The Pros and Cons of Having Multiple Credit Cards

Credit cards. You were probably pretty excited when you got your first one, and if you weren’t cautious with it, that excitement probably faded pretty quickly. But there’s no denying that a credit card can be a valuable tool. So how many should you have? Here are some pros and cons to having more than one credit card.

PRO – It can be great for your credit score: When credit bureaus determine your credit score they look at your debt utilization ratio (percentage of your available credit that’s in use). If you’ve got one credit card with a $5,000 limit, and you’ve spent $4,000 on it, then your debt utilization ratio is 80%. If you get a second credit card with a $5,000 limit and keep a zero balance, your debt utilization ratio is now 40%. Your credit score will thank you.

CON – It can be damaging to your credit score: While a larger debt utilization ratio might be good for your credit score, the act of opening the account can be damaging. Anytime you open a new line of credit, your credit score can take a small hit. Just make sure not to open two new accounts in a short period of time.

PRO – Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket: Occasionally you might have trouble with a card, and it’s always great to have a back-up. Let’s say you’re traveling and your card is lost or stolen. Having a second card stowed away somewhere will really come in handy.

CON – Large amounts of debt: If you’re not very good at keeping your spending in check, having multiple credit cards can potentially be a huge disaster. If you’re lacking self-control when it comes to credit cards, the less you have – the better.

If you’d like more insight into your credit score and managing your credit – view our credit and debt management guide here.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

 

Credit Card Regret: It’s More Common Than You Think

“Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention.” – Frank Sinatra

If you’re the kind of person who prefers to play it safe, there’s a good chance that, like Ol’ Blue Eyes, your list of regrets is mercifully short. But if you’re the adventurous type who’s more likely to yell “YOLO!” than take the time to consider the pros and cons, you may have made more unfortunate decisions than you care to admit. And if we’re being honest, some of them are probably related to finances.

Going into credit card debt is one of the most common financial regrets. According to a recent NerdWallet survey, “About 6 in 7 Americans (86%) who have credit card debt say they regret it.” With numbers that high, it’s safe to assume most of us would make different credit decisions if given a chance.

Common Reasons for Credit Card Regret

If you’ve ever opened a new credit card account and felt that distinctive twinge that tells you it was a bad decision, there’s a pretty good chance you filled out that credit application for the wrong reason. Bad reasons come in a variety of forms. Here are a few of the most common:

You wanted that sign-up swag. T-shirts. Koozies. Collapsible drink coolers. It doesn’t matter what it is, we all love free stuff. Credit card companies know this. Sure, free t-shirts are cool, but are they really worth opening a credit card that will charge you 26% interest on your purchases?

You can’t resist that one time discount.

“Would you like to save 25% on today’s purchase by applying for a store credit card?” If you’ve ever shopped at a retail store, there’s a good chance you’ve heard this sales pitch at the checkout register. If you took advantage of the offer and suddenly wished you hadn’t, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey, almost 75% of Americans have at least one store credit card. Not surprisingly, nearly half of them regret it.

You’re in a financial pinch.
When your checking account is running low, it can be incredibly tempting to sign up for a credit card just to get some temporary relief. However, credit cards don’t remedy poor financial habits, they tend to make them worse. If you’ve ever signed up for a new credit card “just to cover things until payday,” this regret may feel all too familiar.

OK, you signed up for a credit card and regretted it. Now what?
Before we go any further, it’s important to remember one thing: Just because you have a credit card doesn’t mean you have to use it. Even if your regrettable card carries a 26% interest rate, 26% of $0.00 is still $0.00. However, if you’re worried you won’t be able to resist using your card, you might be tempted to close your account immediately. This could certainly help you avoid charges you can’t afford to repay, but there may be a better approach.

Available credit and length of credit history are two of the main components of your credit score. Having an open, active account you don’t use could actually help you. If you were given a $1,000 credit line with your new card and you don’t make any purchases, you have $1,000 of available credit. If you close the account, you have no available credit. In this case, maintaining the credit line may be beneficial for your credit rating.

As for the length of credit history, that part’s fairly self-explanatory. The longer you maintain a satisfactory account, the more favorably it reflects in your credit score. With this in mind, you might be better off just removing the card from your wallet instead of closing the account altogether.

Good credit is one of the building blocks of your overall financial health. If you live, work, worship, attend school, or volunteer in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey and you’re trying to find financing options that are right for you, contact First Financial to make an appointment with a representative. We can help you review your financial situation and recommend the best products and programs for your needs. We are happy to help with managing your credit — and finances in general, with no regrets!

10 Simple Steps to Get Out of Debt Without Going into Bankruptcy

So you’re up to your neck in a massive pile of debt. There are many circumstances that could have led you here, but responsible financial planning is the one that will get you out. Most debt situations can be corrected with careful planning and intense effort over a period of one to three years.

You’ll need to be honest about the requirement for focused debt reduction efforts. You can do it if you follow these steps to achieve pay off all outstanding debt without filing for bankruptcy protection:

1. Save $500.

Figure out how to save $500 in an emergency fund that will be accessed in the event of an unexpected expense during the debt pay off period. Eliminate every discretionary expense possible and accumulate enough funds to meet the $500 goal.

2. Organize your debt.

Make a chart of every outstanding debt in order from smallest to largest without any concern for interest rates. Immediate feedback will be realized when smaller debt is paid off early in the process.

3. Stop all credit card use.

Cut up the credit cards and spend cash even at the grocery store. Take absolute control of your monthly expenditures by starting and sticking to a budget. Write checks to pay bills (or transfer directly from your checking account in online banking), and allocate cash for all other budget categories.

4. Trim the budget.

Make some difficult decisions and eliminate any expense that is not directly related to necessities for living (rent, mortgage, food, utilities). Consider disconnecting cable service until all your debt is repaid. Reduce the land line phone bill by removing unnecessary features, or do you even need a land line anymore? If not, it’s another unnecessary bill you can get rid of.  See if you can cut back on features or data usage within your cell phone plan to see if that bill can be reduced also.

5. Do not go shopping.

Avoid shopping for anything except for groceries. When shopping for groceries, buy items on sale and learn to cook from what is present in the kitchen. Reduce or eliminate eating at restaurants until all your debt is repaid.

6. Pay the minimum on all but the smallest credit card bill.

Every debt must be maintained in good standing to eliminate unnecessary fees. Pay the minimum payment amounts on all debt with the exception of the smallest on the list. Apply as much money as feasible within the budget to the smallest bill. Be realistic when setting this amount to prevent shortfalls in other budget areas. The idea here is to pay off the smallest bill first by continually hitting it with larger payment amounts, then moving onto the next smallest, and so on until all the credit cards are paid off.

7. Reward yourself.

When a debt is paid off completely, reward yourself. Order a pizza, purchase that Starbucks latte you’ve been missing out on for weeks, or purchase a new game for family game night. Celebrate your success (without going overboard of course).

8. Apply funds to the next debt.

Take the amount that was used to pay off the first debt and add it to the minimum payment that has been paid on the next debt on the list. This method will accelerate the amounts paid on the larger debts. The accumulation effect will cause faster progress in the later months of the process. Every time a debt is paid off all of the money is rolled into paying off the next debt.

9. Delay unnecessary purchases.

Throughout this process, the expense level must be reduced within your household. Spending cannot continue as usual if real progress is to be made on the debt repayment plan. Don’t go booking any vacations, or on any shopping sprees. The idea is to take back control of your debt instead of continually racking up more. And as you pay off debt, don’t tell yourself it’s okay to make additional purchases with what you’ve paid off already. This will just delay the debt repayment process even further (and is probably how you got into this situation in the first place).

10. Celebrate success!

When all of your debt has been repaid, immediately start a savings plan that will prevent the situation from repeating itself. Attempt to save half of the amount that has been applied to the debt from the previous months and years. Decide on a (realistic, financially responsible) reward for your achievement.

Financial spending habits must change to prevent a recurrence of debt overload. Live according to a budget and ensure that all your bills can be paid within the month they are incurred.

Evaluate the period of the debt repayment plan and determine what works for you and your family. Financial discipline is possible and you can do this!

If you need help with a debt repayment plan, make an appointment at your local First Financial branch or check our online event calendar at firstffcu.com for upcoming free seminars. Also, be sure to check out our credit management and debt reduction guide.

Article Source: David Ning for Moneyning.com 

Don’t Let These Mistakes Ruin Your Credit Score

When it comes to your finances, your credit score can be a big deal. A good credit score can mean big savings (or costs) if you take out a loan. Good credit can also mean lower costs when you get car insurance in some states.

If you have good credit, you’ve worked hard to manage your finances and your loans in a way that shows you are responsible. You are proving that you are a solid risk. But what happens if you slip up? How much could that ruin your score?

According to the major credit bureaus, the damage affects different people differently. One late payment will affect a person with a lower score, but it’ll have a much bigger impact on someone with a really high score. That’s right: if you have great credit now, a mistake could mean a bigger hit to your credit score. Someone with mediocre credit won’t see the same impact as the result of a mistake.

Do you have an excellent credit history and want to keep it that way? Here are some things to avoid if you want to keep that credit score in the good to excellent range:

Missed Payments

The biggest factor in your credit score is your payment history. One missed payment can tank your credit score, if you have excellent credit – by as much as 100 points, according to Equifax.

The longer you wait to pay your bill, the worse the impact. If you are just a couple days late, you might not see a huge change. However, once you reach that 30-day late mark, it’s a big problem.

Do your best to plan your finances so you make your payments on time and in full. Easier said than done, but it’s much easier to stay on track if you have a budget. If you don’t, get working on one. Check out our free budgeting guide.

High Credit Utilization

If you have excellent credit, there’s a good chance you carry small balances on your cards — if you carry them at all. Best results come when you use 30% or less of your available credit each month.

But when you start charging, and that credit utilization number starts to climb, you can see changes to your credit score without realizing it. The closer you are to your limit on the credit cards, the more it impacts your score.

If you end up over the limit on your cards, then your score will suffer. Try to continue keeping balances low. Better yet, pay off your cards each month if you can and avoid paying the interest.

Cosigning on a Loan

One day you may want to help your child or sibling by cosigning on a loan. It might seem like a good idea to cosign on a loan to give them a boost, but think twice before you commit.

Your credit is on the line as soon as you sign on the dotted line, because you accepted responsibility for all payments as a cosigner. Plus, it will look like you have that debt — even if you don’t, and that can affect how much you can borrow if you were to, say apply for a mortgage on a dream home. If the borrower misses a payment, that’s on you as well. You can see your credit score fall.

And if you do cosign, make sure the borrower keeps you up to speed. It may not be ideal to make their loan payments, but at least it can save your credit if you do.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for Moneyning.com

The Pros and Cons of Store Credit Cards

We’ve all approached a register to complete a purchase and were asked if we’d be interested in applying for a store credit card. And with the holiday shopping season about to get in full swing, chances are – you are going to be asked more than usual. There are pros and cons to having a store credit account, so make sure you take a good look before you open one.

Pro: They are easier to get

Application requirements for store credit cards are generally less strict than regular credit cards, so chances are you’re more than likely to get approved. If you’re looking to get a card from a store you often visit, this should make you happy and save you some money (provided you don’t rack up a balance).

Con: They carry higher interest rates

The average store credit card is 8-10 points higher in interest than regular credit cards. This may not be a big deal if you’re only using the card sparingly, but a few big purchases that aren’t paid off completely by month end could come back to haunt you.

Pro: They help you build credit

If you’re young and haven’t had a chance to build any credit, a store credit card could be very helpful. It’s easier to be approved for one so you wouldn’t need much credit history to qualify. A purchase or two a month will put you on the road to good credit too. Just make sure you pay the card off each month.

Con: Their use is limited

Some store credit cards may allow you to use them at sister companies, but for the most part, you’ll only use them in the store that issues them. That might be fine if it’s a store like Target or another retailer that you often visit, but overall it won’t be a very versatile card.

Pro: They provide in-store rewards

A lot of cards will reward the user with discounts and promotions which can provide great value. Free shipping for instance, is a perk that is appreciated. Just be sure these benefits don’t cause you to overspend either!

First Financial’s Visa Credit Cards offer benefits that include higher credit lines, lower APRs, no annual fees, no balance transfer fees, a 10-day grace period, rewards (cash back or on travel & retailer gift cards), an EMV security chip, and more!* And they can be used anywhere Visa is accepted.

 Click here to learn about our credit card options and apply online today.

 *APR varies when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight

4 Ways to Quickly Raise Your Credit Score

1. Don’t miss a payment.

This is the number one thing that credit bureaus look at when determining your credit score. Your payment history makes up 35% of your FICO score. If you have trouble remembering to pay your credit card on time, set a reminder on your phone or automatically schedule your payment to be deducted from your account on the same day each month.

2. Pay as often as you can.

Going a step further, pay on your debt as often as you can. Just because your payment isn’t due for 3 weeks, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go ahead and make a payment. You don’t know when your credit card company reports your balance to the credit bureaus, so try to keep your balance as low as possible.

3. Reduce your debt.

Even if you’re making regular payments on your credit card, the goal is to get it paid off. If you’re keeping a balance from month to month, you’re getting charged more interest than you should be. Try and pay off your balance each month, but if that’s not possible, keep your balance as low as you can and your credit utilization under 30%.

4. See if you can increase your credit limit.

This is more of a trick than a solution, but it can work for you. If you’ve used $950 on a $1,000 limit, try calling your credit card company and getting that limit raised to $2,000. Then you’ve got a card that’s only 50% utilized as opposed to one that’s nearly maxed out. It doesn’t hurt to at least ask!

Learn about managing your credit and reducing debt with our guide.

Article source: John Pettit for CUinsight.com