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!

The post Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

What Does Having a Derogatory Public Record on My Credit Report Mean

I Found a Judgment on My Credit Report. Now What?

Since the National Consumer Assistance Plan went into effect in 2017, public records must meet strict requirements in order to appear on consumer credit reports. Civil judgments and tax liens do not meet these new requirements, so they were removed from credit reports. At this point, the only derogatory public record that should appear on your credit report is bankruptcy. If a tax lien or civil judgment still appears on your credit report, you should dispute that record with the credit reporting agencies.

How Much Do Public Records Affect Credit Scores?

Bankruptcy can cause a FICO score to drop by 200 points or more. A filing may lower credit scores for seven to 10 years and be difficult to remove from a credit report unless any information is inaccurate.

The decision to exclude other public records slightly increased FICO scores for many consumers and resulted in increases of 20 to 40 points in some cases.

Bankruptcies and Your Credit Report

Bankruptcies are the one public record that are still included on your credit report. In most cases, they will remain on your report for seven to 10 years.

You can dispute an inaccurate report of bankruptcy or one being reported beyond the statute of limitations. Review your report for any inaccuracies and contact the credit bureaus to dispute inaccuracies if need be. If a credit bureau claims to have court verification of a bankruptcy, you should send a procedural letter to determine how they verified the public record on credit report. Follow up with the courts to determine whether the bankruptcy was actually verified.

〉 Learn more about when and why you should file bankruptcy and how doing so will affect your credit.

Civil Judgments and Your Credit Report

Civil judgments result when a creditor sues you for an outstanding debt and wins. That creditor then has more avenues for pursuing payment: they may now satisfy delinquent or outstanding debt through wage garnishment or by seizing funds from checking or savings accounts.

Judgments are no longer factored into credit scores, though they are still public record and can still impact your ability to qualify for credit or loans. Lenders may still check to see whether any outstanding judgments against a potential borrower exist. You should pay legitimate judgments and dispute inaccurate judgments to ensure these do not affect your finances unduly.

〉 Learn more about how to deal with civil judgments.

If a civil judgment is still on your credit report, file a dispute with the appropriate credit reporting agencies to have it removed.

Tax Liens and Your Credit Report

Tax liens are filed by the IRS when you don’t pay your taxes. A lien is automatically filed when you owe more than $10,000. When the IRS files a tax lien against you, it essentially gives the agency first dibs on any payment you receive from selling or liquidating your assets to pay your debts.

While tax liens are no longer reported on credit reports, they can significantly impact your financial situation in ways that indirectly affect your credit score.

〉 Learn more about tax liens.

If a tax lien is being reported on your credit report, file a dispute.

How to Deal with Derogatory Public Records

Although judgments and tax liens are no longer filed on credit reports or factored into credit scores, these penalties can undermine your financial standing. If a derogatory public record is filed against you‚ you should monitor the effects on your credit and ensure that information pertaining to your filing is accurate.

Check your reports regularly to ensure they are fair, accurate and up-to-date. You can watch for changes by getting your free Credit Report Card and credit score monitoring from Credit.com.

〉Sign up now!

The post What Does Having a Derogatory Public Record on My Credit Report Mean appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

What Do New FICO Changes Mean for Me?

Have you ever applied for a credit card, car loan or mortgage? If so, then one of the first things the lender looked at was your FICO score. It has a major impact not only on getting approved in the first place, but also on the interest rate you will receive after approval.

On August 7, FICO announced some pretty major changes in how they will be calculating that ever-important number. Before you can understand how the changes will or won’t impact you, you need to have a firm grasp of the basics.

What is my FICO score?

Your FICO score, or credit score, is a number ranging from 300-850 that shows lenders how reliable you will be in repaying your debts. A bad score is anything below 560, not very good is 560-659, good is 660-724, very good is 725-759, and anything above 760 is classified as great. While it is best to be in the great range, you can sometimes qualify for the best available interest rates with 720 or above.

In order to calculate your credit score, FICO pulls information from your credit reports from the three major reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. When banks and other lending institutions consider your application, they look at several factors. The first is usually your FICO score, which will either get you in the door or get it slammed in your face, but after that they consider other aspects of your finances, such as income and the detailed history on the credit report itself.

What are the changes, and how will they affect me?

There will be four notable changes to how FICO evaluates your credit score once the announced new model is released. Some of them will be very good for some people, some of them will be bad for others, and some of them may prove to show negligible changes.

The first, and biggest, is that medical debts will no longer be considered when calculating your score. This is a huge relief. Many otherwise fiscally responsible people go into massive debt when a medical emergency happens. Others don’t even know they owe money on medical bills in the first place, as they thought their insurance was going to cover their costs. When they realize they owe money, the responsible consumers pay it back, but it still leaves a scar on their credit report and, therefore, their FICO score.

With this new change, your FICO score will not be impacted. In fact, if you have no other negatives on your credit report (which would mean you most likely have a halfway decent score), you can expect to see your FICO score increase by up to 25 points.

Changes will also be made in considering debts that you have paid off. Currently, after you’ve paid off a debt, it stays on your credit report for seven years. That will continue to be the case after FICO’s updates go into effect, but FICO will no longer look at those debts, even though they show up on your credit report. If you have consumer debts that you have paid off, and they’re the only thing holding you back, you may see your score improve, as well.

There will also be an update to consider the creditworthiness of people who do not have an extensive report, taking into consideration things beyond just paying your month-to-month bills on time. (A lot of times, the people you are paying those bills to don’t even report that anyways.) Depending on how this is done, it could be a boon for those who are unable to get credit not because they are irresponsible, but simply because they have never chosen to borrow money before.

The final update is not good news for those who hold consumer debt. If you owe money and it isn’t paid in full, you can expect to see your credit score take a hit.

Hold your horses – and your enthusiasm.

While FICO has announced that it will make these changes, the new model has not gone into effect. It will not be ready to release to lenders until late 2014 or early 2015. Even then, banks have to choose to adopt it. Thismodel will be FICO 9. FICO 8 was introduced in 2009, and some lending institutions still have not updated since FICO 7. Just because they are releasing a new model doesn’t mean that your lending institution will apply it to their evaluation process.

Another thing to remember is that while your FICO score gets you in the door, banks will look at your credit report. All of those things FICO ignores will still show up. If your medical debts are deemed too oppressive for you to possibly be able to pay for a mortgage on top of them, you may still be denied. And while FICO will ignore debt that has been paid off and closed, it will still stay on that pesky credit report for seven years for all of your potential lenders to see.

While these changes could be a great way to get your foot in the door with lenders, they’re not a holy grail to your credit problems. The same tried and true wisdom will still apply: Spend responsibly, make sure the information on your credit report is accurate and pay off any debts as quickly as possible.

Femme Frugality is a personal finance blogger and freelance writer. You can find more of her writing on her blog, where she shares both factual articles and esoteric ruminations on money.

The post What Do New FICO Changes Mean for Me? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Average credit card interest rates: Week of February 10, 2021

The average credit card interest rate is 16.12%

The national average credit card APR held steady this week after inching up two weeks in a row. This is the second consecutive week that the average APR for brand-new credit cards has registered 12 basis points above 16%, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report.

Meanwhile, this is the 46th consecutive week that the average new card APR has remained within rounding distance of 16%.

The average APR is still historically expensive

CreditCards.com has tracked the standard APRs of a representative sample of 100 online card offers every week since mid-2007. 

Currently, APRs on brand-new credit cards are down considerably compared to recent years. For example:

  • The average yearly APR in 2019 was 17.57%.
  • In 2018, it was 16.8%.
  • In 2020, it was 16.32%.

But historically, interest rates on brand new offers are still quite high. For example:

  • In 2017, for example, the average yearly APR stood at 15.89%.
  • In 2016, it was 15.18%.
  • And between 2011 and 2015, it remained stubbornly within rounding distance of 15% every year.

When CreditCards.com first began checking interest rates, by contrast, new card APRs were even lower – in part because lenders had more freedom then to quickly hike cardholders’ APRs once a brand-new card was opened.

For example, the average lender advertised an 11.54% APR in 2008, according to CreditCards.com data. In 2009, the average credit card APR started at 12.34%. But at the time, a cardholder who opened a card with such a low rate was at higher risk than they are today to watch their credit card APRs go up quickly.

The Credit CARD Act of 2009 sought to protect cardholders from surprise rate hikes by requiring lenders to give anyone with an open credit card account at least 45 days’ advance notice before hiking their APR. As a result, lenders appeared to become significantly more cautious about the starting rates they advertised. For example, in 2010, the average card APR climbed from 12.87% in January to 14.68% in December. Average rates then remained near 15% for several consecutive years.

Lenders clearly became more comfortable with revising new card APRs after 2016, though.  When the Federal Reserve revises its benchmark interest rate, most new card APRs change by the same amount.

Lenders also began independently revising card offers more often, particularly between 2017 and early 2020. But the economy soured last spring, prompting the Federal Reserve to slash federal interest rates to near zero. As a result, lenders have become much more reluctant to significantly revise offers.

Majority of lenders appear to be avoiding major changes

None of the lenders tracked by CreditCards.com shook up credit card terms this week. But these days, that’s nothing new. Most credit card issuers have become much slower than they were in recent years to dramatically alter credit card pricing. As a result, many of the most popular credit cards have appeared frozen in time for much of the past year.

Among the 100 cards checked weekly by CreditCards.com, for example, more than 90% of cards currently advertise the exact same APR that they advertised months ago. Meanwhile, a majority of cards included in the weekly rate report haven’t advertised a new credit card APR since last spring.

U.S. Bank has remained the one exception: it has made a number of dramatic rate changes in recent months and has been responsible for most of the rate changes CreditCards.com has recorded since November 2020.

See related: How do credit card APRs work?

CreditCards.com’s Weekly Rate Report

Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.12% 16.12% 16.03%
Low interest 12.90% 12.90% 12.83%
Cash back 15.94% 15.94% 16.09%
Balance transfer 13.93% 13.93% 13.93%
Business 14.22% 14.22% 13.91%
Student 16.12% 16.12% 16.12%
Airline 15.56% 15.56% 15.48%
Rewards 15.81% 15.81% 15.82%
Instant approval 18.47% 18.47% 18.65%
Bad credit 25.30% 25.30% 24.43%
Methodology: The national average credit card APR is comprised of 100 of the most popular credit cards in the country, including cards from dozens of leading U.S. issuers and representing every card category listed above. (Introductory, or teaser, rates are not included in the calculation.)
Source: CreditCards.com
Updated: February 10, 2021

Historic interest rates by card type

Some credit cards charge even higher rates, on average. The type of rate you get will depend in part on the category of credit card you own. For example, even the best travel credit cards often charge higher rates than basic, low interest credit cards.

CreditCards.com has been calculating average rates for a wide variety of credit card categories, including student cards, balance transfer cards, cash back cards and more, since 2007.

How to get a low credit card interest rate

Your odds of getting approved for a card’s lowest rate will increase the more you improve your credit score. Some factors that influence your credit card APR will be out of your control, such as the length of time you’ve been handling credit.

However, even if you’re new to credit or are rebuilding your score, there are steps you can take to ensure a lower APR. For example:

  1. Pay your bills on time. The single most important factor influencing your credit score – and your ability to win a lower rate – is your track record of making on-time payments. Lenders are more likely to trust you with a competitive APR – and other positive terms, such as a big credit limit – if you have a lengthy history of paying your bills on time.
  2. Keep your balances low. Lenders also want to see that you are responsible with your credit and don’t overcharge. As a result, credit scores take into account the amount of credit you’re using, compared to how much credit you’ve been given. This is known as your credit utilization ratio. Typically, the lower your ratio, the better. For example, personal finance experts often recommend that you keep your balances well below 30% of your total credit limit.
  3. Build a lengthy and diverse credit history. Lenders also like to see that you’ve been successfully using credit for a long time and have experience with different types of credit, including revolving credit and installment loans. As a result, credit scores, such as the FICO score and VantageScore, factor in the average length of your credit history and the types of loans you’ve handled (which is known as your credit mix). To keep your credit history as long as possible, continue to use your oldest credit card so your lender doesn’t close it.
  4. Call your lender. If you’ve successfully owned a credit card for a long time, you may be able to convince your lender to lower your interest rate – especially if you have excellent credit. Reach out to your lender and ask if they’d be willing to negotiate a lower APR.
  5. Monitor your credit report. Check your credit reports regularly to make sure you’re being accurately scored. The last thing you want is for a mistake or unauthorized account to drag down your credit score. You have the right to check your credit reports from each major credit bureau (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) once per year for free through AnnualCreditReport.com.

Source: creditcards.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