Mia, 35 and her husband Luke, 36, earn a combined $200,000 per year. But after paying their mortgage and rental property loan, as well as car and student loans, child care, and other living expenses, the Los Angeles couple has a difficult time socking away money in savings.
They do have about $10,000 in a rainy day account, which could cover their expenses for about one month. But adding to the account has been proving difficult.
Luke feels confident that if they ever run into a serious financial bind, they could always take advantage of their low-interest home equity line of credit. But Mia isnât comfortable with that route. Sheâd prefer to have more cash on hand.
A bit more background on the couple and where they stand financially:
Luke recently transitioned to a new job as a government attorney, which he loves, but it also meant taking a 50% pay cut. Thatâs impacted their ability to spend and save as comfortably in recent months. It was an unexpected opportunity for which the couple wasnât financially prepared.
Mia and Luke would like an objective look at their finances to discover ways to reduce spending, increase saving and possibly find new revenue streams. âIâd love to figure out a side-hustle, so that I can eventually leave my job and spend more time with the kiddos,â says Mia, who works in marketing. Other goals including affording a new car in a couple of years and remodeling their primary residence.
Hereâs a closer look at their finances:
Combined salaries: $200,000 per year
Net rental income: $6,000 per year
Car and student loan debt. $13,000 combined at 2%
Mortgage at primary residence $845,000 at 3.625%
Mortgage at rental property $537,000 at 3.5%
HELOC on primary residence: $200,000 (have not used any of this credit)
Mia: contributes about $1,000 total each month, including a company match
Luke: contributes about $1,000 total each month, including a company match
Emergency Savings: $10,000
College Savings: The couple has 529 college savings funds for both of their children. They allocate their cash back rewards from credit cards towards these accounts. Currently they have about $10,000 saved for their 4-year old and $5,000 saved for their 1-year old child.
Top Monthly Spending Categories:
Primary residence mortgage: $4,000
Primary residence property tax: $1,100
Childcare: $1,900 (daycare for both children, 3 days per week. Grandmother watches other 2 days per week)
Food (Groceries/Eating Out): $800
Car and student loan payments: $450
From my point of view, I think the biggest hole in Mia and Lukeâs finances is their rainy day savings bucket. Relying on a HELOC to cover an unexpected cost is not really an ideal plan. In theory, the money can be used to cover expenses and the interest rate would probably be far lower than the rate on a credit card. But in reality, tapping a HELOC means falling further into debt. They do have $10,000 saved, which is good. But itâs not great.
If not for an emergency, the savings can allow them to achieve other goals. The couple mentioned wanting to buy a car in a couple years. This will probably require a down payment. Having cash can also assist with renovating their home.
Here are my top three recommendations:
Transfer Rental Income Towards Savings
Their previous residence is now a rental property. It nets them about $500 per month. The couple is using this money to pad their living expenses. Can they, instead, move this into their savings account for the next few years? The way I see it, they should have a proper six month cushion in savings to tide them over in an emergency and/or if they need money to address their goals. This rental income isnât going to get them to this 6-month reserve too quickly, but itâs a start.
Carve Out Another $500 for Savings
While I donât have a detailed breakdown of all of the familyâs monthly expenses, I can bet that they can pare their expenses to save an additional $300 to $500. A few dinners out, some unplanned purchases at the grocery store (because you took the kids) and a couple monthly subscription plans can easily add up to $500 in one month. Whenever I want to save more, I schedule money to transfer out of my checking and into savings at the top of the month. I do this automatically and only spend whatever money I have left. Iâd suggest doing this for the first month and seeing how it feels. Do you really notice the money is gone? If yes, revisit some of your recurring costs and decide on trade-offs. If Lukeâs salary has decreased by 50% then the couple needs to make some modifications to their spending. The math, otherwise, wonât add up.
Can Mia Adjust Her Work Structure?
Mia is interested in a side hustle, too, to bring in extra income (which I highly recommend). Sites like tutor.com, care.com, taskrabbit.com and others can help you find quick work within her preferred time frame. In the meantime, can she and her husband find ways to adjust their work hours or commute, which saves gas, time and money?
Miaâs commute to work is one hour each way. Thatâs ten hours per week stuck in a car. And my guess is that while Miaâs driving, sheâs paying for daycare, for at least some of those hours. Could she work from home one or two days per week to reduce her time in traffic, as well as her child care costs?
Bottom line: When Lukeâs income dropped by 50%, the couple didnât adjust spending. It may help to take pen to paper and imagine they were building their budget for the first time. Take all of their expenses off the table and rebuild the budget and lifestyle to better align with their adjusted income. Start with the absolute needs first: housing, insurance, food. And really scrutinize all other expenditures. Unless itâs an absolute need that they can easily afford it, consider shutting it off until theyâve reached a 6-month savings pad.
The post We Earn $200,000 and Canât Save. Help! appeared first on MintLife Blog.
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, itâs 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 youâre now wondering who is going to be responsible for what. While itâs important to note that each situation is unique, there are some ground rules in the Divorced with Debt arena. In the below sections, weâll address the usual ways in which debt is divided up between each spouse.
Community Property vs. Common Law Property Rules
If youâre 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 âcommunity,â may both end up equally responsible for debt that incurred throughout the marriage, known as âcommunity debt.â The following states are Community Property States:
Most of the time, the banks arenât 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 spouseâs 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, letâs 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, itâs 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, itâs 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 spouseâs marital assets, the debt in question will vary. Here are the typical categories of debt that are affected during divorce proceedings:
Credit Card Debt
Auto Loan Debt
Credit Card Debt
Itâs possible that you could be responsible for your former spouseâs credit card debt, but itâs 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.
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, itâs 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 partiesâ credit score is negatively affected.
If selling the home and dividing the earnings isnât 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.
The spouse who gains full custody of the children.
When this happens, one spouse will have to buy out the other spouseâs 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 spouseâs account.
Letâs 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.
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 spouseâs 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
Â If you and your spouse can find a way to work out the kinks of your debt issues before the divorce is finalized, itâll 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 isnât yours.
If youâre 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 partyâs 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 spouseâs name, but be prepared to provide the divorce decree as evidence. If it doesnât 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 spouseâs bankruptcy can affect you
If your ex-spouse isnât 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 didnât choose to file as well.
Filing for bankruptcy does not erase the debts, instead it erases your ex-spouseâs liability for the debt. In this instance, you could find yourself in a situation where the creditor is now pursuing you for the debt. Itâs also important that you check your credit report. Even if you werenât 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 donât have to worry about it later.
Marital Debt After Divorce: Who is Responsible? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
If you have bad credit and need a car loan, there are some challenges when compared to obtaining a standard car loan. However, pick your head up because there are a handful of great lenders that specifically tailor their programs to people with bad credit. We researched the landscape of lenders that can help you get a car loan even if you have a below-average credit score.
Based on our study, OneMain Financial and LightStream are two of the top lenders offering bad credit card loans. This is due to factors including loan options, requirements to qualify, and interest rates offered. Of course, we offer in-depth reviews of all the top lenders who offer bad credit car loans further down in this piece.
Apply now with our top pick: OneMain Financial
In this guide we also help you understand the factors that go into selecting the right auto lender, and how to get the best rate you can.
Most Important Factors for Bad Credit Car Loans
If youâre in the market for a bad credit car loan, there are a plethora of factors to consider and compare. Here are the main loan details we looked at in our study, and the ones you should prioritize as you select the best car loan for your needs.
Check your credit score. And understand what is in your credit report.
FICO scores under 579 is considered ‘poor’. But you may need a bad credit loan with a score as high as 669.
Interest rates and fees matter. These can make a huge difference in how much you pay for an auto loan each month.
Compare loan terms. Consider your repayment timeline and compare lenders with this in mind.
Getting prequalified online can help. Some lenders, including ones that made our ranking, let you get prequalified for a loan online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.
Watch out for loan restrictions. Some lenders impose restrictions on what car you can purchase. Keep this in mind to avoid unpleasant surprises later.
The Best Bad Credit Car Loans of 2021
The best bad credit car loans make it easy for consumers to qualify for the financing they need. The following lenders made our list due to their superior loan offerings, excellent customer service, and reputation in this industry.
Car Loan Company
Best for Flexibility
Best Personal Loan Option
Best Loan for Bad Credit and No Credit
Best Loan Comparison Site
Best Big Bank Loan for Bad Credit
Best for Fast Funding
Why Some Lenders Didn’t Make the Cut
While the lenders we are profiling are the best of the best, there are plenty of bad credit car loans that didnât quite make the cut. We didnât include any lenders that only offer auto loan refinancing, for example, since we know many people need a car loan in order to purchase a new or used car or truck. We also stayed away from bad credit car loans that charge outrageous fees for consumers with the lowest credit scores.
Bad Credit Auto Loan Reviews
We listed the top companies we selected in our study above, but we also aim to provide readers with more insights and details on each. The reviews below highlight the highlights of each lender that made our list, plus our take on who they might be best for.
OneMain Financial: Best for Flexibility
OneMain Financial offers personal loans and auto loans with interest rates that range from 18.00% to 35.99%. You can repay your auto loan in 24, 36, 48, or 60 months, and you can use this lender to borrow up to $20,000 for a new or used car. You can apply for your auto loan online and from the comfort of your own home, and itâs possible to get approved within a matter of minutes.
While OneMain Financial doesnât list a minimum credit score requirement, itâs believed they will approve consumers with scores as low as 600. You should also note that auto loans from OneMain Financial come with an origination fee of up to 5% of your loan amount.
Sign Up With OneMain Financial Today
Why This Lender Made Our List: OneMain Financial offers a lot of flexibility in terms of your loan terms, including the option to repay your auto loan over five years. OneMain Financial also has pretty decent reviews from users for a bad credit lender, and they have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: OneMain Financial charges some pretty high rates for its bad credit loans, and donât forget that you may need to pay an origination fee that is up to 5% of your loan amount. Their loans are also capped at $20,000, which means this lender wonât work for everyone.
Who Itâs Best For: This lender is best for consumers with really poor credit who need auto financing but canât get approved for a better loan.
Upgrade: Best Personal Loan Option
Upgrade is an online lender that offers personal loans with fixed interest rates, fixed monthly payments, and a fixed repayment timeline. You can borrow up to $50,000 in an unsecured loan, which means you wonât actually use the car you purchase as collateral for the loan.
You can repay the money you borrow over 36 to 60 months, which makes it possible for you to tweak your loan offer to secure a monthly payment you can afford. Upgrade has a minimum credit score requirement of 620 to qualify, although theyâll consider additional factors such as your income and employment history.
Sign Up With Upgrade Today
Why This Lender Made Our List: Upgrade lets you âcheck your rateâ online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. This makes it easy to shop around and compare this loan offer to others without having to fill out a full loan application. Also note that Upgrade has an A+ rating with the BBB.
Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: Upgrade charges APRs as high as 35.89% for consumers with the worst credit, and an origination fee of up to 6% of your loan amount might also apply.
Who Itâs Best For: Upgrade is best for consumers with decent credit who need to borrow a larger loan amount. This loan is also best for anyone who wants an auto loan that isnât secured by their vehicle.
AutoCreditExpress.com: Best Loan for Bad Credit and No Credit
AutoCreditExpress.com is an online platform that lets consumers with bad credit and even no credit get the financing they need. Once you fill out some basic loan information, youâll be connected with a lender who can offer you financing as well as a dealership in your area. From there, youâll head to the local dealership and pull the pieces of your auto loan together, including the purchase price of the car you want.
Sign Up With Autocreditexpress.com Today
Why This Lender Made Our List: AutoCreditExpress.com has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. This platform also makes it possible for consumers with no credit at all to finance a car, which is a welcome relief for people who are building credit for the first time.
Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: This website is a loan platform but they donât offer loans directly to consumers. This means you wonât have any idea on rates and terms until you fill out an application and get connected with a lender.
Who Itâs Best For: This loan is best for consumers with no credit or minimal credit history who cannot get approved for a loan elsewhere.
MyAutoLoan.com: Best Loan Comparison Site
MyAutoLoan.com is a loan comparison site that makes it easy to compare up to four auto loan offers in a matter of minutes. You can use this website to apply for a new auto loan, but you can also utilize it to consider refinancing offers for an auto loan you already have. You can also use funds from this platform to purchase a car from a dealer or from a private seller.
Sign Up With MyAutoLoan.com Today
Why This Lender Made Our List: Comparing auto loans in terms of their terms, rates, and fees is the best way to save money and wind up with the best deal. Since MyAutoLoan.com is a loan comparison site, they make it easy to shop around and compare competing offers.
Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: Loan comparison sites connect you with other lenders who have their own loan terms and minimum requirements for approval. Make sure you know and understand all the details of loans youâre considering before you sign on the dotted line.
Who Itâs Best For: MyAutoLoan.com is best for consumers who want to do all their auto loan shopping with a single website.
Capital One: Best Big Bank Loan for Bad Credit
Capital One offers online auto loan financing in conjunction with a program called Auto NavigatorÂ®. This program lets you get prequalified for an auto loan online, then work with a participating dealer to coordinate a loan for the car you want. Capital One also lets you search available vehicles at participating dealerships before you apply for financing, making it easy to figure out how much you might need to borrow ahead of time.
Sign Up With Capital One Today
Why This Lender Made Our List: Capital One offers the huge benefit of letting you get prequalified online without a hard inquiry to your credit report. Capital One is also a reputable bank with a long history, which should give borrowers some comfort. They have an A+ rating with the BBB and plenty of decent reviews from consumers.
Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: You should be aware that Capital One auto loans only work at participating dealers, so you may be limited in terms of available cars to choose from.
Who Itâs Best For: Capital One auto loans are best for consumers who find a car they want to buy at one of the participating lenders that works with this program.
LightStream: Best for Fast Funding
LightStream offers online loans for a variety of purposes, including auto financing. Their auto loans for consumers with excellent credit start at just 3.99% with autopay, and even their loans for consumers with lower credit scores only run as high as 16.79% with autopay.
You can apply for your LightStream loan online and get approved in a matter of minutes. This lender can also send your funds as soon as the same business day you apply.
A minimum credit score of 660 is required for loan approval, although other factors like your work history and income are considered.
Sign Up With LightStream Today
Why This Lender Made Our List: LightStream offers auto loans with exceptional terms, and thatâs even true for consumers with less than perfect credit. You can also get your loan funded as soon as the same business day you apply, which is crucial if you need auto financing so you can get back on the road.
Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: With a minimum credit score requirement of 660, these loans wonât work for consumers with the lowest credit scores.
Who Itâs Best For: LightStream is best for people with decent credit who need to get auto loan financing as quickly as possible.
What You Need To Know When Applying For A Car Loan With Bad Credit
Interest rates and fees matter.
If you think your interest rate and loan fees wonât make a big difference in your monthly payment, think again. The reality is that rates and fees can make a huge difference in how much you pay for an auto loan each month. Consider this: A $10,000 loan with an APR of 35.89% will require you to pay $361 per month for five years. The same loan amount at 21.99% APR will only set you back $276 per month. At 9.99%, you would pay only $212 per month for five years. The bottom line: Make sure to compare auto loans for bad credit so you wind up with the lowest possible APR you can qualify for.
Take steps to improve your credit score before you apply.
Itâs not always possible to wait to apply for a car loan, but you may be able to secure a lower interest rate and better loan terms if you can improve your credit score before you borrow money. The most important steps you can take to improve your score include paying all your bills early or on time, as well as paying down debt in order to decrease your credit utilization. You should also refrain from opening or closing too many credit card accounts in order to avoid new inquiries on your credit report and maintain the longest average length of your credit history possible.
Compare loan terms.
Some lenders let you borrow money for up to 84 months, while others let you repay your loan over 36 or 60 months at most. If you need to repay your loan over a longer timeline in order to secure an affordable monthly payment, make sure to compare lenders based on this factor. If youâre having trouble figuring out how much can you can afford, gauging affordability based on the monthly payments you can handle can also help in that effort.
Getting prequalified online can help.
Some lenders, including ones that made our ranking, let you get prequalified for a loan online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. This makes it considerably easier to compare rates and shop around without formally applying for an auto loan. Getting prequalified with more than one lender can also help you determine which one might offer the lowest rate without having to fill out a full loan application.
Watch out for loan restrictions.
As you compare the lenders on this list, keep in mind that not all lenders extend loans for any car you want. Some only let you finance cars with participating lenders in their network, which can drastically limit your options and make it impossible to purchase a car from a private seller. If you hope to purchase a car from someone you know or a website like craigslist.org, you may want to consider reaching out to your personal bank or a credit union you have a relationship with.
Bad credit car loans donât have to be forever.
Finally, you should know that a car loan for bad credit doesnât have to last forever. You may need to borrow money for a car right now regardless of the interest rate and terms you can qualify for, but it may be possible to refinance your loan into a better loan product later on. This is especially true if you focus on improving your credit score right away, and if you use your auto loan as an opportunity to prove your creditworthiness.
How to Get the Best Rate
1. Check your credit score.
Your credit score is one of the most important defining factors that dictate loan costs. Before you apply for an auto loan, it can help you check your credit score to see where you stand. Your score may not be as bad as you realize, but it could also be worse than you ever imagined. Either way, it helps to know this important information before you start shopping for an auto loan.
2. Improve your credit over time.
If your credit score needs work, youâll want to take steps to start improving it right away. The most important steps you can take to boost your credit score include paying all your bills early or on time and paying down debt to decrease your credit utilization. Also, make sure youâre not opening or closing too many credit accounts within a short amount of time.
3. Check your credit reports.
Use the website AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free copy of your credit reports from all three credit bureaus. Once you have this information, check over your credit reports for errors. If you find false information that might be hurting your score, take the steps to have the incorrect information removed.
4. Compare loan offers from at least three lenders.
A crucial step to get the best rate involves shopping around and comparing loan offers from at least three different lenders. This is important since lenders with different criteria might offer a lower APR or better terms than others.
5. Be flexible with repayment terms.
Also consider a few different loan terms provided you can afford the monthly payment with each. Some auto lenders offer better rates for shorter terms, which can help you save money if you can afford to repay your loan over 24 or 36 months instead of 60+.
How We Chose the Best Auto Loans
The lenders on our list werenât plucked out of thin air. In fact, the team behind this guide spent hours comparing auto lenders based on a wide range of criteria. Hereâs everything we considered when comparing the best bad credit car loans of 2021:
Interest Rates and Loan Terms: Our team looked for loans that offer reasonable rates and terms for consumers with poor credit. While higher APRs are typically charged to consumers with a low credit score, we only considered lenders that offer sensible rates that donât seem out of line for the auto loan market.
Ratings and Reviews: We gave preference to lenders who have decent reviews online, either through Consumer Affairs, Trustpilot, or another third party website. We also gave higher marks to lenders who have a positive rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Online Availability: Lenders who offer full loan details online were definitely given top priority in our ranking, and lenders who let you get prequalified online without a hard inquiry on your credit report were given the most points in this category. But since not everyone wants to apply for a loan online, we also included some lenders that let you apply over the phone.
Approval Requirements: Finally, we looked for lenders that extend credit to consumers with low credit scores in the first place. Not all lenders offer specific information on approval requirements, but we did our best to sort out lenders that only accept borrowers with good or excellent credit.
Summary: Best Bad Credit Card Loans of 2021
Best for Flexibility: OneMain Financial
Best Personal Loan Option: Upgrade
Best Loan for Bad Credit and No credit: AutoCreditExpress.com
Best Loan Comparison Site: MyAutoLoan.com
Best Big Bank Loan for Bad Credit: CapitalOne
Best for Fast Funding: LightStream
The post What Are the Best Car Loans When You Have Bad Credit? appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
The post The Chilling Truth About Debt Settlement Programs appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.
Debt is a very touchy subject for most people. Feeling the stress of overwhelming monthly payments, many people just look for what seems to be the easiest way out. This is when the salesmen tend to strike. Â The reason is a good deal of your financial information can be considered public knowledge.
Every day, many in debt get phone calls from high energy salesmen talking about the miraculous debt settlement concept. So, I’m going to start by saying, one great lesson we all learn young in life is, âIf it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!â
I made this mistake myself. Â I was so far in debt that I was drowning. In an act of desperation, I used a debt settlement company. Â Turns out, they did nothing to help me. It only made the situation much worse.
Here are a few chilling facts that you should know about debt settlement programs. Â These may just prove that the concept is too good to be true!
Fact #1: You May Be Sued For Not Paying Debts Even As You Make Payments
Did you know the payments you make may not go to your lenders? Â Yep! Â When working with a debt settlement company, your payments are not sent in on a monthly basis. Â Instead, these companies hold the funds from your payments. In most cases, the money is held in special purpose savings accounts until it has reached enough to pay off a debt. Once one debt is paid off, the savings process is started for the next.
Therefore, the last lender or two may wait 3, 4 or even 5 years before they see the next payment. The truth is, if you look at it from their perspective, it’s cheaper to take you to court. They will get the money faster through a settlement because they can garnish your wages. Also, in many cases, you will have to pay the court costs as well!
Fact #2: Your Credit Will Be Destroyed
While talking to a debt settlement agent, you will find that their last interest is in your credit score. Also, if you bring up the topic, they may try to downplay the effects of debt settlement on consumer credit scores. With that said, I’m not going to downplay it at all for you! Here is the truth…Because lenders are not being paid for long periods of time, your debts will be charged off.
One collections agency will sell it to the next and each time, it will damage your credit score! This is why I generally advise against this option if the consumer has good or excellent credit scores. The effects of credit card debt settlement programs will not pass in 6 months either! They will last throughout the term of your settlement and at least a year and a half to 2 years afterwords.
Fact #3: Debt Settlement Costs Thousands Of Dollars In Most Cases
The truth is, if you are going to settle your debts, with a little bit of online research, you can do it on your own. However, when you higher a debt settlement company, chances are, you will pay a percentage of the total amount owed, somewhere around 15%. That means if you have the minimum amount of debt that most companies accept, $10,000.00, your fee will be $1,500.00 minimum in most cases.
This does not include the cost of a special purpose savings account which, usually runs about $25 per month. Add in the cost of paying an attorney when you get taken to curt and, you will now find yourself paying just as much as you did before you hired the debt settlement company in the first place!
Every Dark Cloud Has A Silver Lining
Although debt settlement may not be the option for most, always remember, there is an option for you. As a matter of fact, I recently wrote an article that included a few great options called DIY Alternatives To Debt Consolidation. Trust me, those alternatives only begin to touch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to great, legitimate ways to get out of debt!
This article was written by Joshua Rodriguez, proud owner and founder of CNA Finance and avid personal finance journalist. Join the discussion about this article on facebook and Google+!
The post The Chilling Truth About Debt Settlement Programs appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.
Paying off debt with âgazelle intensityâ is a great way to get rid of debt quickly. Cutting your budget to a nearly bare-bones level and working hard to increase your income, speed up debt payments and save up for retirement will help you make great progress on your financial goals, but most people can only live on a strict budget for so long before they begin experiencing debt burnout.
Find out now: How much do you need to save for retirement?
What is Debt Burnout?
Burnout is feeling exhausted with your day-to-day routine or the lack of flexibility in your budget. Some people get tired of not having extra money in their food budget to go out to eat occasionally or buy a wider variety of foods at the grocery store. Others grow tired of having little to no budget for entertainment and fun. Burnout leaves you feeling fatigued, frustrated and ready to give up on your debt-free dreams.
Beating Debt Burnout
After youâve diagnosed yourself with debt burnout, itâs important to take immediate steps to correct it so you donât end up un-doing all the progress youâve made toward paying off your debt. The steps to beating burnout donât have to be drastic. Itâs possible to do it by making a few simple adjustments.
1. Reassess Your Budget
After youâve paid down some of your debt, itâs common to start feeling some burnout from the lack of flexibility in your budget. This may be a good time to reassess your budget and perhaps give yourself a little more money for things you enjoy, like increasing how much you spend on entertainment or giving yourself a little more money for going out to eat with friends and family. This may decrease the amount of money going to debt payments, but thatâs better than getting burnt out and going on a crazy credit card shopping spree down the road.
2. Plan a Fun Trip or Event
While your family is paying off debt, itâs common to give up all vacations, trips and fun events. But when you start experiencing debt burnout, planning for one of these events is a great way to stay motivated and give your family something to look forward to. The trip or event doesnât have to be a huge and expensive ordeal. Even a short day or weekend trip is something to look forward to when you are living on such a tight budget. Try planning for when you hit a milestone â paying off half of your debt or even for when the whole thing is paid off.
3. Find Some Support
When you start to feel burnt out and unmotivated to continue your debt payoff journey, seeking out an accountability partner is a great way to help you stay on track. Single people can especially benefit from having someone to confide in and bounce ideas off of. But even couples and families can use the outside perspective of an accountability partner to help them keep focused on their financial goals and beat debt burnout.
Debt burnout is a real thing that many people struggle with as they work their way out of debt. The more debt you have to begin with and the longer the time frame for paying it off, the more likely it is that youâll face burnout at some point.
Find out now: Should I get a fixed or adjustable rate mortgage?
What other ways can you think of to help beat debt burnout?
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The post 3 Ways to Beat Debt Burnout appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.
Credit cardÂ billsÂ can be confusing. If everything was straightforward and clear,Â credit cardÂ debtÂ wouldn’t be such a big issue. But it’s not clear, and debt is a massive issue for millions of consumers.Â
One of the most confusing aspects is theÂ minimum payment, with few consumers understanding how this works, how much damage (if any) it does to theirÂ credit score, and why it’s important to pay more than the minimum.
We’ll address all of those things and more in this guide, looking at howÂ minimumÂ credit cardÂ paymentsÂ can impact yourÂ FICOÂ scoreÂ and yourÂ credit report.
What is aÂ Credit CardÂ Minimum Payment?
TheÂ minimum paymentÂ is the lowest amount you need to pay during any given month. It’s often fixed as a fraction of yourÂ total balanceÂ and includes fees and interest. Â
If you fail to make thisÂ minimum payment, you may be hit withÂ late feesÂ and if you still haven’t paid after 30 days, your creditor will report your activity to the majorÂ credit bureausÂ and yourÂ credit scoreÂ will take a hit.
When this happens, you could lose up to 100 points and gain a derogatory mark that remains on yourÂ credit reportÂ for up to 7 years.Â MakingÂ minimum paymentsÂ will not result in a derogatory mark, but it can indirectly affect yourÂ credit scoreÂ and we’ll discuss that a little later.
Firstly, it’s important to understand why you’re being asked to pay aÂ minimum amountÂ and how you can avoid it.
How Much is aÂ MinimumÂ Credit CardÂ Payment?
Prior to 2004,Â monthly paymentsÂ could be as low as 2% of the balance. This caused all kinds of problems as most of yourÂ monthly paymentÂ is interest and will, therefore, inflate every month so that every time you reduce the balance it grows back.Â
Regulators forced a change when they realized that some users were being locked into a cycle ofÂ credit cardÂ debt, one that could see them repaying thousands more than the balance and taking many years to repay in full.
These days, a minimum payment must be at least 1% of the balance plus all interest and fees that have accumulated during that month, ensuring the balance decreases by at least 1% if only theÂ minimum paymentÂ is met.
Do I Need to Make theÂ Minimum Payment?
If you have a rolling balance, you need to make the minimumÂ monthly paymentÂ to avoid derogatory marks. If you fail to do so and keep missing those payments, your account will eventually default and cause all kinds of issues.
However, you can avoid theÂ minimum paymentÂ by clearing your balance in full.
Let’s assume that you have a brand-newÂ creditÂ cardÂ and you spend $2,000 in the first billing cycle. In the next cycle, you will be required to pay this balance in full. However, you will also be offered aÂ minimum payment, which will likely be anywhere from $30 to $100. If this is all that you pay, the issuer will start charging you interest on your balance and your problems will begin.
If you spend $2,000 in the next billing cycle, you have just doubled your debt (minus whatever principal theÂ minimum paymentÂ cleared) and your problems.
This is a cycle that many consumers get locked into. They do what they can to pay off their balance in full, but then they have a difficult month and thatÂ minimum paymentÂ begins to look very tempting. They convince themselves that one month won’t hurt and they’ll repay the balance in full next month, but by that point they’ve spent more, it has grown more, and they just don’t have the funds.
To avoid falling into this trap, try the following tips:
Only Spend What You Have:Â AÂ credit cardÂ should be used to spend money you have now or will have in the future. Don’t spend in the hope you’ll somehow come into some money before the billing period ends and theÂ credit cardÂ balanceÂ rolls over.
Get an IntroductoryÂ Interest Rate:Â ManyÂ credit cardÂ issuersÂ offer a 0% intro APR for a fixed period of time, allowing you to accumulate debt without interest. This can help if you need to make some essential purchases, but it’s important not to abuse this as you’ll still need to clear theÂ full balanceÂ before the intro period ends.
Use aÂ Balance Transfer:Â If you’re in too deep and the intro rate is coming to an end, consider aÂ balance transfer credit card. These cards allow you to move yourÂ full balanceÂ from one card (or cards) to another, taking advantage of yet another 0% APR and essentially extending the one you have.
Pay the Minimum:Â If you can’t pay the balance in full, make sure you at least pay the minimum. AÂ missed paymentÂ orÂ late paymentÂ can incur fees and may hurt yourÂ credit score.Â
Why Pay More Than the Minimum?
You may have heard experts recommending that you pay more than the minimum every month, but why? If you’re locked into a cycle ofÂ credit cardÂ debt, it can seem counterproductive. After all, if you have a debt of $10,000 that’s costing you $400 a month, what’s the point of taking an extra $100 out of your budget?
Your interest and fees are covered by yourÂ minimum paymentÂ and account for a sizeable percentage of thatÂ minimum payment. By adding just 50% more, you could be doubling and even tripling the amount of the principal that you repay every month.
What’s more, your interest accumulates every single day and this interest compounds. Imagine, for instance, that you have a balance of $10,000 today and with interest, this grows to $10,040. The next day, the interest will be calculated based on that $10,040 figure, which means it could grow to $10,081, which will then become the new balance for the next day.Â
This continues every single day, and the larger your balance is, the more interest will compound and the greater theÂ amount will be dueÂ over the term. By paying more than yourÂ minimum paymentÂ when you can, you’re reducing the balance and slowing things down.
Does Paying the Minimum Hurt MyÂ Credit Score?
Paying theÂ minimum amountÂ every month ensures you are doing the bare minimum to avoid hurting yourÂ credit historyÂ or accumulating fees. However, it can indirectly reduce your score via yourÂ credit utilizationÂ ratio.
YourÂ creditÂ utilizationÂ ratioÂ is a score that compares theÂ credit limitÂ of allÂ availableÂ creditÂ cardsÂ to the total debt on those cards. It accounts for 30% of yourÂ credit scoreÂ and is, therefore, a very important aspect of theÂ credit scoringÂ process.
The moreÂ credit cardÂ debtÂ you accumulate, the lower yourÂ credit utilizationÂ rateÂ will be and the more your score will be impacted. If you only pay the minimum, this rate will become stagnant and may take years to improve. By increasing theÂ payment amount, however, you can bring that ratio down and improve yourÂ credit score.
You can calculate yourÂ credit utilizationÂ score by adding together theÂ totalÂ amountÂ ofÂ creditÂ limitsÂ and debts and then comparing the latter to the former. A combinedÂ credit limitÂ of $10,000 and a balance of $5,000, for instance, would equate to a 50% ratio, which is on the high side.
CanÂ Credit CardÂ Fees Hurt MyÂ Credit Score?
As withÂ interest charges,Â credit cardÂ fees will not directly reduce your score but may have an indirect effect. Cash advance fees, for instance, can be substantial, with manyÂ credit cardÂ companiesÂ (includingÂ Capital One) charging 3% with a $10 minimum charge. This means that every time you withdraw cash, you’re paying at least $10, even if you’re only withdrawing $10.
What many consumers don’t realize is that these fees are also charged every time you buy casino chips or pay for some other form of gambling, and every time you purchase money orders and other cash products.Â
Along with foreign transaction fees and penalty fees, these can increase your balance and yourÂ minimum payment, making it harder to make onÂ time paymentsÂ and thus increasing the risk of aÂ late payment.
Does Paying the Minimum Hurt Your Credit Score is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
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A well-designed bingo app really hits the sweet spot. Itâs a great way to pass the time and have some fun.
Itâs even better when you can win real money.
An app called Blackout Bingo lets you do just that. This free app lets you play a game you already know and love, plus it matches you with players in your skill level, so you can go head-to-head in tournaments where you can win real money. Plus, the games are quick â about two minutes each, and you can play them on the go.
How to Win Real Money Just for Playing Bingo on Your Phone
You might be thinking this sounds too good to be true. But hereâs the thing: Itâs really not.
Hereâs how it works: Download the free app and create an account, then you can play some practice games to get the hang of it. If you donât already know how to play, this is an easy way to learn. Then, when youâre ready, Blackout Bingo will pair you with one of thousands of other online players at your same skill level. Beginners play beginners; experts play other experts. You and your opponent will both get the same board, so winning is totally skills-based.
The app is free to download, but if you want to play for money, youâll need to deposit at least $10. Then you can play head-to-head in large pools and live tournaments â some tournaments have even paid out prizes as big as $350,000. You can make deposits and get paid via PayPal, credit card or Apple Pay â cashing out is just a matter of seconds.
Blackout Bingo has a 4.5-out-of-5-star rating from more than 40,000 users in Appleâs App Store. As for Skillz, the platform that hosts the game, it operates hundreds of games and has paid out more than $2 billion in prizes so far. Take Shay, from Georgia, for example, who won $10,000 playing Skillz games. The company has invested years into its player-matching technology, ensuring you only compete with players of the same skill level.
Win or lose, you always receive âticketzâ that you can redeem in Skillzâ Ticketz store for cash or prizes, like Amazon gift cards, a 65-inch TV â even a BMW or a Porsche. Seriously. The higher stakes you play for, the more ticketz you receive.
For bingo players, hereâs the most important part: The game is well designed, a classic bingo experience. To get started, just download the free app and start playing your first game immediately. What could you win in a two-minute bingo game?
Mike Brassfield (email@example.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He is familiar with the lure of bingo.
Unfortunately, you canât play for money in the following states: Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, South Carolina, South Dakota or Tennessee. However, in those states, you can still play for fun with the gameâs virtual currency.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
Editorâs note: This article is part of our weekly column to answer your credit card questions. If you would like to ask us a question, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.Â The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused one of the greatest disruptions in commercial travel, with unprecedented restrictions â¦
Your minimum monthly payment is the lowest amount that you need to pay on your credit card balance. Any less could result in a derogatory mark, any more will clear more of the principal.Â
Your monthly payment is one of the most important aspects of your credit card debt and failure to understand this could seriously impact your credit score and leave marks on your credit report that remain for up to 7 years.
With that in mind, letâs take a closer look at how these payments operate and how you can quickly clear your credit card debt.
How Minimum Payments on a Credit Card are Calculated
The minimum payment is calculated as a percentage of the total balance at the end of the month. This percentage ranges from 2% to 5%, but it has been known to go lower.Â
As an example, if you have a $5,000 credit card balance and are required to pay 5% a month, then your monthly payment will be $250. However, this only covers the principal, which is the money that you borrowed. It does not cover the interest, which is where things get a little complicated and expensive.
What Influences Your Minimum Monthly Payment?
The reason credit card interest is so high is because it compounds. This means that if you have an annual percentage rate of 20% and a debt of $20,000, that debt will climb to $24,000, at which point the next billing cycle will commence and this time youâll be charged 20% on $24,000 and not $20,000.
However, credit card interest is calculated daily, not yearly. To arrive at your daily percentage rate, simply divide your interest rate by 365 (the number of days in a year) and then multiply this by your daily balance.
For example, if we stick with that 20% interest rate, then the daily rate will be 0.00054%. If we multiply this with the daily balance, we get an interest rate of $2.7 for the first day. Multiply this by 30, for the total days in a billing cycle, and itâs $81. Thatâs your total interest for the first month.
So, when we calculate the 2% minimum monthly payment, weâre calculating it against $5,081, not $5,000, which means we get a total of $101.62, reducing the balance to just $479.38.
In other words, you pay over $100, but reduce the balance by a little over $20 when you make that monthly payment. If penalty fees and interest rates are added to that, it will reduce in even smaller increments.
Pros and Cons of Only Paying the Minimum Payment on your Credit Card
As discussed above, itâs imperative that you make the minimum payment, avoiding any late payment charges or credit score reductions. However, if you only make those minimum payments every month then it will take a long time to clear your balance and you may struggle to keep your head above water.
The Benefits of Paying More Than the Minimum
Many borrowers struggle to pay more than the minimum not because they donât have the money, but because they fail to see the benefits. They focus on the short-term and not the long-term, seeing an extra $100 payment as a lost $100 in the present, as opposed to a saved $500 in the future.
However, if you can get over this mindset and start paying more than the minimum, you will do your future self a huge favor, helping with all of the following:
Shorten the Term and Lessen the Interest
Every extra dollar that you add to your minimum payment can help you get out of debt quicker than if you simply stick with the minimum. This is true for all debtsâa higher monthly payment means that more money goes towards the principal, which means there is less interest to compound.
Credit card debt is like a snowball gathering momentum as it rolls, and this is exacerbated every time you miss a payment and are hit with penalty fees. By paying more than the minimum, youâre taking a giant chunk out of that snowball and slowing its progression.
Youâll Improve Your Credit Utilization
Your credit utilization ratio is one of the most important parts of your credit report, counting for 30% of your total. This ratio takes your total available credit (such as a credit limit on a credit card) and then compares it to total debt (such as the balance on that credit card). The higher the number, the more of your credit has been used and the more your credit score will suffer.
Every time you pay more of your credit card balance, youâre reducing this score and significantly boosting your credit score.
Avoid Maxing Out Your Balance
Not only will a maxed-out credit card do some serious damage to your credit utilization score, but it can also have a direct impact on your credit score on the whole. Lenders donât want to see it and credit bureaus will punish you for it. If youâre still using the card and only paying the minimum, you may be stuck in a cycle of persistent debt, but by paying more and using it less, you can prevent that.
You May Get a Better Credit Limit
Credit card issuers monitor their customerâs activities very closely. If they clear their balances every month without issue, they are more inclined to increase their credit limit, offer them rewards, and generally provide them with good opportunities. If they are accumulating large amounts of credit card debt and only meeting their minimum payments, theyâll be less inclined to do any of those things.
It always helps to get on a creditorâs good side, because you never know when you will need that improve credit limit or access to that generous rewards scheme.
What Happens if you Only Make the Minimum Payment?
If you only pay the minimum, the debt will take a long time to clear and youâll repay huge sums of interest in that time. If we go back to the previous example and assume an APR of 20%, a balance of $5,000 and a minimum payment of 2%, you will repay over 400% in interest alone and it will take you decades to repay the debt.
Thankfully, very few credit card providers will actually let you pay such a small amount on such a substantial debt. But even if we increase the minimum payment to 5%, it still looks abysmal for the borrower. It would take them about 9 years to pay the balance, requiring $250 a month and paying close to $2,500 in interest.
Although itâs more realistic, this is still a poor option, especially when you consider the card will still be active and you may still be using it, which means that every time you make a repayment, youâre adding more debt and offsetting all your hard work.
Your credit score will not suffer if you only make the minimum payment. Providing you make it on time then you will build a respectable payment history, a stable credit report, and a credit score that is sure to impress lenders. However, it wonât look great for your finances as youâre giving yourself an expensive liability that will cripple your debt-to-income ratio and your credit utilization ratio for years to come.
Are There Any Advantages to Just Paying the Minimum?
The only advantage to paying just the minimum is that you will have more money in your pocket at the end of the month, which will allow you to make additional investments and purchases that would otherwise not be available to you. However, this is a pretty narrow-minded way of looking at it, because while you will have more cash in the long-term, it comes at the expense of many additional risks and obligations, not to mention thousands of dollarsâ worth of additional interest paid over the term.
What Happens if you Canât Pay the Minimum Payment?
If there is a late payment or a missed payment, your creditor may charge you a penalty fee or a penalty rate. If your payment is due for more than 30-days they may also report you to the credit bureaus, at which point a derogatory mark will appear on your credit report and your credit score will drop.
This can happen even with a single missed payment, which is why you should never simply skip a payment on the basis that youâll just double-up next time around.
Instead, contact your creditor, explain your situation, and see if there is anything they can do to help you. They may say no, but it doesnât hurt to ask, and, in most cases, they will offer you some kind of reprieve. After all, they want their money, and if they can increase their chances of getting paid by providing you with some leeway, theyâll often be more than happy to do it.
Some people believe that you can simply pay a few dollars and it will count as a minimum payment and not show on your credit report. This is a myth. Technically, any payment that doesnât meet the full minimum requirement can be classed as a late payment and can lead to fees and derogatory marks.
Resources to Lower Minimum Payments on a Credit Card
Itâs important to keep a close eye on your credit card statement and activity at all times. Monitor your spending, making sure it doesnât go overboard, and if you find yourself struggling to make payments at any time, checkout the following resources and options to get the help you need:
Credit Counselors: Speak with a trained expert who has helped many individuals in a similar position. They will discuss your finances and your debts and will help you to find a solution.
Debt Management: A debt management plan can help when youâre struggling to meet your debt obligations and have a huge debt-to-income ratio. They will provide assistance and help you swap multiple debts for a single consolidation loan.
Debt Settlement: An option that works best for individuals with multiple debts and missed payments. Itâs one of the cheapest ways to clear personal loan and credit card debt, as well as other forms of unsecured debt.
Debt Consolidation: Another consolidation loan option, this time with a long term, ensuring that you pay less per month but more over the term. This is a good option if youâre stuck in a tricky spot right now and need to reduce your outgoings.
In all the above cases, you can use the NMLS Consumer Access site to find a legitimate and reputable company or professional working within the financial sector. You can also use resources like the Better Business Bureau as well as the many guides, reviews, and help files right here on the Pocket Your Dollars website.
How to Reduce the Balance on a Credit Card Debt
One of the best ways to reduce your balance is to initiate a balance transfer. As the name suggests, this entails moving your balance from one card to another. Balance transfer cards entice you by offering a 0% APR on all transfers and this lasts for up to 18% with the best providers.Â
In that time, you wonât pay any interest on your balance, which means all your monthly payment will go towards the principal and you can reduce your debt in huge leaps as opposed to small steps.
These cards are not without their issues, however. You will need a good credit score to get a card that has a good APR and balance transfer offer. If you donât, and you fail to clear the balance during that introductory period, you may be paying more interest than you were before.
In most cases, though, these cards will be just what you need to ease the burden of mounting credit card debts and get back into the black. Take a look at our guide to the best balance transfer cards to learn more and discover how you can move your current balance to a card that has more preferable terms, in the short-term at least.
The Bottom Line: Clear that Balance
A minimum payment is the least amount you need to commit to a credit card balance. If credit card debt was a house party, the minimum payment would be the equivalent of showing up, saying your introductions, and then hiding in the corner for the rest of the night. If you really want to make an impact, you need to be proactive.
It doesnât have to be twice or thrice the size of your minimum payment. It doesnât have to be a consistent sum that you pay every month, but it does have to be something. Donât worry if itâs only 1% or 2% of the balance, because every additional payment helps. Just pay whatever you can afford, whenever you can afford it. A small amount of money today can save you a huge sum of money in the future.
Minimum Payments on a Credit Card is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
According to a YouGov Parent Survey in 2019, a quarter of parents entered the 2019 holiday shopping seasonstill paying down debt related to 2018 holiday spending. Deloitte numbers put holidayretail salesgrowth in 2019 at 4.1% year-over-year. In 2020, Deloitte predicts growth of between 1% and 1.5% year-over-year for the holiday season.
It might be that some people no longer want to pay for holiday gifts, decorations and food a year down the road. But it’s also true that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit consumerwallets and some people might be cutting back this year.
That doesn’t mean that people aren’t shopping. Google and other thought leaders note that changes to shopping habits and the need for social distancing and other measures will likely spread the holiday shopping season out longer. Shoppers are also likely to turn to online shopping.
With a ton of shopping opportunities, a longer holiday shopping season and pent-up pandemic energy, it might be easy to overspend and create debt you’ll deal with into the future. Follow these tips to prepare for holiday shopping so you can protect your financial standing, save money and make the most of the resources you have this season.
1. Check your credit scores
Begin by checking your credit scores and reports. They tell you where you stand if you want to apply for credit. They also give you a baseline of where you are so you know if your score goes up or down later with no explanation.
An unexplained drop in your credit score can be a sign your financial information is compromised. Unfortunately, the holidays are prime time for many scammers. Using a service, such as ExtraCredit’s Track It feature to keep tabs on 28 of your FICO scores, helps you know when you need to act to protect your credit.
2. Ask for a credit limit increase
If you have existing credit cards and you’re a cardholder in good standing, the months prior to the holidays can be a good time to ask for a credit limit increase. You’re not asking so you can spend more-it’s typically advisable to keep spending in line with your budget no matter how much credit you have.
You’re asking for a higher limit so you can spend what you already planned to without hurting your credit utilization. Credit utilization is the second-most important factor in determining your credit score-second only to payment history. It’s the ratio between your credit limit and how much of that credit you have used.
If you have a card with a limit of $1,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of 30%. But if you get approved for a credit limit of $2,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of only 15%, which is better for your score.
3. Apply for a credit cardwith a 0% APR introductory offer
Those with good or excellent credit might want to consider applying for a card with a 0% APR introductory offer. If you qualify for such a card, you typically have one or two years to pay off purchases made during the introductory period without accruing any interest.
This can be a way to finance your entire holiday without paying anything more for the privilege of doing so. However, it’s still important to maintain your budget and not overspend just because you won’t be paying the balance off until later. Otherwise, you make this season’s holiday festivities next season’s problem.
4. Pay down debt before-and after-the holidays
Speaking of last season’s debt: If you can pay it down before you start spending this season, that’s a great accomplishment. It also frees up your credit and your budget so you can better enjoy the current holiday season. If you’re paying $100 a month on your debt, that’s $100 a month that might go toward gifts or celebrations that you don’t have to put on a card this year.
If you do use credit to pay for the 2020 holidays, have a plan for paying it down as soon as possible. That’s especially true with 0% interest cards. The longer you wait, the greater the chance you’ll miss the introductory period and potentially be on the hook for a lot of interest expense.
5. Create a holiday spending budget
Whether you’re using cash or credit-or a mix of both-enter the 2020 holiday shopping season with a plan. Take an honest look at your personal budget. If you don’t have a budget, create one before you move forward. Then decide how much you can realistically spend during the holidays.
Consider which gifts you want to buy and which events you want to host or attend. You might not be able to do everything, and that’s OK. Be honest with yourself, your family and your friends about what you can afford to do with your time and money this year.
Then make a list and assign each item a monetary budget. That can include:
Gifts as a total
Gift extras, such as wrapping and tags
Shipping, both for receiving items you buy and for shipping gifts to others
Food and drinks
General festivities, such as tickets to holiday events
Once you assign a dollar amount to a category, stick to it. That’s a good idea even if you’re spending with credit.
6. Align budgeted spendingwith credit cardrewards
Once you know how much you want to spend, decide how best to spend it. If you’re using credit cards for the holidays, check your accounts to see if any offer cash back or rewards points. If they do, double-check which categories or stores you can shop in to earn the most points with each card.
For example, some travel rewards cards offer 6x points when you shop at supermarkets. You could use such a card to cover the food-and-drink portion of your holiday budget and reap the biggest rewards possible from that spending. You might also be able to maximize rewards when purchasing gift cards.
7. Guard your financial information and identity
As you enjoy holiday shopping, be on guard. Don’t use debit card PIN numbers unless you have to, and shield the keypad when you enter your information. Keep a close eye on your wallet or purse, and check your credit card statements regularly to ensure all charges are yours. You can also use ExtraCredit’s Guard It feature to help keep your identity and account information safe during and beyond the season.
Sign up for ExtraCredit today!
The post Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips appeared first on Credit.com.