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How to Increase Credit Score

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How to Increase Credit Score

Most New Year’s resolutions require consumers to spend money, but here’s one that actually doesn’t cost anything and ultimately helps people save: Boost your credit score.

Low credit scores result in higher interest charges for all types of debt, including credit cards and home loans. Borrowers with a FICO credit score (the score used for most consumer lending decisions) of 700 save an average of $648 in interest on their credit card, $1,392 on their car loan and $2,340 on their mortgage each year, compared with borrowers who have scores below 620, according to a study by CardHub.com , a credit-card comparison website. Those savings get even larger for borrowers whose credit score is above 700. Separately, lower scores can lead to larger home and car insurance bills and make it harder to rent or buy a home.

Fortunately, there are ways to improve a low credit score and most involve scaling back on credit-card usage. That’s because in the world of credit scores, all debt is not treated equally. FICO scores tend to drop as consumers rack up more credit-card debt but don’t decline as much if someone signs up for a student loan, car loan or mortgage. Here are five steps to improving your credit score.

Pay down credit-card debt
To improve their credit scores, borrowers need to lessen their credit-card debt.

Once a borrower surpasses a 10% “credit utilization ratio” — that is, the amount of their credit card debt in relation to their total spending limit — their FICO score will likely drop, says John Ulzheimer, consumer credit expert with CreditSesame.com, a credit-management site, and a former manager at FICO. For instance, borrowers whose credit-card spending limits total $10,000 should not surpass $1,000 in debt — whether or not they pay off their balance in full each month.

That can be an onerous task for many borrowers. They’ll need to adhere to stricter limits if they want the highest score possible. According to FICO, borrowers with the best credit scores — of 785 or greater — use an average of 7% of their total credit-card limit. In contrast, student loans, car loans and mortgages are not considered by the credit-utilization ratio.

Consumers can consider asking their card issuers to increase their credit-card limits, which could in turn increase their credit score. Of course, that will require not swiping for more purchases on those cards.

Convert credit-card debt to personal loans
Borrowers with a lot of credit-card debt aren’t out of luck. They can actually improve their score before they even pay down their debt — with a bit of strategizing: They can consider rolling their credit-card debt into a personal loan.

Here’s why: Credit-card debt tends to be more damaging to credit scores than a personal loan, which is considered installment debt. The credit-utilization ratio (see previous section) does not take installment debt into account. This strategy would result in zero dollars of credit-card debt on the borrower’s credit report, which could boost their score by 100 points or more, says Ulzheimer. They’ll also pay lower rates to boot: The rates on personal loans currently average 11.36%, according to Bankrate.com. In contrast, rates on credit cards average just over 13% to 15.4%.

This strategy will only help borrowers if they stop using their credit cards or if they pay off the charges they make on their card quickly. Otherwise, their score won’t stay up for very long. Of course, consumers should pay off all their credit-card debt with their savings rather than signing up for a loan. But that assumes they have enough cash set aside after paying this debt for their emergency fund. (Financial advisers typically recommend people have savings equal to six to eight months of living expenses in a savings account.) More at 5 ways to boost your credit score

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How to Raise Your Credit Score

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Tips on How to Raise Your Credit Score

If you’re like most people, the recession took a toll on your finances and probably your credit score. So how do you get it back to where it needs to be? While it usually takes seven years for any negatives marks to be removed from your credit report, there are a couple quick and simple ways to you can raise your credit score now. Here are a couple to keep in mind.

1. Keep paying things on time: The most important thing to remember is to keep your credit report clean from here on out. Pay your bills on time. Make sure you aren’t over your limit on any of your credit cards. Keep the balances on your credit cards low. Keeping your finances clean is the best way to raise your score.

2. Don’t cancel any of your credit cards: This may seem counterintuitive, but canceling credit cards actually lowers your credit score. Part of your credit score is based on how much credit you utilize (your credit utilization score), so the more credit you have available, the higher your credit score. If you cancel a credit card, you no longer have that credit available, which lowers your credit utilization score, which in turn lowers your credit score. Even if you’ve paid off a credit card, keep it open and gather up the extra points you get from having that extra line of credit. If you qualify, you can also apply for a new credit card to raise your credit utilization ratio, although don’t apply for more than one. Applying for too much credit at once can lower your score. Here is a good list of the best rewards credit cards that can help you save money and raise your credit score.

3. Open the lines of communication with your credit card lenders: If a bunch of credit card debt is keeping your credit score down, talk with your credit card lenders to see if you can strike a deal to pay off that debt. Many lenders are open to making deals with you, since all they are really after is the money you owe. Just remember, if you do make a deal with a lender, ask them how they will be reporting it to the credit bureaus. They have two options: “Paying as agreed,” which won’t hurt your credit score, or “Not paying as agreed,” which could bring your credit score down. Make sure they are reporting it as “paying as agreed” before you agree to any deal.

4. Sign up for a secured credit card: If your credit is so bad that you keep getting denied for a credit card or loan, try signing up for a secured credit card. Traditionally, you put down a “deposit” for a secured credit card that ends up being your credit limit, so it doesn’t matter how bad your credit is, secured credit cards are available for everyone. Just make sure to apply for a card that reports to all three credit bureaus, otherwise having the extra line of credit won’t affect your credit score.

5. Make sure there are no mistakes on your credit report: Over 42 million people in this country have errors on their credit report, and 10 million of those have errors that affect their credit score. Make sure you are regularly checking your credit report to make sure there are no mistakes and that you haven’t been a victim of identity theft. Fixing simple mistakes on your credit report can be a quick way to boost your score. Each of the different credit bureau has instructions on their web sites on how to fix an error, or you can hire a credit repair service to do the work for you (as well as try other methods to raise your credit score.) More at Simple Ways to Raise Your Credit Score

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Credit Score Range: Understanding the Different Credit Score Ranges

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Different Credit Score Ranges

Your credit score is important. Very important. That three-digit figure is so influential that it determines your eligibility for credit cards, home and auto loans, student loans, apartment rentals and even some jobs. It’s vital to know your credit score range so you can decide which loans to apply for, know when you’re settling for less than you could get and, if necessary, take steps to rehabilitate your FICO score. Your credit score gives lenders an idea of whether they can rely on you to pay back your debts. It follows that your credit history, past and present, is among the data that credit bureaus use to calculate your score. If you’d like to get a grip on your score’s implications, read on: the nerds will clarify the finer points.

Lower score, higher interest
More than determining your eligibility for a loan, your score affects the cost to you, too. In fact, the score and the interest you pay are inversely proportional, roughly at a one-to-one ratio. So, as you boost your score, your monthly payments will generally decrease at the same rate. Let’s say you want to get some new wheels. To finance your slick new ride, you take out a 60-month fixed-rate auto loan of $15,000. If your score is in the gutter, say a 610, you’d pay $357 a month, according to myFICO.com. The guy next to you in the lot, with the Ray Bans on, has a superb score of 800. His score is about 30% better than yours—31.15% better, to be precise—as his monthly payment, at just $277, a 28.88% markdown. It’s clear that you’d rather be that other guy, who pays on time and keeps his debts low. Because once you start digging yourself a hole with late payments, it becomes harder to climb out, with the high rates weighing you down.

Understand your FICO score
The breakdown of credit score ranges is as follows:

630: Bad credit
You likely landed her because of bankruptcy, or because you’ve missed payments consistently—or, as is often the case with younger folks, you have no credit history at all. You’ll face higher interest rates and fees, and your choice of credit card is restricted. If you find yourself in this bracket and still want a credit card, a secured card is likely your best bet.

630-689: Fair (average) credit
Your score is average, and it’s probably because you have too much “bad” debt. If you’re holding onto some credit card debt or if your balance often grazes your credit limit, bureaus won’t trust you, and therefore lenders won’t either.

690-719: Good credit
Your rates are low, and you can choose from most cards, including those that earn rewards.

720-850: Excellent
If you’re in this bracket, take a look at cards with great fringe benefits. American Express, for example, offers premium cards that better accommodate the ritzy life.

Although these four categories are the standard, credit scores are still somewhat fluid, especially since the recession began. Since 2007, scores’ effect on consumers has become more severe, too, according to Paul Oster, the CEO of Better Qualified, LLC, which specializes in business and consumer credit services. “The impact of scores has changed dramatically,” Oster wrote in an e-mail. “Consumer’s credit scores can cost or save them hundreds of dollars a month. The ‘magic number’ has been increasing since the ‘R’ [the recession]. I know that 5 years ago 620 was a good benchmark, then it went to 640, 680, 720, and now 740. The average credit score is around a 685. Remember that scores are fluid and changing all the time. Studies show that individuals with an average credit score would reduce card finance charges by $76 annually if they raised their score by 30 points.” More at What are the Different Credit Score Ranges? Bad to Excellent and Everything In Between

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