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Bad Credit

What’s the Cost of Having a Bad Credit Rating?

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In the past, a credit rating was only important when borrowing money. Things have changed, but a good rating is still free

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Q: My partner and I are having a disagreement about credit ratings. We came into a little bit of money and it’s enough to either pay off our line of credit or save for a special trip as soon as we can travel again safely. My partner says we should pay off our credit line so that we not only have a cushion, but it will help our credit rating. He’s really concerned because when he was in university and had some trouble with debt, he felt like his bad situation only got worse because he had bad credit. I think that with so many people having lost their jobs due to the pandemic, the consequences of having a bad credit rating right now won’t be that bad because we’re all facing the same thing. We are due a honeymoon and I want to save the money for a trip because it’s the only way we’ll ever be able to go. Who’s right? ~Ross

A: Credit ratings are one of those things that most Canadians would like to know more about, but the more they learn, the more questions they have. And answers often aren’t straightforward due to the complexity of the credit scoring system. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t commend you and your partner for having these conversations about your finances. Even if you can’t agree on everything, just talking about possible options is already more than what many couples are able to do.

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When it comes to financial decisions and debates about credit, it’s best if I steer clear of taking sides. Most of us know there are hidden perks when we have good credit; but having bad credit, it can cost us in ways we never realized. To help you both achieve a win-win, here are things to consider as you make decisions for your financial future.

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The perks of having a good credit rating

A good credit rating allows a lender to offer you a better interest rate and terms and conditions. It can make you eligible for a low-interest credit card. When you’re buying a new car at a dealership and your credit score is very high, the financing incentives can include zero per cent interest with payments spread out over an additional year or two.

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When it comes to a mortgage, a high credit rating can result in added buying power with steeply discounted interest rates and a slight easing of qualification criteria. A solid credit rating means you are able to obtain a new cellphone with a plan on contract, rather than having to pay for a device yourself first. It means your home utilities will be connected without an upfront deposit. A good credit rating means you don’t have to worry you’ll be declined whenever someone requests that you consent to a credit check.

How to Get Your Own Credit Report for Free

What does it cost to have a bad credit rating?

As you may be able to guess, a bad credit rating will limit you in terms of how much money you are able to borrow, what interest rates you’ll be charged, and what the repayment terms and conditions will be. When your credit score drops below a certain point, you are no longer eligible for low-interest credit cards and credit card instalment offers for larger purchases. Your interest rate will even go up by as much as five per cent if your credit card payments are late. Unsecured lines of credit may not be available at reasonable interest rates, if at all, and other restrictions — e.g., co-signers, guarantors or collateral — might be necessary for other types of loans.

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How to Get Out of Debt With Bad Credit

The impact of a bad credit rating on mortgage payments

When it comes to a mortgage, a credit report with a few small collection items and a record of late payments could add as much as two additional percentage points to the interest rate. That will not only decrease your buying power, it will dramatically affect how much interest you pay over the term of the mortgage.

For example, a $350,000 mortgage with a payment based on two per cent (five-year term, 25-year amortization), the base monthly payment would be $1,482. Over the course of the five-year term, this mortgage holder would pay $32,120 in interest, along with payments on the principal.

If this same borrower would have to make payments based on four per cent instead of two, the base monthly payments would increase by $359 to $1,841 and the interest paid over the five-year term would more than double to $65,153! The additional interest takes money away from being able to afford other goals. Here’s a simple mortgage payment calculator to try calculations for your own circumstances.

A bad credit rating affects more than credit applications

It used to be that a credit rating was only important when you applied to borrow money, but things have changed. A poor credit check could cost someone their dream job. Many employers ask potential employees to consent to a credit check as part of the hiring process. While they screen for a number of criteria, if someone has filed for bankruptcy, it could preclude them from working in certain industries.

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Landlords also routinely ask potential tenants to consent to credit checks as part of the screening process. Those who have trouble paying their bills on time could have trouble paying their rent. Landlords may also fear that someone with prior obligations, e.g., significant vehicle payments or family maintenance arrears, might not be able to afford the rent along with their living costs.

How to Convince a Landlord to Rent to You

As financial institutions do as well, it’s up to each landlord and employer to interpret the credit checks based on their own criteria. This means that if you need to explain your situation, it might be best to do it before they check your credit.

What does it cost to have a good credit rating?

With all the drawbacks that come with having a bad credit rating, you might wonder what it costs to have a good rating. A good credit rating doesn’t cost you anything — and it will save you money in the long run. All that’s required is that you engage in positive credit behaviours. Here are five tips to do just that:

1. Make your payments on time

On-time payments can be for the full amount that’s owing, or the required minimum payment. One of the most significant ways to protect your credit rating is to pay at least your minimums on time every month. In order to do this, you need to live according to a realistic budget and spend below your means so you’ve got enough money to bring down what you owe.

2. Plan for the unexpected – watch your credit utilization rates

Any balances you do carry on credit cards and lines of credit, aim to keep them below about 65 per cent of the limit on each account. That way if something unforeseen happens, you’re not left in the lurch trying to make bigger payments than you can reasonably afford.

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3. Demonstrate how you manage during the good times and the bad

Time provides a true picture for how responsible someone is with their money and credit. Aim to keep one older account active so a potential lender can see how you manage your affairs. If you’ve had some late payments within the last six to seven years, if they are still reflected on your credit report, they will be less significant than all of the more recent payments you have made on time to recover from the past difficulties.

It’s natural in life to hit some financial bumps, and the longer you use credit the more likely it is that there will be some reflected on your credit report. Some ways of dealing with financial trouble wipe the slate clean, which is why lenders look at your overall financial picture as part of a credit application. A balanced approach tends to be the strongest: spending within your means and based on a steady source of income, using credit wisely, managing routine payments and obligations, saving in proportion to your level of income, and having some assets to show for your spending. It raises red flags if someone has been actively using credit for a number of years, but their credit report offers no meaningful information about their credit accounts.

4. Only keep and apply for the credit that you actually need

We all know that person who has so many credit cards in their wallet that it hardly closes. But a lot of credit doesn’t necessarily mean they have a good credit rating. In fact, it could signal a problem. Only apply for credit that you actually need and will use.

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Pay off and close any accounts you don’t use regularly and don’t really need. This protects you from giving in to temptation simply because you have credit available to you. It also protects you from fraudulent activity on an account you don’t use regularly. The first thing a fraudster would do is change your address and contact details so you don’t get their bills. By the time you’ve caught on to their spending spree, the damage could be done.

5. Not all credit is created equal

When there isn’t much to report on your credit file, potential lenders and interested parties might look more closely at the types of debts you do have. Different types of credit shed light on how you handle your money overall. For example, deferred interest or payment plans can indicate you aren’t able to save up for purchases ahead of time. Consolidation loans mean you’ve had difficulty paying your debts in the past. A line of credit is a revolving form of credit, like a credit card, and it’s easier to get into trouble with a revolving form of credit than with an instalment loan, where you make payments for a set period of time and then it’s paid in full.

How to deal with debt and save for a goal

When faced with a sum of money you weren’t expecting, consider how to make it work hardest for you toward your most meaningful goals. Pay off an expensive debt and then keep making the payments you were making on that debt into a savings account instead. You’ll save money on interest by paying off the debt offand also be able to save up for an important goal. This is a particularly effective strategy when interest rates on saving accounts are as low as they are now.

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Should I Pay Off Debt or Save Money?

If you have more money than what’s needed to pay off an expensive debt, consider whether it’s better to pay down another debt with the leftover sum, or to jump-start a savings account with it. If you have quite a few debts to take care of and not enough money to pay them all off, consider how best to use the sum you received while employing the snowball or avalanche method of debt repayment. Just be sure to execute your debt repayment plan within a realistic budget that also accounts for some savings. That will protect you from relying on credit and seeing your progress evaporate should you face an unexpected expense.

The bottom line on what your credit rating means

The best things in life are free, and this certainly applies to having a good credit rating — especially when you consider how painfully expensive the alternative is. No one thinks about what a bad credit rating will cost until they’re faced with the consequences. Only by then, it’s often too late to turn things around quickly. While negative information on your credit report is frustrating, with some patience and corrective steps, time is on your side to (re)build an excellent credit rating.

Related reading:

7 Things That Are Not on Your Credit Report

What are Your Bad Habits Really Costing You?

5 Credit Myths Debunked and What to Do Instead

Scott Hannah is president of the Credit Counselling Society, a non-profit organization. For more information about managing your money or debt, contact Scott byemail, check nomoredebts.orgor call 1-888-527-8999.

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Bad Credit

Is There a Difference Between No Credit and Bad Credit?

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The short answer is yes, and understanding the difference could be instrumental in getting better credit.

No credit and bad credit often get grouped together. It’s understandable why, as they both sound similar enough. And if you have either, the next step forward is to focus on improving your credit.

The two situations aren’t the same, though. It’s important to know the difference, because the right way to build your credit often depends on whether you have no credit history or bad credit.

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The difference between no credit and bad credit

Having no credit means that there’s not enough information on your credit file to calculate a credit score for you. It’s also known as being credit invisible. Sadly, this is an issue that affects millions of Americans.

There aren’t any problems on your credit file; the credit bureaus just don’t have enough data on you. That means when a lender or any other third party checks your credit, there’s nothing to go on.

Meanwhile, “bad credit” is a common term used to describe a low credit score. That low score is because of negative items on your credit file, such as not paying your credit card bill.

When you have no credit, the solution is to build your credit. When you have a low credit score, the solution is to rebuild your credit. Now, let’s look at how you can do each one.

How to build credit for the first time

Here’s the simplest way to build credit:

  • Open a credit card.
  • Use the credit card for at least one purchase per month.
  • Always pay your credit card bill on time and in full.

It’s that easy; that’s all you need to do to get a good credit score. When you use a credit card and pay the bill on time, you establish a positive payment history. That’s the biggest credit scoring criteria.

The tricky part when you have no credit is finding a credit card you can qualify for. Secured credit cards are one of the most common options for consumers in this situation. You pay a security deposit for this type of card, so it’s possible to open a secured card even if you have no credit.

If you’re in college, credit cards for students are available. These are often an option for applicants without any credit history.

How to rebuild a low credit score

It’s a little more complicated to rebuild your credit. First, you need to find out what negative items are affecting your credit score. Here’s how to start:

  • Use an online credit score tool to check your score and learn about any items damaging your credit. If you have a credit card, there may be a credit score tool in your online account. If not, there are plenty of free ways to get your credit score.
  • Request your credit report from the three consumer credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can pull a free annual credit report from each bureau, and through April 2022, you can get free weekly credit reports. Your credit report will show you exactly what’s affecting your credit.

Once you know what’s affecting your credit, you can work on correcting it. Below are a few of the most common issues and how to fix them.

Problems with your payment history

This includes anything related to not paying a bill on time, from late payments to having accounts go to collections.

The first step is catching up on your payments. If you can’t pay in full, contact your creditors and see if you can set up a payment plan with them. They may be willing to work with you if that means you’ll be making regular payments.

Next is rebuilding your payment history. The easiest option is to use a credit card at least once per month and pay in full by the due date. Why do you need to use a credit card? Credit card companies report on-time payments to the credit bureaus, which helps your credit score. With other types of bills, your on-time payments typically don’t get reported to the credit bureaus. That means you may not be able to improve your payment history with rent, utilities, or other monthly bills.

If you already have credit cards, you can continue using them to rebuild your payment history. If you don’t, look for secured credit cards and apply for one you like.

Using too much of your credit

A big factor in your credit score is your credit utilization ratio — your credit card balances divided by your credit limits. If this number gets too high, it can lower your credit score. The standard recommendation is a credit utilization ratio of under 30%.

Let’s say you have one credit card with a $4,000 balance and a $5,000 credit limit. That would put your credit utilization at 80% ($4,000 divided by $5,000 is 80%), a very high number that would decrease your credit score.

Fortunately, only your current credit utilization matters. Once you pay down your credit card balance, your credit score will bounce back.

Errors on your credit history

A low credit score may be due to an error and not any action on your part. This is why it’s so important to pull your credit reports from each credit bureau. By reviewing those, you can see if there are any mistakes.

If there are errors on your credit report, you can go to the credit bureau’s website to dispute them online and get them removed.

A low credit score and a nonexistent credit score are both things you can change. After you determine exactly what the issue is, you’ll be able to choose the best solution to fix it.

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‘There is no new normal’: Worcester small business owner pivoted during COVID-19 and expects only more change after pandemic

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It took about eight minutes for the bank to reject Natalie Rodriguez’s application for a loan through the Small Business Administration.

Rodriguez opened Nuestra, a Puerto Rican inspired restaurant in Worcester, in January of 2020. When COVID-19 arrived months later she discovered Nuestra wasn’t eligible for the federal or state funding that thousands of other establishments received.

To qualify, restaurants were required to show payroll and salary for years before 2020. Those figures didn’t exist for a restaurant that weren’t open in 2019.

“[I was] determined and knew that ‘no’ is not an OK answer,” Rodriguez said. “A door may close but you may need to kick down another door.”

Rodriguez then applied for conventional loans only to be led to more closed doors. Less than 10 minutes after applying for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, she received notice that her poor credit score resulted in her application being denied.

Rodriguez used the dead end with the SBA to create a new path for herself and Nuestra.

She not only learned how to improve her credit but wanted to ensure others didn’t have to follow her journey as an entrepreneur.

Rodriguez extended the “Nuestra” brand to include financial advising. She started Nuestra Financial in April of 2020.

“Now I’m helping others. I’ve been able to restore my credit,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been able to help others restore their credit and be able to help them make a business themselves if they so choose. I’ve been able to survive.”

Without grants and other funding, Rodriguez managed to keep her restaurant open through funds generated from Nuestra Financial.

“I was very quiet about it in the beginning. I didn’t want people to be like, ‘Oh look at this girl, she just opened a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic,’ and talk smack,” Rodriguez said. “About a month or two later, a light bulb hit and I was like, nobody pays my bills but me. I needed to mind my own business and not worry about what other people thought.”

In creating Nuestra Financial, Rodriguez said she’s helped Worcester residents restore their credit and purchase new vehicles and homes.

Rodriguez said financial literacy is rarely taught to children in school and wasn’t something she learned. When a situation arises like a rejection notice for an economic disaster loan, many don’t know how to respond or where to find answers.

Rodriguez said she’s helped young and old people, along with those who have bad credit or no credit.

“We lack the confidence, including myself, because we weren’t taught,” Rodriguez said. “So if you don’t know something, you weren’t taught, you’re not going to be confident about it.”

Coming out of the pandemic, Rodriguez remains confident about both her businesses. Nuestra, the restaurant, while closed for daily service continues to provide catering services. Rodriguez is still preparing what the future holds for the restaurant but plans to announce an update soon.

As masks start to become less a part of daily routines, Rodriguez, as a small business owner, doesn’t envision many differences from this year to last.

So many aspects of life remain uncertain from rising food costs to a potential third booster for vaccines and whether the country will ever reach herd immunity for COVID-19.

The pandemic arrived with Rodriguez immediately pivoting. As it approaches its potential end, Rodriguez will continue to do what helped her to navigate it.

“I feel like there is no new normal just yet,” Rodriguez said. “I think we’re all just trying to adjust and pivot at the same time and getting creative. I think it’s where we all are.”

Related Content:

Owner of Worcester’s Nuestra restaurant, closing due to COVID impact, has something she’d like to say to Gov. Baker

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Columbus Mattress Wholesale moves to newer, larger Gahanna store

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More than four years back, Cathryn Clark’s boyfriend, Christopher Robbins, was on the hunt for a new mattress. He just couldn’t find one at an affordable  price. 

Clark, 29, and Robbins, 34, who are now engaged, were living in Franklinton, where they still live today.

They had no experience owning or operating a small business; Robbins worked as a retail assistant for SAS Retail Services while Clark worked as the communications director for two Methodist churches. 

But in 2017, Robbins, with Clark at his side, took the leap and opened Columbus Mattress Wholesale on the West Side, with the goal of  helping low-income consumers secure mattresses and other bedtime products.  

“We really wanted to bring a store to people that, you know, they weren’t paying an arm and leg, but they still could get a good night’s sleep,” Clark said.

Customers at Columbus Mattress Wholesale can pay cash or credit, for example, but the business also works with financing companies that serve people without credit scores, with bad credit or who are lower income. 

Last month, the business made a big move. It expanded from its original location on Harrisburg Pike to a store double the size at 435 Agler Road in Gahanna.

Clark said she and Robbins saw a need in the broader area, with many of their customers coming from outside the Hilltop, such as Linden.

Nestled between Dollar Tree and the Ohio BMV in Gahanna, the new storefront opened Memorial Day weekend and sells mattresses, bed bases, bed frames and pillows. Mattress prices range from under $100 to more than $1,000, depending on the size and brand, which includes some well-known names such as Serta, Beautyrest and Casper.

Clark said while she and Robbins originally sold solely Ohio-based brands, they’ve branched out to national brands as business has grown.

Columbus Mattress Wholesale also offers free same-day delivery on most orders from customers living in Columbus. 

Clark does a little bit of everything for the business, from running communications, to working on the sales floor, to managing the sales team, to ordering what they sell. 

She said a big mission for herself and Robbins, beyond doing business, is aiding the community.

“We’ve seen a lot of people struggle,” Clark said.

Clark said she and Robbins work to mentor other people who are hoping to open or currently own a small business. She added that the store starts employees at $17 per hour.

She and Robbins haven’t decided yet what they will do with the original location — which is currently closed — but said they might shift it into an accessory store.

[email protected]

@SarahEDon

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