What a Bad Credit Score Is

What is considered a bad credit score can vary depending on the credit scoring model being used but, ultimately, it comes down to what each lender considers a “bad” credit score. Your credit score is used by lenders to assess the risk that you may pose to them, should they provide you credit, and each lender may consider a different score as a “bad” credit score. When considering the most commonly used credit scoring model, FICO, the scores range from 300 to 850, and is usually categorized in the following ranges:

  • Excellent Credit: 781 – 850
  • Good Credit: 661-780
  • Fair Credit: 601-660
  • Poor Credit: 501-600
  • Bad Credit: below 500

The information in your credit report from credit bureaus is used to determine your credit score.

While the above ranges can help you get a better idea of where your credit score falls in regards to typical risk assessment and quality of credit, as stated above, each lender may consider a different score as being a “bad” credit score. For example, an auto loan lender may consider a credit score between 300 and 500 as being a bad credit score while a mortgage lender will likely consider a credit score between 300 and 650 as being a bad credit score.

What Does A Bad Credit Score Mean For Me?

For many people the subject of credit scores can be a stressful, if not sensitive, topic to discuss, especially if your credit score falls within the range that is typically considered as a bad credit score. There are numerous reasons that someone would have a bad credit score – many of which may not have been in your control – but here you are now, with “bad” credit, and it’s important to know how it will affect you.

First of all, as you may have already experienced, a lower credit score can lead to you being denied by a lender for anything from buying a mattress with a payment plan to a new home mortgage. Being denied credit, a mortgage, or even a job because of poor or bad credit can be stressful and frustrating but even being approved by a lender while your credit score is low can cost you greatly. With a bad credit score, if a lender does approve you, they will give you a very high interest rate which can cost you thousands of dollars extra. For instance, with a $25,000 5-year car loan at an interest rate of 16% (which could be significantly higher with bad credit) would likely cost you over $6,000 more than if you had decent credit and were able to get the same loan with an interest rate of 8% (which could be significantly lower with a 700+ credit score) – a typical home mortgage could cost you an extra $100,000 in interest!

What Gives You A Bad Credit Score & What You Can Do To Improve Your Score

If you’ve discovered that your credit score falls into the “bad” credit range, it is helpful to know what may have caused your credit score to drop. You can get this information by reviewing your credit report which will include any negative items which negatively impacted your credit score, causing you to have a bad credit score. There are a number of things that may give you a bad credit score, a few of which include:

  • Defaulting on a loan or credit card
  • Paying a credit card/loan/mortgage payment late
  • Foreclosure
  • Bankruptcy
  • Changing your address too frequently
  • Running frequent credit checks
  • Keeping a high balance to credit limit ratio

The above are some of the most common issues that lead to a poor or bad credit score but there are many others as well. It is important to review your credit report with a credit consultant to help shine more light on what may have caused your credit score to drop and how you can improve or repair your credit.

Thankfully, having a bad credit score is not the end of the world. There is a light at the end of the tunnel as there are many ways to improve your credit score or repair your credit. Here are a few ways in which you can take control of your credit and work on getting your score back up:

  • Pay your bills on time. Delinquent payments and collections can have a major negative impact on a credit score.
  • Keep balances low on credit cards and other “revolving credit”. High outstanding debt can affect a credit score.
  • Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed. Don’t open accounts just to have a better credit mix. It probably won’t improve your credit score.
  • Pay off debt rather than moving it around. Also, don’t close unused cards as a short-term strategy to improve your credit score. Owing the same amount but having fewer open accounts may lower your credit score.

Another option to get out of that “bad” credit score range quickly, is to repair your credit score by disputing negative credit items which are showing up on your credit report. This can be done manually or through a credit repair company. In many cases there may be false information or even simple mistakes that can allow the negative times to be disputed and removed from your credit report. By removing these negative items from your credit report, your credit score will go up.

Source: creditabsolute.com

The Art of Mortgage Pre-Approval

Buying a home can feel like a cut-throat process. You may find the craftsman style house of your dreams only to be bumped out of the running by a buyer paying in all cash, or moving super swiftly. But fear not, understanding the home buying process and getting a mortgage pre-approval can put you back in the race and help you secure the house you want.

What is Mortgage Pre-approval?

Mortgage pre-approval is essentially a letter from a lender that states that you qualify for a loan of a certain amount and at a certain interest rate based on an evaluation of your credit and financial history. You’ll need to shop for homes within the price range guaranteed by your pre-approved mortgage. You can find out how much house you can afford with our home affordability calculator.

Armed with a letter of pre-approval you can show sellers that you are a serious homebuyer with the means to purchase a home. In many ways it’s competitive to buying a home in cash. In the eyes of the seller, pre-approval can often push you ahead of other potential buyers who have not yet been approved for a mortgage.

Getting pre-qualified for a mortgage is not the same as pre-approval. It’s actually a relatively simple process in which a lender looks at a few financial details, such as income, assets, and debt, and gives you an estimate of how much of a mortgage they think you can afford.

Taking out a mortgage is a huge step and pre-qualification can help you hunt down reputable lenders and find a loan that potentially works for you. Going through this process can be useful, because it gives you an idea of your buying power, or how much house you can afford.

Check out local real estate
market trends to help with
your home-buying journey.

It also gives you an idea of what your monthly payment might be and is a chance to shop around to various lenders to see what types of terms and interest rates they offer. Pre-qualification is not a guarantee that you will actually qualify for a mortgage.

Getting pre-approval is a more complicated process. You’ll have to fill out an application with your lender and agree to a credit check in addition to providing information about your income and assets. There are a number of steps you can take to increase your chances of pre-approval or to increase the amount your lender will approve. Consider the following:

Building Your Credit

Think of this as step zero when you apply for any type of loan. Lenders want to see that you have a history of properly managing your debt before offering you credit themselves. You can build credit history by opening and using a credit card and paying your bills on time. Or consider having regular payments , such as your rent, tracked and added to your credit score.

Checking Your Credit

If you’ve already established a credit history, the first thing you’ll want to do before applying for a mortgage is check your credit report and your FICO score. Your credit report is a history of your credit compiled from sources such as banks, credit card companies, collection agencies, and the government.

This information is collected by the three main credit reporting bureaus, Transunion, Equifax and Experian. Your FICO score is one number that represents your credit risk should a lender offer you a loan.
You’ll want to make sure that the information on your credit report is correct.

If you find any mistakes, contact the credit reporting agencies immediately to let them know. You don’t want any incorrect information weighing down your credit score, putting your chances for pre-approval at risk.

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Stay on Top of Your Debt

Your ability to pay your bills on time has a big impact on your credit score. If you can, make sure you make regular payments. And if your budget allows, you can make payments in full. If you have any debts that are dragging on your credit score—for example, debts that are in collection—work on paying them off first, as this can give your score a more immediate boost.

Watch Your Debt-to-income Ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio is your monthly debts divided by your monthly income. If you have $1,000 a month in debt payments and make $5,000 a month, your debt-income ratio is $1,000 divided by $5,000, or 20%.

Lenders may assume that borrowers with a high debt-to-income ratio will have a harder time making their mortgage payments. Keep your debt-to-income ratio in check by avoiding making large purchases before seeking pre-approval for a mortgage. For example, you may want to hold off on buying a new car until you’ve been pre-approved.

Prove Consistent Income

Your lender will want to know that you’ve got enough money coming in each month to cover a potential mortgage payment. So, they’ll likely ask you to prove that you have consistent income for at least two years by taking a look at your income documents (W-2, 1099 etc.).

For some potential borrowers, such as freelancers, this may be a tricky process since you may have income from various sources. Keep all pay stubs, tax returns, and other proof of income and be prepared to show them to your lender.

What Happens if You’re Rejected?

Rejection hurts. But if you aren’t pre-approved, or you aren’t approved for a large enough mortgage to buy the house you want, you also aren’t powerless. First, ask the bank why they made the decision they did. This will give you an idea about what you might need to work on in order to secure the mortgage you want.

SoFi Mortgage.


The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SoFi Mortgages are not available in all states. Products and terms may vary from those advertised on this site. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria#eligibility-mortgage for details.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

SOMG18100

Source: sofi.com

5 Ways to Perfect Your Credit Score

If you’re trying to perfect your credit score, it’s important to first understand what makes up your credit report and credit score. Your credit score is determined by an advanced algorithm which was developed by FICO and pulls the data from your credit report to determine your score. When calculating your credit score, the following information is going to affect your credit score in the corresponding percentages:

  • 35 percent: History of on-time or late payments of credit.
  • 30 percent: Available credit on your open credit cards
  • 15 percent: The age of your lines of credit (old = good)
  • 10 percent: How often you apply for new credit.
  • 10 percent: Variable factors, such as the types of open credit lines you have

Many of this may be common sense or information that you’ve already learned over time, resulting in a good credit score but possibly not a perfect score. If you have a bad credit score, it could take a lot of time and work to perfect your score and you may first want to consider repairing your credit. If your credit score is already above 700 but you’re trying to shoot for that perfect score of 850 to ensure the best deals and interest rates, here are 5 ways to perfect your credit score:

1. Maintaining Debt-To-Limit Ratio

To perfect your credit score, it’s recommended that you keep your debt-to-credit ratio below 30% and, if possible, as low as 10%. The debt-to-limit ratio is the difference between how much you owe on a credit card versus how much your credit limit is. For example, if one of your credit cards has a credit limit of $5,000, then you should always keep the balance below $1,500 but preferably around $500. As you can see above, 30% of your credit score is determined by the available credit on your open credit cards, so keeping the debt-to-limit ratio will increase your available credit and also show that you’re responsible with your credit.

2. Keep Your Credit Cards Active

Make sure that you use your cards at least once a year to keep them shown as “active” credit and make sure that you never cancel your credit cards. 15% of your credit score is determined by the age of your lines of credit, so you should always keep your credit cards active to lengthen the age of your line of credit. Many people tend to cancel cards that they no longer use – many times because the rates aren’t very good or because they have another card with better benefits – but even if you don’t use the cards very often (just once a year is fine), you should keep them active. Typically, someone with a credit score over 800 has credit lines with at least 10 years of positive activity.

3. Always Pay Bills On Time

Probably the most well-known factor of a credit score and the factor that has the biggest impact on your credit score (35% of your score) is your history of paying your credit payments on-time. If you have a history of always making your credit card, mortgage, and car payments on time, you will greatly improve your credit score. This can also have an adverse effect as well, should you ever make a late payment. Unfortunately, it only takes one late payment to severely reduce your credit score so it’s crucial that you make sure to always make credit payments on time.

4. Dispute Errors On Your Credit Report

If you don’t already, make sure that you request a copy of your credit report once every year and review it for errors. It is actually quite common for credit reports to contain errors which can be disputed and potentially allow you to have negative items removed from your credit report. If, for instance, your credit report shows a late payment on a credit card but contained errors in the record, you can dispute the negative item and request to have it removed from your report. Having a negative item, like a late payment, removed from your report can improve your credit score significantly. While disputing errors on your credit report can be tedious and take a lot of time, it is usually worth it. Another option would be to contact a credit repair agency to help you dispute any negative items on your credit report.

5. Reduce The Number of Credit Inquiries

While this may only affect 10% of your credit score, keeping the number of credit inquiries down can still help to build that perfect credit score but is often ignored. You should never have more than one credit inquiry per year but many people do not realize how often this is done and often times have their credit checked more than once per year. If you’re applying for a car loan, checking your credit score online, or applying for a new credit card, these type of actions will almost always result in a credit inquiry and should be avoided if you’ve already had a credit inquiry earlier in the year. Make sure you do your research on what will result in a credit inquiry so that you don’t accidentally have more than one a year without realizing it.

Source: creditabsolute.com

Common Credit Score Mistakes

Here at Credit Absolute we’ve helped our fair share of clients who have just been dealt a bad hand and everything went bad at once, destroying their credit score.

One of the more extreme case was with one of our clients who had been laid off during the recent recession. This caused him get behind on car and mortgage payments for several months before finally going into foreclosure, having his car repossessed, and maxed out credit cards.  This left him drowning in debt and when he finally found new employment, the previous lenders began garnishing his wages, making it nearly impossible to pay his current bills, let alone pay off old debt. He was then forced to file bankruptcy and is now working to rebuild his credit after years of bad luck ruined his credit.

There are definitely situations like this that may be out of your control and your bad credit score may just be the result of bad luck, but in most cases it has more to do with poor credit habits and common credit mistakes. While derogatory marks on your credit report do eventually fall off, it does take awhile. So it’s important to make sure you avoid these common mistakes.

Common Credit Score Mistakes That Can Kill Your Credit Score

While some unforeseen circumstances may be unavoidable, there are quite a few different things that can negatively affect your credit score and should be avoided whenever possible. Here are a few common mistakes that people with low credit scores tend to make:

  • You Close Old Credit Card Accounts

A large part of your credit score is determined by your credit history and by keeping your old credit cards can help improve your credit score. You will still need to occasionally use those cards to keep them “active” but you definitely don’t want to close out old cards.

  • You Take Too Long To Shop For The Best Rate

This is a very common mistake among new home and car buyers who have been advised to shop around for the best rates. While it is definitely recommended to search around for the best rates when buying a car or home, you want to avoid having your credit checked numerous times by shopping too long for a good rate. One tip to help avoid this mistake is by working with a mortgage broker; they can run your credit once but will still have access to numerous mortgage companies in order to find you the best rate without having to re-run your credit for every lender.

  • You Don’t Use Credit, Even Though You Have Access To It

Sadly, this happens far too often and, while it may not hurt your credit, it is a lost opportunity that could be helping you maintain a good credit score. If you have credit cards that you’ve perhaps had for years and no longer use, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to improve your credit. Credit that isn’t being used won’t help your credit score so make sure that you’re using your credit card at least a few times a year to ensure it stays “active” and continues to benefit your score.

  • You Max Out Your Credit Cards

While this mistake isn’t always done intentionally – many people max out their credit cards because of unexpected financial burdens – many people are unaware that they are severely hurting their credit score by maxing out a credit card. Try to avoid using more than 50% of your available credit (preferably less than 30%) to maintain a good debt to credit ratio which will help increase your credit score.

  • You Became A Co-Signer

This can be a sensitive matter of conversation because co-signing often involves two people who are very close and trust each other enough to risk their credit on behalf of the other. Unfortunately, many people haphazardly co-sign without a second thought and without considering the implications of the matter. Before co-signing, make sure that the person you’re co-signing for isn’t a likely risk of delinquency. If they stop paying, you start paying with bad credit – you could also be held accountable for the remainder of the debt as well.

  • You Don’t Worry About “Just One” Missed Payment

According to FICO, “Delinquent payments, even if only a few days late, and collections can have a major negative impact on your FICO Scores.”

Far too often people will neglect to pay their bills on time simply because they forget to, are too busy, or simply don’t think it’s a big deal if they’re just a few days late. Unfortunately this can severely impact your credit score, lowering it substantially. Avoid late payments whenever possible and set reminders if you have the tendency to forget.

Rebuild Your Credit

Whether you’ve been the subject of Murphy’s Law and been rained on with horribly bad luck, resulting in a low credit score, or you’ve just inadvertently made some poor choices that have caused your score to drop, Credit Absolute can help rebuild your credit score quickly and affordably. Don’t continue to be dragged down by poor credit and high interest rates, contact us today for a free consultation!

Source: creditabsolute.com

15 types of credit cards

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Whether you’re a seasoned cardholder or a first-timer, you may be surprised at how many types of credit cards are available. Depending on your credit score and the length of your credit history, you may not be able to qualify for the ones with the most favorable terms and lowest interest rates. But chances are, there’s a card that fits your needs and—if used responsibly—may help you build credit.

Broadly speaking, there are four different types of credit card categories:

  1. Cards That Help Build Credit
  2. Cards That Can Save You Money
  3. Cards That Offer Cash Back and Rewards
  4. Cards for People With Bad Credit

Here, we’ll break down each category, discuss the specific card types and explain each one’s unique benefits so that you can make the most of your card.

Cards That Help Build Credit

If you’re new to the world of credit, you may be wondering how to build credit quickly, without going into debt. If you’re in college, you may have the added load of student debt. When you’re just starting out, it’s important to find a card that’s right for you and manage it carefully to start your credit health out on the right foot. You may even be able to earn some rewards along the way.

Cardholders ages 18 – 22 have an average credit score of 672.

1. Student Credit Cards

Student credit cards operate exactly the same way that standard credit cards do. The main difference is that their total credit limits tend to be lower. Additionally, since they are marketed toward students who likely don’t have much of a credit history, the requirements for approval are typically more lenient. 

Benefit: Some student cards offer incentives for good grades, like a small cash reward for each school year that you earn a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Example: Discover it® Student Cash Back

2. Starter Credit Cards

Starter credit cards are designed for those with little to no credit history. Consider getting one if you’ve never had a line of credit, or if you have one that hasn’t been open very long. These cards typically don’t offer great rewards programs or cash-back incentives, and they come with high interest rates. However, if you can find one with no annual fee, it can be a great option to begin building credit.

Benefit: Establish your credit and build a solid payment history with this type of credit card, which is generally easy to qualify for.

Example: Capital One Platinum® Credit Card

3. Joint Credit Cards

Unlike authorized user credit cards, joint credit cards require both parties to apply together. Both parties are equally responsible for paying the balance. Therefore, late or missed payments may ding both credit scores—while consistent, on-time payments will benefit both scores. 

Benefit: If a person doesn’t have a high enough credit score to qualify for a good credit card, they may consider applying with their partner for a joint credit card with more favorable terms.

Example: Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Cards That Can Save You Money

Sometimes applying for a credit card is a strategic move. Maybe you want to transfer your balance to a card with a lower interest rate, avoid paying interest for an introductory period or customize features for your business. These cards can help you save money—your way.

Approximately 74% of credit cards have no annual fee.

4. Zero Percent Purchase APR Credit Cards

Sometimes cards will offer temporarily lower APRs for an introductory period. Cards that boast zero percent APR don’t require you to pay interest on new purchases for a set amount of time, usually about 12 months. 

Benefit: Save money on interest by borrowing money essentially for free. Just make sure to pay off your balance by the time your introductory period is over to avoid interest charges.

Example: U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

5. No Annual Fee Credit Cards

Many credit cards charge annual fees for the convenience of having the card and for the benefits and rewards they offer. Depending on how elite the card is, these fees can be up to $450 or more. However, almost three-fourths of cards offer no annual fee—and many of these still come with decent cash back programs. Scan your credit card offer or the terms and conditions to make sure your card has no annual fee. 

Benefit: Save an average of $58 each year by avoiding unnecessary annual credit card fees.

Example: Citi® Double Cash Card

6. Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Similar to zero percent purchase APR credit cards, balance transfer cards offer temporarily low introductory rates—but specifically for balance transfers. This is a great option for those who want to save money on a high-interest credit card. Rather than closing the unfavorable card—which may lower your credit score—a balance transfer may be a better option.

Benefit: Avoid paying hefty amounts of interest by transferring your balance to a card with a much lower introductory rate. 

Example: Wells Fargo Platinum Card

7. Business Credit Cards

If you’re a business owner, you may want to apply for a credit card specifically for business use. This will help you separate personal and business expenses, and the rewards may help your business save money. You’ll then begin to build business credit. To apply you’ll need decent credit and either a federal tax ID or employer identification number (EIN).

Benefit: Enjoy business-specific perks like higher credit limits, expense management reports and the ability to add more cards for employees. 

Example: Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi

Cards That Offer Cash Back and Rewards

In order to get the most out of their spending, most cardholders gravitate toward credit options that offer cash back and rewards. 

Cardholders carry an average of 4.1 cards, 2.4 of which are rewards-based.

8. Cash Back Credit Cards

Cash back credit cards allow you to earn a certain percent—typically ranging from one to five—of the money back every time you make a purchase with the card. Some issuers will pay this amount annually, while others pay monthly.

Benefit: Find a card that allows you to customize where you get your cash back. For example, certain cards allow you to earn five percent cash back in a store category of your choice.

Example: Chase Freedom Unlimited®

9. Retail Credit Cards

Retail or store credit cards are offered by specific businesses and can only be used to make purchases with that store. While these cards aren’t ideal for everyday purchasing needs, they’re a great way to earn generous rewards with stores that you frequently shop at. There are over 300 store credit cards available, from Walmart and Target to Lowe’s and JCPenney. 

Benefit: Store cards typically don’t charge annual fees, don’t require excellent credit and offer substantial first-purchase discounts as well as long-term cash back rewards.

Example: Amazon Prime Store Card

10. Hotel Credit Cards

Hotel credit cards are affiliated with a specific hotel chain and offer rewards on a “points” basis. Typically, they’ll offer some points for purchases made at unrelated businesses such as grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants. But the main attraction is the bonus points earned on eligible purchases made directly with the hotel. 

Benefit: Earn generous sign-up bonuses, rewards when you spend money on hotel bookings and yearly free nights. 

Example: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

11. Airline Credit Cards

Certain credit cards offer rewards on purchases made with a specific airline, while others allow you to earn rewards with any airline or travel-related expense. These rewards rack up in the form of “miles.” For example, many cards offer two miles for every one dollar spent on flights. 

Benefit: For frequent travelers, airline credit cards are a great way to score free and discounted flights.

Example: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

12. Gas Rewards Credit Cards

Not to be confused with gas station credit cards—which operate like retail cards—a gas station rewards card offers cash back when you pay at the pump. It can be used anywhere, but you’ll enjoy bonus rewards at gas stations.

Benefit: Earn up to three to five percent cash back on gas purchases, often with no annual fee and a zero percent introductory APR. 

Example: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

13. Charge Cards

Charge cards operate in exactly the same manner as regular credit cards, except for one major caveat: you must completely pay off the total balance each month. Failure to do so results in late fees and penalties and will cause a drop in your credit score. On the flip side, they typically come with sizable initial bonuses and rewards.

Benefit: Enjoy higher credit limits and generous point systems—oftentimes offering up to five points per one dollar spent.

Example: ThePlatinum Card® from American Express

Cards for People With Bad Credit

If you’re struggling to get approved for credit cards, loans or other lines of credit because of bad credit, don’t be discouraged. There are credit cards with terms designed specifically for those with poor credit. 

Approximately 12% of Americans have a FICO score below 550.

14. Secured Credit Cards

Most credit cards are unsecured. This means that you are not required to put up a security deposit. Secured cards, on the other hand, require an up-front payment to act as collateral in the event that you can’t pay your balance. Credit card issuers see borrowers with bad credit scores as riskier, so this deposit helps mitigate some of that risk. 

Benefit: Secured cards give borrowers with poor credit access to credit when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to qualify for a card.

Example: Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

15. Prepaid Cards

Prepaid cards aren’t technically credit cards, because they don’t involve borrowing money. Instead, a cardholder loads a set amount of money onto the card, and purchases are subtracted from the card’s balance, similar to a gift card. The spending limit then renews if and when the card is reloaded. 

Benefit: Prepaid cards help you stay within a budget and avoid getting into credit card debt.

Example: American Express Serve® FREE Reloads

What Type of Credit Card Is Best?

Ultimately, the decision for which card to get is up to your personal preferences and financial goals. However, there are a few good rules of thumb when looking for the best credit cards. Remember to read the terms and conditions carefully before signing up. Generally, cards with any of the following perks may be worth pursuing:

  • Zero percent introductory APR
  • Low APR after the introductory period
  • Sign-up bonus
  • Solid rewards or cash-back program
  • No annual fee

All of the different types of credit cards may seem daunting at first, but once you understand the unique benefits of each one, you’ll be able to find a card that fits your needs. Remember that—regardless of credit card type—good credit management is the key to keeping your credit healthy. After years of on-time payments, low credit utilization, a good mix of credit and few hard inquiries, you’ll be well on your way to your best score yet.


Reviewed by Kenton Arbon, an Associate Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Kenton Arbon is an Associate Attorney in the Arizona office. Mr. Arbon was born in Bakersfield, California, and grew up in the Northwest. He earned his B.A. in Business Administration, Human Resources Management, while working as an Oregon State Trooper. His interest in the law lead him to relocate to Arizona, attend law school, and graduate from Arizona State College of Law in 2017. Since graduating from law school, Mr. Arbon has worked in multiple compliance domains including anti-money laundering, Medicare Part D, contracts, and debt negotiation. Mr. Arbon is licensed to practice law in Arizona. He is located in the Phoenix office.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

How to Refinance Your Home Mortgage – Step-by-Step Guide

Deciding to refinance your mortgage is only the beginning of the process. You’re far more likely to accomplish what you set out to achieve with your refinance — and to get a good deal in the meantime — when you understand what a mortgage refinance entails.

From decision to closing, mortgage refinancing applicants pass through four key stages on their journey to a new mortgage loan.

How to Refinance a Mortgage on Your Home

Getting a home loan of any kind is a highly involved and consequential process.

On the front end, it requires careful consideration on your part. In this case, that means weighing the pros and cons of refinancing in general and the purpose of your loan in particular.

For example, are you refinancing to get a lower rate loan (reducing borrowing costs relative to your current loan) or do you need a cash-out refinance to finance a home improvement project, which could actually entail a higher rate?

Next, you’ll need to gather all the documents and details you’ll need to apply for your loan, evaluate your loan options and calculate what your new home mortgage will cost, and then begin the process of actually shopping for and applying for your new loan — the longest step in the process.

Expect the whole endeavor to take several weeks.

1. Determining Your Loan’s Purpose & Objectives

The decision to refinance a mortgage is not one to make lightly. If you’ve decided to go through with it, you probably have a goal in mind already.

Still, before getting any deeper into the process, it’s worth reviewing your longer-term objectives and determining what you hope to get out of your refinance. You might uncover a secondary or tertiary goal or benefit that alters your approach to the process before it’s too late to change course.

Refinancing advances a whole host of goals, some of which are complementary. For example:

  • Accelerating Payoff. A shorter loan term means fewer monthly payments and quicker payoff. It also means lower borrowing costs over the life of the loan. The principal downside: Shortening a loan’s remaining term from, say, 25 years to 15 years is likely to raise the monthly payment, even as it cuts down total interest charges.
  • Lowering the Monthly Payment. A lower monthly payment means a more affordable loan from month to month — a key benefit for borrowers struggling to live within their means. If you plan to stay in your home for at least three to five years, accepting a prepayment penalty (which is usually a bad idea) can further reduce your interest rate and your monthly payment along with it. The most significant downsides here are the possibility of higher overall borrowing costs and taking longer to pay it off if, as is often the case, you reduce your monthly payment by lengthening your loan term.
  • Lowering the Interest Rate. Even with an identical term, a lower interest rate reduces total borrowing costs and lowers the monthly payment. That’s why refinancing activity spikes when interest rates are low. Choose a shorter term and you’ll see a more drastic reduction.
  • Avoiding the Downsides of Adjustable Rates. Life is good for borrowers during the first five to seven years of the typical adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) term when the 30-year loan rate is likely to be lower than prevailing rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. The bill comes due, literally, when the time comes for the rate to adjust. If rates have risen since the loan’s origination, which is common, the monthly payment spikes. Borrowers can avoid this unwelcome development by refinancing to a fixed-rate mortgage ahead of the jump.
  • Getting Rid of FHA Mortgage Insurance. With relaxed approval standards and low down payment requirements, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage loans help lower-income, lower-asset first-time buyers afford starter homes. But they have some significant drawbacks, including pricey mortgage insurance that lasts for the life of the loan. Borrowers with sufficient equity (typically 20% or more) can put that behind them, reduce their monthly payment in the process by refinancing to a conventional mortgage, and avoid less expensive but still unwelcome private mortgage insurance (PMI).
  • Tapping Home Equity. Use a cash-out refinance loan to extract equity from your home. This type of loan allows you to borrow cash against the value of your home to fund things like home improvement projects or debt consolidation. Depending on the lender and jurisdiction, you can borrow up to 85% of your home equity (between rolled-over principal and cash proceeds) with this type of loan. But mind your other equity-tapping options: a home equity loan or home equity line of credit.

Confirming what you hope to get out of your refinance is an essential prerequisite to calculating its likely cost and choosing the optimal offer.


2. Confirm the Timing & Gather Everything You Need

With your loan’s purpose and your long-term financial objectives set, it’s time to confirm you’re ready to refinance. If yes, you must gather everything you need to apply, or at least begin thinking about how to do that.

Assessing Your Timing & Determining Whether to Wait

The purpose of your loan plays a substantial role in dictating the timing of your refinance.

For example, if your primary goal is to tap the equity in your home to finance a major home improvement project, such as a kitchen remodel or basement finish, wait until your loan-to-value ratio is low enough to produce the requisite windfall. That time might not arrive until you’ve been in your home for a decade or longer, depending on the property’s value (and change in value over time).

As a simplified example, if you accumulate an average of $5,000 in equity per year during your first decade of homeownership by making regular payments on your mortgage, you must pay your 30-year mortgage on time for 10 consecutive years to build the $50,000 needed for a major kitchen remodel (without accounting for a potential increase in equity due to a rise in market value).

By contrast, if your primary goal is to avoid a spike in your ARM payment, it’s in your interest to refinance before that happens — most often five or seven years into your original mortgage term.

But other factors can also influence the timing of your refinance or give you second thoughts about going through with it at all:

  • Your Credit Score. Because mortgage refinance loans are secured by the value of the properties they cover, their interest rates tend to be lower than riskier forms of unsecured debt, such as personal loans and credit cards. But borrower credit still plays a vital role in setting their rates. Borrowers with credit scores above 760 get the best rates, and borrowers with scores much below 680 can expect significantly higher rates. That’s not to say refinancing never makes sense for someone whose FICO score is in the mid-600s or below, only that those with the luxury to wait out the credit rebuilding or credit improvement process might want to consider it. If you’re unsure of your credit score, you can check it for free through Credit Karma.
  • Debt-to-Income Ratio. Mortgage lenders prefer borrowers with low debt-to-income ratios. Under 36% is ideal, and over 43% is likely a deal breaker for most lenders. If your debt-to-income ratio is uncomfortably high, consider putting off your refinance for six months to a year and using the time to pay down debt.
  • Work History. Fairly or not, lenders tend to be leery of borrowers who’ve recently changed jobs. If you’ve been with your current employer for two years or less, you must demonstrate that your income has been steady for longer and still might fail to qualify for the rate you expected. However, if you expect interest rates to rise in the near term, waiting out your new job could cancel out any benefits due to the higher future prevailing rates.
  • Prevailing Interest Rates. Given the considerable sums of money involved, even an incremental change to your refinance loan’s interest rate could translate to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars saved over the life of the loan. If you expect interest rates to fall in the near term, put off your refinance application. Conversely, if you believe rates will rise, don’t delay. And if the difference between your original mortgage rate and the rate you expect to receive on your refinance loan isn’t at least 1.5 percentage points, think twice about going ahead with the refinance at all. Under those circumstances, it takes longer to recoup your refinance loan’s closing costs.
  • Anticipated Time in the Home. It rarely makes sense to refinance your original mortgage if you plan to sell the home or pay off the mortgage within two years. Depending on your expected interest savings on the refinance, it can take much longer than that (upward of five years) to break even. Think carefully about how much effort you want to devote to refinancing a loan you’re going to pay off in a few years anyway.

Pro tip: If you need to give your credit score a bump, sign up for Experian Boost. It’s free and it’ll help you instantly increase your credit score.

Gathering Information & Application Materials

If and when you’re ready to go through with your refinance, you need a great deal of information and documentation before and during the application and closing processes, including:

  • Proof of Income. Depending on your employment status and sources of income, the lender will ask you to supply recent pay stubs, tax returns, or bank statements.
  • A Recent Home Appraisal. Your refinance lender will order a home appraisal before closing, so you don’t need to arrange one on your own. However, to avoid surprises, you can use open-source comparable local sales data to get an idea of your home’s likely market value.
  • Property Insurance Information. Your lender (and later, mortgage servicer) needs your homeowners insurance information to bundle your escrow payment. If it has been more than a year since you reviewed your property insurance policy, now’s the time to shop around for a better deal.

Be prepared to provide additional documentation if requested by your lender before closing. Any missing information or delays in producing documents can jeopardize the close.

Home Appraisal Blackboard Chalk Hand


3. Calculate Your Approximate Refinancing Costs

Next, use a free mortgage refinance calculator like Bank of America’s to calculate your approximate refinancing costs.

Above all else, this calculation must confirm you can afford the monthly mortgage payment on your refinance loan. If one of your aims in refinancing is to reduce the amount of interest paid over the life of your loan, this calculation can also confirm your chosen loan term and structure will achieve that.

For it to be worth it, you must at least break even on the loan after accounting for closing costs.

Calculating Your Breakeven Cost

Breakeven is a simple concept. When the total amount of interest you must pay over the life of your refinance loan matches the loan’s closing costs, you break even on the loan.

The point in time at which you reach parity is the breakeven point. Any interest saved after the breakeven point is effectively a bonus — money you would have forfeited had you chosen not to refinance.

Two factors determine if and when the breakeven point arrives. First, a longer loan term increases the likelihood you’ll break even at some point. More important still is the magnitude of change in your loan’s interest rate. The further your refinance rate falls from your original loan’s rate, the more you save each month and the faster you can recoup your closing costs.

A good mortgage refinance calculator should automatically calculate your breakeven point. Otherwise, calculate your breakeven point by dividing your refinance loan’s closing costs by the monthly savings relative to the original loan and round the result up to the next whole number.

Because you won’t have exact figures for your loan’s closing costs or monthly savings until you’ve applied and received loan disclosures, you’re calculating an estimated breakeven range at this point.

Refinance loan closing costs typically range from 2% to 6% of the refinanced loan’s principal, depending on the origination fee and other big-ticket expenses, so run one optimistic scenario (closing costs at 2% and a short time to breakeven) and one pessimistic scenario (closing costs at 6% and a long time to breakeven). The actual outcome will likely fall somewhere in the middle.

Note that the breakeven point is why it rarely makes sense to bother refinancing if you plan to sell or pay off the loan within two years or can’t reduce your interest rate by more than 1.5 to 2 percentage points.


4. Shop, Apply, & Close

You’re now in the home stretch — ready to shop, apply, and close the deal on your refinance loan.

Follow each of these steps in order, beginning with a multipronged effort to source accurate refinance quotes, continuing through an application and evaluation marathon, and finishing up with a closing that should seem breezier than your first.

Use a Quote Finder (Online Broker) to Get Multiple Quotes Quickly

Start by using an online broker like Credible* to source multiple refinance quotes from banks and mortgage lenders without contacting each party directly. Be prepared to provide basic information about your property and objectives, such as:

  • Property type, such as single-family home or townhouse
  • Property purpose, such as primary home or vacation home
  • Loan purpose, such as lowering the monthly payment
  • Property zip code
  • Estimated property value and remaining first mortgage loan balance
  • Cash-out needs, if any
  • Basic personal information, such as estimated credit score and date of birth

If your credit is decent or better, expect to receive multiple conditional refinance offers — with some coming immediately and others trickling in by email or phone in the subsequent hours and days. You’re under no obligation to act on any, sales pressure notwithstanding, but do make note of the most appealing.

Approach Banks & Lenders You’ve Worked With Before

Next, investigate whether any financial institutions with which you have a preexisting relationship offer refinance loans, including your current mortgage lender.

Most banks and credit unions do offer refinance loans. Though their rates tend to be less competitive at a baseline than direct lenders without expensive branch offices, many offer special pricing for longtime or high-asset customers. It’s certainly worth taking the time to make a few calls or website visits.

Apply for Multiple Loans Within 14 Days

You won’t know the exact cost of any refinance offer until you officially apply and receive the formal loan disclosure all lenders must provide to every prospective borrower.

But you can’t formally apply for a refinance loan without consenting to a hard credit pull, which can temporarily depress your credit score. And you definitely shouldn’t go through with your refinance until you’ve entertained multiple offers to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

Fortunately, the major consumer credit-reporting bureaus count all applications for a specific loan type (such as mortgage refinance loans) made within a two-week period as a single application, regardless of the final application count.

In other words, get in all the refinance applications you plan to make within two weeks, and your credit report will show just a single inquiry.

Evaluate Each Offer

Evaluate the loan disclosure for each accepted application with your objectives and general financial goals in mind. If your primary goal is reducing your monthly payment, look for the loan with the lowest monthly cost.

If your primary goal is reducing your lifetime homeownership costs, look for the loan offering the most substantial interest savings (the lowest mortgage interest rate).

Regardless of your loan’s purpose, make sure you understand what (if anything) you’re obligated to pay out of pocket for your loan. Many refinance loans simply roll closing costs into the principal, raising the monthly payment and increasing lifetime interest costs.

If your goal is to get the lowest possible monthly payment and you can afford to, try paying the closing costs out of pocket.

Choose an Offer & Consider Locking Your Rate

Choose the best offer from the pack — the one that best suits your objectives. If you expect rates to move up before closing, consider the lender’s offer (if extended) to lock your rate for a predetermined period, usually 45 to 90 days.

There’s likely a fee associated with this option, but the amount saved by even marginally reducing your final interest rate will probably offset it. Assuming everything goes smoothly during closing, you shouldn’t need more than 45 days — and certainly not more than 90 days — to finish the deal.

Proceed to Closing

Once you’ve closed on the loan, that’s it — you’ve refinanced your mortgage. Your refinance lender pays off your first mortgage and originates your new loan.

Moving forward, you send payments to your refinance lender, their servicer, or another company that purchases the loan.


Final Word

If you own a home, refinancing your mortgage loan is likely the easiest route to capitalize on low interest rates. It’s probably the most profitable too.

But low prevailing interest rates aren’t the only reason to refinance your mortgage loan. Other common refinancing goals include avoiding the first upward adjustment on an ARM, reducing the monthly payment to a level that doesn’t strain your growing family’s budget, tapping the equity you’ve built in your home, and banishing FHA mortgage insurance.

And a refinance loan doesn’t need to achieve only one goal. Some of these objectives are complementary, such as reducing your monthly payment while lowering your interest rate (and lifetime borrowing costs).

Provided you make out on the deal, whether by reducing your total homeownership costs or taking your monthly payment down a peg, it’s likely worth the effort.

*Advertisement from Credible Operations, Inc. NMLS 1681276.Address: 320 Blackwell St. Ste 200, Durham, NC, 27701

Source: moneycrashers.com

15 types of credit cards – Lexington Law

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Whether you’re a seasoned cardholder or a first-timer, you may be surprised at how many types of credit cards are available. Depending on your credit score and the length of your credit history, you may not be able to qualify for the ones with the most favorable terms and lowest interest rates. But chances are, there’s a card that fits your needs and—if used responsibly—may help you build credit.

Broadly speaking, there are four different types of credit card categories:

  1. Cards That Help Build Credit
  2. Cards That Can Save You Money
  3. Cards That Offer Cash Back and Rewards
  4. Cards for People With Bad Credit

Here, we’ll break down each category, discuss the specific card types and explain each one’s unique benefits so that you can make the most of your card.

Cards That Help Build Credit

If you’re new to the world of credit, you may be wondering how to build credit quickly, without going into debt. If you’re in college, you may have the added load of student debt. When you’re just starting out, it’s important to find a card that’s right for you and manage it carefully to start your credit health out on the right foot. You may even be able to earn some rewards along the way.

Cardholders ages 18 – 22 have an average credit score of 672.

1. Student Credit Cards

Student credit cards operate exactly the same way that standard credit cards do. The main difference is that their total credit limits tend to be lower. Additionally, since they are marketed toward students who likely don’t have much of a credit history, the requirements for approval are typically more lenient. 

Benefit: Some student cards offer incentives for good grades, like a small cash reward for each school year that you earn a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Example: Discover it® Student Cash Back

2. Starter Credit Cards

Starter credit cards are designed for those with little to no credit history. Consider getting one if you’ve never had a line of credit, or if you have one that hasn’t been open very long. These cards typically don’t offer great rewards programs or cash-back incentives, and they come with high interest rates. However, if you can find one with no annual fee, it can be a great option to begin building credit.

Benefit: Establish your credit and build a solid payment history with this type of credit card, which is generally easy to qualify for.

Example: Capital One Platinum® Credit Card

3. Joint Credit Cards

Unlike authorized user credit cards, joint credit cards require both parties to apply together. Both parties are equally responsible for paying the balance. Therefore, late or missed payments may ding both credit scores—while consistent, on-time payments will benefit both scores. 

Benefit: If a person doesn’t have a high enough credit score to qualify for a good credit card, they may consider applying with their partner for a joint credit card with more favorable terms.

Example: Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Cards That Can Save You Money

Sometimes applying for a credit card is a strategic move. Maybe you want to transfer your balance to a card with a lower interest rate, avoid paying interest for an introductory period or customize features for your business. These cards can help you save money—your way.

Approximately 74% of credit cards have no annual fee.

4. Zero Percent Purchase APR Credit Cards

Sometimes cards will offer temporarily lower APRs for an introductory period. Cards that boast zero percent APR don’t require you to pay interest on new purchases for a set amount of time, usually about 12 months. 

Benefit: Save money on interest by borrowing money essentially for free. Just make sure to pay off your balance by the time your introductory period is over to avoid interest charges.

Example: U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

5. No Annual Fee Credit Cards

Many credit cards charge annual fees for the convenience of having the card and for the benefits and rewards they offer. Depending on how elite the card is, these fees can be up to $450 or more. However, almost three-fourths of cards offer no annual fee—and many of these still come with decent cash back programs. Scan your credit card offer or the terms and conditions to make sure your card has no annual fee. 

Benefit: Save an average of $58 each year by avoiding unnecessary annual credit card fees.

Example: Citi® Double Cash Card

6. Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Similar to zero percent purchase APR credit cards, balance transfer cards offer temporarily low introductory rates—but specifically for balance transfers. This is a great option for those who want to save money on a high-interest credit card. Rather than closing the unfavorable card—which may lower your credit score—a balance transfer may be a better option.

Benefit: Avoid paying hefty amounts of interest by transferring your balance to a card with a much lower introductory rate. 

Example: Wells Fargo Platinum Card

7. Business Credit Cards

If you’re a business owner, you may want to apply for a credit card specifically for business use. This will help you separate personal and business expenses, and the rewards may help your business save money. You’ll then begin to build business credit. To apply you’ll need decent credit and either a federal tax ID or employer identification number (EIN).

Benefit: Enjoy business-specific perks like higher credit limits, expense management reports and the ability to add more cards for employees. 

Example: Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Card by Citi

Cards That Offer Cash Back and Rewards

In order to get the most out of their spending, most cardholders gravitate toward credit options that offer cash back and rewards. 

Cardholders carry an average of 4.1 cards, 2.4 of which are rewards-based.

8. Cash Back Credit Cards

Cash back credit cards allow you to earn a certain percent—typically ranging from one to five—of the money back every time you make a purchase with the card. Some issuers will pay this amount annually, while others pay monthly.

Benefit: Find a card that allows you to customize where you get your cash back. For example, certain cards allow you to earn five percent cash back in a store category of your choice.

Example: Chase Freedom Unlimited®

9. Retail Credit Cards

Retail or store credit cards are offered by specific businesses and can only be used to make purchases with that store. While these cards aren’t ideal for everyday purchasing needs, they’re a great way to earn generous rewards with stores that you frequently shop at. There are over 300 store credit cards available, from Walmart and Target to Lowe’s and JCPenney. 

Benefit: Store cards typically don’t charge annual fees, don’t require excellent credit and offer substantial first-purchase discounts as well as long-term cash back rewards.

Example: Amazon Prime Store Card

10. Hotel Credit Cards

Hotel credit cards are affiliated with a specific hotel chain and offer rewards on a “points” basis. Typically, they’ll offer some points for purchases made at unrelated businesses such as grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants. But the main attraction is the bonus points earned on eligible purchases made directly with the hotel. 

Benefit: Earn generous sign-up bonuses, rewards when you spend money on hotel bookings and yearly free nights. 

Example: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

11. Airline Credit Cards

Certain credit cards offer rewards on purchases made with a specific airline, while others allow you to earn rewards with any airline or travel-related expense. These rewards rack up in the form of “miles.” For example, many cards offer two miles for every one dollar spent on flights. 

Benefit: For frequent travelers, airline credit cards are a great way to score free and discounted flights.

Example: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

12. Gas Rewards Credit Cards

Not to be confused with gas station credit cards—which operate like retail cards—a gas station rewards card offers cash back when you pay at the pump. It can be used anywhere, but you’ll enjoy bonus rewards at gas stations.

Benefit: Earn up to three to five percent cash back on gas purchases, often with no annual fee and a zero percent introductory APR. 

Example: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

13. Charge Cards

Charge cards operate in exactly the same manner as regular credit cards, except for one major caveat: you must completely pay off the total balance each month. Failure to do so results in late fees and penalties and will cause a drop in your credit score. On the flip side, they typically come with sizable initial bonuses and rewards.

Benefit: Enjoy higher credit limits and generous point systems—oftentimes offering up to five points per one dollar spent.

Example: ThePlatinum Card® from American Express

Cards for People With Bad Credit

If you’re struggling to get approved for credit cards, loans or other lines of credit because of bad credit, don’t be discouraged. There are credit cards with terms designed specifically for those with poor credit. 

Approximately 12% of Americans have a FICO score below 550.

14. Secured Credit Cards

Most credit cards are unsecured. This means that you are not required to put up a security deposit. Secured cards, on the other hand, require an up-front payment to act as collateral in the event that you can’t pay your balance. Credit card issuers see borrowers with bad credit scores as riskier, so this deposit helps mitigate some of that risk. 

Benefit: Secured cards give borrowers with poor credit access to credit when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to qualify for a card.

Example: Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

15. Prepaid Cards

Prepaid cards aren’t technically credit cards, because they don’t involve borrowing money. Instead, a cardholder loads a set amount of money onto the card, and purchases are subtracted from the card’s balance, similar to a gift card. The spending limit then renews if and when the card is reloaded. 

Benefit: Prepaid cards help you stay within a budget and avoid getting into credit card debt.

Example: American Express Serve® FREE Reloads

What Type of Credit Card Is Best?

Ultimately, the decision for which card to get is up to your personal preferences and financial goals. However, there are a few good rules of thumb when looking for the best credit cards. Remember to read the terms and conditions carefully before signing up. Generally, cards with any of the following perks may be worth pursuing:

  • Zero percent introductory APR
  • Low APR after the introductory period
  • Sign-up bonus
  • Solid rewards or cash-back program
  • No annual fee

All of the different types of credit cards may seem daunting at first, but once you understand the unique benefits of each one, you’ll be able to find a card that fits your needs. Remember that—regardless of credit card type—good credit management is the key to keeping your credit healthy. After years of on-time payments, low credit utilization, a good mix of credit and few hard inquiries, you’ll be well on your way to your best score yet.


Reviewed by Kenton Arbon, an Associate Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Kenton Arbon is an Associate Attorney in the Arizona office. Mr. Arbon was born in Bakersfield, California, and grew up in the Northwest. He earned his B.A. in Business Administration, Human Resources Management, while working as an Oregon State Trooper. His interest in the law lead him to relocate to Arizona, attend law school, and graduate from Arizona State College of Law in 2017. Since graduating from law school, Mr. Arbon has worked in multiple compliance domains including anti-money laundering, Medicare Part D, contracts, and debt negotiation. Mr. Arbon is licensed to practice law in Arizona. He is located in the Phoenix office.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

Renting a Car for Your Holiday Vacations

The holiday season is upon us and many of us will be taking time off work to visit family and friends or just to get out of town. With so many people going on vacations, the number of cars being rented increases dramatically. Unless you’re planning a staycation, it’s likely that you will need a vehicle or some reliable means of transportation once you get to your holiday destination. That is usually where rental cars come in handy.

Renting a car during your vacation has its advantages and it’s also fun driving a “new” car. It can also be quite convenient and oftentimes more affordable than relying on taxis, while saving you time and headache. The advantages aside, it’s important to note that if you plan on renting a car using a debit card, you should know how it can affect your credit.

Rental car companies prefer that their customers use a credit card. As Thrifty Rental Car explains on its site, “Renting a car to someone with no credit card is risky for rental car companies. Not having a credit card is a red flag that you may be a credit risk.”

Because of this, it is much easier to use a credit card to rent a car than a debit card. That being said, not everyone has a credit card and their only option is to use debit for payment. That can be fine; however, you should be aware of what that can entail. If your reason for not having a credit card to use is because of poor credit, this is even more important.

Using a Debit Card for Car Rentals

Many car rental companies will allow you to use a debit card for your rental but they don’t make it easy. When using a debit card, the rental companies will usually require you to have the full amount of the scheduled rental charge available in your account and may also put a hold of up to $350 on your account. Additionally – and what you really need to worry about – they may also run your credit.

Some rental companies will check your credit score before approving the rental while others will look for multiple delinquent lines of credit opened within the last 3 years. Each time they run your credit, it can lower your FICO score by 5 or more points. If your credit score is already low, this will not only make it worse but you could also be declined. After being declined at a rental company, many people will just try getting a rental from another company and then their credit will be checked again by the next company, lowering their score even further.

If you think your credit score may be too low (a score lower than 500 can be risky), then you should seek alternative options. At the very least, you should contact the rental company that you plan on using and ask about their credit requirements to determine how strict they are before having your credit ran.

Alternatively, you could look for a rental company that won’t run your credit, although they may have other stipulations. According to CreditCards.com, here is a list of rental companies that check your credit when using a debit card and those that don’t:

Companies that run a credit check

  • Advantage
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Hertz
  • Thrifty

Companies that do not run a credit check

  • Alamo
  • Enterprise
  • EZ Rental
  • National

The companies that do not run credit checks may not allow you to use a debit card so you may want to contact them first before making plans.

If you don’t have a credit card and don’t want to risk damaging your credit, the best route to take would be to find an alternative means of transportation, such as:

  • Uber, Lyft or other ride share service
  • Taxis or limo service
  • Public transportation

While these options may not be as convenient, they could help prevent serious damage to your credit that could haunt you down the road. If your credit score is low and you need assistance improving your credit score, contact Credit Absolute today for a free consultation: (480) 478-4304

Source: creditabsolute.com

Does a High Credit Score Lower Car Insurance

You probably already know how your credit score can affect interest rates for any mortgages, loans, and credit cards you take out. But what about car insurance? Does having a good credit score lower the premiums you’ll pay for it?

The answer is “mostly yes,” as this article will attempt to explain. In all states except California, Massachusetts, and Hawaii, car insurance companies can use your credit score to determine your likelihood to pay, as well as to judge the risk you pose on the road. And while that may sound good on the surface, it does carry a fair bit of controversy.

How Car Insurance Companies Use Your Credit Score 

Many car insurance companies (except in the three states mentioned above) confidently use your credit score to come up with car insurance plans, primarily because multiple studies have shown that individuals with high credit scores tend to get into fewer road accidents than their low-scoring counterparts.

Unfortunately, the “score” these car insurance companies come up with is NOT exactly the credit score determined by FICO. Each individual car insurance company is free to consider any of the 30+ financial factors that make up the FICO score – and is likewise free to leave out any of those factors – in coming up with their own “score.”

And here’s the shady part: These car insurance companies are actually not obliged by law to tell you how they came up with their scores. That means they can put more weight on, say, how diligently you pay your bills, instead of putting more significance on your road safety track record.

On the other hand, most reputable car insurance companies do come up with fairly accurate “scores” to use in working out insurance plans. And the trend is still evident: The higher your credit score, the lower your premiums will be.

So What Should You Do? 

So as you can see, the way car insurance companies calculate how much you’ll need to pay each year is controversial at best. But it is how it is, and until things change, the best we can do is to make the most of it. Here’s how to make sure you find the best possible rates for your car insurance policy:

#1: Keep your credit score up. Keep a tab on your credit score, correct any mistakes you may find on your credit history, pay your bills on time, and use only 30% of your available credit. Remember, the higher your FICO score, the more you’ll save on car insurance premiums – even if there’s no way to tell exactly how much.

#2: Drive safely. Obey traffic rules, avoid getting into accidents, keep your papers up-to-date, and avoid whatever leads you to road rage. Car insurance companies WILL look into your road safety record when coming up with your policy.

#3: Shop around. Get quotes from as many reputable car insurance companies as you can afford to. While we can’t find out HOW they come up with their policies, we CAN compare prices.

Source: creditabsolute.com