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

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

6 Things Your Mortgage Lender Wants You To Know About Getting a Home Loan During COVID-19

mortgage during coronavirusGetty Images

Getting a mortgage, paying your mortgage, refinancing your mortgage: These are all major undertakings, but during a pandemic, all of it becomes more complicated. Sometimes a lot more complicated.

But make no mistake, home buyers are still taking out and paying down mortgages during the current global health crisis. There have, in fact, been some silver linings amid the economic uncertainty—hello, record-low interest rates—but also plenty of changes to keep up with. Mortgage lending looks much different now than at the start of the year.

Whether you’re applying for a new mortgage, struggling to pay your current mortgage, or curious about refinancing, here’s what mortgage lenders from around the country want you to know.

1. Rates have dropped, but getting a mortgage has gotten more complicated

First, the good news about mortgage interest rates: “Rates have been very low in recent weeks, and have come back down to their absolute lowest levels in a long time,” says Yuri Umanski, senior mortgage consultant at Premia Relocation Mortgage in Troy, MI.

That means this could be a great time to take out a mortgage and lock in a low rate. But getting a mortgage is more difficult during a pandemic.

“Across the industry, underwriting a mortgage has become an even more complex process,” says Steve Kaminski, head of U.S. residential lending at TD Bank. “Many of the third-party partners that lenders rely on—county offices, appraisal firms, and title companies—have closed or taken steps to mitigate their exposure to COVID-19.”

Even if you can file your mortgage application online, Kaminski says many steps in the process traditionally happen in person, like getting notarization, conducting a home appraisal, and signing closing documents.

As social distancing makes these steps more difficult, you might have to settle for a “drive-by appraisal” instead of a thorough, more traditional appraisal inside the home.

“And curbside closings with masks and gloves started to pop up all over the country,” Umanski adds.

2. Be ready to prove (many times) that you can pay a mortgage

If you’ve lost your job or been furloughed, you might not be able to buy your dream house (or any house) right now.

“Whether you are buying a home or refinancing your current mortgage, you must be employed and on the job,” says Tim Ross, CEO of Ross Mortgage Corp. in Troy, MI. “If someone has a loan in process and becomes unemployed, their mortgage closing would have to wait until they have returned to work and received their first paycheck.”

Lenders are also taking extra steps to verify each borrower’s employment status, which means more red tape before you can get a loan.

Normally, lenders run two or three employment verifications before approving a new loan or refinancing, but “I am now seeing employment verification needed seven to 10 times—sometimes even every three days,” says Tiffany Wolf, regional director and senior loan officer at Cabrillo Mortgage in Palm Springs, CA. “Today’s borrowers need to be patient and readily available with additional documents during this difficult and uncharted time in history.”

3. Your credit score might not make the cut anymore

Economic uncertainty means lenders are just as nervous as borrowers, and some lenders are raising their requirements for borrowers’ credit scores.

“Many lenders who were previously able to approve FHA loans with credit scores as low as 580 are now requiring at least a 620 score to qualify,” says Randall Yates, founder and CEO of The Lenders Network.

Even if you aren’t in the market for a new home today, now is a good time to work on improving your credit score if you plan to buy in the future.

“These changes are temporary, but I would expect them to stay in place until the entire country is opened back up and the unemployment numbers drop considerably,” Yates says.

4. Forbearance isn’t forgiveness—you’ll eventually need to pay up

The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act requires loan servicers to provide forbearance (aka deferment) to homeowners with federally backed mortgages. That means if you’ve lost your job and are struggling to make your mortgage payments, you could go months without owing a payment. But forbearance isn’t a given, and it isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

“The CARES Act is not designed to create a freedom from the obligation, and the forbearance is not forgiveness,” Ross says. “Missed payments will have to be made up.”

You’ll still be on the hook for the payments you missed after your forbearance period ends, so if you can afford to keep paying your mortgage now, you should.

To determine if you’re eligible for forbearance, call your loan servicer—don’t just stop making payments.

If your deferment period is ending and you’re still unable to make payments, you can request delaying payments for additional months, says Mark O’ Donovan, CEO of Chase Home Lending at JPMorgan Chase.

After you resume making your payments, you may be able to defer your missed payments to the end of your mortgage, O’Donovan says. Check with your loan servicer to be sure.

5. Don’t be too fast to refinance

Current homeowners might be eager to refinance and score a lower interest rate. It’s not a bad idea, but it’s not the best move for everyone.

“Homeowners should consider how long they expect to reside in their home,” Kaminski says. “They should also account for closing costs such as appraisal and title insurance policy fees, which vary by lender and market.”

If you plan to stay in your house for only the next two years, for example, refinancing might not be worth it—hefty closing costs could offset the savings you would gain from a lower interest rate.

“It’s also important to remember that refinancing is essentially underwriting a brand-new mortgage, so lenders will conduct income verification and may require the similar documentation as the first time around,” Kaminski adds.

6. Now could be a good time to take out a home equity loan

Right now, homeowners can also score low rates on a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, to finance major home improvements like a new roof or addition.

“This may be a great time to take out a home equity line to consolidate debt,” Umanski says. “This process will help reduce the total obligations on a monthly basis and allow for the balance to be refinanced into a much lower rate.”

Just be careful not to overimprove your home at a time when the economy and the housing market are both in flux.

The post 6 Things Your Mortgage Lender Wants You To Know About Getting a Home Loan During COVID-19 appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com