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Getting your credit in order – Twin Cities

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Most people discover they have bad credit at the worst possible time. They’ve filled out all the paperwork for a home mortgage or rental application, only to discover their credit score isn’t up to snuff. By then, it’s too late.

Bruce Helmer and Peg Webb

A little planning now can help ensure your credit is in the best possible place when you need it most. Here are some steps you should take to get your credit in order.

Know your FICO

Your FICO score, or credit score, is a number that helps lenders, employers or landlords determine how much of a financial risk you might be. A score of 700 or above is generally considered to be “good” credit, but a score of 740 or higher is often required for the best possible rates on home mortgages.

Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can check your credit with the three nationwide reporting companies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, for free once a year. Doing so allows you to determine whether you have work to do to get credit up to snuff.

Look for low-hanging fruit

Obviously, if you have major delinquencies or a bankruptcy, repairing your credit is going to take some time. However, there are some relatively quick steps you can take to improve your score, especially if you are on the precipice of the score you want for a loan.

First, if there are charges you don’t recognize, dispute them in writing. Companies make mistakes all the time, and you shouldn’t have to suffer for them.

From there, if you have 30-, 60- or 90-day late charges on an existing loan, call and ask if they will be willing to take it off. If your account is otherwise in good standing, they have little incentive to keep a small blemish on your record.

Look at credit utilization

Credit utilization can be a bit of a balancing act. You want enough credit to demonstrate you are responsible enough to make timely payment, but you don’t want too many credit cards and you certainly don’t want a heavy debt load relative to your collective credit limit.

Having debt that is more than 30% of your credit limit is a major red flag, and 10% or less is ideal. If you are nearing a major purchase, consider paying down debt in order to get under one of those thresholds.

Conversely, if you have very thin or no credit, consider taking out a credit card with a limited balance. Make minor purchases and pay off the balance each month.

Keep credit inquiries to a minimum

Credit inquiries themselves can impact your credit score. Frequent requests for credit cards and loans indicate that you might not have the assets to manage your existing payments.

There are exceptions to this, however. There is no penalty for checking your own credit. Unsolicited credit checks by credit card companies and the like, so-called soft inquiries, do not factor in.

In cases where you do authorize a third-party credit check, multiple checks within the same 30-day time frame count as only one. This is to encourage shopping for loans, so shop around!

Get your adviser on the line

Your adviser has seen everything, and they may have some ideas to work within your financial plan to address items that are negatively impact your score.

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Bad Credit

3 Reasons You May Be Denied a Bank Account

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Bank account application rejected? This might be why.

You have a steady job with a steady paycheck and you want to find a home for your money. What’s your next move? It’s simple. You apply for a bank account and wait for your account number and debit card to be issued.

But what if your bank account application is unexpectedly denied? Believe it or not, having the money to put into a bank account does not guarantee you’ll be given that option. If your bank account application is rejected, it could boil down to one of these reasons.

1. You have a history of being irresponsible with your bank accounts

Many banks use screening services like ChexSystems to get a sense of how responsible account applicants are. These systems are comparable to the credit bureaus that track your credit history. If there’s a red flag in your banking history — for example, writing bad checks or too many overdrafts — you could be denied a bank account.

2. Your credit has been frozen

Freezing your credit will prevent a criminal from opening a bank account in your name. But it will also prevent you from opening a new account. If you froze your credit because you were worried about fraud, you’ll need to undo it to open any sort of new account, whether it’s a bank account, credit card, or loan.

3. You have poor credit

You may be aware that a bad credit score could result in you getting denied a mortgage, personal loan, or credit card. But did you know that having bad credit could mean not qualifying for a bank account? Banks have a right to deny you an account for bad credit — even if you have enough money to fulfill their minimum deposit requirements.

What to do if you’re denied a bank account

You may be shocked to see that your bank account application is denied. If that happens, aim to find out why. If, for example, you’re told there’s negative activity on your banking history but that doesn’t sound right to you, investigate it to find out if there’s an error working against you.

If you’re denied a bank account because of your credit score, you can work on improving it. The most effective way to do so is to pay all of your incoming bills on time and knock out a chunk of existing credit card debt to lower your credit utilization ratio. Checking your credit reports for errors is important as well, because if one of them contains a mistake that’s hurting you, correcting it can help you get approved for a bank account.

Finally, if you’re denied a full-service bank account, you can see if you qualify for a second chance bank account. Some banks offer these pared down accounts that let you deposit and withdraw money — they just don’t have all the perks of standard checking accounts. Opening one is a good way to rebuild your banking reputation.

Being denied a bank account can be shocking. If it happens to you, find out why and aim to rectify the problem. There are so many great banks out there offering different benefits, and it’s a shame to not be able to take advantage of them.

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Cheapest Car Insurance in Alaska 2021

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With fewer than 550,000 drivers in 2018 reports, Alaska has the third-fewest drivers in the country. The natural beauty of mountains, glaciers and waterways in America’s Last Frontier are gorgeous to behold but can quickly become treacherous in the wrong conditions. It’s critical that as an Alaska resident, you have the right kind of car insurance to protect you before you get behind the wheel.

The cheapest car insurance in Alaska

The average cost of car insurance in Alaska for a minimum coverage policy is $340, while a full-coverage policy costs $1,484 per year. Just like any state, there are some companies that are more affordable than others when it comes to the cheapest car insurance in Alaska. The five cheapest car insurance companies based on the average annual premium for minimum coverage are USAA, State Farm, Geico, Progressive and Allstate.

Car insurance companyAverage annual premium for minimum coverageAverage annual premium for full coverage
Allstate$461$2,692
Geico$272$1,224
Progressive$402$1,165
State Farm$271$1,115
USAA$263$1,092

Allstate

Allstate offers excellent options for coverage, including roadside coverage, sound system insurance and a personal umbrella policy. Although it scores only average for customer satisfaction, there is 24/7 claims service with a Claims Satisfaction Guarantee for extra peace of mind. There is an early signing discount when you renew early, plus other discounts for things like automatic withdrawal, early signing and full-pay.

Geico

Geico is an affordable option that is available in all 50 states. There is personal injury protection coverage, rideshare insurance and mechanical breakdown insurance, with the option for gap insurance for leased vehicles only. To help you save some extra money, there are a ton of discounts available, like military, federal employee, defensive driver and multiple vehicle. When it comes time to manage your policy, Geico helps with fantastic mobile tools to help you manage your policy.

Progressive

Progressive gives you plenty of ways to save extra money on your policy with excellent discounts like continuous insurance, good student, homeowner and online quote discounts. It also rewards safe drivers with discounts through its Snapshot® program. Coverage options are generous, as well, including roadside assistance, gap insurance, custom parts and equipment coverage and a deductible savings bank.

State Farm

State Farm is great for accessibility, giving you options for phone and agent support with excellent mobile tools. It holds an A++ (Superior) rating from AM Best for financial stability, so customers can feel secure in the claims process. Coverage is excellent, too, offering exclusive coverage options like emergency roadside assistance, rideshare insurance, sports car and classic car insurance. State Farm welcomes customers with a host of discounts for extra savings, like safety discounts for passive restraints and anti-theft technology, with a special Drive Safe & Save discount for safe drivers.

USAA

USAA is the best pick for cheap car insurance in Alaska for military members and their families. It has a strong car insurance program that offers its membership low rates and expansive coverage with plenty of discounts. It’s a company known for excellent customer service, consistently receiving top ratings for customer satisfaction. In addition to the option for personal injury protection (PIP), there are military-oriented discounts like savings for low mileage or when you garage your car on-base.

Affordable coverage for Alaska drivers

Alaska requires its drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability car insurance that includes the following coverage:

  • $50,000 bodily injury per person
  • $100,000 bodily injury per accident
  • $25,000 property damage
  • $50,000 uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury per person
  • $100,000 uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury per accident
  • $25,000 underinsured motorist property damage

According to the Insurance Information Institute, over 15% of Alaskan drivers do not have car insurance. If you were to have a collision with any one of these drivers, it could mean serious losses if you do not have the right car insurance to protect yourself. That’s why it is so important to carry at least the minimum amount of coverage required by law, if not full coverage.

How to get cheap car insurance in Alaska

There are several ways to save on your car insurance in Alaska:

  • Shop around: Every insurance company prices car insurance differently, so it pays to gather quotes from multiple car insurance providers in Alaska.
  • Compare providers: Compare the type of coverage offered, taking into consideration things like pricing, tools, financial strength and customer service.
  • Take advantage of discounts: From safe driver discounts to discounts specifically for your school or employer, there are many ways to save money on your car insurance. Ask your insurance provider about what kind of savings could lower the price of your auto insurance in Alaska.
  • Work on your credit score: The higher your credit score, the less risk you pose to insurance companies, so it pays to have good credit. There are some great options for car insurance for bad credit, but you are more likely to see additional savings when you have a good credit score to show.
  • Increase your deductible: One way to lower your payments each month is to increase your total deductible. This means that you will have to pay more upfront if you experience a loss, but it still will lower your payments each month, making it more affordable for you to have insurance coverage.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best car insurance in Alaska?

For the best car insurance in Alaska, we recommend coverage from The Hartford, State Farm, Allstate and Geico. The best company for you may vary, based on things like coverage, price and credit score, but these four are the best places to start in your search for the best car insurance in Alaska.

What is the average cost of car insurance in the U.S.?

The average cost of car insurance in the U.S. is $563 per year for minimum coverage and $1,738 annually for full coverage car insurance. This is significantly more expensive than the average cost of car insurance in Alaska, which runs $340 for a minimum coverage policy and $1,484 per year for a full coverage policy.

Is car insurance required in Alaska?

Alaska requires that Alaska drivers maintain a minimum amount of liability car insurance that includes $50,000 for bodily injury per person, $100,000 for bodily injury per accident and $25,000 for property damage. Some counties in Alaska do not require car insurance, but if you intend on driving, it’s always a good idea to purchase car insurance to protect yourself.

Methodology

Bankrate utilizes Quadrant Information Services to analyze rates for all ZIP codes and carriers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Quoted rates are based on a 40-year-old male and female driver with a cleaning driving record, good credit and the following full coverage limits:

  • $100,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $300,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $50,000 property damage liability per accident
  • $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per person
  • $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident
  • $500 collision deductible
  • $500 comprehensive deductible

To determine minimum coverage limits, Bankrate used minimum coverages that meet each state’s requirements. Our sample drivers own a 2018 Honda Accord, commute five days a week and drive 12,000 miles annually.

These are sample rates and should be used for comparative purposes only. Your quotes may be different.

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The Pitfalls of Buying Furniture With In-Store Financing

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Furnishing your home can be expensive, and many shoppers find it difficult to cover the cost of doing so. To make these purchases more affordable for the average shopper, many stores offer qualified customers interest-free furniture financing. You also have other options available to you that aren’t offered by stores, like credit cards and personal loans.

How in-store furniture financing works

Many large retail stores offer bad credit furniture financing through store-branded credit cards and “buy now, pay later” furniture installment plans.

It’s fairly common for furniture retailers to offer a store-branded credit card with deferred interest financing plans, where you don’t get charged interest if you pay off the purchase in full within a set number of months. For example, you may be able to purchase furniture on your card and pay 0% APR for six months or longer, depending on the financing plan. But you could be on the hook for the interest you didn’t pay during the financing period — a phenomenon known as deferred or retroactive interest. Further, your APR will jump to 20% to 25% or higher, making repayment more expensive moving forward.

Here are a few examples of store-branded credit cards and their special financing options:

6 furniture stores that offer financing
RetailerType of financingStandard purchase APRSpecial financing offer
Ashley Furniture HomeStoreCredit card29.99% VariableDeferred interest financing on qualifying purchases for six or more months.
Bob’s Discount FurnitureCredit card28.99% VariableDeferred interest financing on purchases of over $399 for six or 12 months.
IKEACredit card21.99% VariableZero percent interest for six, 12 or 24 months on purchases of $500 or more for the IKEA Projekt card.
Conn’s HomePlusCredit card29.99% VariableZero percent interest for 48 months on purchases of $3,999 and more.
Value City FurnitureCredit card29.99% VariableDeferred interest financing on qualifying purchases for six or 12 months. Zero percent interest financing for 36 months with 36 equal monthly payments.
WayfairCredit card26.99% VariableDeferred interest financing for six, 12, 18 or 24 months on orders of $200 or more.

Other furniture stores with financing options, including Wayfair, may offer point-of-sale loans through third-party companies like Affirm. These loans can come with a fixed APR of up to 30% with a short repayment term. This can be a good option if you prefer fixed payments, can repay the loan over the allotted term and qualify for an affordable APR.

Pros and cons of financing your furniture in-store

In-store furniture financing can be an affordable way to make your purchase — if you can pay off the debt on time. When it comes to store-branded credit cards, you’ll want to avoid deferred interest and the potentially high standard APR by paying off your debt during the special financing period. With point-of-sale loans, make sure the monthly payments and repayment term are feasible as missed payments can damage your credit.

Consider the following pros and cons of using in-store furniture financing before signing up for a new credit account or loan:

In-store financing: Pros and cons
ProsCons
  • May qualify for 0% APR for a limited time
  • Convenient application process at checkout
  • Opportunity to build credit
  • May have to pay deferred interest after the special financing offer expires
  • Potentially high APR and/or short repayment term
  • May need good credit to qualify

You may qualify for 0% APR, if you meet requirements

In-store financing could be a good deal if you pay off the money you borrow within the zero-interest financing period.

For someone who doesn’t have enough savings to cover the furniture, it might make more sense to take advantage of a deal like this instead of tapping into an emergency fund. However, you’ll want to make sure you pay off the total debt before your term ends to avoid retroactively accrued interest.

You can get new furniture right away

With furniture financing available at checkout, you can apply for credit or a loan to pay for the items that you’ve been eyeing, even if you don’t have the cash on hand to purchase them.

The trick here is to make purchases that you can afford to pay off in a short period. Special financing offers on store-branded credit cards may only last six or 12 months, sometimes longer depending on the size of your purchase. Loans like those offered by Affirm may offer loan terms based on your purchase amount, as well.

Oftentimes, furniture retailers will work with a financial institution that issues in-store credit cards. If these credit companies report on-time payments to one or more of the three credit bureaus, you may find your credit score steadily increasing over time. Check with retailers before you apply for a card to see whether or not you can take advantage of this opportunity.

You may have to pay deferred interest

Store-branded credit cards with 0% APR special financing offers come with deferred interest. That means interest accumulates on your principal during the financing period, starting from your original date of purchase. If you own a credit card with a deferred interest offer and don’t repay your entire principal amount before the financing period ends, you may find yourself owing hundreds of dollars or more in these retroactive interest fees.

Store credit cards have high standard purchase APRs

On top of owing deferred interest going back to the beginning of the date of purchase, the credit card company will continue to charge interest until you repay the full amount owed.

Remember that in-store credit cards carry high interest rates — higher than a typical credit card’s interest — so once the regular APR kicks in and you’re hit with all the deferred interest charges, the charges can rack up rather quickly.

May need good credit to qualify

People with bad credit or no credit might not qualify for furniture financing, since many stores require that you sign up for their partner bank’s credit card in order to do so.

But here’s the thing: Even the act of applying for new credit can temporarily ding your credit score. For that reason, make sure to ask the store if it offers prequalification, an approach that assesses your creditworthiness without conducting a hard credit pull. You can get a good idea of whether you’ll get approved for financing, without hurting your credit score in the process.

Alternatives to in-store financing

Budget, save up cash and pay upfront

If you want to buy furniture, you’ll end up paying for it one way or another. So instead of getting a furniture loan, you might consider saving up the cash to pay for it.

This strategy will keep you from the risk of having to pay high interest retroactively if you can’t repay the loan within the promotional period. You’ll also own your furniture sooner and pay less for it in the process.

Go to a rent-to-own furniture retailer

Rent-to-own furniture stores offer affordable installment payment plans for those who need it. With a rent-to-own plan, you can walk in and buy the furniture you need immediately, and gradually pay for ownership over a predetermined number of weeks or months.

Rent-to-own furniture retailers often don’t require credit checks, and you have the freedom to end your contract at any time. However, rent-to-own payment plans can be much more expensive than if you bought the furniture on credit or cash outright.

If you have other options available to you, you may want to consider them instead as you’ll likely save more money with those choices. However, rent-to-own plans may be a good alternative for those who need furniture immediately but don’t have the cash upfront, or for those with bad or no credit.

Use a credit card with a 0% APR promotional offer

If you’re able to land a credit card with a 0% introductory APR, chances are its terms will be better than the ones a furniture retailer can offer you. Even if you only qualify for a regular credit card, they’ll usually still carry a lower interest rate than retail store cards, which can save you a bundle if you’re left making furniture monthly payments after the promo period ends.

If you’ve got a credit card offer with a 0% percent introductory rate on purchases, compare its regular interest rate with that of the furniture store credit card. Make sure to choose the lower-cost option, in case you cannot pay off the balance by the time the promotional period is up.

You could use a personal loan to finance furniture purchases. This option comes with a set repayment schedule, fixed interest rate and relatively quick approval process. Depending on the lender, you could borrow as little as $1,000 or as much as $50,000 or more.

However, lenders will conduct a credit check on all applicants so you’ll want to have good credit or better to qualify. The best repayment terms are reserved for those with excellent credit, although those with a good credit score can still land attractive offers.

Unlike credit cards, though, you won’t find lenders offering 0% interest on personal loans so you’ll pay more than you would if you paid with cash upfront. To save as much money as possible, carefully weigh the offers you receive and calculate your savings with each before you make your decision.

Compare multiple lenders at once with our comparison tool below:

APR

As low as 2.49%

Credit Req.

Minimum 500 FICO

Origination Fee

Varies

LendingTree is not a lender. LendingTree is unique in that you may be able to compare up to five personal loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online and you may be pre-qualified by lenders without impacting your credit score. Terms Apply. NMLS #1136.


As of 17-May-19, LendingTree Personal Loan consumers were seeing match rates as low as 2.49% (2.49% APR) on a $20,000 loan amount for a term of three (3) years. Rates and APRs were based on a self-identified credit score of 700 or higher, zero down payment, origination fees of $0 to $100 (depending on loan amount and term selected). Terms Apply. NMLS #1136

Information contained on this page is provided by an independent third-party content provider. Frankly and this Site make no warranties or representations in connection therewith. If you are affiliated with this page and would like it removed please contact pressreleases@franklymedia.com

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