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When in Debt or on a Budget, Travel is the First to Go

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Total consumer debt rose 7.6 percent in the past year, totaling $3,898 trillion in 2018. This high debt forces some people to make sacrifices to make ends meet. We found in a previous survey that one in three Americans take out short-term loans to cover debt, even though it leads to more debt and interest payments in the long run. 

Since we know the extremes people will go to, we surveyed 1,000 Americans to see what non-essential expenses they might be willing to give up. While respondents were quick to give up fun activities and products for convenient expenses like food delivery and subscription services, travel actually topped the list.

Below, we’ll dive into the data to uncover why subscription services take precedence over traveling and eating out.

survey results of when in debt or on a budget

Key Findings:

  • One in five Americans would first give up traveling when in debt or on a budget
  • Less than 10 percent of Americans are willing to give up subscription services when in debt or on a budget
  • Americans would rather give up going out to have fun than give up buying new clothes 
  • Technology is among the top three things Americans would give up when on a budget

Travel is the Last Priority for Americans

The votes are in and travel is the first to go for Americans in debt. Americans likely prioritize travel last since associated costs, like flights and accommodations, can quickly add up.

A 2019 Bankrate study found that, of the Americans who weren’t planning a summer vacation, 60 percent of them said it was because they couldn’t afford it. That same study also found that Americans expect to spend an average of $1,979 on their vacations.

Unfortunately, limiting travel and vacation time throughout the year takes a bigger toll on people than they realize—even if they save money in the short term. Psychology Today cites the following mental health benefits for travelers:

  • Broadens our horizons
  • Teaches us about the world
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Boosts happiness
  • Enhances creativity
  • Relieves stress
benefits of traveling

Relieving stress is a major factor that should pique Americans’ interests. A 2019 study by Syracuse University found that vacations and time away from work can reduce metabolic symptoms, therefore reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, a study by the European Society of Cardiology found that those who had shorter vacations slept less compared to those who took longer vacations. The resulting stressful lifestyles of those with shorter vacations negated the effects of the health benefits participants received during the study.

These are all signs that Americans should think twice about the long-term consequences they’ll likely face when making choices for the short term, like skipping out on travel and vacation to save some money.

What About Travel-Crazed Millennials?

Young Americans ages 18 to 34 all agree that travel should be first to go. This is surprising as millennials are known for their love of travel

younger americans would first give up travel when in debt

A 2018 study by travel technology company Travelport found that more than one in three millennials planned to spend over $5,000 on future vacations. The same study also found that Americans with more education and income are more likely to take vacations.

This possibly suggests that travel is a distant dream for millennials with high debt and/or lower income. 

American’s Can’t Give up Netflix, Even When They’re in Debt or on a Budget

Nothing seems to beat subscription services for Americans, even when they are on a budget. 

Lexington Law found that one in four Americans prefer streaming subscriptions more than any other type. This includes Netflix and other popular options like Spotify and Hulu. The price of these services can range from $6 to $45 or more a month.

Other types of subscription services, like box subscriptions and premium access accounts, can also end up costing a lot. A recent Finder study discovered that, although Americans tend to order subscription boxes the least in comparison to other conveniences like rideshare services and home services, they still pay a combined $37 billion alone on these boxes.

Could you guess how much you pay for subscriptions alone? Most people can’t.

comparing the cost of a netflix subscription

A recent study found that 84 percent of people underestimate how much they spend each month on recurring monthly expenses. Chief Science Officer of Syntonic, Alain Smason, Ph.D., said that people psychologically choose subscription services (and similar payment plans) for reasons like avoiding the pain of paying a large sum upfront.

Whether it’s because it’s seemingly the cheapest or most convenient type of expense, Americans need to think twice about how much subscription services actually suck out of their budgets.

Clothes Never Go out of Style When Facing Debt

Americans prioritize fashion over going out to have fun. Clothing affects our daily lives more than going out to have fun, and it comes into play more than most people might think.

A 2019 paper on the psychology of clothing explains that our clothing choices affect how we perceive ourselves. Overall, the study found that clothing and appearance communicate a lot to other people and affect how we socialize.

Clothing may also be a higher priority because it’s more affordable compared to “going out.” Fast fashion, in particular, makes trendy clothes accessible and affordable, though it may end up costing more in the long term.

textiles in landfills by weight

Source: EPA

Fast fashion is normally made from cheaper fabrics that quickly wear out. This prompts shoppers to toss their clothes more often than if they shopped for higher-quality pieces. As a result, Americans buy more clothes to replace old pieces and the cycle continues. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation looked at the textile industry in 2017 and found the following:

  • The average number of times a piece of clothing is worn before people stop using it has decreased 36 percent compared to 15 years ago.
  • People miss out on $460 billion of value each year by throwing away clothes that they could continue to wear.
  • Some pieces of clothing are estimated to be tossed after being worn seven to 10 times.

Americans should take account of how much cheap fashion choices are costing them. Investing in higher-quality, longer-lasting clothes could be the best financial choice for some, but may not be accessible to everyone.  

New Tech Falls Short for Americans

Electronics also fell into the top three things Americans choose to give up when in debt.

average age of an iphone trade in

Source: Hyla Mobile as reported by the Wall Street Journal

Remember when everyone rushed to get the latest iPhone? Nowadays, people are waiting much longer to upgrade.

A 2018 study by NPD found that the average smartphone upgrade cycle in the U.S. is 32 months, up from 25 months in 2017. NPD attributes this lag to tightened upgrade policies. More carriers require customers to fully pay-off their devices before they can trade them in.

Others attribute the slowdown to consumers having fewer reasons to upgrade their phones. Consumers aren’t interested in getting new phones if their current phone still works and the new devices available don’t offer much additional value. 

The lesson here? Most Americans are content with slightly outdated technology, especially if it saves them money.

Taking Care of Debt and Your Own Well-Being

It’s important to prioritize your well-being, even when facing stressful situations like paying down debt. A healthy lifestyle can keep you sharp and more prepared to face these difficulties than if you are burnt out or sleep-deprived. Reaching out for help from friends, family and finance professionals can also alleviate the stress of tackling debt.

It’s also important to consider alternative options like debt consolidation if you find your debt is overwhelming. If you’re in the middle of tackling debt but find that your credit report isn’t reflecting those changes, you should learn more about our credit repair services to see how we can help you challenge errors on credit reports. 

Methodology

This study was conducted using Google Surveys. The sample consists of no less than 1,000 completed answers. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure accurate and reliable representation of the total U.S. population ages 18 and older. The survey ran online during July 2019.

Learn more about Google Surveys’ methodology.

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Credit Cards

How to identify credit repair scams

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family learning more about credit

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

If you have poor or damaged credit and want to repair it, you may have considered using a credit repair service to help. Unfortunately, there are many companies and individuals that want to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers needing help with their credit. 

While there are legitimate companies that can help you repair your credit, there are also credit repair scams that are only after your money and your information for identity theft purposes. To keep both safe, we created this guide to help you tell the difference between legitimate credit repair companies and credit repair scams.

Five signs of a credit repair scam

There are many things credit repair companies are not allowed to do or promise customers. If it sounds like it’s too good to be true, it probably is, and you should steer clear of that company. We’ve put together a list of signs you should watch out for when working with credit repair companies.

1. Guaranteed results

Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA), credit repair companies cannot guarantee results. Here are a few common examples of false promises unethical credit repair companies might make:

  • Improvement to your credit score
  • Results in a fixed time period
  • Removal of all of negative items, even if they are accurate

2. Up-front payment is requested

The CROA prohibits credit repair companies from asking for any payment before they render services. Many scammers know that most consumers don’t know this and, as a result, promise a quick turnaround on credit repair for a large upfront payment.

Some illegitimate credit repair companies may not allow you to cancel unless you pay a fee. All credit repair companies are required by law to give you at least three days to cancel services with them and there is no penalty for canceling.

3. Claims a new identity is needed 

A credit repair company can’t promise or offer you a new identity. Anyone offering you a new identity is a fraud. Besides guaranteeing results, scammers may try to promise you a clean slate with a new Employer Identification Number (EIN) or a Credit Privacy Number (CPN).

They tell you to use these numbers on your future credit applications instead of your Social Security Number. We explain more about common credit repair scams below.

4. Don’t explain your legal rights

Credit repair companies should explain your legal rights to you from the beginning. These are a few common things an unethical credit repair company might do.

  • Tells you not to contact the credit bureaus directly
  • Doesn’t give you a copy of the contract to review before signing
  • Fails to inform you that you can repair your credit yourself without the help of a credit repair company
  • Leaves out important information from the contract, like the date services will be executed or the amount you will pay

If you feel like the company isn’t telling you everything or refusing to answer your questions, you should seek services elsewhere.

5. Asks you to misrepresent information

Finally, an unlawful credit repair company might ask you to misrepresent your information. This can range from unlawfully using an EIN or CPN number in place of your social security number to claim you are a victim of identity theft when you’re not.

five signs of a credit repair scam

Common credit repair scams 

You’ll most likely see credit repair companies illegally promising results. However, it’s important to familiarize yourself with other scams so you understand what is and is not legal. We highlighted a few common ones below.

File segregation schemes 

A file segregation scheme is when a company or individual offers to give you an Employee Identification Number (EIN) to use in place of your Social Security Number when you apply for credit. It’s illegal for companies to do this, and it’s illegal for consumers to obtain one to use in place of their Social Security Number. 

Credit privacy numbers 

Like an EIN, a Credit Privacy Number (CPN) is created by scammers to use in place of your Social Security Number when applying for credit. Simply put, a CPN is a fake Social Security Number. Usually, these are created using somebody else’s identity, and using one can be considered identity theft. 

Tradeline renting 

Tradeline renting is when you pay for authorized user status so that the tradeline shows up on your credit reports to improve your score. This doesn’t repair any negative information on your credit, but adding a positive tradeline to your credit report can boost your score.

While this isn’t necessarily illegal, it can get you into trouble. There is nothing wrong with a loved one adding you as an authorized user. However, if you pay to “rent” a tradeline from a stranger, you don’t know how it will impact your credit and it may be a scam to get your money. 

credit repair scams to watch out for

What to do if you are scammed

There are a few things you can do if you realize you’ve fallen victim to a credit repair scam. Take a look at your options below.

who to report a credit repair scam to

Can credit repair companies fix your credit?

Yes, a legitimate credit repair company can help you work to remove inaccurate negative items from your record that may be damaging your credit score. Here are ways to recognize a legitimate, expert credit repair company. Although you can work to repair your credit yourself without a credit repair company, ideally a credit repair company would make the process much easier. Here are some signs of a legitimate, expert credit repair company:

  1. They create a repair strategy custom to your unique situation. A good credit repair company will customize their course of action only after evaluating your credit reports and credit history. Everyone’s credit history is different, and their approach to repairing your credit should reflect that. 
  2. Maintain communication with you during the process. A credit repair company that maintains scheduled calls, emails or any other form of communication with you will help you stay up-to-date with their progress. They shouldn’t keep you in the dark as they’re conducting their services. 
  3. Informs you of your rights from the beginning. At the time of signing, a credit repair company should provide two documents: a disclosure of your right to repair your credit yourself and a detailed contract of services.
  4. Make realistic claims about their services. Like we said above, credit repair companies cannot guarantee results. A legitimate credit repair company will not guarantee timeframes or point changes, but they can guarantee the delivery of services—access to credit monitoring tools, or letters delivered on your behalf. 

How to safely repair your credit

Making payments on time and disputing inaccurate information on your credit reports can help you repair your credit. While you can do this on your own, a professional credit repair firm like Lexington Law Firm will make the process easier and more efficient.

Lexington Law Firm proudly adheres to CROA to make sure we give our clients the best experience possible. For over a decade, we’ve helped clients challenge information that is unfair, inaccurate and unsubstantiated. Give us a call today for a free, personalized credit report consultation.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

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What is purchase APR for credit cards?

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Woman sitting by the sofa shopping online on laptop with bank card in hand.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

A purchase annual percentage rate (APR) determines the amount of interest that is added to an outstanding credit card balance each month. While the rate is calculated by the year, the interest charge is added monthly to the unpaid balance.

Most credit cards include a purchase APR—annual percentage rate—that is used to calculate the interest on an unpaid credit card balance. 

While APR is an annual percentage rate, credit card interest is actually applied monthly by calculating one-twelfth of the APR. For example, a credit card with an APR of 24 percent would have a 2 percent interest charge added monthly to any outstanding balance. 

Since APR is only applied to outstanding balances, interest charges can be avoided entirely by paying off the full balance of a credit card by the due date each month. 

Read on to learn more about different aspects of APR as well as real-world examples of how APR works. 

Important aspects of credit card APR

Although APR is a straightforward calculation, there are a few important details to consider when looking at a credit card’s APR. Keep in mind that credit cards often have multiple APRs and that APR can change over time. 

Credit cards often have multiple APRs

When discussing APR, most people refer to a credit card’s “purchase APR,” also referred to as “standard purchase APR.” This is the rate that’s applied to regular purchases, including goods and services. 

Different types of APR. Purchase APR, cash advance APR, penalty APR and balance transfer APR.

However, credit cards can do more than just make purchases, so there are several other APRs depending on the activity:

  • Cash advance APR: If you use a credit card to receive a cash advance, you’ll pay interest according to the cash advance APR. Often, the rate for cash advances is higher than normal purchases. Also, interest typically begins to accrue immediately rather than after the due date for the monthly bill. 
  • Balance transfer APR: After you transfer a balance from any line of credit to a credit card, interest will begin to accrue at the rate set by the balance transfer APR. Some credit cards offer a promotional period where transferred balances accrue no interest. 
  • Penalty APR: When your credit card payments are late—typically by more than 60 days—many credit card companies will institute a higher penalty APR, which can affect both the outstanding balance as well as future purchases on the credit card. Penalty APRs can also be activated for other reasons outlined in a cardholder agreement. 

Understanding all of these different kinds of APR makes it easier for you to use credit cards to their fullest while avoiding costly interest payments. 

That said, it’s also important to note that APR is not a permanent number, and it can change over time for a variety of reasons.

APR can change over time

The initial APR for purchases and other activities will be laid out in the cardholder agreement you sign when the card is issued. Typical APR ranges from 15 percent to 22 percent, but cards can have higher or lower APR for a variety of reasons. In any case, the initial APR for your credit card may change over time.

Reasons APR may change over time.

Here’s what you need to know about how and why APR changes over time.

  • Introductory APR: Some credit cards include a lower introductory or promotional APR for a set period of time, usually between three and 24 months after the credit account is opened. After the introductory period ends, a higher APR takes effect. 
  • Variable APR: Some credit cards have a variable APR that is tied to economic factors, like the “prime rate,” which is published by the U.S. Federal Reserve. As this number changes, the APR on your credit card will change as well. 
  • Penalty APR: As noted above, certain actions—like late payments—can lead to a penalty APR that is often significantly higher than the standard APR. The APR often decreases again after six months or more of on-time payments. 
  • Credit score change: If you have a significant change in your credit score, the credit card company may raise or lower your purchase APR accordingly. 

Although APR can change, credit card companies are generally not allowed to change your APR in the first year of your account’s existence. Credit card issuers typically provide notice at least 45 days before increasing a card’s APR. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however, like if your promotional period ends within the first 12 months of your account being opened. 

Let’s take a look at some examples of how purchase APR works. 

Examples of purchase APR

Looking more closely at different purchase APRs makes it clear that interest rates make a big difference when you carry a balance on your credit card.

Example of how purchase APR works.

Let’s imagine that you purchase a $2,500 exercise bike with your credit card and plan to pay off the balance over the next 21 months. 

With a credit card that has a 25 percent APR, you’ll spend $148 each month to pay off the balance for that purchase, and you’ll have paid for more than $600 of interest along the way. 

With a credit card that has a 15 percent APR, your monthly payment will be $136 until the balance is paid off, and you’ll accrue $358 of interest as you make payments.

With a credit card that has a promotional 0 percent APR for 12 months (then a 15 percent APR), your monthly payment will be $122, and you’ll only accrue $66 of interest over the course of the 21 months.

Clearly, different purchase APR can make a big difference when it comes to paying off credit card debt. 

Getting a card with a low APR may depend on a person’s credit history, if you need help managing your credit profile, Lexington Law Firm provides qualified credit repair services. 


Reviewed by Horacio Celaya, Associate Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Horacio Celaya was born in Tucson, Arizona but eventually moved with his family to Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. Mr. Celaya went on to graduate with Honors from the Autonomous University of Baja California Law School. Mr. Celaya is a graduate of the University of Arizona where he graduated from James E. Rogers College of Law. During law school, Mr. Celaya received his certificate in International Trade Law, completing his thesis on United States foreign direct investment in Latin America. Since graduating from law school, Mr. Celaya has worked in an immigration firm where he helped foreign investors organize their assets in order to apply for investment-based visas. He also has extensive experience in debt settlement negotiations on behalf of clients looking to achieve debt relief. Mr. Celaya is licensed to practice law in New Mexico. He is located in the Phoenix office. 

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

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3 ways to remove a closed account from your credit report

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The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

You can remove closed accounts from your credit report in three main ways: dispute any inaccuracies, write a formal “goodwill letter” requesting removal or simply wait for the closed accounts to be removed over time. That said, removing closed accounts can affect your credit score, so make sure you consider your situation first.

While it’s not always possible to remove a closed account from your credit report, it is straightforward to attempt to do so. However, it’s not always beneficial to remove closed accounts, and in some cases, it could even lower your credit score.

In general, you should try to remove a closed account with inaccurate negative information, but you should probably leave any accounts that are yours that are having a positive effect on your credit history.

Below, we’ll talk about whether you should try to remove closed accounts from your credit report, how closed accounts may affect your credit score and how to remove closed accounts. 

Should you remove closed accounts from your credit report?

You should attempt to remove closed accounts that contain inaccurate information or negative items that are eligible for removal. Otherwise, there is generally no need to remove closed accounts from your credit report. Inaccurate information could be pulling down your credit score and should be addressed, but older accounts with a good history may be helping your score. 

Even after closing an account—like a personal loan or credit card—the information related to your balances and payment history stays on your credit report for many years. In fact, both accounts closed in good standing and negative items or collection accounts may remain on your credit report for seven to 10 years. 

Deciding whether to try to remove a closed account ultimately comes down to understanding the factors that affect your credit score.

Deciding whether to remove closed accounts. Try to remove close accounts if they are: inaccurate, negative, fraudulent. You can leave closed accounts if they are: in good standing, helpful for credit utilization, beneficial for credit history.

Your credit score is calculated based on five main factors: payment history (35 percent), credit utilization (30 percent), length of credit history (15 percent), different types of credit (10 percent) and new credit (10 percent). 

Because a credit report includes both open and closed accounts, some of these credit factors can be affected by a closed account being removed from your report. For example, if you made payments on a personal loan for a number of years and that account is removed from your report, your length of credit history could decrease.

Having a closed account removed from your report may not affect your score, but in many cases, it is wise to leave accounts in good standing on your report, as they could have a positive impact overall. 

However, closed accounts with negative items eligible for removal and inaccurate information can lead to a lower score, so working to get those accounts removed is part of a sound credit repair strategy. 

Read on to learn how to get rid of closed accounts from your credit report.

How to remove closed accounts from your credit report

If you need to attempt to remove a closed account from your credit report—especially one that includes inaccurate information or negative items—there are three ways to do so. You can either dispute inaccurate information with the credit bureaus, write a formal “goodwill letter” to request removal or simply wait until the account is removed after a period of time. Each of these approaches can be useful depending on your particular situation.

Three ways to remove a closed account from your credit report: dispute inaccurate information, wait for the account to drop off your report, write a "goodwill letter."

Read on to learn more about when to try each of these different methods for getting a closed account off your credit report.

1. Dispute inaccurate information

If a closed account on your credit report includes inaccurate information, you can dispute the information and potentially get the item removed from your report. 

You can dispute the information using the following process:

  1. Send a letter to the three major credit bureaus—TransUnion®, Experian® and Equifax®—that explains what information you are challenging, why you believe it is inaccurate and that you would like it removed.
  2. Similarly, send a letter to the financial institution that provided the information to the bureaus.
  3. Wait for responses, then look at your updated report and score.

We have a guide that details the dispute process to help you along the way. 

2. Write a “goodwill” letter

A goodwill letter is a formal request to a creditor asking for a negative item to be removed. 

Although creditors are not required to remove negative items upon request, they may be willing to do so if you have a long history with them or if there were special hardships that led to the negative item. 

However, goodwill letters are generally useful only for late or missed payments rather than collections, repossessions or other more significant negative items.

In addition to goodwill letters, you can also request that an account is removed using a “pay for delete” letter. These letters can lead to an agreement with a collection agency to remove an account in exchange for a set payment. That said, the collection agency may decide not to remove the account, and the original account that went to collections may remain on your report. 

3. Wait for the closed account to be removed over time

Closed accounts do not stay on your report forever, so it’s possible to simply wait it out until a closed account is removed.

Accounts that were closed can remain on a credit report for around seven to 10 years. 

When an older closed account with negative information is potentially lowering your score, eventually it will drop off your report. Additionally, positive information about closed accounts also leaves your report over time, so it’s important to continue to practice good credit habits with a variety of account types.

If your credit report contains closed accounts with negative items or inaccurate information, the team at Lexington Law Firm can assist you with credit repair. By analyzing your credit report and assisting with disputes, our team can help you make strides in improving your credit score.


Reviewed by Kenton Arbon, an Associate Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Kenton Arbon is an Associate Attorney in the Arizona office. Mr. Arbon was born in Bakersfield, California, and grew up in the Northwest. He earned his B.A. in Business Administration, Human Resources Management, while working as an Oregon State Trooper. His interest in the law lead him to relocate to Arizona, attend law school, and graduate from Arizona State College of Law in 2017. Since graduating from law school, Mr. Arbon has worked in multiple compliance domains including anti-money laundering, Medicare Part D, contracts, and debt negotiation. Mr. Arbon is licensed to practice law in Arizona. He is located in the Phoenix office.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

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