4 Hacks to Raise Your Credit Score

Your credit score. Chances are you either love it or hate it. It’s either the greatest thing in the world or a total hindrance. Or, maybe you don’t really know enough about your credit score for it to make an impact on your life.

As a whole, Americans’ credit scores are beginning to increase but our knowledge of credit and how it works is declining. A recent survey from credit scoring company Vantage Score and the Consumer Federation of America, found that 32% of the people surveyed didn’t know they had more than one credit score.

Let’s forget about how many credit scores we have for a second and answer a very basic question: What is your credit score? 

Your credit score is a three digit number ranging from 300 (the lowest possible score) to 850 (the highest score). Lenders use your credit score to make decisions about whether or not to offer you credit – such as a credit card, car loan or mortgage. Your credit score is also used to determine the terms of the offer – such as what your interest rate will be.

Your credit score is calculated by looking at these categories:

  • Payment history
  • Your debt-to-income ratio
  • Total debt
  • Length of credit history
  • Types of open credit
  • Public records (such as bankruptcy)
  • Number of inquiries on your credit report
  • New credit

So, what is considered a good credit score? 

The average credit score in the United States ranges between 670 and 710. According to Experian, a “good” credit score is anything that falls between 661 and 780, which is about 38% of the population. Usually, if an applicant falls in that “good” credit range, they’re likely to be approved for credit at competitive rates.

Now that we know what a credit score is and what classifies as a good one, the next question to look at is: Why does your credit score matter? 

Think of your credit score like a report card you used to get while you were in school. Your report card measured your progress during the school year, and your credit activity puts you into a scoring range. But, unlike grades – credit scores aren’t stored as part of your credit history. Instead, your score is generated each time you apply for credit. Fact: It actually negatively impacts your credit score if you have multiple inquiries in a short period of time.

What are your major financial goals? Buying a home? Buying a car? Chances are, your credit is likely going to be a factor in framing that financing picture. Your score will actually tell a lender whether or not you qualify for a loan and how good the terms of the loan will be. For instance, the lower your credit score is, the higher your interest rate on a loan will be.

If you’ve looked at your credit report and you’re surprised to see it’s lower than you thought, there are simple ways to fix that:

  • Pay your bills on time. That goes for ALL your bills – not just credit cards and loans. Fact: Payment history is the most heavily weighted factor of your credit score. It makes up 35% of your total score.
  • Keep your credit card balances low. Credit history accounts for 15% of your credit score, so keep those old accounts open even if you don’t use them.
  • Space out your credit applications. Each time you apply for a line of credit, the inquiry is noted on your credit report. One or two inquiries aren’t a huge deal, but when you have a bunch within a two year period, it can cause your score to fall.
  • Mix up your credit. Your credit mix, or the types of credit accounts you have, makes up 10% of your credit score. Basically, lenders want to see that you can use different types of credit responsibly.

Credit doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. There are many responsible ways to start out slowly and build worthwhile credit for the future. First Financial can help! Are you looking to build or establish credit? We have a number of ways to start you on the right path. Stop by one of our branches today or give us a call. You can also check out our credit management guidebook on our website, for some additional tips.

3 Bad Choices that Could Damage Your Credit Score

Your credit score is a big deal. That number decides what kind of loan you’ll be able to get and what interest rate you’ll have to pay. If your credit score is low, you’ll need to find ways to raise and improve it. If your score is good, here are three things you may want to avoid in order to maintain your high credit rating.

Cosigning a loan: You’re a nice person and you do nice things for people you care about. In reality, you should really never cosign someone else’s loan. If the borrower starts missing payments, your credit score will take a big hit. The last thing you want to do is be on the hook for someone else’s car payments, personal loans, or credit cards.

Closing a credit card account: Maybe you have a credit card that was just used to build credit or have in case of emergencies. You may have paid if off and decided to stop using it, but be sure you don’t close that account. That card’s credit history is good for your credit score. Also, closing the account will lower your amount of available credit which could negatively affect your debt utilization ratio. Closing a credit card account is one action that can damage your credit score in two different ways.

Not looking for errors: Always keep a close eye on your credit score. If you haven’t looked at yours recently, check out annualcreditreport.com. If you don’t keep an eye on your credit report, you could have your identity stolen and not even know it. Even if isn’t the case, there could still be inaccuracies. The day you find an error on your credit report that is negatively impacting your score, is the day you’ll be extremely happy you checked.

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!

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

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

 

5 Things to Consider Before Signing Up for a Store Credit Card

Many times, you’re at a store paying for your items when the cashier asks, “would you like to save 20% off your purchase today by signing up for our credit card?” Sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it? You’re inclined to say yes, fill out the easy application and have the instant gratification of saving on things you were willing to pay full price for. Is it too good to be true though?

Retail stores have been tempting customers for years to sign up for credit cards with discounts, free gifts, and special promotions. While it may seem like a no-brainer to sign up and get instant savings, there are longer term implications that can affect your finances for years to come.

Make sure you consider these five important things before signing up for a store credit card:

Your Credit Score May Be Impacted

Whenever you sign up for a credit card, especially one from a retail store, your credit report will most likely be pulled. While that doesn’t seem like a big deal, it might actually have a negative effect on your credit score. This is what is called a ‘hard pull’ which happens usually when a financial institution, like a credit card company, asks for your credit report. Hard pulls can decrease your credit score by a few points. While it is temporary and usually only stays on your credit report for about two years, it is something to consider, especially if you are applying for any bigger loans (like a vehicle or mortgage) in the near future.

Read and Fully Understand the Terms

When you’re signing up for a store credit card on the spot at checkout, you’re mostly likely not taking your time to read the fine print. But, make sure you fully read and understand the terms and conditions of your new card. Store credit cards are notorious for having very high interest rates and fees, so you should thoroughly consider the terms before signing your name on the dotted line. You don’t want to be stuck paying a high interest rate in the long run. If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

Consider the Sign-Up Bonus

The number one reason people apply for a store credit card is because of a special sign-up bonus. Often, stores will offer you a discount on your purchase that day or for a specified period of time. They might also give you free products and other perks. While it feels great to be able to save money instantaneously, you should really consider the sign-up bonus before you commit. While saving 15% on your purchase seems like a no-brainer, is it really that much of a bonus in the long run? In the grand scheme of things, sign-up bonuses are almost insignificant when compared against drawbacks, like interest rates and fees if you are carrying a balance on that store card.

Do Competitive Shopping

Consider your options before you sign up for a store credit card. Every store has different cards and policies and you want to make sure to pick the one that is right for you. If you’re really set on opening a store credit card, look first at the retailer where you spend the most money. You’ll probably get the most return if it has a good rewards and points program. Opening a card at a store you don’t really go to often probably won’t benefit you much. And of course, compare the terms and conditions between all cards.

Take Your Time to Make a Decision

Finally but most importantly, don’t make a spur of the moment decision. Stores will often reel you in with an engaging sales pitch at the register and many customers feel almost pressured into making a decision right then and there. If you’re interested in signing up, ask how long their current promotions and sign-up bonuses are valid for. Also ask for an application to take home for when you’re ready. Many companies will also allow you to apply online. This way, you can take your time to read the fine print and make a decision that is right for you (and your credit).

Store credit cards are very enticing, but they aren’t for everyone. Make sure you understand all the ins and outs of the card before you sign up. Otherwise, you can really do some damage to your credit score and debt levels. Choose wisely!

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!*

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: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com