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

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. 

Millennials: How You Can Avoid Credit Pain

bigstock-Young-Business-Man-Under-Stres-89718578-e1446206462272Millennials think they know a lot about credit. But the numbers tell a different story.

More than 7 in 10 millennials said they feel confident about their credit knowledge, according to a recent survey by Experian. If fact, millennials on average estimated they had a score of 654. But it turns out that for many 18-to-34-year-olds, even that was an overestimation. And millennials are less likely to check their credit reports, Experian said.

Here’s how it works: Thirty-five percent of your credit score is determined by your payment history, or whether you have made payments on time, 30% is your credit utilization, or the amount borrowed compared to the total credit available, 15% is determined by the length of your credit history, 10% comes from the number of applications for new credit and 10% is from the types of credit you have (i.e. revolving, installment, mortgage etc.).

Generally, credit companies prefer a mix of credit because the variety suggests you know how to use credit responsibly. A combination of car and student loans along with some credit card use, for example, helps build up your credit score as long as you pay on time over an extended period.

Scores range from 300 to 850. If your score is above 750, you’re considered to have excellent credit, which paves the way to the lowest interest rates and a better chance of getting approved for loans. If your score is on the lower side, it can cost you — that means higher interest rates on everything from credit cards to auto loans.

Here’s the breakdown:

800+ = exceptional
740-799 = very good
670-739 = good
580-699 = fair
Below 580 = poor

Financial advisors warn that a bad score may even hurt your chances of getting a job. Employers have access to your score and can factor it in to their decisions. Your credit score is a reflection of you and if your credit is bad, it could inject some doubt about your ability to handle personal matters and business matters.

With a lower score – you may still get a loan, but you will likely have to put more money down as a down payment and pay a higher rate, which can be costly.

For example, having a score of 650 versus 760 can cost you $125 more a month on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage for a $200,000 loan, according to credit tracking firm CreditSesame.com. That’s $1,500 more a year, or $45,000 over the life of the loan.

You are entitled to a free report from the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) once every 12 months from annualcreditreport.com

Experts suggest checking your report regularly. Once a year is sufficient to get a gauge on your number, and check for any errors, like an incorrect payment status or delinquencies that have since been remedied.

Remember to keep an eye on the debt-to-limit ratio. What you borrow compared to the total credit available, also known as your debt utilization ratio, counts for a whopping 30% of your credit score. A debt utilization ratio greater than 30% will have a negative effect.

If you are borrowing too much, start a debt repayment plan to lower the ratio as much as possible.

Ideally, credit cards should be paid in full at the end of each payment period to avoid sky high interest. Paying in full each month also demonstrates that you are a responsible borrower. This will help build up good credit and save you money since the faster you pay down debt, the less interest you’ll pay.

Even if you don’t pay off all of your debt right away, make sure you are always paying on time. Set up automatic payments to avoid late payments. A missed payment will also hurt your score.

Ultimately, a credit score is one of the most important numbers you have. In the long run, a bad score could raise the cost of a car or home loan, increase you credit card interest from a single digit to double digits or even deny you credit entirely.

Not only does a good credit score save you money by lowering interest rates, it’s a reflection of you and your personal matters. So it is worth putting in the time to build up a good report. A credit score is one of the building blocks of your financial future and that has a big bearing on your entire life.

*Original article source written by Landon Dowdy of USA Today.

5 Times Your Credit Score Matters Most

Credit - Arrows Hit in Red Target.Your credit score has a huge impact on the net loss or gain of some of life’s biggest financial moments: a good score gives you more options, better terms and bigger savings. Your credit score will follow you throughout your life and affect a variety of situations, but these five times are when your credit score really matters the most.

1. Financing a Car

There are three factors that determine how much financing a car will cost: how much money you put down, the length of the term of the loan and your credit score. On a $10,000, 60-month auto loan, a borrower with a low credit score could pay nearly $4,000 more in interest charges than a borrower with a prime credit score. If you have a less-than-stellar credit score, shop around for the best car loan rate available — the savings will be well worth the effort.

2. Buying a House

It’s common knowledge that your credit score matters when applying for a mortgage, but just how much your score costs you in the long run is often ignored. The difference between an excellent score and good score can cost you tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a loan, and having a poor score can cost you your dream of homeownership altogether.

According to Informa Research Services*, the average national interest rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage for a consumer with a 760 or higher FICO score is 3.547% APR. If you take out a $200,000 mortgage loan at 3.547% APR, your monthly payment would be around $903. If you have a FICO score of 660, your rate could go up to 4.16% APR, which would raise your monthly payment by $70. The number seems negligible until you annualize those costs. The $70 increase adds up to more than $25,000 in additional interest on your home for the life of the mortgage.

3. Starting a Business

If you are a small business owner or have dreams of entrepreneurship, your personal credit is a major influence on the kind of capital you can access. Even if a business is set up as a corporation to limit personal liability, credit scores are often tied to the owner’s ability to personally guarantee the business’ debts; an analysis by the Federal Reserve estimated that 40.9 percent of all small business loans and 55.5 percent of small business borrowing is personally guaranteed.

4. Renting an Apartment

Though there are no official credit score requirements to rent an apartment, the higher your score, the better your housing options. A competitive credit score can give you the edge you need to rise above other applicants or take advantage of offers, like low down payment promotions for qualifying applicants.

Rental markets can be competitive, especially in large cities where many owners of multi-unit apartment buildings have a minimum score requirement to rent within the community. If you have a low score and have a hard time getting your rental application approved, you may have better success with a private landlord — your options will be limited but the requirements tend to be less strict.

5. Qualifying for Insurance

Insurance companies have standard practices for setting their rates, weighing various risk factors to calculate the exact rate to charge a customer, including their credit score. But the scores insurance companies use are different than the ones used by banks and financial services companies — these scores are called Insurance Credit Bureau Scores, or Insurance Risk Credit Scores.

Insurance scores consider credit information and previous insurance claim information, which allows insurers to determine how much of a risk someone is to insure. Actuarial studies suggests that someone who pays all of their bills on time, has a good credit history and hasn’t filed any insurance claims is less of a risk and a more profitable customer, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Therefore, a favorable credit score will not only get you a better rate on your insurance premiums, it could be the determining factor on whether you even get approved for coverage.

If you are looking to finance a vehicle, buy or refinance a home, or start your own business – be sure to contact First Financial for low rate loans and personalized service!**

*Calculations are accurate as of Dec. 8, 2014.

**A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Subject to credit approval.

Article Source: Morgan Quinn for gobankingrates.com, http://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/5-times-credit-score-matter/

5 Credit Assumptions You’ve Got All Wrong

Credit Inscription on Red Billboard.Let’s face it – when it comes to credit and credit scoring, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. As a result, many people make assumptions about their credit that are incorrect. Here are 5 common examples of false credit assumptions, and the truth behind each one.

1. Paying a late fee means you won’t get reported to the credit bureaus.

If you slip up and pay a bill late, getting hit with a late fee probably seems like punishment enough. After all, forking over an extra $25-$35 for your forgetfulness feels like a sufficient slap on the wrist.

But if your payment is more than 30 days overdue, you could expect a negative mark to land on your credit reports, regardless of whether or not you’ve coughed up a late fee. This is a good reason to prioritize paying on time – if you don’t, it could be costly in a number of ways.

2. Your credit utilization ratio is 0% if you pay your balance in full each month.

Paying off your credit card in full each month is a good habit to get into. But as you’re patting yourself on the back for avoiding interest charges, don’t forget to remain diligent about keeping track of your credit utilization ratio.

Here’s why: Your credit card issuer could send a balance report to the credit bureaus at any time during the month – not necessarily right after you’ve paid your bill. Consequently, keeping your balance below 30% of your available credit on all your cards throughout the month is key to maintaining a solid score.

3. All of your monthly bill payments are being reported to the credit bureaus.

Personal finance experts commonly recommend that we pay all of our bills on time. This is certainly important for avoiding late fees (see above), but it causes many people to assume that all of their bill payments are being reported to the credit bureaus.

This usually isn’t the case. Rent and utility payments are typically not reported unless you become seriously delinquent. You still should always pay on time, but these payments generally won’t give your score a boost.

4. Avoiding credit cards will help your credit score.

In an effort to avoid getting into debt, some people choose to forfeit credit cards altogether. While it’s true that maxing out a card will do damage to your credit score, avoiding plastic entirely usually isn’t a good idea, either.

Getting a credit card as soon as you can and using it responsibly (which means paying your bill on time and in full every month), is one of the easiest ways to start establishing a solid credit profile. The longer you go without establishing credit, the harder it will be to do so.

The takeaway? Using a credit card to build your credit doesn’t have to result in debt if you make a budget and track your spending carefully. Usually, the benefits of doing so outweigh the risks.

Try First Financial’s Visa Platinum Credit Card for a great low rate, rewards on purchases, no annual fee, and no balance transfer fees!*  Apply online today.

5. A bankruptcy will affect your credit for the rest of your life.

It’s true: Declaring personal bankruptcy will have a serious, negative impact on your credit. But don’t let Internet rumors or sensational media reports warp your thinking – a bankruptcy won’t actually trash your credit for life.

In most cases, a bankruptcy will stay on your credit reports for 10 years, and the effect of this event on your credit score will lessen over time. This is not to say that you should treat bankruptcy lightly, but it’s important to know that no negative mark has to affect your credit forever. By letting some time pass and cleaning up your credit habits, there’s always a way to bounce back.

*APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is 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 Fee. 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 Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/tips/credit-score/credit-assumptions/