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3 mortgage refinancing options for those with bad credit

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Does a low score mean limited options? (iStock)

Record-low interest rates are dominating the news cycle and homeowners, in particular, are jumping to refinance. Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association puts current refinance activity at 98% higher this year than last year, even amid a global pandemic.

Those with low credit shouldn’t skip rate shopping either as there are still options available in today’s low-rate environment — even for those with the thinnest credit profiles.

Mortgage rates vary by lender. Many non-traditional lenders take other factors into consideration outside of credit score, like earning potential and steady work history. While some of these lenders do advertise their qualification criteria, many borrowers may not happen upon them unless they actively shop for refinance rates and offers.

These days, borrowers can quickly explore their mortgage refinance options by visiting Credible, which allows loan seekers to compare both rates and lenders in one place.

1. Look at FHA loans

FHA loans aren’t just for first-time buyers with small down payments. The benefit to doing an FHA refinance is that this option, backed by the Federal Housing Administration, does consider borrowers with sub-600 credit scores who hold less than 20% equity in the home. In fact, only those with less than 20% are eligible for an FHA refinance.

There’s even better news for those with existing FHA loans. With the newer FHA Streamline Refinance product, borrowers can refinance without an appraisal and with lower out-of-pocket costs, saving both time and money.

HOW TO REFINANCE YOUR MORTGAGE

2. Explore VA loans (if you qualify)

Veterans receive many benefits for their service to our country, and one of those is access to mortgage loans backed by the government via the Veterans Administration (VA). Not only are these loans offered at some of the lowest interest rates available, but they also benefit current and past service members regardless of their credit.

Those with current VA loans can also consider refinancing through the VA with the Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan program. The IRRRL program is similar to the FHA Streamline Refinance product in that it does not require hefty out-of-pocket closing costs or an appraisal.

If you’re interested in finding the lowest interest rates around, however, you should consider using a multi-lender marketplace like Credible. Credible allows you to compare rates and lenders to ensure you find the best deal.

HOW TO GET THE LOWEST MORTGAGE REFINANCE RATES

3. Opt for cash-out refinance

A cash-out refinance may make the most sense for those with low credit due to a large amount of high-interest debt. Leveraging a cash-out refinance turns home equity into a liquid asset, which borrowers can then use to pay off outstanding debts. Additionally, refinancing to a lower interest rate will save money on the repayment. With current credit card interest rates above 17%, and cash-out refinance rates at 3.194% APR for a 30-year fixed option, this refinance option makes financial sense for those battling to get out from under their debt.

You can visit Credible to get pre-qualified for such a loan and to shop around for loan options among different mortgage lenders. By providing some basic information, you can find out if approval for a loan is likely and can see what rate you’d pay so you can determine if a mortgage refinance loan is affordable.

IS NOW A GOOD TIME TO REFINANCE YOUR MORTGAGE?

What are today’s mortgage rates?

It’s important when shopping for a mortgage refinance to keep an eye on interest rate changes week to week as even a small increase adds up to thousands saved on interest. Again, Credible is a great place to shop. You can compare rates and complete the entire mortgage refinance application process online. Find your rate today.

HOW REFINANCING YOUR MORTGAGE CAN PUT MONEY BACK IN YOUR POCKET

As of the time of writing, (the week November 19th) the current interest rates are:

  • 30-year fixed-rate refinance average: 2.75%.

In the month prior (Week of October 19th), the average 30-year fixed-rate refinance was much higher at 3.16%.

To illustrate the difference, let’s look at the numbers. A consumer refinances a $300,000 loan at 3.2% in October pays over $167,000 in lifetime interest. Another consumer who waits a month and refinances $300,000 at a slightly lower rate of 2.8% percent will pay just $143,000 in interest over the life of the loan.

The bottom line

Don’t let a bad credit score keep you away from the significant savings to be had with today’s low interest rates. While lower credit may not qualify you for the best rates available, depending on when you refinanced and your credit score at the time, refinancing now could still be a big financial win.

To start, investigate refinance options by shopping with multiple lenders to see potential rates, and then input those figures into a mortgage refinance calculator to visualize savings.

Finding the best mortgage refinance rates takes time. You’ll need to compare rates from multiple lenders. Credible allows you to compare multiple lenders to ensure you meet your personal finance goals. Find out how much you could save on your loan amount by refinancing now.

HOW TO FIND THE BEST MORTGAGE RATES AND FASTEST CLOSINGS

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Bad Credit

3 credit habits that you need to break

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Are you using your credit card responsibly? Or do you have a few bad habits? Take a look at three common bad habits that people have with their credit cards and the best ways to stop doing them.

Habit 1: Pushing the limits

The first bad credit habit is pushing your outstanding balance close to its limit. What’s wrong with that? The first problem is that you’re giving yourself a larger debt load to contend with every month — one that accumulates interest the longer that it sits. It could be very difficult to pay down, and it could even lead to you maxing out your card.

The second problem with this habit is that it leaves you vulnerable to emergencies. You’ve taken up the majority of your available credit, so you can’t depend on it for unexpected payments. What if you need to pay for an urgent repair and there’s not enough room on your card? What can you do?

To avoid that difficult situation, you could apply for an online loan to help you cover the emergency costs and move forward. See how you can apply for an online loan in Ohio when you have no other safety nets to fall back on. It’s important that you only turn to this solution when you’re dealing with an emergency. It’s not for everyday purchases or small budgeting mistakes.

In the meantime, you should try your best to keep your credit utilization at 30% or lower — this means that your balance should be below the halfway point of your limit.

Habit 2: Paying the minimum

You pay your credit card bills on time, but you only give the minimum payment. While this habit can stop you from racking up late fees and penalties, it can still get you into hot water if you’re not careful.

Only paying the minimum for your bill will make it very difficult for you to whittle down the balance, especially when you’re continuing to charge expenses on your card. You’re only taking $20-$25 off a growing pile.

So, what can you do? If you’re paying this amount by choice, stop it — you’re only making things harder for yourself down the line. If you’re paying this amount because you don’t have any more funds, look at your budget to see whether you can cut your monthly costs to get more savings and use them to tackle your balance.

Habit 3: Using it for every single expense

You don’t need to put every single expense on your credit card. Your morning coffee? Your afternoon snack? Putting these small, everyday expenses on your card is a habit that can make your balance climb quickly.

You also don’t want to put some very important expenses on there, like mortgage payments. For one, these payments are large and will take up a significant amount of your credit. Secondly, if you need to use a credit card to make these payments on time, you need to reinvestigate your budget to see whether you can actually afford your living space.

So, what you should you do? Use a debit card, cash or checks to pay for the items above. Only put expenses on your credit card that you’re positive you can pay off in a reasonable timeframe.

Don’t let these bad habits drag you down and get you into financial trouble. Break them now, before it’s too late.

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Free credit reports have been extended; here’s why it’s important to check yours regularly

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Checking your credit could save you from identity theft. (iStock)

Typically, you’d be able to check your credit report — at least for free — just once annually through each of the three major credit reporting agencies. But thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, credit reports are now more accessible than ever.

Credit reporting companies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are all offering  free credit reports weekly through April 20, 2022.

The move means better insight into your financial health during what, for most, is an economically challenging time. According to experts, it might also be a time that’s ripe for at-risk personal information and identity theft, too — even more reason consumers should be checking their credit on the regular.

HOW OFTEN DOES YOUR CREDIT SCORE CHANGE?

Have you checked your annual credit lately? If not, here’s what you need to know about these free nationwide credit reports and how to get them. If you’re not sure where you fit on the credit score spectrum, you may want to start using a credit monitoring service to track changes to your credit score. Credible can get you set up with a free service today.

Free credit reports for all?

The nation’s three credit bureaus initially started offering free weekly credit reporting last year, just after the pandemic began. In early March, they announced they’d extended the offer for another year, this time through April 20, 2022.

To request your free credit reports and access copies, you can go to AnnualCreditReport.com and provide some basic information to verify your identity (things like your date of birth, Social Security Number, and address).

Once your report is ready, you should see a detailed list of all open and closed accounts in your name, your payment history, recent credit activity and more.

5 BENEFITS OF HAVING A GOOD CREDIT SCORE

Protect yourself from identity theft

There are many reasons why checking your credit activity is important, but chief among them? That’d be the prevalence of data breaches in today’s world — not to mention the risk of identity theft they come with.

“In the past, it was perfectly acceptable for people to check their credit history once a year, but now with security breaches happening on a regular basis, consumers should be monitoring their credit more closely than ever,” said Clint Lotz, president and founder of TrackStar.ai, a predictive credit technology firm.

Lotz said the Equifax breach — which exposed over 147 million Americans’ personal information in mid-July 2017 — is the perfect example of why watching your credit report is important as far as identity theft protection goes. The pandemic, he said, adds an extra layer of risk to things.

“It took them [Equifax] months before they even realized they had been hacked, and considering that they hold files on hundreds of millions of Americans, it’s fair to say that many identities were stolen by the time they caught up to it,” Lotz said. “With many of us worrying about very serious issues not related to our credit, it’s a prime time for that stolen data to be put to work by bad actors in slow, methodical ways and in the hopes that nobody notices it.”

More reasons to check your credit

Checking your credit health often isn’t just good for detecting fraud alerts and to protect your identity, though. You can also monitor your report for errors — things like inaccurately reported late payments, for example — and then dispute those with the credit bureau.

If the error gets corrected, it could improve your credit score and make a jump from bad credit to a FICO score that’s more favorable. Not sure of your credit score? Head to Credible to check your score without negatively impacting it.

WHAT IS CREDIT MONITORING, AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

You can also use your credit reports and scores to monitor your financial habits — like the timeliness of your payments or how much debt you have left to pay off. Both of these factors can play a big role in your score, as well as how likely you are to get approved for loans, credit cards and other items.

“If you’re taking out a loan, getting insurance or even applying for a new job, checking your credit will allow you to see an overview of what would be seen by others looking at your credit,” said Leslie Tayne, a debt relief attorney with the Tayne Law Group. “Staying up-to-date on your credit reports and information allows you to know exactly where you need to improve.”

Want to be sure your credit is stellar before applying for a loan or insurance policy? Consider Credible’s partner product Experian Boost, which lets you use positive payment history on utilities, streaming and other bills to improve your credit score.

Set up a monitoring service, too

Though checking your credit reports manually is smart, you should also consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. These consumer financial services check your credit information and score regularly and alert you of any changes.

IS IT WORTH PAYING FOR CREDIT MONITORING?

If you’re interested in monitoring your credit or improving your score, head to Credible and learn more about how Experian can help. You can also use Experian Boost to get credit for on-time bill payments.

Have a finance-related question, but don’t know who to ask? Email The Credible Money Expert at [email protected] and your question might be answered by Credible in our Money Expert column.

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Do Personal Loans Have Penalty APRs?

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Select’s editorial team works independently to review financial products and write articles we think our readers will find useful. We may receive a commission when you click on links for products from our affiliate partners.

When you make your credit card payment late, you’re often subject to late fees and a penalty APR, which is a temporary spike in your interest rate.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, for instance, has a 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR, but the penalty APR is a variable 29.99% (see rates and fees). Penalty APRs usually last for at least six months, but card issuers often reserve the right to extend them — especially when you continue making late payments. A look at the terms for the Citi® Double Cash Card show us that the “penalty APR may apply indefinitely.”

Penalty APRs are certainly not a trap you want to fall into, but it’s not something you usually have to worry about if you have a personal loan. Personal loan lenders can, however, charge late fees upwards of $39 per late payment. Whether your loan charges late fees all depends on how good of a loan you qualify for, and that comes down to your credit score, borrowing history and ability to make your payments.

Personal loans also tend to charge lower interest rates than credit cards, too. The average personal loan interest rate for two-year loans is currently 9.46% according to Q1 2021 data from the Federal Reserve, compared to 15.91% for credit cards.

Typically, interest rates for personal loans range between roughly 2.49% and 24%, but personal loans for applicants with bad credit can come with even higher APR — so do your research before applying.

Other common personal loan fees include:

  1. Interest: The monthly charge you pay to borrow money
  2. Origination fee: A one-time upfront charge that your lender subtracts from your loan to pay for administration and processing costs
  3. Late fee: A one-time fee charged for each payment that you fail to make by the due date or within your grace period
  4. Early payoff penalty: A fee incurred when you pay off your balance faster than planned (because the lender misses out on months of expected interest payments)

As you can see, personal loans can be costly, even without a penalty APR. It’s obviously best to avoid paying extra fees whenever possible. That’s easier to do when you have a good to excellent credit score, since you’ll qualify for better loan options.

Select has a free tool to help match you with personal loan offers without damaging your credit score.

None of the loans on our best personal loan list charge origination fees or early payoff penalties, but some may charge late fees.

Our top picks for best personal loans

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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