score can affect many aspects of your lifeâfrom getting a loan to getting a
job or getting a house. Good credit is necessary for sound finances and many
major purchases. But there are no quick fixes or shortcuts to building good
credit. You must start by establishing credit, then embrace responsible credit
habits over time. This helps you create a record that shows lenders you’re a
low risk and a desirable customer.
The following tips for building your credit help you understand and improve on the key factors that the three major credit bureaus use to calculate your credit score. By following these smart financial guidelines, you can demonstrate your credit worthiness. That makes you a more desirable customer and borrower for many businesses and lenders.
1. Review Your Credit Report
In order to build your credit, you have to understand it. Start by regularly reviewing your credit reports. You can request your free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus and assess your credit as it stands right now. Review the following:
Amount of credit you’re using
Mix of credit account types
Our free Credit Report Card can help you understand what is in your credit report and how those things affect your credit score. Our report card will help you identify areas that need improvement and help you make a plan to address these issues.
2. Dispute Errors and Inaccuracies
As you review your reports, keep an eye out for any errors. Credit report errors are not uncommon. In fact, a Fair Credit Reporting study found that one in four consumers found mistakes on their reports that can hurt their scores. You have the right to dispute those errors and fix your credit report. You can do credit repair on your own or hire a credit repair company to help you.
3. Keep Credit Accounts Open and In Good Standing
If you already have available credit, keep the accounts
open. Older credit accounts help assign a credit
age, which makes up 15% of your score. Closing an old account makes it look
like you didn’t start establishing credit until later, which can lower your
And if you close a credit card, you also lose valuable
available credit for your utilization rate. It may be better to keep the card
open to support a lower debt-to-credit ratioâjust don’t run up the balance.
Make small purchases two to three times per year and pay them off during the
following billing cycle.
4. Make On-Time Payments
Making on-time payments is one of the most important
things you can do to build your credit. Your payment
history accounts for 35% of your credit score. It tells lenders and
potential employers how reliable you are. Missed payments are serious signs of
trouble. Charge offs and defaulted accounts say you can’t be trusted to repay
your debts as promised.
If you are newly establishing credit, avoid late payments
and other poor payment habits. This is one of the two most impactful factors
for building good credit. If you already have a poor payment history, commit to
changing now. Over time, those old payments will have less impact. Eventually,
they’ll even fall off your report.
5. Use a Maximum of 30% of the Credit Available to You
Ironically, lenders would rather not give you credit if
it looks like you need it or you like using it too much. That may seem
counterproductive, since they make their money off loan interest and fees. But
using too much of your available credit is a warning sign.
Maxing out your cards and lines of credit may point to
problems with spending, debt and income. That worries creditors, since it means
you may stop paying your loans. That’s why your utilization rate is a vital
part of your credit scoreâaccounting for 30% of the calculation in most scoring
desirable utilization rate is less than 10% of your available credit. At
most, keep it under 30%. If you make any large purchases on your revolving
credit accounts, pay them off as quickly as possible to keep your utilization
6. Open Different Types of Credit Accounts
Having a mix of credit types is a good demonstration of
creditworthiness. This factor contributes 10% to your credit score. There are three
types of credit accounts to consider:
Revolving accountsâcredit cards and lines of credit. They have a credit limit and require regular payments.
Installment accountsâstudent loans, car loans, mortgages and personal loans. The lender provides a lump sum, and you make payments until the debt is paid off.
Open creditâcharge cards, utilities and cellphone services. With charge cards, you have a credit limit, and you can make purchases and cash advances, but you don’t carry a balance. With open credit accounts, you need to pay off your charges each month.
To build credit, work toward maintaining an account
from each of these categoriesâas long as you can afford them.
7. Open a Secured Line of Credit
It may be difficult to build credit if you haven’t
established a credit history yet. If you have poor or fair credit, it may also
be hard to get approval for traditional credit cards or loans. However, secured
lines of creditâlike secured
credit cards and secured
personal loansâcan help you get started on your path to good credit.
OpenSkyÂ® Secured VisaÂ® Credit Card
on Capital Bank’s secure website
Snapshot of Card Features
No credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.
The refundable* deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card. Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.
Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
99% of our customers who started without a credit score earned a credit score record with the credit bureaus in as little as 6 months.
We have a Facebook community of people just like you; there is a forum for shared experiences, and insights from others on our Facebook Fan page. (Search âOpenSky Cardâ in Facebook.)
OpenSky provides credit tips and a dedicated credit education page on our website to support you along the way.
*View our Cardholder Agreement located at the bottom of the application page for details of the card
Card Details +
To get a secure line of credit, you will need to put up
some form of collateralâusually cash, a savings account, or other personal
property. With this credit option, you may get a decent interest rate. The
lender’s risk is lowered due to your secured asset. This means they don’t need
to charge a much higher interest rate, as is common with poor credit.
8. Limit Credit Inquiries
Be careful when applying for new credit. You don’t want
more than two hard
inquiries every six months or so. Too many requests for credit can look bad
to potential lenders. These inquiries account for 10% of your score. Only apply
for credit if it can help improve your score through one of the methods
discussed above or is necessary for making a large purchase such as a home or
When you do apply, comparison shop. Carefully weigh all
the terms and the chances that you will qualify for the card or loan on offer.
Then, choose only one or two and apply. If you’re turned down, don’t try again
for at least six months.
Build Your Credit
These personal tips can help you build credit and work on improving poor or fair credit. Building good credit habits can have a bit impact on your credit score. Start by signing up for Credit.comâs free Credit Report Card to get personalized advice for your unique credit situation.
The post Tips for Building Your Credit appeared first on Credit.com.
Around 6.1% of employed Americans worked for themselves in 2019, yet the ranks of the self-employed might increase among certain professions more than others. By 2026, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that self-employment will rise by nearly 8%.
Some self-employed professionals experience high pay in addition to increased flexibility. Dentists, for example, are commonly self-employed, yet they earned a median annual wage of $159,200 in 2019. Conversely, appraisers and assessors of real estate, another career where self-employment is common, earned a median annual wage of $57,010 in 2019.
When you work for yourself, you might have to jump through additional hoops to qualify for credit.
Despite high pay and job security in some industries, thereâs one area where self-employed workers can struggle â qualifying for credit. When you work for yourself, you might have to jump through additional hoops and provide a longer work history to get approved for a mortgage, take out a car loan, or qualify for another line of credit you need.
Why Being Self-Employed Matters to Creditors
Hereâs the good news: Being self-employed doesn’t directly affect your credit score. Some lenders, however, might be leery about extending credit to self-employed applicants, particularly if youâve been self-employed for a short time.
When applying for a mortgage or another type of loan, lenders consider the following criteria:
Generally speaking, lenders will confirm your income by looking at pay stubs and tax returns you submit. They can check your credit score with the credit bureaus by placing a hard inquiry on your credit report, and can confirm your debt-to-income ratio by comparing your income to the debt you currently owe. Lenders can also check to see what assets you have, either by receiving copies of your bank statements or other proof of assets.
The final factor â your employment status â can be more difficult for lenders to gauge if youâre self-employed, and managing multiple clients or jobs. After all, bringing in unpredictable streams of income from multiple sources is considerably different than earning a single paycheck from one employer who pays you a salary or a set hourly rate. If your income fluctuates or your self-employment income is seasonal, this might be considered less stable and slightly risky for lenders.
That said, being honest about your employment and other information when you apply for a loan will work out better for you overall. Most lenders will ask the status of your employment in your loan application; however, your self-employed status could already be listed with the credit bureaus. Either way, being dishonest on a credit application is a surefire way to make sure youâre denied.
Extra Steps to Get Approved for Self-Employed Workers
When you apply for a mortgage and youâre self-employed, you typically have to provide more proof of a reliable income source than the average person. Lenders are looking for proof of income stability, the location and nature of your work, the strength of your business, and the long-term viability of your business.
To prove your self-employed status wonât hurt your ability to repay your loan, youâll have to supply the following additional information:
Two years of personal tax returns
Two years of business tax returns
Documentation of your self-employed status, including a client list if asked
Documentation of your business status, including business insurance or a business license
Applying for another line of credit, like a credit card or a car loan, is considerably less intensive than applying for a mortgage â this is true whether youâre self-employed or not.
Most other types of credit require you to fill out a loan application that includes your personal information, your Social Security number, information on other debt you have like a housing payment, and details on your employment status. If your credit score and income is high enough, you might get approved for other types of credit without jumping through any additional hoops.
10 Ways the Self-Employed Can Get Credit
If you work for yourself and want to make sure you qualify for the credit you need, there are plenty of steps you can take to set yourself up for success. Consider making the following moves right away.
1. Know Where Your Credit Stands
You canât work on your credit if you donât even know where you stand. To start the process, you should absolutely check your credit score to see whether it needs work. Fortunately, there are a few ways to check your FICO credit score online and for free.
2. Apply With a Cosigner
If your credit score or income are insufficient to qualify for credit on your own, you can also apply for a loan with a cosigner. With a cosigner, you get the benefit of relying on their strong credit score and positive credit history to boost your chances of approval. If you choose this option, however, keep in mind that your cosigner is jointly responsible for repaying the loan, if you default.
3. Go Straight to Your Local Bank or Credit Union
If you have a long-standing relationship with a credit union or a local bank, it already has a general understanding of how you manage money. With this trust established, it might be willing to extend you a line of credit when other lenders wonât.
This is especially true if youâve had a deposit account relationship with the institution for several years at minimum. Either way, itâs always a good idea to check with your existing bank or credit union when applying for a mortgage, a car loan, or another line of credit.
4. Lower Your Debt-to-Income Ratio
Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is an important factor lenders consider when you apply for a mortgage or another type of loan. This factor represents the amount of debt you have compared to your income, and itâs represented as a percentage.
If you have a gross income of $6,000 per month and you have fixed expenses of $3,000 per month, for example, then your DTI ratio is 50%.
A DTI ratio thatâs too high might make it difficult to qualify for a mortgage or another line of credit when youâre self-employed. For mortgage qualifications, most lenders prefer to loan money to consumers with a DTI ratio of 43% or lower.
5. Check Your Credit Report for Errors
To keep your credit in the best shape possible, check your credit reports, regularly. You can request your credit reports from all three credit bureaus once every 12 months, for free, at AnnualCreditReport.com.
If you find errors on your credit report, take steps to dispute them right away. Correcting errors on your report can give your score the noticeable boost it needs.
You typically need two years of tax returns as a self-employed person to qualify for a mortgage, and you might not be able to qualify at all until you reach this threshold. For other types of credit, it can definitely help to wait until youâve earned self-employment income for at least six months before you apply.
7. Separate Business and Personal Funds
Keeping personal and business funds separate is helpful when filing your taxes, but it can also help you lessen your liability for certain debt.
For example, letâs say that you have a large amount of personal debt. If your business is structured as a corporation or LLC and you need a business loan, separating your business funds from your personal funds might make your loan application look more favorable to lenders.
Having more liquid assets is a good sign from a lenderâs perspective, so strive to build up your savings account and your investments. For example, open a high-yield savings account and save three to six months of expenses as an emergency fund.
You can also open a brokerage account and start investing on a regular basis. Either strategy will help you build up your assets, which shows lenders you have a better chance of repaying your loan despite an irregular income.
9. Provide a Larger Down Payment
Some lenders have tightened up mortgage qualification requirements, and some are even requiring a 20% down payment for home loans. Youâll also have a better chance to secure an auto loan with the best rates and terms with more money down, especially for new cars that depreciate rapidly.
Aim for 20% down on a home or a car that youâre buying. As a bonus, having a 20% down payment for your home purchase helps you avoid paying private mortgage insurance.
10. Get a Secured Loan or Credit Card
Donât forget the steps you can take to build credit now, if your credit profile is thin or youâve made mistakes in the past. One way to do this is applying for a secured credit card or a secured loan, both of which require collateral for you to get started.
The point of a secured credit card or loan is getting the chance to build your credit score and prove your creditworthiness as a self-employed worker, when you canât get approved for unsecured credit. After making sufficient on-time payments toward the secured card or loan, your credit score will increase, you can upgrade to an unsecured alternative and get your deposit or collateral back.
The Bottom Line
If youâre self-employed and worried that your work status will hurt your chances at qualifying for credit, you shouldnât be. Instead, focus your time and energy on creating a reliable self-employment income stream and building your credit score.
Once your business is established and youâve been self-employed for several years, your work status wonât matter as heavily. Keep your income high, your DTI low, and a positive credit record, youâll have a better chance of getting approved for credit.
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Take a moment. Think about being your best self â living your best life.
What do you really want to do with your life? Raise a happy family? Travel the world? Buy a nice house? Start your own business?
Reality check: To accomplish any of those things, youâre going to need to know how to save money.
Unfortunately, Americans are bad at saving money, and weâre getting worse. Thanks to rising costs, stagnant salaries and student loan debt, weâre saving less than ever.
Table of ContentsÂ
Step 1: Develop Savings Goals and Strategies
Step 2: Pick Budgeting and Debt Repayment Methods
Step 3: Choose a Financial Institution and Accounts
Step 4: Automate Your Finances
Step 5: Establish a Budget-Conscious Lifestyle
Step 6: Make More Money
Here Are Our Best Tips to Save Money
Are you ready to actually start saving money? What youâre reading is a step-by-step guide on how to do it â how to come up with savings strategies, choose a budgeting method, pick the right financial institution, automate your finances and live a budget-conscious lifestyle.
Pour yourself a cup of coffee and buckle up. Itâs time to get serious about this.
Step 1: Develop Savings Goals and Strategies
Youâre probably asking yourself, âHow much should I save?â
Your first move is to set specific savings goals for yourself â emphasis on specific. Naming your goals will make them more real to you. Itâll help you resist the temptation to spend your money on other stuff.
Think Long Term and Short Term
What exactly do you want to save money for? How much will you need to save? And what do you need to save for first? Think short- and long-term:
Short-term: Save for a real vacation or nice holiday gifts. But first, save enough to have a decent emergency fund â three to six monthsâ worth of living expenses, in case you run into an unexpected car-repair bill or lose your job, for example.
Long-term: This involves big-picture thinking. Here, youâre saving money for things like your childrenâs college fund or for your retirement plan.
Analyze Your Income
How much can you realistically save for these goals, now that youâre making them a priority?
Write down your income and expenses â all of your expenses, from utility bills to your Netflix subscription.Â There are probably more ways to save money than you realize. Donât forget your student loans or credit card debt. Make sure you know what youâre spending in every budget category. Pay special attention to what youâre spending on non-essentials, such as eating out.
An easy way to automate this process is to use Trim, a little bot thatâll keep track of all your transactions.
Connect your checking account, credit card and savings account for a big-picture look at your spending habits. Then, take a closer look by checking out each of your transactions. Set alerts thatâll let you know when bills are due, when youâve hit a spending cap or when youâve (hopefully not) overdrafted. This will help you stick with your savings plan.
Check in on Your Credit
Do your own credit check. Keeping tabs on your credit score and your credit reports can help guide you to a financially healthier life â especially if you use a free credit-monitoring service like Credit Sesame. It gives you personalized suggestions for improving your credit.
The better your credit, the better off youâll be when youâre getting a home or car loan. Credit Sesame can estimate how big a mortgage you might qualify for, for example.
Hereâs our ultimate guide to using Credit Sesame.
Step 2: Pick Budgeting and Debt Repayment Methods
Itâs time to start making a monthly budget and sticking to it â especially if you have debt.
This way, you can put savings right into your budget. Itâs never an afterthought.
Here are five different budgeting methods. We canât tell you which one to choose. Be honest with yourself, and choose the one you think is most likely to work for you. This is how to save money on a tight budget.
The 50/30/20 Rule
This one was popularized by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a bankruptcy expert, and her business-executive daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi.
Split your income into three spending categories: 50% goes to essential bills and monthly expenses, 20% toward financial goals and 30% to personal spending (all the stuff you like to spend money on but donât really need). Put the money earmarked for your financial goals into a separate savings account.
Good for: People who worry they wonât have a life if theyâre on a budget. Hereâs our complete guide to 50/30/20 budgeting.
So-called envelope budgeting is traditionally a cash-only budget. Every month, you use cash for different categories of spending, and you keep that cash for each category in separate envelopes â labeled for groceries, housing, phone, etc.
Prefer plastic? Hereâs our review of Mvelopes, an app that lets you digitize this method.
Good for: People who know they need help with self-control. If thereâs nothing left in one envelope toward the end of the month, thereâs no more money to spend on that category, period.
Hereâs how you draw up this budget: Your income minus your expenses (including savings) equals zero. This way, you have to justify every expense.
Good for: People who need a simple, straightforward method that accounts for every dollar. Hereâs our guide to the zero-based budget.
This debt-repayment method helps you budget when you have debt. Pay off your debts with the highest interest rates first â most likely your credit cards. Doing that can save you a lot of money over time.
Good for: People with a lot of credit card debt. Credit cards generally charge you higher interest than other lenders do. Learn more about the debt avalanche method here.
Money management guru Dave Ramsey champions the debt snowball method of debt repayment. Pay off your debts with the smallest balances first. This allows you to eliminate debts from your list faster, which can motivate you to keep going.
Good for: People who owe a lot of different kinds of debts â credit cards, student loans, etc. â and who need motivation. Hereâs how to use the debt snowball method to eliminate debt.
FROM THE DEBT FORUM
Eviction on credit report
Helping Covid-19 Victims
Struggling to pay debt or going bankrupt
Can’t afford car loan
See more in Debt or ask a money question
Step 3: Choose a Financial Institution and Accounts
You might be thinking, I already have a bank. And of course you do. If youâre like most of us, youâve had the same bank for years.
Most people donât give this a second thought. They figure itâs too inconvenient to switch. But itâs worth shopping around for a better option, because where you bank can make a real difference in how much you save.
What to Look for in a Bank Account
Does your checking account pay you interest? What are the fees like? What other perks does it offer?
Did you know the biggest U.S. banks are collecting more than $6 billion a year in overdraft and ATM fees?
Maybe itâs time to try another financial institution. Weâve found some great online bank accounts to help you avoid fees and get features you wonât find with the brick-and-mortar banks.
Hereâs one example: Thereâs a mobile baking app calledÂ Varo Money.
The FDIC reports that the average savings account pays a paltry .08% APY*, but when you open an online checking and savings account with Varo, it will pay you more than 20 times that amount on your savings account.Â
We know opening a new bank account isnât exactly everyoneâs idea of fun, but Varo makes it easy. You can open an account with just a penny, and more than 750,000 people have already signed up.
Oh, and there are no monthly fees.Â
Want more options? Hereâs our ultimate guide to help you choose the right account.
To free up more money for savings, try to spend less paying interest on your debts â especially if you have high-interest credit card debt.
These days, credit card interest rates often climb north of 20%. How can you avoid paying all that interest? Your best bet is to cut back on your expenses and pay off your balance as soon as you realistically can.
Start by using the right credit card for you, based on your situation and needs. Would you prefer a card that gives you cash back or travel incentives, a balance-transfer card, or a card thatâll help you build credit?
Also consider paying off your high-interest debt with a low-interest personal loan. Itâs easier than you might think. Go window-shopping at an online marketplace for personal loans. Here are some weâve test-driven for you:
AmOneÂ allows you to compare rates side-by-side from multiple lenders who are competing against each other for your business. Itâs best for borrowers who have good credit scores and just want to consolidate their debt.
Fiona is also a marketplace but allows you to borrow more money and borrow it for a longer period of time â if thatâs what you want to do.
Upstart tends to be helpful for recent grads, who have a young credit history and a mound of student debt. It can help you find a loan without relying on only your conventional credit score.
Step 4: Automate Your Finances
Thatâs right. Weâre deep into the 21st century, here, so make technology do the work for you.
The best ways to save include automation. Youâll save time, and time is money. Here are a few money-management steps you can take today to ensure you wonât have to think about money for more than a few minutes every month.Â
Automate Bill Pay
Most bills are paid online now, reports the Credit Union Times. But you can take it a step further. Set it up so youâll receive and pay all of your bills online through your bank. That simplifies things so youâll never miss a payment.
Hereâs how: Go to your bankâs online bill-pay feature. Enter all the companies that bill you, and the account numbers for each. Arrange to receive e-bills from whichever billers will do that.
You can also have your bank send digital payments to individuals (like a landlord).
Whatever you need done financially, thereâs an app for that. Weâve put several to the test.
Digit is an automated savings platform that calculates how much money you can save. Hereâs our review of Digit.
Long Game Savings combines online games and saving money.
Also, see whether your bank offers automatic savings transfers that will move money from your checking account to your savings account each month.
You donât have to be Warren Buffett to be an investor. You donât even have to follow the stock market, read The Wall Street Journal or watch CNBC.
You can take advantage of these apps offering easy, automatic ways to start investing â the âset it and forget itâ method. Theyâre useful for tricking your brain into saving more. Youâll do it without even realizing youâre doing it.
Stash lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000. Bonus: Penny Hoarders get $5 just for signing up!
Acorns connects to your checking account, credit and debit cards to save your digital change. It automatically rounds up purchases with your connected cards and invests the digital change into your chosen portfolio. Bonus: Penny Hoarders get $5 just for signing up! Read our full review of Acorns here.
Blooom is a company that offers a free âhealth check-upâ for your 401(k). Then, for only $10 a month (Penny Hoarders get the first month free!), itâll optimize and manage your retirement savings for you. See how Blooom helped one Penny Hoarder make the most of her 401(k).
You can automate your budget, too. Thereâs an app for that. Actually, weâve found several.
Charlie is a money-saving penguin who lives in your SMS text messages or Facebook Messenger (your choice, though Charlie is more fun and reliable on Messenger). He helps you save money through things like making sure youâre getting the best deals around (ahem, overpaying $24 a month on that cell phone bill?).
Mint lets you see all your accounts, cards, bills and investments in one place.
Medean for iOS ranks your finances based on how they stack up to those of people of similar age, income, location and gender. It calls itself a âhealth index for your finances,â and helps assess your situation and find ways to save money.
MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits and will literally pay you for logging onto the app. You can earn points in the rewards program by paying bills on time, connecting your bank account or downloading the mobile app.
Step 5: Establish a Budget-Conscious Lifestyle
Hereâs the harsh reality: To save more money, youâll need to spend less money. (Or make more money, but weâll get to that next.)
That doesnât mean you have to live like a monk. Nor do you have to survive on ramen noodles and the dollar menu, wear scuffed shoes and patchy clothes, or cut your own hair with hedge clippers.
You just have to be smart and strategic. Here are some of our best tips to help you spend less:
Save Money Around the House
Your home is your castle. But castles are so, like, expensive. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to save money around the house.
Your priciest purchases â like appliances and furniture â are a natural place to look for savings. Try repairing your appliances instead of replacing them. And hereâs a good list of other tricks for saving on furniture and appliances.
The cost of cooling, heating and lighting your home is massive. Try installing thermal curtains and a programmable thermostat. Or check out these creative, energy-saving ways to slash your utility bills.
Find Free Entertainment
Entertainment can cost an arm and a leg. But hey, we have to live, right? So do it for free! Next time youâre planning a night out, take advantage of one of these free date nights or group outings.
If youâre going to stay in, cut the cord. More and more people are doing this, because their cable bill has gotten so expensive.
If youâre thinking of switching to an online streaming service and youâre wondering which would be best, weâve got you covered with our comparison of Netflix, Prime Video and Hulu. We compared costs, type of content, number of available titles and more.
You also should reconsider that gym membership if youâre not really using it.
Cut Your Food Budget
Groceries are a huge part of everyoneâs budget, so theyâre a big target for savings. Next time youâre putting together your shopping list, make sure to check out our favorite tricks to save money at the grocery store:
Look for free printable coupons.
Compare your local grocery prices using this worksheet.
Ibotta pays you cash back on purchases if you take pictures of your grocery store receipts. Plus, youâll get a $10 bonus for signing up!
Scan grocery storesâ websites for deals and hit more than one store.
Not loving the supermarket? Nearly 70% of us say we spend too much on take-out or going out to eat. Hereâs how to save money at restaurants, too.
Find out If Youâre Wasting Money on Insurance
Buying insurance can be confusing and overwhelming, because there are so many options.
Hereâs how to find affordable insurance:
For Your Car: Auto Insurance
Here are the blunt facts about how to get lower car insurance premiums: Have fewer accidents, get fewer traffic tickets and boost your credit score.
Automotive experts also gave us the following tips:
Buy a used car.
Participate in your insurerâs safe-driving program.
Shop around for better rates. One easy way is The Zebra, a car insurance search engine that compares your options from more than 200 providers in less than 60 seconds. Hereâs how one guy is saving $360 this year on car insurance because of The Zebra.
For Yourself: Health Insurance
Letâs face it: Health insurance can be confusing and intimidating.
If youâre buying insurance for yourself, start with the federal health insurance marketplace at Healthcare.gov to see whether you qualify for any discounts or assistance.
Finding affordable health care coverage is a huge challenge for freelancers. Hereâs how to get covered if youâre self-employed.
For Your Family: Life Insurance
Life insurance pays your dependents a set amount of money if you die. Whether to buy it is a judgment call.
Life insurance is considered more important if youâre married or have children. You might also want a basic policy that would pay off your funeral, mortgage or other debt.
Youâll probably be asked to choose between two options: term or universal life insurance. If youâre like most of us, youâll choose term â the simplest, cheapest and most popular kind of life insurance policy.
To help you save money and navigate this complicated industry, modern companies are updating the old model:
Policygenius is an online-only platform that offers instant quotes from top carriers to help you make a quicker decision.Â Once you choose a life insurance company, you can apply right online, and a Policygenius rep will give you a quick call to ask a few follow-up questions.
Haven Life can insure you quickly based just on the health information you provide online.
Ethos can get you term life insurance in less than 10 minutes â with no medical exam â for coverage up to $1 million. Ethos offers a digital application, and customer service is available if you have questions.
Step 6: Make More Money
How can you increase your income? Itâs easier to save money if youâre bringing in more money to begin with.
Here are a couple of simple ways to make extra cash at home:
Share Your Opinion
You wonât get rich taking surveys, but if youâre just vegging out on the couch, why not click a couple buttons and earn a few bucks? Weâve tried a lot of paid survey sites, and two of the best weâve found are My PointsÂ andÂ InboxDollars.
Clear Your Closets
Sell your old stuff! Use the Decluttr app to get paid for your old DVDs, Blu-Rays, CDs, video games, gaming consoles and phones.
You can also sell nearly anything through the Letgo app. Just snap a photo of your item and set up a listing in about 30 seconds. If you have more free time, try selling items on Craigslist or eBay.
Find a Side Gig
For our best ideas to boost your bottom line, check out the following:
Unique ways to make money at home.
How to make extra money online.
How to earn passive income.
The Penny Hoarderâs continually updated page on open work-from-home jobs.
Mike Brassfield (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Heâs slowly getting better about saving money.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
While you can use aÂ debit card toÂ pay for almost all the things you would use a credit card for, these cards aren’t the same type of thing. AÂ debit card is tied to existingÂ money, either prepaid on the card itself or in your savings orÂ checking account. A credit card lets you make purchases on credit, and you won’t be able to do this with aÂ debit card.
Can You Use YourÂ Debit Card as Credit?
When youÂ pay at the register, you’re often asked whether you’re making aÂ debit or credit payment. This isn’t a question about whether you’re paying with existingÂ checking account funds or if you’ll be borrowing theÂ money from a credit card lender. It’s a question about how you want theÂ payment processed. And most of the time, yes, you can use yourÂ debit card as credit at check out.
What Happens When You Use aÂ Debit Card as Credit?
When make aÂ purchase and select to process yourÂ payment as credit, it’s an offlineÂ transaction. “The funds for offline transactions are deducted after the merchant settles theÂ purchase with the credit card processor and typically take 2-3 days to be reflected in your account balance,” MasterCard says.
According to MasterCard, when you use aÂ debit card and your PIN (personal identification number), theÂ transaction is completed in real time. That’s also known as an onlineÂ transactionâ you authorize theÂ purchase with your PIN, and theÂ money is immediately transferred from your bank account to the merchant. These areÂ debit card transactions.
But in reality, the difference betweenÂ debit and credit transactions have little real impact on your bottom line. There may be some differences inÂ fees paid by the retailer or processor, but thoseÂ fees are rarely passed on to the consumer directly.
Some individuals choose to use their debit cards as credit at the register to avoid having to enter their PIN. Itâs commonly believed that this creates some additional securityÂ against someone learning that number and having one more piece of information to supportÂ credit card fraud.
While you certainly want to protect your PIN, simply being aware of who is around you and keeping the keypad covered duringÂ debit transactions can help keep you secure if you do decide toÂ pay this way. It may seem like an unnecessary precaution, but you can never be too careful when it comes toÂ debit card fraud.
Can I Use MyÂ Debit Card if I Have NoÂ Money?
One thing that’s important to note is that you can’t usually use yourÂ debit card for credit. If you are short onÂ cash, your credit card still works if you have available credit on it. If there’s noÂ money in your bank account, yourÂ debit card may get declined when you attempt toÂ pay. So make sure there’sÂ cash in your bank account anytime you use yourÂ debit card.
There’s one exception to this rule. Some banks offerÂ overdraft protection. If you qualify for this protection, the bank covers your charges up to a certain amount and you simply rectify the situation later. That way, you avoid potentially embarrassing declines â for a cost inÂ overdraft fees, which can be $15 to $30 perÂ overdraft.
Can I Use MyÂ Debit Card as Credit at Walmart?
Whether or not you can choose toÂ pay as credit with aÂ debit card depends on each retailer andÂ payment system setup. Many WalmartÂ payment systems are set up to allow this, but they default to debit. When this happens, tell the cashier you want toÂ pay as credit or select the option for changingÂ payment method and choose toÂ pay as credit and sign for your purchases instead of entering your PIN.
Does Using MyÂ Debit Card Build Credit?
Paying with yourÂ debit card doesn’t really impact yourÂ credit score, regardless of theÂ payment type you select. That’s because yourÂ debit card is simply a stand-in forÂ money you actually have on hand (or in the bank). It’s not credit and doesn’t provide any type of illustration of your likelihood of making payments in a timely manner or using credit responsibly. Therefore, it won’t impact yourÂ credit history.
If you use yourÂ debit card to overdraw your bank account on a regular basis or do so and leave the negative balance long-term, it could negatively impact yourÂ credit score. Banks do report checking and savings details like this to the credit bureaus.
The Bottom Line on Debit Cards as Credit Cards
Whether you use yourÂ debit card asÂ credit or debit, the funds will still be withdrawn from yourÂ checking account. You can use yourÂ debit card to make aÂ payment processed as credit, but you can’t use yourÂ debit card for credit in most cases. And even when you can, it’s via the limited fail-safe ofÂ overdraft protection, which is not meant for regular use and can be quite expensive.
Debit cards are wonderfulÂ money-management tools that provide a lot of modern convenience. But for many people, it’s a good idea to have at least one credit card in your wallet too for those times when debit just doesn’t quite cut it. Just make sure to check yourÂ credit score, understand how credit cards workÂ and apply for the card that provides you the best perks at the lowest cost.
The post Using Debit Card as Credit appeared first on Credit.com.
When it comes to excuses consumers give for their poor credit scores, banks and lenders have heard it all.Â
Maybe you lost your job and couldnât pay your student loan payment for a few months.Â Or perhaps you thought youâd gotten a deferment but were too busy job hunting to find out for sure.Â
Maybe you thought you paid your credit card bill but itâs actually sitting on your kitchen counter waiting for the mail.
Whatever the reason for your low credit score, one thing is for certain â lendersÂ donât care.
In fact, banks and other lenders lean on your credit score and other factors to determine whether they should approve you for a credit card or a loan â and thatâs about it. Your personal situation is never considered, nor should it be.
It would be wonderful if credit card companies understood that âlife happensâ and made special exceptions to help people out, but that’s not the world we live in.Â As most of us already know, thatâs not typically how credit works. Credit cards are backed by banks, and banks have rules for a reason.
Now, hereâs the good news: Credit cards can help rebuild your credit, earn cash back for each dollar you spend, make travel easier, and serve as an emergency fund if youâre stuck paying a huge bill at the last minute. This is true even if you have poor credit, although the selection of credit cards you can qualify for may be somewhat limited.Â
Keep reading to learn about the best credit cards for bad credit, how they work, and how you can get approved.
Best Cards for Bad Credit This Year
Before you give up on building credit, you should check out all the credit cards that are available to consumers who need some help. Our list of the best credit cards for bad credit includes some of the top offers with the lowest fees and fair terms.
Discover itÂ® Secured
Credit One BankÂ® VisaÂ® Credit Card
Secured MastercardÂ® from Capital OneÂ®
MilestoneÂ® Gold MastercardÂ®
Credit One BankÂ® Unsecured VisaÂ® with Cash Back Rewards
#1: Total VisaÂ®
The Total VisaÂ® is one of the easiest credit cards to get approved for in today’s market, and itâs easy to use all over the world since itâs a true Visa credit card. However, this card does come with high rates and fees since itâs available to consumers with poor credit or a limited credit history.
Processing your application will cost $89, which is extremely high when you consider the fact that most credit cards donât charge an application fee. Youâll also pay an initial annual fee of $75 and a $48 annual fee for each year thereafter.
Once you sign up, youâll be able to pick your preferred card design and your credit card payments will be reported to all three credit reporting agencies â Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. This is the main benefit of this card since your on-time payments can easily help boost your credit score over time.Â
For the most part, the Total VisaÂ® is best for consumers who donât mind paying a few fees to access an unsecured line of credit. Since this card doesnât dole out rewards, however, there are few cardholder perks to look forward to.Â
APR: 35.99% APR
Fees: Application fee and annual fee
Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
#2: Discover itÂ® Secured
While secured cards donât offer an unsecured line of credit like unsecured credit cards do, they are extremely easy to qualify for. The Discover itÂ® Secured may not be ideal for everyone, but it does offer a simple online application process and the ability to get approved with little to no credit history.
Keep in mind, however, that secured cards do work differently than traditional credit cards. With a secured credit card, youâre required to put down a cash deposit upfront as collateral. However, you will get your cash deposit back when you close your account in good standing.
Amazingly, the Discover itÂ® Secured lets you earn rewards with no annual fee. Youâll start by earning 2% back on up to $1,000 spent each quarter in dining and gas. Youâll also earn an unlimited 1% back on everything else you buy.
The Discover itÂ® Secured doesnât charge an application fee or an annual fee, although youâll need to come up with the cash for your initial deposit upfront. For the most part, this card is best for consumers who have little to no credit and want to build their credit history while earning rewards.
Fees: No annual fee or monthly fees
Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
#3: Credit One BankÂ® VisaÂ® Credit Card
The Credit One BankÂ® VisaÂ® Credit Card is another credit card for bad credit that lets you earn rewards on your everyday spending. Youâll earn a flat 1% cash back for every dollar you spend with this credit card, and since itâs unsecured, you donât have to put down a cash deposit to get started.
Other benefits include the fact you can get pre-qualified for this card online without a hard inquiry on your credit report â and that you get a free copy of your Experian credit score on your online account management page.
You may be required to pay an annual fee up to $95 for this card for the first year, but it depends on your creditworthiness. After that, your annual fee could be between $0 and $99.
APR: 19.99% to 25.99%
Fees: Annual fee up to $95 the first year depending on creditworthiness; after that $0 to $99
Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
#4: Secured MastercardÂ® from Capital OneÂ®
The Secured MastercardÂ® from Capital OneÂ® is another secured credit card that extends a line of credit to consumers who can put down a cash deposit as collateral. This card is geared to people with bad credit or no credit history, so itâs easy to get approved for. One downside, however, is that your initial line of credit will likely be just $200 â and that doesn’t give you much to work with.Â
On the upside, this card doesnât charge an annual fee or any application fees. That makes it a good option if you donât want to pay any fees you wonât get back.
Youâll also get access to 24/7 customer service, $0 fraud liability, and other cardholder perks.
Fees: No ongoing fees
Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
#5: MilestoneÂ® Gold MastercardÂ®
The MilestoneÂ® Gold MastercardÂ® is an unsecured credit card that lets you get pre-qualified online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. You wonât earn any rewards on your purchases, but you do get benefits like the ability to select your cardâs design, chip and pin technology, and easy online account access.
You will have to pay a one-time fee of $25 to open your account, and thereâs an annual fee of $50 the first year and $99 for each year after that.
Fees: Account opening fee and annual fees
Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
#6: Credit One BankÂ® Unsecured VisaÂ® with Cash Back Rewards
The Credit One BankÂ® Unsecured VisaÂ® with Cash Back Rewards lets you earn 1% back on every purchase you make with no limits or exclusions. Thereâs no annual fee or application fee either, which makes this card a winner for consumers who donât want to get hit with a lot of out-of-pocket costs.
As a cardholder, youâll get free access to your Experian credit score, zero fraud liability, and access to a mobile app that makes tracking your purchases and rewards a breeze. You can also get pre-qualified online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.
Fees: No annual fee or application fee
Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
The Downside of Credit Cards with Bad Credit
While your odds of getting approved for one of the credit cards for bad credit listed above are high, you should be aware that there are plenty of pitfalls to be aware of. Here are the major downsides youâll find with these credit cards for bad credit and others comparable cards:
Higher fees: While someone with excellent credit can shop around for credit cards without any fees, this isnât the case of you have bad credit. If your credit score is poor or you have a thin credit profile, you should expect to pay higher fees and more of them.
Higher interest rates: While some credit cards come with 0% interest for a limited time or lower interest rates overall, consumers with poor credit typically have to pay the highest interest rates available today. Some credit cards for bad credit even come with APRs as high as 35%.
No perks: Looking for cardholder benefits like cash back on purchases or points toward airfare or movie tickets? Youâll need to wait until your credit score climbs back into âgoodâ or âgreatâ territory. Even if you can find a card for applicants with bad credit that offers cash back, your rewards may not make up for the higher fees.
No balance transfers: If youâre looking for relief from other out-of-control credit card balances, look elsewhere. Credit cards for bad credit typically donât offer balance transfers. If they do, the terms make them cost-prohibitive.
Low credit limits: Credit cards for bad credit tend to offer initial credit limits in the $300 to $500 range with the possibility of increasing to $2,000 after a year of on-time monthly payments. If you need to borrow a lot more than that, youâll have to consider other options.
Security deposit requirement: Secured credit cards require you to put down a cash deposit to secure your line of credit. While this shouldnât necessarily be a deal-breaker â and it may be required if you canât get approved for an unsecured credit card â youâll need to come up with a few hundred dollars before you apply.
Checking account requirement: Most new credit card accounts now require cardholders to pay bills online, which means youâll need a checking account. If youâre mostly âunbanked,â you may need to open a traditional bank account before you apply.
Benefits of Improving Your Credit Score
People with bad credit often consider their personal finances a lost cause. The road to better credit can seem long and stressful, and itâs sometimes easier to give up then it is to try to fix credit mistakes youâve made in the past.
But, there are some real advantages that come with having at least âgoodâ credit, which typically means any FICO score of 670 or above. Here are some of the real-life benefits better credit can mean for your life and your lifestyle:
Higher credit limits: The higher your credit score goes, the more money banks are typically willing to lend. With good credit, youâll have a better chance at qualifying for a car loan, taking out a personal loan, or getting a credit card with a reasonable limit.
Lower interest rates: A higher credit score tells lenders youâre not as risky as a borrower âa sign that typically translates into lower interest rates. When you pay a lower APR each time you borrow, you can save huge amounts of money on interest over time.
Lower payments: Borrowing money with a lower interest rate typically means you can usually get lower payments all your loans, including a home loan or a car loan.
Ability to shop around: When youâre an ideal candidate for a loan, you can shop around to get the best deals on credit cards, mortgages, personal loans, and more.
Ability to help others: If your kid wants to buy a car but doesnât have any credit history, better credit puts you in the position to help him or her out. If your credit is poor, you wonât be in the position to help anyone.
More options in life: Your credit score can also impact your ability to open a bank account or rent a new apartment. Since employers can request to see a modified version of your credit report before they hire you, excellent credit can also give you a leg up when it comes to beating out other candidates for a job.Â
In addition to the benefits listed above, most insurance companies now consider your credit score when you apply for coverage. For that reason, life, auto, and home insurance rates tend to be lower for people with higher credit scores.
This may seem unfair, but you have to remember that research has shown people with high credit scores tend to file fewer insurance claims.
How to Improve Your Credit: Slow and Steady
When you have a low credit score, there are two ways to handle it. If you don’t mind the consequences of poor credit enough to do anything about it, you can wait a decade until the bad marks age off your credit report. Depending on when your creditors give up and write off your debt, you may not even need to wait that long.
If you donât like the idea of letting your credit decay while you wait it out, you can also try to fix your past credit mistakes. This typically means paying off debt â and especially delinquent debts â but it can also mean applying for new loan products that are geared to people who need to repair their credit.
If you decide to take actionable steps to build credit fast, the credit cards on this page can help. Theyâll give you an opportunity to show the credit bureaus that youâve changed your ways.
Before you take steps to improve your credit score, however, keep in mind all the different factors used to determine your standing in the first place. The FICO scoring method considers the following factors when assigning your score:
On-time payments: Paying all your bills on time, including credit cards, makes up 35% of your FICO score. For that reason, paying all your bills early or on time is absolutely essential.
Outstanding debts: How much you owe matters, which is why paying off your credit cards each month or as often as possible helps your score. According to myFICO.com, the amounts you owe in relation to your credit limits make up another 30% of your FICO score.
New credit: Apply for too many new cards or accounts at once can impact your score in a negative way. In fact, this determinant makes up another 10% of your FICO score.
Credit mix: Having a variety of open accounts impresses the credit bureau algorithm Gods. If all you have are personal loans right now, mixing in a credit card can help. If you already have four or five credit cards, it may be wise to back off a little.
Length of credit history: The length of your credit history also plays a role in your score. The longer your credit history, the better off you are.
If you want to improve your credit score, consider all the factors above and how you can change your behavior to score higher in each category. Itâs pretty easy to see how paying all your bills early or on time and paying off debt could make a big positive impact on your credit score when you consider that these two factors alone make up 65% of your FICO score.
If you want a way to track your progress, also look into an app likeÂ Credit Karma, one of my favorite tools. This app lets you monitor your credit progress over time and even receive notifications when your score has changed. Best of all, itâs free.
Should You Use a Credit Card to Rebuild Your Credit Score?
If youâre on the fence about picking up a credit card for bad credit, your first step should be thinking over your goals. What exactly are you trying to accomplish?
If youâre looking for spending power, the cards on this list probably wonât help. Some are secured cards, meaning you need a cash deposit to put down as collateral. Others offer low credit limits and high fees and interest rates, making them costly to use over the long-term.
If you really want to start over from scratch and repair credit mistakes made in the past, on the other hand, one of these cards may be exactly what you need. If youâre determined to improve your score, they can speed things along.
You may pay higher fees and interest rates along the way, but itâs important to remember that none of the cards on this list need to be your top card forever. Ideally, youâll use a credit card for poor credit to rebuild your credit and boost your score. Once youâve reached your goal, you can upgrade to a new card with better benefits and terms.
If you love to shop, you can use yourÂ fashion sense toÂ build or even rebuild your credit.
Store-branded credit cardsÂ are some of theÂ easiest cardsÂ to qualify for and are often extended to those who haveÂ bad credit because they have lower criteria than traditional credit cards. Using them, especially if you’re loyal to a particular store, can bring card rewards, discounts and, if you pay your balanceÂ off every month, better credit.
In most cases, when you apply for a card, the retailer will offer a discount on that dayâs purchase.Â Sometimes the discount will be extended toÂ purchases made within a short time frameÂ (24 hours, for example), as an incentive to spend more. The risk is that instead of saving money, you end up spending more than planned, so it’s wiseÂ to be wary.
Watch Your Credit Scores
When you open your new credit card, you may see a dip in your credit scores for two reasons: one, the inquiry created when the issuer checks your credit score, which may cause your scores to drop, though usually not more than a few points. Second, a new account with a balance is often seen as a risk factor. As long as you pay on time and keep your balances below 30% of your credit line, or ideally 10%, you could eventually see a slight riseÂ becauseÂ you’ll have a positive new credit reference, which isÂ beneficial if you are trying to build or rebuild credit.
As you use your new card, you can track how your usage and payments are affecting your credit by signing up for Credit.com’s free credit report summary. In addition to getting two free credit scores, youâll get your own credit report card that showsÂ how youâre doing in five key areas on your credit report that alsoÂ determine your credit score â payment history, debt usage, credit age, account mix and inquiries.
Know the APR
Interest rates for department store credit cards are almost always high, often betweenÂ 19% and 22%, or more. If you carry a balance, the interest you pay will likely exceed the amount you saved with the discount. ThisÂ means carrying a balanceÂ could hamper your goals, especiallyÂ if you fail toÂ make on-time payments.
Given store credit cards’ high APRs, you won’t want to go on a shopping spree with them, nor will you want to put more purchases on the card than your budget can handle. (For tips on cutting back without feeling deprived, you can go here.)Â That said, making a couple of small purchases a month, say, on home essentials or groceries, and paying them off quickly (and on time) will likely beef up your credit.
Before You ApplyÂ
Before you fill out anÂ application, you’ll want toÂ know where your credit stands so you have a good sense of what type of cardÂ you might qualify for. KnowingÂ your score willÂ also inform your decision to apply forÂ a card in general, asÂ inquiries on your credit report can cause your score to take an unnecessary hit.
More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:
The Credit.com Credit Reports Learning Center
Whatâs a Good Credit Score?
How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report
The post How to Use Your Shopping Addiction to Build Credit appeared first on Credit.com.