Mint Money Audit: Managing Money When You Make Enough

Anna’s email requesting help with her finances began with a unique confession.

“Farnoosh, my money problem garners little sympathy,” the 32-year-old wrote. “My issue is that I make too much of it.”

Now, THIS is interesting, I thought. I immediately followed up with many questions.

Here’s what I learned through our conversation:

The Denver-based Mint user earns $220,000 per year as an engineer. Anna’s also benefited from years of big bonuses and her net worth, not including her home equity, is close to a million dollars.

After paying taxes and health benefits and maxing out her 401(k), Anna takes home between $8,000 and $10,000 each month. Her expenses mainly consist of a $1,200 mortgage payment, car insurance, gas, food and utilities, amounting to maybe a few thousand dollars per month.

The rest either goes into savings where she stashes about $5,000 to $10,000 for unexpected expenses or into a brokerage account where she has roughly $800,000 invested. A wealth management firm manages that portfolio and charges, she says, an annual 1% fee.

Anna has no consumer debt, besides her mortgage, which amounts to about $338,000. It’s a 30-year fixed rate loan with a 2.85% interest rate. The home has appreciated in recent years with about $100,000 in equity (including Anna’s initial 20% down payment).

So, what is the problem, exactly?

“My big worry is that I don’t have the habits to manage money well,” Anna told me. Her sizeable bank balance has her feeling financially free, although she worries about getting carried away with spending sometimes.

“When I see money in my bank account I rationalize that ‘yea, that vacation is doable. I don’t hold back on the things that may seem frivolous,’” she says. But It seems she wants more financial grounding and to be able to evaluate expenditures and price tags more critically.

Anna’s situation may be unique, but I think relatable in the sense that we all would like to feel more thoughtful with how we spend, save and invest. And while some may do well with earning money, it should not be assumed that they can also manage that money well.

I applaud Anna for wanting to be sure that, even with an impressive net worth, she is actually making wise financial decisions.

Here’s my advice.

Take a Deep Breath

No need to panic when spending on things and experiences that you enjoy. From what I can tell Anna’s prioritizing the serious financial stuff first like contributing the max to her 401(k) and saving all of her annual bonuses in a brokerage account. She has no credit card debt and pays all her bills on time. That’s terrific.

Sometimes we just want to hear that we’re on the right track with our money and I have a very simple way to measure this:

If you manage each paycheck by saving, investing and paying all your bills first, then by all means, you’re entitled to have fun with whatever is left without any fear or regret. Am I right?

If you’ve done the good work of taking care of your future with your money, then don’t hesitate treating yourself and others with the remaining funds today. Splurge away and enjoy your hard-earned money. And remember to enjoy the moment.

Ditch Your Money Managers

I do think Anna could find a better home for her investments.

Paying one percent of her managed assets to this firm may not seem that high of an annual fee. But when you think about Anna’s balance of $800,000, that’s $8,000 this year. What about next year and the decades after that as she contributes more to the account? That fee, compounded over the next 30 years, will amount to – conservatively – over one million dollars. Ouch.

That doesn’t even factor in the expense ratios for each mutual fund that’s in her portfolio.

If all Anna seeks is investment assistance, she may be better suited stationing her money with an automated wealth platform or robo-advisor where her money is largely invested in low-fee index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETF) and the portfolio management fee is typically 0.50% or less.

Of course, breaking up with your financial advisor is not always so simple. It’s especially hard for Anna, as she equated her money managers to “father figures.”

If I were Anna, I would just explain to my advisors over email something like, “I want be more conservative with my money and that includes being extra mindful of the various fees that I’m paying. To that end, I’ve decided to manage my money more independently. I’m sure you can understand. I appreciate your help over the years. Please let me know next steps.”

Planners know the drill and are used to having clients end relationships.  Stay strong. Nobody can really argue with the fact that saving money is a good thing!

Establish Short and Long Term Goals

Anna wants to spend and save with more conviction. I think having some concrete, tangible goals can help.

For example, she shared that she’d like to get married, have a family and own two homes – one near her office downtown and another in the mountains as a getaway.

So, the next step is to understand what these goals cost. What are, say, the going prices on a vacation home in her state? How much might she want to stash in a separate account for the future down payment on this property? Knowing the underlying costs of her goals can better direct how much to spend elsewhere.

Next time she’s planning a vacation, she may be more inclined to price compare or hunt down better deals, as opposed to just judge whether the trip is financially “doable” by the amount of money in her bank account. Now she’ll have the image of that second home and its costs and will make a more informed choice.

Contribute to a Cause

Last but not least, when you feel you make more than enough, like Anna does, this is a great opportunity to be extra charitable. If she’s seeking a way to give her money more meaning and feel purposeful in her financial life, this is a truly wonderful way to go about it. Discover a cause that you’re passionate about and make an impact as a volunteer and donor.

Have a question for Farnoosh? You can submit your questions via Twitter @Farnoosh, Facebook or email at farnoosh@farnoosh.tv (please note “Mint Blog” in the subject line).

Farnoosh Torabi is America’s leading personal finance authority hooked on helping Americans live their richest, happiest lives. From her early days reporting for Money Magazine to now hosting a primetime series on CNBC and writing monthly for O, The Oprah Magazine, she’s become our favorite go-to money expert and friend.

The post Mint Money Audit: Managing Money When You Make Enough appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

What Are the Best Car Loans When You Have Bad Credit?

If you have bad credit and need a car loan, there are some challenges when compared to obtaining a standard car loan. However, pick your head up because there are a handful of great lenders that specifically tailor their programs to people with bad credit. We researched the landscape of lenders that can help you get a car loan even if you have a below-average credit score.

Based on our study, OneMain Financial and LightStream are two of the top lenders offering bad credit card loans. This is due to factors including loan options, requirements to qualify, and interest rates offered. Of course, we offer in-depth reviews of all the top lenders who offer bad credit car loans further down in this piece.

Apply now with our top pick: OneMain Financial

In this guide we also help you understand the factors that go into selecting the right auto lender, and how to get the best rate you can.

Most Important Factors for Bad Credit Car Loans

If you’re in the market for a bad credit car loan, there are a plethora of factors to consider and compare. Here are the main loan details we looked at in our study, and the ones you should prioritize as you select the best car loan for your needs.

  • Check your credit score. And understand what is in your credit report.
  • FICO scores under 579 is considered ‘poor’. But you may need a bad credit loan with a score as high as 669.
  • Interest rates and fees matter. These can make a huge difference in how much you pay for an auto loan each month.
  • Compare loan terms. Consider your repayment timeline and compare lenders with this in mind.
  • Getting prequalified online can help. Some lenders, including ones that made our ranking, let you get prequalified for a loan online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.
  • Watch out for loan restrictions. Some lenders impose restrictions on what car you can purchase. Keep this in mind to avoid unpleasant surprises later.

The Best Bad Credit Car Loans of 2021

The best bad credit car loans make it easy for consumers to qualify for the financing they need. The following lenders made our list due to their superior loan offerings, excellent customer service, and reputation in this industry.

Car Loan Company Best For… Get Started
onemain financial bad credit car loan Best for Flexibility Apply Now
bad credit car loan upgrade Best Personal Loan Option Apply Now
autocreditexpress logo Best Loan for Bad Credit and No Credit Apply Now
myautoloan bad credit car loan logo Best Loan Comparison Site Apply Now
capitalone logo Best Big Bank Loan for Bad Credit Apply Now
lightstream logo Best for Fast Funding Apply Now

Why Some Lenders Didn’t Make the Cut

While the lenders we are profiling are the best of the best, there are plenty of bad credit car loans that didn’t quite make the cut. We didn’t include any lenders that only offer auto loan refinancing, for example, since we know many people need a car loan in order to purchase a new or used car or truck. We also stayed away from bad credit car loans that charge outrageous fees for consumers with the lowest credit scores.

Bad Credit Auto Loan Reviews

We listed the top companies we selected in our study above, but we also aim to provide readers with more insights and details on each. The reviews below highlight the highlights of each lender that made our list, plus our take on who they might be best for.

OneMain Financial: Best for Flexibility

OneMain Financial offers personal loans and auto loans with interest rates that range from 18.00% to 35.99%. You can repay your auto loan in 24, 36, 48, or 60 months, and you can use this lender to borrow up to $20,000 for a new or used car. You can apply for your auto loan online and from the comfort of your own home, and it’s possible to get approved within a matter of minutes.

While OneMain Financial doesn’t list a minimum credit score requirement, it’s believed they will approve consumers with scores as low as 600. You should also note that auto loans from OneMain Financial come with an origination fee of up to 5% of your loan amount.

Sign Up With OneMain Financial Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: OneMain Financial offers a lot of flexibility in terms of your loan terms, including the option to repay your auto loan over five years. OneMain Financial also has pretty decent reviews from users for a bad credit lender, and they have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: OneMain Financial charges some pretty high rates for its bad credit loans, and don’t forget that you may need to pay an origination fee that is up to 5% of your loan amount. Their loans are also capped at $20,000, which means this lender won’t work for everyone.

Who It’s Best For: This lender is best for consumers with really poor credit who need auto financing but can’t get approved for a better loan.

Upgrade: Best Personal Loan Option

Upgrade is an online lender that offers personal loans with fixed interest rates, fixed monthly payments, and a fixed repayment timeline. You can borrow up to $50,000 in an unsecured loan, which means you won’t actually use the car you purchase as collateral for the loan.

You can repay the money you borrow over 36 to 60 months, which makes it possible for you to tweak your loan offer to secure a monthly payment you can afford. Upgrade has a minimum credit score requirement of 620 to qualify, although they’ll consider additional factors such as your income and employment history.

Sign Up With Upgrade Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: Upgrade lets you “check your rate” online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. This makes it easy to shop around and compare this loan offer to others without having to fill out a full loan application. Also note that Upgrade has an A+ rating with the BBB.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: Upgrade charges APRs as high as 35.89% for consumers with the worst credit, and an origination fee of up to 6% of your loan amount might also apply.

Who It’s Best For: Upgrade is best for consumers with decent credit who need to borrow a larger loan amount. This loan is also best for anyone who wants an auto loan that isn’t secured by their vehicle.

AutoCreditExpress.com: Best Loan for Bad Credit and No Credit

AutoCreditExpress.com is an online platform that lets consumers with bad credit and even no credit get the financing they need. Once you fill out some basic loan information, you’ll be connected with a lender who can offer you financing as well as a dealership in your area. From there, you’ll head to the local dealership and pull the pieces of your auto loan together, including the purchase price of the car you want.

Sign Up With Autocreditexpress.com Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: AutoCreditExpress.com has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. This platform also makes it possible for consumers with no credit at all to finance a car, which is a welcome relief for people who are building credit for the first time.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: This website is a loan platform but they don’t offer loans directly to consumers. This means you won’t have any idea on rates and terms until you fill out an application and get connected with a lender.

Who It’s Best For: This loan is best for consumers with no credit or minimal credit history who cannot get approved for a loan elsewhere.

MyAutoLoan.com: Best Loan Comparison Site

MyAutoLoan.com is a loan comparison site that makes it easy to compare up to four auto loan offers in a matter of minutes. You can use this website to apply for a new auto loan, but you can also utilize it to consider refinancing offers for an auto loan you already have. You can also use funds from this platform to purchase a car from a dealer or from a private seller.

Sign Up With MyAutoLoan.com Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: Comparing auto loans in terms of their terms, rates, and fees is the best way to save money and wind up with the best deal. Since MyAutoLoan.com is a loan comparison site, they make it easy to shop around and compare competing offers.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: Loan comparison sites connect you with other lenders who have their own loan terms and minimum requirements for approval. Make sure you know and understand all the details of loans you’re considering before you sign on the dotted line.

Who It’s Best For: MyAutoLoan.com is best for consumers who want to do all their auto loan shopping with a single website.

Capital One: Best Big Bank Loan for Bad Credit

Capital One offers online auto loan financing in conjunction with a program called Auto Navigator®. This program lets you get prequalified for an auto loan online, then work with a participating dealer to coordinate a loan for the car you want. Capital One also lets you search available vehicles at participating dealerships before you apply for financing, making it easy to figure out how much you might need to borrow ahead of time.

Sign Up With Capital One Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: Capital One offers the huge benefit of letting you get prequalified online without a hard inquiry to your credit report. Capital One is also a reputable bank with a long history, which should give borrowers some comfort. They have an A+ rating with the BBB and plenty of decent reviews from consumers.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: You should be aware that Capital One auto loans only work at participating dealers, so you may be limited in terms of available cars to choose from.

Who It’s Best For: Capital One auto loans are best for consumers who find a car they want to buy at one of the participating lenders that works with this program.

LightStream: Best for Fast Funding

LightStream offers online loans for a variety of purposes, including auto financing. Their auto loans for consumers with excellent credit start at just 3.99% with autopay, and even their loans for consumers with lower credit scores only run as high as 16.79% with autopay.

You can apply for your LightStream loan online and get approved in a matter of minutes. This lender can also send your funds as soon as the same business day you apply.

A minimum credit score of 660 is required for loan approval, although other factors like your work history and income are considered.

Sign Up With LightStream Today

Why This Lender Made Our List: LightStream offers auto loans with exceptional terms, and that’s even true for consumers with less than perfect credit. You can also get your loan funded as soon as the same business day you apply, which is crucial if you need auto financing so you can get back on the road.

Potential Downsides to Be Aware Of: With a minimum credit score requirement of 660, these loans won’t work for consumers with the lowest credit scores.

Who It’s Best For: LightStream is best for people with decent credit who need to get auto loan financing as quickly as possible.

What You Need To Know When Applying For A Car Loan With Bad Credit

Interest rates and fees matter.

If you think your interest rate and loan fees won’t make a big difference in your monthly payment, think again. The reality is that rates and fees can make a huge difference in how much you pay for an auto loan each month. Consider this: A $10,000 loan with an APR of 35.89% will require you to pay $361 per month for five years. The same loan amount at 21.99% APR will only set you back $276 per month. At 9.99%, you would pay only $212 per month for five years. The bottom line: Make sure to compare auto loans for bad credit so you wind up with the lowest possible APR you can qualify for.

Take steps to improve your credit score before you apply.

It’s not always possible to wait to apply for a car loan, but you may be able to secure a lower interest rate and better loan terms if you can improve your credit score before you borrow money. The most important steps you can take to improve your score include paying all your bills early or on time, as well as paying down debt in order to decrease your credit utilization. You should also refrain from opening or closing too many credit card accounts in order to avoid new inquiries on your credit report and maintain the longest average length of your credit history possible.

Compare loan terms.

Some lenders let you borrow money for up to 84 months, while others let you repay your loan over 36 or 60 months at most. If you need to repay your loan over a longer timeline in order to secure an affordable monthly payment, make sure to compare lenders based on this factor. If you’re having trouble figuring out how much can you can afford, gauging affordability based on the monthly payments you can handle can also help in that effort.

Getting prequalified online can help.

Some lenders, including ones that made our ranking, let you get prequalified for a loan online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. This makes it considerably easier to compare rates and shop around without formally applying for an auto loan. Getting prequalified with more than one lender can also help you determine which one might offer the lowest rate without having to fill out a full loan application.

Watch out for loan restrictions.

As you compare the lenders on this list, keep in mind that not all lenders extend loans for any car you want. Some only let you finance cars with participating lenders in their network, which can drastically limit your options and make it impossible to purchase a car from a private seller. If you hope to purchase a car from someone you know or a website like craigslist.org, you may want to consider reaching out to your personal bank or a credit union you have a relationship with.

Bad credit car loans don’t have to be forever.

Finally, you should know that a car loan for bad credit doesn’t have to last forever. You may need to borrow money for a car right now regardless of the interest rate and terms you can qualify for, but it may be possible to refinance your loan into a better loan product later on. This is especially true if you focus on improving your credit score right away, and if you use your auto loan as an opportunity to prove your creditworthiness.

How to Get the Best Rate

1. Check your credit score.

Your credit score is one of the most important defining factors that dictate loan costs. Before you apply for an auto loan, it can help you check your credit score to see where you stand. Your score may not be as bad as you realize, but it could also be worse than you ever imagined. Either way, it helps to know this important information before you start shopping for an auto loan.

2. Improve your credit over time.

If your credit score needs work, you’ll want to take steps to start improving it right away. The most important steps you can take to boost your credit score include paying all your bills early or on time and paying down debt to decrease your credit utilization. Also, make sure you’re not opening or closing too many credit accounts within a short amount of time.

3. Check your credit reports.

Use the website AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free copy of your credit reports from all three credit bureaus. Once you have this information, check over your credit reports for errors. If you find false information that might be hurting your score, take the steps to have the incorrect information removed.

4. Compare loan offers from at least three lenders.

A crucial step to get the best rate involves shopping around and comparing loan offers from at least three different lenders. This is important since lenders with different criteria might offer a lower APR or better terms than others.

5. Be flexible with repayment terms.

Also consider a few different loan terms provided you can afford the monthly payment with each. Some auto lenders offer better rates for shorter terms, which can help you save money if you can afford to repay your loan over 24 or 36 months instead of 60+.

How We Chose the Best Auto Loans

The lenders on our list weren’t plucked out of thin air. In fact, the team behind this guide spent hours comparing auto lenders based on a wide range of criteria. Here’s everything we considered when comparing the best bad credit car loans of 2021:

Interest Rates and Loan Terms: Our team looked for loans that offer reasonable rates and terms for consumers with poor credit. While higher APRs are typically charged to consumers with a low credit score, we only considered lenders that offer sensible rates that don’t seem out of line for the auto loan market.

Ratings and Reviews: We gave preference to lenders who have decent reviews online, either through Consumer Affairs, Trustpilot, or another third party website. We also gave higher marks to lenders who have a positive rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Online Availability: Lenders who offer full loan details online were definitely given top priority in our ranking, and lenders who let you get prequalified online without a hard inquiry on your credit report were given the most points in this category. But since not everyone wants to apply for a loan online, we also included some lenders that let you apply over the phone.

Approval Requirements: Finally, we looked for lenders that extend credit to consumers with low credit scores in the first place. Not all lenders offer specific information on approval requirements, but we did our best to sort out lenders that only accept borrowers with good or excellent credit.

Summary: Best Bad Credit Card Loans of 2021

  • Best for Flexibility: OneMain Financial
  • Best Personal Loan Option: Upgrade
  • Best Loan for Bad Credit and No credit: AutoCreditExpress.com
  • Best Loan Comparison Site: MyAutoLoan.com
  • Best Big Bank Loan for Bad Credit: CapitalOne
  • Best for Fast Funding: LightStream

The post What Are the Best Car Loans When You Have Bad Credit? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

This is the Best App to Play Solitaire for Real Money

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Chances are, you’ve played your fair share of Solitaire. And why wouldn’t you? It’s a great time-killer, it’s fun and it’s a nice little mental challenge. The only thing that could make it better? Winning money for it.

The Solitaire Cube app lets you do just that. This free app lets you play the classic card game you already know and love, plus it matches you with players in your skill level, so you can go head-to-head in tournaments where you can win real money. Plus, the games are quick — just two to five minutes each, and you can play them anywhere.

How to Win Real Money Just for Playing Solitaire on Your Phone

You might be thinking this sounds too good to be true. But here’s the thing: It’s really not. One Solitaire Cube player, Amanda, even won about $6,000 and was able to use her winnings to recarpet her house.

“When I actually started winning money and earning prizes, I was blown away,” she says.

Interested? Here’s how it works: Download the free Solitaire Cube app and create an account. Then you can play some free practice matches to get the hang of things. If you don’t already know how to play, it’s easy to learn. Then, when you’re ready, Solitaire Cube will match you with players at your same skill level. Beginners play beginners; experts play other experts. Yep, you won’t get outplayed by some Solitaire grandmaster — you’ll both have the same deck, so winning is all about skill.

The app itself is free to download, but if you want to play for money, you’ll need to deposit some money first. You can deposit as little as $2 to start, using PayPal, credit card or Apple Pay. It’s super easy. Then you can play head-to-head, in large pools and live tournaments — some of these tournaments have paid out prizes as big as $350,000. When it’s time to cash out, there’s no waiting period, like with some other apps. You can get your money almost instantly.

Solitaire Cube has an App Store rating of 4.6 out of 5 from more than 70,000 users’ rankings.

As for Skillz, the platform that hosts the game, it operates hundreds of games and has paid out more than $2 billion in prizes so far. The company has invested years into its player-matching technology, ensuring you only compete with players of the same skill level.

Win or lose, you always receive “ticketz” that you can redeem in Skillz’ Ticketz store for cash or prizes, like Amazon gift cards, a 65-inch TV — even a BMW or a Porsche. The higher stakes you play for, the more ticketz you receive.

For Solitaire players, here’s the most important part: The game is well designed, a classic Solitaire experience. To get started, just download the free app and start playing your first game immediately.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He loves him some Solitaire.

Unfortunately, you can’t play for money in the following states: Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, South Carolina, South Dakota or Tennessee. However, in those states, you can still play for fun with the game’s virtual currency.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Freezing Your Credit

In the age of paperless transactions, identify theft is something that virtually all of us are susceptible to. If your identity is stolen, the consequences can be severe, and in some cases, can take years to recover from. One way to be proactive against fraud and defend yourself from identity theft, is to freeze your credit report with each of the three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. 

Placing a credit freeze on your credit report will stop identity thieves from being able to open new accounts, lines of credit, or make any large purchases in your name, regardless of whether or not they have your Social Security number or any other sensitive information. 

What a credit freeze means

A credit freeze is a process that shuts off access to your credit reports at your request. Without your verified consent, your delicate information cannot be acquired. This means that if someone were to attempt to apply for credit in your name, your report would come up as “frozen,” and therefore the creditor would not be able to see the information needed for the application to be approved.

You can unfreeze your credit at any time by using a PIN or a password. 

Reasons to freeze your credit

It might be a good idea to freeze your credit if you’re experiencing any of the following situations:

  • Your data has been compromised in a data breach: It happens. If you’ve been a victim of a data breach and personal information related to your identity has been leaked or made vulnerable to cyber criminals, a credit freeze can offer you some extra protection. 
  • You have reason to think you’ve been a victim of identity theft: Perhaps you’ve checked your credit recently and noticed open accounts that you don’t recognize. Maybe you’ve been getting phone calls from collections agencies requesting payments from accounts you know you didn’t open. While a credit freeze won’t be able to stop them from using accounts a thief has already opened, it can stop them from opening any more. 
  • You want to protect your child from identity theft: According to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, parents and legally guardians of children 16 years old and younger have the right to open a credit account for their child with the sole purpose of putting a freeze on it to protect them from identity theft. 

How to freeze your credit 

The process of freezing your credit is simple but does require a few steps. You will need to get in touch with each of the three major credit bureaus one by one and request a credit freeze:

  • Experian: Contact by phone at 800-349-9960 or go to their website.
  • Equifax: Contact by phone at 888-397-3742 or go to their website.
  • TransUnion: Contact by phone at 888-909-8872 or go to their website.  

The credit bureaus will ask you for your Social Security number, your date of birth and other information to verify your identity.

Once you freeze your credit, your file will be unattainable even if a thief has sensitive information such as your social security number or date of birth. If you need to use your credit file, you can unfreeze your credit report at any time. 

How to unfreeze your credit

Once you’ve frozen your credit file, it will be remain blocked until you decide that you would like to unfreeze it. You will need to unfreeze your credit report in order to open a new line of credit or make a major purchase. 

Unfreezing your credit file is simple. All you will need to do is go online to each credit bureau website and use the personal identification number (PIN) that you used to place the freeze on the account. If you don’t want to complete this task online, you can also unfreeze your credit file over the phone or through postal mail. 

When the unfreezing process is done online or by phone, it is completed within minutes of submitting the request. However, if you send your request via mail, it will take much longer. 

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to unfreeze your credit through all three of the major credit bureaus if you don’t want to. For instance, let’s say you plan to apply for credit somewhere. You can ask the creditor which credit bureau it will go through to pull up your report, and only unfreeze that one credit bureau. 

You may also have the option to unfreeze for a specific amount of time. Once the time is up, your credit file will automatically freeze again. 

Credit freeze pros and cons

There are a few reasons why you might want to freeze your credit in this day and age, but just like with anything else, there are pros and cons to credit freezing. Here is a general breakdown of the benefits and downfalls of putting a freeze on your credit report:

Pros:

  • It prevents thieves from opening new lines of credit: With a credit freeze placed on your account, no one will be able to open a new line of credit or any other type of account requiring a credit check using your personal data. Anyone trying to commit fraud will be stopped in their tracks as soon as lenders notice that the report is frozen. 
  • It won’t affect your credit score: Freezing your credit report will not damage your credit score. Additionally, if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, freezing your credit report could actually protect your credit score from being damaged due to fraud. 
  • It’s free: It used to be the case that some credit freezes would cost a fee, but that is no longer the way it works. 

Cons

  • It requires some effort: Putting a credit freeze on your credit report takes some effort. You will need to get in touch with all three credit bureaus. 
  • You will need to remember your PINs: A PIN is required to lift or freeze your credit report. If you lose it, you will need to jump through extra hoops to create a new one.

It can’t stop thieves from accessing your existing accounts: Credit freezes can only stop fraudsters from opening new accounts using your information. If you’ve already been a victim of identity theft, a credit freeze can’t block thieves from committing fraud with your current accounts. This means that thieves can still make a purchase using a credit card they stole from you.

Freezing Your Credit is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

What is a Foreign Transaction Fee and How Can You Avoid It?

Foreign transaction fees are irritating little charges that every traveler has faced, and most credit card users have questioned. They are the bane of a frequent flyer’s life and if not managed carefully, could result in some serious charges. But what are these charges, why do they exist, what’s the average fee, and how can you avoid them?

What is a Foreign Transaction Fee?

A foreign transaction fee is a surcharge levied every time you make a payment in a foreign currency or transfer money through a foreign bank. These fees are charged by credit card networks and issuers, often totaling around 3%.

For example, imagine that you’re on holiday in the United Kingdom, where all transactions occur in Pound Sterling. You go out for a meal and use your credit card to pay a bill of £150. Your credit card issuer first converts this sum into US Dollars and then charges a foreign transaction fee, after which the network (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) will do the same.

If we assume that £150 equates to exactly $200, this will show on your credit card statement first followed by a separate foreign transaction fee of $6.

When Will You Pay Foreign Transaction Fees?

If you’re moving money from a US bank account to an international account in a different currency, there’s a good chance you will be hit with foreign transaction fees and may also be charged additional transfer fees. More commonly, these fees are charged every time you make a payment in a foreign currency.

Many years ago, foreign transaction fees were limited to purchases made in other currencies, but they are now charged for online purchases as well. If the site you’re using is based in another country, there’s a good chance you’ll face these charges.

It isn’t always easy to know in advance whether these fees will be charged or not. Many foreign based sites use software that automatically detects your location and changes the currency as soon as you visit. To you, it seems like everything is listed in dollars, but you may actually be paying in a foreign currency.

Other Issues that American Travelers Face 

Foreign transaction fees aren’t the only issue you will encounter when trying to use American reward credit cards abroad. If we return to the previous example of a holiday in the UK, you may discover that the restaurant doesn’t accept your credit card at all.

In the UK, as in the US, Visa and MasterCard are the two most common credit card networks and are accepted anywhere you can use a credit or debit card. However, while Discover is the third most common network in the US, it’s all but non-existent in the UK. 

Discover has claimed that the card has “moderate” acceptance in the UK, but this is a generous description and unless you’re shopping in locations that tailor for many tourists and American tourists in particular, it likely won’t be accepted.

There are similar issues with American Express, albeit to a lesser extent. AMEX is the third most common provider in the UK, but finding a retailer that actually accepts this card is very hit and miss.

Do Foreign Transaction Fees Count Towards Credit Card Rewards?

Foreign transaction fees, and all other bank and credit card fees, do not count towards your rewards total but the initial charge does. If we return to the previous example of a $200 restaurant payment, you will earn reward points on that $200 but not on the additional $6 that you pay in fees.

How to Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees

The easiest way to avoid foreign transaction fees is to use a credit card that doesn’t charge them. Some premium cards and reward cards will absorb the fee charged for these transactions, which means you can take your credit card with you when you travel and don’t have to worry about extra charges.

This is key, because simply converting your dollars to your target currency isn’t the best way to avoid foreign transaction fees. A currency conversion will come with its own fees and it’s also very risky to carry large sums of cash with you when you’re on vacation. 

Credit Cards Without Foreign Transaction Fees

All credit card offers are required to clearly state a host of basic features, including interest rates, reward schemes, and annual fees. However, you may need to do a little digging to learn about foreign transaction fees. These fees can be found in the credit card’s terms and conditions, which should be listed in full on the provider’s website.

To get you started, here are a few credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees:

  1. Bank of America Travel Rewards Card: A high-reward and low-fee credit card backed by the Bank of America.
  2. Capital One: All Capital One cards are free of foreign transaction fees, including their reward cards, such as the Venture card.
  3. Chase Sapphire Preferred: A premium rewards card aimed at big spenders. There is an annual fee, but not foreign transaction fees.
  4. Citi Prestige: One of several Citi cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees, and the best one in terms of rewards. 
  5. Discover It: A solid all-round credit card with no foreign transaction fees. However, as noted above, the Discover network is rare outside of the United States.
  6. Wells Fargo Propel World: An American Express credit card with good rewards and low fees, including no foreign transaction fees.

Summary: One of Many Fees

Foreign transaction fees are just some of the many fees you could be paying every month. Credit cards work on a system of rewards and penalties; you’re rewarded when you make qualifying purchases and penalized when you make payments in foreign currencies and in casinos, and when you use your card to withdraw cash.

Many of these fees are fixed as a percentage of your total spend, but some also charge interest and you will pay this even if you clear your balance in full every month. To avoid being hit with these fees, pay attention to the terms and conditions and look for cards that won’t punish you for the things you do regularly.

What is a Foreign Transaction Fee and How Can You Avoid It? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

What is an International Credit Card?

When you have an international credit card, you can use it both in your home country and abroad. It’s not uncommon to come across businesses abroad that only accept native currency. That’s when an international credit card comes in handy. If you want to avoid the hassles of carrying cash or traveler’s checks everywhere you go, these types of credit cards are the perfect solution.

Several established hotels, restaurants and retail outlets you encounter during your travels will accept your international credit card. That card offers many of the same features as a standard version and can also be used at ATM machines. Thus, no matter where you are, you can get cash from your bank account. You can also check your account balance from an ATM, so you can keep track of your spending and make sure you’re sticking to your budget.

Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fees

A foreign credit card transaction fee is charged when you make a payment in a different country with your card. The sale also includes a fee because you’re paying in a foreign currency. Typically, foreign transaction fees are equal to 3% of the total cost of the transaction. They are also set in U.S. currency. If you purchase an item or souvenir in another nation’s currency and the total bill comes to $100, with 3% in foreign transaction fees tacked on, you pay a total of $103.

Foreign transaction fees can be charged on different types of transactions, including withdrawing money from ATM machines, reserving hotel rooms, or even booking your flights. The terms and conditions that apply to foreign transaction fees are usually included in the fine print of your international credit card’s cardholder agreement. So, make sure you review this information and are fully aware of the terms before using your card for purchases.

The International Chip and PIN

The international chip and PIN are part of a system being integrated into a number of credit cards. Many foreign merchants no longer accept standard magnetic strip credit cards, claiming they’re unsafe and outdated. The point of an international chip and pin is so that you won’t end up at an unattended kiosk unable to use the card because it requires a PIN to complete your transaction. This specifically applies to retailers in Europe.

Top 4 Brands of International Credit Cards

There are many different international credit cards, but four in particular offer better benefits and interest rates than others.

1. Capital One Venture Rewards Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Card

The Capital One Venture Rewards Card is another credit card you probably want to consider. The Capital One Rewards card also gives you a solid introductory rate and travel rewards points. It also provides you with a sign-on bonus of up to 50,000 miles or $500 in travel when you spend $3,000 in your first three months from account opening. The only downside is that this card comes with a  an annual fee after the first year.

2. Capital One Venture One Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture One Rewards Credit Card

If you enjoy the Capital One brand but prefer to avoid the annual fee, consider the Capital One Venture One Rewards Credit Card. The card gives you all the advantages of Capital One without an annual fee. This card also gives you major perks—you’ll get 20,000 miles if you $1,000 in the first three months.

3. Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now

on Chase’s secure website

Card Details
Intro Apr:
N/A


Ongoing Apr:
15.99% – 22.99% Variable


Balance Transfer:
15.99% – 22.99% Variable


Annual Fee:
$95


Credit Needed:
Excellent-Good

Snapshot of Card Features
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases.
  • 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.

Card Details +

Lastly, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card has low introductory rates for purchases and balance transfers, though its rewards offerings are somewhat weaker by comparison. This is another card that gives you a major bang for your buck—you can earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

Do Your Due Diligence Before Traveling Abroad with Your New Cards

Even with an international means of payment, your credit card may not be accepted at all locations. Recently, a Credit.com staffer who traveled to Amsterdam tried to use his World Elite Mastercard at some locations and found that local merchants didn’t always accept a Mastercard branded card.

Before going on your trip, check either with stores or the credit card network (Mastercard, Visa, Discover or American Express)  to see if any conditions exist that might prevent your card from being accepted by foreign merchants. Alternatively, you can take a few different brands with your or have some cash or traveler’s checks on hand.

Check Your Credit

Before applying for an international credit card, it’s important to check your credit score to see what you qualify for. A low score or no score at all could get in the way of your goals of traveling with an international credit card in hand. Be sure to check your score before you apply. Most credit card companies that offer cash-back or miles require a good or even excellent score.

Checking your credit is easy and free depending on the site you use, and checking doesn’t hurt your score. You can get your free Experian credit score by visiting Credit.com. Instead of a hard inquiry, Credit.com does a soft inquiry without harming your credit score.

Using Credit.com for Your Travels

Traveling overseas with a credit card is convenient, but it can also be tricky. If you’re planning a trip abroad, it’s important to research which international credit cards will serve you best. Having a credit card that can be used anywhere in the world is a great tool to have in your pocket. But the terms and conditions of each card vary depending on several factors including your credit history, your spending habits and the places you visit.

Credit.com offers travelers just like you the opportunity to check their credit scores and apply for cards that will benefit them on their international journeys. If you’re interested in learning more about credit cards, check Credit.com

Editorial disclosure: Reviews are as determined solely by Credit.com staff. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the reviewers and aren’t reviewed or approved by any advertiser. Information presented is accurate as of the date of the review, including information on card rates, rewards and fees. Check the issuer’s website for the most current information on each card listed.

Some offers mentioned here may have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned here.

The post What is an International Credit Card? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Fed: Credit card balances dipped by $3 billion in December

Credit card balances edged down in December, even as consumers engaged in holiday shopping, as uncertainty about a second round of stimulus checks extended to the latter part of the month.

Consumer revolving debt – which is mostly based on credit card balances – was down $3 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis in December to $975.9 billion, according to the Fed’s G. 19 consumer credit report released Feb. 5.

In December, credit card balances were off 3.6% on an annualized basis, following November’s revised 0.8% dip and October’s 6.7% drop, which came on the heels of September’s 3.2% annualized gain.

The Fed also reported that student loan debt outstanding for the fourth quarter rose to $1.707 trillion, from the third quarter’s $1.704 trillion. And auto loan debt outstanding gained to $1.228 trillion, from the third quarter’s $1.219 trillion.

Total consumer debt outstanding – which includes student loans and auto loans, as well as revolving debt – continued to grow and rose $9.7 billion to $4.184 trillion in December, a 2.8% annualized gain.

For the entire year, credit card balances were down 11.2%.

Card balances had been growing before the coronavirus impacted consumer spending and bank lending in 2020. They dipped below the $1 trillion mark last May, for the first time since September 2017.

See related: 51% of consumers accrued more debt during the pandemic

ABA sees brighter days ahead for credit availability

The American Bankers Association reports, based on input provided by chief economists of large North American banks to its credit conditions index for the first quarter of 2021, that credit conditions (both credit quality and availability) have rebounded from their lows of last summer.

However, all three components of the index (the headline credit index, the consumer credit index and the business credit index) remain below 50, which is not a robust index reading. It indicates that while bank economists expect credit conditions to remain “soft” in the coming six months, they are less pessimistic than they were in September 2020 when the ABA  conducted its last credit conditions survey.

The consumer credit index component of the survey gained to 45.3, its highest level since mid-2019. Economists are optimistic about both the availability and quality of consumer credit compared to September. They expect credit to be more available to consumers in the coming six months, although a small majority expects credit quality to decline.

“Although credit quality is still expected to worsen over the first half of the year for both consumers and businesses, the overall outlook for credit markets has improved significantly since the summer and fall,” said Rob Strand, ABA senior economist. “As widespread inoculations against the virus and new fiscal stimulus measures help heal the economy, banks will continue to work closely with policymakers, consumers and businesses to ensure that affordable credit remains available and recovery strengthens.”

Fed reports easing of credit card lending standards in fourth quarter

According to the Fed’s senior loan officer opinion survey on bank lending practices for January 2021 (which is based on input related to the fourth quarter of 2020), a “moderate net share of banks” reported that they had eased up on credit card loans.

As a result, a “modest net share of banks” also hiked up their credit limits on credit card accounts. And a “moderate net share of banks” reported that there was higher demand for credit card loans during the fourth quarter.

As for the outlook, a “significant net share of banks” is expected to ease up on their standards for credit card loans. They are doing so in anticipation of an improvement in their loan portfolios’ credit quality, as well as a hike in their tolerance for risk.

Also, the New York Fed’s survey of consumer expectations for December 2020 finds that consumers are less concerned about the possibility of missing a minimum debt payment in the coming three months. The average perceived probability of this occurrence dipped to 10.5% for December, from November’s 10.9%.

See related: What happens when you miss a credit card payment?

Jobs edge up in January

The New York Fed survey also finds that on average fewer consumers expect the unemployment rate to be higher a year from now, with this probability declining to 38.9%, from November’s 40.1%.

While the average perceived probability of losing a job in the coming 12 months rose up a bit to 15% (mainly on account of those without a college degree), respondents were also more likely to leave their job voluntarily. However, they were less optimistic about landing a new job if they lost their current ones.

The U.S employment situation was about stable in January, with the economy adding 49,000 jobs, the government reported Feb. 5. “The labor market continued to reflect the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it,” according to the Department of Labor’s employment report media release. The unemployment rate dipped 0.4 percentage points to 6.3% and average hourly earnings were up $0.06 to $29.96. Also, the job numbers for both November and December were revised down, with November down 77,000 jobs (to 264,000) and December losing an additional 87,000 jobs (to minus 227,000).

In his daily email commentary, Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, noted, “Coupled with the -159K net revision, this is a significantly softer report than expected, at least in terms of payrolls. Bulls will cite the large and unexpected drop in the unemployment rate, but two-third(s) of the decline was due to a 405K drop in the size of the labor force – a sign of discouragement – while household employment rose 201K.”

He added that “the labor market was frozen at the start of the year, and is completely dependent on the pace of reopening, which in turn is contingent on the speed and sustainability of the fall in hospitalizations.”

Source: creditcards.com

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

If left unchecked, extensive amounts of credit card debt can cripple your finances. The good news is there are many ways to handle debt, though each requires a dedicated effort on your part. But if you can manage to consolidate credit card debt, you will reduce your burden relatively quickly. In the process, you’ll avoid the exorbitant interest rates that accompany most credit cards. Below we take a look at some of the most effective techniques you can use to make this goal a reality.

Find Out Your Credit Score

Before you can work on improving your credit and minimizing your debt, you have to know where you currently stand.

Many credit card issuers allow cardholders to see their FICO® credit score free of charge once a month, so check out if any of your cards include that free credit score. The three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax – also give out free annual credit reports. If that’s not enough, websites like Credit Karma™ and Credit Sesame provide a free look at your credit score and reports as well.

It is vital to review your credit report with a fine-tooth comb to ensure the accuracy of the information. If you find errors be sure to let the credit bureau in question know so the issue can be eradicated as soon as possible.

Zero Interest Balance Transfer Cards

Although it might seem counterintuitive to apply for another credit card to lessen your debt, a zero interest balance transfer card could really help. These cards typically include an introductory 0% balance transfer Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for six months or more. This ultimately allows you to move debt from one account to another without incurring more interest. However, once the introductory offer concludes, any leftover balances will revert to your base APR.

These offers aren’t totally free, though. Most cards also charge a balance transfer fee that’s usually between 3% and 5% of the transfer. Even with this initial payment, you will almost always still save money over leaving your debt where it stands currently.

If you want to consolidate credit card debt, here are three different balance transfer credit cards you could apply for, with varying introductory interest rates and transfer fees:

Balance Transfer Credit Cards Card Intro Balance Transfer APR Balance Transfer Fee Chase Slate 0% APR for first 15 months; then 16.49% to 25.24% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness No fee for first 60 days; then $5 or 5% of each transfer, whichever is greater Citi Double Cash Card 0% introductory APR for 18 months from date of first transfer when transfers are completed within 4 months from date of account opening; then 15.49% to 25.49% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness $5 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater BankAmericard® credit card 0% APR for first 15 billing cycles; then 14.49% to 24.49% Variable APR, depending on your creditworthiness No fee for first 60 days; then $10 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater Take Out a Personal Loan

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

The thought of taking out another loan probably doesn’t sound too appetizing to consolidate credit card debt. But a personal debt consolidation loan is one of the speediest ways to rid yourself of credit card debt. More specifically, you can use it to pay off most or all of your debt in one lump sum. That way, your payments are all merged into a single account with your lender.

The APR and length of the offered loan and the minimum credit score needed for approval are the main factors that should go into your final decision on a lender. By concentrating on these three components of the loan, you can map out what your monthly payments will be. As a result, you can more easily implement them into your financial life.

Applying for a personal consolidation loan can have a detrimental effect on your credit. Unfortunately, most institutions will run a hard credit check on you prior to approval. However, many online lenders don’t do this, which might ease your mind depending on the severity of your debt situation.

These loans are available through a wide variety of financial institutions, including banks, online lenders and credit unions. Here are a few examples of some of the most common debt consolidation lenders:

Common Debt Consolidation Lenders Banks Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Fifth Third Bank Online Lenders Lending Club, Prosper, Best Egg Credit Unions Navy Federal Credit Union, Unify Financial Credit Union, Affinity Federal Credit Union Auto or Home Equity Loan

If you own assets like a home or car, you can take out a lump-sum loan based on the equity you hold in them to consolidate credit card debt. This is a great way to reuse money you paid toward an existing loan to take care of your debt. When paying back your auto or home equity loan, you’ll usually pay in fixed amounts at a relatively low interest rate. Even if this rate isn’t great, it’s likely much better than any offer you’d receive from a card issuer.

Equity loans are technically a second mortgage or loan, meaning your house or car will become the loan’s collateral. That means you could lose your house or car if you cannot keep up with your equity loan payments.

Create a Budget

Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

To build a budget, you first need to figure out your approximate monthly net income. Don’t forget to take into account taxes when you’re doing this.

You can then start subtracting your variable and fixed expenses that are expected for the upcoming month. This is where you will likely be able to identify where you’re overspending, whether it’s on food, entertainment or travel. Once you’ve completed this, you can begin cutting back where you need to. Then, use your surplus cash to pay off your debt one month at a time.

It shouldn’t matter if you’re dealing with substantial credit card debt or not. A monthly spending budget should always be a part of how you manage your finances. While this is likely the slowest way to eliminate debt, it’s also the most financially sound. At its core, it attempts to fix the problem without taking funding from an outside source. This should leave very little financial strife in the aftermath of paying off your debt.

Professional Debt Counseling

Perhaps since you’ve found yourself in serious debt, you feel like you want professional help getting out of it. Well the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) is available for just that reason. The NFCC® has member offices all around the U.S. that are certified in helping you consolidate credit card debt.

These counselors won’t only address your current financial issues and debt. They’ll also work to create a plan that will help you avoid this situation again in the future.

Agencies that are accredited by the NFCC® will have it clearly displayed on their website or at their offices. If you’re not sure where to look, the foundation created an agency locator that’ll help you find a counselor nearby.

Borrow From Your Retirement

Taking money early from your employer-sponsored retirement account obviously isn’t ideal. That’s means borrowing from your retirement is a last-ditch alternative. But if your credit card debt has become such a handicap that it’s affecting all other facets of your life, it is a viable option to consolidate credit card debt.

Because you are technically loaning money to yourself, this will not show up on your credit report. Major tax and penalty charges await anyone who has trouble making payments on these loans though. To make matters worse, if you quit your job or are fired, you’re typically only given 60 days to finish paying it off to avoid incurring a penalty.

Tips To Consolidate Credit Card Debt

  • If you take the time to come up with a budget, don’t let it go to waste. While you might find it tough to stick to, especially if you’re trying to cut back, it is the best way to manage your money correctly. Even if a budget becomes habit, stay vigilant with where your money is being spent.
  • Although a financial advisor will cost money, he or she might be able to help you keep your finances in check while ultimately helping you plan for the future as well. However, if this isn’t an option for you financially, stay on track with your NFCC® debt counselor’s plan.
  • There are so many ways to gain access to your credit score that there’s virtually no excuse for not knowing it. It doesn’t matter if you do it through one of the top three credit bureaus, FICO® or one of your card issuers. Just remember to pay attention to those ever-important three digits as often as possible.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Liderina, ©iStock.com/ferrantraite, Â©iStock.com/cnythzl

The post Tips to Consolidate Credit Card Debt appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

How Often Can You Check Your Credit Score, and How Do You Get It?

A woman sits on a couch with her laptop in her lap.

Do you keep a close eye on your personal finances? Or maybe you’ve never given them much thought. Either way, it’s time to start paying more attention to your credit score. Your credit score can control a lot—what loans you qualify for, the credit cards that are available to you, etc. To keep on top of it all, it’s important to check your credit score. But how often can you check your credit score, exactly?

You know what they say: knowledge is power. Find out how often you can check your credit score below so you can arm yourself with knowledge about your personal finances.

The Difference Between Your Credit Score and Credit Report

Before looking into how often you can check your credit score, it’s important to understand the difference between a credit score and a credit report. They can be easy to confuse, so you might think they’re the same—but they’re not.

Your credit report is a detailed document about your credit history. It shows active and past accounts, whether you paid on time and how much credit you’ve used compared to open balances. Other information might include names of your past employers if you’ve ever included them on a credit application, as well as negative records such as collections accounts and bankruptcies.

Your credit score is a three-digit number, typically between 300 and 850, that’s calculated based on all the information in your credit report. There are many credit scoring models, including popular models such as FICO and VantageScore.

While credit scoring models all work toward the same goal—providing an overall picture of how likely you are to pay your debts—they do so with slight variations in the formulas. That means your credit scores might vary between these models.

You also have more than one credit report. Not every lender or business reports to all three of the major credit bureaus, for example. So the information in your credit file can also vary slightly. That also means that you have different credit scores, too.

How Often Can You Check Your Credit Score for Free?

Here’s where the difference between credit score and credit report comes in. You can get your free credit report from each of the three major bureaus via AnnualCreditReport.com.

Usually, the reports are available once every year. Which means you could get a look at your credit information every four months by spreading out your requests for each of the bureaus. However, due to personal financial stress related to COVID-19 and to help consumers best manage credit and finances during this time, AnnualCreditReport.com and the three credit bureaus are making reports available weekly through April 2021.

Unfortunately, a free credit report doesn’t mean a free credit score. When you order your report you get the detailed information in your file. You don’t get the score the bureau might show lenders when you apply for credit. To get regular access to your credit scores, you typically have to pay for it.

Reasons to Check Your Credit Report and Score

So why do you need to keep tabs on your credit score and credit report? Here are a few reasons:

  • Keeping a regular eye on your credit report helps you identify inaccurate negative items that might be dragging down your score. The faster you catch and challenge the accuracy of these items, the more likely you’re able to prove they’re not correct. The credit bureaus have to remove them if they can’t be proven correct.
  • Checking your credit report regularly helps you see whether suspicious activity is occurring, which can indicate that you’re a victim of identity theft or fraud. Again, knowing and acting early can save you a lot of hassle in the long run.
  • Knowing your credit score and how it moves up and down over time can also help you understand whether there might be issues with your report. If you see the score moving in a negative direction and aren’t sure why, you can investigate further.
  • You might want to check your credit before you apply for a loan, especially one with greater qualification requirements such as a mortgage. That way, you can fix any possible issues before a lender evaluates you for approval.
  • You may also want to ensure there aren’t any surprises on your report before you apply to rent an apartment, get auto insurance quotes or send your resume in for a job opportunity, as some of these opportunities can depend in part on your credit history.
  • If you’re working to improve your credit history and score, you may want to see that your efforts are having a positive impact.

How Can You Get Your Credit Score?

You might have access to your credit score via your credit card provider. If this is a benefit you get as a card holder, you can typically see the score by logging into your credit card account online or via a mobile app. The downside is that this is only one possible version of your score.

You can see another version of your score by signing up for Credit.com’s Credit Report Card. You’ll get a score that updates every 14 days as well as information about the five major factors that go into determining credit scores and how you’re faring with each.

If you want to get more bang for your buck, it might be time to look at ExtraCredit. You’ll get access to five useful services, including TrackIt, which will give you a look into 28 of your FICO Scores. 

How Many Points Does Your Credit Score Go Down for an Inquiry?

Requesting your own score or credit report doesn’t impact your score at all. That’s because this is considered a soft inquiry. Only hard inquiries impact your credit score. Hard inquiries occur when a lender pulls your credit to evaluate you for a loan or other credit.

So, whether you’re requesting your credit report via AnnualCreditReport.com or investing in a service such as ExtraCredit, get as much information about your credit as you can. It won’t hurt your score to do so.

Sign up for ExtraCredit today!

The post How Often Can You Check Your Credit Score, and How Do You Get It? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com