will need to unfreeze your credit report in order to open a new line of credit or make a major purchase. 

Unfreezing your credit file is simple. All you will need to do is go online to each credit bureau website and use the personal identification number (PIN) that you used to place the freeze on the account. If you don’t want to complete this task online, you can also unfreeze your credit file over the phone or through postal mail. 

When the unfreezing process is done online or by phone, it is completed within minutes of submitting the request. However, if you send your request via mail, it will take much longer. 

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to unfreeze your credit through all three of the major credit bureaus if you don’t want to. For instance, let’s say you plan to apply for credit somewhere. You can ask the creditor which credit bureau it will go through to pull up your report, and only unfreeze that one credit bureau. 

You may also have the option to unfreeze for a specific amount of time. Once the time is up, your credit file will automatically freeze again. 

Credit freeze pros and cons

There are a few reasons why you might want to freeze your credit in this day and age, but just like with anything else, there are pros and cons to credit freezing. Here is a general breakdown of the benefits and downfalls of putting a freeze on your credit report:

Pros:

  • It prevents thieves from opening new lines of credit: With a credit freeze placed on your account, no one will be able to open a new line of credit or any other type of account requiring a credit check using your personal data. Anyone trying to commit fraud will be stopped in their tracks as soon as lenders notice that the report is frozen. 
  • It won’t affect your credit score: Freezing your credit report will not damage your credit score. Additionally, if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, freezing your credit report could actually protect your credit score from being damaged due to fraud. 
  • It’s free: It used to be the case that some credit freezes would cost a fee, but that is no longer the way it works. 

Cons

  • It requires some effort: Putting a credit freeze on your credit report takes some effort. You will need to get in touch with all three credit bureaus. 
  • You will need to remember your PINs: A PIN is required to lift or freeze your credit report. If you lose it, you will need to jump through extra hoops to create a new one.

It can’t stop thieves from accessing your existing accounts: Credit freezes can only stop fraudsters from opening new accounts using your information. If you’ve already been a victim of identity theft, a credit freeze can’t block thieves from committing fraud with your current accounts. This means that thieves can still make a purchase using a credit card they stole from you.

Freezing Your Credit is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

4 Credit Cards with No Spending Limit

Life can be unpredictable, and you never know exactly what you may need to spend money on tomorrow. In these situations, you may suddenly need more spending power on your credit cards than you previously anticipated. Fortunately, there are credit and charge cards that allow you to make the charges you need.

If your credit score is good enough, you might be able to score an “unlimited credit card”—one without a preset spending limit. That’s not a free pass to go on a months-long shopping spree, of course, as these credit cards technically do have some limitations. But they can be a flexible way to manage your finances, especially if you manage large monthly expenses or travel a lot. Find out more about credit cards with no limits below and whether one might be right for you.

What a No Limit Credit Card Really Means

The phrase “no limit credit card” is a bit misleading. Technically, all credit cards have limits. It’s not in the interest of lenders to allow card holders to drive up balances with no end in sight.

When people talk about unlimited credit cards, then, they usually mean one of two things. First, they could mean a credit card with a very high limit—one you’d be unlikely to hit in the normal course of spending if you’re regularly paying off the card. These types of cards include exclusive invitation-only “black cards.”

Second, and more commonly, they mean cards with no preset or published limits. Cardholders on these accounts are given a limit that’s unique to them, and it’s based on factors such as creditworthiness, income, and how long you have had an account. The credit limit might even fluctuate as you demonstrate continued or increased creditworthiness.

How to Determine if No Limit Credit Cards Are Right for You

Typically, these cards require good or excellent credit, so they aren’t something everyone can qualify for. The most exclusive cards with no preset spending limits are available only to individuals who receive an invite.

Cards with especially high credit limits or extremely flexible limits may also not be the right choice for someone who is in financial distress or already struggling to manage debt. It’s an unfortunate paradox that if you really need the larger credit line, you might be at greater risk of running up the credit card balance and digging yourself deeper in debt—and therefore unlikely to be approved for the larger credit line.

Need a card for fair or poor credit? We’ve got you covered.

Find a Card

Alternatives to No Limit Credit Cards

If you don’t have great credit, you might want to consider a different option, such as a balance transfer card. If your credit is good enough, you can get a balance transfer card with a preset limit that lets you transfer high-interest debt and pay it off faster at 0% interest for a specific period of time.

If you’re doing well financially and would like the flexibility of a credit card with a high limit without the temptation of ongoing debt, you might consider a charge card. Charge cards are a type of credit card—often with high limits—that you have to pay off each billing cycle.

4 High Limit or No Limit Credit Cards to Consider

If a high limit card does sound like a good idea, you’ll want to research available options and choose the best one for your needs and preferences. Here are four to consider.

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now

on Chase’s secure website

Card Details
Intro Apr:
N/A


Ongoing Apr:
15.99% – 22.99% Variable


Balance Transfer:
15.99% – 22.99% Variable


Annual Fee:
$95


Credit Needed:
Excellent-Good

Snapshot of Card Features
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.

Card Details +

  • Type: Rewards credit card
  • Credit Needed: Excellent,Good
  • Ongoing APR: 15.99% – 22.99% Variable
  • Signup bonus: 60,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months—that’s $1,000 in travel credits because points are worth even more if you use them on travel.
  • Rewards: Earn 2 points for every dollar spent on qualified travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar for all other purchases.
  • Annual fee: $95

Once you’re approved for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, Chase will designate a credit access line for your account. However, you are permitted to exceed the account on a case-by-case basis. And when you do exceed this amount, you will not be charged an over-limit fee. The decision to allow you to charge beyond your credit access line is based on your payment history, your income, and other factors.

2. American Express® Gold Card

American Express® Gold Card

Apply Now

on American Express’s secure website

Card Details
Intro Apr:
N/A


Ongoing Apr:
See Pay Over Time APR


Balance Transfer:
N/A


Annual Fee:
$250


Credit Needed:
Excellent-Good

Rates and Fees

Snapshot of Card Features
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.

Card Details +

  • Type: Rewards
  • Credit Needed: Excellent,Good
  • Ongoing APR: See Pay Over Time APR
  • Signup bonus: 60,000 Membership Rewards® points if you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first 6 months.
  • Rewards: Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets or at restaurants, including takeout and delivery, and 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Annual fee: $250

The American Express® Gold card is a card with a high-limit. With its Pay Over Time feature, this Amex card allows eligible charges of $100 or more to be carried across statements with interest. Other charges are due each month. You also get up to $120 in dining credits a year by earning up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.

3. Mastercard Black Card

Mastercard® Black Card™

Apply Now

on Luxury Card’s secure website

Card Details
Intro Apr:
N/A


Ongoing Apr:
14.99%


Balance Transfer:
0% introductory APR for the first fifteen billing cycles following each balance transfer that posts to your account within 45 days of account opening. After that, your APR will be 14.99%.


Annual Fee:
$495 ($195 for each Authorized User added to the account)


Credit Needed:
Excellent

Rates and Fees

Snapshot of Card Features
  • Patented black-PVD-coated metal card—weighing 22 grams.
  • 2% value for airfare redemptions with no blackout dates or seat restrictions. 1.5% value for cash back redemptions. Earn one point for every one dollar spent.
  • 24/7 Luxury Card Concierge®—available by phone, email and live mobile chat. Around-the-clock service to help you save time and manage tasks big and small.
  • Exclusive Luxury Card Travel® benefits—average value of $500 per stay (e.g., resort credits, room upgrades, free wifi, breakfast for two and more) at over 3,000 properties.
  • Annual Airline Credit—up to $100 in statement credits toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more. Up to a $100 application fee credit for the cost of TSA Pre✓® or Global Entry.
  • Enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select with access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide with no guest limit. Includes credits at select airport restaurants for cardholder and one guest.
  • Cell phone protection for eligible claims of up to $1,000 each year. Plus additional World Elite Mastercard® benefits.
  • Annual Fee: $495 ($195 for each Authorized User). Terms and conditions apply.

Card Details +

  • Type: Rewards/Cash Back
  • Credit Needed: Excellent
  • Ongoing APR: 14.99%
  • Sign up bonus: n/a
  • Rewards: Earn redemption cash back in the value of 2% if you redeem on airfare or 1.5% if you redeem for cash back.
  • Annual fee: $495 ($195 for each Authorized User added to the account)

One of three products offered by Luxury Card, the Mastercard Black Card is truly luxurious. There is no official minimum starting limit for this card—but that flexibility comes with a cost. The annual fee is steeper than many can afford, but the card comes with $100 in airline credit and $100 in TSA Pre-check application credit every year, Exclusive luxury travel perks, and around-the-clock access to a concierge. It also includes a full range of traveler perks. Coupled with the rewards, this card can pay for itself when used by frequent travelers.

4. American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Apply Now

on American Express’s secure website

Card Details
Intro Apr:
0% for 12 months on purchases


Ongoing Apr:
13.99%-23.99% Variable


Balance Transfer:
N/A


Annual Fee:
$95


Credit Needed:
Excellent-Good

Rates and Fees

Snapshot of Card Features
  • Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
  • 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more).
  • 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.99% to 23.99%.
  • Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee.
  • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
  • $95 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Card Details +

  • Type: Cash Back
  • Credit Needed: Excellent,Good
  • Ongoing APR: 13.99%-23.99% Variable
  • Sign up bonus: Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 3 months.
  • Rewards: 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets and some streaming services, up to $6,000 per year, then 1%; 3% cash back when spending at gas stations or on public transit; and 1% cash back on other purchases.
  • Annual fee: $95

The American Express Blue Cash Preferred® card comes with a lot of standard Amex benefits. There’s no overlimit fee, and its “Plan It” features allow you to create monthly payment plans with a fixed finance charge each month, rather than the ongoing APR.

No Limit Credit Cards and Your Credit Score

Paying on time and keeping your balance low is as important with these types of cards as with any other card. But you also need to consider your revolving credit utilization. Since these cards may not have a set or published limit, it’s important that you understand what the actual limit is and how it’s being reported. Check your credit report to see what limit is being reported so you know whether your credit utilization is high. Charge cards may not affect your utilization rate at all.

If you really want to dig in to your credit reports and the factors affecting your credit scores, consider signing up for ExtraCredit. ExtraCredit lets you access this information from all three credit bureaus whenever you want. That helps you best manage all of your debt, whether you have an unlimited credit card or not.

Sign Up Now

At publishing time, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, American Express Gold, Mastercard Black, and American Express Blue Cash Preferred cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for either of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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Source: credit.com

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

If left unchecked, extensive amounts of credit card debt can cripple your finances. The good news is there are many ways to handle debt, though each requires a dedicated effort on your part. But if you can manage to consolidate credit card debt, you will reduce your burden relatively quickly. In the process, you’ll avoid the exorbitant interest rates that accompany most credit cards. Below we take a look at some of the most effective techniques you can use to make this goal a reality.

Find Out Your Credit Score

Before you can work on improving your credit and minimizing your debt, you have to know where you currently stand.

Many credit card issuers allow cardholders to see their FICO® credit score free of charge once a month, so check out if any of your cards include that free credit score. The three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax – also give out free annual credit reports. If that’s not enough, websites like Credit Karma™ and Credit Sesame provide a free look at your credit score and reports as well.

It is vital to review your credit report with a fine-tooth comb to ensure the accuracy of the information. If you find errors be sure to let the credit bureau in question know so the issue can be eradicated as soon as possible.

Zero Interest Balance Transfer Cards

Although it might seem counterintuitive to apply for another credit card to lessen your debt, a zero interest balance transfer card could really help. These cards typically include an introductory 0% balance transfer Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for six months or more. This ultimately allows you to move debt from one account to another without incurring more interest. However, once the introductory offer concludes, any leftover balances will revert to your base APR.

These offers aren’t totally free, though. Most cards also charge a balance transfer fee that’s usually between 3% and 5% of the transfer. Even with this initial payment, you will almost always still save money over leaving your debt where it stands currently.

If you want to consolidate credit card debt, here are three different balance transfer credit cards you could apply for, with varying introductory interest rates and transfer fees:

Balance Transfer Credit Cards Card Intro Balance Transfer APR Balance Transfer Fee Chase Slate 0% APR for first 15 months; then 16.49% to 25.24% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness No fee for first 60 days; then $5 or 5% of each transfer, whichever is greater Citi Double Cash Card 0% introductory APR for 18 months from date of first transfer when transfers are completed within 4 months from date of account opening; then 15.49% to 25.49% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness $5 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater BankAmericard® credit card 0% APR for first 15 billing cycles; then 14.49% to 24.49% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness No fee for first 60 days; then $10 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater Take Out a Personal Loan

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

The thought of taking out another loan probably doesn’t sound too appetizing to consolidate credit card debt. But a personal debt consolidation loan is one of the speediest ways to rid yourself of credit card debt. More specifically, you can use it to pay off most or all of your debt in one lump sum. That way, your payments are all merged into a single account with your lender.

The APR and length of the offered loan and the minimum credit score needed for approval are the main factors that should go into your final decision on a lender. By concentrating on these three components of the loan, you can map out what your monthly payments will be. As a result, you can more easily implement them into your financial life.

Applying for a personal consolidation loan can have a detrimental effect on your credit. Unfortunately, most institutions will run a hard credit check on you prior to approval. However, many online lenders don’t do this, which might ease your mind depending on the severity of your debt situation.

These loans are available through a wide variety of financial institutions, including banks, online lenders and credit unions. Here are a few examples of some of the most common debt consolidation lenders:

Common Debt Consolidation Lenders Banks Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Fifth Third Bank Online Lenders Lending Club, Prosper, Best Egg Credit Unions Navy Federal Credit Union, Unify Financial Credit Union, Affinity Federal Credit Union Auto or Home Equity Loan

If you own assets like a home or car, you can take out a lump-sum loan based on the equity you hold in them to consolidate credit card debt. This is a great way to reuse money you paid toward an existing loan to take care of your debt. When paying back your auto or home equity loan, you’ll usually pay in fixed amounts at a relatively low interest rate. Even if this rate isn’t great, it’s likely much better than any offer you’d receive from a card issuer.

Equity loans are technically a second mortgage or loan, meaning your house or car will become the loan’s collateral. That means you could lose your house or car if you cannot keep up with your equity loan payments.

Create a Budget

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

To build a budget, you first need to figure out your approximate monthly net income. Don’t forget to take into account taxes when you’re doing this.

You can then start subtracting your variable and fixed expenses that are expected for the upcoming month. This is where you will likely be able to identify where you’re overspending, whether it’s on food, entertainment or travel. Once you’ve completed this, you can begin cutting back where you need to. Then, use your surplus cash to pay off your debt one month at a time.

It shouldn’t matter if you’re dealing with substantial credit card debt or not. A monthly spending budget should always be a part of how you manage your finances. While this is likely the slowest way to eliminate debt, it’s also the most financially sound. At its core, it attempts to fix the problem without taking funding from an outside source. This should leave very little financial strife in the aftermath of paying off your debt.

Professional Debt Counseling

Perhaps since you’ve found yourself in serious debt, you feel like you want professional help getting out of it. Well the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) is available for just that reason. The NFCC® has member offices all around the U.S. that are certified in helping you consolidate credit card debt.

These counselors won’t only address your current financial issues and debt. They’ll also work to create a plan that will help you avoid this situation again in the future.

Agencies that are accredited by the NFCC® will have it clearly displayed on their website or at their offices. If you’re not sure where to look, the foundation created an agency locator that’ll help you find a counselor nearby.

Borrow From Your Retirement

Taking money early from your employer-sponsored retirement account obviously isn’t ideal. That’s means borrowing from your retirement is a last-ditch alternative. But if your credit card debt has become such a handicap that it’s affecting all other facets of your life, it is a viable option to consolidate credit card debt.

Because you are technically loaning money to yourself, this will not show up on your credit report. Major tax and penalty charges await anyone who has trouble making payments on these loans though. To make matters worse, if you quit your job or are fired, you’re typically only given 60 days to finish paying it off to avoid incurring a penalty.

Tips To Consolidate Credit Card Debt

  • If you take the time to come up with a budget, don’t let it go to waste. While you might find it tough to stick to, especially if you’re trying to cut back, it is the best way to manage your money correctly. Even if a budget becomes habit, stay vigilant with where your money is being spent.
  • Although a financial advisor will cost money, he or she might be able to help you keep your finances in check while ultimately helping you plan for the future as well. However, if this isn’t an option for you financially, stay on track with your NFCC® debt counselor’s plan.
  • There are so many ways to gain access to your credit score that there’s virtually no excuse for not knowing it. It doesn’t matter if you do it through one of the top three credit bureaus, FICO® or one of your card issuers. Just remember to pay attention to those ever-important three digits as often as possible.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Liderina, ©iStock.com/ferrantraite, Â©iStock.com/cnythzl

The post Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Credit 101: What Is Revolving Utilization?

Aerial view of a young woman with brown hair contemplating her revolving utilization. She has a pen in her mouth and an open notebook on her desk.

According to Experian, the average credit score in the United States was just over 700 in 2019. That’s considered a good credit score—and if you want a good credit score, you have to consider your revolving utilization. Revolving utilization measures the amount of revolving credit limits that you are currently using, and it accounts for a large portion of your credit score.

Find out more about what revolving utilization is, how to manage it, and how it impacts your credit score below.

What Is Revolving Credit?

To understand revolving utilization, you first have to understand revolving credit. Revolving credit accounts are those that have a “revolving” balance, such as credit cards.

When you are approved for a credit card, you are given a credit limit. If you have a credit card with a limit of $1,000 and you use it to buy $200 worth of goods, you now have a $200 balance and an $800 remaining credit limit.

Now, if you pay that $200, you again have $1,000 of open credit. If you pay $150, you have $950 of open credit. But your credit revolves between balance owed and how much open credit you have available to use. How much you have to pay each month—known as the minimum payment—depends on how much your balance owed is.

Other forms of revolving credit include lines of credit and home equity lines of credit. They work similar to credit cards.

What Isn’t Revolving Credit?

Unlike revolving credit, installment loans involve taking out a lump sum and paying it back in an agreed-upon fashion over a set term of months or years. Typically, you agree to pay a certain amount per month for a certain number of months to cover the amount you borrowed plus any interest.

With an installment loan, the amount of your monthly payment is determined by your loan agreement, not the balance due. Common types of installment loans include vehicle loans, personal loans, student loans, and mortgages.

What Is Revolving Utilization?

Revolving utilization, also known as “credit utilization” or your “debt-to-limit ratio,” relates only to revolving credit and isn’t a factor with installment loans. Utilization refers to how much of your credit balance you’re using at a given time.

Here’s how to determine your individual and overall credit utilization:

  1. Look at your credit reports and identify all of your revolving accounts. Each of these accounts has a credit limit (the most you can spend on that account) and a balance (how much you have spent).
  2. To calculate individual utilization percentage on an account, divide the balance by the credit limit, and multiply that number by 100.
    1. $500/$1,000 = 0.5
    2. 5*100 = 50%
  3. To calculate overall utilization (all revolving accounts), add up all of the credit limits (total credit limit) and all of the balances (total spent) on your revolving accounts. Divide the total balance by total credit limit, and multiply that number by 100.

If you have a credit card with a $1,000 credit limit and a balance of $500, your utilization rate is 50%, for example. For the same card, if you have a balance of $100, your utilization rate is 10%.

When it comes to your credit score, revolving utilization is typically calculated in total. For example:

  • You have one card with a limit of $1,000 and a balance of $500.
  • You have a second card with a limit of $4,000 and a balance of $400.
  • You have a third card with a limit of $3,000 and a balance of $600.
  • Your total credit limit across all three cards is $8,000.
  • Your total utilization across all three cards is $1,500.
  • Your revolving utilization is around 19%.

How Can You Reduce Revolving Utilization?

You can reduce revolving utilization in two ways. First, you can pay down your balances. The less you owe, the less your utilization will be.

Second, you can increase your credit limit. If you apply for a new credit card but don’t use it, you’ll have more open credit, and that can reduce your utilization. You might also be able to ask your credit card company to review your account for a credit increase if you’re an account holder in good standing.

Find the Right Credit Card for You

What Is Revolving Utilization’s Impact on Your Credit Score?

Your revolving utilization rate does impact your credit. It’s the second-largest factor in the calculation of your credit score. Your utilization rate accounts for around 30% of your score. The only factor more important is whether you make your payments on time.

Why is credit utilization so important to your score? Because to lenders, it can say a lot about you as a borrower.

If you’re currently maxed out on all your existing credit, you may be struggling to pay your debts. Or you might not be managing your debts in the most responsible fashion. Either way, lenders might see you as a riskier investment and be less inclined to approve you for loans or other credit.

How Do You Know If You Have a Revolving Utilization Problem?

Sign up for Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card. It provides a snapshot of your credit report and gives you a grade for each of the five areas that make up your score. That includes payment history, credit utilization, age of credit, credit mix, and inquiries. The credit report card makes it easy for you to see what might be negatively affecting your credit score.

You can also sign up for ExtraCredit, an exciting new product from Credit.com. With an ExtraCredit account, you get a look at 28 of your FICO scores from all three credit bureaus—plus exclusive discounts and cashback offers as well as other features—for less than $25 a month.

Sign Up Now

The post Credit 101: What Is Revolving Utilization? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

How To Add Positive Accounts To Your Credit Reports

Most people focus on removing negative items from their credit reports in order to improve their credit scores. While clearing up damaging items is an effective means of improving your credit score, you can also…

The post How to Add Positive Accounts to Your Credit Reports appeared first on Crediful.

Boost Your Credit Score: 8 Helpful Credit Monitoring Apps

Two smiling women look at credit monitoring apps on their cellphones.

Maintaining a healthy credit score requires a good bit of focus, determination and hard work. There’s a lot to keep up with: We need to pay our bills on time, reduce debt and maintain a low debt-to-credit ratio, among other requirements—all to ensure a top-notch credit score. We can use all the help we can get! To that end, here are eight credit monitoring apps that can help keep your credit building on track.

1. Credit.com

One of the only truly free credit monitoring apps—most others require you to have a paid subscription to their digital service in order to use the “free” app—the Credit.com mobile app allows you to access your entire credit profile, including your credit score and insight into how it compares to your peers. You’ll see where you currently stand, see how your score has changed—and why—and get credit information and money-saving tips tailored to your score.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free

2. myFICO

The myFICO app is free, but it requires an active myFICO account, which means it effectively costs $20 per month or more, depending on which features you want. With this app, though, you can view and monitor your FICO scores—the most widely used credit score—and credit reports. They also provide a FICO Score Simulator, which shows you how your score may be affected if you take certain actions.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires an active myFICO account

3. Lock & Alert from Equifax

Lock & Alert from Equifax lets you lock and unlock your Equifax credit report to protect against identity theft and fraud. You’ll get an alert any time your account is locked or unlocked so you know you’re the one in control. A credit lock is not as secure as a credit freeze, but it does offer some level of protection and is generally easier to turn on and off. This app works only for your Equifax credit report, so if you want to lock all three reports, you’ll have to work with TransUnion and Experian separately.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free

4. Experian

The Experian mobile credit monitoring app lets you track your Experian credit report and FICO score, with an automatically updated credit report every 30 days. The app also comes with Experian Boost, which can help you boost your score. The app alerts you when changes to your report or score occur, and offers suggested credit cards based on your FICO score.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but some features require a paid Experian account

5. Lexington Law

If you’ve signed up for credit repair services with Lexington Law, you can use their free mobile app to keep track of your progress. In addition to providing access to your credit reports from all three credit bureaus and updates on ongoing disputes, the money manager feature, similar to Mint, helps you track your income, spending, budgets and debts.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires a paid Lexington Law account

6. TransUnion

The TransUnion mobile app allows you to refresh your credit score and credit report daily to see where you stand. It offers instant alerts if anything changes and offers Credit Lock Plus, which allows you to lock your TransUnion credit report to avoid identity theft and fraud. The Debt Analysis tool lets you calculate your debt-to-income ratio, and it allows you to view public records associated with your name.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires a paid TransUnion Credit Monitoring account

7. ScoreSense Scores To Go

ScoreSense offers credit scores and reports from all three credit bureaus and daily credit monitoring and alerts to changes on your reports. This app also provides creditor contact information so you can address errors on your report quickly and efficiently. Score tracking features let you review how your score changes over time and how it compares to your peers.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires a paid ScoreSense account

8. Self

Self helps you build—and track—your credit, making it great for people just establishing their credit profile or trying to rebuild damaged credit. Self offers one- and two-year loan terms, but instead of getting the money up front, the amount is deposited into a CD. You make regular payments for the term of the loan (at least $25 per month), and then get access to the money. There is no hard inquiry to open the account, but your payments are reported to all three credit bureaus, helping build your credit. Plus, while you are repaying your loan, you will have access to free credit monitoring and you VantageScore so you can track your progress.

Availability: Apple and Android

Cost: Free, but requires a Self loan repayment of at least $25 per month

Credit Monitoring Apps to Fit Your Needs

With so many different options, you’re sure to find a credit monitoring app that meets your needs. And don’t forget: you can always check your score for free using Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card.

The post Boost Your Credit Score: 8 Helpful Credit Monitoring Apps appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Faster

I've received several questions from Money Girl podcast listeners about paying off credit card debt. It's a fundamental goal because carrying card balances come with high interest, a waste of your financial resources. Instead of paying money to card companies, it's time to use it to build wealth for yourself.

7 Strategies to Pay Off Credit Card Debt Faster

1. Stop making new card charges

If you're carrying card balances from month-to-month, it's essential to understand what it costs you. As interest accrues, it can double or triple the original cost of a charged item, depending on how long it takes you to pay off.

The first step to improving any area of your life is to acknowledge your mistakes, and financing a lifestyle you can't afford using a credit card is a biggie. So, stop making new charges until you take control of your cards and can pay them off in full each month.

As interest accrues, it can double or triple the original cost of a charged item, depending on how long it takes you to pay off.

Yes, reining in your card spending will probably require sacrifices. Consider ways to earn extra income, such as starting a side gig, finding a better-paying job, or selling your unused stuff. Also, look for ways to cut costs by downsizing your home, vehicle, memberships, or unnecessary expenses.

2. Consider your big financial picture

Before you decide to pay off credit card debt aggressively, look at the "big picture" of your financial life. Consider any other debts or obligations you should prioritize, such as a tax delinquency, legal judgment, or unpaid child support. The next debts to pay off are those already in default or turned over to a collection agency.

In many cases, not having a cash reserve is why people get into credit card debt in the first place.

Assuming you don't have any debts in default, focus your attention on your emergency fund … or lack of one! I recommend maintaining a minimum of six months' worth of your living expenses on hand. In many cases, not having a cash reserve is why people get into credit card debt in the first place.

3. Make more than the minimum payment

Many people who can pay more than their monthly minimum card payment don't do it. The problem is that minimums go mostly toward interest and don't reduce your balance significantly.

For example, let's assume your card charges 15% APR, you have a $5,000 balance, and you never make another purchase on the card. If your minimum payment is 4% of your card balance, it will take you 10½ years to pay off. And here's the worst part—you'd have paid almost $2,400 in interest!

4. Target debts with the highest interest rates first

Make a list of all your debts, including credit cards, lines of credit, and loans. Include your balances owed and interest rates charged. Then rank your liabilities in order of highest to lowest interest rate.

Getting rid of the highest interest debts first saves you the most.

Remember that the higher a debt's interest rate, the more it costs you in interest per dollar of debt. So, getting rid of the highest interest debts first saves you the most. Then you can use the savings to pay more on your next highest interest debt and so on.

If you have several credit cards, evaluate them the same way—tackle them in order of highest to lowest interest rate to get the most bang for your buck. And if a credit card isn't the most expensive debt you have, make it a lower priority.

In general, debts that come with a tax deduction such as mortgages, home equity lines of credit, and student loans, should be paid off last. Not only do those types of debt have relatively low interest rates, but when some or all of the interest is tax-deductible, they cost you even less on an after-tax basis.

5. Use your assets to pay off cards

If you have assets such as savings and non-retirement investments that you could use to pay down high-interest credit cards, it may make sense. Just remember that you still need a healthy cash reserve, such as six months' worth of living expenses.

If you don't have any or enough emergency money saved, don't dip into your savings to pay off credit card debt. Also, consider what you could sell—such as unused sporting goods, jewelry, or a vehicle—to raise cash and increase your financial cushion.

6. Consider using a balance transfer card

If you can’t pay off credit card debt using existing assets, consider optimizing it by moving it from higher- to lower-interest options. That won’t make your debt disappear, but it will reduce the amount of interest you pay.

Balance transfers won’t make your debt disappear, but they will reduce the amount of interest you pay.

Using a balance transfer credit card is a common way to optimize debt temporarily. You receive a promotional offer during a set period if you move debt to the account. By transferring higher-interest debt to a lower- or zero-interest card, you save money and use it to pay down the balance faster.

7. Consolidate your high-rate balances

I received a question from Sarah F., who says, “I love your podcast and turn to it for a lot of my financial questions. I have credit card debt and am wondering if it’s a good idea to get a personal loan to pay it down, or is that a scam?”

And Rachel K. says, "I love listening to your podcasts and am focused on becoming more financially fit this year. I have a couple of credit cards with high interest rates. Would it be wise for me to consolidate them to a lower interest rate? If so, will it hurt my credit?" 

Depending on the terms you’re offered, using a personal loan can be an excellent way to reduce interest and get out of debt faster.

Thanks to Sarah and Rachel for your questions. Consolidating credit card debt using a personal loan is not a scam but a legitimate way to shift debt to a lower interest rate.

Having an additional loan added to your credit history helps you build credit if you make payments on time. It also works in your favor by reducing your credit utilization ratio when you reduce your credit card debt.

If you qualify for a low-rate personal loan, here are some benefits you get from debt consolidation:

  • Cutting your interest expense
  • Getting a fixed rate and term (such as 6% APR for 60 months with monthly payments of $600)
  • Having one monthly debt payment
  • Building credit

A couple of downsides of using a personal loan to consolidate debt include:

  • Being tempted to continue making credit card charges
  • Having potentially higher monthly loan payments (compared to minimum credit card payments)

While it may seem counterintuitive to use new debt to get out of old debt, it all comes down to the interest rate. Depending on the terms you’re offered, using a personal loan can be an excellent way to reduce interest and get out of debt faster.

What should you do after paying off a credit card?

Credit cards come with many benefits, such as purchase protection, convenience, and rewards. Don't forget that they're also powerful tools for building credit when used responsibly. If maintaining good credit is one of your goals, I recommend that you keep a paid-off card open instead of canceling it.

You don't need to carry a balance from month to month or pay interest on a credit card to build excellent credit.

To maintain or improve your credit, you must have credit accounts open in your name, and you must use them regularly. Making small purchases charges from time to time that you pay off in full and on time is enough to add positive data to your credit reports. You don't need to carry a balance from month to month or pay interest on a credit card to build excellent credit.

To learn more about building credit and getting out of debt, check out Laura’s best-selling online classes:

  • Build Better Credit—The Ultimate Credit Score Repair Guide
  • Get Out of Debt Fast—A Proven Plan to Stay Debt-Free Forever

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Financial Scams That Target the Elderly and How to Prevent Them

financial scam targets elderly

A 2015 study found that older adults lose more than $36 billion every year to financial scams. Unfortunately, con artists see the elderly population as an easy and vulnerable target.

The American Securities Administrators Association’s President, Mike Rothman, explains that scammers take this approach because the current elderly population is one of the wealthiest we’ve seen with such hefty retirement savings. Where the money goes, the con artists follow.

With so many scams targeting older adults, it’s essential to make yourself and your loved ones aware of the different types of cons. Here is a list of common financial scams that specifically target the elderly and how you can prevent them:

The Grandparent Scam

The grandparent scam is common because it appeals to older adults’ emotions. Scammers get the phone number of a senior and they call pretending to be a grandchild. Making their lie seem more believable, the con artist will playfully ask the older adult to guess what grandchild is calling. Of course, the first reaction will most likely be for the senior to name a grandchild and then the scammer can easily play along, acting like they guessed right. Now the grandparent thinks they are talking to their grandchild.

The scam artist will then begin to confide in the grandparent, saying they are in a tough financial position and they need the grandparent’s help. Asking them to send money to a Western Union or MoneyGram, they plead for the grandparent not to tell anyone. If the grandparent complies and sends the money, the scammer will likely contact the senior again and ask for more money.

Avoid this scam:

  • Never send money to anyone unless you have 100 percent proof that it is who you think it is. Scammers can find out quite a bit of information from social media and other methods, so don’t think that just because they know a couple pieces of information about you and your family that it is legit.
  • Verify that it is actually your grandchild on the phone by texting or calling the grandchild’s real phone number and verifying if it is him or her.
  • Call the parent of the supposed grandchild and find out if the grandchild really is in trouble.
  • Talk to your family members now and compile a list of questions only you and your family know the answers to. If a family emergency really does happen, you can ask the questions and know if it is your family member based on the answers.

“Claim Your Prize Now!” Sweepstakes Scam

The sweepstakes scam is when con artists contact the elderly either by phone or email and tell them they have won something, whether that be a sum of money or another type of prize. To claim the prize, scammers tell them they have to pay a fee. Once the senior agrees, scammers send a fake check in the mail. Before the check doesn’t clear and seniors can realize it is a scam, they have already paid the “fee.”

Avoid this scam:

  • Do not give out any financial information over the phone or email.
  • Practice Internet safety by protecting your passwords, shopping on encrypted websites, and avoiding phony emails.
  • Be skeptical of any message that says you have randomly won a prize and you must do something before you can claim it. Unless you specifically enter a contest, you most likely aren’t going to randomly win a monetary prize.

Medicare Scam

Because of the Affordable Care Act that allows seniors over the age of 65 to qualify for Medicare, scam artists don’t have to do much research about seniors’ healthcare providers. This makes it simple for scammers to call, email, or even visit seniors’ homes personally and claim to be a Medicare representative.

 

There are a variety of ways these con artists use this Medicare scam to target the elderly. One way is telling seniors they need a new Medicare card and to do so, they need to tell the “Medicare representative” what their Social Security number is. An additional way is they can tell seniors there is a fee they need to pay to continue their benefits.

Avoid this scam:

  • Do not give out any information to someone you have not verified is from Medicare. Real Medicare employees should have your information on file so if you are skeptical, ask the person some questions to verify it is legitimate.

The “Woodchuck” Scam

A common scam to target seniors who live alone is the “woodchuck” scam. Scam artists will claim to be contractors and will complete house projects if seniors agree to let them.

The scammers will gain seniors’ trust and eventually come up with a variety of fake repairs that need to be done, such as a roof repair. This often results in seniors giving the fake contractors thousands of dollars.

 Avoid this scam:

  • Make sure the person doing your home repairs is a professional. Find out what company they work for and call and verify they are indeed a legitimate contractor.

Mortgage Scam

Con artists are using senior homeownership to their benefit. The mortgage scam is when scammers offer a property assessment to seniors, telling them they can determine the value of their home. This scam has become increasing popular as housing confidence is hitting record highs and people are putting a large chunk of their income towards saving for new homes.

The scam artists make the process look legitimate by finding the home’s information on the Internet and sending seniors an official letter detailing all of the found information. The scammers do this because it is an easy way to con seniors into paying a fee for the requested information.

 Avoid this scam:

  • Ensure the property assessment is legitimate by asking what company they work for and following up with the real company to verify.

Talk to Your Loved Ones

Older adults are often too embarrassed to tell authorities or a family member they have been scammed. Talk to the seniors in your life and let them know they can confide in you and let you know if they have been scammed. You can also have them read through this article and make themselves aware of the scams that could potentially target them in the future.

Check Your Credit Regularly

Check your credit regularly so you are aware of any suspicious activity with your accounts. You can check your credit for free on Credit.com and receive a free credit score updated every 14 days along with a credit report card, which is a summary of what is on your credit reports.

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The post Financial Scams That Target the Elderly and How to Prevent Them appeared first on Credit.com.

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What Is a No-Fee Mortgage?

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When you apply for a mortgage or refinance an existing mortgage, you want to secure the lowest interest rate possible. Any opportunity a borrower can exploit to shave dollars off the cost is a big win.

This explains the allure of no-fee mortgages. These home loans and their promise of doing away with pesky fees always sound appealing—a lack of lender fees or closing costs is sweet music to a borrower’s ears.

However, they come with their own set of pros and cons.

No-fee mortgages have experienced a renaissance given the current economic climate, according to Ralph DiBugnara, president of Home Qualified. “No-fee programs are popular among those looking to refinance … [and] first-time home buyers [have] also increased as far as interest” goes.

Be prepared for a higher interest rate

But nothing is truly free, and this maxim applies to no-fee mortgages as well. They almost always carry a higher interest rate.

“Over time, paying more interest will be significantly more expensive than paying fees upfront,” says DiBugnara. “If no-cost is the offer, the first question that should be asked is, ‘What is my rate if I pay the fees?’”

Randall Yates, CEO of The Lenders Network, breaks down the math.

“Closing costs are typically 2% to 5% of the loan amount,” he explains. “On a $200,000 loan, you can expect to pay approximately $7,500 in lender fees. Let’s say the interest rate is 4%, and a no-fee mortgage has a rate of 4.5%. [By securing a regular loan], you will save over $13,000 over the course of the loan.”

So while you’ll have saved $7,500 in the short term, over the long term you’ll wind up paying more due to a higher interest rate. Weigh it out with your financial situation.

Consider the life of the loan

And before you start calculating the money that you think you might save with a no-fee mortgage, consider your long-term financial strategy.

“No-fee mortgage options should only be used when a short-term loan is absolutely necessary. I don’t think it’s a good strategy for coping with COVID-19-related issues,” says Jack Choros of CPI Inflation Calculator.

A no-fee mortgage may be a smart tactic if you don’t plan to stay in one place for a long time or plan to refinance quickly.

“If I am looking to move in a year or two, or think rates might be lower and I might refinance again, then I want to minimize my costs,” says Matt Hackett, operations manager at EquityNow. But “if I think I am going to be in the loan for 10 years, then I want to pay more upfront for a lower rate.”

What additional fees should you be prepared to pay?

As with any large purchase, whether it’s a car or computer, there’s no flat “this is it” price. Hidden costs always lurk in the fine print.

“Most of the time, the cost for credit reports, recording fees, and flood-service fee are not included in a no-fee promise, but they are minimal,” says DiBugnara. “Also, the appraisal will always be paid by the consumer. They are considered a third-party vendor, and they have to be paid separately.”

“All other costs such as property taxes, home appraisal, homeowners insurance, and private mortgage insurance will all still be paid by the borrower,” adds Yates.

It’s important to ask what additional fees are required, as it varies from lender to lender, and state to state. The last thing you want is a huge surprise.

“Deposits that are required to set up your escrow account, such as flood insurance, homeowners insurance, and property taxes, are normally paid at closing,” says Jerry Elinger, mortgage production manager at Silverton Mortgage in Atlanta. “Most fees, however, will be able to be covered by rolling them into the cost of the loan or paying a higher interest rate.”

When does a no-fee mortgage make sense?

For borrowers who want to save cash right now, but don’t mind paying more over a long time frame, a no-fee mortgage could be the right fit.

“If your plan is long-term, it will almost always make more sense to pay the closing costs and take a lower rate,” says DiBugnara. “If your plan is short-term, then no closing costs and paying more interest over a short period of time will be more cost-effective.”

The post What Is a No-Fee Mortgage? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com