Holiday Credit Tip Sheet
Credit Cards and Credit Card Utilization
One of the primary factors that go into computing your credit score is “Credit Card Utilization.”
In its simplest terms, credit utilization is a fraction. The amount of credit that you have available to you on credit cards is the bottom half (or denominator) of that fraction. The amount of credit that you have used is the top half (or the numerator) of that same fraction.
For example, if you have $1,000.00 dollars worth of credit available to you and you charge $500.00 on the credit card or cards that you own, your resulting credit utilization rate is 500/1,000, or 50%.
If you don’t pay any portion of that 50% off when your bill comes after the holidays, your credit utilization rate will be computed by the credit bureaus at that 50% rate. That level of utilization will damage your potential score. Not as bad as 75% utilization or 100% utilization, but it will leave significant credit scoring “points” on the table.
We want to help you build your score. If you’re hoping to get your score to a place where you can pre-qualify for a mortgage in the spring or summer-it is best that you spend only at a level that will allow you to pay your credit card bill down to 30% (or less) of its applicable limit BEFORE it is due next month.
In-Store Credit Card Offers
If you make a purchase at a national retail store like Target or Macy’s during the holiday season, it is likely that you will be offered a discount on your purchase if you apply for and use that store’s credit card when you checkout. The offer is typically something like a 10% or 20% discount on all purchases made on the day that you make the credit card application.
Offers like this can be very tempting. (That’s why the stores make them!)
But, think about the following:
- Research has shown that people tend to spend more money when they use credit cards in lieu of cash. The spending likely increases even more if you are given a “one day only”, limited time discount. If the 10% discount only applies to purchases made that day, you are very likely going to spend more money on that trip to the store than you had initially planned to.
- When you apply for a store card, it will show up as a “hard” inquiry on your credit report. Although the hit to your credit score will not be massive, you could potentially lose five or ten points. If you are planning on applying for a mortgage or auto loan in the next few months, those points could cost you a significant amount of money.
If you find yourself unable to resist the urge to apply for and use the store card, it bears repeating: be sure to pay the statement balance in full and on time BEFORE it is due. At the very least, pay the balance down to no more than 30% of the available balance.
- Interest rates on store cards are high, often in the range of 20 to 25 percent. Surprisingly with these cards no matter what your credit score is whether it is 620 or 850, you will receive that same high-interest rate.
If you use the credit card to finance a big purchase, the cost associated with that high-interest rate would quickly eliminate any savings you received if you don’t pay the bill off in full upon its arrival. Finally, if you don’t pay all or most of that big purchase off before the interest becomes due, that high-interest rate can result in your credit utilization moving upwards very quickly, even if you don’t spend anymore using the card.
“0% Interest” Offers Oftentimes Aren’t Really 0%
When you are ready to buy something in a store, or online, you might be tempted with an offer of 0% financing. Pay close attention to exactly what you are being offered. Not all 0% offers are the same.
Sometimes the offer will “waive” the interest during a certain, set promotional period (for example, “90 days”).
Other times the offer does not waive the interest, but defers it, instead. If you fail to pay the balance in full during the defined time, the retailer may retroactively charge you interest for that full period. In that instance, you never received the benefit of 0% interest at all. You should only consider utilizing this type of offer if you can pay the balance in full BEFORE the expiration of the defined period.
Before signing up for any of these sorts of offers, “READ THE AGREEMENT”, make sure you understand whether the interest is being “waived” or “deferred.”
If At All Possible, Avoid Going Into Debt to Buy Gifts
It feels great to give gifts to the ones who you love during the holiday season. But, if your goal in the next several months is to grow your credit score to a point where you can qualify for financing for a new home, going into debt to buy those gifts can expose your credit score to damage and jeopardize the fulfillment of that dream.
Rather than going into debt, consider gifting alternatives. Everyone loves the gift of home-baked Christmas cookies. Think about giving the gift of your labor or of a special talent that you might be able to offer to others.
Feel free to share with your loved ones that your special gift to them is helping you to realize your dream of owning a home next year.
Consider Giving Your Friends or Loved Ones the Gift of a Credit Restoration Expert in 2018
You may want to consider giving the gift of the services of a professional, reputable credit restoration company to help your friends or family along the path to better credit.
They may attempt to fix damaged credit issues on their own, but the process can be hard work. It will require their time, patience, diligence and perhaps some aptitude for understanding what the credit bureaus and collection agencies are required by law to do.
Should you choose to give this gift, we would like to chip in. Anyone who contacts Phoenix this month or in January of 2018 (314-429-2040) and tells us that they found out about us through this Holiday Credit Tip Sheet will receive a $25.00 dollar discount on their initial first work fee, should they choose to engage our services. Feel free to tell folks that this discount it is your gift to them!
You’ve been so awesome, I wanted to share this. We got approved by a local bank to buy the house we want – now all we have to do is sell ours!!! All of this is because of YOUR HELP! You have been phenomenal and I am truly thankful.
– Jen H.
What a deal! Between now and December 31st, 2016, if you sign up for our services, you can save 16%!
Call us today at 877-235-6150 to get started!
Start 2017 on the right foot with an improved credit score.
Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians for winning their respective league’s Championship Series and earning the right to face off against each other in the World Series.
As a lifelong fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, it is somewhat difficult for me to offer congratulations to the team from Chicago’s Northside, the Cardinals’ “loveable loser” rival for most of my lifetime. But, here it is: “Congratulations, Small Bears! Your long suffering fans deserve it! Good luck to you against the Indians!”
How unlikely was a Cubs/Indians match-up in the Series? The Cubs last played in the fall classic seventy-one years ago, they were last World Champions in 1908, an astounding One Hundred and Eight years ago! The Indians last earned World Series Championship rings in 1948, despite the fact that they have competed in the series three times since.
The Cubs and the Indians start their series in Cleveland tomorrow evening. Indeed, anything is possible.
As you enjoy the games between this unlikely pairing, perhaps it’s a good time to consider the things in your life that you consider “unlikely” to happen. Have you given up on the dream of home ownership because of poor credit? Do you think that your credit problems are something that are, “NEVER” going to go away?
Ahem, the Cubs and the Indians are playing in the World Series! Nothing is impossible, especially when it comes to your credit. I have written a great deal about how poorly educated American consumers are about credit scoring. I would hazard a guess that more Americans know the length of Joe DiMaggio’s record hitting streak (It’s 56 games) than know their own credit score.
Here’s an important piece of information for you to know about credit: Generally speaking, your credit score is “forward looking.” Just as the management of the World Series participants have rebuilt them into contenders, you can start to rebuild your credit, TODAY!
Where do you start? (First Base) -The very first thing that you should do is to obtain a current and complete copy of your credit report. You are entitled to obtain a free copy of your credit report every 12 months; here’s a great site for this.
Why start with your credit report? You can’t know the players without a scorecard. It’s the best way to see the “whole ballgame.” It will also tell you what, if any, negative items are being reported against you. Read it carefully — you would be amazed at the number of credit reports that look like they were assembled by Milwaukee Brewers Shortstop Johnathan Villar. (He committed 29 fielding errors this past season to the lead the Majors in that inauspicious category!)
What’s Next? (Second Base)-Make sure that you are paying your bills on time. Nothing damages your credit score as much as late payments. The longer that payments are late, the more damage they do to your score. So, if you’re behind on a payment or payments, make every effort that you can to bring those accounts current and once they’re current keep paying on time. (As Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver said: “If you dwell on statistics you get shortsighted, if you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end.”)
Then What? (Third Base)-Pay down the balances on any credit card debt that you might have. Credit utilization is one of the major factors used in determining your credit score. Good credit utilization means that you use credit, but you use it responsibly.
Ideally, the credit scoring formula looks for you to utilize 30 percent of a credit card’s limit or less. So, take the winnings from the wager that you made that the Cubs or Indians would make it to the World Series and pay down any credit cards you have where the balance is in excess of 30 percent. Do so, and you can expect to see your credit score begin to increase like Nolan Ryan’s strikeout total. (The Hall of Fame pitcher struck out an amazing 5,714 batters over the course of his big league career!)
Score! (Home Plate)-Doing the things that we have discussed as you “rounded the bases” will significantly help you to rebuild your credit score to a Championship level. There is much more that you can do to strengthen your score. Just like it did for the Cubs and Indians, the process involves dedication and hard work.
One of the key components of the Cubs’ and Indians’ successes was the hiring of a skilled, knowledgeable manager. You may want to investigate hiring a professional, reputable credit restoration company to help manage you along the path to better credit. A well-qualified credit restoration company will provide you with important guidance as to how to address negative items that appear on your credit report, help you to maximize your credit utilization, teach you how to acquire and properly utilize a secured credit card, and help you with negotiating collection accounts.
Enjoy the Series! Good luck to both teams!
This post was recently featured in The Huffington Post.
The ending of a marriage is a difficult process for everyone involved. Even if you are the one who “wants’ the divorce, it can be difficult to watch the impact it has on all those that it touches. If your spouse doesn’t want to be divorced, it can be difficult to watch that person struggle with the change. Needless to say, if the divorcing couple has children, the impact it has on the kids can have long lasting effects.
Many people who go through the divorce process also suffer long-lasting effects to their consumer credit. Indeed, a large majority of people that we help at my credit restoration business had “great” credit until the “Big D” happened. But somehow, during or after the process of dissolving the marriage their credit was severely damaged.
Sometimes this process is unavoidable. Maintaining two households on an income that used to pay for only one can lead to missed payments.
More egregiously, if the spouse who is the primary breadwinner chooses to use their earning power for leverage, they can simply stop paying the bills. Although this process more than likely damages both their credit, as well as their spouse’s, it can give them enormous negotiating power in the divorce. If the mortgage isn’t getting paid and creditors are calling the house for payment, a spouse who may not be in a hurry to get divorced may become motivated to get things over with and “settle” for less than they otherwise would.
A spurned spouse may also start to refuse to pay bills simply to “get back” at their soon to be former partner. Once again, both members of the couple’s credit will be damaged, but the spurned spouse “doesn’t care” they just want to get back at the husband or wife that no longer wants them.
That same rejected or angry spouse can also damage their ex’s credit after the divorce has been finalized. We frequently see instances where the order granting a divorce directs one party to pay certain outstanding debt that was incurred by the married couple. What happens if that party refuses to do what the court ordered them to do?
Our clients are frequently surprised when a creditor comes after them for debt that their ex was ordered to pay in the divorce decree. Guess what? The creditor was not likely a party to the divorce case. They don’t care if your ex-husband agreed to pay for a debt in the divorce. If you jointly acquired that debt while you were married, you remain responsible for it and they will come after both of you for payment. If your spouse doesn’t pay what they agreed to in the divorce or even if they fail to pay on time, it will likely be reported against BOTH of your credit history.
Pretty incredible, eh? You can take your ex back to court and have the court find them in contempt or request that the court order them once again to pay the debt that they previously agreed to pay, right? Going to court costs a significant amount of money. Attorneys fees can add up quickly and it is likely that your attorney is going to want to be paid before they head back to court on your behalf.
It may cost you as much to go back to court as the bill that you are going to court over. What if your spouse still refuses to pay or claims an economic inability to pay? More attorneys’ fees are a strong possibility.
Incredibly, many people end up paying the debts their ex promised to pay themselves. The damage the unpaid bill causes to their credit score costs them serious money. Additionally, they may not be able to obtain certain financing, like a mortgage while that unpaid debt is showing up on their credit report. Those credit cards in both of your names and that co-signed mortgage don’t seem so romantic anymore, do they?
Has your credit been damaged or destroyed by a divorce? Don’t give up. Credit is forward looking. A good credit restoration company can help you deal with problems like an unpaid debt that was supposed to be paid by your ex as part of a divorce decree. They can also help to educate you about how credit scores really work and give you the tools to get your score where you really would like it to be.
We’re excited to be participating in this great event hosted by Gerard Realty Group!
August 23rd at 6:00 pm at the Lodge Des Peres.
This blog is also featured in The Huffington Post.
Dreaming of purchasing a new home in the next several months? Whether you are a first time home buyer, upgrading to a newer or bigger home, or downsizing into a smaller residence, the first thing that you should do is have your credit appraised.
Today’s real estate market is one that should only be entered into as an educated and fully prepared buyer. Demand is high in today’s market, and available home inventory is low. If you are not educated and well-prepared to make a firm offer, your offer will get less consideration from a seller than an offer from a customer who is ready to proceed to closing.
Can you imagine the anguish of finding the perfect home for you and your family, at the perfect price, only to discover that there is a credit problem that will keep you from securing a mortgage on that home? Credit issues often take time to resolve – weeks, if not months – could pass before you can successfully resolve your credit problems. Chances are, the perfect house with the perfect price is going to be sold to another buyer in today’s market.
How do you avoid that sort of disappointment? It’s simple, start with a credit appraisal! A credit appraisal is a thorough, detailed review of your credit history by an individual with expertise in reviewing credit reports, as well as detailed knowledge of mortgage underwriting standards.
An appraisal is just not about your credit score. You can have a high credit score (even in the 700s), but still have items on your credit report that will block you from being approved for a mortgage. We see these type of challenges at our credit restoration company regularly.
It is vitally important that your appraisal include credit history and a credit score from each of the three prominent credit reporting agencies (Transunion, Equifax and Experian). Mortgage providers look closely at the reports from all three of these agencies, and frequently accounts that are reported by one bureau aren’t being reported by the other two. If a derogatory item shows up on even just one of the reports, it is likely going to be an obstacle in your mortgage pursuit.
Credit history, alone, like the one you are able to obtain for free once a year is not enough. It is also essential that you have scores from all three bureaus reviewed.
It is imperative that these three scores are FICO mortgage scores. Believe it or not, there are all sorts of different credit scores out there today, and not all of them are the type of scores that are used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage. FICO (an acronym for Fair Isaac and Company, who now simply call themselves “Fair Isaac”) is a scoring model, or mathematical algorithm, that is purchased by credit bureaus and used to compute your mortgage credit score.
That score that you get for free, on your credit card statement or from online credit monitoring services? More than likely, it is not a FICO mortgage score. Other credit score models used by those companies can be as much as sixty points different from your real FICO score (we see it all the time).
Why does an accurate credit appraisal require all three scores? Mortgage companies use something called your middle score. I wrote about it in detail, here: The Shamrock and Your Credit Score, a few months ago. In short, your middle score is not an average of your three scores, and it’s not even the median of those scores. Mortgage companies and banks “throw out” your high score and your low score – sort of like how Olympic diving and ice skating are scored. They look solely at the middle of your three scores to determine whether you meet the credit score portion of their underwriting standards.
Even if your appraisal indicates that your credit score is high enough to qualify for an entry level loan (like an FHA loan) you may have the time and the opportunity to strengthen your score to a point where more favorable loan products might become available to you. Your time will be well spent building your credit score while you shop for your new home.
Once you have had your credit appraised and certified as credit qualified, you are “Real Estate Ready.” It’s time to take the next step and proceed to your bank or mortgage company for pre-approval.
Not to be confused with a pre-qualification, which is essentially a “rough” calculation of how much of a loan you might qualify for, a pre-approval is a written estimate from a lender stating how much you will likely be able to borrow based on your (now certified) credit and other financial information (like your earnings history.)
The application for a loan pre-approval often requires submitting pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns and other financial documents. Most lenders charge nothing for the application, since they are hoping to win your business, but some charge you (usually less than $100.00) to cover the cost of a credit check.
A credit appraisal will not only spare you from disappointment, it will also save you time. Why spend your valuable time with a realtor or lender, only to be told that your credit doesn’t qualify you to buy a home. With a certified credit appraisal the question, more often than not, changes from “Will I qualify for a loan?” to “How big of a loan will I qualify for?”
Get your credit appraised today. Knowing that you are “Real Estate Ready” and being certified accordingly, will provide you with significant leverage when you are ready to make an offer on a home. It provides assurance to the seller that you will be able to secure financing and makes your offer significantly more attractive than an offer that is contingent upon financing being secured.