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To benefit from insurance coverage, youâll need to pay a premium. A premium is a payment to your insurer that keeps your coverage in place. Insurance companies determine your premium by deciding what the risk is to insure you. Hereâs a breakdown of the basics to help you understand what a premium is, why you have to pay it, how it works and ways to reduce your costs.
What Is a Premium?
An insurance premium is effectively the cost of your insurance, whether for health, auto or life insurance. Most companies allow you to pay the annual premium via monthly installments. However, some companies may require you to pay your premium on an annual basis or a semi-annual basis. Some may even want the entire insurance premium up front. Companies often decide they want the insurance premium up front if you have previously had your insurance policy canceled for non-payment.
The price of a premium is usually decided by an actuary or underwriter who takes a base calculation. The base calculation determines what the risk is to insure you. After the base calculation, the company may discount it based on your health, driving record, location and other personal details. This is all based on the type of insurance youâre looking to secure, too.
Your premium may also be determined based on your insurance history. Every insurance company uses different criteria to determine premiums. Some companies use insurance scores based on personal factors like credit rating, car accident frequency, personal claims history and occupation. If your personal factors are attractive to certain companies, you may want to secure a plan with one of them. It could mean a lower cost premium.
You may also pay more money for higher amounts of coverage, whether youâre purchasing life insurance, car insurance, health insurance or any other kind of insurance.
The value and condition of what you are insuring can also change the amount of coverage you need. For example, if youâre a healthy 28-year-old with no kids, your life insurance premium may be very inexpensive because you might not need a large policy. However, the price could increase as you age and your health and family situations change because you may need more coverage.
How Can You Lower Your Rates?
The type of coverage you purchase affects your premium. If you get more comprehensive coverage with your insurance policy, it may raise your insurance premium. For example, if you insure your vehicle for all risks, you may have to pay more than if you insured it with a policy that doesnât include collision coverage.
Deductibles can reduce your insurance premiums, as well. An insurance deductible is the cost you pay before the insurance company pays anything. If your car is insured and you have a $1,000 deductible, you have to pay $1,000 before the insurance company will begin to cover any costs. If there are $3,000 in damages to your vehicle, you would have to pay $1,000 and the insurance company would pay the other $2,000. As a general rule, the higher your deductible, the lower your premiums.
In the case of health insurance, taking on a higher deductible, higher co-pays or longer waiting periods may lower your costs. However, if you can afford a plan with a lower deductible, you may want to take that. Lower deductible health plans offer customers more predictable prices for higher amounts of coverage.
Your homeowners insurance premium may be affected by the coverage limits you choose, your deductible amount, optional coverages you select, your homeâs age and condition, your claims history and your credit rating.
Car insurance premiums may be affected by your age, your credit score, your driving record, the age of your car, the type of coverage you chose, coverage limits you select, where you live and drive, and how often you drive.
Your life insurance premium may be affected by the amount of life insurance coverage you buy, the type of life insurance policy you select, the length of your policy, and your age, health, and life expectancy.
Some companies, specific policies or types of coverage have insurance limits. An insurance limit is the maximum amount of money the company will pay. Typically, the higher your insurance limit, the higher your premium. Itâs also the inverse of a deductible. You pay the part of the claim or claims thatâs more than the limit on your policy.
Insurance limits can be on a per occurrence basis or on an aggregate basis. For example, a per occurrence basis could be a $20,000 insurance limit on bodily injuries per person, per car accident. An aggregate insurance limit might be a $100,000 limit on construction costs in the event of a natural disaster.
Car insurance laws and policies typically list liabilities as a set of three numbers that stand for the coverage limits when youâre responsible for an accident. If your numbers were 22/66/15, your insurance would cover $22,000 for bodily injuries per person, $66,000 in total bodily injury coverage per accident and $15,000 for property damage per accident. For personal injury protection, collision and comprehensive coverage, the numbers are listed as a single amount for each type of coverage. Your state may have specific minimum limits for certain coverages, so make sure youâre getting a fair rate.
Healthcare laws often change, and many lifetime and annual health insurance limits are illegal. However, some health insurance policies still list annual limits or limits on the number of times certain treatments will be covered, such as acupuncture, chiropractic services and orthotics. Companies may also place limits on prescription medication to keep costs down. There may be policies such as âstep therapy,â which requires you to try less expensive drugs first, or quantity limits, such as only covering 30 pills in 30 days.
Your homeowners insurance policy will often list separate limit amounts for different types of coverage. The limit amounts for liability coverage â in case youâre sued by someone for property damage or injuries that occur on your property â may be different than the limit amount for damage to your home and personal property. Make sure you review all of your homeowners insurance coverage limits, such as the amount it may cost to rebuild your home (dwelling coverage), liability coverage and personal property coverage.
Itâs important to shop around for insurance because different companies have different target clients. You may be the target client for one company, but not for another. That means your premium may be lower with one company than another. The price you pay for your insurance may include taxes or fees, as well. And these could differ from company to company. Before shopping around, call your insurance company and see if theyâre willing to lower your premium.
In addition, insurance companies may decide to pursue a new market segment. That can lower rates on a temporary basis, or on a more permanent basis if that works for the company. In either case, you can get a better deal on your insurance if you are part of the demographic that insurance company wants to attract.
The best insurance company for you may not be the best insurance company for your parents or your best friend. It all depends on your age, location and many other factors.
The Bottom Line
Your insurance company will assess the financial risk of insuring you. The greater they perceive that risk to be, the more your premium will cost. Itâs important to make sure you let your insurance company know all the ways in which you are a low-risk or lower risk client in order to get premium reductions. After shopping around, youâll be able to find the insurance policies that are best for your financial situation.
Tips for Reducing Insurance Costs
- Consider all of the insurance options available based on your individual circumstances. This can help you save money. A comprehensive budget calculator can help you understand which option is best.
- If you need extra help weighing your insurance options, you might want to consider working with an expert. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs can be easy. SmartAssetâs free tool will match you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If youâre ready to learn about local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
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The post A Beginnerâs Guide to Insurance Premiums appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.
A 2015 study found that older adults lose more than $36 billion every year to financial scams. Unfortunately, con artists see the elderly population as an easy and vulnerable target.
The American Securities Administrators Associationâs President, Mike Rothman, explains that scammers take this approach because the current elderly population is one of the wealthiest weâve seen with such hefty retirement savings. Where the money goes, the con artists follow.
With so many scams targeting older adults, itâs essential to make yourself and your loved ones aware of the different types of cons. Here is a list of common financial scams that specifically target the elderly and how you can prevent them:
The Grandparent Scam
The grandparent scam is common because it appeals to older adultsâ emotions. Scammers get the phone number of a senior and they call pretending to be a grandchild. Making their lie seem more believable, the con artist will playfully ask the older adult to guess what grandchild is calling. Of course, the first reaction will most likely be for the senior to name a grandchild and then the scammer can easily play along, acting like they guessed right. Now the grandparent thinks they are talking to their grandchild.
The scam artist will then begin to confide in the grandparent, saying they are in a tough financial position and they need the grandparentâs help. Asking them to send money to a Western Union or MoneyGram, they plead for the grandparent not to tell anyone. If the grandparent complies and sends the money, the scammer will likely contact the senior again and ask for more money.
Avoid this scam:
- Never send money to anyone unless you have 100 percent proof that it is who you think it is. Scammers can find out quite a bit of information from social media and other methods, so donât think that just because they know a couple pieces of information about you and your family that it is legit.
- Verify that it is actually your grandchild on the phone by texting or calling the grandchildâs real phone number and verifying if it is him or her.
- Call the parent of the supposed grandchild and find out if the grandchild really is in trouble.
- Talk to your family members now and compile a list of questions only you and your family know the answers to. If a family emergency really does happen, you can ask the questions and know if it is your family member based on the answers.
âClaim Your Prize Now!â Sweepstakes Scam
The sweepstakes scam is when con artists contact the elderly either by phone or email and tell them they have won something, whether that be a sum of money or another type of prize. To claim the prize, scammers tell them they have to pay a fee. Once the senior agrees, scammers send a fake check in the mail. Before the check doesnât clear and seniors can realize it is a scam, they have already paid the âfee.â
Avoid this scam:
- Do not give out any financial information over the phone or email.
- Practice Internet safety by protecting your passwords, shopping on encrypted websites, and avoiding phony emails.
- Be skeptical of any message that says you have randomly won a prize and you must do something before you can claim it. Unless you specifically enter a contest, you most likely arenât going to randomly win a monetary prize.
Because of the Affordable Care Act that allows seniors over the age of 65 to qualify for Medicare, scam artists donât have to do much research about seniorsâ healthcare providers. This makes it simple for scammers to call, email, or even visit seniorsâ homes personally and claim to be a Medicare representative.
There are a variety of ways these con artists use this Medicare scam to target the elderly. One way is telling seniors they need a new Medicare card and to do so, they need to tell the âMedicare representativeâ what their Social Security number is. An additional way is they can tell seniors there is a fee they need to pay to continue their benefits.
Avoid this scam:
- Do not give out any information to someone you have not verified is from Medicare. Real Medicare employees should have your information on file so if you are skeptical, ask the person some questions to verify it is legitimate.
The âWoodchuckâ Scam
A common scam to target seniors who live alone is the âwoodchuckâ scam. Scam artists will claim to be contractors and will complete house projects if seniors agree to let them.
The scammers will gain seniorsâ trust and eventually come up with a variety of fake repairs that need to be done, such as a roof repair. This often results in seniors giving the fake contractors thousands of dollars.
Â Avoid this scam:
- Make sure the person doing your home repairs is a professional. Find out what company they work for and call and verify they are indeed a legitimate contractor.
Con artists are using senior homeownership to their benefit. The mortgage scam is when scammers offer a property assessment to seniors, telling them they can determine the value of their home. This scam has become increasing popular as housing confidence is hitting record highs and people are putting a large chunk of their income towards saving for new homes.
The scam artists make the process look legitimate by finding the homeâs information on the Internet and sending seniors an official letter detailing all of the found information. The scammers do this because it is an easy way to con seniors into paying a fee for the requested information.
Â Avoid this scam:
- Ensure the property assessment is legitimate by asking what company they work for and following up with the real company to verify.
Talk to Your Loved Ones
Older adults are often too embarrassed to tell authorities or a family member they have been scammed. Talk to the seniors in your life and let them know they can confide in you and let you know if they have been scammed. You can also have them read through this article and make themselves aware of the scams that could potentially target them in the future.
Check Your Credit Regularly
Check your credit regularly so you are aware of any suspicious activity with your accounts. You can check your credit for free on Credit.com and receive a free credit score updated every 14 days along with a credit report card, which is a summary of what is on your credit reports.
Get It Now
The post Financial Scams That Target the Elderly and How to Prevent Them appeared first on Credit.com.
If you want to whip your finances into shape, hereâs a good New Yearâs resolution: improving your credit score.
A lot of New Yearâs resolutions fail because theyâre so extreme. Think of all the bonkers weight-loss and money-saving goals that surface at the start of every year.
This resolution is different. No extreme measures are required. But there arenât any shortcuts. Building good credit is a goal you need to commit to 12 months a year.
How to Build Good Credit in 10 Steps
Ready to make 2021 the year you finally prove your creditworthiness? Or are you looking to recover from a 2020 setback? Hereâs how to build good credit in 10 steps.
1. Stay on Top of Your Credit Reports
Itâs 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 werenât already delinquent. But mistakes happen. Even in normal times, about 1 in 5 credit reports contained inaccurate information.
Through April 2021, you can get one free credit report per week from each bureau. (Typically, youâre 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 âfreeâ 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 donât recognize.
Your credit reports wonât show you your credit score, but you can use a free credit-monitoring service to check your score. (No, checking your own credit doesnât hurt your score.) Many banks and credit card companies also give you your credit scores for free.
If the bureaus agree to remove information from your credit reports, expect to wait about 30 days until your reports are updated.
2. Pay Your Bills. On Time. Every Single Month
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.
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.
A strong payment history takes time to build. If youâve made late payments, theyâll 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.
3. Establish Credit, Even if Youâve Made Mistakes
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 wonât help your score.)
But if you have bad credit or youâre 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.
4. Open a Secured Card if You Donât Qualify for a Regular Card
Opening a secured credit card is one of our favorite ways to build a positive history when you canât get approved for a regular credit card or loan. You put down a refundable deposit, and that becomes your line of credit.
After about a year of making your payments on time, youâll 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 $35. Some secured card options we like (and no, weâre not getting paid to say this):
- Discover it Secured
- OpenSky Secured Visa Card
- Secured Mastercard from Capital One
5. Ask for a Limit Increase. Pretend You Never Got It
Increasing your credit limits helps your score because it decreases your credit utilization ratio. Thatâs credit score speak for the percentage of credit youâre using. The standard recommendation is to keep this number below 30%, but really, the closer to zero the better.
If you have open credit, ask your current creditors for an increase, rather than applying for new credit. That way, youâll avoid lowering your length of credit, which could ding your score.
The downside of a higher credit limit: Youâll have more money to spend that isnât really yours. To get the biggest credit score boost from a limit increase and avoid paying more in interest, make sure you donât add to your balance.
Donât 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.
6. Prioritize Credit Card Debt Over Loans
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.
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.
7. Keep Your Old Accounts Active
Provided you arenât paying ridiculous fees, keep your credit card accounts open once youâve paid off the balance. Credit scoring methods reward you for having a long credit history.
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.
8. Apply for New Credit Selectively
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.
But if youâre in the market for a mortgage or loan, donât 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.
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9. Still Overwhelmed? A Debt Consolidation Loan Could Help
If youâre 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.
Youâll get the simplicity of a single payment, plus youâll typically pay less interest since loan interest rates tend to be lower. (If you canât get a loan that lowers your interest rate, this probably isnât a good option.)
By using a loan to pay off your credit cards, youâll also free up credit and lower your credit utilization ratio.
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.
10. Keep Your Credit Score in Perspective
All the credit-monitoring tools out there make it easy to obsess about your credit score. While itâs important to build good credit, look at the bigger picture. A few final thoughts:
- Your credit score isnât 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 â but these are all things that donât 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 youâre making a big purchase, even if your credit score is lackluster.
- Donât focus on your score if you canât pay for necessities. If youâre 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 canât afford to pay them, as they may have options.
Focus on your overall financial picture, and youâll probably see your credit score improve, too. Remember, though, that while credit scores matter, you matter more.
Now go crush those goals in 2021 and beyond.
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.
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.
You’ve tried debt payoff strategies, balance transfers, consolidation, and evenÂ debt management; you’ve begged your creditors, liquidated your assets, and pestered your friends and families for any money they can afford, but after all of that, you still have more debt than you can handle.
Once you reach the end of your rope, the options that remain are not as forgiving asÂ debt managementÂ and they’ll do much more damage to yourÂ credit scoreÂ than debt payoff strategies. However, if you’ve tried other forms ofÂ debt reliefÂ and nothing seems to work, all that remains is to consider debt settlement and bankruptcy.
Debt settlement is a very good way to clear your debt. It’s one of the cheapest and most complete ways to eradicateÂ credit cardÂ debtÂ and can help with most other forms ofÂ unsecured debtÂ as well. Bankruptcy, on the other hand, is aÂ last resortÂ option for debtors who can’t meet thoseÂ monthly paymentsÂ and have exhausted all other possibilities.
But which option is right for you, should you be looking for aÂ debt settlement companyÂ or aÂ bankruptcy attorney?
Similarities Between Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement
Firstly, let’s look at the similarities between bankruptcy and debt settlement, which are actually few and far between. In fact, beyond the fact that they are bothÂ debt reliefÂ options that can clear your debt, there are very few similarities, with the main one being that they both impact yourÂ credit scoreÂ quite heavily.
A bankruptcy can stay on yourÂ credit reportÂ for up to 10 years and do a lot of damage when it is applied. It may take several years before you can successfully apply for loans and high credit lines again, and it will continue to impact your score for years to come.
Debt settlement is not quite as destructive, but it can reduce yourÂ credit scoreÂ in a similar way and last for up to 7 years. Accounts do not disappear in the same way as when you pay them in full, so future creditors will know that the accounts were settled for less than the balance and this may scare them away.
In both cases, you could lose a couple hundred points off yourÂ credit score, but it all depends on how high your score is to begin with, as well as how many accounts you have on yourÂ credit reportÂ and how extensive the settlement/bankruptcy process is.
Differences Between Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement
The main two types of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. The former liquidates assets and uses the funds generated from this liquidation to pay creditors. The latter creates aÂ repayment planÂ with a goal of repaying all debts within a fixed period of time using an installment plan that suits the filer.
Debt settlement, on the other hand, is more of a personal process, the goal of which is to offer a reduced settlement sum to creditors andÂ debt collectors, clearing the debts with aÂ lump sum paymentÂ that is significantly less than the balance.
Chapter 7 BankruptcyÂ andÂ Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
When people think of bankruptcy, it’s often a Chapter 7 that they have in mind. With aÂ Chapter 7 bankruptcy, all non-exempt assets will be sold, and the money then used to pay lenders. There are filing costs and it’s advised that you hire aÂ bankruptcy attorneyÂ to ensure the process runs smoothly.
Chapter 7 bankruptcyÂ is quick and complete, typically finishing in 6 months and clearing mostÂ unsecured debtsÂ in this time. There is noÂ repayment planÂ to follow and no lawsuits or wage garnishment to worry about.
Chapter 13, on the other hand, focuses on aÂ repayment planÂ that typically spans up to 5 years. The debts are not wiped clear but are instead restructured in a way that the debtor can handle. This method of bankruptcy is typically more expensive, but only worthwhile for debtors who can afford to repay their debts.
Filing for bankruptcy is not easy and there is no guarantee you will be successful. There are strictÂ bankruptcy lawsÂ to follow and theÂ bankruptcy courtÂ must determine that you have exhausted all other options and have no choice but to file.
Bankruptcy will require you to see aÂ credit counselor, which helps to ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes in the future. This can feel like a pointless and demeaning requirement, as many debtors understand the rights and wrongs and got into a mess because of uncontrollable circumstances and not reckless spending, but sessions are short, cheap, and shouldn’t cause much stress.
HowÂ Debt Settlement Works
The goal of debt settlement is to get creditors to agree to aÂ settlement offer. This can be performed by the debtor directly, but it’s often done with help from aÂ debt settlement company.
The debt specialist may request that you stop making payments on your debts every month. This has two big benefits:
1. More Money
You will have more money in your account every month, which means you’ll have more funds to go towards debtÂ settlement offers.Â
The idea of making largeÂ lump sum paymentsÂ can seem alien to someone who has a lot of debt. After all, if you’re struggling to make $400 debt payments every month on over $20,000 worth of debt, how can you ever hope to get the $5,000 to $15,000 you need to clear those debts in full?
But if you stop making all payments and instead move that money to a secured account, you’ll have $4,800 extra at the end of the year, which should be enough to start making those offers and getting those debts cleared.
2. Creditor Panic
Another aspect of the debt settlement process that confuses debtors is the idea that creditors would be willing to accept reduced offers. If you have a debt worth $20,000 and are paying large amounts of interest every month, why would they accept a lump sum and potentially take a loss overall?
The truth is, if you keep makingÂ monthly payments, creditors will be reluctant to accept aÂ settled debtÂ offer. But as soon as you start missing those payments, the risk increases, and the creditor faces the very real possibility that they will need to sell that debt to aÂ collection agency. If you have a debt of $20,000, it may be sold for as little as $20 to $200, so if you come in with an offer of $10,000 before it reaches that point, they’ll snap your hand off!
Types of Debt
AÂ debt settlement programÂ works best when dealing withÂ credit cardÂ debt, but it can also help to clear loan debt,Â medical bills, and more. Providing it’s not government debt or secured debt, it will work.Â
With government debt, you need specific tax relief services, and, in most cases, there is no way to avoid it. With secured debt, the lender will simply take your asset as soon as you default.
Debt settlement companiesÂ may place some demanding restrictions on you, and in the short term, this will increase yourÂ total debtÂ and worsen yourÂ financial situation. In addition to requesting that you stop makingÂ monthly payments, they may ask that you place yourself on a budget, stop spending money on luxuries, stop acquiring new debt, and start putting every penny you have towards the settlement.
It can have aÂ negative impactÂ on your life, but the end goal is usually worth it, as you’ll beÂ debt-freeÂ within 5 years.
Pros andÂ Cons of Debt SettlementÂ and Bankruptcy
Neither of these processes are free or easy. With bankruptcy, you may pay up to $2,000 for Chapter 7 and $4,000 for Chapter 13 (including filing fees and legal fees) while debt settlement is charged as a fixed percentage of the debt or the money saved.Â
As mentioned already, both methods can also damage yourÂ credit score. But ultimately, they will clear your debts and the responsibilities that go with them. If you’ve been losing sleep because of your debt, this can feel like a godsendâa massive weight lifted off your shoulders.
It’s also worth noting thatÂ scamsÂ exist for both options, so whether you’reÂ filing bankruptcyÂ or choosing a debtÂ settlement plan, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable company/lawyer and are not being asked to pay unreasonable upfront fees. ReputableÂ debt settlement companiesÂ will provide you with aÂ free consultationÂ in the first instance, and you can use the NACBA directory to find a suitable lawyer.
Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement: The End Goal
For all the ways that these two options differ, there is one important similarity: They give you a chance to make aÂ fresh start. You can never underestimate the benefits of this, even if it comes with a reducedÂ credit scoreÂ and a derogatory mark that will remain on yourÂ credit reportÂ for years to come.
If you’re heavily in debt, it can feel like your money isn’t your own, your life isn’t secure, and your future is not certain. With bankruptcy and debt settlement, yourÂ credit scoreÂ and finances may suffer temporarily, but it gives you a chance to wipe the slate clean and start again.
What’s more, this process may take several years to complete and in the case of bankruptcy, it comes withÂ credit counseling. Once you make it through all of this, you’ll be more knowledgeable about debt, you’ll have a better grip on your finances, and your impulse control.Â
And even if you don’t, you’ll be forced to adopt a little restraint after the process ends as yourÂ credit scoreÂ will be too low for you to apply for newÂ personalÂ loansÂ and high limitÂ cards.
Other Options for Last DitchÂ Debt Relief
Many debtors preparing for debt settlement or bankruptcy may actually have more options than they think. For instance, bankruptcy is often seen as a get-out-of-jail-free card, an easy escape that you can use to your advantage whenever you have debts you don’t want to pay.
But that’s simply not the case and unless you have tried all other options and can prove that none of them have worked, your case may be thrown out. If that happens, you’ll waste money on legal and filing fees and will be sent back to the drawing board.
So, regardless of theÂ amount of debtÂ you have, make sure you’ve looked into the followingÂ debt reliefÂ options before you focus on debt settlement or bankruptcy.Â
AÂ debt consolidationÂ loanÂ is provided by a specialized lender. They pay off all your existing debts and give you a single large loan in return, one that has a lowerÂ interest rateÂ and a lowerÂ monthly payment.Â
Your debt-to-income ratio will improve, and you’ll have more money in your pocket at the end of the month. However, in exchange, you’ll be given a much longer-term, which means you’ll pay more interest over the life of the loan.
AÂ Debt ManagementÂ Plan
Debt managementÂ combinesÂ counseling servicesÂ withÂ debt consolidation. AÂ debt managementÂ planÂ requires you to continue making yourÂ monthly payment, only this will go to theÂ debt managementÂ company and not directly to the creditors. They will then distribute the money to your creditors.
You’ll be given aÂ monthly paymentÂ that you can manage, along with the budgeting advice you need to keep meeting those payments. In exchange, however, you’ll be asked to close all but oneÂ credit cardÂ (which can hurt yourÂ credit score) and if you miss a payment then your creditors may back out of the agreement.
Balance Transfer Card
If all your debts are tied intoÂ credit cards, you can use a balance transferÂ credit cardÂ to make everything more manageable. With a balance transferÂ credit card, you move one or more debts onto a new card, one that offers a 0% APR for a fixed period.Â
The idea is that you continue making yourÂ monthly payment, only because there is no interest, all the money goes towards the principal.
Home Equity Loans
If you have built substantial equity in your home then you can look into home equity loans and lines of credit. These are secured loans, which means there is a risk ofÂ repossessionÂ if you fail to keep up your payments, but for this, you’ll get a greatly reducedÂ interest rateÂ and a sum large enough to clear your debts.
Bottom Line: The Best Option
Debt settlement and bankruptcy are both considered to beÂ last resortÂ debt-reliefÂ options, but they couldn’t be more different from one another. Generally speaking, we would always recommend debt settlement first, especially if you have a lot of money tied up inÂ credit cardÂ debt.
If not, and you can’t bear the idea of spending several months ignoring your creditors, missing payments, and accumulatingÂ late fees, it might be time to consider bankruptcy. In any case, make sure you exhaust all other possibilities first.
Debt Settlement vs Bankruptcy: Which is Best? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
In borrowing, there are two types of debts, recourse and nonrecourse. Recourse debt holds the person borrowing money personally liable for the debt. If you default on a recourse loan, the lender will have license, or recourse, to go after your personal assets if the collateralâs value doesnât cover the remaining amount of the loan that is due. Recourse loans are often used to finance construction or invest in real estate. Hereâs what you need to know about recourse loans, how they work and how they differ from other types of loans.
What Is a Recourse Loan?
A recourse loan is a type of loan that allows the lender to go after any of a borrowerâs assets if that borrower defaults on the loan. The first choice of any lender is to seize the asset that is collateral for the loan. For example, if someone stops making payments on an auto loan, the lender would take back the car and sell it.
However, if someone defaults on a hard money loan, which is a type of recourse loan, the lender might seize the borrowerâs home or other assets. Then, the lender would sell it to recover the balance of the principal due. Recourse loans also allow lenders to garnish wages or access bank accounts if the full debt obligation isnât fulfilled.
Essentially, recourse loans help lenders recover their investments if borrowers fail to pay off their loans and the collateral value attached to those loans is not enough to cover the balance due.
How Recourse Loans Work
When a borrower takes out debt, he typically has several options. Most hard money loans are recourse loans. In other words, if the borrower fails to make payments, the lender can seize the borrowerâs other assets such as his home or car and sell it to recover the money borrowed for the loan.
Lenders can go after a borrowerâs other assets or take legal action against a borrower. Other assets that a lender can seize might include savings accounts and checking accounts. Depending on the situation, they may also be able to garnish a borrowerâs wages or take further legal action.
When a lender writes a loanâs terms and conditions, what types of assets the lender can pursue if a debtor fails to make debt payments are listed. If you are at risk of defaulting on your loan, you may want to look at the language in your loan to see what your lender might pursue and what your options are.
Recourse Loans vs. Nonrecourse Loans
Nonrecourse loans are also secured loans, but rather than being secured by all a personâs assets, nonrecourse loans are only secured by the asset involved as collateral. For example, a mortgage is typically a nonrecourse loan, because the lender will only go after the home if a borrower stops making payments. Similarly, most auto loans are nonrecourse loans, and the bank or lender will only be able to seize the car if the borrower stops making payments.
Nonrecourse loans are riskier for lenders because they will have fewer options for getting their money back. Therefore, most lenders will only offer nonrecourse loans to people with exceedingly high credit scores.
Types of Recourse Loans
There are several types of recourse loans that you should be aware of before taking on debt. Some of the most common recourse loans are:
- Hard money loans. Even if someone uses their hard money loan, also known as hard cash loan, to buy a property, these types of loans are typically recourse loans.
- Auto loans. Because cars depreciate, most auto loans are recourse loans to ensure the lender receive full debt payments.
Recourse Loans Pros and Cons
For borrowers, recourse loans have both pros and and at least one con. You should evaluate each before deciding to take out a recourse loan.
Although they may seem riskier upfront, recourse loans are still attractive to borrowers.
- Easier underwriting and approval. Because a recourse loan is less risky for lenders, the underwriting and approval process is more manageable for borrowers to navigate.
- Lower credit score. Itâs easier for people with lower credit scores to get approved for a recourse loan. This is because more collateral is available to the lender if the borrower defaults on the loan.
- Lower interest rate. Recourse loans typically have lower interest rates than nonrecourse loans.
The one major disadvantage of a recourse loan is the risk involved. With a recourse loan, the borrower is held personally liable. This means that if the borrower does default, more than just the loanâs collateral could be at stake.
Loans can be divided into two types, recourse loans and nonrecourse loans. Recourse loans, such as hard money loans, allow the lender to pursue more than what is listed as collateral in the loan agreement if a borrower defaults on the loan. Be sure to check your stateâs laws about determining when a loan is in default. While there are advantages to recourse loans, which are often used to finance construction, buy vehicles or invest in real estate, such as lower interest rates and a more straightforward approval process, they carry more risk than nonrecourse loans.
Tips on Borrowing
- Borrowing money from a lender is a significant commitment. Consider talking to a financial advisor before you take that step to be completely clear about how it will impact your finances. Finding a financial advisor doesnât have to be difficult. In just a few minutes our financial advisor search tool can help you find a professional in your area to work with. If youâre ready, get started now.
- For many people, taking out a mortgage is the biggest debt they incur. Our mortgage calculator will tell you how much your monthly payments will be, based on the principal, interest rate, type of mortgage and length of the term.
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The post What Is a Recourse Loan? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.
In the age of paperless transactions, identify theft is something that virtually all of us are susceptible to. If your identity is stolen, the consequences can be severe, and in some cases, can take years to recover from. One way to be proactive against fraud and defend yourself from identity theft, is to freeze your credit report with each of the three major credit bureausâExperian, TransUnion, and Equifax.Â
Placing a credit freeze on your credit report will stop identity thieves from being able to open new accounts, lines of credit, or make any large purchases in your name, regardless of whether or not they have your Social Security number or any other sensitive information.Â
What a credit freeze means
A credit freeze is a process that shuts off access to your credit reports at your request. Without your verified consent, your delicate information cannot be acquired. This means that if someone were to attempt to apply for credit in your name, your report would come up as âfrozen,â and therefore the creditor would not be able to see the information needed for the application to be approved.
You can unfreeze your credit at any time by using a PIN or a password.Â
Reasons to freeze your credit
It might be a good idea to freeze your credit if youâre experiencing any of the following situations:
- Your data has been compromised in a data breach: It happens. If youâve been a victim of a data breach and personal information related to your identity has been leaked or made vulnerable to cyber criminals, a credit freeze can offer you some extra protection.Â
- You have reason to think youâve been a victim of identity theft: Perhaps youâve checked your credit recently and noticed open accounts that you donât recognize. Maybe youâve been getting phone calls from collections agencies requesting payments from accounts you know you didnât open. While a credit freeze wonât be able to stop them from using accounts a thief has already opened, it can stop them from opening any more.Â
- You want to protect your child from identity theft: According to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, parents and legally guardians of children 16 years old and younger have the right to open a credit account for their child with the sole purpose of putting a freeze on it to protect them from identity theft.Â
How to freeze your creditÂ
The process of freezing your credit is simple but does require a few steps. You will need to get in touch with each of the three major credit bureaus one by one and request a credit freeze:
- Experian: Contact by phone at 800-349-9960 or go to their website.
- Equifax: Contact by phone at 888-397-3742 or go to their website.
- TransUnion: Contact by phone at 888-909-8872 or go to their website.Â Â
The credit bureaus will ask you for your Social Security number, your date of birth and other information to verify your identity.
Once you freeze your credit, your file will be unattainable even if a thief has sensitive information such as your social security number or date of birth. If you need to use your credit file, you can unfreeze your credit report at any time.Â
How to unfreeze your credit
Once youâve frozen your credit file, it will be remain blocked until you decide that you would like to unfreeze it. You will need to unfreeze your credit report in order to open a new line of credit or make a major purchase.Â
Unfreezing your credit file is simple. All you will need to do is go online to each credit bureau website and use the personal identification number (PIN) that you used to place the freeze on the account. If you donât want to complete this task online, you can also unfreeze your credit file over the phone or through postal mail.Â
When the unfreezing process is done online or by phone, it is completed within minutes of submitting the request. However, if you send your request via mail, it will take much longer.Â
Keep in mind that you donât necessarily need to unfreeze your credit through all three of the major credit bureaus if you donât want to. For instance, letâs say you plan to apply for credit somewhere. You can ask the creditor which credit bureau it will go through to pull up your report, and only unfreeze that one credit bureau.Â
You may also have the option to unfreeze for a specific amount of time. Once the time is up, your credit file will automatically freeze again.Â
Credit freeze pros and cons
There are a few reasons why you might want to freeze your credit in this day and age, but just like with anything else, there are pros and cons to credit freezing. Here is a general breakdown of the benefits and downfalls of putting a freeze on your credit report:
- It prevents thieves from opening new lines of credit: With a credit freeze placed on your account, no one will be able to open a new line of credit or any other type of account requiring a credit check using your personal data. Anyone trying to commit fraud will be stopped in their tracks as soon as lenders notice that the report is frozen.Â
- It wonât affect your credit score: Freezing your credit report will not damage your credit score. Additionally, if youâve been a victim of identity theft, freezing your credit report could actually protect your credit score from being damaged due to fraud.Â
- Itâs free: It used to be the case that some credit freezes would cost a fee, but that is no longer the way it works.Â
- It requires some effort: Putting a credit freeze on your credit report takes some effort. You will need to get in touch with all three credit bureaus.Â
- You will need to remember your PINs: A PIN is required to lift or freeze your credit report. If you lose it, you will need to jump through extra hoops to create a new one.
It canât stop thieves from accessing your existing accounts: Credit freezes can only stop fraudsters from opening new accounts using your information. If youâve already been a victim of identity theft, a credit freeze canât block thieves from committing fraud with your current accounts. This means that thieves can still make a purchase using a credit card they stole from you.
Freezing Your Credit is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
Are you starting a new business? If so, here you can learn all about the different options you have when it comes to start-up business loans.
Credit cards exceptional financial instruments. They allow you to buy without any cash and earn rewards while at it. Another interesting feature is the option of adding another person as an authorized user to your card. However, credit card usage does have a huge impact on your creditworthiness. So, does removing your name from a […]
The post How Removing Your Name from a Shared Credit Card Affects Your Credit Score appeared first on Credit Absolute.
Credit card issuersÂ have consumers right where they want them, lending money at high-interest ratesÂ and earning money from many different fees. Even reward cards benefit the issuers, because all the additionalÂ perksÂ and rewards they provide are covered by the increased merchant fees, which essentially means theÂ credit card companyÂ offers you extra money to incentivize you to spend, and then demands this money from the retailers.
It’s a good gig, but some consumers believe they can beat the credit card companiesÂ and one of the ways they do this is via something known asÂ credit card churning.
What isÂ Credit Card Churning?
Many reward cards offerÂ sign-up bonusesÂ to entice consumers to apply. Not only can you get regularÂ cash back, statement credit, and air miles, but you’ll often get a reward just for signing up. For instance, manyÂ rewards credit cardsÂ offer a lump sum payment to all consumers who spend a specific sum of money during the first three months.
Credit card churningÂ is about taking advantage of these bonuses, and getting maximum benefits with as little cost as possible.
“Churners” will sign up for multiple different reward cards in a short space of time, collect as many of these bonuses as they can, clear the card balance, and then reap the rewards.
DoesÂ Credit Card ChurningÂ Work?
Credit card churningÂ does work, to an extent. Reward credit cards typically don’t require you to spend that much money to receive the sign up bonus, with most bonuses activated for a spend of just $500 to $1,000 over those first three months. This is easily achievable for most credit card users, as the average spend for reward cards is over $800 a month.
If you haveÂ good credit, it’s possible to sign up to multiple credit cards, collectÂ bonus offersÂ without increasing your usual spend, and get everything from hotel stays to free flights,Â cash back,Â gift cards, statement credit, and more.
However, it’s something that manyÂ credit card companiesÂ are trying to stop, as they don’t benefit from users who collectÂ sign-up bonuses, don’t accumulate debt, and then pay off their balance in full. As a result, you may face restrictions with regards to how many bonuses you can collect within a specified timeframe.Â
What’s more, there are several things that can go wrong when you’re playing with multipleÂ new accountsÂ like this, as all information is sent to theÂ credit bureausÂ and could leave a significant mark on yourÂ credit report.
Dangers of Churning
Even if theÂ credit card companiesÂ don’t prevent you from acquiring multipleÂ new credit cards, there are several issues you could face, ones that will offset any benefits achieved from those generousÂ sign-up bonuses, including:
1. You Could be Hit with Hefty Fees
Many reward credit cards haveÂ annual fees, and these average around $95 each, with some premiumÂ rewardsÂ cardsÂ going as high as $250 and even $500. At best, these fees will reduce theÂ amount of moneyÂ you receive, at worst they will completely offset all the benefits and leave you with a negative balance.
Annual feesÂ aren’t the only fees that will reduce your profits. You may also be charged fees every time you withdraw cash, gamble, make a foreign transaction or miss a payment,
2. YourÂ Credit ScoreÂ Will Drop
Every time you apply for aÂ new credit card, you will receive aÂ hard inquiry, which will show on yourÂ credit reportÂ and reduce yourÂ FICOÂ scoreÂ by anywhere from 2 to 5 points. Rate shopping, which bundles multiple inquiries into one, doesn’t apply toÂ credit card applications, soÂ credit cardÂ churnersÂ tend to receive manyÂ hard inquiries.
AÂ new accountÂ can also reduce yourÂ credit score. 15% of your score is based on the length of your accounts while 10% is based on how manyÂ new accountsÂ you have. As soon as thatÂ credit card accountÂ opens, your average age will drop, you’ll have anotherÂ new account, and yourÂ credit scoreÂ will suffer as a result.
The damage done by aÂ new credit cardÂ isn’t as severe as you might think, but if you keep applying and adding thoseÂ new accounts, the score reduction will be noticeable. You could go fromÂ Excellent CreditÂ toÂ Good Credit, or from Good to Fair, and that makes a massive difference if you have a home loan or auto loan application on the horizon.
Your credit utilization ratio also plays a role here. This ratio is calculated by comparing your total debt to yourÂ available credit. If you have a debt of $3,000 spread across three credit cards with a totalÂ credit limitÂ of $6,000, your credit utilization ratio is 50%. The higher this score is, the more of an impact it will have on yourÂ credit score, and this is key, as credit utilization accounts for a whopping 30% of your score.
Your credit utilization ratio is actually one of the reasons yourÂ credit scoreÂ doesn’t take that big of a hit when you openÂ new cards, because you’re adding a newÂ credit limitÂ that has yet to accumulate debt, which means this ratio grows. However, if you max that card out, this ratio will take a hit, and if you then clear the debt and close it, all those initial benefits will disappear.
You can keep the card active, of course, but this is not recommended if you’re churning.
3. You’re at Risk of AccumulatingÂ Credit Card Debt
EveryÂ new cardÂ you open and every time yourÂ credit limitÂ grows, you run the risk of falling into a cycle of persistent debt. This is especially true whereÂ credit card rewardsÂ are concerned, as consumers spend much more on these cards than they do on non-reward credit cards.
Very few consumers accumulateÂ credit card debtÂ out of choice. It’s not like a loanâitâs not something they acquire because they want to make a big purchase they can’t afford. In most cases, the debt creeps up steadily. They pay it off in full every month, only to hit a rough patch. Once that happens, they miss a month and promise themselves they’ll cover everything the next month, only for it to grow bigger and bigger.
Before they realize it, they have a mass ofÂ credit card debtÂ and are stuck paying little more than the minimum every month.Â
If you start using a credit card just to accumulate rewards and you have several on the go, it’s very easy to get stuck in this cycle, at which point you’ll start paying interest and it will likely cost you more than the rewards earn you.
4. It’s Hard to Keep Track
Opening one credit card after another isn’t too difficult, providing you clear the balances in full and then close the card. However, if you’re opening several cards at once then you may lose track, in which case you could forget about balances, fees, and interest charges, and miss your chance to collectÂ airline milesÂ cash back, and other rewards.
How to Credit Churn Effectively
To credit churn effectively, look for theÂ best rewardsÂ and most generousÂ credit card offers, making sure they:
- Suit Your Needs:Â A travelÂ rewards cardÂ is useless if you don’t travel; a store card is no good if you don’t shop at that store. Look forÂ rewards programsÂ that benefit you personally, as opposed to simply focusing on the ones with the highest rates of return.
- AvoidÂ Annual Fees:Â AnÂ annual feeÂ can undo all your hard work and should, therefore, be avoided. Many cards have a $0Â annual fee, others charge $95 but waive the fee for theÂ first year. Both of these are good options forÂ credit card churning.
- Don’t Accumulate Fees:Â Understand how and why you might be charged cash advance fees and foreign transaction fees and avoid them at all costs. The fees are not as straightforward as you might think and are charged for multiple purchases.
- Plan Ahead:Â Make a note of theÂ bonus offerÂ and terms, plan ahead, and make sure you meet these terms by theÂ due datesÂ and that you cover the balance in full before interest has a chance to accumulate.
- Don’t Spend for the Sake of It:Â Finally, and most importantly, don’t spend money just to accumulate more rewards. As soon as you start increasing your spending just to earn a few extra bucks, you’ve lost. If you spend an average of $500 a month, don’t sign up for a card that requires you to spend $3,000 in the first three months, as it will encourage bad habits.Â
What Should You do if it Goes Wrong?
There are many ways thatÂ credit card churningÂ could go wrong, some more serious than others. Fortunately, there are solutions to all these problems, even forÂ cardholdersÂ who are completely new to this technique:
Spending RequirementsÂ Aren’t MetÂ
If you fail to meet the requirements of the bonus, all is not lost. Your score has taken a minor hit, but providing you followed the guidelines above, you shouldn’t have lost any money.
You now have two options: You can either clear the balance as normal and move onto your next card, taking what you have learned and trying again, or you can keep the card as a back-up or a long-term option.Â
Credit card churningÂ requires you to cycle through multiple issuers andÂ rewards programs, never sticking with a single card for more than a few months. But you need some stability as well, so if you don’t already have a credit card to use as a backup, and if that card doesn’t charge high fees or rates, keep it and use it for emergency purchases or general use.
Creditor Refuses the Application
Creditors can refuse an application for a number of reasons. If this isn’t your first experience of churning, there’s a chance they know what you’re doing and are concerned about how the card will be used. However, this is rare, and in most cases, youâll be refused because yourÂ credit scoreÂ is too low.
Many reward credit cards have a minimumÂ FICOÂ scoreÂ requirement of 670, others, including premiumÂ American ExpressÂ cards, require scores above 700. You can find more details aboutÂ credit scoreÂ requirements in theÂ fine printÂ of allÂ credit card offers.
YourÂ Credit ScoreÂ Takes a Hit
As discussed already, credit card churning can reduce yourÂ credit scoreÂ by a handful of points and the higher your score is, the more points you are likely to lose. Fortunately, all of this is reversible.
Firstly, try not to panic and focus on the bigger picture. WhileÂ new accountsÂ and credit length account for 25% of your total score,Â payment historyÂ and credit utilization account for 65%, so if you keep making payments on your accounts and don’t accumulate too muchÂ credit card debt, your score will stabilize.
You Accumulate Too Much Debt
Credit card debtÂ is really the only lasting and serious issue that can result fromÂ credit card churning. You’ll still earn benefits on a rolling balance, but your interest charges and fees will typically cost you much more than the benefits provide, and this is true even for theÂ best credit cardsÂ and the most generous reward programs.
If this happens, it’s time to putÂ credit card churningÂ on the back-burner and focus on clearing your debts instead. Sign up for aÂ balance transferÂ credit card and move your debt to a card that has a 0% APR for at least 15 months. This will give you time to assess your situation, take control of yourÂ credit history, and start chipping away at that debt.
What is Credit Card Churning? Dangers and Benefits is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.