10 Proven Ways to Lower Your Car Insurance

A woman wearing a yellow shirt drives a silver car.

We’ve heard the insurance tagline over and over: “Switch and save money today.” Every insurance company claims to have the best deal. But, how can you get a good deal while maintaining the appropriate amount of coverage? We’ve got you covered—literally, and with no extra cost to you. Check out these ten ways to help lower your car insurance. 

1. Get Quotes Annually 

Insurance rates are increasing every year, so your insurance premiums will naturally increase over time. However, a huge spike in your insurance bill might mean it’s time to switch providers. Every year or two, use a car insurance quote finder to compare your current insurance rate to competitors. You can also sign up for Jerry.Ai, a tool that automatically checks for the lowest insurance rates before your policy renewal. Requesting quotes annually will ensure that your rates remain low and competitive. 

2. Bundle Your Insurance Plans

Insurance companies often offer discounts when you bundle home, auto, or life insurance. Plus, you have the added convenience of paying all your insurance on one bill. If you’re satisfied with your insurance rates, you can stay with the same company to build up discount opportunities. Some insurance companies will give discounts to their long-term customers, also known as a customer loyalty discount. Bundling and customer loyalty can help you lower your overall insurance costs. 

3. Get Rid of Insurance You Don’t Need 

Older vehicles require less insurance depending on their overall value. For example, you may not need collision and comprehensive coverage on a vehicle if its value is less than your deductible combined with your insurance premium. If you have a car that’s only worth $1,000–$3,000, you might decide to get rid of some of your insurance and purchase a replacement vehicle out of pocket in the case of an accident. If you don’t drop unneeded insurance, you can end up spending more on your premiums than what the total car is worth. 

4. Increase Your Deductible 

A deductible is the amount of money you pay out of pocket as a result of an accident. An increased deductible means lower premium rates. This is a great option for individuals who can keep enough cash savings to cover their deductible in the event of any emergency. Ask your insurance agent about raising your deductible to see how your premiums will fluctuate. 

5. Drive Safely  

This one might seem kind of obvious, but driving safely is the best way to keep your insurance rates low. Insurance providers record your driving history, including any accident reports or traffic tickets. These instances accrue points that eventually lead to increased insurance rates. Even if you switch insurance providers, companies will be able to access your driving history. Try your best to avoid speeding, running red lights, and driving recklessly. Be smart, and drive smart. 

If you do get a ticket, take a defensive driving class to get the points taken off your record. A defensive driving class is an online or in-person course created by individual states to teach drivers how to anticipate dangerous situations and make educated driving decisions. In some states, taking this class can reduce your insurance by 10 percent.

The defensive driving course may seem expensive for a single ticket, but it will end up saving you money on your insurance premiums. You can usually take driving school once a year. If you keep a clean driving record for three to five years, you could save on your insurance rates. 

6. Improve Your Credit Score

Studies show that drivers with a higher credit score are more responsible behind the wheel. Drivers with higher credit scores cost the insurance company less than individuals with a low credit score. A credit score is just another way for insurance companies to measure risk—the very thing insurance companies seek to avoid. Improving your credit score can also help you qualify for auto and home loans. Study your credit report and find ways to improve your overall credit score.

Are you looking for a way to monitor your credit needs? Check out ExtraCredit by Credit.com. It has five killer features, each specifically designed to help you out—no matter what shape your credit is in. 

Sign up for ExtraCredit today!

7. Pick the Right Vehicle 

Insurance rates fluctuate based on the make and model of a car. This is something to consider when purchasing a new or used car. A car such as a Toyota or Chevy will be significantly cheaper to insure than a Porsche. That’s because it’s less risk for insurance companies. Remember, getting a cheaper insurance premium is dependent on your ability to minimize risk for the insurance company. Picking a car brand with an affordable initial price and reasonable upkeep costs can help you save money on insurance and your vehicle in general. You can also save on car insurance by selecting a smaller car with installed safety features.

8. Choose a Group Insurance Plan 

People under the same household can create a group policy to save money. The plan will be more expensive as you add individuals to your group policy, but cheaper than if everyone was on their own insurance plan. Members of the insurance plan either need to be related or have joint ownership of the car. Each of the drivers will be insured for all the cars your family owns. Younger drivers will be more expensive to insure because of their added risk. Look for additional discounts to minimize your total group rate. 

9. Ask Your Insurance Provider About Other Discounts 

Car insurance companies often have additional discounts for specific groups of people. For example, if you are a member of the military, you can get a discount at some insurance companies. You can also lower the insurance premium for your teenage driver through a good student discount. Some other car insurance discounts include the following: 

  • Government employees and retirees discount
  • Multiple vehicle discount 
  • Homeowners discount (separate from the bundling discount) 
  • Paperless billing discount 
  • Hybrid or green vehicle discount 
  • Driver education discount for people under 21
  • Automatic payments or paid-in-full discount 

Ask your insurance provider about additional discounts to see if you qualify. 

10. Find Out About Pay-as-You-Go or Usage-Based Insurance 

If you don’t use your car often, you may be able to save on your insurance. Some companies offer a discount for driving under 10,000 miles in a single year. Other companies offer a pay as you go plan that allows you to pay a base rate and then pay per mile. These discounts could save you money if you do not have a long work commute or if you rarely use your car. This may also be a good incentive to use public transportation when possible. 

Final Thoughts

We all want to save money on car insurance, but that’s not the only factor in becoming a smart insurance customer. Before diving into savings, first determine your insurance needs and goals. Do your research to find out the difference between liability and full coverage insurance. Once you have the right coverage, you can start chipping away at your rates by following these ten tips to lower your car insurance. 

The post 10 Proven Ways to Lower Your Car Insurance appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Equifax Data Breach: Settlement Options

In the fall of 2017, Equifax experienced a massive data breach. Approximately 147 million people were victims of this data breach. Recently a federal court has purposed a class action settlement. If you are part of this data breach, you are able to file a claim today.

Was I Part of The Equifax Data Breach?

You can check if you are part of the Equifax data breach by going to Equifax’s data breach settlement website. You will need to enter your last name and last six digits of your social security number. After entering in this information on the settlement site, it will say if you were or were not a victim of the Equifax data breach.

Can I File a Claim?

You can file a claim if you if you are a victim of the Equifax data breach. To file a claim go to the Equifax data breach settlement site mentioned above to verify your eligibility. If you were a victim, the website will take you to a screen where you can file a claim.

What are My Claim Settlement Options?

Victims of the Equifax data breach, you can select from the following options:

  • A one-time cash payment up to $125 (if you already have credit monitoring)
  • Free credit monitoring service for 10 years. Which includes $1 million in identity theft insurance, identity restoration services (for seven years), and options to add more monitoring from Equifax.
  • Exclude yourself from the Equifax settlement

You can file a claim for eligible for reimbursement for time spent recovering from this incident if you were a victim of the Equifax data breach. You can also request compensation for reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses if you spent or lost money recovering from this incident.

Which Settlement Option Should I Pick?

A one-time cash payment of $125 sounds great, right? But the actual cash payment amount is expected to be much less. Equifax set aside $31 million for cash payouts. This means that if only 248,000 people select a cash payment, they will get the full $125. Don’t forget, there were 147 million affected by the Equifax data breach.

If you do the math and estimate 10% of the affected victims select the one-time cash payment, that is approximately $2.10 per claim. If 1 million people select the one-time cash payment, that is about $31 per claim.

Credit monitoring cost about $9 to $40 per month depending on the company you select and the credit-monitoring package. Estimating $15 a month for 10 years, this equals $1,800 – far more than a one-time cash payment of $125.

There has been a lot of publicity about the Equifax settlement. They are expecting a high rate of people filing claims. The FTC is warning victims not to expect the full one-time cash payment of $125.

What do you do if you have already selected the one-time cash payment but want to change to the credit monitoring option? You can contact Equifax to change your settlement option.

Changing Your Equifax Settlement Option

The Credit.com Editorial Team called the Settlement Administrator to find out. Settlement members can email Info@EquifaxBreachSettlement.com to change their settlement option. In the email to Equifax include the following information: your claim number, full name, and details about changing the settlement option. You only need to do this if you want to change your claim option.

Whichever selection you decide, make sure to do it before time runs out. You have until January 22, 2020 to file.

 Preventing Identity Theft

It may seem impossible to prevent your personal data, but there are steps you can take to be proactive. Here are some ideas:

  • Be mindful of what your share on social media. A data thief can find out a lot of information about a person on social media. Limit your exposure by limiting what you share and whom you share it with. Don’t give away your address, date of birth and mother’s maiden name on social media. Are you already doing this? It’s a good idea to check your security settings every so often.
  • Take outgoing mail to the post office or a collection box. When you mail your mortgage payment and put the flag up on your mailbox, it is an open invitation to thieves to come check your mailbox to see what they can find. You can put a stop payment on a stolen check but the thief now has your bank account and routing number, which is a much bigger issue. Go for online bill payments or dropping off at a secure location.
  • Keep your Wi-Fi secure. Make sure your home Wi-Fi is password protected. If you are using public Wi-Fi, be careful what information you enter and view while on a public browser as others could see this information.
  • Opt out of prescreened credit card offers. You can opt out for five years or permanently. If you go with the permanent option, you have to mail something in. The five-year option allows you to complete the request online. To opt out, go to optoutprescreen.com. This will also eliminate waste since you will not receive offers you are not interested in. Next time you are in the market for a new credit card, visit Credit.com’s Credit Card Marketplace to review top offers instead. It is a much easier way to compare various credit card offers.
  • Freeze your credit if you have been a victim of identity theft. Freezing your credit report makes it harder for a data thief to open an account in your name. You can place a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

Final Thoughts

If you have been a victim of the Equifax data breach, or any other data breach, there are things you can to do to help prevent identity theft. Monitoring your credit report and credit scores are a very important part of preventing identity theft.

Make sure to review your personal data (bank accounts and other sensitive info), credit report and credit scores from the credit bureaus on a regular basis to help prevent identity theft. Consumers are entitled to a free credit every 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also sign up with Credit.com to view your credit score. With Credit.com you get two credit scores every 14 days and a credit report card for free.

The post Equifax Data Breach: Settlement Options appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

How to Buy a HUD Home at the Hudhomestore Website?

Using the Hudhomestore to buy a HUD home is easy.

If you’re looking to buy a HUD home, the Hudhomestore website is the best place to do it. It can be found here at hudhomestore.com. HUD homes are listed for sale at the site.

While anyone can buy a HUD home, you will need to get approved for a loan first.

Just like buying a house through the conventional route, all financing options are available for HUD homes. That includes conventional loans, FHA loans, VA loans, etc.

However, most people used an FHA loan to buy a HUD home due to its low down payment and credit score requirements.

If you have questions beyond buying a HUD home at the hudhomestore website, consult a financial advisor.

What is the Hudhomestore?

The hudhomestore is a website operated by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The website can be found here at hudhomestore.com.

Homes are listed there for sale after they have gone through foreclosures. Real estate agents and/or brokers can place bids on your behalf to buy a house.

What is a HUD home?

A HUD home (usually a 1 to 4 unit) is a property owned by HUD. Before a home became a HUD home, it was owned by a homebuyer who had purchased the home with an FHA loan.

Once the borrower stopped paying his or her FHA loan, the home went to foreclosures. Then the home goes to HUD and becomes a HUD home.

Why you should buy a HUD home at the Hudhomestore?

The benefits of buying a HUD home are huge. The main benefit is that most of these homes are priced below market value.

In addition, if you’re an EMS personnel, police officer, firefighter, or teachers, and live in revitalized areas and plan to live there for at least 36 months, HUD’s Good Neighbor Program offers HUD homes at a 50% discount.

This program is listed at the hudhomestore website.

In addition, HUD offers other perks such as low down payment and sales allowances you can use to pay for moving, repair and closing costs. The low down payment, that is on top of the FHA financing that you may be qualified for.

Another huge benefit of buying a HUD home is that HUD gives preferences to buyers who intend to live in the home for at least one year. So this puts you ahead of investors.

Are you qualified to finance a HUD Home?

All financing options, including conventional loans, VA, and FHA loans, are available when it comes to buying a HUD home.

But FHA loans are very popular among first time home buyers, due to its low requirements. But before you start searching for HUD homes through the Hudhomestore website, you should compare multiple loan offers so you can the best mortgage rates.

FHA loan requirements:

  • 580 Minimum score
  • 3.5% down payment

If your credit score is below 580, you can still be qualified but you’ll have to pay at least 10% down. Or, you can always take time to raise your credit score.

Don’t know what your credit score is, visit CreditSesame.

Our Review of Credit Sesame.

Steps to buy a HUD Home at the HUDhomestore website:

HUD homes can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look. In other words, they are not listed on conventional real estate websites such as Zillow or Redfin.

Instead, they are listed at the HUDhomestore webiste, which can be found at hudhomestore.com. They also have HUD Homestore Mobile Apps.

Knowing these steps is important to mastering one of the best strategies to buy a house at below market or wholesale prices.

Step 1: Shop and compare home loans

Before you start searching your house through the hudhomestore site, it’s a good idea to

The worst thing that can happen is to find a house that you like to then realize that you cannot secure a home loan.

To get the best mortgage rates, you need to compare multiple loan offers. Buying a home is major expense, and getting the best rates could save you a lot of money. I can spend a lot of time talking about why it is a bad idea to only speak with one mortgage lender.

But when it comes to having multiple loan offers, I highly suggest LendingTree.

LendingTree is an online platform that connects you to several mortgage lenders without visiting a dozen bank branches.

LendingTree will provide you up to 5 loan offers from multiple lenders for free, so you can compare and make sure you get the best deal.

So if you’re at this step right now, go and compare current mortgage rates for free at LendingTree, and come back to this article.

Our LendingTree Review.

Step 2: Finding a HUD Home at the HUDhomestore website.

To find a HUD home, simply go to the hudhomestore website. It can be found at hudhomestore.com.

There are three ways to find HUD homes on the hudhomestore website. The first way is through a map.

Once you on the website, you will see a map to the right with all of the states listed there. You simply look for your state and click on it to see all of the available HUD homes.

The hudhomestore site will show you a list of all of the HUD homes available for that particular state. It will include the photo of the HUD home, the address, the asking price, etc.

If you click on the photo of the house, you will be able to see more information of the property, including more photos, street views and information of the property.

Another way to find a house through the hudhomestore website is by clicking on the HUD Special program links.

The hudhomestore site specifically lists three HUD Special Programs: Good Neighbor Next Door; Nonprofits; $1 Homes-Government Sales. It specifically states on the hudhomestore website that if you click on any of these special programs, you will see available properties.

The third way to find a HUD home via the hudhomestore site is through the Search Properties. At the middle of the homepage, you will see a Search Properties where you can enter more detailed criteria.

Step 3: Buy your HUD home

Once you have found your desired HUD Home at the hudhomestore, it’s time to buy your HUD home.

But note that HUD homes are sold through an auction process. When you’re searching for the property through the hudhomestore site, it will tell you a deadline by which to submit your offer.

So if the deadline has not passed, submit your bid. Once it has passed, HUD reviews all offers. Just like any auction, the highest bid wins. If all of the offers are too low, HUD will extend the offer period and/or lower the asking price.

Note that you will not be able to place the bid yourself. Only real estate agents need to register to place bids on the hudhomestore website. You will need to find a real estate agent or you can specifically search for HUD registered agents at hudhomestore.com.

For more information on buying a home through the hudhomestore website, visit www.hudhomestore.com.

More on Buying a Home:

  • How to Buy a House: A Complete Guide
  • How Long Does It Take To Buy A House?
  • Buying a Home for the First Time? Avoid These Mistakes.
  • 10 First Time Home Buyer Mistakes to Avoid.

Work with the Right Financial Advisor

If you have additional questions beyond buying a HUD home at the Hudhomestore, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).

So, find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

The post How to Buy a HUD Home at the Hudhomestore Website? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

Why Refinance Rates Are Higher Than Purchase Loan Rates

Mortgage interest rates dropped dramatically over the summer, to the point where home loans have never been cheaper in most of our adult lifetimes. With rates at historic lows, you might’ve considered taking advantage of them, either by purchasing a new home or refinancing your current mortgage.

Recent figures from Freddie Mac show that mortgage refinances surged in the first quarter of 2020, with nearly $400 billion first home loans refinanced. However, as it turns out, refinancing your mortgage might actually be more expensive than purchasing a new home. 

This surprised us, too — why would there be a difference at all? 

We investigated how refinancing rates and new purchase home loan rates are set, and found several reasons for this rate disparity. On top of the rate difference, mortgage refinancing is even more difficult to qualify for, given the current economy.

Before rushing to refinance your home, read on to gather the information you need to make the right financial decision for your situation.

Pandemic Effects on Home Lending

Just as mortgage rates have stumbled, banks and lenders have tightened the screws on borrowers due to COVID-19, requiring higher credit scores and down payment amounts. Chase, for example, raised its minimum FICO score requirements for home purchases and refinances to 700 with a down payment requirement of at least 20%. 

Low rates have also driven a massive move to mortgage refinances. According to the same Freddie Mac report, 42% of homeowners who refinanced did so at a higher loan amount so they could “cash out.”

Unfortunately, homeowners who want to refinance might face the same stringent loan requirements as those who are taking out a purchase loan. Mortgage refinance rates are also generally higher than home purchase rates for a handful of reasons, all of which can make refinancing considerably less appealing. 

How Refinance Rates Are Priced

Although some lenders might not make it obvious that their refinance rates are higher, others make the higher prices for a home refinance clear. When you head to the mortgage section on the Wells Fargo website, for example, it lists rates for home purchases and refinances separately, with a .625 difference in rates for a thirty-year home loan. 

There are a few reasons why big banks might charge higher rates to refinance, including:

Added Refinance Fees

In August of 2020, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced it was tacking on a .5% fee on refinance mortgages starting on September 1. This fee will be assessed on cash-out refinances and no cash-out refinances. According to Freddie Mac, the new fee was introduced “as a result of risk management and loss forecasting precipitated by COVID-19 related economic and market uncertainty.”

By making refinancing more costly, lenders can taper the number of refinance loans they have to process, giving them more time to focus on purchase loans and other business.

Lenders Restraining New Application Volume

Demand for mortgage refinancing has been so high that some lenders are unable to handle all requests. Reluctant to add more employees to handle a surge that won’t last forever, many lenders are simply limiting the number of refinance applications they process, or setting additional terms that limit the number of loans that might qualify.

Also note that some lenders are prioritizing new purchase loans over mortgage refinance applications since new home buyers have deadlines to meet. With the housing market also on an upswing in many parts of the country, many major banks and lenders simply can’t keep up.

Rate Locks Cost Money

Generally speaking, it costs lenders more to lock the rate for refinance loans when compared to purchase loans. This is leaving lenders disinterested in allocating resources on the recent surge in mortgage refinance applications.

This is especially true since many refinancers might lock in a rate with one provider but switch lenders and lock in a rate again if interest rates go down. Lenders exist to turn a profit, after all, and it makes sense they would spend their time on loans that provide the greatest return.

Tighter Requirements Due to COVID-19

According to the Brookings Institute, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been asking lenders to make sure any disruption to a borrower’s employment or income due to COVID-19 won’t impact their ability to repay their loan. 

Many lenders are also increasing the minimum credit score borrowers must have while making other requirements harder to meet. As an example, U.S. Bank increased its minimum credit score requirement to 680 for mortgage customers, and it also implemented a maximum debt-to-income ratio of 50 percent.

This combination of factors can make it difficult to save as much money with a refinance, or to even find a lender that’s willing to process your application. With this in mind, run the math and to see if refinancing is right for your situation before contacting a mortgage lender.

How Mortgage Purchase Rates Are Priced

Mortgage purchase rates are priced using a similar method as refinance rates. When you apply for a home mortgage, the lender looks at factors like your credit score, your income, your down payment and your other debt to determine your eligibility.

The overall economy also plays a giant role in mortgage rates for home loans, including purchase loans and refinance loans. Mortgage rates tend to go up during periods of speedy economic growth, and they tend to drop during periods of slower economic growth. Meanwhile, inflation can also play a role. Low levels of inflation contribute to lower interest rates on mortgage loans and other financial products.

Mortgage lenders can also price their loans based on the amount of business they have coming in, and whether they have the capacity to process more loans. They might lower rates to drum up business or raise rates when they’re at or nearing capacity. This is part of the reason rates can vary among lenders, and why it always makes sense to shop around for a home loan.

Many people believe that the Federal Reserve sets mortgage rates, but this is not exactly true. The Federal Reserve sets the federal funds rate, which lenders use to ensure they meet mandated cash reserve requirements. When the Fed raises this rate, banks have to pay more to borrow from one another, and these costs are often passed on to consumers. Likewise, costs can go down when the Fed lowers the federal funds rate, which can mean lower costs and interest rates for borrowers.

The Bottom Line

Refinancing your existing mortgage can absolutely make sense in terms of interest savings, but don’t rule out buying a new home instead. Buying a new home could help you save money on interest and get the space and the features you really want. 

Remember, there are steps you can take to become a more attractive borrower whether you choose to refinance or invest in a new place. You can’t control the economy or the Federal Reserve, but you have control over your personal finances.

Improving your credit score right away, and paying down debt to lower your debt-to-income ratio are just a couple of strategies to start. And if you’re planning on buying a new home, make sure you save a hefty down payment amount. These steps help you improve your chances at getting the best rates and terms whether you choose to move or stick with the home you have. 

The post Why Refinance Rates Are Higher Than Purchase Loan Rates appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Marital Debt After Divorce: Who is Responsible?

The average couple has a number of topics to discuss on their to-do list before heading to the altar. The least romantic topics, if they even make the list at all, are probably concerning debt and the possibility of divorce. If you foresee a divorce in your future or are currently going through one, it’s safe to say that you have some burning questions about your finances. Perhaps you and your spouse acquired some debt during the course of your marriage and you’re now wondering who is going to be responsible for what. While it’s important to note that each situation is unique, there are some ground rules in the Divorced with Debt arena. In the below sections, we’ll address the usual ways in which debt is divided up between each spouse.

Community Property vs. Common Law Property Rules

If you’re trying to figure out what debts you will be responsible post-divorce, you will first need to know if you live in an equitable distribution state that follows common law or if you live in a community property state. When it comes to debt and the divorce process, most states follow common law for property, meaning that following a divorce, each ex-spouse will be held responsible for the debt that they took on. In a community property state, both spouses, considered to be the “community,” may both end up equally responsible for debt that incurred throughout the marriage, known as “community debt.” The following states are Community Property States:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Most of the time, the banks aren’t interested in how the courts decide to split up your debt. Even after a divorce, the original contract or credit card agreement will typically overrule a divorce decree. This means that if the original agreement was set up under your spouse’s name, the banks are going to expect the payments to be as such. As you can imagine, this could potentially cause problems with an ex-spouse who is being asked to pay off debt that is not under their name, or at least under a joint account.

To put it into perspective, let’s imagine that the court orders your ex-spouse to make payments on credit card debt under your name. If your ex neglects to make the payments on time, it’s going to have an effect on your credit report. The good news is that if this happens, you have a right to pursue legal action against your former spouse for not following court orders. However, it’s possible that by the time legal action is taken, your credit score may already be damaged.

Prenuptial agreements will affect these outcomes as well. Depending on yours and your spouse’s marital assets, the debt in question will vary. Here are the typical categories of debt that are affected during divorce proceedings:

  • Credit Card Debt
  • Mortgage Debt
  • Auto Loan Debt
  • Medical Debt

Credit Card Debt

It’s possible that you could be responsible for your former spouse’s credit card debt, but it’s not likely. If you have a joint account, then the outcomes may vary. Usually, marital debt is considered to be any debt that was created during the time of the marriage. So if you racked up credit card debt under a joint account, expect that both of you will be equally responsible for paying it off.

Mortgage Debt

If both spouses have their names on the mortgage, the easiest way of solving the mortgage debt is to sell the house and divide the earnings between both parties. It might be tempting to keep the home for a multitude of reasons, but at the end of the day, selling the property and splitting the money is usually the least complicated solution for everyone involved.

Once the house is on the market, it’s time to start communicating with your former spouse about who is going to be responsible for what amount. Come up with an agreement on who will pay which portion of the mortgage, so that neither parties’ credit score is negatively affected.

If selling the home and dividing the earnings isn’t a viable option for you and your ex, then one of you will end up fully responsible for the debt. In most cases, mortgage debt following a divorce is assigned to:

  • The spouse with the higher annual income.

OR

  • The spouse who gains full custody of the children.

When this happens, one spouse will have to buy out the other spouse’s equity in the property.

Car Loan Debt

When it comes to car loans, things become more complicated. If the car loan has both names on it, here are the two best options:

  • Refinance the car without your ex.
  • Propose automatic payments to come directly from your former spouse’s account.

Let’s say one person ends up with the car loan debt, but the other person was also on the loan as a cosigner. Unfortunately, if one spouse is held responsible for picking up the tab on a debt, and they neglect their payments, both parties can suffer those consequences.

Medical Debt

Each state has different laws surrounding medical debt and divorce agreements. If you live in a Community Property state, you might have to pay for your former spouse’s medical debt. However, if you live in a state that follows common law, the court will ultimately make the decision about who is responsible for what debt.

Pay off your debt before the divorce is finalized

 If you and your spouse can find a way to work out the kinks of your debt issues before the divorce is finalized, it’ll make things a lot easier in the long run. Work together to figure out who should be responsible for which debt, so that you can lower your chances of having to pay off a debt that isn’t yours.

If you’re working with credit card debt, one of you may need to transfer your credit card balance to a separate card. Consolidating your credit card balances is another common option when dividing debts.

Generally, credit card debt is going to be easier to deal with than the big things, like home loans and car loans. In many cases, couples who are going through a divorce will have to consider refinancing their loans under one party’s name.

Keep in mind that the original loan agreement supercedes the divorce agreement, so if you wait until your divorce is finalized, you might have a harder time moving things around. You can ask your lender to take your name off of an account and have it replaced with your former spouse’s name, but be prepared to provide the divorce decree as evidence. If it doesn’t work out this way, then seek legal advice from your divorce attorney about your options. Another common solution is to sell the asset in question and use the earnings to pay off the debt.

How your former spouse’s bankruptcy can affect you

If your ex-spouse isn’t able to keep up with the payments on their share of the debt, they might decide to file bankruptcy. This could cause problems for you if you didn’t choose to file as well.

Filing for bankruptcy does not erase the debts, instead it erases your ex-spouse’s liability for the debt. In this instance, you could find yourself in a situation where the creditor is now pursuing you for the debt. It’s also important that you check your credit report. Even if you weren’t the one who filed bankruptcy, it could still end up on your credit report.

Be cautious about any joint accounts you may still have open post-divorce. If you leave joint accounts open and your former spouse has access to them, he or she could potentially transfer balances from other accounts onto those ones. Safeguard your credit by paying off any debts you can manage to pay off ahead of time, so that you don’t have to worry about it later.

Marital Debt After Divorce: Who is Responsible? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

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

Common Mistakes That Lead to a Lower Credit Score

Getting a loan or a new line of credit is usually subject to a 3 digit-number known as the credit score. And although it is not the only indicator used by banks and other lenders, your score weighs heavily on your financial health. So, what are the common mistakes that lead to lower credit score […]

The post Common Mistakes That Lead to a Lower Credit Score appeared first on Credit Absolute.

Source: creditabsolute.com

What is Credit Card Churning? Dangers and Benefits

Credit card issuers have consumers right where they want them, lending money at high-interest rates and earning money from many different fees. Even reward cards benefit the issuers, because all the additional perks and rewards they provide are covered by the increased merchant fees, which essentially means the credit card company offers you extra money to incentivize you to spend, and then demands this money from the retailers.

It’s a good gig, but some consumers believe they can beat the credit card companies and one of the ways they do this is via something known as credit card churning.

What is Credit Card Churning?

Many reward cards offer sign-up bonuses to entice consumers to apply. Not only can you get regular cash back, statement credit, and air miles, but you’ll often get a reward just for signing up. For instance, many rewards credit cards offer a lump sum payment to all consumers who spend a specific sum of money during the first three months.

Credit card churning is about taking advantage of these bonuses, and getting maximum benefits with as little cost as possible.

“Churners” will sign up for multiple different reward cards in a short space of time, collect as many of these bonuses as they can, clear the card balance, and then reap the rewards.

Does Credit Card Churning Work?

Credit card churning does work, to an extent. Reward credit cards typically don’t require you to spend that much money to receive the sign up bonus, with most bonuses activated for a spend of just $500 to $1,000 over those first three months. This is easily achievable for most credit card users, as the average spend for reward cards is over $800 a month.

If you have good credit, it’s possible to sign up to multiple credit cards, collect bonus offers without increasing your usual spend, and get everything from hotel stays to free flights, cash back, gift cards, statement credit, and more.

However, it’s something that many credit card companies are trying to stop, as they don’t benefit from users who collect sign-up bonuses, don’t accumulate debt, and then pay off their balance in full. As a result, you may face restrictions with regards to how many bonuses you can collect within a specified timeframe. 

What’s more, there are several things that can go wrong when you’re playing with multiple new accounts like this, as all information is sent to the credit bureaus and could leave a significant mark on your credit report.

Dangers of Churning

Even if the credit card companies don’t prevent you from acquiring multiple new credit cards, there are several issues you could face, ones that will offset any benefits achieved from those generous sign-up bonuses, including:

1. You Could be Hit with Hefty Fees

Many reward credit cards have annual fees, and these average around $95 each, with some premium rewards cards going as high as $250 and even $500. At best, these fees will reduce the amount of money you receive, at worst they will completely offset all the benefits and leave you with a negative balance.

Annual fees aren’t the only fees that will reduce your profits. You may also be charged fees every time you withdraw cash, gamble, make a foreign transaction or miss a payment,

2. Your Credit Score Will Drop

Every time you apply for a new credit card, you will receive a hard inquiry, which will show on your credit report and reduce your FICO score by anywhere from 2 to 5 points. Rate shopping, which bundles multiple inquiries into one, doesn’t apply to credit card applications, so credit card churners tend to receive many hard inquiries.

A new account can also reduce your credit score. 15% of your score is based on the length of your accounts while 10% is based on how many new accounts you have. As soon as that credit card account opens, your average age will drop, you’ll have another new account, and your credit score will suffer as a result.

The damage done by a new credit card isn’t as severe as you might think, but if you keep applying and adding those new accounts, the score reduction will be noticeable. You could go from Excellent Credit to Good Credit, or from Good to Fair, and that makes a massive difference if you have a home loan or auto loan application on the horizon.

Your credit utilization ratio also plays a role here. This ratio is calculated by comparing your total debt to your available credit. If you have a debt of $3,000 spread across three credit cards with a total credit limit of $6,000, your credit utilization ratio is 50%. The higher this score is, the more of an impact it will have on your credit score, and this is key, as credit utilization accounts for a whopping 30% of your score.

Your credit utilization ratio is actually one of the reasons your credit score doesn’t take that big of a hit when you open new cards, because you’re adding a new credit limit that has yet to accumulate debt, which means this ratio grows. However, if you max that card out, this ratio will take a hit, and if you then clear the debt and close it, all those initial benefits will disappear.

You can keep the card active, of course, but this is not recommended if you’re churning.

3. You’re at Risk of Accumulating Credit Card Debt

Every new card you open and every time your credit limit grows, you run the risk of falling into a cycle of persistent debt. This is especially true where credit card rewards are concerned, as consumers spend much more on these cards than they do on non-reward credit cards.

Very few consumers accumulate credit card debt out of choice. It’s not like a loan—it’s not something they acquire because they want to make a big purchase they can’t afford. In most cases, the debt creeps up steadily. They pay it off in full every month, only to hit a rough patch. Once that happens, they miss a month and promise themselves they’ll cover everything the next month, only for it to grow bigger and bigger.

Before they realize it, they have a mass of credit card debt and are stuck paying little more than the minimum every month. 

If you start using a credit card just to accumulate rewards and you have several on the go, it’s very easy to get stuck in this cycle, at which point you’ll start paying interest and it will likely cost you more than the rewards earn you.

4. It’s Hard to Keep Track

Opening one credit card after another isn’t too difficult, providing you clear the balances in full and then close the card. However, if you’re opening several cards at once then you may lose track, in which case you could forget about balances, fees, and interest charges, and miss your chance to collect airline miles cash back, and other rewards.

How to Credit Churn Effectively

To credit churn effectively, look for the best rewards and most generous credit card offers, making sure they:

  • Suit Your Needs: A travel rewards card is useless if you don’t travel; a store card is no good if you don’t shop at that store. Look for rewards programs that benefit you personally, as opposed to simply focusing on the ones with the highest rates of return.
  • Avoid Annual Fees: An annual fee can undo all your hard work and should, therefore, be avoided. Many cards have a $0 annual fee, others charge $95 but waive the fee for the first year. Both of these are good options for credit card churning.
  • Don’t Accumulate Fees: Understand how and why you might be charged cash advance fees and foreign transaction fees and avoid them at all costs. The fees are not as straightforward as you might think and are charged for multiple purchases.
  • Plan Ahead: Make a note of the bonus offer and terms, plan ahead, and make sure you meet these terms by the due dates and that you cover the balance in full before interest has a chance to accumulate.
  • Don’t Spend for the Sake of It: Finally, and most importantly, don’t spend money just to accumulate more rewards. As soon as you start increasing your spending just to earn a few extra bucks, you’ve lost. If you spend an average of $500 a month, don’t sign up for a card that requires you to spend $3,000 in the first three months, as it will encourage bad habits. 

What Should You do if it Goes Wrong?

There are many ways that credit card churning could go wrong, some more serious than others. Fortunately, there are solutions to all these problems, even for cardholders who are completely new to this technique:

Spending Requirements Aren’t Met 

If you fail to meet the requirements of the bonus, all is not lost. Your score has taken a minor hit, but providing you followed the guidelines above, you shouldn’t have lost any money.

You now have two options: You can either clear the balance as normal and move onto your next card, taking what you have learned and trying again, or you can keep the card as a back-up or a long-term option. 

Credit card churning requires you to cycle through multiple issuers and rewards programs, never sticking with a single card for more than a few months. But you need some stability as well, so if you don’t already have a credit card to use as a backup, and if that card doesn’t charge high fees or rates, keep it and use it for emergency purchases or general use.

Creditor Refuses the Application

Creditors can refuse an application for a number of reasons. If this isn’t your first experience of churning, there’s a chance they know what you’re doing and are concerned about how the card will be used. However, this is rare, and in most cases, you’ll be refused because your credit score is too low.

Many reward credit cards have a minimum FICO score requirement of 670, others, including premium American Express cards, require scores above 700. You can find more details about credit score requirements in the fine print of all credit card offers.

Your Credit Score Takes a Hit

As discussed already, credit card churning can reduce your credit score by a handful of points and the higher your score is, the more points you are likely to lose. Fortunately, all of this is reversible.

Firstly, try not to panic and focus on the bigger picture. While new accounts and credit length account for 25% of your total score, payment history and credit utilization account for 65%, so if you keep making payments on your accounts and don’t accumulate too much credit card debt, your score will stabilize.

You Accumulate Too Much Debt

Credit card debt is really the only lasting and serious issue that can result from credit card churning. You’ll still earn benefits on a rolling balance, but your interest charges and fees will typically cost you much more than the benefits provide, and this is true even for the best credit cards and the most generous reward programs.

If this happens, it’s time to put credit card churning on the back-burner and focus on clearing your debts instead. Sign up for a balance transfer credit card and move your debt to a card that has a 0% APR for at least 15 months. This will give you time to assess your situation, take control of your credit history, and start chipping away at that debt.

What is Credit Card Churning? Dangers and Benefits is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com