Tag Archive | "Credit Score"

Enrolling in a Debt Management Plan to Help Your Monthly Budget

Enrolling in a Debt Management Plan to Help Your Monthly Budget

Enrolling in a debt management plan
Signing up for a debt management plan may give you more breathing room in your monthly budget, but will it hurt your credit? Not as much as you may think. Using a debt management plan to pay off debt won’t hurt your credit score, but it may make it difficult to qualify for new credit.

Debt management plan: Protecting your credit score
When you enroll in a debt management program, you write a monthly check to a credit-counseling agency and the agency pays your creditors. A debt management plan usually lasts three or four years. A notation stating that you are paying an account through a credit-counseling agency appears on your credit report and remains until the account is paid in full. Paying an account through a credit counseling agency will not hurt your credit score.

Debt management plan: Qualifying for new credit
Participating in a debt management plan could make it difficult for you to qualify for additional credit, and some debt management plans prohibit consumers from applying for new credit anyway.

Some creditors may see that a person is in a debt management plan and decide that they have all the debt they can handle. Other creditors might view participation in a debt management plan as a positive step, a sign that a consumer has taken responsibility for and is serious about paying off debt.

The more a creditor bases a lending decision on a consumer’s credit score, the less a consumer’s participation in a debt-management plan is likely to matter. A typical creditor uses the FICO score. They don’t look at notations on the account. Paying off a big chunk of debt on your own or with the help of a debt management plan will give your credit score a boost.

Debt management plan: Late payments hurt your credit score
What will hurt your credit score? Not debt management plans. Instead, being 30 or 60 days late with any payments can adversely impact your credit rating. Those negative marks hurt your credit score and can mar your credit report for up to seven years.

Debt management plan: Choose wisely
It is very important to choose a debt management plan carefully. If the agency administering the program misses or is late with a payment, it is your credit record that gets impacted. Enrollment and monthly fees for debt management plans vary widely. Some companies may charge several hundred dollars for their services, while others charge monthly fees of $20 or less.

With a debt management plan, a consumer usually gets reduced interest rates, lower monthly payments, no more late fees and fewer calls and letters from creditors. Debt-counseling agencies get their operating money by receiving a percentage of each client’s payments back from creditors.

If you are current on your bills, you may want to try negotiating new payment amounts and lower interest rates with creditors on your own. You never know what kind of deal you may land. And you may be able to make real headway on your debt by simply tightening your belt for a few months and freeing up more cash for debt payments.

Debt management plan: Monitor your debt counselor
If your situation is more serious or you just feel plain overwhelmed, you may want to talk to a debt counselor. If you decide to sign on for a debt management plan, be sure to monitor your credit bills carefully. Is the agency paying your bills on time as promised? You need to be vigilant and look at your statements regularly.

If you discover a problem with bills paid through a debt consolidation company or credit counselor, report the company to a local consumer protection agency or state attorney general‘s office. You can also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. For more ideas on how to monitor these companies, see some of the suggestions by the FTC on Debt Management Plans.

Examples of Debt Management Companies

 Enrolling in a Debt Management Plan to Help Your Monthly Budget

Posted in Debt Consolidation, Debt Management, Your BudgetComments (0)

What if I Find a Mistake on My Credit Report?

What if I Find a Mistake on My Credit Report?

OVERVIEW
Mistakes found on your credit report can be avoided by and/or corrected by following some straightforward procedures.

A big part of being fiscally responsible these days is checking on your credit report. Individuals can get a free credit report from each of the major credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — every 12 months. Checking your credit report is as simple as having these bureaus send you a copy of your credit report and looking it over. Most of the time, these credit reports are correct. But what do you do if you find a mistake?

Credit Report: Check Each Credit Card Account
When you check over your credit report, you need to check each credit card account. The information on the open accounts should match the information you have in your records at home. Check each credit card, including card numbers, balances, and payment histories. If a discrepancy is found, you should contact your credit card company and check your information against theirs. If it is the credit card company’s error, they will correct it and notify the credit bureaus during their next reporting cycle. If it is not their error, you will need to check with the reporting credit bureau to see if the error originated with them. If so, you’ll need to send the credit bureau a copy of your most recent credit card statement, so that the credit bureau can correct their mistake.

Credit Report: Check Your Credit Card Payment History
It’s also important to check payment histories. Payment history can help or harm your credit score (your FICO score) and it is important to be sure that these are correct. If you find a discrepancy, find the documentation necessary to prove yourself and send that to your credit card company. These errors may take a little time to fix, but this is something you can do yourself.

Credit Report: Check All Closed Accounts
Check all closed accounts that are listed by the credit bureau on your credit report. Be sure that the credit report shows no balances on those accounts and that all the accounts are closed. If you believe a credit card account is closed, you will need to get proof of this from the credit card company and send that on to the credit bureau in order for them to correct this mistake.

Credit Report: Contact Credit Card Company if You Find a Credit Report Error
If you find an open account on your credit report that is not yours, contact the credit card company and the credit card bureaus immediately. This can sometimes happen when someone with the same name opens a credit card account and it is accidentally attached to your credit report. Once information such as social security numbers and personal information are verified, these mistakes are usually quickly fixed by the credit card company or credit bureau.

Credit Report: Keep Copies of Correspondence With Credit Bureaus
When dealing with credit bureaus while trying to fix a credit report, it’s a good idea to keep copies of all correspondences you’ve had with the credit bureaus and the credit card companies. These can be useful if the dispute with the credit bureaus or credit card companies is not easily solved.

Credit Report and Fraudulent Activity
If you find evidence of fraudulent activity or identity theft on your credit report, it’s best to contact an attorney or law enforcement official immediately, as well as to let the reporting credit bureaus know. Fraud is not something you can settle yourself and will need to be professionally handled.

Posted in All About Your Credit, Credit Score, Tips and Tools for Improving Your CreditComments (0)

What Happens When I Don’t Pay My Bills?

What Happens When I Don’t Pay My Bills?

200px Credit cards What Happens When I Don’t Pay My Bills?
Image via Wikipedia

OVERVIEW
For a variety of reasons, there are times when you can’t make the payments on your bills. What happens when I don’t pay my bills?

During the current economic crisis, it has become more and more common to hear of people who can’t pay their monthly bills. This may happen when one person in the family loses a job or gets a pay cut. It may happen when the interest rate on a variable mortgage payment rises and the payment is now higher, leaving less money for other bills. For a variety of reasons, there are times when you can’t make the payments on your bills. What happens when I don’t pay my bills?

When I Don’t Pay My Bills: Collection Notices. You will receive a notice or two from your creditors reminding you that your payment is late.
When I Don’t Pay My Bills: Collection Calls. Your creditors will begin to call you, hoping to remind you that a payment is past due. You can speak with them about your inability to pay at this point and hopefully negotiate a payment plan that you can meet.
When I Don’t Pay My Bills: Increased Interest Rates.If you haven’t paid your bills, or you have but they’ve been late, chances are that you will find yourself with an increased interest rate. This is especially true with revolving charge accounts, such as credit cards.
When I Don’t Pay My Bills: Negative Credit Rating. Your payment history is reported to credit agencies, such as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. If your credit history reveals a failure to pay, or a history of late payment, this will negatively affect the credit rating that these three companies create for you. With these negatives influencing your credit rating, your credit score will fall and you will become a bad credit risk. It will be more difficult for you to borrow money in the future.
When I Don’t Pay My Bills: Legal Action. The credit card companies could initiate legal action against you if you continue to be deliquent with your payments or fail to make arrangements with them.
When I Don’t Pay My Bills: Bankruptcy. You could be forced to declare bankruptcy to satisfy your creditors. While this word has a negative connotation, bankruptcy doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Bankruptcy can help you wipe your financial slate clean and begin again. It will take time to reestablish credit, but you will begin your financial life anew, on solid ground.

When I Don’t Pay My Bills: How to Prioritize
When you find yourself in position of having to make choices about which bills to pay, how do you choose?
When I Don’t Pay My Bills: Health and Security. Your family’s health and security should be paramount, so it’s important to take care of meeting your mortgage and paying your health insurance. You’ll also need to take care of transportation, utilities and food.
When I Don’t Pay My Bills: What Will You Lose? If you will lose something by not paying a bill, you probably do not want to skip that payment. Look to unsecured bills, such as credit cards, as bills you might be able to skip.
When I Don’t Pay My Bills: Interest Rate. Which credit cards have a higher interest rate? You can sometimes buy yourself some time and save yourself some money by transferring balances from a high interest card to a lower interest card. You can often contact the credit card company and talk to them about lowering the interest rates or creating a payment plan with smaller payments.
When I Don’t Pay My Bills: Consolidation Loan. Consider a consolidation loan carefully. Be sure to understand the interest rates and fees associated with a consolidated loan.

 What Happens When I Don’t Pay My Bills?

Posted in Bankruptcy, Debt ConsolidationComments (0)

Credit Bureaus: Who Are They and What Do They Do?

Credit Bureaus: Who Are They and What Do They Do?

OVERVIEW
A credit bureau collects information from different sources about credit and payment information and then provides that information in an organized fashion to lenders. The three primary credit bureaus in the United States are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Credit bureaus create credit reports for lenders that are basically a history of your borrowing and repayment habits. Companies who are trying to determine the creditworthiness of an individual typically request credit reports.

———————-

Who is a Credit Bureau?
A credit bureau collects information from different sources about credit and payment information and then provides that information in an organized fashion to lenders. The three primary credit bureaus in the United States are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

What Information Do Credit Bureaus Collect?
Credit bureaus create credit reports for lenders that are basically a history of your borrowing and repayment habits. On these credit reports, you’ll find your personal information, information about your credit accounts, including your mortgage and your credit cards, any public information about negative events in your history, such as bankruptcies and tax liens, and inquiries that have been made about your credit history, by yourself and others.

Credit bureaus such as Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion take in credit information from companies called data furnishers. These data furnishers are usually lenders and creditors, utilities, debt collection agencies and the courts. Data furnishers report their data to the credit bureaus voluntarily. They might not report all data to all three bureaus, and some lending or credit companies might not report your data at all.

The information collected by the credit bureaus gets collected and stored in their files and databases. This information is then accessed when a credit report or credit assessment is created for an individual. Companies who are trying to determine the creditworthiness of an individual typically request credit reports.

How Do Credit Bureaus Create Credit Scores?
Credit bureaus collect information from data furnishers and they then create a credit score for their customers based on the information they have collected. The credit bureaus create these scores using a mathematical formula that calculates the likelihood that you’ll repay a loan based on comparing your information to others in a similar situation. This credit score helps lenders evaluate the risk associated with lending you money and helps them to assess interest rate on the money they may be willing to lend.

The three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, do not all use the same scoring system and they do not have exactly the same data from the data furnishers. All three credit reports may contain different information. These bureaus are for-profit businesses and are not affiliated with the government, although they are subject to government rules and regulations. These credit bureaus, also known as consumer reporting agencies (CRA’s), are required to provide to consumers a free copy of each of their credit reports every 12 months.

 Credit Bureaus: Who Are They and What Do They Do?

Posted in All About Your Credit, Credit ScoreComments (0)

How to Read Your Credit Report

How to Read Your Credit Report

OVERVIEW
A credit report contains four basic parts: identifying information, credit history, public records, and inquiries. It’s important to look closely at each section to determine whether or not the information contained in the credit report is correct.

—————–

A credit report contains four basic parts: identifying information, credit history, public records, and inquiries. It’s important to look closely at each section to determine whether or not the information contained in the credit report is correct.

Checking your credit report at least once a year is not only a good idea, but crucial to supporting your financial health. Checking your credit report is similar to getting an annual physical at the doctor’s office. Checking your credit report helps ensure that you don’t find yourself in trouble with your credit bureau before it’s too late.

You can get one copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com from each of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Each of those credit reports may contain different information so it’s important to obtain a credit report from each credit bureau. Creditors voluntarily give information to the credit bureaus and they don’t necessarily report to all three. Getting a credit report from each of the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) will enable you to compare and evaluate the credit reports side by side.

Identifying Information
The identifying information on your credit report is your personal information, including birth date, present and previous addresses, social security numbers, phone numbers, and employer information. Individuals reporting to the credit bureaus enter this information, so it’s not unusual to have mild variations on the spelling of your name or your phone number. If there are slight variations on the credit report, it’s best to just leave them. If there are gross errors on the credit report, those need to be corrected.

Credit History
Each credit report will contain information about the credit accounts you have had or currently have. Each individual credit account listed on your credit report is called a trade line. Each credit account will have the name of the creditor and your credit account number. The credit account numbers may be scrambled to keep that information secure. As part of the information about each credit account, you’ll find the name or names on the credit account, the date you opened the credit account, the type of credit (mortgage, car loan, revolving credit, etc), the amount of the loan or the credit limit, the payment amount or how much you still owe, the status of the account (open, closed, inactive, etc), and how well you’ve paid on the account. On Experian’s credit report, you’ll find these items written out in a straightforward manner. On the other credit bureau’s reports, you’ll find payment codes you’ll have to use a key to figure out.

Public Record
This section of your credit report contains any matters of financial public record. It will contain records of bankruptcies, tax liens, or judgments. The things listed in this part of your credit report are very important because they can have a very negative impact on your credit rating.

Inquiries
This part of the credit report lists anyone who has asked to look at your credit history. Inquiries are listed as two types – hard inquiries and soft inquiries. Hard inquiries on your credit report are ones you initiate by filling out a credit application. Soft inquiries are inquiries from companies looking to send out promotional information to a “pre-qualified” group of people.

 How to Read Your Credit Report

Posted in All About Your Credit, Credit ScoreComments (0)

How and Why to Get Your Free Credit Report Every Year

How and Why to Get Your Free Credit Report Every Year

200px Smartcard2 How and Why to Get Your Free Credit Report Every Year
Image via Wikipedia

Overview
Learn how to get a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus every year and why it is important that you review your credit report on an annual basis.

————-

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) every 12 months.

As a responsible consumer, it’s important to review your credit report on a yearly basis. When you review your credit report, look for any derogatory information listed. Checking the information on your credit report on a regular basis can help in two ways. First, it can alert you to any fraudulent activity that has been taking place with your name or your accounts. Second, it can alert you to any mistakes that might have been made that need to be corrected. There are ways to work with the credit bureaus to correct any mistakes that might turn up on your credit report.

Agencies specializing in credit reports keep information about the borrowing and repayment habits of millions of Americans. The credit bureaus provide this information in a credit report to lenders who are trying to evaluate customer’s strengths and weaknesses. These credit bureaus, such as Experian and Equifax, provide information about the type of credit you use, and how long you’ve had each account. The credit bureaus will also provide information about your payment history.

When a lender looks at your credit report from a credit bureau such as Experian or Equifax, the lender will look at your credit score. Each credit bureau creates a unique credit score. Those credit scores are determined by looking at the information on your credit report, such as your payment history, the amount of credit you have available, and the amount of debt you currently have. A lender will look at your credit report to determine whether or not you are an acceptable credit risk.

To obtain the credit reports each year, you need to do the following:

1. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com. This is the official site to help consumers obtain their credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
2. Or call 1-877-322-8228. You can request your free credit report over the phone.
3. Or fill out the Annual Credit Report Request Form, which can be found at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/requestformfinal.pdf, and mail the credit report to the address listed on the form.

You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three bureaus each year. There are no hidden costs. If you are asked to pay for a credit report or join a subscription service, you are dealing with a fraudulent provider. There is no need to provide personal information to legitimately obtain any of these free credit reports.
You can obtain all three credit reports at the same time when you request them using the methods listed above. You can also request one credit report from each credit bureau at a time. A good way to monitor your credit report every few months is to request a credit report from Equifax and then request a credit report from Experian a few months later, followed in another few months by a credit report from TransUnion. This way, you can be assured that your credit information is correct and secure.

 How and Why to Get Your Free Credit Report Every Year

Posted in All About Your Credit, Credit ScoreComments (1)

FICO 101:  How to Improve Your FICO Score (Credit Score)

FICO 101: How to Improve Your FICO Score (Credit Score)

improve your fico score FICO 101:  How to Improve Your FICO Score (Credit Score)Almost every working American has a FICO score. Anyone with a Social Security number, a job, and any kind of debt is likely to have a record with one or all of the three major credit reporting agencies. This credit report history results in an algorithmic score that rates each individual’s creditworthiness. A higher FICO score means that a person is responsible in acquiring and paying debt, while a low score tells potential creditors that a person is a higher risk.

How is a FICO Score Determined?

Your FICO score is an algorithmic mathematical weighted formula. Your credit history shows how many creditors you have, what your credit limit is for each creditor, how much of your limit you have used, and also whether you pay on time and as agreed or have made late payments in the past.

Serious credit issues, such as repossession, foreclosure, and collections, will also show on your credit report, as well as financial judgments from a court of law. All these critical aspects are scored by their importance to provide a single number of your creditworthiness.

What Affects My FICO Score And How Can I Protect It?

Your FICO score must be treated with care, much like a pet. It needs constant nurturing, maintenance, and sometimes, it must be treated by a professional and bandaged for repair. A credit history can be damaged by anyone who reports your credit activity to the reporting agency without your consent. Subsequently, it is paramount to treat your creditors with respect and pay them as agreed.

Your credit report and FICO score can be damaged by the report of any of the following:

• Late Payments – If you miss a scheduled payment on a credit card, auto, or home mortgage payment, it will show on your report. Late payments are noted as simply late, and in increments of 30, 60, and 90+ late. The more days late your payment is, the lower your credit score. In fact, your credit score can drop almost overnight.

CREDIT TIP: Even if you cannot pay your creditors, you should make arrangements right away when you experience financial difficulty. Try to work with your creditors regarding a payment plan, which may prevent them from reporting a late payment on your credit score.

• Over Limit – Your credit card companies will report your maximum credit limit. If you charge more than that limit, your report will reflect it.

CREDIT TIP: Always stay well below your credit limit. Conventional wisdom says to keep your charged credit at 2/3 or below your limit for each creditor.

• Collection – If you fail to make payments for a period of time on a credit card or other debt, your account will close and be sent to a collection agency. Your credit report will show both the account closure and the new reporting by the collection agency, adding even more damage to your credit.

CREDIT TIP: Avoid collections by working with creditors directly. If you do end up in a collection account, pay it in full as soon as possible. The worst thing you could do is avoid the creditors and collection agencies.

How Can I Improve My FICO Score?

If you have had past credit issues that affect your FICO score, there are strategies you can implement to start improving your score today.

• Payoff All Problem Credit – If your FICO score is affected by negatively closed or collection accounts, immediately pay them in full as soon as possible.

• Get A Secured Credit Card – If you’re unable to get an unsecured credit card, obtain a secured card with a deposit amount. Start making charges and paying your balance in full each month. This will help build your history of reliable monthly payments.

• Get A Personal Loan – Many banks and credit unions will allow you to obtain a personal loan with a savings or CD deposit as security. Obtain a small personal loan, such as $1000, and keep the money in the bank – don’t spend it! Immediately make the first payment and continue making regular payments each month thereafter. Your bank will report your good payment status, and your FICO score can start improving.

Credit is one of the most important personal issues for every consumer. Your credit report and score can determine whether you can get a home loan, a new credit card, and even affect whether you get a job. Treat it with care and you will succeed in keeping your FICO score in a positive range.

 FICO 101:  How to Improve Your FICO Score (Credit Score)

Posted in All About Your Credit, Credit Score, Tips and Tools for Improving Your CreditComments (0)