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Consumers Focus on Financial Health

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About six months into the coronavirus pandemic, young consumers in the U.S. are paying attention to their financial wellness more than ever before.

According to the latest Amex Trendex, a monthly trend report from American Express, more than half (64%) of millennials are looking for ways to improve their credit score and over a fourth (30%) say they are more likely to check their credit score since the beginning of the pandemic. The online poll conducted by Morning Consult surveyed 2,000 adult consumers (18+) in the U.S. between August 18 to 20, 2020. Respondents had a household income of at least $70,000.

“The survey shows that now more than ever, consumers are focused on their overall financial health,” Kunal Madhok, VP of U.S. consumer lending at American Express, tells CNBC Select. “This is exactly why we recently launched Score Goals, to give consumers a personalized playbook to help get them one step closer to achieving their financial goals.”

Credit scores range from 300 (very poor) to 850 (excellent), and while they may seem like an arbitrary number, their 3-digit makeup has a lot to do with qualifying for the best credit cards and lowest interest rates on loans or mortgages.

If you’re concerned about a bad credit score, the first step is knowing what makes it low. Free-to-use tools like Score Goals, part of Amex’s MyCredit Guide, allow users to set their desired credit score as a goal. It then provides personalized recommendations, such as paying down a specific dollar amount of debt, to help them reach their target score over a suggested time frame: six, 12, 18 or 24 months. The Amex feature is available to everyone, not just Amex cardholders.

Learn more: American Express launches new Score Goals tool to help users improve their credit score, for free

How to instantly increase your credit score

Although paying your credit card bills on time and lowering your balances are two ways to raise your credit score, you can likely see a quick result by also using Experian Boost. The free service provided by Experian, one of the three main credit bureaus, lets you get credit for on-time utility (gas, electricity, water), telecom (cell phone) and Netflix bills that you are already paying. According to the website, Experian Boost users see an average increase of 13 points in their credit score.

Learn more: Here’s how Experian Boost can help raise your credit score for free

As you work on improving your credit score, make a habit of tracking it as well. Credit monitoring can help you do so by notifying you of changes made to your credit reports in real-time. Some enhanced services come with a cost, but they offer the most extensive security features.

For example, IdentityForce® monitors your information on a variety of sites and services, including the dark web, court records and even social media. It checks if your accounts on sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have inappropriate activity that may be perceived as profane or discriminatory.

IdentityForce® UltraSecure and UltraSecure+Credit

IdentityForce® UltraSecure and UltraSecure+Credit

On Identity Force’s secure site

  • Cost

    2 months free on all annual plans UltraSecure: $8.99/mo, $89.90/yr UltraSecure+Credit: $19.99/mo, $199.90/yr

  • Credit bureaus monitored

    Experian, Equifax and TransUnion

  • Credit scoring model used

  • Dark web scan

  • Identity insurance

See our methodology, terms apply. To learn more about IdentityForce®, visit their website or call 855-979-1118. 

For a CNBC Select top-ranked free service, check out CreditWise® from Capital One.

CreditWise is open to anyone, even if you aren’t a Capital One customer, and has its own credit score simulator tool. And while it may not offer as thorough surveillance as IdentityForce, CreditWise stands out by offering dark web scanning and social security number tracking (unlike other free services).

CreditWise® from Capital One

CreditWise® from Capital One

Information about CreditWise has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the company prior to publication.

  • Cost

  • Credit bureaus monitored

  • Credit scoring model used

  • Dark web scan

  • Identity insurance

Bottom line

Amex’s recent insights into how millennials are actively looking for ways to better their overall financial health highlights just how consumers’ financial behaviors continue to evolve — in a good way.

As the pandemic continues on, consider tapping into the free financial resources that are available to you. Amex’s Score Goals and Experian Boost are just two that can help you on your path to a higher credit score.

To learn more about IdentityForce®, visit their website or call 855-979-1118.

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

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Evicted California renters at greater risk of getting COVID-19

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After 70 years in Monterey County, 87-year-old Mary Martinez moved in the middle of a pandemic, evicted from her modest one-bedroom, second-floor apartment at 1118 Parkside St. in north Salinas.

According to her former landlord, Martinez was evicted because she allowed a “violent man” to live with her, violating the conditions of her lease. Martinez said the man is her epileptic nephew.

Advocates say that while evictions like Martinez’s are rarer during the pandemic, landlords are feeling the financial squeeze. Some have sold rental properties to make up for lack of income. That can leave renters out in the cold when their new landlord raises the rent by hundreds of dollars or requires all renters move out before they take over the building.

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New program to help Black-owned online businesses | Technology

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ATLANTA _ Many Black entrepreneurs struggle to get bank loans and professional help to launch new businesses. A new program aims to remove those stumbling blocks.

An Atlanta nonprofit and another business have committed $150 million to the 1 Million Black Businesses effort, which will make loans and provide financial and business advice to Black-owned startups and established small businesses. Atlanta-based nonprofit Operation Hope, which helps consumers improve credit scores, is kicking in $20 million, and Shopify, the online e-commerce is adding another $130 million for the loans and website-hosting services.

Other services firms providing expertise or help include Aprio, an Atlanta-based accounting firm, and First Horizon Bank.

It’s a package of products that many Black entrepreneurs couldn’t get through a bank or credit union, said John Hope Bryant, CEO of Operation Hope.

“A bank won’t lend you money unless you can prove that you don’t need it,” Bryant said. “That’s especially true with minority-owned small businesses.”

Small businesses with Black owners were half as likely to obtain business loans as whites, according to a Federal Reserve survey published earlier this year.

The initiative is the latest effort to help Black consumers and businesses enter the financial mainstream. Earlier this month, a group that includes rapper Killer Mike opened a digital bank aimed at Black and Latino consumers.

Banks and credit unions have tried for years to help Black consumers open checking and savings accounts. The efforts helped, as the number of U.S. households without bank accounts fell to 5.4% in 2019 from 6.5% in 2017, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Monday.

Consumers who own checking and savings accounts typically have access loans with better rates and a wider variety of financial services.

The federal government’s $660 billion loan initiative for businesses hit by COVID-19, the Paycheck Protection Program, also helped few Black-owned businesses, Bryant said. PPP loans were based on a company’s number of employees and its rent obligations. many Black-owned small businesses typically didn’t have enough workers to qualify and are based out of the owner’s residence.

Bryant said a bad credit history may not prevent applicants from receiving a loan.

He hopes more companies will contribute services such as insurance advice or software typically available only to well-established businesses.

Bryant noted that 1MBB is not a charitable organization, as participating companies like Shopify will likely get a pipeline of new business customers through the program.

“This is not pure philanthropy,” he said. “Shopify believes that Black-owned businesses are good businesses if they’re properly supported.”

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This Week’s Top Car Deals & Analysis – October 30, 2020

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The final days of October offer a chance to take advantage of outstanding model year-end deals. Most offers end November 2, which means there isn’t much time left to enjoy this month’s best lease deals and deepest new car discounts. We even found incentives that can help those with bad credit buy a new or used car.

2021 car deals. Interestingly, 2021 new car incentives are showing some surprises. For example, Audi is already offering up to $12,000 in savings when leasing the 2021 e-tron all-electric crossover. We even learned that the new Genesis GV80 SUV will debut with a $589/month lease deal plus special financing rates.

Believe it or not, the 2021 Hyundai Veloster N could prove to be a great value despite a nearly $4,700 price increase compared to the previous year. That’s because our analysis finds that better incentives can make it just $10/month more expensive to lease than the 2020 model. Talk about getting more for your money.

Why are small cars bad to lease? Even though smaller cars typically come with lower price tags, that isn’t always the case when leasing. A mix of lower discounts, worse residual values, and smaller discounts can actually make a Nissan Altima cheaper than a Versa despite having an almost $10,000 difference in MSRP.

Shorter-mileage leases. More brands are offering shorter mileage allowances on car leases. Although this is typically used to offer consumers more flexibility, we’ve found cases in which you can end up getting less for your money. If you don’t read all the fine print, this could make comparison-shopping difficult.

Bad credit car deals. If you have subprime credit, you may find it harder to get financed. However, some manufacturers are offering special incentives to help make cars & trucks more affordable. For example, Chevy is offering $2,000 in down payment assistance plus 9.9% APR for 72 months on the 2020 Trax.

$0 down leases. If you’re adamant about now putting down any money on a lease, you’ll love Sign & Drive leases. In addition to requiring no money down, $0 down lease deals can cover your first month’s payment. Even hot sellers like the Honda CR-V Hybrid offer $0 down and as little as $330/month on a lease.

The high cost of safety? Even though most major automakers are offering more safety features than ever before, our analysis finds that the highest IIHS safety ratings still require costly options in 2020. That’s starting to change, but the cost of buying a car with the most bragging rights is still very high.

Disaster relief. Those affected by some of this year’s natural disasters should be aware that automakers are offering assistance. California wildfire assistance programs like Ford Employee Pricing can save thousands when replacing a car. Similarly, a 2020 hurricane relief program from GM offers $1,000 in savings.

Spooky loan situations. There are some scary scenarios you can avoid when getting a car loan. However, boosting your credit score is possible with some determination because negative items on your credit report fall off after 7 years. Our network of dealers is specially equipped to help those with bad credit.

Upcoming vehicles. Genesis finally revealed the new GV70, a small luxury crossover based on the highly-rated G70 sedan. Whether it’s a redesigned car, truck, or SUV, odds are you’ll find it on our Previews page. That said, as we reported last week, discounts ahead of a redesign can result in substantial savings.

This Month’s Cheapest Lease Deals »



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