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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.
Sound money management is an important part of a solid financial strategy. Youâll want to have some of your money set for retirement in a traditional or Roth IRA. Still, other money might be saved for your kidsâ college, a down payment on a house or other longer-term goals. And then you might have an emergency fund as well as a checking account that you use to pay your monthly bills and expenses. Each of these buckets of money can be in a different kind of account. In this article, weâll look at some of the best checking accounts.
What makes a good checking account
Before we look at some of the best checking accounts, itâs a good idea to talk about what makes for a good checking account. A checking account is an account that you would typically use to pay your ongoing monthly expenses. It is more and more rare to actually write paper checks, and instead, you would typically use a debit card or cashless payment account linked to your checking account.Â
With a checking account, some features to look for include no monthly or maintenance fees, a low minimum amount to open an account, the rate at which they pay interest, and any account opening bonus they might offer. The interest rate that checking and savings accounts pay is tied to the federal funds rate and usually varies over time. As of 2020, the interest rates are quite low, and many checking and savings accounts do not pay any interest at all. Also keep in mind that even if your account pays you 1% interest, youâre still losing money to inflation. So you wouldnât want to keep any long-term investment money in a checking or savings account.
With all that being said, letâs take a look at some of the top checking accounts available.
Discover Cashback Debit
Discoverâs checking account offers 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month, which is one of the few debit cards that offer a reward on ongoing purchases. The Discover Cashback Debit account also comes with no monthly maintenance or other fees, no fees to withdraw at over 60,000 ATMs worldwide and no fees for insufficient funds.
CapitalOne 360 Checking
The CapitalOne 360 Checking account has no account minimums or fees. It currently offers a 0.10% APY on balances, though you can also open a no-fee CapitalOne 360 Performance Savings account which offers 0.65% APY as of the time of this writing. CapitalOne also has thousands of branch offices nationwide, so you can do your banking online or in-person. The CapitalOne 360 Checking account offers three different options if you happen to overdraft your account – Auto-Decline, Next Day Grace and Free Savings Transfer.
Fidelity Cash Management Account
Fidelityâs Cash Management Account also offers no account fees or minimum balances. It also reimburses ATM fees nationwide, though only offers 0.01% APY on account balances. Fidelity makes it easy to transfer money between your checking account, savings accounts and any retirement accounts you have with Fidelity. Plus, the Fidelity Rewards Visa offers 2% cash back on all purchases, which you can redeem into your Fidelity Cash Management Account or any other Fidelity account.
Wealthfront Cash Account
Wealthfrontâs Cash Account offers a high-interest checking account (0.35% APY as of this writing) with no fees. And Wealthfrontâs convenient account dashboard lets you easily move money between your checking account and any investment or retirement accounts that you have with them. They also offer a service where you can get access to your paycheck up to two days early if you direct deposit into your Wealthfront Cash Account
HSBC Premier Checking
HSBCâs Premier Checking account also offers no fee on ATMs nationwide or for everyday banking transactions, but does charge a monthly maintenance fee if you donât have at least $75,000 in combined accounts or direct deposits of at least $5,000 monthly. They are currently offering a promotion where you can earn 3% as a welcome bonus, up to $600. Youâll get 3% on qualifying direct deposits, up to $100 per month, for the first six months of having your account.
Chase Total Checking
Chase Total Checking is currently offering a welcome bonus of $200 when you open a new account and have a direct deposit made to your account in the first 90 days. Chase Total Checking is currently paying an interest rate of only 0.01% APY. Also, there is a $12 monthly maintenance fee which can be avoided if you either:
- Have direct deposits totaling $500 or more
- Have a balance at the beginning of each day of $1,500 or more
- Have an average beginning day balance of $5,000 or more in any combination of all of your Chase accounts
The post Best Checking Accounts 2020 appeared first on MintLife Blog.
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.
Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/aee_werawan, Â©iStock.com/PictureLake, Â©iStock.com/designer491
The post What Is a Recourse Loan? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.
Think back to what the stock market looked like to you in March 2020, aka, the apocalypse. Did it look like:
A.) The biggest bargain sale youâve ever seen in your lifetime?Â
B.) A burning pit of money that was about to incinerate your lifeâs savings?
If you answered âB,â you probably have a low risk tolerance. You worry more about losing money than missing out on the opportunity to make more of it.
Being cautious about how you invest your money is a good thing. But if youâre so risk-averse that you avoid investing altogether, youâre putting your money at greater risk than you think.
Do Safe Investments Actually Exist?
When you think about the risks of investing, you probably think about losing principal, i.e., the original amount you invested. If you keep your money in a bank account, thereâs virtually no chance of that happening because deposits of up to $250,000 are FDIC insured.Â
But consider that the average savings account pays just 0.05% APY, while in 2019, inflation was about 2.3%.
So while youâre not at risk of losing principal, you still face purchasing power risk, which is the risk that your money loses value. Your money needs to earn enough to keep up with inflation to avoid losing purchasing power. If inflation continues at 2.3%, buying $100 worth of groceries will cost you $102.30 a year from now. If youâre saving over decades toward retirement, youâll be able to buy a whole lot less groceries in your golden years.
Thereâs also the risk of missed opportunity. By playing it too safe, youâre unlikely to earn the returns you need to grow into a sufficient nest egg.
Though thereâs no such thing as a risk-free investment, there are plenty of safe ways to invest your money.
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8 Low-Risk Investments for People Who Hate Losing Money
Here are eight options that are good for conservative investors. (Spoiler: Gold, bitcoin and penny stocks did not make our list.
If you have cash you wonât need for a while, investing in a CD, or certificate of deposit, is a good way to earn more interest than youâd get with a regular bank account.
You get a fixed interest rate as long as you donât withdraw your money before the maturity date. Typically, the longer the duration, the higher the interest rate.Â
Since theyâre FDIC insured, CDs are among the safest investments in existence. But low risk translates to low rewards. Those low interest rates for borrowers translate to lower APYs for money we save at a bank. Even for five-year CDs, the best APYs are just over 1%.
You also risk losing your interest and even some principal if you need to withdraw money early.
2. Money Market Funds
Not to be confused with money market accounts, money market funds are actually mutual funds that invest in low-risk, short-term debts, such as CDs and U.S. Treasurys. (More on those shortly.)
The returns are often on par with CD interest rates. One advantage: Itâs a liquid investment, which means you can cash out at any time. But because they arenât FDIC insured, they can technically lose principal, though theyâre considered extraordinarily safe.
3. Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS)
The U.S. government finances its debt by issuing Treasurys. When you buy Treasurys, youâre investing in bonds backed by the âfull faith and credit of the U.S. government.â Unless the federal government defaults on its debt for the first time in history, investors get paid.
The price of that safety: pathetically low yields that often donât keep up with inflation.
TIPS offer built-in inflation protection â as the name âTreasury Inflation Protected Securitiesâ implies. Available in five-, 10- and 30-year increments, their principal is adjusted based on changes to the Consumer Price Index. The twice-a-year interest payments are adjusted accordingly, as well.
If your principal is $1,000 and the CPI showed inflation of 3%, your new principal is $1,030, and your interest payment is based on the adjusted amount.Â
On the flip side, if thereâs deflation, your principal is adjusted downward.
4. Municipal Bonds
Municipal bonds, or âmunis,â are bonds issued by a state or local government. Theyâre popular with retirees because the income they generate is tax-free at the federal level. Sometimes when you buy muni bonds in your state, the state doesnât tax them either.
There are two basic types of munis: General obligation bonds, which are issued for general public works projects, and revenue bonds, which are backed by specific projects, like a hospital or toll road.
General obligation bonds have the lowest risk because the issuing government pledges to raise taxes if necessary to make sure bondholders get paid. With revenue bonds, bondholders get paid from the income generated by the project, so thereâs a higher risk of default.
5. Investment-Grade Bonds
Bonds issued by corporations are inherently riskier than bonds issued by governments, because even a stable corporation is at higher risk of defaulting on its debt. But you can mitigate the risks by choosing investment-grade bonds, which are issued by corporations with good to excellent credit ratings.
Because investment-grade bonds are low risk, the yields are low compared to higher-risk âjunk bonds.â Thatâs because corporations with low credit ratings have to pay investors more to compensate them for the extra risk.
6. Target-Date Funds
When you compare bonds vs. stocks, bonds are generally safer, while stocks offer more growth. Thatâs why as a general rule, your retirement portfolio starts out mostly invested in stocks and then gradually allocates more to bonds.
Target-date funds make that reallocation automatic. Theyâre commonly found in 401(k)s, IRAs and 529 plans. You choose the date thatâs closest to the year you plan to retire or send your child to college. Then the fund gradually shifts more toward safer investments, like bonds and money market funds as that date gets nearer.
7. Total Market ETFs
While having a small percentage of your money in super low-risk investments like CDs,
money market funds and Treasurys is OK, there really is no avoiding the stock market if
you want your money to grow.
If youâre playing day trader, the stock market is a risky place. But when youâre committed to investing in stocks for the long haul, youâre way less exposed to risk. While downturns can cause you to lose money in the short term, the stock market historically ticks upward over time.
A total stock market exchange-traded fund will invest you in hundreds or thousands of companies. Usually, they reflect the makeup of a major stock index, like the Wilshire 5000. If the stock market is up 5%, youâd expect your investment to be up by roughly the same amount. Same goes for if the market drops 5%.
By investing in a huge range of companies, you get an instantly diversified portfolio, which is far less risky than picking your own stocks.
8. Dividend Stocks
If you opt to invest in individual companies, sticking with dividend-paying stock is a smart move. When a companyâs board of directors votes to approve a dividend, theyâre redistributing part of the profit back to investors.
Dividends are commonly offered by companies that are stable and have a track record of earning a profit. Younger companies are less likely to offer a dividend because they need to reinvest their profits. They have more growth potential, but theyâre also a higher risk because theyâre less-established.
The best part: Many companies allow shareholders to automatically reinvest their dividends, which means even more compound returns.
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.
Since weâre in the middle of a pandemic, weâre all trying to figure out the new normal. Whether youâre working from home, have a houseful of kids to keep busy or find yourself facing financial uncertainty, everyone has at least a little adjusting to do. While youâre taking stock of your life and what you need to adjust, itâs probably a good idea to take a look at your finances and credit card use, too.
Wondering how you should use your credit card? Weâve got some ideas for you on how you can use your credit card in the middle of a global emergency.
How to Use Your Credit Card During a Pandemic
But before we get started, remember to take a hard look at your personal finances before following any financial information. Everyoneâs situation is differentâso what might work for you might not work for someone else, and vice versa.
1. Keep Online Shopping to a Minimum
If youâre working from home, the temptation to online shop can be all too real. But when youâre in the middle of a pandemic, you might need to put your money towards unexpected expenses.
David Lord, General Manager of Credit.com, has some advice on preventing frivolous spending. âTry browsing, putting things in your cart and leaving them for the day,â Lord suggests. âIf you take a look at your cart the next day, youâll most likely find that 90% of the time you wonât remember the things you placed in your cart in the first place.â
If the temptation to online shop is too strong, Lord suggests buying something thatâll keep you occupied for a while, like a puzzle, a paint set or a yoga mat. That way, youâll be too distracted to buy something else.
2. Try to Keep Your Credit in Good Shape
During a global emergency, it feels like everythingâs up in the air. Because of that, itâs important to stay as on top of things as you can and prepare for the worst-case scenario. Having good credit is important in the best of times, but it can be even more so in the worst.
Letâs say you find yourself with a bill that you canât pay on your hands. If you need to take out a loan, youâd probably want a loan with the best interest rates possible. In order to qualify for those types of loans, youâll need a good credit score.
If youâre in a position to do so, try to keep your credit score healthy. Hereâs some quick things you can do today:
- Keep an eye on your credit score and credit report
- Pay your bills on timeâat least the minimum payment
- Keep your credit utilization ratio at 30%
But if you find yourself in a financial situation where you canât keep up with everything, you can prioritize. For example, going above 30% of your credit utilization ratio wonât impact your score as much as missing a payment. Thatâs because credit utilization makes up 30% of your credit score, while your payment history makes up 35% of your score.
3. Utilize Cashback Rewards
Do you have a greatÂ rewards credit card on your hands? Nowâs a great time to use them. While some credit cards might not be handy right now, like travel rewards cards, there are others that could be useful. If your card offers cashback on categories such as groceries, gas and everyday purchases, take advantage. You could use those rewards to help you cover essential purchases.Â
4. Use Your Balance Transfer Credit Cards
If you already have significant debt or if youâve recently taken on new debt, you might want to consider using a balance transfer credit card. A balance transfer credit card allows you to move your debt from one card to your balance transfer card, which typically has a lower promotional interest rate. These promotional interest rates can last from six to 18 months, and sometimes longer.
These are great options if youâre faced with new debt. If youâre struggling to pay the rent, groceries or medical bills, and your stimulus check canât cover it all, you can use your balance transfer credit card. Just make sure to be careful. You still have to pay off your debt, so make sure to do so before the promotional balance transfer offer ends. If you can, try to make regular payments on your card, so youâre not faced with an overwhelming amount of debt when the promotional offer ends.
Be Mindful of Your Situation
Above all else, be mindful of your situation. What urgent bills do you have to pay? Do you have a loved one in the hospital? Have you or your significant other lost their job? Make goals based off of your situation, and use your credit card accordingly.
Go to Guide
If youâre looking for more information on coronavirus and your finances, check out our COVID-19 Financial Resource Guide. We update it frequently, to make the most up-to-date and useful information available to you.
The post Using Credit Cards During COVID-19 appeared first on Credit.com.
In a recession itâs common for many people to rely on credit cards and loans to balance their finances. Itâs the ultimate catch-22 since, during a recession, these financial products can be even harder to qualify for.
This holds true, according to historical data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. It found that during the 2007 recession, loan growth at traditional banks decreased and remained deflated over the next four years.Â
Credit can be a powerful tool to help you make ends meet and keep moving forward financially. Hereâs what you can do if youâre struggling to access credit during a weak economy.
How Does a Financial Downturn Affect Lending?
Giving someone a loan or approving them for a credit card carries a certain amount of risk for a lender. After all, thereâs a chance you could stop making payments and the lender could lose all the funds you borrowed, especially with unsecured loans.
For lenders, this concept is called, âdelinquencyâ. Theyâre constantly trying to get their delinquency rate lower; in a booming economy, the delinquency rate at commercial banks is usually under 2%.
Lending becomes riskier in a weak economy. There are all sorts of reasons a person might stop paying their loan or credit card bills. You might lose your job, or unexpected medical bills might demand more of your budget. Because lenders know the chances of anyone becoming delinquent are much higher in a weak economy, they tend to restrict their lending criteria so theyâre only serving the lowest-risk borrowers. That can leave people with poor credit in a tough financial position.
Before approving you for a loan, lenders typically look at criteria such as:
- Income stability
- Debt-to-income ratio
- Credit score
- Co-signers, if applicable
- Down payment size (for loans, like a mortgage)
Does this mean youâre completely out of luck if you have bad credit? Not necessarily, but you might need to take the time to understand all of your alternatives.
5 Ways to Help Get Your Credit Application Approved
Although every lender has different approval criteria, these strategies speak to typical commonalities across most lenders.
1. Pay Off Debt
Paying off some of your debt might feel bold, but it can be helpful when it comes to an application for credit. Repaying your debt reduces your debt-to-income ratio, typically an important metric lenders look at for loans such as a mortgage. Also, paying off debt could help improve your credit utilization ratio, which is a measure of how much available credit youâre currently using right now. If youâre using most of the credit thatâs available to you, that could indicate you donât have enough cash on hand.
Not sure what debt-to-income ratio to aim for? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests keeping yours no higher than 43%.
2. Find a Cosigner
For those with poor credit, a trusted cosigner can make the difference between getting approved for credit or starting back at square one.
When someone cosigns for your loan theyâll need to provide information on their income, employment and credit score â as if they were applying for the loan on their own. Ideally, their credit score and income should be higher than yours. This gives your lender enough confidence to write the loan knowing that, if you canât make your payments, your cosigner is liable for the bill.
Since your cosigner is legally responsible for your debt, their credit is negatively impacted if you stop making payments. For this reason, many people are wary of cosigning.
In a recession, it might be difficult to find someone with enough financial stability to cosign for you. If you go this route, have a candid conversation with your prospective cosigner in advance about expectations in the worst-case scenario.
3. Raise Your Credit Score
If your credit score just isnât high enough to qualify for conventional credit you could take some time to focus on improving it. Raising your credit score might sound daunting, but itâs definitely possible.Â
Here are some strategies you can pursue:
- Report your rent payments. Rent payments arenât typically included as part of the equation when calculating your credit score, but they can be. Some companies, like Rental Kharma, will report your timely rent payments to credit reporting agencies. Showing a history of positive payment can help improve your credit score.Â
- Make sure your credit report is updated. Itâs not uncommon for your credit report to have mistakes in it that can artificially deflate your credit score. Request a free copy of your credit report every year, which you can do online through Experian Free Credit Report. If you find inaccuracies, disputing them could help improve your credit score.Â
- Bring all of your payments current. If youâve fallen behind on any payments, bringing everything current is an important part of improving your credit score. If your lender or credit card company is reporting late payments a long history of this can damage your credit score. When possible speak to your creditor to work out a solution, before you anticipate being late on a payment.
- Use a credit repair agency. If tackling your credit score is overwhelming you could opt to work with a reputable credit repair agency to help you get back on track. Be sure to compare credit repair agencies before moving forward with one. Companies that offer a free consultation and have a strong track record are ideal to work with.
Raising your credit isnât an immediate solution â itâs not going to help you get a loan or qualify for a credit card tomorrow. However, making these changes now can start to add up over time.
4. Find an Online Lender or Credit Union
Although traditional banks can be strict with their lending policies, some smaller lenders or credit unions offer some flexibility. For example, credit unions are authorized to provide Payday Loan Alternatives (PALs). These are small-dollar, short-term loans available to borrowers whoâve been a member of qualifying credit unions for at least a month.
Some online lenders might also have more relaxed criteria for writing loans in a weak economy. However, you should remember that if you have bad credit youâre likely considered a riskier applicant, which means a higher interest rate. Before signing for a line of credit, compare several lenders on the basis of your quoted APR â which includes any fees like an origination fee, your loanâs term, and any additional fees, such as late fees.
5. Increase Your Down Payment
If youâre trying to apply for a mortgage or auto loan, increasing your down payment could help if youâre having a tough time getting approved.
When you increase your down payment, you essentially decrease the size of your loan, and lower the lenderâs risk. If you donât have enough cash on hand to increase your down payment, this might mean opting for a less expensive car or home so that the lump sum down payment that you have covers a greater proportion of the purchase cost.
Loans vs. Credit Cards: Differences in Credit Approval
Not all types of credit are created equal. Personal loans are considered installment credit and are repaid in fixed payments over a set period of time. Credit cards are considered revolving credit, you can keep borrowing to your approved limit as long as you make your minimum payments.
When it comes to credit approvals, one benefit loans have over credit cards is that you might be able to get a secured loan. A secured loan means the lender has some piece of collateral they can recover from you should you stop making payments.
The collateral could be your home, car or other valuable asset, like jewelry or equipment. Having that security might give the lender more flexibility in some situations because they know that, in the worst case scenario, they could sell the collateral item to recover their loss.
The Bottom Line
Borrowing during a financial downturn can be difficult and it might not always be the answer to your situation. Adding to your debt load in a weak economy is a risk. For example, you could unexpectedly lose your job and not be able to pay your bills. Having an added monthly debt payment in your budget can add another challenge to your financial situation.
However, if you can afford to borrow funds during an economic recession, reduced interest rates in these situations can lessen the overall cost of borrowing.
These tips can help tidy your finances so youâre a more attractive borrower to lenders. Thereâs no guarantee your application will be accepted, but improving your finances now gives you a greater borrowing advantage in the future.
The post How to Get Approved for Credit in a Financial Downturn appeared first on Good Financial CentsÂ®.
A âbusiness cycleâ refers to the periodic expansion and contraction of a nationâs economy. Also known as an âeconomic cycle,â it tracks the different stages of growth and decline in a countryâs gross domestic product, or economic activity.
business cycles . Each business cycle is dated from peak to peak or trough to trough of economic activity.
During the expansion phase of the business cycle, GDP increases and the economy grows. This phase tends to be significantly longer than the contraction phase. Since 1945, the average expansion has been 65 months, while the average contraction has lasted 11 months, according to a congressional research report. Features of expansion periods include:
• GDP growth rate of 2-3%
• Inflation around 2%
• Unemployment between 3.5-4.5%
• Bullish stock market
• Increased demand for goods and services
• Interest rates move higher
• Job creation
• Stock prices usually increase
• Increased wages
• Increased real estate values
As economic growth slows down, an economic contraction begins as the nation enters a recession. GDP growth dips below 2% in this phase.
Companies that have taken out loans may struggle to repay them, so they have to lay off workers and slow down production. As workers lose jobs, they have to cut down on spending. This creates a cycle of economic decline. Features of contraction periods include:
• GDP growth falls below 2%
• Decreased demand for goods and services
• Interest rates move lower, making it easier to borrow money
• Loss of jobs, increased unemployment
• Reduced wages because people need jobs so theyâre willing to work for less, and companies canât pay as much
• Stock prices usually decline
• Real estate values plateau or decline
Stage 1: Recession
One definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters with a decline in real GDP. A recession could actually be defined more broadly as a period where there is significant decline in economic activity throughout the entire economy.
During this stage, GDP, profits, sales, and economic activity decline. Credit is tight for both consumers and businesses due to the policies set during the last business cycle. This leads to shifts in monetary policy that lead to a recovery phase. Itâs a vicious cycle of falling production, falling incomes, falling employment, and falling GDP.
The intensity of a recession is measured by looking at the three Dâs:
• Depth: The measure of peak to trough decline in sales, income, employment, and output. The trough is the lowest point the GDP reaches during a cycle. Before World War II, recessions used to be much deeper than they are now.
• Diffusion: How far the recession spreads across industries, regions, and activities.
• Duration: The amount of time between the peak and the trough.
A more severe recession is called a depression. Depressions have deeper troughs and last longer than recessions. The only depression that has happened thus far was the Great Depression, which lasted 3.5 years, beginning in 1929.
Stage 2: Early Cycle
Following a recession, there tends to be a sharp recovery as growth begins to accelerate. The stock market tends to rise the most during this stage, which generally lasts about one year. Interest rates are low, so businesses and consumers can borrow more money for growth and investment. GDP begins to increase.
Just as a recession is a vicious cycle, a recovery is a virtuous cycle of rising income, rising employment, rising GDP, and rising production. And similar to the three Dâs, a recovery period, which includes Stages 2-4, is measured using three Pâs: how pronounced, pervasive, and persistent the expansion is.
Stage 3: Mid-Cycle
This is generally the longest phase of the business cycle, with moderate growth throughout. On average the mid-cycle phase lasts three years. Monetary policies shift toward a neutral state: Interest rates are higher, credit is strong, and companies are profitable.
Stage 4: Late Cycle
At this stage, economic activity reaches its highest point, and while growth continues, its pace decelerates. Monetary policies become tight due to rising inflation and low unemployment, making it harder for people to borrow money. The GDP rate begins to plateau or slow.
Companies may be engaging in reckless expansions, and investors are overconfident, which increases the price of assets beyond their actual value. Late cycles last a year and a half on average.
What Industries Do Well During Each Stage?
Historically certain industries have prospered during each stage of the business cycle.
When money is tight and people are concerned about the economy, they cut back on certain types of purchases, such as vacations and fancy clothes. Also, when people anticipate a coming recession, they tend to sell stocks and move into safer assets, causing the market to decline.
Basically, industries do better or worse depending on supply and demand, and the demand for certain products shifts throughout the business cycle. In general, the following industries perform well during each stage of the business cycle:
• Consumer staples
• Information technology
• Financial sector
• Industrial sector
• Consumer sector
• Stocks and bonds
• Real Estate
• Household durables
• Information technology
• Energy and materials
• Commodities such as oil and gas
• Bonds can be a safe haven
• Index funds
Who Should Invest With the Business Cycle?
Business cycle investing is an intermediate-term strategy, since it isnât as short-term as day trading but not as long-term as buy and hold strategies. Each stage of the business cycle can last for a few months to a few years.
the best strategy for beginner investors.
However, more experienced investors might choose to shift at least a portion of their portfolio along with the business cycle. Business cycle investing can also be a good option for younger investors because they will have more opportunities to take advantage of the ups and downs of future cycles.
Understanding the business cycle can also help people make decisions such as when to buy a home or search for a job. Itâs usually best to purchase a home, start a business, or look for a job in the early to mid-stages of the cycle.
No business cycle is identical but history shows there can be a rough pattern to which industries do better as the economy expands and contracts. Investors can take cues from which stage of the business cycle the economy is in in order to allocate money to different sectors.
One great way to invest and keep track of the market is using an online investing app like SoFi InvestÂ®. The investing platform features both active and automated investing.
For help getting started, SoFi has a team of professional financial advisors available to answer questions and offer guidance.
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individualâs specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi canât guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . The umbrella term âSoFi Investâ refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated InvestingâThe Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (âSofi Wealthâ). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (âSofi Securities).
2) Active InvestingâThe Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
3) Digital AssetsâThe Digital Assets platform is owned by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, http://www.sofi.com/legal.
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.
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.
The post Investing With the Business Cycle appeared first on SoFi.
Dan Stous works in financial planning and wealth management. Online savings accounts initially came on his radar when he saw their interest rates steadily rise.
“The whole reason I was looking for an online account was because deposit rates at traditional brick-and-mortar banks have continued to stay low despite rising interest rates,” says Stous, who is the director of financial planning at Flagstone Financial Management in Lincoln, Nebraska.
He and his wife opted for a DiscoverÂ® Online Savings Account, named Best Savings Account by NerdWallet in 2020, and started making monthly transfers into it to help save for a car. They were pleased to find the funds growing quickly with the account’s high interest rate and annual percentage yield (APY).
Whether you’re saving for a new set of wheels like Stous and his wife, a home down payment, an emergency fund or [enter your next big financial goal here], an online savings account could be your ticket to success.
What are the benefits of a Discover Online Savings Account? Here are six things to know about a Discover Online Savings Account that will help you take your savings game to the next level:
1. You can grow your savings with a high interest rate
Regardless of your financial goal, you’ll want your savings to earn interest (and then you’ll want that interest to earn even more interest). One of the benefits of a Discover Online Savings Account is that you can grow your money with a savings account interest rate over 5x the National Savings Average.1
You earned it.
Now earn more withÂ it.
Online savings with no minimum balance.
Discover Bank, Member FDIC
With online banks offering superior yields compared to traditional banks, Stous recommends online savings accounts to his clients as a financial strategy. “We have been steering people to online accounts because the rates have been so much better,” Stous says.
2.Â You can save yourself the hassle of fees
A bank account fee here and there can really add up. And who wants sneaky fees to eat into your hard-earned savings? One of the top benefits of a Discover Online Savings Account is that you won’t be charged an account fee.* Common fees that you won’t see with your Discover Online Savings Account include fees for:
- Monthly maintenance
- Official bank check (there’s also no fee if you need expedited delivery of your check)
- Deposited item returned
- Insufficient funds
- Stop payment order
- Account closure
Another thing to know about a Discover Online Savings Account is that the lack of maintenance or activity fees means you don’t have to stress about initiating certain account behavior (say, a regular direct deposit) to avoid a charge that could set your savings back.
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“The whole reason I was looking for an online account was because deposit rates at traditional brick-and-mortar banks have continued to stay low despite rising interest rates.”
3. There’s no balance requirement
When considering important things to know about a Discover Online Savings Account, add no minimum balance requirement to the list. If you are just getting started with your savings (way to go!), it can be challenging to set aside a large chunk of cash just to avoid a balance requirement fee. With the Discover Online Savings Account’s no minimum balance requirement, you can start small and continue to add to your savings as your budget allows.
Getting ready to make a big withdrawal for an exciting big purchase? No problem. If you’ve reached a goal and need to put your savings to work, go right ahead. You won’t need to stress about getting charged for the lower balance that remains in your Discover Online Savings Account, and you can start building up your funds again for the next big thing.
4. You can manage your account onlineâand on the go
Your life is online and on the goâso your savings account should be right there with you. You can open a Discover Online Savings Account from the comfort of your couch (or when commuting in your rideshare) in three easy steps:
- Enter the essentials (personal information like your address and Social Security number).
- Fund the account with a starting balance of your choosing (or come back and do it later if you prefer).
- Check your inbox for an email confirmation.
Once you are up and running, you can easily transfer funds between different accountsâDiscover accounts as well as external onesâand set up automatic transfers into your savings account so you can grow your funds on autopilot.
If you’re on the move, the account’s mobile app is control in your hands via your smartphone or tablet. Whether you’re in line for a coffee or waiting for your child’s extracurricular activity to wrap up, you can easily transfer money between your Discover Online Savings Account and other accounts, view your account activity and electronically deposit checks. Only have a second but want to check in? Quick View is a benefit of a Discover Online Savings Account that allows you to view your savings account balance without having to log in.
“The mobile app is very user friendly,” says Rick Vazza, financial planner and president of Driven Wealth Management. “It’s easy to use and easy to sync with a checking account. There’s a seamless flow.”
5. You can experience top-notch customer service
Customer service can be hard to evaluate, but the ability to quickly speak to a real person is certainly one sign of good customer relations.
“I’ve been seeing people particularly attracted to value-added services. The first being customer service,” Vazza explains.
Discover’s customer support is 100 percent U.S.-based and offers the ability to speak with a live person 24/7 without having to go through a bunch of automated prompts. Having knowledgeable and friendly customer service adds to the benefits of a Discover Online Savings Account.
“People like the fact that Discover is an all U.S.-based service,” Vazza adds.
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“I’ve been seeing people particularly attracted to value-added services. The first being customer service. People like the fact that Discover is an all U.S.-based service.â
6. You can easily access your funds2
When and how you can withdraw money is important to know before you open a savings account. “How easy it is to get the money is a huge question, particularly with older generations,” Stous says. Having multiple ways to withdraw is a plus.
With a Discover Online Savings Account, your withdrawal options include:
- Setting up electronic transfers between your Discover Online Savings Account and other internal or external bank accounts.
- Requesting a no-fee official bank check.
- Initiating an outgoing wire transfer.*
On your mark, get setâsave!
Understanding the things to know about a Discover Online Savings Account could help you make the decision to open an easy-to-use and high-yield financial solution for storing your cash. Whether you’re saving up for something special or creating a savings safety net, it’s tending to these areas of your financial plan that will better prepare you for what comes next.
Learn more about a Discover Online Savings AccountÂ today.
* Outgoing wire transfers are subject to a service charge.
1 The Annual Percentage Yield (APY) for the Online Savings Account as of 01/01/2021 is more than five times the national average APY for interest-bearing savings accounts with balances of $500 as reported by Informa Research Services, Inc. as of 01/01/2021. Interest rates and APYs are subject to change at any time. Although the information provided by Informa Research Services has been obtained from the various institutions, accuracy cannot be guaranteed.
2 Federal law limits certain types of withdrawals and transfers from savings and money market accounts to a combined total of 6 per calendar month per account. There are no limits on ATM withdrawals or official checks mailed to you. To get an account with an unlimited number of transactions, consider opening a Discover Cashback Debit account. If you go over these limitations on more than an occasional basis, your account may be closed. See Section 11 of the Deposit Account Agreement for more details.
The post 6 Benefits of a Discover Online Savings Account appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.