Could This Credit Boost Tip Actually End Up Hurting You?

Could This Credit Boost Tip Actually End Up Hurting You?

As a consumer, it’s only natural to want to do whatever you can to improve your credit score. After all, a better credit score translates to lower interest rates on any loans you take out, which can be the difference between hundreds or even thousands of dollars of money spent depending on the loan amount. Certainly, there are tried and true methods to credit repair, such as making a commitment to paying all of your bills on time, paying down debts, and establishing a solid credit history. But there are a few things that you can do to boost your credit score faster, and one of them is requesting an increase to your credit limit, which thereby increases your credit utilization ratio. However, if you’re not careful, a higher credit ceiling can come back to bite you. Let’s examine:

Credit Utilization Ratio Explained

Your credit utilization ratio is your debt versus your total amount of credit. So, for instance, if you have a credit card with a $10,000 limit and currently have a $5,000 balance on it, your credit utilization ratio is 50 percent. Ideally, you want to have zero balance on your credit card, but that’s not always feasible for many consumers. The thing about your credit utilization ratio however is the higher it is, the more it negatively impacts your credit score. Conversely, a low credit utilization ratio can help your credit score. Generally speaking, part of the recipe to a good credit score is keeping your credit utilization ratio at about 30 percent.

How Can a Higher Credit Allotment Help and Hurt You?

So how can a higher credit limit help improve your credit score? Say that you have one credit card, it has a limit of $5,000 and you have a balance of $2,500 on it. That’s a credit utilization ratio of 50 percent. However, if you’re able to secure a higher credit limit of, say $7,500, then your credit utilization ratio improves to 30 percent, thereby likely boosting your overall credit score.

However, this is where we have to caution you about how a higher credit allotment can also potentially hurt you as well. If you’re not disciplined with your spending and your credit card spending continues to escalate, then your 30 percent credit utilization ratio can quickly increase and you could be right back in the same situation you were in — or even worse — before your credit limit was increased. Additionally, in order to increase your allotment, your credit card company may have to do a “hard pull” on your credit report, which can cause your score to take a minor dip.

How to Benefit from a Higher Credit Allotment

You don’t want a credit boom to turn into a bust, so if you do decide to contact your credit card company to increase your limit or you’re offered a credit increase, make sure you proceed wisely. If your credit utilization is in good shape, you should even think about whether or not a credit increase is worth it. But if you do want to take advantage of the credit score bump an increase can present, here are some tips to keep it a positive on your FICO score:

  • Stay disciplined: Don’t go on a spending spree just because you can. Continue to commit to paying down your credit card balance.
  • Check your balance often: We advise regularly checking your credit card balance to make sure your credit utilization ratio is 30 percent or less.
  • See if your card issuer needs to do a hard or soft pull to increase your limit. A soft pull won’t have an effect on your credit score.

Credit Score Myths: Things That Actually Don’t Hurt Your Credit

We spend a lot of time on this blog offering credit best practice tips and suggestions, and telling you what not to do if you want to maintain a good credit score. However, credit can be a confusing topic — and whenever there’s a confusing topic, there tends to be a lot of misinformation out there on it. As it pertains to credit, there’s a lot of bad information out there about just what can and cannot hurt your score. We thought it would be fitting to take a closer look at some of the common credit score myths regarding things that people often think hurt their score, yet actually won’t. Here’s a closer look:

Fact vs. Fiction: What Won’t Hurt Your Credit Score

You might be surprised at just how silly some of what we’re about to share are, yet there’s information out there that suggest that they can have a negative effect on your credit score. Let’s dive in:

  • Library fees: Worried that any unpaid library fees will come back to bite you? Don’t. While such fines can be considered debt, they aren’t reported in the same way that unpaid bills or late payments are. Instead, library fines are reported through the municipality that they are due in. If they go unpaid for long enough, the fees may go to collections — but it won’t appear on your credit report.
  • Unpaid parking, traffic tickets: Like unpaid library fees, these are also reported via municipal records, so you’ll have to settle up with the body of government that the citation occurred in. You won’t get dinged on your credit report for this.
  • Getting married: Worried that your spouse’s sub-par credit score will haunt yours? Don’t fret — each of you have your own credit report, and while your spouse’s may be in rough shape, it won’t impact yours in any way. You don’t share a credit report, each of you have your own. It is true, however, that your spouse may have a more difficult time getting approved for a loan or may have to pay higher interest rates if both of your names are on a loan.
  • Getting laid off: Losing your job can be frustrating enough and create new kinds of worry. But a lower credit score due to an employment situation isn’t one of those worries. However, it is worth noting that job loss can make it more difficult to get a new line of credit. This is because lenders look at employment and employment history as factors to determine if you have a viable income stream to repay loans. If you don’t have a source of income, lenders will be hesitant to work with you.
  • Overdrawing your bank account: Bounce a check? Overdraft an account? In addition to any overdraft fee you may be on the hook for, rest assured that you won’t get dinged on your credit score because of this. This is because any personal banking information isn’t included on your credit report. Seeing as how your credit report dictates your score, it’s impossible for this to impact it in any way.
  • Checking your credit score: This one is half-true, as there are instances where credit inquiries may cause your score to dip, albeit minimally. This occurs during “hard inquiries,” which happen when a lender pulls your information after you’ve applied for a loan or line of credit. “Soft inquiries,” or instances where you check your own credit, don’t impact your credit score in any way.

Have you worried about any of the above impacting your credit score?

Equifax FTC Settlement: Here's what you need to know

Equifax FTC Settlement: Here’s what you need to know

Equifax FTC Settlement: Here's what you need to know

Let’s flashback to the fall of 2017 for a moment, as Equifax revealed some rather shocking news: It had been hacked.

Yes, one of the United States’ three major credit bureaus had been breached — and nearly 150 million Americans were impacted as a result. Worst yet, this was highly confidential data, as those affected potentially had their addresses, birth dates, social security numbers and more swiped by hackers, putting them at risk of long-term identity theft. The Equifax news was enough to make many Americans uneasy — and rightfully so. And though it comes as a consolation prize if you were impacted by the data breach, you’re now privy to a piece of a $700 million settlement Equifax recently reached with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Here’s a closer look at how to determine whether or not you were affected and how to claim your comeuppance if you were:

Were You Impacted?

Hopefully, you took the necessary steps to determine if you were among the 147 million consumers potentially exposed back in 2017 and took subsequent steps to safeguard your data from there. But if you didn’t, or you just want to verify your status in the Equifax mess, it’s easy to find this information. Simply go to https://eligibility.equifaxbreachsettlement.com/en/Eligibility, put in the required information and you’ll learn in seconds whether you were among those impacted by the breach. If you were compromised, read on to the next section to figure out how to claim your settlement money.

Settlement Details

So if you’ve been affected, just how do you go about getting comeuppance for the trouble this breach has caused you? There a few different things you may qualify for:

  • $125 or free credit monitoring: Minimally, if you’ve been affected, you qualify for free credit monitoring from Equifax for up to 10 years. If you already purchased this on your own following the hack, you can file a claim for a $125 reimbursement. Don’t want credit monitoring? You can get $125. It’s worth noting that due to the high filing demand in the wake of Equifax’s FTC settlement, the $125 amount may be less than what was originally anticipated. Log on to www.equifaxdatabreachsettlement.com for information on filing. You have until January 22, 2020.
  • Up to $20,000: If you lost money due to the data breach, or went through extensive legal or accounting actions in the aftermath, you can file a claim to recoup up to $20,000 as a result. However, you’ll need to provide evidence of any money lost. You can file a claim for $25 per hour up to 20 hours for any time spent responding to the data breach. But again, you’ll be asked to submit proof of these actions that warrant reimbursement. Log on to www.equifaxdatabreachsettlement.com for information on filing. Like the situation above, you have until January 22, 2020.
  • A third option is not settling with Equifax at all and holding onto your right to take further legal action in the future by asking for exclusion. Agreeing to settlements with either of the above two scenarios, and you’re essentially signing an agreement that the matter is settled and you won’t be able to sue in the future. Not settling means you can still pursue legal action. In order to retain these rights, you have to write to Equifax requesting exclusion by November 19, 2019.

If you don’t take action on either of the three above scenarios, then you’ll lose any settlement or right to legal action in the future following the respective deadlines of November 19, 2019, and January 22, 2020.

How to Keep Your Cards Safe During Vacation Travels

How to Keep Your Cards Safe During Vacation Travels

With summer season in full swing, travel is heating up. Summer is vacation season, after all — the kids are out of school, the open road is calling and you still have plenty of vacation time to use. But if you’re not careful, your summer family vacation could transform from rest and relaxation to all-out nightmare. And when we talk about being careful, we mean as it pertains to your credit cards.

Yes, credit cards remain the top way to pay for goods and services while you’re on vacation. And don’t think that local scammers in tourist hotspots don’t know this. On this note, we encourage you to do more than just the basics to keep your credit cards secure. Here’s a look at some tips for keeping your information safeguarded.

Tips to Keep Your Credit Cards Safe During Travel

  • Inquire about card security: When you’re on the road, chances are the largest expense is going to be that of your lodging accommodations. What’s more is that the hotel industry accounts for about 8 percent of all card hacks these days. Make sure that the hotel uses encryption technology when it runs your card, as this is a better safeguarder of your confidential information. Also be sure to always use a credit card — and not a debit card — on large purchases, if not every purchase. It’s much easier to report fraud and receive a timely refund than if you used debit.
  • Don’t use public Wi-Fi to access confidential sites: We get how you might need to stay connected while you’re away, but never — and we mean never! — access any confidential webpages (i.e., credit card, online banking, etc.) using public Wi-Fi. Usually such networks are far less secure and trustworthy than your home network. You never know who may be spying on it.
  • Card carrying tips: Think about where you’re storing your wallet (and credit cards) before you jet out for a day of sightseeing at your destination. Are you carrying it in your back pocket, a backpack or in a purse? You may want to think twice about this, as backpacks and purses provide easy access to thieves, and professional pick pocketers usually have no problem swiping a wallet out of your back pocket. Consider keeping your wallet in your front pocket at a minimum. If you want to further improve your wallet security, consider using a fanny pack, money belt or a shoulder strap bag.
  • Be safe around ATMs: ATMs are another hotspot for hacking activity, especially in heavy tourist areas. If you do need to pull out money to have petty cash on hand, make sure that you’re doing it near a well-lit ATM and are only accessing it during daytime hours. We’d even suggest opting for an ATM that’s located indoors rather than one out in public. Also be aware of any unusual activity around ATMs, as thieves have all kinds of tips and tricks to get your PIN number these days.
  • Use common sense: Finally, it’s worth reinforcing some common sense points to help keep your credit cards safe. For starters, slim down on your wallet so that it’s only containing the necessities. This way, you won’t be fumbling around in it to find what you need. Also, pick pocketers always zero in on the big, thick wallets. Secondly, consider contacting your bank and letting them know your travel plans. Be sure to write down important contact numbers on a piece of paper in your luggage in case your cards get swiped. This will make it much easier to cancel it. One other thing that you’ll want to do is check your credit card statement upon your return to make sure that all charges were made by you. File a fraud report immediately if something is awry.

What To Do If You Don’t Have A Credit Score

What To Do If You Don't Have A Credit Score
What To Do If You Don’t Have A Credit Score
It’s estimated that about 50 million American adults don’t have a credit score.

That’s right — not good credit, OK credit or poor credit. We’re talking no credit. And that can be a huge problem if you’re unable to pay for something like a car or a home with cash and need to take out a loan to finance it. No credit score means no loan.

There are a few reasons why you might not have any sort of credit history. Perhaps you’ve gotten into the habit of paying for everything with cash? Or maybe you’ve established lines of credit, but haven’t used them within the past two years? If you’re new to America, it’s possible that you haven’t established it yet. Whatever the reason, we’d strongly suggest you start establishing some credit roots immediately, as that three-digit number holds so much weight when it comes to your financial future. This post will take a closer look at what to do if you don’t currently have a credit score. Here’s a look:

Don’t Have a Credit Score? Do This!

No credit score? Here are some considerations for how to establish credit:

  • Get a secured credit card: Think of these as credit cards for beginners. They work just like a credit card does, except you need to have a cash deposit to back up any usage. Usually, this cash deposit you put forward is the same amount as your credit limit. Secured cards work just as how regular credit cards do for the most part. You can charge purchases and you’ll have a payment date to abide by. Any balance not paid in full is subject to interest. After you’ve dipped your feet in the water with a secured card, it’s usually pretty easy to take the next step to an unsecured one.
  • Get a retail credit card: Yes, you can get some nice perks based on the store that offers it, but the real incentive is that these are usually easier cards to get approved for — even if your credit is lacking.
  • Find a co-signer: If you don’t want to go the secured card route, consider asking a friend or family member if they’ll co-sign with you on a credit card.
  • Ask to be an authorized user on a family member’s card: Don’t want to go the co-signer route? See if someone will add you as a user on their existing credit card. This can be a great way to build credit based on that card’s total usage, whether it’s you doing the spending or not.
  • Can your rent payments help you? Many landlords use rent-reporting services, which can help their tenants build credit, especially when it comes to making on-time payments. Not every scoring formula will take this into consideration, but many do.

How To Travel and Not “Go Broke”

How to Travel and Not go Broke

How to Travel and Not go Broke

Whether you’re a snowbird escaping the cold for warmer pastures, someone who always uses their annual vacation time right away or you just regularly travel this time of year as a pick-me-up following Christmas and New Year’s, getting away at any time – let alone during the winter – is always something to look forward to. That said, nothing can quite dampen your travel experiences like coming home with bad credit or no money.

So how can you travel and not go broke? Here’s a look:

  • Plan properly: The first step to traveling in a fiscally responsible manner is budgeting appropriately. Do your research on flights, lodging, meals, entertainment, etc. to come up with an accurate ballpark number of what you’ll need, then save until you meet this magic number so you’re not just charging everything and paying it off later.
  • Look for ways to save: If you won’t be able to hit your target budget or if you want to reduce your target budget, consider cashing in airline miles to help with flight costs or hotel rewards points for lodging. You may even be able to turn any earned credit card rewards points into something related to your trip. Some memberships, like AAA, can even get you discounts at certain places. If you don’t have a rewards account set up with certain vendors, start now. You can bank the points for future trips.
  • Consider cash: If you’ve saved enough to meet your projected budget, consider pulling the money in cash and paying for some of – if not all – of your expenses that way. This is beneficial for a few reasons. One, you likely won’t spend more than what you budgeted for. And two, paying in cash also helps prevent credit card fraud. Domestic and tourist hotspots abroad alike tend to be areas where identity theft is common.
  • Know the customs: This is especially true if you’re traveling abroad, as the country and city that you’re venturing to may have different customs on tipping. While it’s common in the U.S. to tip drivers and most service industry workers, this isn’t always the case abroad. You might think that a tip here or there wouldn’t add up, but if you spend $100 on dinner every night of a 10-day trip and think that 20 percent gratuity is the norm somewhere where it’s not, you’re throwing away a few hundred dollars that you don’t need to spend.
  • Look for low price alternatives: Conventional lodging and transportation methods might not be the best for your budget. That said, look into Airbnb for lodging to see if you can get a cheaper rate, take an Uber or Lyft instead of a taxi cabs, or consider public transportation for getting around town. The savings can significantly add up.

How to Survive a Financial Hardship and Not Ruin Your Credit

How to Survive a Financial Hardship and Not Ruin Your Credit
How to Survive a Financial Hardship and Not Ruin Your Credit

While we all hope we’ll never be in a situation where it’s difficult to pay the bills, things happen. You might be furloughed due to circumstances beyond your control, like the hundreds of thousands of people out of work right now with the partial government shutdown. Or perhaps you or your spouse were laid off, let go or forced to take a sizable pay cut. Maybe an unforeseen expense is making things difficult. Even if your financial hardship is temporary, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Things can become especially dicey if you rely on your credit card to make ends meet on your bills, a strategy that can greatly raise your debt and lower your credit score.

The good news is there are certain tips and tactics you can follow if you’ve fallen on tough times to help you navigate your way through things without killing your credit score. Here’s a look at how to do it:

How to Keep Your Credit Score in Tough Times

  • Look into hardship plans with your credit card company: The credit card companies typically don’t publicize this benefit, so there’s a good chance that it’ll be up to you to initiate it. However, many companies do offer hardship plans to help people better manage their debt. Essentially, hardship plans are repayment plans specifically catered toward a particular consumer’s financial situation – and enrolling in such a plan has no direct impact on your credit. Be honest with your creditor about why you need to enroll in such a plan.
  • Stick to the necessities: You likely need to stay up on your car payments, mortgage payments, utilities and perhaps your phone bill. But your cable bill? Your Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video and other streaming services? Eating out? Your daily morning Starbucks? Those are all things you can likely live without. Don’t be afraid to cancel or put a hold on these luxuries until you can get back on your feet. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.
  • Pick up a part-time job: If you’re out of work and your unemployment benefits aren’t cutting it, don’t be too prideful to get a part-time job to help you get through the tough times. Even just bringing in a few hundred dollars more per week can help you knock out some of the essential bills you’re on the hook for. Plus, you can always leave the part-time gig as soon as you secure full-time work in your desired field once again.
  • Minimally, always make on-time payments: Even if you can only pay the minimum payment on your credit card, make sure you do it. Credit scores are largely weighed on whether or not you make on-time payments. Skipping even once can cause your score to dip – and you don’t want to get docked for something so seemingly simple to avoid.

Most of all, if you’ve fallen on hard financial times – don’t panic. Come up with a strategy of how you’re going to address your situation, then act. It’s possible to do without sacrificing your credit score.

How to Maintain Your Credit in the New Year

How to maintain your credit in the new year.
How to maintain your credit in the new year.

 

What’s your New Year’s resolution?
To go to the gym more? To eat healthier? To be more patient?

The aforementioned are all great ideas, but we’d like to propose one additional resolution that’s worth considering: repairing and maintaining your credit score. That’s right, while many focus their New Year’s resolutions on their bodily health, we’d propose you put some focus on your financial health. And there’s arguably no more important number to your financial future than that little three-digit credit score. If your credit is less than stellar, make sure that you take the necessary steps to repair it. And if your credit is in good or excellent condition, then just as important is making sure that you stay in this range. Here’s a look at some tips and tricks for maintaining your credit score:

Tips for Maintaining Your Credit Score in 2019

Maintaining and/or repairing your credit score is all about knowing where your money is going. Between bill auto-pay and the convenience of just swiping a credit card when you need items, it can be very easy to lose track of where your money is going. And too free of spending can quickly undo any credit repair you made and cause those credit card bills to escalate.

That’s why one great tip is to track all of your expenses for a month to get a better idea of where your money is going and what you’re spending it on. This will allow you to analyze said expenses, eliminate ones that are unnecessary (or not in the budget any longer), and move on from there. Simply knowing where your money is going can help you prevent overspending and allocate additional funds that could go to repay certain debt.

Here’s a look at some other credit maintenance tips:

  • Consider a money management tool: If you want to keep a closer eye on your spending – and thereby your financial health – it’s never a bad idea to consider a money management tool. If you’re self-disciplined, a great one is Mint, which can be downloaded as an app. However, you may also choose to check with your bank to see what – if any – tools it offers.
  • Shop credit cards: Think your interest rate is too high on your current credit card? Don’t be afraid to shop around and see if someone is willing to give you a lower one. You could also circle back with your current credit card company and ask for a better rate. Studies show that most people who do are successful.
  • Budget for occasional expenses: The water bill that’s due quarterly. Your taxes twice a year. Some occasional expenses have a tendency to sneak up on you, potentially leaving you scrambling for a way to pay them. That’s why we suggest opening an additional account and allocating a certain amount of money per month toward any of these occasional expenses. You’ll be glad you did when you can pay these bills without having to get creative.

Experian offering potentially higher credit scores in exchange for access to people’s bank accounts.

Your Credit Minute Show Notes:

  • 00:01                                   What’s up everyone. Nik Tsoukales here with Key Credit Repair. I’ve got some quick credit news for you, hot off the press from Housing Wire uh, yesterday morning. Um, we have Experian offering potentially high credit scores in exchange to access to people’s bank accounts, and a lot of people are wondering what this is all about. And a lot of people are wondering about some other news, that kind of coincides with this about having cell phone usage, or how you’re paying your cell phone, uh, affect your credit in a positive way.
  • 00:28                                   So, in the past, what has always happened was if you’ve made your uh, utility payments on time, um, including your cell phone payments, it didn’t report to the credit agencies. But, if you wanted to default, it quickly reported as a collection. It’s probably the number one thing that we work on here at Key Credit Repair. But, you never got the positives from it, only the negatives if things fell apart. Well, Experian today, or yesterday, uh, announced that it’s releasing a new program called Experian Boost. Kind of an interesting little uh, little program. How beneficial it’s going to be, um, kind of up for debate, because it’s only Experian’s program. Obviously, we want to see all three credit agencies, and all three credit scores looking good. Experian, Trinity and then Equifax. But even so, this is a step in the right direction.
  • 01:12                                   So essentially, what’s going to happen is you’re going to be providing Experian, and obviously this is an opt-in, you’re going to be providing Experian with your bank account information. Experian will then use some fancy software to log into your bank account and essentially analyze your transactions and look at things like utility payments, okay? They will then report those on-time payments to your utility companies, as well as your cell phone company, um, to uh, the Experian credit report. That will then get taken into account under their new FICO eight algorithm, and will potentially increase your credit scores.
  • 01:45                                   Now, let’s say you’re not making a cell phone payment, or let’s say you stopped. You get a late. That’s one of the questions we’ve been asked today about this, and the answer to that is right now, probably not. What they’re telling us is if you stopped making a payment, maybe a payment’s not due, um, what’ll happen is if you stop making those payments, 90 days later the Experian Boost program simply will not take that account, uh, will not take that account into account. So, it will no longer report to uh, the Experian credit report, so keep that in mind. So, you shouldn’t be negatively affected. Obviously, if you miss payments for 90 days, it will then go into collections anyway, so you’ll get the negative ramifications of that then.
  • 02:26                                   Um, some quick stuff. This is uh, for utility bills. Um, cell phones. Again, uh, if you stop paying, it will discontinue in 90 days. This is being used for FICO eight. Keep in mind, banks and lenders, for the purpose of mortgage lending, they’re not using FICO eight. They’re using FICO four. They’re using some prehistoric versions of the FICO algorithm. FICO eight is not the score of choice for home lending. And I say this, and I, and I warn everyone, because this is the credit score that our typical client is using to finance a home. Um, most of our clients are trying to buy a home eventually. They’re trying to become uh, homeowners from lenders, so it’s very important.
  • 03:06                                   Um, also something to keep in the back of your mind is the fact that you are linking up your bank account information to Experian. Not to say that al-, already have everything on us, uh, they already have a lot of our data, but you’re also linking up your bank account information. So, they’ll have the ability to see uh, your spending habits, and where your money’s going, so that’s something to think about as well. Do we want to share that aspect of our finances with one of the credit agencies? We all know the credit agencies do resell data, okay? They’re big marketing company as well, so that’s another thing to keep in mind. Uh, guys, this is Nick Tsoukales with Credit News Daily. I’m going to include a link here for the text, or transcript of this blog. Feel free to read through it, and feel free to email us at info@keycreditrepair.com. If you have any questions on how this could adversely affect you, or even benefit you in the future. Thanks and have a great day.
Experian offering potentially higher credit scores in exchange for access to people’s bank accounts.
Experian offering potentially higher credit scores in exchange for access to people’s bank accounts.

What’s the best way to manage your credit card spending?

Your Credit Minute Show Notes:

  • 00:00                                   Hey guys, credit question of the day coming from [Shanta Clark 00:00:03]. Thank you so much for sending us this message, um, and for giving us this post. So- so Shanta asked, “What’s the best way to manage your credit card spend?” Guys, the best way to manage it is to not use them. Call me old school. I’ve met a lot of rich people in the last 10 years and the general consensus is cash is king. Spend all the money in your pocket. Budget all you want, but if you can’t budget, don’t worry about it.
  • 00:28                                   Save some money every week out of your paycheck. Um, and then if you wanna burn through everything else, burn through. Have fun spending it. Have a ball, okay? Let’s stay away from credit card debt. There shouldn’t be credit card spending. There shouldn’t be, uh, any credit card spending management. That shouldn’t be a tool. It shouldn’t be in system … It shouldn’t be a system. If you’re caught up in the points game, you’re dead in the water already guys.
  • 00:52                                   So again, my suggestion … Um, Shanta Clark, again, thanks for your question, but my suggestion is stay away from the whole darn thing. It’s the number one wealth buster in the United States.
What’s the best way to manage your credit card spending?
What’s the best way to manage your credit card spending?