Disastrous myths about your credit score

Disastrous myths about your credit score

Contrary to popular belief, paying bills on time is an overrated part of your financial reputation.

People are obsessed with getting and keeping an excellent credit score. We hear these statements regularly on our financial helpline:

A caller who can’t pay their monthly bills because their debt payments are so high says, “I can’t go to credit counseling because I heard it will damage my credit score.”

A caller who is not saving in their 401(k) and missing out on the company match says, “I don’t want to pay off my credit cards. I am keeping a balance to help my credit score.”

This makes no financial sense. People aren’t going to seek help getting out of debt — lowering the interest rate and possibly the balance owed — because it will hurt their credit score? How is this helpful? If people don’t get their debt under control, they may never retire. We’ll have a nation of people working into their 80’s with no savings but they can all come together and brag about their credit scores.

Let’s examine some of the biggest credit myths that can lead to disaster:

Assuming if you pay your bills on time, you don’t have to do anything else. Paying your bills on time accounts for about 35% of your credit score but there is another 65% which includes amount owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%) and type of credit (10%). Consider all of the other factors.

Also remember that there may be errors on your credit report so if you don’t check it, you’ll never know and your score will be affected. According to Deborah McNaughton, author of The Get Out of Debt Kit, 80% of credit reports have errors (as cited by Bankrate.com). Many of the erroneous reports had missing information that may boost a score, such as missing a revolving account in good standing, or miscellaneous incorrect information such as an incorrect birthday.

Check your credit report. Credit reports are unique to Social Security numbers, so if you are married, you may want to stagger your requests with your spouse every six months. You can also request your actual score for a onetime fee (which is less than $15 through most credit bureaus). Most credit monitoring services will provide your score for free when you sign up for their service.

Assuming when you divorce, your accounts automatically divorce with you. They don’t. If you have a joint account and one of the parties on the account is late, you are both late. With some types of loans, such as a mortgage or a car loan, the lender may not accept a letter asking you to be removed from the account after a divorce even if that property is going to your ex-spouse. They will need to qualify for the loan on their own before you will be removed from the account.

Take this into consideration because if they don’t refinance, and then have late payments, you may find yourself with some credit issues. When possible, close all joint accounts and refinance any debt separately. If it is not possible, maintain some type of control, whether it is an escrow account or at least access to information to make sure the accounts are paid in a timely manner. Don’t assume. Also see the last point about closing accounts.

Avoiding consumer credit counseling because it will hurt your credit score. For someone with serious debt, working with a not-for-profit credit counseling agency to develop a debt reduction plan and get out of debt permanently should take priority over credit scores. Credit counselors will work with your creditors to try and reduce your monthly payments, or settle your debt altogether. Debt settlement doesn’t affect scores as badly as you would think. In fact, many people don’t realize that late payments affect scores more than a debt settlement. Here is an example of how a debt settlement can affect credit scores, and how that compares to late payments.

A late payment hurts your score more than a debt settlement if your score is in the 680 range; it only significantly pulls it down if you are in the 780 range. Let’s be honest here, people ready for credit counseling probably don’t have the highest scores anyways, and the bottom line is credit scores are fluid — they can be rebuilt. According to Credit.com, a debt write off can stay on your credit report from seven to ten years, but as the information ages, so does its negative impact.

Making late payments aren’t that big a deal. According to FICO, a 30-day late payment can affect your score by as much as 110 points. Late payments can have a huge impact on your credit score causing it to drop like a stone. This is one disaster that is relatively easy to avoid. Simply set up all of your accounts with an automated minimum payment schedule from your checking account. This way you’ll never miss a payment. You can always pay additional amounts through online banking. Set yourself up for success with this one because it can be an easy one to miss and makes a significant impact.

Closing accounts to clean up your credit. Closing an account may be a good idea if you only opened the account to get a discount on merchandise or have too many credit cards which is causing confusion, but it won’t clean up your credit or help your score. In fact, it can hurt your score when the account you close has a long credit history — especially a good one. Your credit history accounts for 15% of your score, so in making decisions which cards to keep and which ones to close, keep in mind how long you’ve had the account open and close the most recent ones first.

Are credit scores important? Yes, but they are not the “be all and end all.” Now that we’ve dispelled some of the biggest myths, consider what the “be all and end all” is for you. What are your biggest financial challenges and concerns? Our latest research shows that less than 18% of employees feel they are on track for retirement.

Are you part of the 82% that isn’t? Do you have a personal net worth statement and is it going in the right direction? The point is when you focus on the important financial issues, you have a chance to meet your financial goals. Clean up your credit if you have to, and do your best to keep a good credit score, but let’s not go overboard and lose sight of everything for just one number.

10 smart ideas for reducing credit card debt

10 smart ideas for reducing credit card debt

A $10 purchase can help you save more than $40 a month — and get you started on paring down what you owe.

If you find yourself falling deeper into credit card trouble, it’s time to take a hard look at what’s coming in, what’s going out and see where you can free up some cash quickly to start hacking away at your debt.

Some trims may seem small, but if you package several of them together, you can soon get started on a respectable payment plan. Here are some ideas for places to turn first.

1. Cell Phones

“For $9.88, you can buy a TracFone (prepaid cell phone) with pretty decent coverage and pay by the minute,” says Mike Sullivan, director of education at Take Charge America in Phoenix. “And if you’re careful, you can end up saving $40 to $50 a month off a typical $80 cell phone bill.” He also recommends canceling your land line unless you have medical issues that may require emergency calls.

2. Cable / Satellite

Most people can save money just by getting rid of the extra pay packages they have — such as premium movie channels and extra services. “If you’re really in trouble, cancel the whole package,” Sullivan says. Check out the library for free movies, DVDs and CDs to bridge the entertainment gap.

3. Homeowners Insurance and Car Insurance

By increasing the deductible of your policy from $500 to $1,000, you can see big decreases on your premium, says Michael Barry, vice president of media relations for Insurance Information Institute in New York. “People pay about $880 a year, so if I can knock $88 off, it’s a start.” Regarding auto insurance, take a look at your collision insurance if you have an older car. If you have even a fender-bender, sometimes the cost to repair the car would be more than it’s worth, so perhaps you could cancel the collision insurance altogether.

First, look up the value of the car at Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds.com or the National Automobile Dealers Association, then check the collision line on your auto insurance bill and see what it’s worth to you to keep that insurance. Also, if you don’t drive that car much, look for a discount. “If you drive from 7,000 to 7,500 miles a year, you can often qualify for low-mileage discounts,” Barry says.
4. Transportation

Americans are increasingly finding alternatives here. In fact, consumers spent 11 percent less last year in this category, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2009 Consumer Expenditures Survey released in October. If you have more than one car, this may be the time to look at downsizing to just one car and getting around with better planning, carpooling, bike riding, public transportation or car sharing. Car-sharing companies such as Zipcar operate in a growing number of cities and on many university campuses. You can rent a car by the hour when you have to have one without the expense of insuring and maintaining your own car.

5. Utilities

“People often overlook programmable thermostats,” says Edward Tonini, director of education of Alliance Credit Counseling in Charlotte, N.C. “You can spend $20 to get a programmable thermostat and if you set it right, it can save you $100 over the course of a year easily.”

6. Food

Households spent an average of just more than $300 a month on food eaten at home and about $215 per month on food outside the home in 2009, the BLS survey reported. “Maybe eating out isn’t necessary for you,” Tonini says. “Packing lunches and eating at home will lower your discretionary spending.”

7. Gym Membership

Are you really using it multiple times a week? Divide your monthly dues by the number of times you go in a month and get a realistic picture of what you’re spending on a one-hour workout. Park districts or community centers often have low-cost or free programs. Also check into exercise videos or a piece of home exercise equipment that you would use regularly. If you decide to keep the membership, check to see whether the facility offers discounts for coming at off-peak times.

8. Movies

A family of four can quickly rack up nearly $100 on one movie with popcorn, drinks and maybe even parking fees. “Instead of going to the movies, have a game night at home. It sounds kind of corny, but it will be more meaningful than sitting in the dark when you can’t talk to each other,” says Dave Gilbreath, a regional director with Apprisen Financial Advocates in Yakima, Wash.

9. Tax Relief

Wendy Burkholder, executive director of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Hawaii in Honolulu, says, “Many of the families we work with are struggling with credit card debt because of loss of income. One of the first things to do is re-evaluate your tax withholding on your paycheck (if your spouse or partner has lost a job). If you don’t make the change, you end up with a whopping refund. You don’t need the money a year from now, you need it now.” If you’re overpaying taxes, you’re also giving the government a free loan and are likely putting off paying for your own bills, which can lead to fees and penalties, she says.

10. Health Insurance for Dependents

“If you’re struggling with loss of income, you may no longer be able to afford $600 being deducted from a paycheck to cover your dependents,” Burkholder says. She suggests checking to see whether you now qualify for a state or federal coverage plan for dependents, such as the Children’s Health Insurance Plan, or coverage by health care providers that may offer reduced prices for basic health care for children.

Deciding what to cut first will be different for every consumer, but whatever the choice, it should be sustainable, rather than a one-time quick fix, Tonini says. Sometimes it’s cutting out the daily $4 coffee, but “they need to figure out what their ‘latte factor’ is.”

15-minute fixes to raise a credit score

15-minute fixes to raise a credit score

Setting up automatic bill payments can boost your number by as much as 50 points.

Improving your credit score can feel like a gargantuan task. But by spending just 15 minutes, you can give your credit score anywhere from a small bump to a major boost. Here are some tips from credit experts on quick — and sometimes easy — ways to raise your score.

1. Set up automatic bill payment or alerts.

“The one thing you need to do is pay bills on time — that has the biggest impact on your score,” says Carrie Coghill, director of consumer education for FreeScore.com. One way to do that is to set up automatic bill payment through your bank or credit union, at least for the typical minimum amounts of your bills, says Lita Epstein, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Improving Your Credit Score.” Or, if you’re not comfortable with automatic bill payment, Coghill recommends setting up regular email or text message alerts to remind you of bill due dates. On-time payments over a period of about six months can increase your score by as much as 50 points, says Epstein. “It shows you are getting responsible about your bills.”

2. Pay down revolving debt.

If your credit card debt is more than 35 percent of your credit limit, it’s probably dragging your score down, but paying balances down can provide a quick boost. Experts recommend setting up regular automatic payments to make a dent in your debt or making one big extra payment if you can sell something on Craigslist or eBay or if you get a windfall. “People sometimes get a sizeable tax refund. I recommend using that to pay off debt,” says Doug Borkowski, director of the nonprofit Iowa State University Financial Counseling Clinic. A good rule to follow is this: For every $1,000 of available credit, try to use less than $350, says Clifton O’Neal, a spokesman for TransUnion. “Say you have three cards, each with a $1,000 limit,” O’Neal says. “One has a $500 balance, one has a $350 balance and one has a $250 balance. Pay on all of them, but pay more on the first one to bring it down under 35 percent.”

3. Pay your credit card bill early.

If you use your card for everything from groceries to utilities to a pack of gum to get rewards — but pay in full each month — pay early. Because if you charge, say, $2,000 each month, but pay your bill after you get your statement, it looks as though you’re carrying a large balance when you’re not, Epstein says. “Check when the statement closing date is,” Epstein says. “Making the payment before the statement closing date — just five or six days early — can make a big difference over time. It will be reported to the credit bureaus as a $0 balance and will look like you’re holding less credit.”

4. Ask your credit card company to raise your limit.

If you carry a credit card balance but have been making payments on time and make enough money to support a higher credit limit, a quick phone call to your credit card company could raise your score. A higher credit limit will lower your credit utilization ratio (the amount of available credit you’re using), experts say. However, experts also say it’s important to be honest about whether that step would tempt you to rack up more debt. “It’s about knowing yourself, asking, ‘Am I going to be responsible using that credit card?'” Borkowski says. “Because what if your limit is $4,000 and it gets raised to $8,000 and all you end up with is more credit card debt? But, for those who can handle it, yes, call and try to get your limit raised so you’re at a one-third or less [credit utilization ratio].”

5. Go online to dispute an item on your credit report.

Some experts advise consumers to dispute a possible credit report error by registered mail, and to include evidence. But, let’s face it, many never get around to making copies, hunting down a stamp and heading to the post office. All three major credit bureaus offer the option of filing a dispute online — and it can be faster and easier, experts say. “The first thing to do is pull a copy of your credit report from all three bureaus. You can do it free once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com,” says O’Neal. “Look at each one and see if there’s anything you don’t recognize. If you have any questions about information on your reports, you can file a dispute online. You can track it online, too, so it’s a lot quicker.”

6. Just say no to too many inquiries.

When you’re buying those cool new sunglasses and the cashier asks if you’d like to get a 10 percent discount by signing up for a store credit card, just say no. “Whenever you take new credit, you get a ding on your credit score, so don’t apply for new credit cards all the time,” Epstein says. In fact, she recommends applying for new credit, at most, twice a year.

7. Get a late payment removed from your credit report.

In the “it-can’t-hurt-to-ask” category, it sometimes pays to call a creditor and ask to have a late payment removed from your credit report. “I always say, ‘just ask,'” says Borkowski, who recommends asking for the hardship department whenever you call a credit card company to make such a request. “A lot of times, general customer service might say they can’t help you, but the hardship department — or its equivalent — might,” Borkowski says. “They make a lot of money from the person who misses a payment every now and then but carries a big balance. They like to keep those customers.”

It is often repeated that, when it comes to credit scores, there are no quick fixes. However, if you follow these tips, you could see a big improvement in your credit score — with just a small investment of time.

How to build a credit score from scratch

How to build a credit score from scratch

These measures help young adults to prove they are accountable to the owners and lenders.

When it is time for a student to start building their credit profile? The answer is simple: when ready. You will know by how they budget their money, track expenses and manage their checking or savings and debit cards.

Building good credit is a function of managing your bills responsibly. No teenager or young adult should be in bulk with a credit card or given responsibility for a car loan until they have proven they can manage their cash flow. This means they must show that can deal with obligations without constantly ask the Bank of Dad for more money.

Your child may be ready to manage credit as a rookie, especially if you are willing to look over his shoulder. I prefer to send children to college with pre-paid housing, a checking account and debit card related that does not allow overdrafts. In this way, they have no large monthly bills and can get used to the convenience of plastic without much threat dinging their credit profile.

On the other hand, this approach does little to build good credit. Debit cards and checking accounts do not count for much in the context of the major credit bureaus. Therefore each student must take specific steps to start building a good credit profile. In the real world you want and need from a potential employer or the owner or the car dealer who sees your credit report to see that you are reliable.

Contrary to what many people believe, you do not start adult life with a higher credit score falls as you embezzlement debt. You start with a score around 600 (highest score is 850) and must build through a history of timely repayment of borrowed money.

My oldest daughter is entering her final year at university and for us it’s time to start working on their credit score. After an overview of Erik Larson, founder of NextAdvisor, a financial comparison site oriented, here’s how we approach it:

• Get a credit card. This is by far the quickest and most effective way to begin a credit profile. If I did not think my daughter was ready, I would find a prepaid card or warranty that the reports for the watchdogs of credit (it will say on the application, or just ask). Because she is ready, we’ll choose from credit cards are best suited for students.

• Use credit cards wisely. A credit card opens all sorts of ways to damage your score. Never miss a payment. Pay in full if you can. If you must carry a balance that will not hurt you unless your balance is relatively large. Never charge more than 30% of your credit limit and preferably keep it close to 10%. And do not apply for more than one card at a time or with any frequency.

• Get another form of credit. Having different types of debt helps your score. Thus, a car loan or personal loan or other installment credit can help. It can even help to have a second type, but different card, like a gas card or card store. In some cases, buy furniture or appliances can help conditions monthly. But you have to ask the finance company if they report to credit bureaus.

• Pay all bills on time. If you live off campus, to pay the cable bill or electricity bill or the monthly fee for a new office or on television is a must. It will not do much to build your score. But if you relax and get referred to a collection company is a major ding on your score.

• Do not close unused card account. It’s against-intuitive. Canceling a card can lower your score, because it leaves you with less credit overall, and instantly raises the percentage of the debt capacity you use. A long credit history is part of what makes for a high credit score. So keep those old accounts and ensure that they are in order.

Three steps to a great credit score

Three steps to a great credit score

1. Don’t close credit card accounts to improve your credit score.

You might have a good reason to shutter your account — you don’t want to pay an annual fee, you’re concerned about identity fraud, or you want to reduce the temptation to overspend — but don’t do it for the sole purpose of raising your credit score.

One factor in your credit score is your utilization, which is the ratio of balances owed compared to the credit limits on revolving accounts such as credit cards. Utilization is calculated for each credit card you have and across all of your cards. The lower your utilization, the better for your credit score. Closing a credit card account that has a zero balance excludes that credit limit from the overall utilization calculation, which can make your utilization increase and in turn, lower your score.

For the same reason, it’s also a bad idea to ask for lower credit limits on your credit cards if your goal is to improve your score. Doing so can only push your utilization higher.

Tip: If you must close a credit card account but want to keep your score high, pay down balances on other accounts to mitigate the effect.

2. Paying in full doesn’t hide a high credit card balance from your credit score.

If you’re consistently charging near the credit limit on your credit card but pay the balance in full when each bill arrives, you might be hurting your credit score. That’s because your score considers the account balance shown on your credit report. Your credit report will reflect the account balance at the time the issuer supplied it to the credit reporting agency, which will typically be the balance as of your last statement date.

Tip: If you pay in full each month but need to bump your score higher for an upcoming credit check, charge less on your credit cards.

3. Light use of credit cards is best for your credit score.

Maxing out your credit cards can obviously have a negative impact on your score. Using the majority of your credit limit is not good, either. Light use of your cards is best. Using 10 percent of your credit limit will be better than using 30 percent, which in turn is better than 50 percent. A small balance is actually slightly better than a zero balance (though it doesn’t matter to the score if you actually carry a balance).

Tip: If you need to raise your credit score, look at your monthly billing statements to see how your balances compare to your credit limits. Consider increasing your payments, or if you pay in full, using your credit cards less often.

How to read your credit report

How to read your credit report

The x-ray of your credit health can be dense, so just look for these six items.

You have one shot of your credit reports. And now? As you’ve probably heard about now, you are entitled to free copies of your credit reports. Federal law gives you the right to request your credit reports from three, one from each of the three major credit reporting agencies each year.

You can get them at a time or throughout the year. Personal finance gurus often recommend taking a report every four months that you regularly monitor your records. Anyway, checking your credit reports is a smart move considering that the information in your credit report determines your credit score.

But once you get the report, what do you do with it? How about giving the treatment of six minutes? Then you definitely want to read the full report in detail, a quick check on a handful of indicators can give you an instant assessment of how good – or bad – your credit is right now.

Here are six markers that can provide an X-ray of your credit health.

Late payments

Delinquencies are “enormous influence” on the credit score, said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America. In fact, they represent 35 percent of your FICO score.

If you see the ratings invoices were paid 30, 60, 90 or 120 end, “it is very damaging” to your credit, he said.

The other factor is important here: the timeline. How was the end of the payment, and how long you make this mistake?

Following payment, the more it hurts your credit, says Evan Hendricks, author of “Credit scores and credit reports. How the system actually works, that you can do”

But the more time that has elapsed since you made a late payment, the less it will affect your credit, he said.

Limit high ratios of debt to credit

Credit scores typically look at your debt-ratio limit credit or “use” in two ways: They compare the balance on a revolving account to your credit available from that lender. For example, if you have a credit card with a balance of $ 1,000 and a $ 5,000 credit limit, this ratio would be 20 percent.

Scoring formulas also look at your debt-credit limit ratio is a second way: the calculation of the total of all your debts on the accounts revolving lines of credit against your total of these accounts.

So if you have four credit cards each with a credit line of $ 5,000 ($ 20,000 in credit), and you have a balance of $ 1,000 on two of them and nothing on the other two ($ 2,000 debt), this ratio would be 10 percent.

“In an ideal world, you want to have (ratios) of less than 10 percent,” said Hendricks. “But certainly you want to keep them under 40 percent. There is no magic.”

But if you use a balance of $ 2,000 to $ 3,000 with a card that has a $ 5,000 limit, “which will really hurt your score,” said Brobeck. “And what is worse, running up balances on several cards.”

Collection activity

In most cases, if you have an account that went to collections or have been written off as bad debt, you know about this, said Rhonda Bailey, credit counselor and manager of the review of credit report for Credit Counseling Non-profit Arkansas. But not always.

“There are a few cases, as an old utility bill after you have moved, (where) the collection agency and not find (the consumer) has forgotten about it,” she said. “I see that sometimes.”

If you find an article that is not yours, you can dispute and have removed from your report.

If the item is yours, you have decisions to make, says Bailey. Can you afford?

It’s a good idea to check the law of your state of limitations, which is the period of time creditors have to sue you over a debt. Your state attorney general’s office can give you that time, she said.

Separate this time, the question may remain on your credit report for seven years. Plus it was on your report, unless it affects your score.

Judgments, liens, bankruptcies

Hopefully you know if you have had major financial difficulties that involved judgments, liens or bankruptcies. However, if someone else uses – and looting – your financial identity, a notation on your credit report could be your first clue.

Same if a collector less-than-scrupulous you marked with another debt or taken action against you without proper notification.

When you get this report, the digitization of “public records” section, explains Michelle Doshi, the editor of publications for the Consumers’ Association Credit Union National. “If there are liens or bankruptcies, it is a good way to check. ”

Active accounts you have closed – Or never opened

You close a store card after moving. Or you finally had time to ask your daughter to close the card account you have co-signed for her when she was in college.

The next time you pull your credit report, if enough time has passed, we must show that these accounts are closed, said Doshi.

Looking back on your credit report “is a way to verify that you have closed and their dates are correct,” she said. If this should be a closed account on your credit report open lists, it’s a good time to contact the issuer and find out why.

Information drive

Another thing to watch is the accounts you do not remember opening the first place. The absence of a mix-up, which could be an “indication of identity theft,” says Doshi.

Your credit report will tell you who else has looked at my credit report. Called “investigations” into the credit-speak, they are of two types.

Applications are hard when you actually asked for new funding – has completed an application, signed documents, etc. – and asked a lender to verify your story. When you get a hard inquiry, your credit can take a slight decline. Hard inquires could affect your score for one year, but you will see on your report for two years.

Soft inquiries are what the credit bureaus put on your report when someone looks at your credit, but you did not request new loans. If you pull your own credit report, which is a soft inquiry. You’ll also see if a potential lender pulls your credit for marketing purposes. Applications software do not affect your score.

Applications are disks “such a small part of your credit score,” said Kelly Rogers, Chief Development Officer of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service a non-profit Orange County, California, and assistant professor at the University Chapman. “But that’s a great way to see if someone has used your information.”

Raise your credit score at any age

Raise your credit score at any age

The best ways to build excellent credit are much different in your 20s than in your 50s.

Your age often affects how you balance your budget, saving for retirement and assess your investments. But it must also be a factor in managing your credit score.

The length of your credit history affects your FICO score highly, which lenders use to determine the ability of a borrower to repay a loan. While it is important to pay your bills on time and keep your balances low at all ages, there is more than most consumers can do to improve their scores so they can get better loan terms.

Here are nine steps to help you build excellent credit for your life.

Your 20s

1. Request a credit card

John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for SmartCredit.com says that consumers generally get into the game of credit between the ages of 18 and 22, if the restrictions of the CARD Act makes it increasingly difficult for persons under 21 to get their first credit cards. Regulations aside, it is best to get a credit card as soon as possible because the debit cards will not increase your credit score.

Most beginners get their first credit card by getting a parent or guardian to co-sign the application or the application of a secured card, which requires customers to deposit money in advance that correspond to their lines of credit and minimize risk of failure. Either strategy can be effective as long as you understand that the real trick is to use these cards responsibly.

2. Do not apply for every credit card

“Construction Loan is not the same as building a large balance,” Ken Lin, CEO of Credit Karma.com said. Do not make the mistake many beginners make credit by opening a store card credit to all businesses visited during Christmas, for example.

Tom Quinn, expert in consumer credit for Credit.com, said that consumers should only apply for credit when they need it. A large number of credit inquiries over a short time can cause your score to go down, “he said. It can also make it much easier to run a pile of bills you can not pay.

Instead of a wallet full of credit cards, Lin proposes to add a new credit card once a year to your arsenal until you have collected three or four cards you can always pay on time.

He also suggests finding cards that are not annual fees, as any card you open at this stage should remain open for at least five years. These cards determine the length of your credit history, which represents 15% of your total credit score, so choose a card with a low to no annual fee, it is easy for beginners to keep soaring accounts opened in the long term.

3. Start watching your credit score

Beginners should be extremely diligent credit during these formative years. FICO score attempts to predict whether you’ll pay a loan on time and the first indications that you may not be particularly damaging.

“Consumers in their 20s should be aware that their credit ratings are more volatile and will react differently to payment delays and excessive credit card debt that consumers with credit files of increasing,” said Ulzheimer.

Easy ways to boost your credit score

Easy ways to boost your credit score

These measures may make the difference between having a score of 550 and 780.

To improve your credit score seem intimidating? It need not be. Taking a few small steps now can make the difference between a 550 and 780. Follow these tips to see your score improves.

1. Request a copy of your credit report

You are entitled to a free credit report each year in each office of consumer credit nationally – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – through the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

“It is important to remember that consumers have more than one credit report. As there are three credit reporting agencies, different information on each of their credit reports can differ,” said Clifton M. O’Neal , senior director of corporate communications for TransUnion. Request a free credit report “can help consumers keep an eye on all their financial activities.”

O’Neal advised to check each report for fraudulent activity and to correct any errors. website of each credit bureau provides information on how to correct errors.

2. Take steps to improve your credit score

Credit bureaus and other companies follow the information contained in your credit file, and the tightening of a three digit number called a credit score. Having a low credit score will raise a red flag to lenders and could lead to the rejection of a loan application. Or even if the application is accepted, your interest rate could be much higher. In other words, if you want to buy a house or a car, improve your credit score is an essential first step.

“If you go to apply for credit at any point in the future – if a new credit card, mortgage, line of credit mortgage or a small business loan – your credit score depends very much on little or a lot you’ll have to pay for the credit… if you get it all, “says Russell Wild, certified financial advisor and co-author of” A Year of organized life financially. ”

You can improve your credit score by paying bills on time, keeping your debt to less than 35 percent of your available credit, paying down debt and to dispute errors on your credit report.

3. Read (and understand) the terms and conditions of your credit card contract

Nobody wants to read the fine print, but it contains all important information on payment terms, interest rates, annual fees and penalties. Your credit card agreement – also called “terms and conditions” card or contract – it has, if often takes the eye health and reading comprehension at the college level.

“Most people do not bother to read the terms and conditions, and that’s a mistake,” said David Jones, president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies (AICCCA). “You should not be surprised if your interest rate rises because you missed a payment. That’s all there in black and white.”

Most credit card agreements are difficult to understand, but that could change: Under the 2010 reform of Wall Street and Consumer Protection Act, a new Consumer Financial Protection Board shall have power to impose changes in contracts to make them easier to understand.

4. Read your monthly statements

According to Jones, credit card statements are easier to understand than ever. Credit Card Act of 2009, whose main provisions came into force in February 2010, required a new design and disclosure requirements to make statements more user friendly. Among the requirements, fees for late payments and what the money paid in fees and interest on different types of accounts must be provided. CreditCards.com has created an interactive look at the new credit card statements, using examples from all major card issuers.

If there is something that makes no sense to call your credit card company or a credit counseling agency approved by the AICCCA or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to ask questions.

5. Repay – or pay – the balance of your credit card

“As soon as the bills come in January and cardholders realize how long it will take them pay for their holiday spending, pay bills credit card becomes a priority,” said Jones.

One of the changes required by the Act was that the MAP card statements should show how long it will take to pay off a balance if you pay only the minimum.

When it comes to paying credit card balances, avoid making new charges focus on the repayment of the card with the interest rate as high and always pay more than the minimum payment.

“Even if you can pay $ 5 over the minimum balance is a good idea because it goes straight to the capital and help reduce your debt, even a little,” said Jones.

6. Use credit cards that match your spending habits

Choose the “right” card at the checkout can save you a bundle, according to Wild.

Consider the terms of payment, he said, “including the interest rate you will pay if you do not pay your debt at the end of the month.”

Cardholders who do not pay their balance at the end of the month should be prepared to sacrifice to get a rewards card that has a lower interest rate.

Wild also suggests being careful with cards stores, especially those promising zero interest. If you have a history of late payments, interest rates can skyrocket which is a costly mistake.

Annual fees can also accumulate. If you pay $ 50 per year on airline miles for multiple cards, but never cashed in a single air mile, these accounts may not be the best solution for your consumption habits.

7. Think twice before canceling cards

Your credit score is determined in part by the variety of accounts you have, and if you ate a lot of your available credit by carrying balances. In other words, the balances on several cards will affect your credit score. Wisely manage these balances and do not rush to close accounts.

“Any major change in your habits, credit cards, including cancellation, will raise a red flag and an impact on your credit score,” Jones said. “If you want to reduce the number of cards you carry to cancel a card and a few months later cancel another rather than cancel them both. ”

Having multiple lines of credit balances and gives you a low rate of credit at low rates of use, which is good for your credit score. Make sure you keep your balances low – overall and on each credit card you have. And use of each card from time to time if the credit card company not to cancel the account.

If you’re struggling with debt and have too much available credit can lead to the temptation to spend, you might be better to cancel credit cards. It is best to let your credit score take a hit to close the accounts of dealing with the consequences of the debt burden too much and not being able to repay.

Most embarrassing credit problems

Most embarrassing credit problems

You never want to hear your waiter say, “Sorry, your card was declined.”

For people with bad credit, hard times are inevitable. When they occur, you can dig a deep hole and crawl in, but there are better ways to respond. Here are the most common scenarios involving embarrassing credit and answers most worthy.

1. “I’m sorry sir, but your card was declined.”

When a boy says these terrifying words, you are bound to flush crimson dining companions as speculate on the state of your finances.

Squelch panic, “said John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education. Explain calmly that the tape may have been damaged, and make another card for the purchase. If she was denied because you are maxed out, however, and you have no plastic or other cash, excuse yourself and call the creditor to request an “opt-in for overlimit fees. “” This will allow operations overlimit to fill, “says Ulzheimer. You will be assessed a fee, but your reputation will be saved.

2. “Er, Jane, we need to discuss this issue before you pay.”

It’s awful to be sued for a debt, but it is horrible when your employer receives an order for garnishment of wages, a part of your salary should be given to your creditor.

Do not wait until the sheriff to serve hits the paper, said the trust expert Delores Pressley. Be proactive and request a meeting with your boss, saying: “I am terribly sorry that a personal question has extended to the workplace. I’ll find a solution as quickly as possible. “This straightforward approach may compensate for a negative opinion of your supervisor. Also, you can not be fired for garnishment (unless there was more than one in a period of 12 months), which may inspire some confidence.

3. “Rent to you with your bad credit? Ha!”

Ready to sign a lease? If your credit is terrible, you could be in the same humiliation that Matthew and Fiona Peters, Madison, Wisconsin, experienced.

As newlyweds, Peters thought they had found the perfect apartment. Yet in the rental office crowded, the agent announced loudly: “There is no way that we can rent with your credit. It is bad… very bad. “Every parent called and asked for help in vain.” After the second call, we sat there red-faced, wondering what we were supposed to do or say next, “said Matthew Peters.” It was emasculating!”

Today, Peters offers advice to others in similar situations, “Keep your cool and do not take it personally seen a high level for all residents not only protects the property owner’s investment, but people living there as well.. “Focus on your finer points.” You could say: “My credit is bad, but I’m busy and make it a point to always pay for my first home,” said Peters. You may need to sweeten the deal by offering a co-signer, doubling the deposit or to pay rent in advance.

4. “Great, once we see your credit file, we can complete your job application.”

credit checks pre-employment are the norm today – and you’ll want to hide if yours is full of big balances, late payments and accounts written off.

Sure, you can deny access to your reports, but it could encourage the hiring manager to build your resume. So stand tall and to disclose past problems at the front. Honesty can not increase your chances. And relax on shamefully low credit rating. “The credit bureaus and their professional organization (the consumption data Industry Association) have publicly stated countless times stating that they do not provide credit ratings and audit reports of the working credit” says Ulzheimer.

5. “Darling, I can not wait to start a life with you – buy a house, have children …”

Have terrible credit, but in the beginning of a long term relationship? Assuming it can be scary.

Like it or not, you must reveal the horrible truth. Then, commit to open communication and make amends, “said Joe Rubino, author of” Self-esteem book.” “Contact all debtors, make arrangements to clean the debts, start a savings plan, cut credit cards and take full responsibility for the management of future purchases responsibly.” Strengthen your skills and your faith life partner through financial counseling, therapy or life coaching.

6. “I need to talk with Mary about a bill pending.”

Whether calls or messages collection go to your workplace, roommate or relative, your private situation will become public.

First, the end of the phone calls. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits collectors third discuss your debt with anyone but you. And while they may contact you at work if you ask them to stop, they should. Tell them you know the law and that you will file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, if they persist. Then, “said Rubino, act with integrity and clean up your mess of money. “This done, he is afraid of anyone except your own. If you feel the need to explain calls to anyone, just say you made financial arrangements to settle debts and the case is supported “.

7. “OK, Phil, go ahead and charge those costs and we will reimburse you.”

A business trip is imminent and you are supposed to book a hotel room, flight or rental car. Uh oh, you have no credit.

Do not worry, you’re not the only one not charging fees. About 29 percent of Americans live without credit. Suffice it to say that you only use cash, and ask to be paid with corporate funds or corporate card. Few employers balk at such a reasonable request.

Is it easy to deal with these credit problems mortifying gracefully? Of course not. But keep in mind that even a show of assurance from the air – and feel – better than avoidance.

Six ways to a better credit score

Six ways to a better credit score

Paying off certain types of debt can lift your score much more than others.

Millions of consumers have fallen out of favor with the credit scoring gods. Some lost their jobs or were just overwhelmed by mounting debt. Others got caught up in the real estate bubble or had major medical bills. Whatever the reason, the rising number of foreclosures, short sales, late credit card payments and the ultimate credit sin — bankruptcies — have left black marks on credit reports most everywhere. So what can these people do to repair their credit?

Assess Your Situation

Before you even start to think about rehabilitating your credit, make sure that you can pay your bills on time and not do any more harm. If keeping up with your credit card bills is still an issue, then call the issuer, explain your situation and try to negotiate payments you can afford. Ask the issuer how that will be reported to the major three credit bureaus: Not paid as agreed, which can hurt your score? Or will the new terms say that you are now paying as agreed?

“You have to get in writing that this is what they agreed to do,” said Mechel Glass, director of education at CredAbility, a nonprofit consumer credit counseling agency. Ditto for other providers, like utility companies.

Then, assess all the damage by getting a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus through annualcreditreport.com. Each of the major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — generate their own FICO scores based on the data they collect. Two versions of your FICO score are also available for $19.95 each.

How far your credit score has fallen will depend on where it started, as well as the frequency and severity of your credit mistakes. If you had almost perfect credit, but because of the loss of a job your credit card bills ended up at a collection agency, you can expect to lose anywhere from 80 to 150 points from your FICO score. A short sale or foreclosure? Both, Mr. Ulzheimer said, “would turn a FICO 790 into a FICO 590 overnight.”
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