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Everything You Need to Know About Retail Store Credit Cards

By | Credit Cards, Personal Finance

Everything You Need to Know About Retail Store Credit Cards

When you shop at a certain store frequently, you might think opening a credit card account there makes solid financial sense. After all, many retail establishments tout incentives as a perk to their loyal credit card holders — such as, for example, Nordstrom’s offer of a $20 gift certificate once shoppers spend $1,000. Other cards dangle discounts to attract bargain-hunting shoppers — perhaps only credit card holders get access to special sales and promotions, or they might receive cash back for certain purchases. But is a retail store credit card really a benefit to your credit — or does it simply encourage you to spend money that you don’t necessarily have?

They can be a good credit-building tool — but proceed cautiously.

If you are trying to establish a good credit record, retail credit cards are a relatively safe way to do so. Most retail credit cards have a low barrier to entry — meaning that even if your credit score is less than stellar, it is fairly easy to be approved for one. Using a store credit card judiciously — that is, keeping your spending habits in check and paying at least the minimum amount due every month — can serve as an excellent exercise in building your credit properly. But be careful. If you open up an account at every store, that will end up looking like too much open credit on your credit report. Also, having a store credit card can tempt you to spend money that you don’t have, or go hunting for items that you don’t really need.

You can easily hurt your credit.

Most credit cards offered in-store boast a low credit limit. How much trouble can you really get into with a credit limit that low? Well, you might be surprised. Low limits mean there’s little wiggle room if you happen to overspend one month. Also, if you continually carry a high balance from month to month — and you are close to hitting your max — it will start to negatively affect your credit score, as you will appear to be maxing out your credit limit. And each time you open a new retail store account, it registers as a hard inquiry on your credit report, also known as the store’s check into your creditworthiness, which can lower your credit score.

The interest rates tend to be higher.

Retail establishments certainly tout the benefits you’ll enjoy as a cardholder, but you’re less likely to hear about the interest rate or APR — that is, unless you dig into the fine print. A 2016 report from CreditCards.com found that store credit cards charge an average of 23.84% interest, up from the average credit card interest rate of 15.22%. That means you actually end up spending more money than you’re saving when you don’t pay the full amount due every month.

Some retailers also waive interest for a certain period of time — such as six months or a year — if you promise to pay off the balance in full in that time period. That can be a good benefit if you want to finance a big-ticket item. But again, it can be a risky move if you are unable to pay the full amount within the promotional period. Many retailers will then begin charging you all of the interest that would have accrued from the date of purchase.

Weigh the risks versus rewards.

It helps to weigh the risks versus rewards when you’re deciding whether to open a store credit card. Do you already have a solid track record of paying your debts every month? Then a retail credit card might be a good idea for you, as long as the store is offering you considerable incentives to become a cardholder. However, store credit cards don’t necessarily provide better benefits and loyalty packages than, say, a major credit card that can be used at all establishments. So, you might be better off sticking with one credit card that offers cash-back rewards across a range of different retail stores, rather than just one.

Do your research.

The bottom line: Make sure you do your research before signing up for just any retailer’s offer. Read into the interest rates and compare the incentives and rewards to those offered by other establishments or major credit cards. And be honest with yourself about how responsible you’ll be with a store credit card, so you don’t end up digging a deeper financial hole.

Retail credit cards are just one way you can improve your credit and build a pathway to a smarter financial future. At Ovation Credit, we aim to guide clients through the process of rebuilding credit and becoming a more responsible credit card user. Contact us today for a free consultation to review your credit reports and answer any questions you may have.

Women Curb Spending Habits

3 Easy Ways to Curb Your Spending Habits

By | Credit Cards

Spending less on your day-to-day life can help you put extra savings away, whether for an emergency account, a retirement fund, or even a vacation. But when it comes to actually saying no to swiping your card or hitting a purchase button online, you may have a harder time sticking to your savings goal.

Before you give up, try out these three easy ways to curb your spending habits. They’re not difficult to implement and you’ll notice a major difference in your bank account when you keep up with them each week and month.

1. Purge What You Already Have

It may seem counter-intuitive, but having a ton of stuff in your home can actually lead to buying more stuff. For starters, you probably don’t know everything you have. Think you’re out of shampoo or conditioner? You very well may have a brand-new bottle crammed at the back of your bathroom vanity. Spend a couple of hours to clear your space of clutter and take inventory of what you already have. You may be surprised by what you find. Plus, you won’t be tempted to buy tons of organizing containers and other supplies because you don’t have any clutter. It can be an incredibly freeing experience while simultaneously leading to better long-term spending habits.

2. Reduce Your Food Spending

Another way to curb your spending is to be mindful of what you’re spending on food and make a concerted effort to slash that number. Start off by adding up everything you spent on food and dining out last month. Even if you reduce that number by 10 to 20 percent, you’ll notice huge savings over the course of a year. You don’t have to be a crazy couponer. Instead, try these simple hacks to reduce your food spending.

Prep Your Breakfast and Lunch

The Internet is brimming with easy, budget-friendly breakfast and lunch ideas that are designed to help you avoid picking something up, no matter how busy you are. You can go all out, making and freezing breakfast burritos for a week, or do something as simple as getting a bag of bagels rather than stopping at the bakery on your way to work.

Leftovers for lunch are always easy (and prevent you from growing a mold experiment in the back of your refrigerator) and it’s simple to keep some sandwich materials on hand. With so many grocery delivery services available, you can do your shopping in 15 minutes online, see how much you’re spending before you check out, and avoid last-minute impulse buys.

Preplan How Often You’ll Eat Out

Depending on your financial situation, you likely don’t need to deprive yourself of ever going out to eat again. If you’re regularly struggling to make ends meet, you may want to take a total hiatus until you regain your financial footing. But if you just want to curb your spending in general, all you need to do is set guidelines for yourself and follow them.

Maybe that means allowing yourself one happy hour a week and one night out with friends. Or perhaps you commit to a single family date night twice a month. Figure out how much you want to save each month and use that number to create your social calendar.

Shop Your Pantry

Chances are, you have some kind of pantry space holding non-perishable food items. Before you do your weekly grocery shopping (remember, online makes it easy!), first figure out what food you already have and use it to inspire your grocery list. Also note what may be going bad in your refrigerator soon, especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables. See how low you can get your grocery list by shopping your own kitchen first.

3. Hide Your Credit Cards

Credit cards make it all too tempting to buy things we don’t need or can’t afford. If you’re really having trouble curbing your spending, hide your credit cards. Stick them in a drawer or go the extra mile and freeze them in a bowl of water. To really do this well, however, you also have to go to your online accounts and delete your saved credit cards (Amazon Prime, we’re looking at you!). That way there’s no temptation whatsoever to mindlessly shop from your sofa while watching Netflix.

Have debt and overspending affected your credit score? Ovation Credit may be able to help. Reach out for a free consultation today.

6 Rewards Credit Card Mistakes You’re Making

By | Credit Cards

Rewards credit cards typically hook you in with an enticing premise — the chance to build your credit and rack up points that you can later redeem for purchases you already make. When used judiciously, these cards can do just that. It’s no wonder that rewards cards are one of the more popular offerings in credit cards today. In fact, over half of consumers alter their spending habits depending on the rewards in play, according to a 2017 study from TD Bank. However, rewards credit cards do bring their own unique set of risks. If you toss away the fine print that the credit card issuer includes with your rewards credit card, chances are you could be missing out on some of the benefits you signed on just to receive. We’ve zeroed in on the top mistakes you could be making with your rewards and cash-back credit cards, so you can maximize the benefits and limit those risks.

1. Ignoring the Terms of the Sign-On Bonus

Many rewards cards dangle an introductory bonus to make signing up an even more attractive prospect. However, you may not realize just how much spending you have to do in order to qualify for that bonus. Usually you’ll have to reach a certain spending threshold, such as $5,000 within the first three months, in order to cash in on the bonus. Before you sign up for this kind of offer, be sure you’ll be able to pay back such a high balance without causing financial distress. And even if you do cash in on the initial bonus, you’ll want to review the other benefits the card has available and decide whether those perks fit in with your lifestyle.

2. Not Paying the Balance

When you carry a balance from month to month, the amount you’re racking up in interest probably cancels out the benefit of a cash-back rewards program. Also, if you aren’t careful, you could end up accumulating a mountain of credit card debt. The best bet: be strict with your rewards card purchases. Aim to charge only what you can afford to pay off, and don’t let yourself get swayed by unnecessary purchases just to earn more points. If you don’t think you can handle the temptation, a rewards card may not be the best choice for you.

3. Letting the Rewards Expire

Some consumers let their rewards points languish on their credit cards, thinking they can save up for a larger reward. Unfortunately, that strategy can often backfire if the rewards carry an expiration date. This is one area where it’s smart to carefully peruse your rewards card terms and conditions. The last thing you want is to work months or years toward a certain goal, only to see your points evaporate thanks to a “hidden” clause in the contract.

4. Not Shopping Around for the Right Fit

Patience is key. You don’t want to sign up for a card that offers benefits you won’t really use or that will tempt you to make purchases you don’t really need. The card that is best for your particular situation is likely one that offers benefits on the categories where you spend the most, such as groceries or gas. You could also opt for a card that will reward you with points or cash back regardless of the type of purchase.

5. Not Maximizing the Full Benefits

When people sign up for rewards credit cards, they’re typically looking to earn points or cash back toward high-dollar purchases, such as airfare and hotel stays. By focusing on these categories, you might be missing out on maximizing the full benefits of your card. You can often earn several points per dollar on other categories, such as gas, dining, restaurants, and entertainment. Make sure that you review the list of merchants that offer extra points when you use your card — it can actually make good financial sense to use plastic in these scenarios.

6. Overlooking the Annual Fee

Some rewards cards come with a steep annual fee in exchange for certain travel perks, like airport lounge access or TSA pre-check-in. But if you aren’t going to use these benefits on a fairly regular basis, you’re better off searching for a different card that offers a minimal or no annual fee.

A rewards credit card can be a very helpful tool as part of your overall credit-building game plan. For some additional assistance fine-tuning your credit report, reach out to Ovation Credit for a free consultation.

Spend Smarter: How to Use Credit Cards to Your Advantage

By | Credit Cards

Credit cards can be used for far more than an additional line of credit, but if this is the only way you’ve ever thought of using them, you’re not alone. To help increase your financial know-how, and maybe even fix your credit score, we’ve listed out all the ways credit cards can help you beyond just being financial safety nets. Become a wizard with these little-known credit card hacks.

1. Pay Down Debt Faster

If you’re already swamped with credit card debt, taking on another line of credit may seem counterintuitive to fixing your credit. However, it’s really not if the purpose is to transfer existing debt and consolidate your monthly payments. Choose a card with a better interest rate and more of your monthly payments will be put toward the principal, hence shortening the amount of time it would take pay everything off. Doing this will also improve your credit score. Even if you make your payments on time, too much debt can hurt you.

2. Credit Repair

A lot of people would rather own than rent, but the one major thing keeping them from purchasing their own property is bad credit. Either they can’t get approved for a loan or the interest rate pushes the monthly payments up too high. Of course, many people are also victims of credit errors and have to go into the process of credit disputes, which can take time and money.

To expedite the process, a faster way to repair your credit would be to take out a line of credit. Maintain on-time monthly payments, and your payment history will go up a bump. If your credit is too low for a standard credit card, get a secured credit card at first. Use it for your everyday purchases, pay it off each month, and in about half a year you should qualify for an unsecured card.

3. Pay for Travel

Choose a credit card with a great points system, and all of your normal, everyday purchases can help pay for your next hotel, rental, or flight. Each card is different, so be sure to verify which purchases earn you the most points. Just be sure you pay the card off each month so you don’t accumulate debt!

4. Roadside Assistance

Some credit cards offer roadside assistance to any car the cardholder is a driver or passenger in (just as long as it’s not a company car). Whether your car needs a quick jump start, tire change, or short-distance tow, you can get roadside assistance free of charge. Next time you’re on the side of the road, call your credit card customer assistance number (better yet, put their roadside assistance department in your contacts). The perks are not as great as having a AAA membership, but for free, you can’t beat the price.

5. Save Money When Renting

Car rental agencies are able to cushion their bank accounts by selling insurance to renters. Yes, insurance is always a smart thing to have, but it’s not smart when it’s a redundant purchase. Many credit cards offer free, comprehensive rental coverage to their card members. So the next time you need to rent a car for a long getaway, you could save yourself as much as $40 a day by declining an agency’s optional coverage plans.

6. Purchase Protection/Warranty Coverage

If you purchase an item and it breaks through no fault of your own, your credit card likely has a third-party claims program that you can go through instead of the original retailer (who too often fight returns tooth and nail). Your credit card company will then either refund you the full amount for the repair or reimbursement. Of course, verify any limitations your card has before your next purchase, but for many cardholders warranty coverage is a waste of money.

7. Stop Paying Top $$$ for Currency Conversion

If you’re a frequent traveler, your credit card can save you money on currency conversions. Many credit card companies only charge 5%, but others waive the fees altogether. Stop making visits to foreign banks or travel kiosks that overcharge you. Use your credit card to save time and money. For many people, this perk is the sole reason they take out certain credit cards in the first place.

Ready for Next Steps?

Talk to one of our credit specialists to learn how you can take back your financial freedom. Contact us at Ovation Credit to get your free consultation.

unpaid credit cards

Unpaid Credit Cards – You Can Still Repair Your Credit

By | Credit Cards

Statistics show that many Americans have bad credit, and one element that is a common factor is unpaid credit cards and how they affect your credit.

According to the statistics, VantageScore says there are about 220 million scorable people and 68 million of them have bad or poor scores (lower than 601), which is how they got to that 30 percent estimate. Figures from credit bureau TransUnion also say that 30 percent have subprime credit based on the VantageScore 3.0 model.

The good news is that you can fix it, but how do you repair credit when you have unpaid credit cards that, and possibly some in collections?

The First Step

Wondering how to fix your credit or how to improve your credit score? First thing is to find out your credit score and exactly what is on your credit report. Sometimes, there are items that should have been removed yet remain long after. These items are affecting your score and ability to do things like buying a home, buying a car, getting insurance, getting security deposits on utilities or, even worse, getting certain jobs.

If you have unpaid credit cards, they are often sent to third-party collection agencies that will try to collect the debt. One of the first things they do is list it on your credit report, which hurts your overall credit score. These debt collections remain active for seven years unless you take care of the charge, dispute it, or have it erased.

Disputing a Debt Collection

It is best to dispute a debt collection as soon as possible, generally within 30 days of when you were first contacted by the agency. This time frame is important because it allows you to request that the collection agency provide proof that you owe the debt. If they ignore your request or cannot prove the debt, then it has to be taken off of your credit report. If the debt does not belong to you in the first place, it has to be removed if they cannot prove it is yours.

Seven Year Dispute

After seven years, past due accounts have to be removed according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Keep in mind that some agencies do what is known as re-aging the account, which keeps the debt collection on your account longer and makes it look like the debt is more recent than it really is. If seven years have passed and the debt is still remaining, you can then dispute it and any backup information you have about the age of the account is helpful. The date of the collection starts from the moment you first went delinquent.

Deletion by Payment

How to dispute a credit report when it comes to deletion by payment is fairly easy. The one thing that debt collectors want is their payment. In some cases, the debt collector may agree to delete the debt collection from the credit report if you work out a deal to pay some or all of what you owe on your unpaid credit cards.

There are a few caveats to this deal. Make sure that if you are able to work out this type of agreement, do not rely on an oral agreement over the phone. You must get the agreement in writing so that the collection agency has to abide by what they agreed to do.

Any written correspondence should be sent by certified mail with a return receipt and if the collection agency does not follow through with their promise to delete the entry, you can then dispute it with the Credit Bureau by providing proof of what you were promised. Paying off the debt in collection alone will NOT improve your credit score.

Active Credit Cards

Strategic payments and credit line increases help with what is called your utilization rate. This is the percentage of credit limit you use and agencies that score credit look at this rate to determine your credit score. A good number to be at in your utilization rate is no higher than 30 percent.

If you have credit cards that are active and not in collections, there are ways to improve your score using these methods. This is done by having a lower utilization rate, where you are spending a lower portion of credit than what you have.

If your payments are on time and you have good standing with a credit card company, one way to improve your credit is to ask for a credit line increase without using it. It won’t be helpful to raise your score if you use up the credit line increase as soon as you get it.

For strategic payments, send in early payments and make fewer purchases to see results. Keep in mind that it is best to do this with all credit card accounts, not just the one you owe the most to.

For instance, you have three credit cards – $500, $300 and one with just $100 owed – do not just choose the largest to send extra payments. Instead, if you have planned on paying $100 extra, break that into three payments that you send to each debt equally. So, if your payments are $40 a month on all three, instead of paying $140 to the first card and $40 to the other two, pay $70 to all three to see faster results.

There are plenty of ways to help repair your credit even when you have unpaid credit cards. These are a few of the best that will help you on your way to a higher score.

Sources:

http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2016/02/15/how-many-americans-have-bad-credit.html

https://www.thebalance.com/remove-debt-collections-from-your-credit-report-960376

https://www.credit.com/credit-repair/how-to-fix-your-credit/

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0096-fair-credit-reporting-act.pdf

4 Tips to Avoid Paying Credit Card Interest

By | Credit Cards

Can you imagine spending an additional $16 for every purchase of $100 you make? An expensive dinner at a nice new restaurant, a new handbag, even a parking space at a professional sporting event can cost you $100. Now, add $16 to each one of those expenses – before even considering the tax – and you are really paying $116.

This is essentially what you are doing each time you use your credit card. Today, a typical credit card is going to charge an interest rate of approximately 16 percent a year on your balances. There are some that charge up to 29 percent if you have been late on a payment and must cover the fee and penalty interest.

The best way to avoid paying these additional charges is by not keeping a credit card balance, and paying the bill prior to the due date every month. However, this is a rare occurrence. Three out of every five credit card accounts will have a balance from one month to the next according to information from a payment study done by the Federal Reserve.

Additionally, there is the factor that credit card companies regularly increase the interest rates on their cards. After all, these rates are tied to the federal funds rate, which is something the Federal Reserve is expected to increase again. This happened twice in 2017.

There is good news. Even though credit card interest rates are often high, there are steps you can take to avoid having to pay interest at all. Four ways to do this are found here.

1. Get to Know Your Credit Card’s Grace Period

This is the easiest and most common way to avoid having to pay interest on your credit card purchases. Chances are you already know something about this. However, there is a bit more to know than just when your bill is due.

The majority of people believe they only have a single month to pay their credit card bill; however, when you find out the company’s grace period, you may discover you actually have more time. The grace period is the amount of time the company gives you to pay off your balance without having to pay any interest. It begins at the last day of your billing cycle and goes through the due date of the cycle.

When you know what the billing cycle for your card is, it can provide you with an additional three weeks to pay off the purchases you make. The key to this is to not forget what the actual payment due date is and pay it in full on or before that date.

2. Pay for the Balance as You Make Purchases

If you want to make sure there is no chance you will have to pay credit card interest, then you should pay off any charge you make as soon as it is made. Your credit card companies will be more than happy to accept a payment anytime you want to make one. As a result, there is no penalty for paying off a purchase right away.

3. Switch Your Credit Cards

This is just a one-time option; however, if you are dealing with a high credit card balance and you must pay a huge amount of interest on it, there is an option to move it to another credit card. For example, if you get a credit card offer of zero percent interest for a year, and you can pay the debt within the time period, it will help you save money to do this.

There are quite a few credit cards that offer introductory deals such as this to encourage you to use their services. When you transfer to a card with zero percent interest for a certain amount of time, you can save quite a bit of money. However, there are a few caveats to be aware of:

  • If you are unable to pay the balance during the promotional time, you may be charged interest for the whole amount.
  • You should not add additional purchases to the new card, as this will increase the amount you have to pay each month.

4. Pay Your Balances in Full Each Month

If you don’t think you can manage the steps above, then all you have to do to avoid credit card interest payments is to pay your credit card balances off every month. You should do whatever you can to make sure the bill is paid by the due date. This includes sending yourself alerts via email and keeping track of the purchases you make to ensure you can pay the bill. You should also create and stick to a budget to prevent you from overspending.

Keep in mind, when you pay your bills on time you can increase your credit rating. Additionally, if you do this consistently, it could help you acquire credit cards with lower interest rates. But, the best benefit of using the tips here is that you will be able to purchase things on your credit card and earn the reward points or other perks without having to use cash.

To find more tips and information about managing and reducing your debt, visit the Ovation Credit Services website, or contact their friendly staff.

Sources:

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-credit-card-grace-period.html

http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/14/news/economy/federal-reserve-june-meeting/index.html

https://www.newyorkfed.org/microeconomics/hhdc.html

How to Pick the Right Credit Card

By | Credit Cards, Uncategorized

Choosing the right credit card can be a daunting task. You must consider your credit score and eligibility before anything else. If you have at least an average credit rating, then there are a set of questions you will always want to ask. Take the time to address these common factors to determine the best possible credit card for you.

Right Credit Card

 

What Type of Credit Card Is Right for You?

Are you a big shopper or is your credit card more about building credit? Regular spenders can look at cashback and other rewards. A slightly higher annual fee could get offset by the amount you get credited from your incentives. Meanwhile, what if you are getting a card to build your credit score? If this is the case, you should look for one that’s affordable to maintain with minimal use.

What about the interest rate of your card? You have little control over that unless you have nearly perfect credit. The best interest rates on credit cards are typically in the 9.49 to 12.99 percent range. But remember, these rates are still high; you should not feel comfortable carrying any real amount of debt on your card.

Alternatively, borrowers with good credit can opt for a 0 percent card. This option gives you the chance to avoid paying interest for a set period. If you fail to pay off your debt in time, the accrued interest will add on. This card is appealing for sure, but you should treat it like a consolidation loan.

Choosing the Right Annual Fee

You would think the best annual fee is none, but this is not always the case. You must compare the other details of a credit card to know what it’s worth to you. The other fees could pile up on a no-fee card and make it cost more than one with, say, a $39 annual fee. Nevertheless, if you are targeting a small limit ($300-500), it would make complete sense to choose the card with the lowest annual fee.

Chase Higher Credit Limits

Are you still establishing your credit? If so, the right credit card for you would be with a credit card provider that will increase your borrowing limit over time. You can ask the company or search in Google to see what experience others have had with the same card.

Increasing your credit limit does not have to be a bad thing. Keep your debts under control, and every limit increase will result in a reduction in your debt-to-credit (credit utilization) ratio.

Furthermore, if you are starting off with a secured card, make sure you can convert it into an unsecured card at a later date. Make sure this card actually converts and doesn’t just result in a pre-approved application for a different card, as keeping the original one helps you sustain a higher average credit age.

Choosing the Right Card APR

Credit card APR rates are based on the issuer. You won’t find any super low-interest rates, but there are some cards with a 0 percent offer for the first 12 to 24 months. If you can qualify, it would be a good idea to look into those options first.

You should absolutely compare credit cards based on their APRs. The problem is that you do not know ahead of time what rate you will receive. Your creditworthiness is evaluated, and your credit report gets pulled. After that, you get an offer for the card that states the APR you will receive.

The only easy way to compare APR rates by card is to check the range. Most cards come with three variable APR rates. You can assume, based on your credit status, that two of these rates are possible for your situation. So, look for the best cards (compare other terms) in the lowest interest range.

Keep in mind that your goal should not be to carry debt on your credit cards. Therefore, going with a card with more incentives but a 1 to 2 percent higher interest rate is perfectly fine.

Check the Balance Transfer Terms

You might not make balance transfers yet, but in the future, there is a strong chance you will find them valuable. So, you should keep an eye out for optimal balance transfer terms. Start by comparing the actual fee for making these transfers. Then, check the introductory offer — in most cases, you will receive around 12 months of no interest before your transfer must be paid off in full.

The fee for making a balance transfer is often in the 3 to 5 percent range. Some of these credit cards offer a promo period where there is no transfer fee. These particular cards will serve as interest-free loans, as long as you can pay them off before the promo period is over.

Now you are ready to find the right credit card for you!

Picking the right credit card for you will take some time. You must compare the options based on both your credit status and your spending habits. Some cards offer as much as 3 to 5 percent in cash on your purchases. Make a real effort to compare the terms, as you don’t want to be sucked in by a card that’s only good on the surface.

Sources:

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-cards/choose-balance-transfer-credit-card/

http://www.thesimpledollar.com/best-balance-transfer-credit-cards/

http://www.thesimpledollar.com/best-rewards-credit-cards/

https://www.valuepenguin.com/average-credit-card-interest-rates

 

Build Credit: New Credit Lines vs. Authorized User

By | Credit Cards

“It takes credit to build credit.”

This statement is all-too-common and a big reason for why many new borrowers turn to relatives for help. The method of becoming an authorized user to build credit is nothing new. In fact, many parents put their children down as authorized users on their own credit cards for this exact reason.

But, is the authorized user route really better than trying to build credit with new credit lines or is this all just a mirage?

Build Credit Credit Card

 

Credit Lines & Authorized Users, What’s the Difference?

A credit line is a fresh account — this could be a credit card, loan, line of credit or something else. An “authorized user” is merely someone placed on your account for the purpose of permitting them to access your credit line.

Why Add an Authorized User?

In most cases, this is done so multiple individuals can legally share a credit card. The example of a child accessing a parent’s funds is a common scenario. Many spouses will also do this, especially if only one has good credit.

Next, some people choose to add authorized users to their accounts to help the other person build their credit. This technique is debated heavily and for good reason, but it can be effective if the circumstances are right. Even so, it’s important that the primary account holder knows what they are getting into before they help.

Does an Authorized User Hurt Your Credit?

Co-signing for a home loan will potentially destroy the co-signers credit score. The impact is not so extensive when merely adding an authorized user to an account. But there is still a majority similarity between these two situations because the main borrower is extending trust to the authorized party.

The primary account holder does take on an inherent risk, but not in the same sense as with co-signing a loan. There will be no credit score damage for the act of adding an authorized user. The problem comes as a result of the authorized user being irresponsible — for example, the primary cardholder’s score will drop from late payments.

Can Authorized Users Build Credit This Way?

Many credit card issuers will report authorized users to the credit bureau. These entries will not show the same as they do for the primary borrower. Positive behavior will look good and influence a better credit score in the long run. Negative behavior will do the opposite and can drag down the authorized user’s credit score too.

Furthermore, it’s important to look at just how damaging an authorized user can be for the primary account holder. The best way to understand this is by looking at how a person’s FICO score is calculated in the first place. Here’s the breakdown for the vast majority of FICO scores that exist:

  • Payment history (35 percent)
  • Amounts owed (30 percent)
  • Length of credit history (15 percent)
  • New credit (10 percent)
  • Credit mix (10 percent)

For the primary borrower, the biggest drag here happens with the “amounts owed,” particularly when an authorized user maxes the card. The utilization rate will hit 100 percent for this card and will ultimately lift the total credit utilization rate between accounts. The primary holder will feel obliged to pay off the debt for the authorized user — and if they don’t, their credit score could decline as a result.

For the authorized user, there’s not much to complain about when considering the scoring metrics above. The biggest issue arises when the primary account holder needs to extract funds from the card. This action could make it seem that the authorized borrower has a really high utilization rate, even when it’s not their fault. The other variables, such as new credit and payment history, are not as important and are a non-factor when there’s no borrowing history.

The Better Option: Build Credit With a Credit Card

The faster way of obtaining a higher credit score is by establishing credit lines directly under yourself. Forget about the authorized user option and begin building your score with a basic credit card.

Believe It or Not, Secured Credit Cards Rock!

Here’s a good idea: Go for a secured credit card and plop down a $1,000-$3,000 collateral. Make sure it’s a card that offers conversion to unsecured after you prove that you are a responsible and trustable borrower.

Why? Because a higher credit limit helps and makes it less difficult to be active with your card without triggering a high utilization rate. This factor is very important because your debt-to-credit ratio weighs heavily on your FICO score. In fact, 30 percent of your credit score comes down to this single variable.

Conclusion

Building your credit can be difficult when you have no history to show a card issuer or lender. Having someone who will put you down as an authorized user can often help, but only if the creditor reports you as well. Be careful before getting into any of these situations — and if you want quicker results, set up your own credit lines instead.

Sources:

http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/credit-utilization-fico-1270.php

www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-cards/credit-card-secured-unsecured-change-switch/

https://wallethub.com/edu/authorized-user/24717/

http://blog.ovationcredit.com/2017/03/understanding-your-credit/

Credit Limit Increase – How and When Should You Request

By | Credit Cards

A credit limit increase is a net-positive scenario for your credit rating and report. You just have to avoid spending your balance and carrying a higher debt. If you can accomplish that, your credit limit increases will benefit your utilization rate. This is huge as it accounts for 30 percent of your FICO score calculation.

However, there is always a right and wrong time to try for a limit increase. You need to know the best approach for this process before moving forward. To understand more, read the advice found below.

Credit Limit Increase

 

How You Request a Credit Limit Increase

You can call the support line for your credit card issuer. From there, it is possible to inquire about adjusting your limit higher. This might result in a hard inquiry, but it is not always necessary. It all depends on your card provider and the strength of your credit report on your initial application.

Some card providers even offer the chance to request a limit increase online. Check your dashboard for this option to find out more. Also, take a look below for an idea on which card issuers require a hard inquiry to qualify.

Hard vs. Soft Inquiry, What Will Your Card Issuer Do?

Many cases vary based on the amount of the increase. For instance, anything above $1,500 through Wells Fargo typically requires a hard pull. Below that amount, however, would be a soft pull.

Here’s a look at what to expect from many popular card issuers:

  • American Express: No hard inquiry is required.
  • Bank of America: Usually a hard inquiry through TransUnion.
  • Capital One: No hard inquiry is required.
  • Chase: A hard inquiry when you request an increase.
  • Citibank: Some increase requests require hard inquiries.
  • Discover: Larger increases require a hard inquiry.
  • USAA: Usually a hard inquiry through Equifax.
  • S. Bank: Larger increases require a hard inquiry.
  • Wells Fargo: Certain cases require a hard inquiry.

Of course, these claims are not set in stone and can change with time. Your issuer might treat your situation different than others. It is best to ask first. If you are offered a credit limit increase suddenly, chances are you are pre-approved and the inquiry might not be necessary.

When to Ask for a Credit Limit Increase

You can ask your card provider for an increase at any time. The likelihood of approval will boil down to your credit history and your repayment history with that company. Sometimes there will be a hard rule in their system for accepting increases, such as only after so many months.

If your credit score is less than perfect, you might not hear about the possibility of increasing your limit any time soon. You can always ask your card issuer to see if there is a typical time frame for when the offer increases.

Tip: Wait until you get your first increase from the card provider, as it is likely to happen, and then inquire 3 to 6 months later about a further increase.

Requesting Credit Limit Increases on Secured Cards

This is where things get a little tricky. Secured cards do not work the same as unsecured cards. Some can transition into an unsecured card, and you might get your security deposit back, but not all issuers offer this.

You need to look for a secured card that converts to unsecured. This action lets you continue with the same credit line, which won’t hurt your average account age. You can take on the higher limit as well and get the utilization rate boost. Plus, it gives you the chance to give a higher deposit to build off.

What to Avoid When Asking for a Credit Limit Increase

First off, you should not make it look like you need the extra money. It should be about growing your overall credit availability and proving yourself with higher balances. This is necessary to show that you are a good borrower, beyond a measly $300 or $500 credit card. It will help you with proving yourself to an auto or mortgage lender, too.

The biggest sign of needing the extra cash flow is requesting the increase when your balance is near the limit. This shows you potentially cannot repay what you owe right now and that you might need extra financial assistance at the moment. So bring your credit utilization rate for that particular card to 30 percent or less.

You can always put the balance on a difference card for the month leading up to when you inquire about raising your limit. This is even more effective if your card issuer does not plan to pull your credit file. However, if a hard inquiry is necessary, it is better to reduce your overall debt load before you inquire.

Conclusion

Credit limit increases are golden opportunities for people looking to build credit. But it can be hard to get them if you have a lower credit score. You never want to deal with rejection, and hard inquiries can hurt your credit. However, the better credit utilization rate and long-term effects make it all worthwhile.

Take your time to plan out when and how you ask for a credit limit increase. Your issuer wants to make more money — so chances are you will get an offer soon enough. But you should still learn how your issuer typically handles increases and make your own request when it seems right.

Sources:

http://www.doctorofcredit.com/credit-cards/which-credit-card-companies-do-a-hard-pull-for-a-credit-limit-increase

http://www.doctorofcredit.com/increase-the-limit-on-your-american-express-card-by-up-to-3-times-its-starting-amount/

http://www.magnifymoney.com/blog/building-credit/convert-secured-card-unsecured-credit-card/

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-cards/credit-limit-increase/

Credit Score Hit – Is the 10% Offer Worth it?

By | Credit Cards, Credit Scores

Credit Score Retail Credit Cards

We’ve all been there. You are out the checkout counter of a fancy department store when the cashier asks “Would you like to open a store credit card and receive 10 percent off your order?” On the surface, it sounds like a great deal. Who doesn’t like to save money? Plus, many retailers will offer additional benefits to cardholders, like 10 percent off every time you shop, or even special sales that are only for credit card holders.

The problem is that opening retail credit cards can affect your credit score (yes, even if you pay them off each month), and all the credit repair in the world won’t help if you are constantly adding to the problem. Here is what you need to know:

Regret is Real

According to Today, roughly half of all people who open retail store credit cards regret doing so. “You need to understand all the terms and the potential collateral damage that you might cause yourself,” says credit expert John Ulzheimer. “If you’re going to carry a balance on that new card for even a couple of months, you’ll give back any sort of discount you received at the register – and then some – in the form of interest.”

High Interest is the Norm

The discounts stores offer to people who open credit cards are there for a reason – the stores make money. It is not unusual for a retail store credit card to charge interest rates over 25 percent, even for people with good credit. Stores like TJ Maxx, Staples, Toys R Us, and JC Penney each charge their retail credit card customers annual percentage rates (APR) of 26.99 percent or more. Even Amazon charges its customers 25.99 percent APR.

It All Adds Up

Some retail store credit cards do charge less interest, but the average is still a whopping 23.4 percent APR. “Let’s say, for instance, that you rack up $1,000 in debt on a typical store credit card. You’d pay off the debt after six years, paying $833 in fees, if you paid only the minimum each month,” explains Time’s Money. “On a card with an APR of 15%, by contrast, you’d pay off the debt 18 months sooner and save $463.”

It Hurts your Credit Score

Even if you are committed to paying off your retail store card each month, there are still consequences. For one, expect your credit score to take a hit. According to Forbes, “If you already have a limited credit history, or if you’re straddling the line around 700 FICO, this could potentially move you from ‘good’ to ‘average’ credit and negatively affect your interest rates and credit allowances on future loans (like auto loans, mortgages, and even low interest credit card deals).” The thing is that your retail store credit card is treated like any other credit card when it comes to your credit score. You’ll get dinged for making the credit inquiry, hit for trying to open too many cards in a short period of time, and pinged if your credit utilization rate goes up (that’s the proportion of your credit card balances to your credit card limits).

Options are Limited

Also, just because you can qualify for a store credit card, it doesn’t mean you will actually get a credit card. You will still need good credit to qualify for a store credit card that is co-branded with American Express, MasterCard, or Visa. Without it, or if the retail store you are shopping doesn’t offer a co-branded credit card option, you will be stuck with a credit card that impacts your credit score but has a low credit limit and can only be used at that retailer.

At the end of the day, the 10 percent offer simply is not worth the hit to your credit score, let alone the extra interest you’ll pay and the limitations on how you can use it. If you have questions about retail store credit cards, other things that affect your credit score, or want to know how to repair your credit, contact us. Ovation Credit Services can review your credit report and design a personalized plan for repairing your credit that takes into account your unique credit situation as well as your financial goals.

If your credit score has taken a hit from too many retail store credit cards, we can help with that, too. Ovation Credit Services offers personalized credit help to help get you back on track and get your credit score back to where it should be. Contact us for more information.

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