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Minimum Payments on a Credit Card

Your minimum monthly payment is the lowest amount that you need to pay on your credit card balance. Any less could result in a derogatory mark, any more will clear more of the principal. 

Your monthly payment is one of the most important aspects of your credit card debt and failure to understand this could seriously impact your credit score and leave marks on your credit report that remain for up to 7 years.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how these payments operate and how you can quickly clear your credit card debt.

How Minimum Payments on a Credit Card are Calculated

The minimum payment is calculated as a percentage of the total balance at the end of the month. This percentage ranges from 2% to 5%, but it has been known to go lower. 

As an example, if you have a $5,000 credit card balance and are required to pay 5% a month, then your monthly payment will be $250. However, this only covers the principal, which is the money that you borrowed. It does not cover the interest, which is where things get a little complicated and expensive.

What Influences Your Minimum Monthly Payment?

The reason credit card interest is so high is because it compounds. This means that if you have an annual percentage rate of 20% and a debt of $20,000, that debt will climb to $24,000, at which point the next billing cycle will commence and this time you’ll be charged 20% on $24,000 and not $20,000.

However, credit card interest is calculated daily, not yearly. To arrive at your daily percentage rate, simply divide your interest rate by 365 (the number of days in a year) and then multiply this by your daily balance.

For example, if we stick with that 20% interest rate, then the daily rate will be 0.00054%. If we multiply this with the daily balance, we get an interest rate of $2.7 for the first day. Multiply this by 30, for the total days in a billing cycle, and it’s $81. That’s your total interest for the first month.

So, when we calculate the 2% minimum monthly payment, we’re calculating it against $5,081, not $5,000, which means we get a total of $101.62, reducing the balance to just $479.38.

In other words, you pay over $100, but reduce the balance by a little over $20 when you make that monthly payment. If penalty fees and interest rates are added to that, it will reduce in even smaller increments.

Pros and Cons of Only Paying the Minimum Payment on your Credit Card

As discussed above, it’s imperative that you make the minimum payment, avoiding any late payment charges or credit score reductions. However, if you only make those minimum payments every month then it will take a long time to clear your balance and you may struggle to keep your head above water.

The Benefits of Paying More Than the Minimum

Many borrowers struggle to pay more than the minimum not because they don’t have the money, but because they fail to see the benefits. They focus on the short-term and not the long-term, seeing an extra $100 payment as a lost $100 in the present, as opposed to a saved $500 in the future.

However, if you can get over this mindset and start paying more than the minimum, you will do your future self a huge favor, helping with all of the following:

Shorten the Term and Lessen the Interest

Every extra dollar that you add to your minimum payment can help you get out of debt quicker than if you simply stick with the minimum. This is true for all debts—a higher monthly payment means that more money goes towards the principal, which means there is less interest to compound.

Credit card debt is like a snowball gathering momentum as it rolls, and this is exacerbated every time you miss a payment and are hit with penalty fees. By paying more than the minimum, you’re taking a giant chunk out of that snowball and slowing its progression.

You’ll Improve Your Credit Utilization

Your credit utilization ratio is one of the most important parts of your credit report, counting for 30% of your total. This ratio takes your total available credit (such as a credit limit on a credit card) and then compares it to total debt (such as the balance on that credit card). The higher the number, the more of your credit has been used and the more your credit score will suffer.

Every time you pay more of your credit card balance, you’re reducing this score and significantly boosting your credit score.

Avoid Maxing Out Your Balance

Not only will a maxed-out credit card do some serious damage to your credit utilization score, but it can also have a direct impact on your credit score on the whole. Lenders don’t want to see it and credit bureaus will punish you for it. If you’re still using the card and only paying the minimum, you may be stuck in a cycle of persistent debt, but by paying more and using it less, you can prevent that.

You May Get a Better Credit Limit

Credit card issuers monitor their customer’s activities very closely. If they clear their balances every month without issue, they are more inclined to increase their credit limit, offer them rewards, and generally provide them with good opportunities. If they are accumulating large amounts of credit card debt and only meeting their minimum payments, they’ll be less inclined to do any of those things.

It always helps to get on a creditor’s good side, because you never know when you will need that improve credit limit or access to that generous rewards scheme.

What Happens if you Only Make the Minimum Payment?

If you only pay the minimum, the debt will take a long time to clear and you’ll repay huge sums of interest in that time. If we go back to the previous example and assume an APR of 20%, a balance of $5,000 and a minimum payment of 2%, you will repay over 400% in interest alone and it will take you decades to repay the debt.

Thankfully, very few credit card providers will actually let you pay such a small amount on such a substantial debt. But even if we increase the minimum payment to 5%, it still looks abysmal for the borrower. It would take them about 9 years to pay the balance, requiring $250 a month and paying close to $2,500 in interest.

Although it’s more realistic, this is still a poor option, especially when you consider the card will still be active and you may still be using it, which means that every time you make a repayment, you’re adding more debt and offsetting all your hard work.

Your credit score will not suffer if you only make the minimum payment. Providing you make it on time then you will build a respectable payment history, a stable credit report, and a credit score that is sure to impress lenders. However, it won’t look great for your finances as you’re giving yourself an expensive liability that will cripple your debt-to-income ratio and your credit utilization ratio for years to come.

Are There Any Advantages to Just Paying the Minimum?

The only advantage to paying just the minimum is that you will have more money in your pocket at the end of the month, which will allow you to make additional investments and purchases that would otherwise not be available to you. However, this is a pretty narrow-minded way of looking at it, because while you will have more cash in the long-term, it comes at the expense of many additional risks and obligations, not to mention thousands of dollars’ worth of additional interest paid over the term.

What Happens if you Can’t Pay the Minimum Payment?

If there is a late payment or a missed payment, your creditor may charge you a penalty fee or a penalty rate. If your payment is due for more than 30-days they may also report you to the credit bureaus, at which point a derogatory mark will appear on your credit report and your credit score will drop.

This can happen even with a single missed payment, which is why you should never simply skip a payment on the basis that you’ll just double-up next time around.

Instead, contact your creditor, explain your situation, and see if there is anything they can do to help you. They may say no, but it doesn’t hurt to ask, and, in most cases, they will offer you some kind of reprieve. After all, they want their money, and if they can increase their chances of getting paid by providing you with some leeway, they’ll often be more than happy to do it.

Some people believe that you can simply pay a few dollars and it will count as a minimum payment and not show on your credit report. This is a myth. Technically, any payment that doesn’t meet the full minimum requirement can be classed as a late payment and can lead to fees and derogatory marks.

Resources to Lower Minimum Payments on a Credit Card

It’s important to keep a close eye on your credit card statement and activity at all times. Monitor your spending, making sure it doesn’t go overboard, and if you find yourself struggling to make payments at any time, checkout the following resources and options to get the help you need:

  • Credit Counselors: Speak with a trained expert who has helped many individuals in a similar position. They will discuss your finances and your debts and will help you to find a solution.
  • Debt Management: A debt management plan can help when you’re struggling to meet your debt obligations and have a huge debt-to-income ratio. They will provide assistance and help you swap multiple debts for a single consolidation loan.
  • Debt Settlement: An option that works best for individuals with multiple debts and missed payments. It’s one of the cheapest ways to clear personal loan and credit card debt, as well as other forms of unsecured debt.
  • Debt Consolidation: Another consolidation loan option, this time with a long term, ensuring that you pay less per month but more over the term. This is a good option if you’re stuck in a tricky spot right now and need to reduce your outgoings.

In all the above cases, you can use the NMLS Consumer Access site to find a legitimate and reputable company or professional working within the financial sector. You can also use resources like the Better Business Bureau as well as the many guides, reviews, and help files right here on the Pocket Your Dollars website.

How to Reduce the Balance on a Credit Card Debt

One of the best ways to reduce your balance is to initiate a balance transfer. As the name suggests, this entails moving your balance from one card to another. Balance transfer cards entice you by offering a 0% APR on all transfers and this lasts for up to 18% with the best providers. 

In that time, you won’t pay any interest on your balance, which means all your monthly payment will go towards the principal and you can reduce your debt in huge leaps as opposed to small steps.

These cards are not without their issues, however. You will need a good credit score to get a card that has a good APR and balance transfer offer. If you don’t, and you fail to clear the balance during that introductory period, you may be paying more interest than you were before.

In most cases, though, these cards will be just what you need to ease the burden of mounting credit card debts and get back into the black. Take a look at our guide to the best balance transfer cards to learn more and discover how you can move your current balance to a card that has more preferable terms, in the short-term at least.

The Bottom Line: Clear that Balance

A minimum payment is the least amount you need to commit to a credit card balance. If credit card debt was a house party, the minimum payment would be the equivalent of showing up, saying your introductions, and then hiding in the corner for the rest of the night. If you really want to make an impact, you need to be proactive.

It doesn’t have to be twice or thrice the size of your minimum payment. It doesn’t have to be a consistent sum that you pay every month, but it does have to be something. Don’t worry if it’s only 1% or 2% of the balance, because every additional payment helps. Just pay whatever you can afford, whenever you can afford it. A small amount of money today can save you a huge sum of money in the future.

Minimum Payments on a Credit Card is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Do You Qualify for Any of January’s Class-Action Settlements?

The New Year brings new opportunities to seek restitution for wrongs committed in previous months and even years. Take a look at this month’s list of class-action settlements to see if any of these offers will let you add some cha-ching to your pocket as you ring in 2021.

UnityPoint Health: Data Breach

Anyone who was affected by UnityPoint Health data breaches in 2017 and 2018 may be eligible for up to $7,000 plus a year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection.

Also known as Iowa Health System, the lawsuit claims UnityPoint was hit by a data breach that began in November 2017. The multi-hospital delivery and health care system purportedly found the ongoing breach in February 2018, but failed to notify affected persons until April or even July of 2018.

The lawsuit alleges that more than 1 million names, addresses, phone numbers, billing information and health information were exposed, costing patients and consumers time and money to cancel credit cards and fight identity theft and fraud.

UnityPoint denied wrongdoing, but agreed to a $2.8 million settlement. UnityPoint Health said it contacted all affected consumers whose personal information was exposed during the 2017 and 2018 data breaches.

File your valid claim by March 2, 2021 to receive a year of free credit monitoring and up to $1,000 in “ordinary” expenses, including a maximum of three hours of time valued at $15 per hour and documented out-of-pocket expenses you incurred due to the data breaches, such as postage fees and internet charges. You also may claim up to $6,000 in “extraordinary” expenses related to identity theft or fraud caused by the data breaches, including false tax returns and interest on loans you had to take out because of canceling your credit card accounts.

Kalispell Regional Healthcare: Data Breach

You could be eligible for expense reimbursement, cash payments and free credit monitoring services as the result of a $4.2 million class-action settlement.

In October 2019, Kalispell Regional Healthcare notified patients that hackers were able to access employee email accounts and used those accounts to access the personal data of patients.

In response, a lawsuit alleged Kalispell didn’t do enough to protect against hackers. The company did not admit to any wrongdoing, but agreed to settle for $4.2 million.

Cyber thieves reportedly gained access to the following patient data:

  •     Names and addresses
  •     Medical record numbers
  •     Dates of birth
  •     Telephone numbers
  •     Email addresses
  •     Medical history and treatment information
  •     Dates of service
  •     Treating physicians
  •     Medical bill account numbers
  •     Health insurance information
  •     Social Security numbers

If you were notified by Kalispell Regional Healthcare that your personal information might have been compromised, you could be eligible for reimbursement of up to $15,000 in expenses related to the breach. You also may be eligible for up to five hours of time at the rate of $15 per hour.

In addition to reimbursement, you can choose between five years of Experian credit monitoring services valued at nearly $720 and an alternative cash payment of up to $100. Exact cash payment amounts will vary but will not exceed $100.

Claim forms are due by Feb. 25, 2021.

BMW: Failing Coolant Pump

If you owned or leased specific 2007 through 2019 models of BMW vehicles, you could claim up to $1,000 in reimbursements.

A class-action suit alleged the affected vehicles were equipped with electric coolant pumps that once they failed, caused engines to overheat, resulting in the need for expensive repairs. The lawsuit further alleged BMW knew of the problem but did not fix it or reimburse owners and lessees for resulting repairs.

Car owners and lessees may receive a maximum of $1,000 in out-of-pocket repair costs for parts and labor required to replace one failed electric engine coolant pump and a thermostat, if such replacement was needed within the first seven years or first 84,000 miles the vehicle was in service. In addition, BMW’s New Passenger Vehicle Limited Warranty may be extended to seven years or 84,000 miles.

BMW also will replace an electric coolant pump that fails for one year after the settlement becomes effective, no matter how old the vehicle is or how many miles it has on it.

We have the complete list of models covered and all the details you need to make a claim by the Feb. 18, 2021 deadline.

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Sports Research: Deceptive Supplement Labeling

If you bought Sports Research Corporation’s Premium MCT Oil products or Turmeric Curcumin C3 Complex products, you could be eligible for a portion of a settlement over allegations of deceptive labeling practices.

The premium-priced products that were labeled “packed with beneficial fats” and capable of fostering “natural” energy purportedly were falsely advertised. The MCT Oil merchandise contained 14 grams of saturated fat that did not allow it to be considered “healthy” as part of a diet. In addition, the “natural” energy supposedly induced by the use of raw coconut materials allegedly underwent processing.

The MCT Oil products were also promoted as containing antibacterial, anti-microbial and anti-viral properties, while the Turmeric Curcumin C3 products were marketed as anti-inflammatory products that provided antioxidant benefits.

If you bought Sports Research’s MCT Oil products or Turmeric Curcumin C3 products between Jan. 9, 2016 and Jan. 9, 2020, you could be eligible for either a $7 voucher to be used toward the purchase of any Sports Research product or $3 cash.

File your valid claim by Feb. 23, 2021 to receive your healthy dose of restitution.

A woman looks perplexed as she looks at her laptop screen.

Chime Digital Bank Service Disruption

Were you unable to access your Chime deposit account between Oct. 16-19, 2019 because of a service disruption? If so, you could be eligible for a portion of a $1.5 million class-action settlement.

The intermittent outage lasted for several days, according to the lawsuit, which resulted in late bill payments and disrupted purchases. The suit also says Chime failed to warn users of the outage and only communicated via Twitter.

Chime did not admit to any wrongdoing, but agreed to the class action settlement.

Compensation is divided into two tiers. Tier one allows consumers who suffered a loss due to the service disruption to receive a cash payment up to $25 with no proof of such loss. Tier two provides payments up to $750 for those who can provide documentation.

We have all the details and how to file your claim by the Feb. 15, 2021 deadline.

BMW: Defective Timing Chain

Former owners and lessees of certain 2012 to 2015 models of BMW vehicles could be eligible for reimbursement for allegedly defective timing chain components.

A lawsuit that alleged certain BMWs equipped with N20 and N26 engines were prone to experiencing damage and needing costly repairs because of defective timing chains.

BMW owners and lessees may qualify for either a reimbursement program or a prospective repair program.

The reimbursement program provides between 40% and 100% reimbursement for vehicle repairs depending on the mileage at the time of service. No cap exists for repair reimbursement if the repairs were completed at a BMW center. However, repairs done at an independent service center are capped at $3,000 for timing chain modules and oil pump drive chain modules and at $7,500 for engines.

A separate program provides reimbursement for future repairs. Some of these claims will be covered under vehicles’ existing warranties while others will be reimbursed for between 40% and 75% of the total repair costs. Vehicles must be taken to a BMW center.

Expenses are only eligible for reimbursement if the damage was caused by failure of the timing chain or oil pump drive chain modules. Vehicles that have over 100,000 miles or have been in service for over eight years are not eligible.

Check out the details, the list of covered vehicles, and the claim form that must be submitted by the estimated deadline of March 18, 2021.

Navy Federal Credit Union: Unfair NSF Fees

Navy Federal Credit Union has agreed to a $16 million settlement over allegations it charged unfair non-sufficient funds (NSF) fees to its customers.

Navy Federal customers who were charged two or three NSF fees on one transaction between Jan. 28, 2014 and Oct. 27, 2020 may be eligible for cash payments or account credits.

Multiple fees purportedly were incurred when a merchant presented a transaction for payment several times after an initial rejection. With each attempt, Navy Federal allegedly tried to process the payments again, which resulted in an additional NSF fee. This practice of charging the additional NSF fees violated Navy Federal’s own terms of its agreements, according to the suit.

Exact awards will depend upon the number of NSF fees charged and the number of customers who agree to participate in the settlement.

No claim form is required because cash payments or account credits automatically will be distributed, but you have until Feb. 24, 2021 to object to the settlement or to ask to be excluded from it.

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.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Debt Settlement vs Bankruptcy: Which is Best?

You’ve tried debt payoff strategies, balance transfers, consolidation, and even debt management; you’ve begged your creditors, liquidated your assets, and pestered your friends and families for any money they can afford, but after all of that, you still have more debt than you can handle.

Now what?

Once you reach the end of your rope, the options that remain are not as forgiving as debt management and they’ll do much more damage to your credit score than debt payoff strategies. However, if you’ve tried other forms of debt relief and nothing seems to work, all that remains is to consider debt settlement and bankruptcy.

Debt settlement is a very good way to clear your debt. It’s one of the cheapest and most complete ways to eradicate credit card debt and can help with most other forms of unsecured debt as well. Bankruptcy, on the other hand, is a last resort option for debtors who can’t meet those monthly payments and have exhausted all other possibilities.

But which option is right for you, should you be looking for a debt settlement company or a bankruptcy attorney?

Similarities Between Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement

Firstly, let’s look at the similarities between bankruptcy and debt settlement, which are actually few and far between. In fact, beyond the fact that they are both debt relief options that can clear your debt, there are very few similarities, with the main one being that they both impact your credit score quite heavily.

A bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years and do a lot of damage when it is applied. It may take several years before you can successfully apply for loans and high credit lines again, and it will continue to impact your score for years to come.

Debt settlement is not quite as destructive, but it can reduce your credit score in a similar way and last for up to 7 years. Accounts do not disappear in the same way as when you pay them in full, so future creditors will know that the accounts were settled for less than the balance and this may scare them away.

In both cases, you could lose a couple hundred points off your credit score, but it all depends on how high your score is to begin with, as well as how many accounts you have on your credit report and how extensive the settlement/bankruptcy process is.

Differences Between Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement

The main two types of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. The former liquidates assets and uses the funds generated from this liquidation to pay creditors. The latter creates a repayment plan with a goal of repaying all debts within a fixed period of time using an installment plan that suits the filer.

Debt settlement, on the other hand, is more of a personal process, the goal of which is to offer a reduced settlement sum to creditors and debt collectors, clearing the debts with a lump sum payment that is significantly less than the balance.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

When people think of bankruptcy, it’s often a Chapter 7 that they have in mind. With a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, all non-exempt assets will be sold, and the money then used to pay lenders. There are filing costs and it’s advised that you hire a bankruptcy attorney to ensure the process runs smoothly.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is quick and complete, typically finishing in 6 months and clearing most unsecured debts in this time. There is no repayment plan to follow and no lawsuits or wage garnishment to worry about.

Chapter 13, on the other hand, focuses on a repayment plan that typically spans up to 5 years. The debts are not wiped clear but are instead restructured in a way that the debtor can handle. This method of bankruptcy is typically more expensive, but only worthwhile for debtors who can afford to repay their debts.

Filing for bankruptcy is not easy and there is no guarantee you will be successful. There are strict bankruptcy laws to follow and the bankruptcy court must determine that you have exhausted all other options and have no choice but to file.

Bankruptcy will require you to see a credit counselor, which helps to ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes in the future. This can feel like a pointless and demeaning requirement, as many debtors understand the rights and wrongs and got into a mess because of uncontrollable circumstances and not reckless spending, but sessions are short, cheap, and shouldn’t cause much stress.

How Debt Settlement Works

The goal of debt settlement is to get creditors to agree to a settlement offer. This can be performed by the debtor directly, but it’s often done with help from a debt settlement company.

The debt specialist may request that you stop making payments on your debts every month. This has two big benefits:

1. More Money

You will have more money in your account every month, which means you’ll have more funds to go towards debt settlement offers. 

The idea of making large lump sum payments can seem alien to someone who has a lot of debt. After all, if you’re struggling to make $400 debt payments every month on over $20,000 worth of debt, how can you ever hope to get the $5,000 to $15,000 you need to clear those debts in full?

But if you stop making all payments and instead move that money to a secured account, you’ll have $4,800 extra at the end of the year, which should be enough to start making those offers and getting those debts cleared.

2. Creditor Panic

Another aspect of the debt settlement process that confuses debtors is the idea that creditors would be willing to accept reduced offers. If you have a debt worth $20,000 and are paying large amounts of interest every month, why would they accept a lump sum and potentially take a loss overall?

The truth is, if you keep making monthly payments, creditors will be reluctant to accept a settled debt offer. But as soon as you start missing those payments, the risk increases, and the creditor faces the very real possibility that they will need to sell that debt to a collection agency. If you have a debt of $20,000, it may be sold for as little as $20 to $200, so if you come in with an offer of $10,000 before it reaches that point, they’ll snap your hand off!

Types of Debt

A debt settlement program works best when dealing with credit card debt, but it can also help to clear loan debt, medical bills, and more. Providing it’s not government debt or secured debt, it will work. 

With government debt, you need specific tax relief services, and, in most cases, there is no way to avoid it. With secured debt, the lender will simply take your asset as soon as you default.

Debt settlement companies may place some demanding restrictions on you, and in the short term, this will increase your total debt and worsen your financial situation. In addition to requesting that you stop making monthly payments, they may ask that you place yourself on a budget, stop spending money on luxuries, stop acquiring new debt, and start putting every penny you have towards the settlement.

It can have a negative impact on your life, but the end goal is usually worth it, as you’ll be debt-free within 5 years.

Pros and Cons of Debt Settlement and Bankruptcy

Neither of these processes are free or easy. With bankruptcy, you may pay up to $2,000 for Chapter 7 and $4,000 for Chapter 13 (including filing fees and legal fees) while debt settlement is charged as a fixed percentage of the debt or the money saved. 

As mentioned already, both methods can also damage your credit score. But ultimately, they will clear your debts and the responsibilities that go with them. If you’ve been losing sleep because of your debt, this can feel like a godsend—a massive weight lifted off your shoulders.

It’s also worth noting that scams exist for both options, so whether you’re filing bankruptcy or choosing a debt settlement plan, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable company/lawyer and are not being asked to pay unreasonable upfront fees. Reputable debt settlement companies will provide you with a free consultation in the first instance, and you can use the NACBA directory to find a suitable lawyer.

Bankruptcy and Debt Settlement: The End Goal

For all the ways that these two options differ, there is one important similarity: They give you a chance to make a fresh start. You can never underestimate the benefits of this, even if it comes with a reduced credit score and a derogatory mark that will remain on your credit report for years to come.

If you’re heavily in debt, it can feel like your money isn’t your own, your life isn’t secure, and your future is not certain. With bankruptcy and debt settlement, your credit score and finances may suffer temporarily, but it gives you a chance to wipe the slate clean and start again.

What’s more, this process may take several years to complete and in the case of bankruptcy, it comes with credit counseling. Once you make it through all of this, you’ll be more knowledgeable about debt, you’ll have a better grip on your finances, and your impulse control. 

And even if you don’t, you’ll be forced to adopt a little restraint after the process ends as your credit score will be too low for you to apply for new personal loans and high limit cards.

Other Options for Last Ditch Debt Relief

Many debtors preparing for debt settlement or bankruptcy may actually have more options than they think. For instance, bankruptcy is often seen as a get-out-of-jail-free card, an easy escape that you can use to your advantage whenever you have debts you don’t want to pay.

But that’s simply not the case and unless you have tried all other options and can prove that none of them have worked, your case may be thrown out. If that happens, you’ll waste money on legal and filing fees and will be sent back to the drawing board.

So, regardless of the amount of debt you have, make sure you’ve looked into the following debt relief options before you focus on debt settlement or bankruptcy. 

Debt Consolidation

A debt consolidation loan is provided by a specialized lender. They pay off all your existing debts and give you a single large loan in return, one that has a lower interest rate and a lower monthly payment. 

Your debt-to-income ratio will improve, and you’ll have more money in your pocket at the end of the month. However, in exchange, you’ll be given a much longer-term, which means you’ll pay more interest over the life of the loan.

A Debt Management Plan

Debt management combines counseling services with debt consolidation. A debt management plan requires you to continue making your monthly payment, only this will go to the debt management company and not directly to the creditors. They will then distribute the money to your creditors.

You’ll be given a monthly payment that you can manage, along with the budgeting advice you need to keep meeting those payments. In exchange, however, you’ll be asked to close all but one credit card (which can hurt your credit score) and if you miss a payment then your creditors may back out of the agreement.

Balance Transfer Card

If all your debts are tied into credit cards, you can use a balance transfer credit card to make everything more manageable. With a balance transfer credit card, you move one or more debts onto a new card, one that offers a 0% APR for a fixed period. 

The idea is that you continue making your monthly payment, only because there is no interest, all the money goes towards the principal.

Home Equity Loans

If you have built substantial equity in your home then you can look into home equity loans and lines of credit. These are secured loans, which means there is a risk of repossession if you fail to keep up your payments, but for this, you’ll get a greatly reduced interest rate and a sum large enough to clear your debts.

Bottom Line: The Best Option

Debt settlement and bankruptcy are both considered to be last resort debt-relief options, but they couldn’t be more different from one another. Generally speaking, we would always recommend debt settlement first, especially if you have a lot of money tied up in credit card debt.

If not, and you can’t bear the idea of spending several months ignoring your creditors, missing payments, and accumulating late fees, it might be time to consider bankruptcy. In any case, make sure you exhaust all other possibilities first.

Debt Settlement vs Bankruptcy: Which is Best? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Closing on a House Checklist: 6 Things Home Buyers Must Do Before They Move In

When you’re a first-time home buyer approaching the finish line in the journey to your new home, you want nothing to go wrong, right?

That’s why we’ve put together a home closing checklist, which outlines your action points in those few days leading up to settlement. Keep this closing process list handy to know you’ve done what you need to in order to close the deal.

1. Get all contingencies squared away

Most purchase agreements have contingencies—things that buyers must do before the real estate transaction is official, explains Jimmy Branham, a Coral Springs, FL, real estate agent at the Keyes Company. These are the most common contingencies that are part of your new home closing process:

  • Home inspection contingency: This gives buyers the right to have the home professionally inspected. If something is wrong, you can request that it be fixed—or you can back out of the sale. It’s rarely advisable to waive an inspection contingency. Although the average home inspection costs $300 to $500, it’s a drop in the bucket considering the costly home issues you might uncover, says Claude McGavic, executive director of the National Association of Home Inspectors.
  • Appraisal contingency: With this contingency, a third party hired by your mortgage lender evaluates the fair market value of the home. If the appraised value is less than the sale price, the contingency enables you to back out of the deal without forfeiting your earnest money deposit, says Bishoi Nageh, president of the Petra Cephas Team at Mortgage Network Solutions, in Somerset, NJ.
  • Financing contingency: This contingency gives you the right to back out of the deal if your mortgage approval falls through. You have a specified time period, as stated in the sales contract, during which you have to obtain a loan that will cover the mortgage.

2. Clear the title

When you buy a home, you “take title” to the property and establish legal ownership—a process that’s confirmed by local public land records. As part of the closing process, your mortgage lender will require a title search, and you’ll need to purchase title insurance to protect you from legal claims to the house.

Sometimes distant relatives—or an ex-spouse—may surface with a claim that they actually own the home, and that the seller had no right to sell it to you in the first place. But clearing title will ensure this doesn’t happen, says Marc Israel, president and chief counsel of MiT National Land Services, a title company in New York City.

As the home buyer of this piece of real estate, you’re entitled to choose the title company. You can get recommendations from your real estate agent, mortgage lender, and friends—just be sure to check out the license and reputation of each company online.

3. Get final mortgage approval

You’ve made that down payment, but before you can go to the closing table, your home loan must go through the underwriting process. Underwriters are like real estate detectives—it’s their job to make sure you’ve represented yourself and your finances truthfully, and that you haven’t made any false or misleading claims on your loan application.

The underwriter—employed by your mortgage company—will check your credit score, review your home appraisal, and ensure that your financial portfolio has remained the same since you were pre-approved for the loan.

Since underwriting typically happens shortly before closing, you don’t want to do anything while you’re in contract that’s going to hurt your credit score. That includes making a down payment on a car, boat, or similar large purchase that has to be financed.

4. Review your closing disclosure

If you’re getting a loan, one of the best ways to prepare is to thoroughly review your closing disclosure, also known as a HUD-1 settlement statement.

This official document outlines your exact mortgage payments, the loan’s terms (e.g., the interest rate and duration), and additional fees you’ll pay, called closing costs (which account for anywhere from 2% to 7% of your home’s price).

You’ll want to compare your closing disclosure to the loan estimate your lender gave you at the outset. If you spot any discrepancies, ask your lender to explain them.

5. Do a final walk-through

Most sales contracts allow buyers to do a walk-through of the home within 24 hours before closing. During this stage, you’re making sure the previous owner has vacated (unless you’ve allowed a rent-back arrangement in which they can stick around for a period of time before moving).

You’re also double-checking that the home is in the condition agreed upon in the contract. If your home inspection revealed problems that the sellers had agreed to fix, you’ll want to make sure those repairs were made.

6. Bring the necessary documentation to closing

Make sure you have the following items when you head to the closing table:

  • Proof of homeowners insurance
  • A copy of your contract with the seller
  • Your home inspection reports
  • Any paperwork the bank required to approve your loan
  • A government-issued photo ID (Note to newlyweds who just changed their name: The ID needs to match the name that will appear on the property’s title and mortgage.)

Plan to sign a ton of paperwork. An attorney or settlement agent will guide you through the process. When you’re done, you’ll collect the keys, and you’re finally home free!

The post Closing on a House Checklist: 6 Things Home Buyers Must Do Before They Move In appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com