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When most parents offer to fund their childâs tuition, itâs with the expectation that their financial circumstances will remain relatively unchanged. Even with minor dips in income or temporary periods of unemployment, a solid plan will likely see the child through to graduation.
Unfortunately, what these plans donât tend to account for is a global pandemic wreaking havoc on the economy and job market.
Now, many parents of college-age children are finding themselves struggling to stay afloat – much less afford college tuition. This leaves their children who were previously planning to graduate college with little or no debt in an uncomfortable position.
So if youâre a student suddenly stuck with the bill for your college expenses, what can you do? Read below for some strategies to help you stay on track.
Contact the University
Your first step is to contact the university and let them know that your financial situation has changed. You may have to write something that explains how your parentâs income has decreased.
Many students think the federal government is responsible for doling out aid to students, but federal aid is actually distributed directly by the schools themselves. In other words, your university is the only institution with the authority to provide additional help. If they decide not to extend any more loans or grants, youâre out of luck.
Ask your advisor if there are any scholarships you can apply for. Make sure to ask both about general university scholarships and department-specific scholarships if youâve already declared a major. If you have a good relationship with a professor, contact them for suggestions on where to find more scholarship opportunities.
Some colleges also have emergency grants they provide to students. Contact the financial aid office and ask how to apply for these.
Try to Graduate Early
Graduating early can save you thousands or even tens of thousands in tuition and room and board expenses. Plus, the sooner you graduate, the sooner you can get a job and start repaying your student loans.
Ask your advisor if graduating early is possible for you. It may require taking more classes per semester than you planned on and being strategic about the courses you sign up for.
Fill out the FAFSA
If your parents have never filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) because they paid for your college in full, now is the time for them to complete it. The FAFSA is what colleges use to determine eligibility for both need-based and merit-based aid. Most schools require the FAFSA to hand out scholarships and work-study assignments.
Because the FAFSA uses income information from a previous tax return, it wonât show if your parents have recently lost their jobs or been furloughed. However, once you file the FAFSA, you can send a note to your university explaining your current situation.
Make sure to explain this to your parents if they think filing the FAFSA is a waste of time. Some schools wonât even provide merit-based scholarships to students who havenât filled out the FAFSA.
Get a Job
If you donât already have a job, now is the time to get one. Look at online bulletin boards to see what opportunities are available around campus. Check on job listing sites like Monster, Indeed and LinkedIn. Make sure you have a well-crafted resume and cover letter.
Try to think outside the box. If youâre a talented graphic designer, start a freelance business and look for clients on sites like Upwork or Fiverr. If youâre a fluent Spanish speaker, start tutoring other students. Look for jobs where you can study when things are slow or that provide food while youâre working.
Ask anyone you know for suggestions, including former and current professors, older students and advisors. If you had a job back home, contact your old boss. Because so many people are working remotely these days, they may be willing to hire you even if youâre in a different city.
It may be too late to apply for a Resident Advisor (RA) position now but consider it as an option for next year. An RA lives in the dorms and receives free or discounted room and board in exchange for monitoring the students, answering their questions, conducting regular inspections and other duties.
Take Out Private Loans
If you still need more money after youâve maxed out your federal student loans and applied for more scholarships, private student loans may be the next best option.
Private student loans usually have higher interest rates and fewer repayment and forgiveness options than federal loans. In 2020, the interest rate for federal undergraduate student loans was 2.75% while the rate for private student loans varied from 3.53% to 14.50%.
Private lenders have higher loan limits than the federal government and will usually lend the cost of tuition minus any financial aid. For example, if your tuition costs $35,000 a year and federal loans and scholarships cover $10,000 a year, a private lender will offer you $25,000 annually.
Taking out private loans should be a last resort because the rates are so high, and thereâs little recourse if you graduate and canât find a job. Using private loans may be fine if you only have a semester or two left before you graduate, but freshmen should be hesitant about using this strategy.
Consider Transferring to a Less Expensive School
Before resorting to private student loans to fund your education, consider transferring to a less expensive university. The average tuition cost at a public in-state university was $10,440 for the 2019-2020 school year. The cost at an out-of-state public university was $26,820, and the cost at a private college was $36,880.
If you can transfer to a public college and move back home, you can save on both tuition and housing.
Switching to a different college may sound like a drastic step, but it might be necessary if the alternative is borrowing $100,000 in student loans. Remember, no one knows how long this pandemic and recession will last, so itâs better to be conservative.
The post My Parents Can’t Afford College Anymore – What Should I Do? appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Most people have a love-hate relationship with money. When youâve got cash to spend, you feel fantastic. You can do whatever you want, go wherever you like, and thereâs no worries in your mind. However, when your cash flow starts to dwindle, your entire outlook suddenly goes sour. The high of having cash can mean that you even end up spending it too quickly, so you end up putting yourself in a more difficult situation long-term. Changing your relationship with cash can be one of the first steps to ensuring that you have more of it in your future. If you can take a more positive approach to the way you handle your finances, youâll be less likely to end up in debt. So, how can you change your relationship with money?
Do Your Research
Most people struggle with their financial freedom because they donât actively pay attention to the way that theyâre spending money. You sign up for essential things like gas and electric and continue paying the same bill for months without checking whether you could be getting a better deal elsewhere. Actually doing your research and making sure that youâre not missing out on opportunities to save will ensure that you can discover some quick wins for your cash flow. You could even find that you can get out of debt a lot faster and make a huge difference to your savings account by refinancing your existing student loans and similar debts into a loan with a private lender. One small change can make a big difference.Â
Automate Your Savings
Do you find it hard to stop yourself from spending every penny you earn each month? Youâre not alone. A lot of people who have a difficult relationship with money discover that itâs difficult for them to just have cash sitting in their bank accounts. Thatâs why itâs so important to find an easier way to convince yourself to save. One good option is to open a separate savings account where you can transfer a portion of your earnings every month. You can automate this process by setting up a direct debit to ensure that the cash leaves your account at the same time that you get your wages each month. This means that the next time you check your bank balance, you wonât be tempted to save the cash that should be going to savings.Â
Finally, stop avoiding the opportunity to learn more about money and how it works. Most of us feel so uncomfortable talking about cash that we barely even look at our bank statements. However, only by examining your spending habits can you determine where the best options are for you to make some significant changes. Be willing to develop a better knowledge of how money works, and how youâre using it. Itâs also helpful to learn everything you can about things that can make you more money long-term, like investing in stocks and shares, or setting up savings accounts with extra interest.
3 Ways to Change Your Relationship with Money is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
The new year is right around the corner and if youâre like most people, youâve probably got a running list of resolutions to achieve and milestones to reach. If getting out of debt ranks near the top, nowâs the time to starting thinking about how youâre going to hit your goal. Developing a clear-cut action plan can get you that much closer to debt-free status in 2016.
1. Add up Your Debt
You canât start attacking your debt until you know exactly how much you owe. The first step to paying down your debt is sitting down with all of your statements and adding up every penny thatâs still outstanding. Once you know how deep in debt you are, you can move on to the next step.
2. Review Your Budget
A budget is a plan that sets limits on how you spend your money. If you donât have one, itâs a good idea to put a budget together as soon as possible. If you do have a budget, you can go over it line by line to find costs you can cut out. By eliminating fees and unnecessary expenses like cable subscriptions, youâll be able to use the money you save to pay off your debt.
3. Set Your Goals
At this point in the process, you should have two numbers: the total amount of money you owe and the amount you can put toward your debt payments each month. Using those two figures, you should be able determine how long itâs going to take you to pay off your mortgage, student loans, personal loans and credit card debt.
Letâs say you owe your credit card issuer $25,000. If you have $500 in your budget that you can use to pay off that debt each month, youâll be able to knock $6,000 off your card balance in a year. Keep in mind, however, that youâll still need to factor in interest to get an accurate idea of how the balance will shrink from one year to the next.
4. Lower Your Interest Rates
Interest is a major obstacle when youâre trying to get out of debt. If you want to speed up the payment process, you can look for ways to shave down your rates. If you have high-interest credit card debt, for instance, transferring the balances to a card with a 0% promotional period can save you some money and reduce the amount of time itâll take to get rid of your debt.
Refinancing might be worth considering if you have student loans, car loans or a mortgage. Just remember that completing a balance transfer or refinancing your debt isnât necessarily free. Credit card companies typically charge a 3% fee for balance transfers and if youâre taking out a refinance loan, you might be on the hook for origination fees and other closing costs.
5. Increase Your Income
Keeping a tight rein on your budget can go a long way. But thatâs not the only way to escape debt. Pumping up your paycheck in the new year can also help you pay off your loans and increase your disposable income.
Asking your boss for a raise will directly increase your earnings, but thereâs no guarantee that your supervisor will agree to your request. If youâre paid by the hour, you can always take on more hours at your current job. And if all else fails, you can start a side gig to bring in more money.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Having a plan to get out of debt in the new year wonât get you very far if youâre not 100% committed. Checking your progress regularly is a must, as is reviewing your budget and goals to make sure youâre staying on track.
Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/BsWei, Â©iStock.com/marekuliasz, Â©iStock.com/DragonImages
The post How to Escape Debt in 2016 appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.
Weâre big on investing. Itâs an important way to grow your money and set yourself up for retirement someday.
But is it dangerous to be too obsessed with the stock market?
You bet it is. Our financial advice columnist, Dear Penny, recently heard from a reader whose husband stopped funding his 401(k) so he can bet on the stock market, instead.
Is it OK that heâs stopped contributing to his 401(k) so he can trade stocks? the reader asked. How do I ask him what heâs actually investing in? Iâm worried that heâs gambling money that we need for our retirement.
Thatâs not the way to go. Here are five safer ways to invest and grow your money.
1. Just Steadily Invest Like a Normal Person
Instead of betting all your money on the stock market, just steadily invest in it. Take the long view. The stock market is unpredictable, which means that sometimes stock prices go up, and sometimes they go down â but over time, they tend to go up.
If you havenât started investing and have some money to spare, you can start small. Investing doesnât require you throwing thousands of dollars at full shares of stocks. In fact, you can get started with as little as $1.*
We like Stash, because it lets you choose from hundreds of stocks and funds to build your own investment portfolio. But it makes it simple by breaking them down into categories based on your personal goals. Want to invest conservatively right now? Totally get it! Want to dip in with moderate or aggressive risk? Do what you feel.
Plus, with Stash, youâre able to invest in fractions of shares, which means you can invest in funds you wouldnât normally be able to afford.
If you sign up now (it takes two minutes), Stash will give you $5 after you add $5 to your invest account. Subscription plans start at $1 a month.**
2. Grow Your Money 16x Faster â Without Risking Any of It
Save some of your money in a safer place than the stock market â but where youâll still earn money on it.
Under your mattress or in a safe will get you nothing. And a typical savings account wonât do you much better. (Ahem, 0.06% is nothing these days.)
But a debit card called Aspiration lets you earn up to 5% cash back and up to 16 times the average interest on the money in your account.
Not too shabby!
Enter your email address here to get a free Aspiration Spend and Save account. After you confirm your email, securely link your bank account so they can start helping you get extra cash. Your money is FDIC insured and they use a military-grade encryption which is nerd talk for âthis is totally safe.â
3. Stop Paying Your Credit Card Company
One way to make sure you have more money is to stop wasting money on credit card interest. Your credit card company is getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates. But a website called AmOne wants to help.
If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.
The benefit? Youâll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), youâll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.
AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but donât worry â they wonât spam you with phone calls.
4. Cut Your Bills by $540/Year
Another way to grow your money: Stop overpaying on your bills.
For example, whenâs the last time you checked car insurance prices? You should shop your options every six months or so â it could save you some serious money. Letâs be real, though. Itâs probably not the first thing you think about when you wake up. But it doesnât have to be.
A website called Insure makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and itâll show you your options â and even discounts in your area.
Using Insure, people have saved an average of $540 a year.
Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.
5. Add $225 to Your Wallet Just for Watching the News
Hereâs a safe way to earn a little cash on the side.
Weâre living in historic times, and weâre all constantly refreshing for the latest news updates. You probably know more than one news-junkie who fancies themselves an expert in respiratory illness or a political mastermind.
And research companies want to pay you to keep watching. You could add up to $225 a month to your pocket by signing up for a free account with InboxDollars. Theyâll present you with short news clips to choose from every day, then ask you a few questions about them.
You just have to answer honestly, and InboxDollars will continue to pay you every month. This might sound too good to be true, but itâs already paid its users more than $56 million.
It takes about one minute to sign up, and start getting paid to watch the news.
Mike Brassfield (email@example.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He tries not to be obsessed with the stock market.
*For Securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.
**Youâll also bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the ETFs in your account, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash and the custodian.
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.
One of the harsh truths of secured loans is that your asset can be repossessed if you fail to make the payments. In the words of the FTC, âyour consumer rights may be limitedâ if you miss your monthly payments, and when that happens, both your financial situation and your bank balance will take a hit.
On this guide, weâll look at what can happen when you fall behind on your car payments, and how much damage it can do to your credit score.
What is a Car Repossession?
An auto loan is a loan acquired for the sole purpose of purchasing a car. The lender covers the cost of the car, you get the vehicle you want, and in return you pay a fixed monthly sum until the loan balance is repaid.
If you fail to make to make a payment or youâre late, the lender may assume possession of your car and sell it to offset the losses. At the same time, they will report your missed and late payments to the main credit bureaus, and your credit score will take a hit. Whatâs more, if the sale is not enough to cover the remainder of the debt, you may be asked to pay the residual balance.
The same process applies to a title loan, whereby your car is used as collateral for a loan but isnât actually the purpose of the loan.
To avoid repossession, you need to make your car payments on time every month. If you are late or make a partial payment, you may incur penalties and itâs possible that your credit score will suffer as well. If you continue to delay payment, the lender will seek to cover their costs as quickly and painlessly as possible.
How a Repossession Can Impact Your Credit Score
Car repossession can impact your credit history and credit score in several ways. Firstly, all missed and late car payments will be reported to the credit bureaus and will remain on your account for up to 7 years. They can also reduce your credit score.Â
Secondly, if your car is repossessed on top of late payments, you could lose up to 100 points from your credit score, significantly reducing your chances of being accepted for a credit card, loan or mortgage in the future.Â
And thatâs not the end of it. If you have had your car for less than a couple of years, thereâs a good chance the sale price will be much less than the loan balance. Car repossession doesnât wipe the slate clean and could still leave you with a sizable issue. If you have a $10,000 balance and the car is sold for $5,000, you will owe $5,000 on the loan and the lender may also hit you with towing charges.
Donât assume that the car is worth more than the value of the loan and that everything will be okay. The lender isnât selling it direct; they wonât get the best price. Repossessed vehicles are sold cheaply, often for much less than their value, and in most cases, a balance remains.Â
Lenders may be lenient with this balance as itâs not secured, so their options are limited. However, they can also file a judgment or sell it to a collection agency, at which point your problems increase and your credit score drops even further.
How Does a Repo Take Place?
If you have a substantial credit card debt and miss a payment, your creditor will typically take it easy on you. They canât legally report the missed payment until at least 30-days have passed and most creditors wonât sell the account to a collection agency until it is at least 180-days overdue.
This leads many borrowers into a false sense of security, believing that an auto loan lender will be just as forgiving. But this is simply not true. Some lenders will repo your car just 90-days after your last payment, others will do it after 60 days. They donât make as many allowances because they donât need toâthey can simply seize your asset, get most of the money back, and then chase the rest as needed.
Most repossessions happen quickly and with little warning. The lender will contact you beforehand and request that you pay what you owe, but the actual repo process doesnât work quite like what you may have seen on TV.Â
Theyâre not allowed to break down your door or threaten you; theyâre not allowed to use force. And, most of the time, they donât need to. If they see your car, they will load it onto their truck and disappear. Theyâre so used to this process that they can typically do it in less than 60-seconds.
It doesnât matter whether youâre at home or at workâyou just lost your ride.
What Can You Do Before a Repo Hits Your Credit Score?
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the repo process and escape the damage. You just need to act quickly and donât bury your head in the sand, as many borrowers do.
Request a Deferment
An auto loan lender wonât waste as much time as a creditor, simply because they donât need to. However, they still understand that they wonât get top dollar for the car and are generally happy to make a few allowances if it means you have more chance of meeting your payments.
If you sense that your financial situation is on the decline, contact your lender and request a deferment. This should be done as soon as possible, preferably before you miss a payment.
A deferment buys you a little extra time, allowing you to take the next month or two off and adding these payments onto the end of the term. The FTC recommends that you get any agreement in writing, just in case they renege on their promise.
One of the best ways to avoid car repossession, is to refinance your loan and secure more favorable terms. The balance may increase, and youâll likely find yourself paying more interest over the long-term, but in the short-term, youâll have smaller monthly payments to contend with and this makes the loan more manageable.
You will need a good credit score for this to work (although there are some bad credit lenders) but it will allow you to tweak the terms in your favor and potentially improve your credit situation.
Sell the Car Yourself
Desperate times call for desperate measures; if youâre on the brink of facing repossession, you should consider selling the car yourself. Youâll likely get more than your lender would and you can use this to clear the balance.Â
Before you sell, calculate how much is left and make sure the sale will cover it. If not, you will need to find the additional funds yourself, preferably without acquiring additional debt. Ask friends or family members if they can help you out.
How Long a Repo Can Affect Your Credit Score
The damage caused by a repossession can remain on your credit score for 7 years, causing some financial difficulty. However, the damage will lessen over time and within three or four years it will be negligible at best.
Derogatory marks cease to have an impact on your credit score a long time before it disappears off your credit report, and itâs the same for late payments and repossessions.
Still, that doesnât mean you should take things lightly. The lender can make life very difficult for you if you donât meet your payments every month and donât work with them to find a solution.
What About Voluntary Repossession?
If youâre missing payments because youâve lost your job or suffered a major change in your financial circumstances, it may be time to consider voluntary repossession, in which case there are no missed payments and you donât need to worry about repo men knocking on your door or coming to your workplace.
With voluntary repossession, the borrower contacts the lender, informs them they can no longer afford the payments, and arranges a time and a place to return the car. However, while this is a better option, it can do similar damage to the borrowerâs credit score as a voluntary repossession, like a traditional repossession, is still a defaulted loan.
Missed payments aside, the only difference concerns how the repossession shows on the borrowerâs credit report. Voluntary repossession will look better to a creditor who manually scans the report, but the majority of lenders run automatic checks and wonât notice a difference.
Summary: Act Quickly
If you have student loan, credit card, and other unsecured debt, a repo could reduce your chances of a successful debt payoff and potentially prevent you from getting a mortgage. But itâs not the end of the world. You can get a deferment, refinance or reinstate the loan, and even if the worst does happen, it may only take a year or so to get back on track after you fix your financial woes.
Repossession Credit Scores: What You Need to Know is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
Need to get a loan without a lot of credit, but you donât have someone to cosign? Get some tips for how to get a loan without a cosigner from Lexington Law.
According to Experian, the average credit score in the United States was just over 700 in 2019. Thatâs considered a good credit scoreâand if you want a good credit score, you have to consider your revolving utilization. Revolving utilization measures the amount of revolving credit limits that you are currently using, and it accounts for a large portion of your credit score.
Find out more about what revolving utilization is, how to manage it, and how it impacts your credit score below.
What Is Revolving Credit?
To understand revolving utilization, you first have to understand revolving credit. Revolving credit accounts are those that have a “revolving” balance, such as credit cards.
When you are approved for a credit card, you are given a credit limit. If you have a credit card with a limit of $1,000 and you use it to buy $200 worth of goods, you now have a $200 balance and an $800 remaining credit limit.
Now, if you pay that $200, you again have $1,000 of open credit. If you pay $150, you have $950 of open credit. But your credit revolves between balance owed and how much open credit you have available to use. How much you have to pay each monthâknown as the minimum paymentâdepends on how much your balance owed is.
Other forms of revolving credit include lines of credit and home equity lines of credit. They work similar to credit cards.
What Isn’t Revolving Credit?
Unlike revolving credit, installment loans involve taking out a lump sum and paying it back in an agreed-upon fashion over a set term of months or years. Typically, you agree to pay a certain amount per month for a certain number of months to cover the amount you borrowed plus any interest.
With an installment loan, the amount of your monthly payment is determined by your loan agreement, not the balance due. Common types of installment loans include vehicle loans, personal loans, student loans, and mortgages.
What Is Revolving Utilization?
Revolving utilization, also known as âcredit utilizationâ or your âdebt-to-limit ratio,â relates only to revolving credit and isn’t a factor with installment loans. Utilization refers to how much of your credit balance you’re using at a given time.
Hereâs how to determine your individual and overall credit utilization:
- Look at your credit reports and identify all of your revolving accounts. Each of these accounts has a credit limit (the most you can spend on that account) and a balance (how much you have spent).
- To calculate individual utilization percentage on an account, divide the balance by the credit limit, and multiply that number by 100.
- $500/$1,000 = 0.5
- 5*100 = 50%
- To calculate overall utilization (all revolving accounts), add up all of the credit limits (total credit limit) and all of the balances (total spent) on your revolving accounts. Divide the total balance by total credit limit, and multiply that number by 100.
If you have a credit card with a $1,000 credit limit and a balance of $500, your utilization rate is 50%, for example. For the same card, if you have a balance of $100, your utilization rate is 10%.
When it comes to your credit score, revolving utilization is typically calculated in total. For example:
- You have one card with a limit of $1,000 and a balance of $500.
- You have a second card with a limit of $4,000 and a balance of $400.
- You have a third card with a limit of $3,000 and a balance of $600.
- Your total credit limit across all three cards is $8,000.
- Your total utilization across all three cards is $1,500.
- Your revolving utilization is around 19%.
How Can You Reduce Revolving Utilization?
You can reduce revolving utilization in two ways. First, you can pay down your balances. The less you owe, the less your utilization will be.
Second, you can increase your credit limit. If you apply for a new credit card but don’t use it, you’ll have more open credit, and that can reduce your utilization. You might also be able to ask your credit card company to review your account for a credit increase if you’re an account holder in good standing.
What Is Revolving Utilization’s Impact on Your Credit Score?
Your revolving utilization rate does impact your credit. It’s the second-largest factor in the calculation of your credit score. Your utilization rate accounts for around 30% of your score. The only factor more important is whether you make your payments on time.
Why is credit utilization so important to your score? Because to lenders, it can say a lot about you as a borrower.
If you’re currently maxed out on all your existing credit, you may be struggling to pay your debts. Or you might not be managing your debts in the most responsible fashion. Either way, lenders might see you as a riskier investment and be less inclined to approve you for loans or other credit.
How Do You Know If You Have a Revolving Utilization Problem?
Sign up for Credit.comâs free Credit Report Card. It provides a snapshot of your credit report and gives you a grade for each of the five areas that make up your score. That includes payment history, credit utilization, age of credit, credit mix, and inquiries. The credit report card makes it easy for you to see what might be negatively affecting your credit score.
You can also sign up for ExtraCredit, an exciting new product from Credit.com. With an ExtraCredit account, you get a look at 28 of your FICO scores from all three credit bureausâplus exclusive discounts and cashback offers as well as other featuresâfor less than $25 a month.
The post Credit 101: What Is Revolving Utilization? appeared first on Credit.com.
When it comes to excuses consumers give for their poor credit scores, banks and lenders have heard it all.Â
Maybe you lost your job and couldnât pay your student loan payment for a few months.Â Or perhaps you thought youâd gotten a deferment but were too busy job hunting to find out for sure.Â
Maybe you thought you paid your credit card bill but itâs actually sitting on your kitchen counter waiting for the mail.
Whatever the reason for your low credit score, one thing is for certain â lendersÂ donât care.
In fact, banks and other lenders lean on your credit score and other factors to determine whether they should approve you for a credit card or a loan â and thatâs about it. Your personal situation is never considered, nor should it be.
It would be wonderful if credit card companies understood that âlife happensâ and made special exceptions to help people out, but that’s not the world we live in.Â As most of us already know, thatâs not typically how credit works. Credit cards are backed by banks, and banks have rules for a reason.
Now, hereâs the good news: Credit cards can help rebuild your credit, earn cash back for each dollar you spend, make travel easier, and serve as an emergency fund if youâre stuck paying a huge bill at the last minute. This is true even if you have poor credit, although the selection of credit cards you can qualify for may be somewhat limited.Â
Keep reading to learn about the best credit cards for bad credit, how they work, and how you can get approved.
Best Cards for Bad Credit This Year
Before you give up on building credit, you should check out all the credit cards that are available to consumers who need some help. Our list of the best credit cards for bad credit includes some of the top offers with the lowest fees and fair terms.
- Total VisaÂ®
- Discover itÂ® Secured
- Credit One BankÂ® VisaÂ® Credit Card
- Secured MastercardÂ® from Capital OneÂ®
- MilestoneÂ® Gold MastercardÂ®
- Credit One BankÂ® Unsecured VisaÂ® with Cash Back Rewards
#1: Total VisaÂ®
The Total VisaÂ® is one of the easiest credit cards to get approved for in today’s market, and itâs easy to use all over the world since itâs a true Visa credit card. However, this card does come with high rates and fees since itâs available to consumers with poor credit or a limited credit history.
Processing your application will cost $89, which is extremely high when you consider the fact that most credit cards donât charge an application fee. Youâll also pay an initial annual fee of $75 and a $48 annual fee for each year thereafter.
Once you sign up, youâll be able to pick your preferred card design and your credit card payments will be reported to all three credit reporting agencies â Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. This is the main benefit of this card since your on-time payments can easily help boost your credit score over time.Â
For the most part, the Total VisaÂ® is best for consumers who donât mind paying a few fees to access an unsecured line of credit. Since this card doesnât dole out rewards, however, there are few cardholder perks to look forward to.Â
- APR: 35.99% APR
- Fees: Application fee and annual fee
- Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
- Rewards: No
#2: Discover itÂ® Secured
While secured cards donât offer an unsecured line of credit like unsecured credit cards do, they are extremely easy to qualify for. The Discover itÂ® Secured may not be ideal for everyone, but it does offer a simple online application process and the ability to get approved with little to no credit history.
Keep in mind, however, that secured cards do work differently than traditional credit cards. With a secured credit card, youâre required to put down a cash deposit upfront as collateral. However, you will get your cash deposit back when you close your account in good standing.
Amazingly, the Discover itÂ® Secured lets you earn rewards with no annual fee. Youâll start by earning 2% back on up to $1,000 spent each quarter in dining and gas. Youâll also earn an unlimited 1% back on everything else you buy.
The Discover itÂ® Secured doesnât charge an application fee or an annual fee, although youâll need to come up with the cash for your initial deposit upfront. For the most part, this card is best for consumers who have little to no credit and want to build their credit history while earning rewards.
- APR: 24.74%
- Fees: No annual fee or monthly fees
- Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
- Rewards: Yes
#3: Credit One BankÂ® VisaÂ® Credit Card
The Credit One BankÂ® VisaÂ® Credit Card is another credit card for bad credit that lets you earn rewards on your everyday spending. Youâll earn a flat 1% cash back for every dollar you spend with this credit card, and since itâs unsecured, you donât have to put down a cash deposit to get started.
Other benefits include the fact you can get pre-qualified for this card online without a hard inquiry on your credit report â and that you get a free copy of your Experian credit score on your online account management page.
You may be required to pay an annual fee up to $95 for this card for the first year, but it depends on your creditworthiness. After that, your annual fee could be between $0 and $99.
- APR: 19.99% to 25.99%
- Fees: Annual fee up to $95 the first year depending on creditworthiness; after that $0 to $99
- Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
- Rewards: Yes
#4: Secured MastercardÂ® from Capital OneÂ®
The Secured MastercardÂ® from Capital OneÂ® is another secured credit card that extends a line of credit to consumers who can put down a cash deposit as collateral. This card is geared to people with bad credit or no credit history, so itâs easy to get approved for. One downside, however, is that your initial line of credit will likely be just $200 â and that doesn’t give you much to work with.Â
On the upside, this card doesnât charge an annual fee or any application fees. That makes it a good option if you donât want to pay any fees you wonât get back.
Youâll also get access to 24/7 customer service, $0 fraud liability, and other cardholder perks.
- APR: 26.49%
- Fees: No ongoing fees
- Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
- Rewards: No
#5: MilestoneÂ® Gold MastercardÂ®
The MilestoneÂ® Gold MastercardÂ® is an unsecured credit card that lets you get pre-qualified online without a hard inquiry on your credit report. You wonât earn any rewards on your purchases, but you do get benefits like the ability to select your cardâs design, chip and pin technology, and easy online account access.
You will have to pay a one-time fee of $25 to open your account, and thereâs an annual fee of $50 the first year and $99 for each year after that.
- APR: 24.90%
- Fees: Account opening fee and annual fees
- Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
- Rewards: No
#6: Credit One BankÂ® Unsecured VisaÂ® with Cash Back Rewards
The Credit One BankÂ® Unsecured VisaÂ® with Cash Back Rewards lets you earn 1% back on every purchase you make with no limits or exclusions. Thereâs no annual fee or application fee either, which makes this card a winner for consumers who donât want to get hit with a lot of out-of-pocket costs.
As a cardholder, youâll get free access to your Experian credit score, zero fraud liability, and access to a mobile app that makes tracking your purchases and rewards a breeze. You can also get pre-qualified online without a hard inquiry on your credit report.
- APR: 25.99%
- Fees: No annual fee or application fee
- Minimum Credit Score: Not specified
- Rewards: Yes
The Downside of Credit Cards with Bad Credit
While your odds of getting approved for one of the credit cards for bad credit listed above are high, you should be aware that there are plenty of pitfalls to be aware of. Here are the major downsides youâll find with these credit cards for bad credit and others comparable cards:
- Higher fees: While someone with excellent credit can shop around for credit cards without any fees, this isnât the case of you have bad credit. If your credit score is poor or you have a thin credit profile, you should expect to pay higher fees and more of them.
- Higher interest rates: While some credit cards come with 0% interest for a limited time or lower interest rates overall, consumers with poor credit typically have to pay the highest interest rates available today. Some credit cards for bad credit even come with APRs as high as 35%.
- No perks: Looking for cardholder benefits like cash back on purchases or points toward airfare or movie tickets? Youâll need to wait until your credit score climbs back into âgoodâ or âgreatâ territory. Even if you can find a card for applicants with bad credit that offers cash back, your rewards may not make up for the higher fees.
- No balance transfers: If youâre looking for relief from other out-of-control credit card balances, look elsewhere. Credit cards for bad credit typically donât offer balance transfers. If they do, the terms make them cost-prohibitive.
- Low credit limits: Credit cards for bad credit tend to offer initial credit limits in the $300 to $500 range with the possibility of increasing to $2,000 after a year of on-time monthly payments. If you need to borrow a lot more than that, youâll have to consider other options.
- Security deposit requirement: Secured credit cards require you to put down a cash deposit to secure your line of credit. While this shouldnât necessarily be a deal-breaker â and it may be required if you canât get approved for an unsecured credit card â youâll need to come up with a few hundred dollars before you apply.
- Checking account requirement: Most new credit card accounts now require cardholders to pay bills online, which means youâll need a checking account. If youâre mostly âunbanked,â you may need to open a traditional bank account before you apply.
Benefits of Improving Your Credit Score
People with bad credit often consider their personal finances a lost cause. The road to better credit can seem long and stressful, and itâs sometimes easier to give up then it is to try to fix credit mistakes youâve made in the past.
But, there are some real advantages that come with having at least âgoodâ credit, which typically means any FICO score of 670 or above. Here are some of the real-life benefits better credit can mean for your life and your lifestyle:
- Higher credit limits: The higher your credit score goes, the more money banks are typically willing to lend. With good credit, youâll have a better chance at qualifying for a car loan, taking out a personal loan, or getting a credit card with a reasonable limit.
- Lower interest rates: A higher credit score tells lenders youâre not as risky as a borrower âa sign that typically translates into lower interest rates. When you pay a lower APR each time you borrow, you can save huge amounts of money on interest over time.
- Lower payments: Borrowing money with a lower interest rate typically means you can usually get lower payments all your loans, including a home loan or a car loan.
- Ability to shop around: When youâre an ideal candidate for a loan, you can shop around to get the best deals on credit cards, mortgages, personal loans, and more.
- Ability to help others: If your kid wants to buy a car but doesnât have any credit history, better credit puts you in the position to help him or her out. If your credit is poor, you wonât be in the position to help anyone.
- More options in life: Your credit score can also impact your ability to open a bank account or rent a new apartment. Since employers can request to see a modified version of your credit report before they hire you, excellent credit can also give you a leg up when it comes to beating out other candidates for a job.Â
In addition to the benefits listed above, most insurance companies now consider your credit score when you apply for coverage. For that reason, life, auto, and home insurance rates tend to be lower for people with higher credit scores.
This may seem unfair, but you have to remember that research has shown people with high credit scores tend to file fewer insurance claims.
How to Improve Your Credit: Slow and Steady
When you have a low credit score, there are two ways to handle it. If you don’t mind the consequences of poor credit enough to do anything about it, you can wait a decade until the bad marks age off your credit report. Depending on when your creditors give up and write off your debt, you may not even need to wait that long.
If you donât like the idea of letting your credit decay while you wait it out, you can also try to fix your past credit mistakes. This typically means paying off debt â and especially delinquent debts â but it can also mean applying for new loan products that are geared to people who need to repair their credit.
If you decide to take actionable steps to build credit fast, the credit cards on this page can help. Theyâll give you an opportunity to show the credit bureaus that youâve changed your ways.
Before you take steps to improve your credit score, however, keep in mind all the different factors used to determine your standing in the first place. The FICO scoring method considers the following factors when assigning your score:
- On-time payments: Paying all your bills on time, including credit cards, makes up 35% of your FICO score. For that reason, paying all your bills early or on time is absolutely essential.
- Outstanding debts: How much you owe matters, which is why paying off your credit cards each month or as often as possible helps your score. According to myFICO.com, the amounts you owe in relation to your credit limits make up another 30% of your FICO score.
- New credit: Apply for too many new cards or accounts at once can impact your score in a negative way. In fact, this determinant makes up another 10% of your FICO score.
- Credit mix: Having a variety of open accounts impresses the credit bureau algorithm Gods. If all you have are personal loans right now, mixing in a credit card can help. If you already have four or five credit cards, it may be wise to back off a little.
- Length of credit history: The length of your credit history also plays a role in your score. The longer your credit history, the better off you are.
If you want to improve your credit score, consider all the factors above and how you can change your behavior to score higher in each category. Itâs pretty easy to see how paying all your bills early or on time and paying off debt could make a big positive impact on your credit score when you consider that these two factors alone make up 65% of your FICO score.
If you want a way to track your progress, also look into an app likeÂ Credit Karma, one of my favorite tools. This app lets you monitor your credit progress over time and even receive notifications when your score has changed. Best of all, itâs free.
Should You Use a Credit Card to Rebuild Your Credit Score?
If youâre on the fence about picking up a credit card for bad credit, your first step should be thinking over your goals. What exactly are you trying to accomplish?
If youâre looking for spending power, the cards on this list probably wonât help. Some are secured cards, meaning you need a cash deposit to put down as collateral. Others offer low credit limits and high fees and interest rates, making them costly to use over the long-term.
If you really want to start over from scratch and repair credit mistakes made in the past, on the other hand, one of these cards may be exactly what you need. If youâre determined to improve your score, they can speed things along.
You may pay higher fees and interest rates along the way, but itâs important to remember that none of the cards on this list need to be your top card forever. Ideally, youâll use a credit card for poor credit to rebuild your credit and boost your score. Once youâve reached your goal, you can upgrade to a new card with better benefits and terms.
Your credit score is incredibly important. In fact, this number is so influential on various financial aspects of life that it can determine your eligibility to be approved for credit cards, car loans, home mortgages, apartment rentals, and even certain jobs. Knowing what your credit score is, and what range it falls under, is important so you can decide what loans you can to apply for, and if necessary, if steps need to be taken to improve your score.
So what constitutes a good credit score?
The Credit Score Range Scale
The most common credit score used by lenders and other business entities is the FICO score, which ranges from 300 to 850. The bigger the number, the better. To create credit scores, FICO uses information from one of the three major credit bureau agencies – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. Knowing this range is important because it will help you understand where your specific number fits in.
As far as lenders are concerned, the lower a consumer’s number on this scale, the higher the risk. Lenders will often deny a loan application for those with a lower credit score because of this risk. If they do approve a loan application, they’ll make consumers pay for such risk by means of a much higher interest rate.
Understand Your Credit Score
Within the credit score range are different categories, ranging from bad to excellent. Here is how credit score ranges are broken down:
Bad credit: 630 or Lower
Lenders generally consider a credit score of 630 or lower as bad credit. A number of past activities could have landed you in this category, including a string of late or missed credit card payments, maxed out credit cards, or even bankruptcy. Younger people who have no credit history will probably find themselves in this category until they have had time to develop their credit. If you’re in this bracket, you’ll be faced with higher interest rates and fees, and your selection of credit cards will be restricted.
Fair Credit: 630-689
This is considered an average score. Lingering within this range is most likely the result of having too much “bad” debt, such as high credit card debt that’s grazing the limit. Within this bracket, lenders will have a harder time trusting you with their loan.
Good Credit: 690-719
Having a credit score within this range will afford you more choices when it comes to credit cards, an easier time getting approved for various loans, and being charged much lower interest rates on such loans.
Excellent Credit: 720-850
Consider your credit score excellent if your number falls within this bracket. You’ll be able to take advantage of all the fringe benefits that come with credit cards, and will almost certainly be approved for loans at the lowest interest rates possible.
What’s Your Credit Score?
Federal law allows consumers to check their credit score for free once every 12 months. But if you want to check more often than this, a fee is typically charged. Luckily, there are other avenues to take to check your credit score.
Mint has recently launched an online tool that allows you toÂ check your credit scoreÂ for free without the need for a credit card. Here you’ll be able to learn the different components that affect your score, and how you can improve it.
You’ll be able to see your score with your other accounts to give you a complete picture of your finances. Knowing what your credit score is can help determine if you need to improve it to help you get the things you need or want. Visit Mint.com to find out more about how you can access your credit score – for free.
Lisa Simonelli RennieÂ is a freelance web content creator who enjoys writing on all sorts of topics, including personal finance, investing in stocks, mortgages, real estate investments, and anything else to do with the world of economics.
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