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Debt Settlement vs Bankruptcy: Which is Best?

You’ve tried debt payoff strategies, balance transfers, consolidation, and even 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.

Now what?

Once you reach the end of your rope, the options that remain are not as forgiving as debt management and they’ll do much more damage to your credit score than debt payoff strategies. However, if you’ve tried other forms of debt relief 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 eradicate credit card debt and can help with most other forms of unsecured debt as well. Bankruptcy, on the other hand, is a last resort option for debtors who can’t meet those monthly payments and have exhausted all other possibilities.

But which option is right for you, should you be looking for a debt settlement company or a 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 both debt relief options that can clear your debt, there are very few similarities, with the main one being that they both impact your credit score quite heavily.

A bankruptcy can stay on your credit report 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 your credit score 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 your credit score, but it all depends on how high your score is to begin with, as well as how many accounts you have on your credit report 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 a repayment plan 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 and debt collectors, clearing the debts with a lump sum payment that is significantly less than the balance.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

When people think of bankruptcy, it’s often a Chapter 7 that they have in mind. With a 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 a bankruptcy attorney to ensure the process runs smoothly.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is quick and complete, typically finishing in 6 months and clearing most unsecured debts in this time. There is no repayment plan to follow and no lawsuits or wage garnishment to worry about.

Chapter 13, on the other hand, focuses on a repayment plan 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 strict bankruptcy laws to follow and the bankruptcy court must determine that you have exhausted all other options and have no choice but to file.

Bankruptcy will require you to see a 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.

How Debt Settlement Works

The goal of debt settlement is to get creditors to agree to a settlement offer. This can be performed by the debtor directly, but it’s often done with help from a 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 debt settlement offers. 

The idea of making large lump sum payments 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 making monthly payments, creditors will be reluctant to accept a settled debt 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 a 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

A debt settlement program works best when dealing with credit card debt, but it can also help to clear loan debt, medical bills, and more. Providing it’s not government debt or secured debt, it will work. 

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 companies may place some demanding restrictions on you, and in the short term, this will increase your total debt and worsen your financial situation. In addition to requesting that you stop making 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 a negative impact on your life, but the end goal is usually worth it, as you’ll be debt-free within 5 years.

Pros and Cons of Debt Settlement 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. 

As mentioned already, both methods can also damage your 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 godsend—a massive weight lifted off your shoulders.

It’s also worth noting that scams exist for both options, so whether you’re filing bankruptcy or choosing a debt settlement plan, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable company/lawyer and are not being asked to pay unreasonable upfront fees. Reputable debt settlement companies will provide you with a free consultation 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 a fresh start. You can never underestimate the benefits of this, even if it comes with a reduced credit score and a derogatory mark that will remain on your credit report 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, your credit score 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 with 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. 

And even if you don’t, you’ll be forced to adopt a little restraint after the process ends as your credit score will be too low for you to apply for new personal loans and high limit cards.

Other Options for Last Ditch 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 the amount of debt you have, make sure you’ve looked into the following debt relief options before you focus on debt settlement or bankruptcy. 

Debt Consolidation

A debt consolidation loan 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 lower interest rate and a lower monthly payment. 

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.

A Debt Management Plan

Debt management combines counseling services with debt consolidation. A debt management plan requires you to continue making your monthly payment, only this will go to the debt management company and not directly to the creditors. They will then distribute the money to your creditors.

You’ll be given a monthly payment 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 one credit card (which can hurt your 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 into credit cards, you can use a balance transfer credit card to make everything more manageable. With a balance transfer credit card, you move one or more debts onto a new card, one that offers a 0% APR for a fixed period. 

The idea is that you continue making your 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 of repossession if you fail to keep up your payments, but for this, you’ll get a greatly reduced interest rate and a sum large enough to clear your debts.

Bottom Line: The Best Option

Debt settlement and bankruptcy are both considered to be last resort debt-relief 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 in credit card debt.

If not, and you can’t bear the idea of spending several months ignoring your creditors, missing payments, and accumulating 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.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

The Best Student Loan Companies For Refinancing

Refinancing your student loans can make good financial sense, and that’s 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, you’ll 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 it’s 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 isn’t 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:

  1. Splash Financial
  2. College Ave
  3. Earnest
  4. SoFi
  5. CommonBond
  6. LendKey
  7. Wells Fargo
  8. 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 Financial’s 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 you’ll 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, there’s 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

3. Earnest

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 you’ll 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, you’ll 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

4. SoFi

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

5. Commonbond

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 don’t 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

6. LendKey

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 don’t charge an origination fee.

You can use this company’s 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, you’ll 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 won’t let you refinance if you didn’t graduate from college, or even if you graduated from an “unapproved” 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. Here’s 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 you’re 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 it’s important to consider that you may not qualify for the lowest rates available if you don’t have excellent credit.

Cosigner Requirements

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 isn’t great, so make sure to ask family members if they’re 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, you’ll want to look for lenders that don’t charge these fees. Also check for hidden fees like prepayment penalties.

Discounts Available

Some student loan companies let you qualify for discounts, the most popular of which is a discount for using autopay. If you’re 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. You’ll want to make sure refinancing aligns with your long-term financial goals and your monthly budget, and it’s 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 you’ll 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 that’s 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 you’re 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 Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt Your Credit Score

Credit card bills can be confusing. If everything was straightforward and clear, credit card debt wouldn’t be such a big issue. But it’s not clear, and debt is a massive issue for millions of consumers. 

One of the most confusing aspects is the minimum payment, with few consumers understanding how this works, how much damage (if any) it does to their 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 how minimum credit card payments can impact your FICO score and your credit report.

What is a Credit Card Minimum Payment?

The minimum payment is the lowest amount you need to pay during any given month. It’s often fixed as a fraction of your total balance and includes fees and interest.  

If you fail to make this minimum payment, you may be hit with late fees and if you still haven’t paid after 30 days, your creditor will report your activity to the major credit bureaus and your credit score will take a hit.

When this happens, you could lose up to 100 points and gain a derogatory mark that remains on your credit report for up to 7 years. Making minimum payments will not result in a derogatory mark, but it can indirectly affect your credit score and we’ll discuss that a little later.

Firstly, it’s important to understand why you’re being asked to pay a minimum amount and how you can avoid it.

How Much is a Minimum Credit Card Payment?

Prior to 2004, monthly payments could be as low as 2% of the balance. This caused all kinds of problems as most of your monthly payment is interest and will, therefore, inflate every month so that every time you reduce the balance it grows back. 

Regulators forced a change when they realized that some users were being locked into a cycle of credit card 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 the minimum payment is met.

Do I Need to Make the Minimum Payment?

If you have a rolling balance, you need to make the minimum monthly payment 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 the minimum payment by clearing your balance in full.

Let’s assume that you have a brand-new credit card 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 a 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 the minimum payment 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 that minimum payment 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: A credit card 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 the credit card balance rolls over.
  • Get an Introductory Interest Rate: Many credit card issuers 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 the full balance before the intro period ends.
  • Use a Balance Transfer: If you’re in too deep and the intro rate is coming to an end, consider a balance transfer credit card. These cards allow you to move your full balance from one card (or cards) to another, taking advantage of yet another 0% APR and essentially extending the one you have.
  • Pay the Minimum: If you can’t pay the balance in full, make sure you at least pay the minimum. A missed payment or late payment can incur fees and may hurt your credit score. 

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 of credit card 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 your minimum payment and account for a sizeable percentage of that 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. 

This continues every single day, and the larger your balance is, the more interest will compound and the greater the amount will be due over the term. By paying more than your minimum payment when you can, you’re reducing the balance and slowing things down.

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt My Credit Score?

Paying the minimum amount every month ensures you are doing the bare minimum to avoid hurting your credit history or accumulating fees. However, it can indirectly reduce your score via your credit utilization ratio.

Your credit utilization ratio is a score that compares the credit limit of all available credit cards to the total debt on those cards. It accounts for 30% of your credit score and is, therefore, a very important aspect of the credit scoring process.

The more credit card debt you accumulate, the lower your credit utilization rate 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 the payment amount, however, you can bring that ratio down and improve your credit score.

You can calculate your credit utilization score by adding together the total amount of credit limits and debts and then comparing the latter to the former. A combined credit limit of $10,000 and a balance of $5,000, for instance, would equate to a 50% ratio, which is on the high side.

Can Credit Card Fees Hurt My Credit Score?

As with interest charges, credit card fees will not directly reduce your score but may have an indirect effect. Cash advance fees, for instance, can be substantial, with many credit card companies (including 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. 

Along with foreign transaction fees and penalty fees, these can increase your balance and your minimum payment, making it harder to make on time payments and thus increasing the risk of a late payment.

Does Paying the Minimum Hurt Your Credit Score is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

By: L Maea

I did a payday loan for almost $4,000 and with the interest and fees it totaled almost $6,000. I could not repay after so long due to my spouse loosing his job. Tried to work with them and do some kind of payment plan. Efforts of that failed because she was a difficult person. The owner would call and text me at random times and threaten me and call me names. Finally I received a letter stating I owe $5000. 30 days later I received a letter stating I now owe $10,000. 30 days after that I received a judgement that my wages are going to be garnished for total amount of $10,600. What can I do to go after this loan company.

Source: credit.com

Credit Card Balance Transfers

Credit card balances are crippling households across the United States, giving them insurmountable debts that just keep on growing and never seem to go away. But there is some good news, as this problem has spawned a multitude of debt relief options, one of which is a credit card balance transfer.

Balance transfers are a similar and widely available option for all debtors to clear their credit card balances, reduce their interest rate, and potentially save thousands of dollars.

How Credit Card Balance Transfers Work

A balance transfer credit card allows you to transfer a balance from one or more cards to another, reducing credit card debt and all its obligations. These cards are offered by most credit card companies and come with a 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 6, 12 or 18 months.

Consumers can use this balance transfer offer to reduce interest payments, and if they continue to pay the same sum every month, all of it will go towards the principal. Without interest to eat into their monthly payment, the balance will clear quickly and cheaply.

There are a few downsides to transferring a balance, including late fees, a transfer fee and, in some cases, an annual fee.

What Happens When You Transfer a Balance on Credit Cards?

When you transfer a balance, your new lender repays your credit card debt and moves the funds onto a new card. You may incur a transfer fee and pay an annual fee, which can increase the total debt, but transferring a balance in this way allows you to take advantage of a 0% introductory APR. While this introductory period lasts, you won’t pay any interest on your debt and can focus on clearing your credit card debt step by step.

Why are Balance Transfers Beneficial?

A little later, we’ll discuss some alternatives to a balance transfer offer, all of which can help you clear your debt. However, the majority of these methods will increase your debt in the short term, prolong the time it takes to repay it or reduce your credit score. 

A balance transfer credit card does none of these things. As soon as you accept the transfer offer, you’ll have a 0% introductory APR that you can use to eliminate your debt. The balance transfer may increase your debt liabilities slightly by adding a transfer fee and an annual fee, but generally speaking, this is one of the best ways to clear your debt.

To understand why this is the case, you need to know how credit card interest works. If you have a debt of $20,000 with a variable APR rate of 20% and a minimum monthly payment of $500, you’ll repay the debt in 67 months at a cost of over $13,000 in interest.

If you move that debt to a card with a balance transfer offer of 0% APR for 12 months, and you continue to meet the $500 minimum payment, you’ll repay $5,000 and reduce the debt to $15,000. From that point on, you’ll have a smaller balance to clear, less interest to worry about, and can clear the debt completely in just a few more years.

Of course, the transfer fee will increase your balance somewhat, but this fee is minimal when compared to the money you can save. The same applies to the annual fee that these cards charge and, in many cases, you can find cards that don’t charge an annual fee at all. 

You can even find no-fee balance transfer cards, although these are rare. The BankAmericard credit card once provided a no fee transfer offer to all applicants, in addition to a $0 annual fee. However, they changed their rules in 2018 and made the card much less appealing to the average user.

Pros and Cons of Credit Card Balance Transfers

From credit score and credit limit issues to a high variable APR, late fees, and cash advance fees, there are numerous issues with these cards. However, there are just as many pros as there are cons, including the fact that they can be one of the cheapest and fastest ways to clear debt.

Pro: 0% Introductory APR

The 0% APR on balance transfers is the best thing about these credit cards and the reason they are so beneficial. However, many cards also offer 0% APR on purchases. This means that if you continue to use your card after the transfer has taken place, you won’t be charged any interest on the new credit.

With most cards, the 0% APR on purchases runs for the same length of time as the balance transfer offer. This ensures that all credit you accumulate upon opening the account will be subject to the same benefits. Of course, accumulating additional credit is not wise as it will prolong the time it takes you to repay the debt.

Pro: Can Still Get Cash Rewards

While cash rewards are rare on balance transfer cards, some of the better cards still offer them. Discover It is a great example of this. You can earn cash back every time you spend, even after initiating a balance transfer. The cash rewards scheme is one of the best in the industry and there is also a 0% APR on balance transfers during an introductory period that lasts up to 18 months.

Pro: High Credit Limit

A balance transfer card may offer you a high credit limit, one that is large enough to cover your credit card debt. You will need a good credit score to get this rate, of course, but once you do your credit card debt will clear, you can repay it, and then you’ll have a card with a high credit limit and no balance.

Throw a rewards scheme into the mix (as with the Discover It rewards card) and you’ll have turned a dire situation into a great one.

Con: Will Reduce Credit Score

A new account opening won’t impact your credit score as heavily as you may have been led to believe. In fact, the impact of a new credit card or loan is minimal at best and any effects usually disappear after just a few months. However, a balance transfer card is a different story and there are a few ways it can impact your score.

Firstly, it could reduce your credit utilization ratio. This is the amount of credit you have compared to the amount of debt you have. If you have four credit cards each with a credit limit of $20,000 and a debt of $10,000 then your score will be 50%. If you close all of these and swap them for a single card where your credit limit matches your debt, your score will be 100%.

Your credit utilization ratio points for 30% of your total FICO score and can, therefore, do some serious damage to your credit score.

Secondly, although FICO has yet to disclose specifics, a maxed-out credit card can also reduce your score. By its very nature, a balance transfer card will be maxed out or close to being maxed out, as it’s a card opened with the sole purpose of covering this debt.

Finally, if you close multiple accounts and open a new one, your account age will decrease, thus reduce your credit score further.

Con: Transfer Free

The transfer fee is a small issue, but one worth mentioning, nonetheless. This is often charged at between 3% and 5% of the total balance, but there are also minimum amounts of between $5 and $10, and you will pay the greater of the two.

This can sound like a lot. After all, for a balance transfer of $10,000, 5% will be $500. However, when you consider how much you can save over the course of the introductory period, that fee begins to look nominal.

There may also be an annual fee to consider, but if your score is high enough and you choose one of the cards listed in this guide, you can avoid this fee.

Con: Late Fees and Other Penalties

In truth, all credit cards will charge you a fee if you’re late and you will also be charged a fee every time you make a cash advance. However, the fees may be higher with balance transfer cards, especially if those cards offer generous benefits and rewards elsewhere. It’s a balancing act for the provider—an advantage here means a disadvantage there.

Con: High APR on Purchases

While many balance transfer cards offer a 0% APR on purchases for a fixed period, this rate may increase when the introductory period ends. The resulting variable APR will often be a lot larger than what you were paying before the transfer, with many credit cards charging over 25% or more on purchases.

Which Credit Cards are Best for Clearing Credit Card Debt?

Many credit card issuers have some kind of balance transfer card, but it’s worth remembering that credit card companies aren’t interested in offering these cards to current customers. You’ll need to find a new provider and if you have multiple cards with multiple providers, that can be tricky. 

Run some comparisons, check the offers against your financial situation, and pay close attention to late fees, APR on purchases, cash rewards, and the length of the 0% introductory APR rate. 

You’ll also need to find a card with a credit limit high enough to cover your current debt, and one that accepts customers with your credit score. This can be tricky, but if you shop around, you should find something. If not, focus on increasing your credit score before seeking to apply again.

Here are a few options to help you begin your search for the most suitable balance transfer card:

Discover It

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 18 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 6 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 24.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 5% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.24% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

Citi Simplicity

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 21 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 5% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 12 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 26.24% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Bank of America Cash Rewards

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Capital One Quicksilver

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: No

Capital One SavorOne

  • Balance Transfer Offer: 15 Months
  • Transfer Fee: 3% on transfers
  • Purchases APR: 0% for 15 months
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Rate: Up To 25.49% Variable APR
  • Rewards: Yes

How to Clear Debt with a Balance Transfer Card

From the point of the account opening to the point that the introductory period ends, you need to focus on clearing as much of the balance as possible. Don’t concern yourself with a variable APR rate, annual fee or other issues and avoid additional APR on purchases by not using the card. Just put all extra cash you have towards the debt and reduce it one step at a time.

Here are a few tips to help you clear debt after you transfer a balance:

Meet the Monthly Payment

First things first, always meet your minimum payment obligations. The 0% APR on balance transfers protects you against additional interest, but it doesn’t eliminate your repayments altogether. If you fail to meet these payments, you could find yourself in some serious hot water and may negate the balance transfer offer.

Increase Payment Frequency

It may be easier for you to repay $250 every two weeks as opposed to $500 every month. This will also allow you to use any extra funds when you have them, thus preventing you from wasting cash on luxury purchases and ensuring it goes towards your debt.

Earn More

Ask for a pay rise, take on a part-time job, work as a freelancer—do whatever it takes to earn extra cash during this period. If you commit everything you have for just 12 to 18 months you can get your troublesome debt cleared and start looking forward to a future without debt and complications, one where you have more money and more freedom.

Sell Up

It has never been easier to sell your unwanted belongings. Many apps can help you with this and you can also sell on big platforms like Facebook, eBay, and Amazon. 

Sell clothes, electronics, books, games, music—anything you no longer need that could earn you a few extra dollars. It all goes towards your debt and can help you to clear it while your introductory APR is active.

Don’t Take out a Personal Loan

While you might be tempted to use a loan to cover your debt, this is never a good idea. You should avoid using low-interest debt to replace high-interest debt, even if the latter is currently under a 0% introductory APR. 

It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of swapping one debt for another, and it’s a cycle that ultimately leads to some high fees and even higher interest rates.

Focus on the Bigger Picture

Debt exists because we focus too much on the short-term. Rather than dismissing the idea of buying a brand-new computer we can’t afford, we fool ourselves into believing we can deal with it later and then pay for it with a credit card. This attitude can lead to persistent debt and trap you in an inescapable cycle and it’s one you need to shed if you’re going to transfer a balance.

Instead of focusing on the short term, take a look at the bigger picture. If you can’t afford it now, you probably can’t afford it later; if you can’t repay $10,000 worth of debt this year, you probably can’t handle $20,000 next year.

Alternatives to Credit Card Balance Transfers

If you have the cash and the commitment to pay your credit card debt, a balance transfer card is perfect. However, if you have a low credit score and use the card just to accumulate additional debt and buy yourself more time, it will do more harm than good. In that case, debt relief may be the better option.

These programs are designed to help you pay your debt through any means possible. There are several options available and all these are offered by specialist companies and providers, including banks and credit unions. As with balance transfer cards, however, you should do your research in advance and consider your options carefully before making a decision.

Pay More Than the Minimum

It’s an obvious and perhaps even redundant solution, but it’s one that needs to be mentioned, nonetheless. We live in a credit hungry society, one built on impulsive purchases and a buy-now-care-later attitude. A balance transfer card, in many ways, is part of this, as it’s a quick and easy solution to a long and difficult problem. And like all quick patches, it can burst at the seams if the problem isn’t controlled.

The best option, therefore, is to try and clear your debts without creating any new accounts. Do everything you can to increase your minimum payment every month. This will ensure that you pay more of the principal, with the minimum payment covering your interest obligations and everything else going towards the actual balance.

Only when this fails, when you genuinely can’t cover more than the minimum, should you look into opening a new card.

Debt Consolidation

Balance transfers are actually a form of debt consolidation, but ones that are specifically tailored to credit card debt. If you have multiple types of debt, including medical bills, student loans, and personal loans, you can use a consolidation loan to clear it.

This loan will pay off all of your debts and then give you a new one with a new provider. The provider will reduce your monthly payment and may even reduce your interest rate, allowing you to pay less and to feel like you’re getting a good deal. However, this is at the expense of a greatly increased loan term, which means you will pay considerably more over the duration of the loan.

As with everything else, a debt consolidation loan is dependent on you having a good credit score and the better your financial situation is, the better the loan rates will be.

Debt Management

Debt management can help if you don’t have the credit history required for debt consolidation. Debt management plans are provided by companies that work with your creditors to repay your debts in a way that suits you and them. You pay the debt management company, they pass your money on, and in return, they request that you abide by many strict terms and conditions, including not using your credit cards.

Many debt management programs will actually request that you close all but one of your credit cards and only use that one card in emergencies. This can greatly reduce your credit score by impacting your credit utilization ratio. What’s more, if you miss any payments your creditors may renege on their promises and revert back to the original monthly payments.

Debt Settlement

The more extreme and cheaper option of the three, but also the riskiest. Debt settlement works well with sizeable credit card debt and is even more effective if you have a history of missed payments, defaults or collections. A debt specialist may request that you stop making payments on your accounts and instead put your money into a secured account run by a third-party provider.

They will then contact your creditors and negotiate a settlement amount. This process can take several years as they’re not always successful on the first attempt but the longer they wait, the more desperate your creditors will become and the more likely they will be to accept a settlement.

Debt settlement is one of the few options that allows you to pay all your debt for much less than the original balance. However, it can harm your credit score while these debts are being repaid and this may impact your chances of getting a mortgage or a car loan for a few years.

Credit Card Balance Transfers is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Which cards earn American Express rewards points?

Information about the Amex Everyday Preferred Card and American Express Blue Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy.

#American Express offers a large array of cards – including everyday spending cards, travel cards, business cards and co-branded cards – that let you earn Membership Rewards points. It can be confusing to try to sift through all the offerings and figure out where all the bonuses lie, so we’ve sorted it out for you.

Here’s a breakdown of the cards:

American Express Membership Rewards consumer credit cards

Rewards rate Introductory bonus Annual fee

Blue from American Express card

  • 2 points per dollar for eligible travel purchases booked through AmexTravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on every purchase (Terms apply)
None
$0

Amex Everyday Preferred card

  • 3 points per dollar at U.S. supermarket purchases ($6,000 yearly purchase limit)
  • 2 points per dollar U.S. gas stations
  • 1 point per dollar other purchases
  • 50% bonus points when you make 30+ purchases per month
  • Terms apply
15,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months (Terms apply)
$95

American Express® Green Card

  • 3 points per dollar on travel, transit and restaurants worldwide
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply
30,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months (Terms apply) $150

American Express® Gold Card

  • 4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide
  • 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases per year, then 1x)
  • 3 points per dollar on directly booked flights
  • 1 point per dollar other purchases
  • Terms apply
60,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 6 months (Terms apply) $250

The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel
  • 5 points per dollar on eligible hotels booked with American Express Travel
  • 1 point per dollar other purchases
  • Terms apply
  • 75,000 points if you spend $5,000 in first 6 months (Terms apply)
  • 10 points per dollar on eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets (on up to $15,000 in combined purchases) in first 6 months
$550

American Express Membership Rewards business credit cards

Rewards rate Introductory bonus Annual fee

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

  • 2 points per dollar on first $50,000 in purchases each year
  • 1 point per dollar thereafter
  • Terms apply
None $0

Business Green Rewards Card from American Express

  • 2 points per dollar on travel booked through American Express Travel
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply
15,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months (Terms apply) $0 intro first year, then $95

American Express® Business Gold Card

  • 4 points per dollar on two categories where your business spends the most ($150,000 yearly purchase limit)
  • 1 point per dollar other purchases
  • Terms apply
35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Gold Card within the first 3 months. (Terms apply) $295

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

  • 5 points per dollar on directly booked flights and prepaid hotels through Amextravel.com
  • 2 points per dollar on travel booked through American Express travel
  • 1.5 points per dollar on qualifying purchases of $5,000 or more
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply
85,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months (Terms apply) $595

Entry-level cards

The Blue from American Express card is an entry-level card for newbies with less-than-stellar credit scores. The card offers a paltry rate of 1 point per dollar of spending and 2 points per dollar on American Express Travel purchases and no introductory bonus. Plus, unlike other Membership Rewards cards, it doesn’t allow you to transfer points to an outside loyalty program. But you can qualify for the card with a merely average credit score, so it may be a good starting point if you can’t qualify for any other American Express card.

Everyday spending cards

Everyday spending is not a strong point in the Membership Rewards program, but Amex does offer a card that lets you earn bonus points on everyday purchases.

The American Express Everyday Preferred card gives you 3% back on U.S. supermarket purchases (up to $6,000 in purchases per year), 2% back on U.S. gas station purchases and 1% back on other purchases, plus a 50% point bonus whenever you use your card at least 30 times in a month, for a $95 annual fee (waived the first year). That’s a very generous grocery bonus – amounting to 4.5% back if you trigger the bonus every month – but it’s unfortunately capped at $6,000 in purchases, and the requirement to use the card 30 times each month is onerous.

In fact, the requirements to earn the full bonus are stringent. Unless you use the card for most of your spending, you probably will have a difficult time mustering 30 separate purchases on a single card each month. In other words – if you’re not all about earning Membership Rewards points – this is probably not the card for you.

Travel cards

American Express is the pioneer of travel rewards cards, and its offerings are strongest in this category. You have three levels of card to choose from – all of which offer extensive travel perks, bonuses focused on travel purchases and high annual fees.

The American Express Green card – the lowest tier card – is a good introduction to American Express travel benefits. The card offers a good earning rate on travel, transit and dining purchases: You earn 3x points on a wide array of travel and transit purchases, including airfare, hotel stays, subways, tolls and more. You also earn 3x points on purchases at restaurants worldwide. The remainder of your purchases earn 1 point per dollar. The card also offers a couple of fairly valuable credits, including up to $100 toward CLEAR membership and up to $100 for LoungeBuddy lounge access each year.

The card comes with a lower $150 annual fee. Altogether, it’s not a bad deal, though can find other starter travel cards with lower fees and better rewards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card*. Also, if you’re able to foot a $150 fee, you should ask yourself whether it’s worth doling out a little extra to get much better rewards and benefits with Amex’s higher tier travel cards.

The American Express® Gold Card is a good value for middle-of-the road cardholders and comes with a $250 annual fee that’s relatively affordable, though on the high side for the level of rewards that it offers. You earn bonus points on both travel and everyday purchases – 4x at restaurants worldwide and on the first $25,000 in U.S. supermarket purchases each year, 3x on flights booked directly with the airlines and 1x on other purchases. You also get a decent 60,000-point bonus for spending $4,000 in the first six months.

And then comes the king of travel cards – the American Express Platinum card – offering a stellar 75,000-point introductory bonus (after spending $5,000 in the first six months), a litany of travel benefits and an outsized $550 annual fee. The Platinum card is squarely aimed at heavy travelers – you earn a massive 5% bonus on flights and hotels and you get some very generous travel credits, including a $200 airline fee credit, a $100 credit every four years for Global Entry, a $100 hotel fee credit and up to $200 worth of Uber credits. Also, the card grants you free lounge access – probably the most extensive lounge access package that any credit card has to offer – including Priority Pass lounges and ultra-posh Centurion lounges. The Platinum card is not for the casual traveler; however, if you travel frequently you can get more than $550 of value out of the Platinum card.

Business cards

American Express also has several business card offerings that offer American Express benefits for business owners and bonus points on business purchases. These cards are a great opportunity to earn additional introductory bonuses for cardholders who have exhausted the introductory bonuses on Amex’s consumer line of cards.

Note, too, that you don’t have to be the owner of a brick-and-mortar business to qualify for a business card; independent contractors of all sorts may qualify.

The Blue Business Plus card is an excellent option for earning bonus points on everyday purchases – you get a 2x point bonus on your purchases, up to $50,000 each year (1x thereafter). Moreover, the card doesn’t charge an annual fee.

Like the consumer version of the card, the Business Green Rewards Card offers an insipid rewards rate of 2x points on eligible American Express Travel purchases and 1 point on the rest of your purchases, for a $95 fee. On the plus side, the annual fee is waived for the first year, and it currently comes with an offer of 15,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months.

The Business Gold Card rewards your highest spend in two 4x bonus categories – which can include dining, gas, travel and common business purchases.

The American Express Business Platinum card offers many of the same benefits – including lounge access – as the regular Platinum card. Unforutnately, the card doesn’t offer a $200 credit for Uber rides. However, it does have one feature to its advantage: You can earn 35% of your points back when you use them for flights on a qualifying airline that you designate at the beginning of each year (when flight is booked on amextravel.com).

Essentially, you can boost the value of your points to 1.35 cents per point if you use them the right way – that’s a much better value than the consumer version of the card. Also, the card offers several generous credits targeted to business professionals: You get up to $200 each year on Dell purchases, and up to $200 in statement credits each calendar year for baggage fees and other incidentals at one selected qualifying airline. The value of the added perks can help to outweigh the card’s $595 annual fee.

Co-branded Membership Rewards cards

If the above list of Membership Rewards cards hasn’t already boggled your mind, American Express offers several co-branded cards that give you additional options for category bonuses and – most notably – additional options for earning introductory bonuses.

American Express Membership Rewards co-branded credit cards

Rewards rate Introductory bonus Annual fee
Mercedes Benz card

Mercedes-Benz card

  • 5% select Mercedes-Benz purchases
  • 1% other purchases
  • Terms apply
10,000 points if you spend $100 in first 3 months (Terms apply) $95
Ameriprise gold card

Ameriprise Financial Gold card

  • 2% U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines
  • 1% other purchases
  • Terms apply
25,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months (Terms apply) $160, $0 first year
Ameriprise platinum card

Ameriprise Financial Platinum card

  • 5% flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel
  • 5% eligible hotels booked with American Express Travel
  • 1% other purchases
  • 5,000 points for every 20,000 in purchases, up to 30,000 points each year
  • Terms apply
None $550, $0 first year
Morgan Stanley card

Morgan Stanley card

  • 2% U.S. restaurants, select U.S. department stores, select car rental companies and directly purchased airfare
  • 1% other purchases
  • Terms apply
10,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months (Terms apply) $0
Chase Ink Business Preferred card

Morgan Stanley Platinum card

  • 5% flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel
  • 5% eligible hotels booked with American Express Travel
  • 1% other purchases
  • Terms apply
60,000 points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months (Terms apply) $550
Schwab Platinum card

Schwab Platinum card

  • 5% flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel
  • 5% eligible hotels booked with American Express Travel
  • 1% other purchases
  • Terms apply
60,000 points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months (Terms apply) $550

Outside of its Mercedes-Benz card – which offers a bonus on Mercedes-Benz purchases – most of these cards are tied to financial institutions and require that you have a qualifying account to apply for the card. If you can pass that hurdle, there’s a major plus to qualifying for one of these cards: They’re all considered to be separate cards from American Express’s consumer and business line of cards, which means – if you’ve already earned the bonuses on the Gold and Platinum cards – you have additional options for earning a 50,000- to 60,000-point bonus.

Which American Express card should you apply for?

Membership Rewards cards aren’t for everyone. The rewards are focused on travel purchases and the best asset of the American Express travel rewards program is its travel perks – including lounge access – rather than travel rewards. In other words, you need to be a frequent traveler to really reap the benefits of the Membership Rewards program. That said, if you fit the bill and want to maximize your points, you should consider signing up for the following:

An everyday spending card – Membership Rewards cards are not the strongest candidates for maximizing rewards on everyday spending, but if you are trying to rack up Membership Rewards points, you’ll probably want to sign up for the Amex Preferred Everyday card. If you don’t mind the $95 annual fee and you are able to use the card 30-plus times each month, the Amex Everyday Preferred card may be your best bet – with its 50% bonus, you can earn up to 4.5% back on your first $6,000 in grocery purchases and 3% back on gas purchases.

A travel card – If you travel frequently enough to use all of its credits and travel perks, the Platinum card is an exceptional value, even with its $550 annual fee. Or, if you qualify as a business owner, you might want to go with the Business Platinum card, since it’s possible to get a 35% bonus on all your redemptions for airfare with your selected, qualifying airline – you’ll need to do some math to decide which card offers the better value for you.

Note, if you don’t want to dole out the high annual fee for either of the Platinum cards, you might go with the American Express Gold Card instead – it can serve as both a travel and everyday card since it offers bonuses on flights, restaurants and U.S. supermarket purchases.

A flat-rate spending card – You should also consider adding the Blue Business Plus card to your wallet. You can rotate it with your other cards to earn a 2x point bonus on the purchases that don’t fit under any other bonus category.

One other very important consideration is timing. American Express has a very strict policy on earning introductory bonuses, only allowing you to earn the bonus on a particular card once in your lifetime. This means if you want to earn the most bonus points possible, you’ll want to keep a close eye on the value of the introductory bonus for each card and apply when the bonus is higher than average.

See related: Best ways to spend American Express points

*All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. This offer is no longer available on our site.

Source: creditcards.com

Does Refinancing Hurt Your Credit?

Before you make any big financial decision, it’s crucial to learn how it may affect your credit score. If you’re looking to refinance, it’s natural to wonder if it might hurt your credit.

Typically, your credit health will not be strongly affected by refinancing, but the answer isn’t always black and white. Whether you’re still considering your options or already made your choice, we’ve outlined what you need to know about refinancing below.

What Is Refinancing?

Refinancing is defined by taking on a new loan to pay off the balance of your existing loan balance. How you approach a refinancing decision depends on whether it’s for a home, car, student loan, or personal loan. Since refinancing is essentially replacing an existing debt obligation with another debt obligation under different terms, it’s not a decision to take lightly.

If you’re worried about how refinancing will affect your credit health, remember that there are multiple factors that play into whether or not it hurts your credit score, but the top three factors are:

1) Having a Solid Credit Score

You won’t be in a strong position to negotiate refinancing terms without decent credit.

2) Earning Sufficient Income

If you can’t prove that you can keep up with loan payments after refinancing, it won’t be possible.

3) Proving Sufficient Equity

You’ll also need to provide assurance that the payments will still be made if your income can’t cover the cost. It’s recommended that you should have at least a 20 percent equity in a property when refinancing a home.

 

criteria-for-being-able-to-refinance-successfully

 

How Does Refinancing Hurt Your Credit?

Refinancing might seem like a good option, but exactly how does refinancing hurt your credit? In short, refinancing may temporarily lower your credit score. As a reminder, the main loan-related factors that affect credit scores are credit inquiries and changes to loan balances and terms.

Credit Inquiries

Whenever you refinance, lenders run a hard credit inquiry to verify your credit score. Hard credit inquiries typically lower your credit scores by a few points. Try to avoid incurring several new inquiries by using smart rate shopping tactics. It also helps to get all your applications in during a 14–45 day window.

Keep in mind that credit inquiries made during a 14–45 day period could count as one inquiry when your scores are calculated, depending on the type of loan and its scoring model. Regardless, your credit won’t be permanently damaged because the impact of a hard inquiry on your credit decreases over time anyway.

Changes to Loan Balances and Terms

How much your credit score is impacted by changes to loan balances and terms depends on whether your refinanced loan is reported to the credit bureaus. Lenders may report it as the same loan with changes or as an entirely new loan with a new open date.

If your loan from refinancing is reported as a new loan, your credit score could be more prominently affected. This is because a new or recent open date usually means that it is a new credit obligation, therefore influencing the score more than if the terms of the existing loan are simply changed.

How Do Common Types of Refinancing Affect Your Credit?

Refinancing could help you pay off your loans quicker, which could actually improve your credit. However, there are multiple factors to keep in mind when refinancing different types of loans.

 

main-types-of-refinancing-that-can-affect-your-credit

 

Refinancing a Mortgage

Refinancing a mortgage has the biggest potential impact on your credit health, and it can definitely affect your FICO score. How can you prevent refinancing from hurting your credit too much? Try concentrating your credit inquiries when you shop mortgage rates to a 14–45 day window — this will help prevent multiple hard inquiries. Also, you can work with your lenders to avoid having them all run your credit, which could risk lowering your credit score.

If you’re unsure about when to refinance your mortgage, do your research to capitalize on the best timing. For example, refinancing your mortgage while rates are low could be a viable option for you — but it depends on your situation. Keep in mind that losing your record of paying an old mortgage on time could be harmful to your credit score. A cash-out refinance could be detrimental, too.

Refinancing an Auto Loan

As you figure out if refinancing your auto loan is worth it, be sure to do your due diligence. When refinancing an auto loan, you’re taking out a second loan to pay off your existing car debt. In some cases, refinancing a car loan could be a wise move that could reduce your interest rate or monthly payments. For example, if you’re dealing with an upside-down auto loan, you might consider refinancing.

However, there are many factors to consider before making an auto loan refinancing decision. If the loan with a lower monthly payment has a longer term agreement, will you be comfortable with that? After all, the longer it takes to pay off your car, the more likely it is to depreciate in value.

Refinancing Student Loans

When it comes to student loan refinancing, a lower interest rate could lead to major savings. Whether you’ve built up your own strong credit history or benefit from a cosigner, refinancing can be rewarding.

Usually, you can refinance both your federal and private student loans. Generally speaking, refinancing your student loans shouldn’t be detrimental in the grand scheme of your financial future. However, be aware that refinancing from a federal loan to a private loan will have an impact on the repayment options available to you. Since federal loans can offer significantly better repayment options than private loans, keep that in mind before making your decision.

Pros Cons
If the cost of borrowing is low, securing a lower interest rate is possible Credit scores can drop due to credit checks from lenders
If your credit score greatly improved, you can refinance to get a better rate Credit history can be negatively affected by closing a previous loan to refinance
Refinancing a loan can help you lower expenses in both the short term and long term Refinancing can involve fees, so be sure to do a cost-benefit analysis

How to Prevent Refinancing from Hurting Your Credit

By planning ahead, you can put yourself in a position to not let refinancing negatively affect your credit and overall financial health.

Try to prepare by reading your credit reports closely, making sure there are no errors that could keep your credit application from being approved at the best possible rate. Stay one step ahead of any errors so you still have time to dispute them. As long as you take preventative measures in the refinancing process to save yourself time and money, you shouldn’t find yourself struggling with the refinancing.

If refinancing makes sense for your situation, you shouldn’t be concerned about it hurting your credit. It might not be the most ideal situation, but it’s extremely common and typically relatively easy for your credit score to bounce back.

If you notice that your new loan from refinancing causes alarming changes when you check your credit score, be sure to reach out to your creditor or consider filing a dispute. As long as you’re prioritizing your overall financial health through smart decision making and budgeting, refinancing shouldn’t adversely hurt your credit in the long run.

 

 

 

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Source: mint.intuit.com