Tag Archives: Credit Scores

How to Use Your Shopping Addiction to Build Credit

If you love to shop, you can use your fashion sense to build or even rebuild your credit.

Store-branded credit cards are some of the easiest cards to qualify for and are often extended to those who have 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 balance off every month, better credit.

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Immediate Savings

In most cases, when you apply for a card, the retailer will offer a discount on that day’s purchase. Sometimes the discount will be extended to purchases made within a short time frame (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 wise 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 rise because you’ll have a positive new credit reference, which is 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, you’ll get your own credit report card that shows how you’re doing in five key areas on your credit report that also determine your credit score — 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 between 19% and 22%, or more. If you carry a balance, the interest you pay will likely exceed the amount you saved with the discount. This means carrying a balance could hamper your goals, especially if you fail to 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.) 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 Apply 

Before you fill out an application, you’ll want to know where your credit stands so you have a good sense of what type of card you might qualify for. Knowing your score will also inform your decision to apply for a card in general, as 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
  • What’s a Good Credit Score?
  • How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report

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The post How to Use Your Shopping Addiction to Build Credit appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

What Is a Good APR?

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Sifting through credit card offers can be daunting. There are so many numbers and lengthy explanations that it can be easy to miss the most important details.

Though it’s always a good idea to read over every contract you sign, when it comes to picking a new credit card, there is one detail consumers should try not to miss: the card’s annual percentage rate, or APR.

Taking the time to find out what an APR is and how it might affect the monthly payment is a wise step before comparing credit card offers.

What Is an Annual Percentage Rate?

Is it the same as an interest rate? Not quite. An APR is the total cost of the loan expressed in annual terms—a small, but important, distinction. A credit card’s APR might include the interest rate as well as fees for late payments, foreign transactions, or returned payments.

Federal Reserve, the US national average credit card APR was 15.09% in February 2020. It’s reasonable to assume that an APR at or below the national average is considered “good.” That said, qualifying for a “good” APR may hinge on a consumer’s credit score.

APR and interest rates also change alongside federal interest rates changes, so it’s important for consumers to not only rely on an average that may be out of date, but rather, look at the offer presented to them at the time.

It’s a good idea for consumers to attempt to seek out the lowest rate possible for their financial situation.

Low vs. High APR Cards

Some credit cards tend to have higher APRs than others. For example, rewards credit cards tend to have higher APRs, but provide value via perks, discounts, points, or other benefits.

On the other hand, many low-interest cards come with fewer perks, but again, can save someone money in the long run if they need to carry a balance.

Low-interest cards also tend to be reserved for those with higher than average credit scores, so they may be harder to qualify for with lower credit.

How to Avoid Paying APR

There is one way to avoid paying an APR altogether, at least with credit cards, and that is by paying off the balance each and every month. By paying off the balance a consumer will never have to pay interest or any APR-related fees.

However, it’s still a good idea to seek out a good APR offer just in case a large purchase means carrying a balance for some time.

Tips for Qualifying for a Better APR

The APR a person qualifies for typically depends on his or her individual credit score. This means, those with credit scores on the higher end of the scale might qualify for lower APRs. If a consumer has a lower credit score, that doesn’t mean they are totally out of luck, but might be offered the same card at a higher APR.

improve their credit score.

One step is to check their credit report regularly for accuracy. US federal law allows consumers to get one free credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies.

Consumers can also improve their personal credit scores by making debt payments on time and trying to use only 30% of their available credit at any given time. Payment history accounts for 35% of the total credit score, and credit utilization—how much of a person’s total credit is being used at a given time—accounts for 30% of the total credit score.

Reparing a poor credit score can take some time, but it’s worth the work.

Personal Loans and Credit Card Debt

If you’re currently carrying credit card debt on multiple cards and feel as though you may be paying too much in interest and APR-related fees, it may be time to look into consolidating that debt with a personal loan.

Consolidating credit card debt essentially allows a person to pay off their existing debt with a personal loan. Only one monthly payment instead of several could mean less to worry about.

Consolidating debt may mean qualifying for more favorable terms, such as a lower APR, which could help you pay less over the life of the debt. When considering consolidating debt, it’s a good idea to look at the fine print on any loan application to find out what fees a lender might be charging.

SoFi personal loans come with no hidden fees, such as those pesky origination fees, making it clearer to understand just what you’re paying for with a loan.

Learn more about consolidating credit card debt with a SoFi personal loan.



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External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How to Build Good Credit in 10 Painless Steps

You’ll get the simplicity of a single payment, plus you’ll typically pay less interest since loan interest rates tend to be lower. (If you can’t get a loan that lowers your interest rate, this probably isn’t a good option.)
Through April 2021, you can get one free credit report per week from each bureau. (Typically, you’re only entitled to one free credit report per year from each bureau.) Make sure you access your reports at AnnualCreditReport.com, rather than one of the many websites that offer “free” credit scores but will make you put down your credit card number to sign up for a trial. File a dispute with the bureaus if you find anything you think is inaccurate or any accounts you don’t recognize.
But if you’re in the market for a mortgage or loan, don’t worry about multiple inquiries. As long as you limit your shopping to a 45-day window, credit bureaus will treat it as a single inquiry, so the impact on your score will be minimal.

How to Build Good Credit in 10 Steps

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

1. Stay on Top of Your Credit Reports

The downside of a higher credit limit: You’ll have more money to spend that isn’t really yours. To get the biggest credit score boost from a limit increase and avoid paying more in interest, make sure you don’t add to your balance.
By using a loan to pay off your credit cards, you’ll also free up credit and lower your credit utilization ratio.
Ready to make 2021 the year you finally prove your creditworthiness? Or are you looking to recover from a 2020 setback? Here’s how to build good credit in 10 steps.

Pro Tip
This resolution is different. No extreme measures are required. But there aren’t any shortcuts. Building good credit is a goal you need to commit to 12 months a year.

2. Pay Your Bills. On Time. Every Single Month

Opening a secured credit card is one of our favorite ways to build a positive history when you can’t get approved for a regular credit card or loan. You put down a refundable deposit, and that becomes your line of credit.
A lot of New Year’s resolutions fail because they’re so extreme. Think of all the bonkers weight-loss and money-saving goals that surface at the start of every year.
Focus on your overall financial picture, and you’ll probably see your credit score improve, too. Remember, though, that while credit scores matter, you matter more.

3. Establish Credit, Even if You’ve Made Mistakes

After about a year of making your payments on time, you’ll typically qualify for an unsecured line of credit. Just make sure the card issuer you choose reports your payments to the credit bureaus. Look for a card with an annual fee of no more than . Some secured card options we like (and no, we’re not getting paid to say this):
Bonus: Paying off credit card debt first will typically save you money, because credit cards tend to have higher interest rates than other types of debt.

4. Open a Secured Card if You Don’t Qualify for a Regular Card

Tackling credit card debt helps your credit score a lot more than paying down other debts, like a student loan or mortgage. The reason? Your credit utilization ratio is determined exclusively by your lines of credit.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com

  • Discover it Secured
  • OpenSky Secured Visa Card
  • Secured Mastercard from Capital One
A woman checks her credit card balance while on the phone.

5. Ask for a Limit Increase. Pretend You Never Got It

Don’t believe the myth that carrying a small credit card balance helps your credit score. Paying off your balance in full each month is best for your score, plus it saves you money on interest.
If you want to whip your finances into shape, here’s a good New Year’s resolution: improving your credit score.
Yeah, you knew we were going to say this: Paying your bills on time is the No. 1 thing you can do to build good credit. Your payment history determines 35% of your score, more than any other credit factor.

Pro Tip
If the bureaus agree to remove information from your credit reports, expect to wait about 30 days until your reports are updated.

6. Prioritize Credit Card Debt Over Loans

Provided you aren’t paying ridiculous fees, keep your credit card accounts open once you’ve paid off the balance. Credit scoring methods reward you for having a long credit history.
You typically need a credit card or loan to build a credit history. (Sorry, but all those on-time rent and utility payments are rarely reported to the credit bureaus, so they won’t help your score.)

7. Keep Your Old Accounts Active

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.
If you’re struggling with credit card debt, consolidating your credit card debt with a loan could be a good option. In a nutshell, you take out a loan to wipe out your credit card balances.

8. Apply for New Credit Selectively

Many debt consolidation loans require a credit score of about 620. If your score falls below this threshold, work on improving your score for a few months before you apply for one.
When you apply for credit, it results in a hard inquiry, which usually drops your score by a few points. So avoid applying frequently for new credit cards, as this can signal financial distress.

9. Still Overwhelmed? A Debt Consolidation Loan Could Help

If you have open credit, ask your current creditors for an increase, rather than applying for new credit. That way, you’ll avoid lowering your length of credit, which could ding your score.
But if you have bad credit or you’re a credit newbie, getting approved for a credit card or loan is tough. Look for cards that are specifically marketed to help people start or rebuild credit. Store credit cards, which only let you make purchases at a specific retailer, can also be a good option.
Set whatever bills you can to autopay for at least the minimums to avoid missing payments. You can always pay extra if you can afford it.
Make a purchase at least once every three months on the account, as credit card companies often close inactive accounts. Then pay it off in full.

10. Keep Your Credit Score in Perspective

All the credit-monitoring tools out there make it easy to obsess about your credit score. While it’s important to build good credit, look at the bigger picture. A few final thoughts:

  • Your credit score isn’t a report card on the state of your finances. It simply measures how risky of a borrower you are. Having an emergency fund, saving for retirement and earning a decent living are all important to your finances — but these are all things that don’t affect your credit score.
  • Lenders look at more than your credit score. Having a low debt-to-income ratio, decent down payment and steady paycheck all increase your odds of approval when you’re making a big purchase, even if your credit score is lackluster.
  • Don’t focus on your score if you can’t pay for necessities. If you’re struggling and you have to choose between paying your credit card vs. paying your rent, keeping food on the table or getting medical care, paying your credit card is always the lower priority. Of course, talk to your creditors if you can’t afford to pay them, as they may have options.

It’s essential to monitor your credit reports, especially if you received a hardship agreement from a lender due to COVID-19. Under the CARES Act rules, lenders are supposed to report your account as paid in full while the agreement is in effect, as long as you weren’t already delinquent. But mistakes happen. Even in normal times, about 1 in 5 credit reports contained inaccurate information.
A strong payment history takes time to build. If you’ve made late payments, they’ll stay on your credit reports for seven years. The good news is, they do the most damage to your score in the first two years. After that, the impact starts to fade.
Your credit reports won’t show you your credit score, but you can use a free credit-monitoring service to check your score. (No, checking your own credit doesn’t hurt your score.) Many banks and credit card companies also give you your credit scores for free.
Increasing your credit limits helps your score because it decreases your credit utilization ratio. That’s credit score speak for the percentage of credit you’re using. The standard recommendation is to keep this number below 30%, but really, the closer to zero the better.
Now go crush those goals in 2021 and beyond.