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You’ve tried debt payoff strategies, balance transfers, consolidation, and evenÂ debt management; you’ve begged your creditors, liquidated your assets, and pestered your friends and families for any money they can afford, but after all of that, you still have more debt than you can handle.
Once you reach the end of your rope, the options that remain are not as forgiving asÂ debt managementÂ and they’ll do much more damage to yourÂ credit scoreÂ than debt payoff strategies. However, if you’ve tried other forms ofÂ debt reliefÂ and nothing seems to work, all that remains is to consider debt settlement and bankruptcy.
Debt settlement is a very good way to clear your debt. It’s one of the cheapest and most complete ways to eradicateÂ credit cardÂ debtÂ and can help with most other forms ofÂ unsecured debtÂ as well. Bankruptcy, on the other hand, is aÂ last resortÂ option for debtors who can’t meet thoseÂ monthly paymentsÂ and have exhausted all other possibilities.
But which option is right for you, should you be looking for aÂ debt settlement companyÂ or aÂ bankruptcy attorney?
Similarities Between Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement
Firstly, let’s look at the similarities between bankruptcy and debt settlement, which are actually few and far between. In fact, beyond the fact that they are bothÂ debt reliefÂ options that can clear your debt, there are very few similarities, with the main one being that they both impact yourÂ credit scoreÂ quite heavily.
A bankruptcy can stay on yourÂ credit reportÂ for up to 10 years and do a lot of damage when it is applied. It may take several years before you can successfully apply for loans and high credit lines again, and it will continue to impact your score for years to come.
Debt settlement is not quite as destructive, but it can reduce yourÂ credit scoreÂ in a similar way and last for up to 7 years. Accounts do not disappear in the same way as when you pay them in full, so future creditors will know that the accounts were settled for less than the balance and this may scare them away.
In both cases, you could lose a couple hundred points off yourÂ credit score, but it all depends on how high your score is to begin with, as well as how many accounts you have on yourÂ credit reportÂ and how extensive the settlement/bankruptcy process is.
Differences Between Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement
The main two types of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. The former liquidates assets and uses the funds generated from this liquidation to pay creditors. The latter creates aÂ repayment planÂ with a goal of repaying all debts within a fixed period of time using an installment plan that suits the filer.
Debt settlement, on the other hand, is more of a personal process, the goal of which is to offer a reduced settlement sum to creditors andÂ debt collectors, clearing the debts with aÂ lump sum paymentÂ that is significantly less than the balance.
Chapter 7 BankruptcyÂ andÂ Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
When people think of bankruptcy, it’s often a Chapter 7 that they have in mind. With aÂ Chapter 7 bankruptcy, all non-exempt assets will be sold, and the money then used to pay lenders. There are filing costs and it’s advised that you hire aÂ bankruptcy attorneyÂ to ensure the process runs smoothly.
Chapter 7 bankruptcyÂ is quick and complete, typically finishing in 6 months and clearing mostÂ unsecured debtsÂ in this time. There is noÂ repayment planÂ to follow and no lawsuits or wage garnishment to worry about.
Chapter 13, on the other hand, focuses on aÂ repayment planÂ that typically spans up to 5 years. The debts are not wiped clear but are instead restructured in a way that the debtor can handle. This method of bankruptcy is typically more expensive, but only worthwhile for debtors who can afford to repay their debts.
Filing for bankruptcy is not easy and there is no guarantee you will be successful. There are strictÂ bankruptcy lawsÂ to follow and theÂ bankruptcy courtÂ must determine that you have exhausted all other options and have no choice but to file.
Bankruptcy will require you to see aÂ credit counselor, which helps to ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes in the future. This can feel like a pointless and demeaning requirement, as many debtors understand the rights and wrongs and got into a mess because of uncontrollable circumstances and not reckless spending, but sessions are short, cheap, and shouldn’t cause much stress.
HowÂ Debt Settlement Works
The goal of debt settlement is to get creditors to agree to aÂ settlement offer. This can be performed by the debtor directly, but it’s often done with help from aÂ debt settlement company.
The debt specialist may request that you stop making payments on your debts every month. This has two big benefits:
1. More Money
You will have more money in your account every month, which means you’ll have more funds to go towards debtÂ settlement offers.Â
The idea of making largeÂ lump sum paymentsÂ can seem alien to someone who has a lot of debt. After all, if you’re struggling to make $400 debt payments every month on over $20,000 worth of debt, how can you ever hope to get the $5,000 to $15,000 you need to clear those debts in full?
But if you stop making all payments and instead move that money to a secured account, you’ll have $4,800 extra at the end of the year, which should be enough to start making those offers and getting those debts cleared.
2. Creditor Panic
Another aspect of the debt settlement process that confuses debtors is the idea that creditors would be willing to accept reduced offers. If you have a debt worth $20,000 and are paying large amounts of interest every month, why would they accept a lump sum and potentially take a loss overall?
The truth is, if you keep makingÂ monthly payments, creditors will be reluctant to accept aÂ settled debtÂ offer. But as soon as you start missing those payments, the risk increases, and the creditor faces the very real possibility that they will need to sell that debt to aÂ collection agency. If you have a debt of $20,000, it may be sold for as little as $20 to $200, so if you come in with an offer of $10,000 before it reaches that point, they’ll snap your hand off!
Types of Debt
AÂ debt settlement programÂ works best when dealing withÂ credit cardÂ debt, but it can also help to clear loan debt,Â medical bills, and more. Providing it’s not government debt or secured debt, it will work.Â
With government debt, you need specific tax relief services, and, in most cases, there is no way to avoid it. With secured debt, the lender will simply take your asset as soon as you default.
Debt settlement companiesÂ may place some demanding restrictions on you, and in the short term, this will increase yourÂ total debtÂ and worsen yourÂ financial situation. In addition to requesting that you stop makingÂ monthly payments, they may ask that you place yourself on a budget, stop spending money on luxuries, stop acquiring new debt, and start putting every penny you have towards the settlement.
It can have aÂ negative impactÂ on your life, but the end goal is usually worth it, as you’ll beÂ debt-freeÂ within 5 years.
Pros andÂ Cons of Debt SettlementÂ and Bankruptcy
Neither of these processes are free or easy. With bankruptcy, you may pay up to $2,000 for Chapter 7 and $4,000 for Chapter 13 (including filing fees and legal fees) while debt settlement is charged as a fixed percentage of the debt or the money saved.Â
As mentioned already, both methods can also damage yourÂ credit score. But ultimately, they will clear your debts and the responsibilities that go with them. If you’ve been losing sleep because of your debt, this can feel like a godsendâa massive weight lifted off your shoulders.
It’s also worth noting thatÂ scamsÂ exist for both options, so whether you’reÂ filing bankruptcyÂ or choosing a debtÂ settlement plan, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable company/lawyer and are not being asked to pay unreasonable upfront fees. ReputableÂ debt settlement companiesÂ will provide you with aÂ free consultationÂ in the first instance, and you can use the NACBA directory to find a suitable lawyer.
Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement: The End Goal
For all the ways that these two options differ, there is one important similarity: They give you a chance to make aÂ fresh start. You can never underestimate the benefits of this, even if it comes with a reducedÂ credit scoreÂ and a derogatory mark that will remain on yourÂ credit reportÂ for years to come.
If you’re heavily in debt, it can feel like your money isn’t your own, your life isn’t secure, and your future is not certain. With bankruptcy and debt settlement, yourÂ credit scoreÂ and finances may suffer temporarily, but it gives you a chance to wipe the slate clean and start again.
What’s more, this process may take several years to complete and in the case of bankruptcy, it comes withÂ credit counseling. Once you make it through all of this, you’ll be more knowledgeable about debt, you’ll have a better grip on your finances, and your impulse control.Â
And even if you don’t, you’ll be forced to adopt a little restraint after the process ends as yourÂ credit scoreÂ will be too low for you to apply for newÂ personalÂ loansÂ and high limitÂ cards.
Other Options for Last DitchÂ Debt Relief
Many debtors preparing for debt settlement or bankruptcy may actually have more options than they think. For instance, bankruptcy is often seen as a get-out-of-jail-free card, an easy escape that you can use to your advantage whenever you have debts you don’t want to pay.
But that’s simply not the case and unless you have tried all other options and can prove that none of them have worked, your case may be thrown out. If that happens, you’ll waste money on legal and filing fees and will be sent back to the drawing board.
So, regardless of theÂ amount of debtÂ you have, make sure you’ve looked into the followingÂ debt reliefÂ options before you focus on debt settlement or bankruptcy.Â
AÂ debt consolidationÂ loanÂ is provided by a specialized lender. They pay off all your existing debts and give you a single large loan in return, one that has a lowerÂ interest rateÂ and a lowerÂ monthly payment.Â
Your debt-to-income ratio will improve, and you’ll have more money in your pocket at the end of the month. However, in exchange, you’ll be given a much longer-term, which means you’ll pay more interest over the life of the loan.
AÂ Debt ManagementÂ Plan
Debt managementÂ combinesÂ counseling servicesÂ withÂ debt consolidation. AÂ debt managementÂ planÂ requires you to continue making yourÂ monthly payment, only this will go to theÂ debt managementÂ company and not directly to the creditors. They will then distribute the money to your creditors.
You’ll be given aÂ monthly paymentÂ that you can manage, along with the budgeting advice you need to keep meeting those payments. In exchange, however, you’ll be asked to close all but oneÂ credit cardÂ (which can hurt yourÂ credit score) and if you miss a payment then your creditors may back out of the agreement.
Balance Transfer Card
If all your debts are tied intoÂ credit cards, you can use a balance transferÂ credit cardÂ to make everything more manageable. With a balance transferÂ credit card, you move one or more debts onto a new card, one that offers a 0% APR for a fixed period.Â
The idea is that you continue making yourÂ monthly payment, only because there is no interest, all the money goes towards the principal.
Home Equity Loans
If you have built substantial equity in your home then you can look into home equity loans and lines of credit. These are secured loans, which means there is a risk ofÂ repossessionÂ if you fail to keep up your payments, but for this, you’ll get a greatly reducedÂ interest rateÂ and a sum large enough to clear your debts.
Bottom Line: The Best Option
Debt settlement and bankruptcy are both considered to beÂ last resortÂ debt-reliefÂ options, but they couldn’t be more different from one another. Generally speaking, we would always recommend debt settlement first, especially if you have a lot of money tied up inÂ credit cardÂ debt.
If not, and you can’t bear the idea of spending several months ignoring your creditors, missing payments, and accumulatingÂ late fees, it might be time to consider bankruptcy. In any case, make sure you exhaust all other possibilities first.
Debt Settlement vs Bankruptcy: Which is Best? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
Refinancing your student loans can make good financial sense, and thatâs especially true if your current loans are stuck at a high-interest rate. With a new loan at a lower APR, you could save a bundle of money on interest each month and ultimately pay your student debt off faster. Consolidating several loans into one new one can also simplify your financial life and make keeping up with bills a lot easier.
College Ave and Earnest topped our list, but since student loan refinancing is an incredibly competitive space, youâll also want to spend time comparing student loan companies to see who offers the best deal. Many lenders in this space offer incredibly low APRs, flexible payment options, borrower incentives, and more. This means itâs more important than ever to shop around so you wind up with the best student loan for your needs.
What You Should Know About Refinancing Federal Student Loans with a Private Lender
The lenders on this list can help you consolidate and refinance both federal student loans and private student loans. However, there are a few details to be aware of before you refinance federal loans with a private lender.
Switching federal loans to private means giving up federal protections like deferment and forbearance. You also give up your chance to qualify for income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) or Income Based Repayment (IBR). Income-driven repayment plans let you pay a percentage of your discretionary income for 20 to 25 years before ultimately forgiving your remaining loan balances, so this perk isnât one you should give up without careful thought and consideration.
Best Student Loan Refinancing Companies of 2021
As you start your search to find the best student loan for your lifestyle, take the time to compare lenders and all they offer their customers. While there are a ton of reputable companies offering high-quality student loan refinancing products on the market today, there are also companies you should probably steer clear of.
To make your search easier, we took the time to compare most of the top lenders in this space in terms of interest rates offered, fees, borrower benefits, and more. The following student loan companies are the cream of the crop, so you should start your search here.
Our Top Picks:
- Splash Financial
- College Ave
- Wells Fargo
- PenFed Credit Union
Student Loan Refinancing Company Reviews
1. Splash Financial
Splash Financial may be a newer company in the student loan refinancing space, but their offerings are competitive. This company lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report, and their variable rates currently start at just 2.25% APR.
Not only are interest rates offered by Splash Financial industry-leading, but the company has a 95% customer satisfaction rate so far. Their cutting-edge technology also lets you apply for your loan and complete the loan process online, meaning less hassle and stress for you as the borrower.
Check Out Splash Financialâs Low Rates
2. College Ave
College Ave offers student loan refinancing products that can be tailored to your needs. They offer low fixed and variable interest rates, for example, and youâll never pay an application fee or an origination fee. You can even qualify for a discount if you set your loan up on autopay, and a wide range of repayment schedules are available.
College Ave also offers a wide range of online calculators and tools that can help you figure out how much student loan refinancing could help you save and whether the move would be worth it in the end. Considering their low variable rates start at just 2.74% APR, thereâs a good chance you could save money by refinancing if you have excellent credit or a cosigner with great credit.
Get Started with College Ave
Earnest is another online lender that focuses most of its efforts on offering high-quality student loans. This company lets you consolidate debt at a lower interest rate than you might find elsewhere, and you get the option to pick a monthly payment and repayment period that works with your budget and your lifestyle.
While youâll need excellent credit to qualify for the lowest interest rates, loans from Earnest come with variable APRs starting at 1.81% and low fixed rates starting at just 3.45%. To qualify for student loan refinancing with Earnest, youâll need a minimum credit score of 650 and a strong employment and income history. You also need to be current on all your bills and cannot have a bankruptcy on your credit profile.
Refinance and Save with Earnest
Also make sure to check out student loan refinancing company SoFi as you continue your search. This online lender offers some of the best student loan refinancing products available today, including loans with no application fee, origination fee, or hidden fees.
SoFi lets you apply for and complete the entire loan process online, and they offer live customer support 7 days a week. You can also check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report, which makes it easier to see how much you could save before you commit.
Get Pre-Approved with SoFi in Less than 2 Minutes
Commonbond is another online student lender who lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. With student loan refinancing from Commonbond, you could easily save thousands of dollars on interest with a new fixed interest rate as low as 3.21%. Repayment terms are offered for 5 to 20 years as well, letting you choose a new monthly payment and repayment timeline that works for your needs.
You can apply for your new loan online and note that these loans donât come with an origination fee or any prepayment penalties. Your loan could also qualify for forbearance, which means having up to 24 months without payments during times of financial hardship.
Apply Online with Commonbond
LendKey offers private student loans and flexible student loan refinancing options to serve a variety of needs. You can repay your loan between 5 and 20 years, and their refinance loans donât charge an origination fee.
You can use this companyâs online interface to check your rate without a hard inquiry on your credit report, and variable APRs start at just 2.01% for graduates with excellent credit. LendKey loans also receive 9.3 out of 10 possible stars in recent reviews, meaning their customers are mostly happy with their decision to go with this company.
Save Thousands by Refinancing with LendKey
7. Wells Fargo
While Wells Fargo is mostly popular for their banking products, home mortgage products, and personal loans, this bank also offers student loan refinancing products. These loans let you consolidate student debts into a new loan with a low variable or fixed interest rate, and you can even score a discount for setting your loan up on autopay.
Terms for Wells Fargo loans are available anywhere from 5 to 20 years, meaning you can choose a repayment schedule and monthly payment that suits your needs. Wells Fargo also lets you check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.
Get Started with Wells Fargo
8. PenFed Credit Union
PenFed Credit Union offers unique student loan products powered by Purefy. You might be able to qualify for a lower interest rate that could lead to enormous interest savings over time, and PenFed lets you choose a repayment term and monthly payment that fits with your budget and lifestyle.
You can apply for student loan refinancing on your own, but PenFed Credit Union also allows cosigners. Low fixed interest rates start at just 3.48% APR, and you can check your rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.
Learn More about PenFed Credit Union
What To Look For When Refinancing
If you decide you want to refinance your student loans, youâll be happy to know the refinancing market is more robust than ever. A variety of lenders offer insanely attractive loan options for those who can qualify, although you should know that student loan companies tend to be very finicky about your credit score. Some also wonât let you refinance if you didnât graduate from college, or even if you graduated from an âunapprovedâ school.
While you should be aware of any lender-specific eligibility requirements before you apply with any student loan company, there are plenty of other factors to look out for. Hereâs everything you should look for in a student loan refinancing company before you decide to trust them with your loans.
Low Interest Rate
Obviously, the main reason youâre probably thinking of refinancing your loans is the potential to save money on interest. Lenders who offer the lowest rates available today can potentially help you save more, although itâs important to consider that you may not qualify for the lowest rates available if you donât have excellent credit.
Also consider that most lenders will offer better rates and loan terms if you have a cosigner with better credit than you have. This is especially true if your credit isnât great, so make sure to ask family members if theyâre willing to cosign on your new student loan if you hope to get the best rate. Just remember that your cosigner will be jointly liable for repayment, meaning you could quickly damage your relationship if you default on your loan and leave them holding the bag.
Low Fees or No Fees
Student loans are like any other loan in the fact that some charge higher fees or more fees than others. Since many student loans come with an application fee or an origination fee, youâll want to look for lenders that donât charge these fees. Also check for hidden fees like prepayment penalties.
Some student loan companies let you qualify for discounts, the most popular of which is a discount for using autopay. If youâre able and willing to set up automatic payments on your credit card, you could save .25% or .50% off your interest rate depending on the lender you go with.
Rate Check Option
Many of the top student loan refinancing companies on this list make it possible to check your interest rate online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. This is a huge benefit since knowing your rate can help you figure out if refinancing is even worth it before you take the time to fill out a full loan application.
Flexible Repayment Plan
Also make sure any lender you go with offers some flexibility in your repayment plan and your monthly payment. Youâll want to make sure refinancing aligns with your long-term financial goals and your monthly budget, and itâs crucial to choose a new loan with a monthly payment you can live with.
Most lenders in this space offer repayment timelines of up to 20 years, which means you could spread your payments over several decades to get a monthly payment that makes sense with your income. Keep in mind, however, that youâll pay more interest over the life of your loan when you take a long time to pay it off, so you may want to consider prioritizing a faster payment plan.
The Bottom Line
Student loan refinancing may not sound like a lot of fun. However, taking the time to consider all your loan options could easily save you thousands of dollars. This is especially true if you have a lot of debt at a high interest rate. By consolidating all your student loans into a new one with a lower APR, you could make loan repayment easier with a single payment and save a ton of money that would otherwise go to straight to interest without helping you pay off your loans.
The first step of the loan process is the hardest, however, and thatâs choosing a student loan refinancing company that you trust. The lenders on this list are highly rated, but they also offer some of the best loan products on the market today.
- Work with College Ave, our top pick, to refinance your student loan.
Start your search here and youâre bound to wind up with a student loan you can live with. At the very least, you’ll have a better idea of the loans that are available and how much you might save if you decide to refinance later on.
The post The Best Student Loan Companies For Refinancing appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
Credit cardÂ billsÂ can be confusing. If everything was straightforward and clear,Â credit cardÂ debtÂ wouldn’t be such a big issue. But it’s not clear, and debt is a massive issue for millions of consumers.Â
One of the most confusing aspects is theÂ minimum payment, with few consumers understanding how this works, how much damage (if any) it does to theirÂ credit score, and why it’s important to pay more than the minimum.
We’ll address all of those things and more in this guide, looking at howÂ minimumÂ credit cardÂ paymentsÂ can impact yourÂ FICOÂ scoreÂ and yourÂ credit report.
What is aÂ Credit CardÂ Minimum Payment?
TheÂ minimum paymentÂ is the lowest amount you need to pay during any given month. It’s often fixed as a fraction of yourÂ total balanceÂ and includes fees and interest. Â
If you fail to make thisÂ minimum payment, you may be hit withÂ late feesÂ and if you still haven’t paid after 30 days, your creditor will report your activity to the majorÂ credit bureausÂ and yourÂ credit scoreÂ will take a hit.
When this happens, you could lose up to 100 points and gain a derogatory mark that remains on yourÂ credit reportÂ for up to 7 years.Â MakingÂ minimum paymentsÂ will not result in a derogatory mark, but it can indirectly affect yourÂ credit scoreÂ and we’ll discuss that a little later.
Firstly, it’s important to understand why you’re being asked to pay aÂ minimum amountÂ and how you can avoid it.
How Much is aÂ MinimumÂ Credit CardÂ Payment?
Prior to 2004,Â monthly paymentsÂ could be as low as 2% of the balance. This caused all kinds of problems as most of yourÂ monthly paymentÂ is interest and will, therefore, inflate every month so that every time you reduce the balance it grows back.Â
Regulators forced a change when they realized that some users were being locked into a cycle ofÂ credit cardÂ debt, one that could see them repaying thousands more than the balance and taking many years to repay in full.
These days, a minimum payment must be at least 1% of the balance plus all interest and fees that have accumulated during that month, ensuring the balance decreases by at least 1% if only theÂ minimum paymentÂ is met.
Do I Need to Make theÂ Minimum Payment?
If you have a rolling balance, you need to make the minimumÂ monthly paymentÂ to avoid derogatory marks. If you fail to do so and keep missing those payments, your account will eventually default and cause all kinds of issues.
However, you can avoid theÂ minimum paymentÂ by clearing your balance in full.
Let’s assume that you have a brand-newÂ creditÂ cardÂ and you spend $2,000 in the first billing cycle. In the next cycle, you will be required to pay this balance in full. However, you will also be offered aÂ minimum payment, which will likely be anywhere from $30 to $100. If this is all that you pay, the issuer will start charging you interest on your balance and your problems will begin.
If you spend $2,000 in the next billing cycle, you have just doubled your debt (minus whatever principal theÂ minimum paymentÂ cleared) and your problems.
This is a cycle that many consumers get locked into. They do what they can to pay off their balance in full, but then they have a difficult month and thatÂ minimum paymentÂ begins to look very tempting. They convince themselves that one month won’t hurt and they’ll repay the balance in full next month, but by that point they’ve spent more, it has grown more, and they just don’t have the funds.
To avoid falling into this trap, try the following tips:
- Only Spend What You Have:Â AÂ credit cardÂ should be used to spend money you have now or will have in the future. Don’t spend in the hope you’ll somehow come into some money before the billing period ends and theÂ credit cardÂ balanceÂ rolls over.
- Get an IntroductoryÂ Interest Rate:Â ManyÂ credit cardÂ issuersÂ offer a 0% intro APR for a fixed period of time, allowing you to accumulate debt without interest. This can help if you need to make some essential purchases, but it’s important not to abuse this as you’ll still need to clear theÂ full balanceÂ before the intro period ends.
- Use aÂ Balance Transfer:Â If you’re in too deep and the intro rate is coming to an end, consider aÂ balance transfer credit card. These cards allow you to move yourÂ full balanceÂ from one card (or cards) to another, taking advantage of yet another 0% APR and essentially extending the one you have.
- Pay the Minimum:Â If you can’t pay the balance in full, make sure you at least pay the minimum. AÂ missed paymentÂ orÂ late paymentÂ can incur fees and may hurt yourÂ credit score.Â
Why Pay More Than the Minimum?
You may have heard experts recommending that you pay more than the minimum every month, but why? If you’re locked into a cycle ofÂ credit cardÂ debt, it can seem counterproductive. After all, if you have a debt of $10,000 that’s costing you $400 a month, what’s the point of taking an extra $100 out of your budget?
Your interest and fees are covered by yourÂ minimum paymentÂ and account for a sizeable percentage of thatÂ minimum payment. By adding just 50% more, you could be doubling and even tripling the amount of the principal that you repay every month.
What’s more, your interest accumulates every single day and this interest compounds. Imagine, for instance, that you have a balance of $10,000 today and with interest, this grows to $10,040. The next day, the interest will be calculated based on that $10,040 figure, which means it could grow to $10,081, which will then become the new balance for the next day.Â
This continues every single day, and the larger your balance is, the more interest will compound and the greater theÂ amount will be dueÂ over the term. By paying more than yourÂ minimum paymentÂ when you can, you’re reducing the balance and slowing things down.
Does Paying the Minimum Hurt MyÂ Credit Score?
Paying theÂ minimum amountÂ every month ensures you are doing the bare minimum to avoid hurting yourÂ credit historyÂ or accumulating fees. However, it can indirectly reduce your score via yourÂ credit utilizationÂ ratio.
YourÂ creditÂ utilizationÂ ratioÂ is a score that compares theÂ credit limitÂ of allÂ availableÂ creditÂ cardsÂ to the total debt on those cards. It accounts for 30% of yourÂ credit scoreÂ and is, therefore, a very important aspect of theÂ credit scoringÂ process.
The moreÂ credit cardÂ debtÂ you accumulate, the lower yourÂ credit utilizationÂ rateÂ will be and the more your score will be impacted. If you only pay the minimum, this rate will become stagnant and may take years to improve. By increasing theÂ payment amount, however, you can bring that ratio down and improve yourÂ credit score.
You can calculate yourÂ credit utilizationÂ score by adding together theÂ totalÂ amountÂ ofÂ creditÂ limitsÂ and debts and then comparing the latter to the former. A combinedÂ credit limitÂ of $10,000 and a balance of $5,000, for instance, would equate to a 50% ratio, which is on the high side.
CanÂ Credit CardÂ Fees Hurt MyÂ Credit Score?
As withÂ interest charges,Â credit cardÂ fees will not directly reduce your score but may have an indirect effect. Cash advance fees, for instance, can be substantial, with manyÂ credit cardÂ companiesÂ (includingÂ Capital One) charging 3% with a $10 minimum charge. This means that every time you withdraw cash, you’re paying at least $10, even if you’re only withdrawing $10.
What many consumers don’t realize is that these fees are also charged every time you buy casino chips or pay for some other form of gambling, and every time you purchase money orders and other cash products.Â
Along with foreign transaction fees and penalty fees, these can increase your balance and yourÂ minimum payment, making it harder to make onÂ time paymentsÂ and thus increasing the risk of aÂ late payment.
Does Paying the Minimum Hurt Your Credit Score is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
How much should you spend on Christmas? Protect yourself from the financial stress that often comes with the holidays by creating a budget ahead of time.
If youâre serious about your credit score, you need to pay your bills on time. One late payment can have a devastating effect on your credit score. Hereâs what you need to know about late payments and your credit score, and what you can do to protect yourself.
How Late Payments Affect Credit Scores
Your payment history is the biggest factor in determining your credit score, so itâs imperative that you pay your bills on time whenever possible. If you do make a late payment, there are three factors that determine how much it will affect your credit score.
- Your credit score and credit history
- How long ago the late payment was
- How severe the late payment was
According to FICOâs credit damage data, one recent late payment can cause as much as a 180-point drop on a FICO score, depending on your credit history and the severity of the late payment.
Your Credit History and Late Payments
The impact of a missed payment on your credit score varies significantly depending on your circumstances. The better your credit, the more you may feel the sting of a late payment. In fact, that 180-point drop mentioned earlier is most likely to happen to an individual with excellent credit who is 90 days late on a payment. Because individuals with good and excellent credit donât have a history of risky behavior, one mistake sends up a red flag that can drop their score more dramatically.
Individuals with a shorter credit history will likely see a dramatic decrease in their score after a late payment as well. Because there is less information available on your financial behavior, a late payment is a bad sign. On the other hand, individuals with lower credit scores already have a history of risky behavior, so one more late payment wonât drop their score as much.
How Time Affects Credit
The more recent a late payment is, the more severely it will affect your credit score. A missed payment remains on your credit report for up to seven years from the date it occurred. The overall impact of the late payment diminishes over time and goes away completely when the missed payment ages off your report.
Your score won’t necessarily jump 100 points simply because a late payment ages off or is removed. Even though a late payment might have originally dropped your score by a good number, the impact of that late payment changes over time. How much your score goes up when a late payment is removed depends on a variety of factors, so youâll want to continue practicing smart financial habits like making payments on time and keeping your credit utilization low.
How Severity Affects Credit
If you missed your credit card payment by one day, you probably don’t need to sweat it. In most cases, lenders and creditors have grace periods that can range from a few days to up to 10 days. Grace periods are meant to account for minor mistakes and lag in mailing or posting payments. If your payment arrives within that time period, the lender may not count it as late.
Most lenders donât report missed payments until your account is 30 days past due. After 90 days, the effect on your credit score will be even more drastic.
Make sure to read the fine print on your account agreement, though, to know if you have a grace period. And avoid falling into the habit of relying on the grace period. If you’re used to paying your bill five days after the actual due date, you could miss the grace period if you experience a personal emergency. Also keep in mind that interest and fees may still apply during the grace period, even if your payment isnât reported as late to the credit bureaus.
How to Protect Your Credit History Against Late Payment Impact
Payment history is a huge part of your credit score. It accounts for around 35% of your scoreâover a third. Take action to ensure late payments aren’t impacting your score when they don’t need to. Here are three tips for doing so.
1. Check Your Credit Score and Report Regularly
Check your credit reports frequently to ensure late payments aren’t being reported inaccurately. A simple clerical error is enough to cause your score to go down. If you see inaccurate information on your credit reports, you can and should challenge it and ask for verification.
You can get a free credit report annually from each of the three credit bureaus. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, you can get your free credit report once a week through April 2021. When you request your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or the individual credit bureaus, you wonât also see your credit score. If you want to see both at the same time, consider signing up for ExtraCredit. Youâll see 28 of your FICO scores from all three credit bureaus, plus your credit reports from each.
2. Use Tools to Help You Make Timely Payments
Avoid late payments by using resources that ensure you make payments on time each month.
- Sign up for auto payments. Your lender may offer this option, letting you enter a credit or debit card or checking account and taking payments out of that account each month. The benefit is that you can set and forget your payments, never worrying that they’re late. The disadvantage is that you have less flexibility in when you pay each month, and you have to ensure you keep a balance in your account to cover the charges.
- Use apps or phone alarms. Remind yourself to make payments with app notifications that let you know the payment date is arriving soon. Many credit card companies and other lenders offer options for receiving such notifications directly from them.
- Make smaller, more frequent payments. If you’re struggling to save enough to cover a large bill each month, pay a portion of what’s owed every week. This can help simplify your budget, though you do need to ensure you’re not being charged convenience fees or other amounts every time you make a payment.
3. Ask for One-Time Late Payments to Be Forgiven
Life happens, and creditors are aware of this. So if you do find yourself making a one-off late payment, contact your creditor.
Apologize for the late payment, let them know it’s not a normal occurrence for you and point to your previously pristine payment history. Ask the creditor to waive late fees and interest charges as a courtesy and not report the late payment to the credit bureaus. It’s a tool you must use sparingly, but creditors may to oblige if you really do normally pay on time.
Your Credit Score Will Thank You
Making all your bill payments on time is one of the best ways to keep your credit score happy and healthy. Keep track of how youâre doing by signing up for ExtraCredit.
The post How Much Does One Late Payment Affect Credit Scores? appeared first on Credit.com.
College is expensive and everyone knows that.
Between paying for tuition, parking, textbooks, extra fees, and everything else, you also have basic living expenses to pay for as well.
All of these costs are either brand new or somewhat new to you most likely as well, so you might not even know how to survive on a budget, let alone a college budget.
Don’t worry, though, surviving on a college budget is possible. Learning how to save money in college is possible!
Related post: How I Paid Off $40,000 In Student Loans In 7 Months
Whether you are trying to survive the whole year off of what you made over the summer or if you have a steady job throughout the school year, there are ways to budget your money and not fall into any extra debt. Plus, you can still enjoy your college years on a low budget as well!
Below are my tips on how to survive on a college budget.
Use your student ID.
Your student ID is good at many places beyond just your college campus. Before you buy anything, I highly recommend seeing if a company offers a student discount.
Your student ID can be used to save money at restaurants, clothing stores, electronics (such as laptops!), at the movies, and more. You may receive a discount, free items, and more all just by flashing your student ID.
After all, you are paying to go to college and you are paying a lot. You might as well reap one benefit of paying all of those high college costs.
Make extra money.
You may need to look into making extra money if you just don’t have enough to survive on. I am a firm believer in making extra money and I think extra time can be wisely spent doing this.
Some online side gigs with flexible schedules include:
- Blogging is how I make a living and just a few years ago I never thought it would be possible. I made over $150,000 last year by blogging and will make more than that in 2015. You can create your own blog here with my easy-to-use tutorial. You can start your blog for as low as $3.49 per month plus you get a free domain if you sign-up through my tutorial.
- Survey companies I recommend include Survey Junkie, American Consumer Opinion, Product Report Card, Pinecone Research, Opinion Outpost, and Harris Poll Online. They’re free to join and free to use! It’s best to sign up for as many as you can because that way you can receive the most surveys and make the most money.
- InboxDollars is an online rewards website I recommend. You can earn cash by taking surveys, playing games, shopping online, searching the web, redeeming coupons, and more. Also, by signing up through my link, you will receive $5.00 for free!
- Swagbucks is something I don’t use as much, but I do earn Amazon gift cards with very little work. Swagbucks is just like using Google to do your online searches, except you get rewarded points called “SB” for the things you do through their website. Then, when you have enough points, you can redeem them for cash, gift cards, and more. You’ll receive a free $5 bonus just for signing up today!
- Check out 75 Ways To Make Extra Money for more ideas.
- Read Best Online Jobs For College Students
Use coupons to stay on a college budget.
Just like with the above, you may want to start using coupons.
By doing so, you can save money on nearly everything. You can find coupons in newspapers, online, and in the mail. They are everywhere so you should have no problem finding them and saving money today.
Related post: How To Live On One Income
Learn how to correctly use a credit card or don’t have one at all.
Many college students fall into credit card debt, but I don’t want you to be one of them.
Many college students will start relying on their credit cards in order to get them through their low college budget, but this can lead to thousands of dollars of credit card debt which will eventually seem impossible to get out of due to significant interest charges that keep building up.
In order to never get into this situation, you should avoid credit cards at all costs if you think you will rely on them too heavily.
You should think long and hard about whether you should have one or not. Just because many others have them doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing! However, if you think you will be good at using them, then there are many advantages of doing so.
Related post: Credit Card Mistakes That Can Lead To Debt
Only take out what you need in student loans.
Many students take out the full amount in student loans that they are approved for even if they only need half.
This is a HUGE mistake. You should only take out what you truly need, as you will need to pay back your student loans one day and you will most likely regret it later.
I know someone who would take out the max amount each semester and buy timeshares, go on expensive vacations, and more. It was a huge waste of money and I’m still not even sure why they thought it was a good idea.
Just think about it – If you take out an extra $2,000 a semester, that means you will most likely take out almost $20,000 over the time period that you are in college.
Do you really want to owe THAT much more in student loans?
Skip having a car.
Most campuses have everything you need in order to survive – food, stores, and jobs. In many cases, you do not need to have a car whatsoever.
By foregoing a car, you may save money on monthly payments, maintenance costs, car insurance, gas, and more.
Related post: Should We Get Rid Of A Car And Just Have One?
Eat out less.
Now, I’m not saying you should stop eating out entirely if you are trying to survive on a college budget. I know how it is to be in college and to want to hang out with everyone. These are your college years after all.
However, you should try to eat in as much as you can, make your own meals, and try to eat out only during happy hours or when food is cheaper, such as during lunch time. Eating out can ruin your college budget!
Have a roommate.
The more people you live with, generally the less you will pay when it comes to rent and utilities. If you are living on your own, then you may want to find roommates so that you can split the costs with them.
This will help you to lower your college budget and you may even find some awesome friends.
Related post: What I Learned Having Roommates
What college budget tips do you have?
The post Learning How To Survive On A College Budget appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.
Though the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in widespread fitness center closures, many Americans still want to stay as healthy as possible. Depending on the level of services and equipment required, staying active can affect peopleâs budgets in a variety of ways. For now, virtual exercise classes and home gyms are the route most people are taking. Eventually, though, gyms will reopen at full capacity, and everyone will be able to reestablish his or her normal workout routine. When that happens, some places will be more conducive to jumping into a full-on fitness frenzy, and SmartAsset crunched the numbers to find where they are.
To locate the most fitness-friendly places for 2021, we compared 301 metropolitan areas across the following metrics: percentage of residents who walk or bike to work, fitness professionals per 10,000 workers, fitness establishments per 10,000 establishments, the percentage of restaurants that are fast-food establishments and the average wage of personal trainers. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.
This is SmartAssetâs seventh annual study on the most fitness-friendly places in the U.S. Read the previous version here.
- Western and Midwestern metro areas populate the top. For the second straight year, cities in the Midwest and West dominate the top 10 of this list. Six metro areas are in the West and three are in the Midwest. Western metro areas do well in terms of fitness establishments per 10,000 establishments â all rank within the top 8% of study for this metric â and they also rank within the top 14% of the study for the percentage of residents who walk or bike to work. Only one metro area in the top 10 is not in either of these regions â Ithaca, New York.
- Fitness-friendly cities are light on the drive-thrus. On average, across the 301 metro areas in our study, fast-food establishments represent 45% of all restaurants. Though fast food is popular, convenient and inexpensive, it tends to be relatively high in calories and low in nutritional value â making it tougher to be healthy if you eat a lot of it, regardless of your exercise levels. In the top 10 of this study, all but three metro areas have fewer than 40% of their restaurants serving fast food, so there is less temptation to go for an easy-but-unhealthy meal that can ruin all your hard work. The metro area with the lowest percentage of restaurants that are fast food is Wenatchee, Washington, where it is just 27%.
1. Missoula, MT
The Missoula, Montana metro area is the most fitness-friendly place in the U.S. for 2021. There are 131 fitness establishments â including places like gyms and sporting goods stores â per 10,000 total establishments in Missoula, the third-highest rate for this metric in the study. There are also plenty of fitness professionals living in Missoula, 59 per 10,000 workers, placing it sixth-best for this metric. Residents in Missoula also get plenty of exercise simply by walking or biking to work: 7.1% of residents choose to do so, the 17th-highest rate for this metric across the 301 areas we studied.
2. La Crosse-Onalaska, WI-MN
The La Crosse, Wisconsin metro area, which also includes parts of Minnesota, has 130 fitness establishments for every 10,000 total establishments, the fourth-highest rate for this metric. The metro area finishes in the top quartile for three other metrics as well, ranking 28th for fitness professionals per 10,000 workers (with 42), 33rd for the percentage of residents who walk or bike to work (at 5.2%) and 64th for the percentage of restaurants that are fast-food establishments (around 39%).
3. Bend, OR
The Bend, Oregon metro area cracks the top 10 for two of our metrics. It places fourth in terms of fitness professionals per 10,000 workers with 61, and seventh for fitness establishments per 10,0000 total establishments, at 116. Bend can be a bit pricey of a place to stay in shape, though. The average hourly wage of personal trainers is $18.72, placing Bend at 176th out of 301 for this metric.
4. Ann Arbor, MI
There are 67 fitness professionals per 10,000 workers in the Ann Arbor, Michigan metro area, the second-highest rate for this metric of the 301 metro areas we analyzed. For their commutes, 7.4% of residents walk or bike to work, the 15th-highest percentage in this study. There are also plenty of fitness establishments in the metro area if you prefer to work out in a dedicated space: At 112 per 10,000 residents, this is the 10th-highest rate of the 301 places we analyzed.
5. Bloomington, IN
Folks in the Bloomington, Indiana metro area might have more of an opportunity to get a workout in during their commute, with 8.0% of residents walking or biking to work, the eighth-highest rate in the study for this metric. Bloomington has two other metrics for which it finishes in the top fifth of the 301 metro areas of the study â fitness establishments per 10,000 total establishments (ranking 48th-highest, with 93) and average wage of personal trainers (ranking 49th-lowest, which makes it cheaper for the consumer, at $14.53).
6. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA
The metro area around Santa Cruz, California finishes ninth overall for its relatively low percentage of restaurants that specialize in fast food, at 33%. Santa Cruz also comes in 12th for the percentage of residents who walk or bike to work, at 7.5%. If youâre looking for help getting in shape, though, itâll cost you. The average wage of a personal trainer in the area is a steep $20.59, ranking in the bottom third of this study.
7. Flagstaff, AZ
Flagstaff, Arizona has the third highest percentage of residents who walk or bike to work we saw in this study, at 11.5%. There are also 109 fitness establishments per 10,000 total establishments, the 14th-highest rate we observed. Flagstaff is hurt, though, by its price: The average wage of a personal trainer in this metro area is $22.27, in the bottom sixth of this study.
8. Fort Collins, CO
Fort Collins is the first of two metro areas in Colorado to rank in the top 10 of this study, and it gets there on the strength of having 113 fitness establishments per 10,000 total establishments, ranking ninth of 301 metro areas for this metric. It also scores in the top 15% of the study for the percentage of residents who walk or bike to work (5.2%) and fitness professionals per 10,000 workers (46).
9. Boulder, CO
Boulder is the second Colorado metro area in the top 10, and it has two metrics for which it finishes in the top 15 out of 301 in the study overall. It comes in 11th for fitness professionals per 10,000 workers, at 53, and 12th for the percentage of residents who walk or bike to work, at 7.5%. Its final ranking is dragged down a bit due to its bottom-10 finish for the average hourly wage for personal trainers, at a pricey $27.25. However, it still ranks in the top 20 of the study for fitness establishments per 10,000 establishments, at 105.
10. Ithaca, NY
A whopping 14.5% of residents of Ithaca, New York walk or bike to work, the second-highest percentage in this study for this metric. Ithaca finishes eighth in terms of fitness establishments per 10,000 total establishments with 114. It is very expensive to get help with fitness in Ithaca, though. The average hourly wage for a personal trainer is $29.30, finishing third-worst out of 301 metro areas in this study for its high cost.
Data and Methodology
To find the most fitness-friendly places in the country for 2021, we examined data for 301 metro areas across the following five metrics:
- Percentage of residents who walk or bike to work. Data comes from the Census Bureauâs 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
- Concentration of fitness professionals. This is the number of fitness professionals per 10,000 workers. Our list of fitness professionals includes dietitians and nutritionists, recreational therapists, athletic trainers as well as fitness trainers and aerobics instructors. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Employment Statistics and is for May 2019.
- Concentration of fitness establishments. This is the number of fitness establishments per 10,000 establishments. Our list of fitness establishments includes sporting goods stores and fitness and recreational sports centers. Data comes from the Census Bureauâs 2018 Metro Area Business Patterns Survey.
- Concentration of fast-food restaurants. This is the percentage of restaurants that are limited-service establishments. Data comes from the Census Bureauâs 2018 Metro Area Business Patterns Survey.
- Average hourly wage of personal trainers. Given the limited availability of direct data about the cost to consumers for personal training services, this metric acts as a proxy to indicate the relative affordability of hiring a personal trainer in a given metro area. Data comes from the BLS and is for May 2019.
First, we ranked each metro area in each metric. Then we found each placeâs average ranking, giving all metrics a full weight except for concentration of fast-food restaurants and average hourly wage of personal trainers, each of which received a half weight. Using this average ranking, we created our final score. The metro area with the highest average ranking received a score of 100, and the metro area with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.
Tips for a Fit and Financially Secure Life
- Find the right financial fit. No matter what your fitness goals are, financially you want to make sure you are secure, and a financial advisor can help. Finding the right financial advisor doesnât have to be hard. SmartAssetâs free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If youâre ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Consider the health of your budget. If you live somewhere where fitness is expensive, make a budget so that you can work the price into your monthly spending.
- Making bigger money moves? If youâre considering moving to one of the places we listed above, use SmartAssetâs tool to find out how much house you can afford before you make the big move.
Questions about our study? Contact email@example.com.
Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/PeopleImages
The post Most Fitness-Friendly Places for 2021 appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.
The post A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.
Â You are getting ready to send your child off to college. Before you start helping them pack their belongings, there is one thing you need to do.
You need to help them create a budget. You need to teach them how to manage their money so they can learn the tools theyâll use long after they graduate.
WHY DO COLLEGE STUDENTS NEED A BUDGET?
The truth is everyone needs a budget. It does not matter your age. If you are dealing with money, a budget is necessary.
- Allows you to control your money. Rather than your money telling you what it wants to do, you get to tell your money where it needs to go. You are always in control when you have a budget.
- It teaches financial skills. A budget helps ensure that expenses such as rent, tuition, food, insurance, transportation, and housing are paid â before spending money on the fun stuff. (It also helps to make sure you donât spend more than you make.)
- Makes you aware of where your money goes. When you use a budget, you see how you spend. It is very simple to see if too much is going toward dining out when you should be building your savings.
- Helps you track your goals. You need to cover expenses but you should also work on building savings at the same time. Your budget allows you to not only see those goals but track them in real time.
DOESNâT A BUDGET MEAN YOU CANâT HAVE FUN?
Not at all! If anything, your budget will allow you to have guilt-free fun.
For example, the budget may allow you to spend $50 a week dining out. That means you can go to dinner with friends once (possibly twice) a week and enjoy yourself. You wonât be left wondering how you are now going to make rent.
WHAT TYPE OF BUDGET SHOULD YOUR STUDENT USE?
There are various methods of budgeting such as the 50/30/20 and the zero-based budget. For most college students, the zero-based is the simplest and easiest to follow.
The reason is that you track everything. You give every penny a job. That means if you earn $1,500 for the month that you âspendâ the entire $1,500.
You will first cover the needs (food, shelter, transportation) and then your wants. If there is money âleftoverâ after this is done, it can be added to your savings.
You can use other types but if you have never budgeted before, using this method is the simplest.
WHAT SHOULD A COLLEGE STUDENT INCLUDE IN A BUDGET?
The budget will vary for each person, as the income and expense will be different. However, these are the most common categories that need to be included in a budget:
- Renterâs insurance
- Car payment
- Car insurance (also saving for annual renewal fees)
- Utilities (phone, electricity, gas, water, etc.)
- Entertainment (movies, games, concerts)
- Dining out
- Emergency fund savings
Again, you may have items that are not included above or see some that you do not need.
However, the most important thing of all is that every penny is given a job. Account for everything you will spend each month so you never have too much month and not enough money.
HOW DO YOU KEEP TRACK OF YOUR BUDGET?
For most college students, apps or digital trackers are the best options.Â But, before you rush and sign up, keep the following in mind.
- Cost. Many apps are free and they will work perfectly fine. Other apps have a monthly fee attached to them. If you plan to use one of them, make sure you include that as one of your regular expenses. However, do not let the cost alone be a single factor when it comes to clicking the sign-up button.
- Security. Your security trumps all else. You need to make sure the app uses encryption as well as two-factor authorization.
Some of the best apps include:
- You Need a Budget (YNAB)
However, your student may also like the traditional paper and pencil method â and that is OK as well.
Find the right one that works best for your student. That is all that matters.
TEACHING THEM TO BUDGET
Knowing you need a budget and where to track it is just the beginning. You need to teach your child how to budget.
Start by looking at each category that they need on their budget. You may already know the cost for each category but if not, you may need to make phone calls or do research to know.
For example, you know the rent for the apartment is $850 a month but how much are the average utilities? Ask the manager for these costs so you can include them in the budget.
Next, decide how much they want to allow themselves to spend on food. Show them how much a meal costs for a single person at each restaurant you eat at so they can create an average.
You will then have them decide how much âfun moneyâ they want to include as well. You can base this on them wanting to go to the movies two times a month, one concert a month, or attending three events.
Now you can see the expenses for your student. Add their income to the budget and deduct the expenses. They will see if they are operating in the black (money left over) or in the red (spending more than they make).
Show them how to adjust the numbers by increasing their savings or lowering the amount they can spend on clothes â until the budget equals zero. Zero meaning they are spending every penny they earn.
And making them keep track now will help ensure they stay on track well into the future.
The post A Parent’s Guide to Setting a Successful Budget for a College Student appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.