Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips

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
  • Travel
  • Decor
  • 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!

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Source: credit.com

What Is the FICO Resilience Index?

Three young colleagues wearing aprons look at FICO Resilience Index scores on a laptop

By the end of May 2020, more than 40 million people had filed unemployment claims due to COVID-19 and the resulting economic shutdowns. Governments, charities, and even creditors scrambled to put programs in place to support people during this time while also mitigating future economic fallout.

And this isn’t the first time creditors have found themselves working to support borrowers while worrying about their own bottom lines. It’s an issue that occurred during the 2008 recession and one that occurs regionally during national disasters. The new FICO Resilience Index is a tool that creditors might use to help better prepare for times of economic crisis. Find out more about this Index and how it might impact you below.

What Is the FICO Resilience Index?

The FICO Resilience Index is a numeric score each
person is given. The score is supposed to tell creditors how likely a person is
to continue paying their bills as agreed during an economic downturn.

The Index, which is brought to you by the makers of the
popular FICO Score for creditworthiness, ranges from 1 to 99. In contrast to
credit scores, where a higher number is better, a lower FICO Resilience Index score
is better. Here’s how the range breaks down:

  • 1–44: More resilient to changes in economic
    conditions
  • 45–59: Moderately resilient to changes in
    economic conditions
  • 60–69: Sensitive to changes in economic
    conditions
  • 70–99: Very sensitive to changes in economic
    conditions

So, if you have a FICO Resilience Index of 10, it indicates that there’s a good chance that during economic upheaval such as a pandemic or recession, you’re still going to pay your bills on time. If you score a 90, that’s considered much less likely.

How Is the Resilience Index Different from a Credit Score?

A credit score is meant to indicate the likelihood that you will pay your bills on time and as agreed at any time. The Resilience Index rates how sensitive you might be to economic changes and the likelihood that you may be unable to pay bills during a downturn or crisis.

For example, the top factor in your credit score is
whether or not you pay your bills in a timely manner. Your FICO Resilience
Index score is more concerned by your total balance and number of open
accounts. If you balance is high and you have a lot of open accounts, you may
be less able to pay these off during times of crisis.

Here’s what the FICO Resilience Index looks for:

  • Low total balance on revolving credit in comparison to limits
  • A lower number of open, active credit accounts
  • Fewer hard inquiries within the past 12 months
  • A longer credit age, which indicates more experience managing credit

You can improve your FICO Resilience Index by reducing hard inquiries and not opening new credit accounts unless they’re necessary. But the index relies heaviest on credit utilization. Keeping your credit card and other revolving account balances as low as possible can improve your index score.

Does the FICO Resilience Index Matter to You?

As of mid-2020, the FICO Resilience Index is new, and
not a lot of organizations have integrated it into their lending processes yet.
In the beginning, it might not be especially relevant to consumers. However, as
organizations start to integrate it, there’s a good chance creditors may
consider both your credit score and your resilience number when approving—or
denying—your application.

Where Can You See Your FICO Resilience Index?

To have a FICO Resilience Index score, you must have at least one account that was reported to the credit bureau in question in the past 6 months. You must also have at least one account that is at least six months old.

As of July 2020, the FICO Resilience Index is being
provided in pilot testing to lenders. FICO is partnering with Equifax and
Experian to include the index alongside credit scores when lenders conduct a
hard credit inquiry. As of July 2020, the index scores were not yet made
available to consumers.

Does This New Number Make Credit Scores Less Important?

The FICO Resilience Index doesn’t reduce the importance
of your credit score. Lenders are still concerned with whether or not someone
is a “good risk.” Even with a strong resilience number, you may find yourself
getting turned down for loans or credit cards if you have a poor credit score.

You can’t check your FICO Resilience Index number at this time. But you can check your credit report and scores and make good financial decisions. In many cases, what’s good for your credit score is also good for your Resilience Index. Start today by signing up for Credit.com’s Credit Report Card or ExtraCredit. ExtraCredit offers 28 of your FICO scores for review, and they’re updated regularly—helping you stay on top of your credit trends.

Sign Up Now

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Source: credit.com

How to Add Rent and Utilities to Your Credit Report

A father and teenage son sit out on a porch with a laptop discussing how to add rent and utilities to your credit report.

More than 43 million people in America pay rent, but you wouldn’t know it to look at their credit reports. In fact, most rent and utility payments are not reported to the credit bureaus, which means you may not be getting credit for bills that you regularly pay. Here’s how to add rent and utility payments to your credit report.

>> Learn more: How Rent Can Affect Your Credit Score

How Tradelines Work

Your creditors—including your credit card issuer, loan issuer, utility provider, and landlord—are not required to report to the credit bureaus. In fact, they have to pay a fee in order to report to the credit bureaus. That’s why many creditors like landlords and utility providers don’t report on-time payments, or will only report to one or two bureaus instead of all three.

But if you pay your rent and utilities on time regularly, those payments could be helping you build your credit profile. You just need to convince your creditors to report them to the bureaus. If they’re reported, the credit bureaus will include that information on your credit report and use it to determine your credit scores.

Sign Up for ExtraCredit

We don’t want to sound arrogant, but ExtraCredit is one of the easiest way to get your rent and utility payments added as new tradelines on your credit reports with each bureau. One account with ExtraCredit allows you to add those payments, and so much more—for less than what many other services charge.

ExtraCredit will securely connect to your bank account and automatically identify rent and utility payments, then facilitate a connection with each credit reporting agency. You’ll start seeing your payments show up as tradelines on each credit report in a matter of weeks. If you keep up with your on-time payments, these could help you build your credit profile with these payments as tradelines on your report.

What’s the “so much more” included in an ExtraCredit account? How about 28 FICO® scores and credit reports from all three credit bureaus. And dark web monitoring. And $1 million identity theft protection insurance. And cashback opportunities. And an exclusive discount to one of the leaders in credit repair. For just $24.99 a month. ExtraCredit may not be the only company to offer rent and utility reporting, but we are the only company to combine it with total credit coverage. Learn more.

Try Experian Boost

Experian Boost allows you to add utility and mobile phone payment history to your Experian credit report. Boost is free and will only add positive payment history, but it is only added to your Experian credit report. So if a creditor pulls your Equifax or TransUnion scores, the boost  you got from Experian Boost won’t help.

Use Other Third-Party Services

There are other third-party services that can help you add tradelines to your report, like RentReporters and SimpleBills. But that means signing up for multiple accounts and keeping track of them separately—and without easy access to your credit scores and credit reports so you can see how those payments are affecting your credit profile. These services also generally have a high sign-up fee plus monthly fees. And many only report to one or two credit bureaus, not all three.

Talk to Your Landlord

Another option is talking to your landlord or other creditor directly and asking them to start reporting your payments to the bureaus. Remember, there’s a fee for them to do so, so they might not be interested. You could offer to pay—but if you’re paying, you’re probably better off signing up for an account that you can regularly access.

Other Ways to Build Credit

Getting your rent and utility payments added to your credit report is far from the only way to build your credit. Your payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score, so the best way to build your credit is to pay all of your bills on time—every time.

If you don’t have any credit accounts, consider applying for a secured credit card or opening a credit-builder loan. These credit-building tools are great for individuals with a thin credit file.

Add Rent and Utility Payments to Your Credit Report

Learn More

  • I Can’t Pay My Rent: What Are My Options?
  • How to Get Out of a Lease
  • I Hate Having Roommates: 7 Ways to Afford Living Alone
  • Landlords and Credit Checks: What You Need to Know

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Source: credit.com