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Common credit card fees and how to avoid them

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Credit cards can be loaded with burdensome fees – but with some inside knowledge, you can sidestep many card fees altogether. (iStock)

Americans love their credit cards, but they don’t like the fees attached to those credit cards.

According to a 2019 Consumer Reports study of 2,057 U.S. adults, more than 33 percent of American credit card consumers said they “experienced an unexpected” credit card fee. A separate study by CreditCards.com cites 438 potential fees linked to 100 credit cards it surveyed.

High fees are one reason why so Americans have trouble paying their credit card debt.

Just 30 percent of credit card owners had paid their total monthly bill in a recent six-month period, according to CompareCard.com’s Credit Card Confidence Index, while 21 percent haven’t paid down their credit card debt in full over the past six months.

How to avoid paying credit card fees

How can credit card consumers improve their credit card experience by curbing – or even eliminating – credit card fees?

It’s not an easy task, financial experts say – but it is doable.

HOW FICO’S NEW CREDIT SCORE CHANGES WILL AFFECT YOU

“There are many fees associated with having a credit card, and these fees are only increasing every year,” said Robert Farrington, owner of San Diego, Calif.-based personal finance website The College Investor. “There are annual fees, late fees, over-limit fees, balance transfer fees, and more. There can also be hidden fees that the credit card companies don’t tell you explicitly about.”

The good news? Getting a better grip on credit card fees doesn’t have to be an uphill climb – if you absorb the following advice from credit card experts.

Start with the fine print. Thoroughly reviewing your credit contract may be a grind, but it’s worth it if you’re serious about cutting credit card costs. “All of these fees are detailed in the terms and conditions of the card, so read the fine print carefully,” Farrington said.

Pay your monthly bill on time. Ask a financial expert about their opinion for the most onerous credit card fee and you’ll get an earful about late fees. “The worst fee is a late fee because it is 100 percent avoidable,” said Michael Foguth, founder of Foguth Financial Group, in Brighton, Mich.

The easiest way to avoid paying late fees is to set your account up on auto-pay every month for at least the minimum payment, Foguth noted.

HOW TO APPLY FOR A CREDIT CARD AND GET APPROVED

“It’s worth talking to your card provider if you pay your card late. If you do have a late fee, typically the credit card company will waive one to two late fees every 12 months,” he added.

Grease the skids in this scenario and ask your card provider to waive the fee, Foguth advised.

Interest charges. The interest fee is the monthly charge that’s triggered when you have a balance carried beyond the grace period. It, too, is avoidable.

“The easiest way to bypass paying this fee is to pay your balance in full every month,” said Molly Ford-Coates, a certified credit repair specialist at Ford Financial Management, LLC, in El Paso, Texas.

Another way to temporarily avoid paying this is to open a credit card with a 0 percent interest rate. “This usually only lasts between 12-to-18 months,” Ford-Coates said. “This can be negotiated by calling and asking for an interest rate reduction. The company may be more willing to do this if you have a good history with them.

“That said, however, it could also work if you have fallen on temporary hard times,” she added.

Balance transfer fee. Often, credit card holders look to transfer their existing balance to a 0 percent introductory rate credit card.

“However, while they may pay no interest for s predetermined time period – usually 12 to 18 months – they may have to pay a fee to transfer that balance,” Ford-Coates said. “This could be a percentage of the balance (usually around 3 percent) or a flat fee (which varies, but expect to pay between $5 and $50 in total fees.”

Annual fee. This is a one-time annual charge that the company charges just for owning a credit card. Generally speaking, the higher the annual fee, the more perks and benefits you receive with the card.

“It’s up to you to decide whether it is worth it,” Ford-Coates said. “This fee can be avoided entirely by not getting a credit card with an annual fee.”

It’s also worth asking your card provider to waive the fee. Many will do so for the first year at least, if you ask, Ford-Coates noted.

6 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GETTING A CREDIT CARD

International credit card fees. This fee probably won’t be waived by your credit card provider but should absolutely be avoided.

“Foreign transaction fees are usually in the three percent range and are charged on every purchase a cardholder makes on their card while abroad,” said Brooklyn Lowery, senior manager and site editor for CardRatings.com. “There are numerous cards that don’t charge that fee, though, so it’s worth looking into one of those cards if you’ll need to use a credit card overseas.”

Cash advance fees. Cash advance fees are the price you pay to use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM or bank, with the average fee often in the 5 percent range.

“The bad news here is that cash advances begin accruing interest right away instead of after a grace period, as is typical for standard purchases,” Lowery said. “Your $500 cash advance could cost you $25 in a cash advance fee, plus an interest rate in the 25 percent range until you pay it back in full.”

“That makes cash advances as rarely a wise idea,” Lowery noted.

Once you have a good idea of the credit card fees you’re paying, hop on the phone or internet, contact your credit card company, and start asking to cut as many fees as you can.

If you’re a card customer with a good track record of spending with the card and paying your bills on time each month, there’s a strong likelihood you can get some of those fees curbed over time – if not eliminated altogether.

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5 Tips for Getting the Best VA Loan Rate

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VA loans are a great benefit for eligible veterans, active duty service members, and their spouses. However, don’t take it as a given that you will be automatically offered the lowest rate just because you qualify for the program. Getting the best deal on your VA loan involves doing your due diligence and learning how to navigate the system.

Although the VA loan program offers favorable terms like no down payment and no private mortgage insurance (PMI) to those who qualify, the loans themselves are still issued through private financial institutions, just like any other mortgage. And while it is true VA loan rates are generally low compared to conventional mortgages, they will still fluctuate depending on your personal info and changes in the market.

With that in mind, here are a few tips to make sure you are saving money and making the most out of your well-deserved VA loan benefit.

1. Understand VA loan types

The VA benefit includes several loan options available for purchase, refinance or home improvements for those who meet the service requirements and have their certificate eligibility (COE).

Interest rates for VA loans can vary significantly depending on the type of loan you choose. That’s because most lenders have different eligibility requirements tied to fixed and adjustable rate loan products.

Like other home loan programs, refinance rates for VA loans generally tend to be higher than purchase loans. Your mortgage term, or the length of time you have to repay the loan, also influences your interest rate.

If you opt to repay your mortgage over a short period, with a 10- or 15-year mortgage, these terms often have a lower interest rate and overall cost. However, shorter term loans have higher monthly payments.

Meanwhile, a traditional 30-year loan may have lower monthly installments — but the overall cost and interest rate will be higher because the bank is taking on more risk.

Additionally, the VA has several other programs that may prove a better deal. Make sure to ask your lender about rates on the following items if you are interested and believe you qualify:

  • Energy Efficient Mortgage: allows qualified borrowers to bundle the cost of acceptable home energy improvements into their purchase, refinancing or VA streamline refi.
  • Native American Direct Loan: If you or your spouse is Native American, you can get a loan to buy, build, or improve a home on federal trust land.
  • Cash-Out Refinance: With a cash-out refi, you can replace your current VA loan with a new term and rate. You can also borrow against your home equity and use the cash to fulfill other financial goals.
  • Interest Rate Reduction Refinance (IRRRL): An IRRRL requires less paperwork than a cash-out refinance, and often doesn’t require an appraisal. This can save you underwriting fees and time, hence it being regularly referred to as a “streamline refinance.”

2. Lower your debt-to-income ratio

To calculate your VA loan rate, lenders will take a holistic look at your monthly expenses to determine your ability to repay a mortgage. Unlike other home loan programs, the VA considers your residual income, or your monthly income after taxes and debts are paid off.

Similarly, lenders in the VA home loan program also look at your debt-to-income ratio, which is your total debt divided by your gross income. Your DTI generally includes major installment debts such as mortgages, student loans, credit card debt, and car loans pulled from your credit report.

As a rule of thumb, the VA recommends a debt-to-income ratio of at most 41%, including your mortgage. However, lenders set their own maximum for DTI on VA loans and may be willing to accept a higher DTI in exchange for a higher interest rate. They may also have some guidelines in terms of credit scores they are willing to accept.

To lower your DTI, you can start by paying off debts such as your credit cards and minimizing expenses.

You can work on your credit by evaluating your credit report from the three major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You can obtain a free copy of each bureau’s credit report annually at AnnualCreditReport.com. (Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, free reports will be available weekly until April 2022.) Having your credit report on hand can help you identify any errors or negative marks you can change and repair your credit, if need be.

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3. Determine whether or not you should make a down payment

VA-backed loans don’t require a down payment. However, there are circumstances in which a down payment may be necessary or worthwhile.

  1. Lower your interest rate: A down payment could reduce your interest rate and save you money over the life of your loan. Subsequently, a lower interest rate will lessen your monthly mortgage payments.
  2. Reduce your VA funding fee: VA-backed loans require first-time home buyers to pay a funding fee between 1.4% and 2.3%. If you’re a second-time homebuyer, your VA funding fee could be up to 3.6% of the loan amount. Providing a downpayment can encourage your lender to reduce your funding fee amount.
  3. Start building home equity from day one: By making a down payment, you’ll start building home equity right off the bat. This can be a worthwhile investment if you’re interested in funding other financial goals through a cash-out refinance or home equity line of credit down in the future.
  4. Stand out in a competitive market: A down payment can let sellers know that you’re a serious buyer, and strengthen your offer. This can be an advantage worth having in a competitive housing market.
  5. Your lender requires it: You may have to offer a down payment if your home’s cost exceeds its appraised value, you didn’t get full entitlement, the home costs more than the conforming limit or you don’t qualify for a large enough loan.

Whether this is your first or subsequent time purchasing a home, your COE will show if you have full or remaining entitlement. Your VA entitlement is the amount the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees on your loan, it will also determine if you need to provide a down payment.

Eligible borrowers with full entitlement no longer have to provide a down payment on loans over $144,000. In the case of default, the VA provides a federal guarantee that will reimburse the lender, 25% of the entire loan amount for those with full entitlement.

Borrowers that have less than full entitlement are subject to the conforming loan limits in their county. The VA guarantees 25% of the county loan limit for those with remaining entitlement as long as they purchase within the conforming loan limit for their county. However, if borrowers with less than full entitlement borrow above the county’s loan limit, they must provide a down payment.

4. Consider applying for state loan programs for veterans

In addition to the federal assistance available for eligible veterans to purchase homes, borrowers can apply to special home buying assistance programs in their state. These programs can provide rate discounts, down payment or closing cost assistance.

One example, Florida’s Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan Program, offers qualifying veterans or active military members 30-year fixed rate mortgage loans below market rate. The program includes several down payment assistance options that are available in all 67 counties throughout the state of Florida. These could include up to $10,000 in down payment or closing cost assistance.

Most states and counties provide similar state-run veteran home loan programs to help eligible VA borrowers purchase a home at an affordable rate.

5. Compare lender rates before settling on a VA home loan

A mortgage is one of the most expensive investments you’ll make in your life, as such it’s important to compare VA loan lenders and consider all options in order to get the best deal.

Before you begin shopping for rates, you should know the type of loan and length of term you want. You should also know the loan amount, the rate type (fixed or adjustable) you prefer, and if you are going to offer a down payment.

The next step is to contact several lenders you are considering and request a loan estimate. For a mortgage loan, requesting a pre approval letter from three or more lenders will give you a realistic report on what a lender is willing to loan you based on a thorough credit check and information regarding your finances.

Pre approval letters are generally valid for 30 to 60 days and include information regarding the type of loan, purchase price, qualified interest rate and loan amount you would get.

For a pre approval letter, you’ll need to provide the following information to your loan officer:

  • Your name
  • Your social security number (to be submitted for a credit check)
  • Your income (W-2 or 1099)
  • Proof of employment
  • Tax returns
  • Bank statements or assets
  • Monthly debts (or other court mandated payments, such as alimony or child support)
  • Bankruptcy discharge documents (VA loans are available two years after a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or foreclosure, and one year after filing for a Chapter 13)
  • The address of the property you plan to purchase
  • The property’s sale price
  • The loan amount you want

When shopping for a mortgage, multiple credit inquiries within a 14 to 45-day period will be reported as one single hard credit check on your credit report.

To narrow down your search, make sure to take into consideration upfront costs, origination fees, closing costs, interest rates, loan terms, eligibility requirements, and any products or discounts they may provide.

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Summary of Money’s 5 Tips for Getting the Best VA Loan Rates

VA loans feature lower interest rates and flexible credit requirements when compared to conventional loans. Here are Money’s main takeaways on how to get the best VA loan rate:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the types of VA loans available and their respective eligibility requirements
  2. Your credit score won’t dictate whether or not you’re approved for a VA loan, but a good score could still translate into a more favorable rate. Lowering your DTI and minimizing your debts can also improve your mortgage application.
  3. You can further lower your interest rate and closing expenses by offering a down payment on a VA loan.
  4. There are state programs that provide exclusive rate discounts and closing cost assistance to eligible veterans, military members and surviving spouses.
  5. VA loans are issued by private lenders. Like other home loan programs, it’s best to compare mortgage rates and shop around before settling on a lender.

To learn more about VA loans, check out Money’s 7 tips for getting a VA home loan

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Diamonds Blue Group Completes Transition to New Business Model

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DALLAS, TX / ACCESSWIRE / June 17, 2021 / Diamonds Blue Group is pleased to announce that they have finished the transition to a new business model. Formerly a premier advertising agency in the Dallas area focusing on clients in the entertainment industry, they are now known as Diamonds Blue Credit Repair. Their services now focus on their mission to help people get control of their credit through education. After starting the process in January of 2021, they are now fully operational and ready to accept new clients.

Diamonds Blue Group actually began in early 2019, but after the pandemic hit in 2020 the entertainment business became virtually nonexistent. Diamonds Blue had to adapt to the new business climate, and formed a plan to rebrand and relaunch. Instead of closing their doors completely, they found a new purpose in helping people regain control of their finances and credit rating through education and counseling. In addition to information about the company, their revamped website also allows clients 24/7 access to their accounts.

Diamonds Blue CEO and Founder Walter Rickett III is excited about his company’s big step, “We are thrilled to launch a product that provides real value to Americans. Our goal is to help as many people as possible through credit repair and financial education. Our flat rate pricing, lack of long term contracts, and money back guarantee show that we stand behind our service. We look forward to making a huge, positive impact on the financial industry, and the lives of individuals.”

ABOUT DIAMONDS BLUE CREDIT REPAIR

Diamonds Blue’s leadership team has many years’ experience in evaluating credit and guiding consumers to assert their legal rights. Their flat rate pricing model is unique in the industry, with a low initial fee and a low monthly fee. They believe that credit repair firms can’t do anything that you couldn’t do yourself, but they can help you to achieve results in ​ a fraction of the time without making costly errors. For less than the cost of a few hours with an attorney, they help and guide their clients from start to finish and prepare all of the documentation for the various credit agencies. There are NO long binding contracts. They guarantee results or your money back!

CONTACT:

Walter Rickett III
EMAIL: [email protected]
PHONE: 888-910-1059

SOURCE: Diamonds Blue Credit Repair

View source version on accesswire.com:
https://www.accesswire.com/651912/Diamonds-Blue-Group-Completes-Transition-to-New-Business-Model

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Your Guide to Juneteenth Celebrations in Metro Detroit

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Saturday is Juneteenth, a commemoration of the day in 1865 when U.S. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and told enslaved people that they were free. The news came two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved people in Confederate States and five months after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery.

All around metro Detroit, families, friends and communities will be coming together to celebrate the occasion through festivals, community dialogue, dancing and lots of food. Whether you’re looking for an all-day festival, an evening movie, or a cold craft beer, you can find the Juneteenth celebration that fits your vibe below.


Celebrate

Juneteenth in the D, which will be held Saturday at the intersection of Grand River and West Grand Boulevard at the Mbad African Bead Museum, is a family-friendly festival headlined by Motown legend Martha Reeves. Make sure to don your dancing shoes for this all-day celebration featuring local performers.

To kick off a second year of fundraising in support of Black farmers and land ownership, the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund is celebrating Juneteenth with community members and organizations at Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in the North End. The fund raised more than $65,000 last year for Black farmers to purchase and own land. Shop the farmers market, partake in food prepared by chefs and enjoy a performance from Detroit’s own Mollywop.

The Eastside Community Network will celebrate Black history and heritage through storytelling from community elders and speaking out against environmental racism. The rally about environmental racism — featuring speakers Rep. Rashida Tlaib, state Sen. Stephanie Chang and more — will kick off the event. The family-friendly celebration, which runs from 1-4 p.m. at 4401 Conner St., will be filled with food, music, dance, face painting and more. For those who prefer to join in virtually, participants can enjoy the festivities from home.

Thoughts Become Things and Take My Hand are collaborating to honor Juneteenth by providing free resources and giveaways to the Black community at 16065 Hamilton Ave. in Highland Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Giveaways include self-care kits, fresh food boxes and diapers and formula. There will also be resources onsite regarding credit repair, life insurance, mental health and more.

The city of Southfield is celebrating Juneteenth all week long with the Juneteenth Jubilee Celebration, including an art display, virtual scavenger hunt and more. You can find the whole jubilee lineup here.

You can also find community celebrations in Dearborn, Ferndale, West Bloomfield, Romulus, Lathrup Village, Madison Heights, Royal Oak and more. Check your city’s website to find activities near you!


Learn

The Charles H. Wright Museum is hosting its Juneteenth Jubilee Freedom Weekend online and across Detroit Thursday through Sunday. Programming includes a treasure hunt, movies, community conversations and even a dedicated playlist.

All week, the Oakland County Democratic Party is hosting a series of Juneteenth virtual discussions on topics from how mental health affects Black youth to the role of music plays in the fight for Black liberation. The weeklong series culminates in a reflection discussion on Saturday.


Listen

As part of the D.Cipher live summer music series, enjoy live performances from ETTA, Gabriel Brass Band and Tariq Gardner’s Evening Star from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Campbell Terrace on the Dequindre Cut. You can also peruse art from local vendors and learn how to get involved with grassroots initiatives.


Read

Pulitzer Prize winner Annette Gordon-Reed’s “On Juneteenth” provides a historian’s view of the country’s long road to Juneteenth, recounting both its origins in Texas and the enormous hardships that African Americans have endured in the century since. She joins historian Jamon Jordan in a conversation about the essential, sweeping story of Juneteenth’s integral importance to U.S. history as part of the Detroit Public Library’s Author Series at 1 p.m. Saturday.


Watch

Bring your own chair or blanket to Campus Martius Park on Friday for a screening of “Concrete Cowboy,” which shares the story of a rebellious teenager finding kinship in a tight-knit Philadelphia community of cowboys.

Miss Juneteenth” chronicles the story of a former beauty queen and single mom as she prepares her teenage daughter for the Miss Juneteenth pageant. You can catch the film on the lawn of the Southfield Parks and Recreation parking lot at 7 p.m. Saturday.


Eat + Drink

Raise a glass of Abolitionist Imperial Stout in honor of Black achievement starting at 4 p.m. Friday at Eastern Market Brewing Co., which partnered with Brewz Brothaz for this event. A portion of proceeds of the Abolitionist Imperial Stout will go toward the Black Farmer Land Fund. Detroit DJ Lady Fantastic will bring the beats from 6-9 p.m. while Smokey Joe’s BBQ will provide the eats.

Taste The Diaspora Detroit, which launched during Black History Month to celebrate Africa’s contribution to American cuisine, is hosting a watch party for the fourth episode of Netflix series “High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America” at 7 p.m. Saturday at Marygrove Conservancy. The episode titled “Freedom” is a culinary journey through Texas that tells the story about the importance of Juneteenth. There will be a moderated conversation following the viewing as well as shoebox meals featuring food from four locally owned Black food businesses.

Good Vibes Lounge is unveiling its backyard for a day party not only celebrating Juneteenth but also a year of being in business. The festivities start at 3 p.m. with drink samples, giveaways, a live DJ and photo booth. The restaurant and bar is at 16801 Harper on the east side.


See

LoveClub is gathering some of Detroit’s best local talent to celebrate Black history, art and culture at this event that aims to serve as a platform for artists and community members. The event at Tangent Gallery/Hastings Street Ballroom in Milwaukee Junction will boast a wide range of musical offerings from house to hip hop as well as artists, vendors and organizations showcasing their work. Grab your ticket here.

Check out the opening of new art exhibit “BAM: My Art Is My Voice and Sisters of the Cloth” at an evening reception at Collected Detroit. The exhibitions will give visual form to Collected Detroit’s roots within the art community in honor of the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth.


Shop

Stroll along the historic Avenue of Fashion for a unique shopping experience supporting Detroit’s Black businesses. Shoppers will also enjoy artists and entertainment, a live podcast taping, Black wellness hub and a raffle.

Support Black businesses in Washtenaw County at the Buy Black Juneteenth Pop-Up Shop from 3-7 p.m. Saturday at Ypsilanti Freighthouse.


Clean-Up

Help spruce up Sarah Garrett Park and the surrounding area from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The park is named after one of the plaintiffs who sued the city over housing discrimination in the 1960s when Hamtramck was making plans for the construction of the Chrysler Freeway and new homes.

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