Should You Pay for Credit Repair Services?

Should You Pay for Credit Repair Services? Probably not.

Call it a coincidence. Call it savvy marketing. Whatever you call it, there always seems to be a spike in credit repair advertisements around the time the first holiday shopping bills arrive. Maybe you’re staring wide-eyed at a balance that’s higher than you expected, wondering how you’re even going to keep up with the minimum payments. This kind of uncertainty can the stage for bad decisions. So, before you scramble and sign up for credit repair services, take a deep breath and realize you have more control than you think.

Risk vs. Reward: Is credit repair worth the cost?

It’s important to remember that some credit repair services are legitimate businesses, able to follow through on their claims. Unfortunately, the reputable companies reside in a corporate landscape littered with scam artists and opportunists. If you’re willing to devote enough time and research, it’s possible to separate the upstanding services from the scams, but as NerdWallet columnist Liz Weston points out, “If you’re able to do that kind of research, then you can certainly figure out credit repair and do it yourself.”

While the trustworthy credit repair companies aren’t necessarily too good to be true, there’s a good chance they’re too costly to be worth it. When you consider that many of these services charge monthly fees ranging from $30-$100, the boost in your credit rating may not justify the ongoing expense.

Facing credit challenges? Your credit union can help.

Good credit isn’t the result of tricks and trade secrets. It’s established by applying solid financial habits over time. The same holds true for credit repair. While there may be some additional steps required to clean up your credit report, rebuilding good credit requires a consistent commitment to responsible money management.

Credit unions exist to ensure the financial success of their members. Educating people on proper credit management is part of that mission. If you’re drowning in debt and struggling to regain your financial footing, your credit union could be the lifeline you’re looking for. Discussing your current challenges with one of the credit union’s representatives can be the first step toward putting those struggles behind you.

Repairing damaged credit is no walk in the park. But with a little hard work and dedication and the guidance of your credit union’s financial professionals, you can be on the way to reclaiming the good credit you deserve.

Need a little help understanding your credit score or want to sit down with a First Financial representative to help with debt management strategies? Stop into your nearest branch location, email marketingbd@firstffcu.com, or call 732-312-1500 to schedule an appointment. We’ll help you get back on track!

Check out out guide for understanding your credit score.

 

Is Your Credit Score Affecting Your Quality of Life?

The American dream is usually characterized as working hard from the bottom up, making a good salary, buying a house, and having time to create and enjoy your family life. But the vision doesn’t always come together so neatly – despite strong buyer demand, the inventory of affordable, available starter homes is relatively low, and to secure a mortgage, you need a strong credit score (something that not all Americans have or understand).

Even in the face of this unfamiliarity, most people realize that your credit score is the main determining factor in whether you qualify for a loan, and what rate you’ll pay on that loan. However, your credit score has the power to affect your life in far more than just one area — it can make or break your vision of the American dream on all sides.

JOBS

Though not all employers will check your credit score before hiring you, and most employers won’t rule out a candidate just because they have a bad credit score, your credit score could have an impact on how you’re seen by prospective employers. If they run a report and see that you’ve had a checkered financial history, and realize you’ll be handling financial responsibilities in the office, they may believe you’re underqualified, and move onto other candidates.

The good news is employers aren’t always allowed to view your credit report. According to Credit Karma, “The short answer is no, credit bureaus do not share your credit score with employers. Subject to restrictions in state law, employers may, however, ask to see your credit report. When your information is requested, credit bureaus will send over a variation of your credit report meant specifically for employers.”

APARTMENT RENTALS

Similarly, your credit score affects housing in more ways than solely influencing your mortgage rates and availability. Landlords will frequently check prospective tenants’ credit scores before choosing whether to rent the apartment to them. Obviously, if a tenant has a history of missing payments, or being late with payments, they’re going to be secondary options to tenants with strong financial backgrounds.

BILLS AND PAYMENTS

Your credit score could even affect how you’re expected to pay for utilities — especially when moving to a new location. When turning on utilities for the first time, a utility company may require you to leave an upfront deposit. If you have a high credit score, they may waive that deposit, but they may charge you more if your credit score is especially low. According to the FTC, “Like other creditors, utility companies ask for information like your Social Security Number so they can check your credit history — particularly your utility payment history. A good credit history makes it easier for you to get services. A poor credit history can make it more difficult.”

RELATIONSHIPS

Your credit score can even affect the quality of your relationships. It’s no surprise that money and financial issues are the biggest causes of couples’ fights (and breakups). If your partner is fiscally responsible, but you’ve had a more questionable history, it could lead to bigger arguments. For example, will you be willing to buy a house together? Will your credit score negatively impact your joint mortgage rate? Will you be paying off your debt together? Even a little money-related stress can quickly escalate into a bigger problem.

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CREDIT SCORE

If you’re reading all of this and feeling nervous about your own credit score, take a deep breath. Even if your credit score isn’t as strong as you’d like it to be, there’s always time to revise and improve it. Your first step is to know what your credit score is – and thankfully, you can check it for free. Once you know your credit score, you can take the following steps to improve it (and along with it, the quality of your life):

  • Understand your weak points. First, understand why your credit score is where it is. Is it because you’ve accumulated a lot of credit card debt? Is it because you missed several payments? There are many reasons here, but almost all of them can be corrected with better habits in the future.
  • Avoid new credit or debt. Don’t apply for any new loans or credit cards, this could tank your score even harder. Instead, focus on the lines of credit you already have.
  • Pay all your bills on time. This is the most important factor to focus on – from here on out, make sure you pay all your bills in full and on time. If you need to create a strict budget to do it, then do it. Without a steady history of on-time payments, you won’t be able to lower your score.
  • Start paying off your debt. Finally, work to start paying off your debt. Consider moving to a lower-cost area, taking on a second job, and cutting any unnecessary expenses. You can even call your credit card companies to negotiate for a lower rate. Once your debt totals start decreasing, you’ll feel happier and more optimistic as well.

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for a bad credit score. It takes years to build an initial score, and months to years to make a significant change. You’ll have to be consistent and patient if you want to succeed, but as long as you stay committed to your financial future, it can be done.

Need a little help understanding your credit score or want to sit down with a First Financial representative to help with debt management strategies? Stop into your nearest branch location, email marketingbd@firstffcu.com, or call 732-312-1500 to schedule an appointment.

Learn to manage your credit and reduce debt with our easy guide.

Article Source: Anna Johansson for NBCnews.com

How to Eliminate Debt Using the Snowball Method

The snowball method is a simple debt elimination strategy that can be employed by anyone of any income level to quickly pay off debt.

Begin by making a chart of all outstanding debt and list your monthly payment.

Then, organize your debt in order of highest monthly payment to lowest monthly payment.

Each month, pay the minimum payment on all debt except the lowest.

For the lowest debt, pay the minimum plus any extra you can. Ideally, pay double (or more if possible) to quickly pay off this loan.

After the lowest debt is paid off, roll what you were paying on it into the next lowest debt. It will be the next loan you pay off.

This accumulation method, like a snowball effect, works because it’s clear and concise.

By tackling the smallest debt first, it’s easier not to be overwhelmed. Once it’s paid off, you’ll feel more empowered to tackle debt after debt till there’s none left!

Article Source: Jennifer Reynolds for CUInsight.com

5 Ways to Keep Your Credit Card from Sabotaging Your Finances

Understand the terms of the card.

You shouldn’t apply for a credit card without reading the terms. Evaluate the card based on the fees, interest rates, and possible rewards. The many cards available each fit different consumers. You have a lot of options and choosing the wrong card could threaten your financial health.

Pay in full.

Making only the minimum payment each month increases the amount of time it will take to pay off your debt. That increase in time allows the interest rate to add on to your debt. Always make sure to pay off as much of your balance as you can each month.

Don’t use your card on everyday purchases.

Using you credit card as a substitute for cash is a bad habit that can easily lead you down a path to debt. When you buy food, clothes, or gas, try to use cash or your debit card so you won’t overspend.

Don’t go over your limit.

If you’re getting close to your limit, clearly you are spending too much. The last thing you can afford to do is go over that limit and incur the additional fees that come with it. These situations are avoidable by responsibly monitoring your spending.

Understand how it effects your credit score.

Ideally you should be paying off your debt every month. If you are unable to do that, you have to make sure that you are paying off at least the minimum (but preferably more than the minimum). This will not damage your credit score, but it will not improve it either. If you miss a payment you can do major damage to your credit score. If you look untrustworthy to creditors it’s not beyond reason that the credit card company would lower your limit. It is a vicious cycle that can be easily avoided by paying in full each month.

First Financial’s Visa Credit Cards come fully loaded with higher credit lines, lower APRs, no annual fees, no balance transfer fees, a 10 day grace period, rewards, and so much more!* Click here to learn about our cards and apply online today.

*APR varies from 11.40% to 18% for the Visa Platinum Card and from 13.40% to 18% for the Visa Signature and Secured Cards 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.

Article Source: Tyler Atwell for CUInsight.com

 

Financial Spring Cleaning: Free Credit Report Reviews March 27 – April 1st

It’s almost spring, which means it’s time for Spring Cleaning … Financial Spring Cleaning that is. The week of March 27 – April 1st is Clean Up Your Credit Report Week. Make an appointment for a free credit report review today!

credit-score-explanation-graphicWe’ll help you gain insight by reviewing your credit report to help you understand:

  • Why you have the credit score you do
  • How you can improve your score
  • How you can keep your score high for years to come

Log into annualcreditreport.com, print your credit report, and bring it to your scheduled appointment. Don’t have easy printer access? A staff member will print it for you, or walk you through the website during your appointment.

Schedule your appointment now! Email marketingbd@firstffcu.com or call 732.312.1500.

*Your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com does not guarantee results and is not a product of First Financial Federal Credit Union. Appointments during 3/27/17 – 4/1/17 are not credit repair tools. First Financial does not guarantee that taking the actions suggested through the credit report process will produce improved or identical changes to bureau risk scores. The scoring model used to generate scores may not be the same as the model used at First Financial or other financial institutions. 

The 4 Fastest Ways to Pay Off Credit Card Debt

Customer in store struggling to remember PIN number

There are many reasons why most of us decide to sign up for a credit card. Whether it’s to help boost your credit score or as a means of purchasing a more expensive item that you plan to pay off in increments, credit cards can be a smart option for your finances. Unfortunately, they can also be very detrimental to your budget if not used wisely or paid off in a timely manner. If you’re feeling stressed about your card balances – keep your head up and remember you can work your way out of debt! Here are four fast tips for effectively paying off your credit cards.

Cut them up.

This may sound like an obvious solution, but it is an enormously effective one. Stop the behavior that has gotten you in trouble in the first place and put an end to making charges once and for all. Moving forward, plan to only make purchases you can pay for right away and begin the process of working your way out of the debt you’ve created.

Pinpoint the problem.

What is it that you’ve had to use your cards to purchase? Clarity is key when it comes to your personal finances. Are you living out of your means and making high end purchases that you simply cannot afford? Are you making poor financial choices like eating out too much that you can easily rectify? Sit down, look at your credit card statements, and alter your lifestyle accordingly.

Compare interest rates.

If you owe on multiple cards, go back and review each one’s interest rates. Many people automatically assume that the card with the highest balance is the one to work on first, but this is a mistake. The high interest rates are what will get you in the end, so concentrating on those cards will have a greater impact on your finances.

First Financial’s Visa Credit Cards come fully loaded with higher credit lines, lower APRs, no annual fees, no balance transfer fees, a 10 day grace period, rewards, and so much more!* Click here to learn about our cards and apply online today.

Get a side job.

Sometimes, if your debt is going to take a significant amount of time to control, it’s best to look into other sources of income. There are often easy ways to make money on the side to get a few extra dollars in your pocket.

*APR varies from 11.15% to 18% for the Visa Platinum Card and from 13.15% to 18% for the Visa Signature and Secured Cards 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.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com