How Much Credit Card Debt is too Much?

Most Americans have credit card debt and will die with credit card debt. It’s one of the most accessible types of credit there is, becoming available as soon as you’re financially independent. It’s also one of the most damaging, as too much credit card debt could hurt your credit report, reduce your credit score, and cost you thousands of dollars in interest payments.

But how much debt is too much? What is the average total debt for American consumers and households and when do you know if you have crossed a line?

How Much Credit Card Debt is too Much?

The average credit card debt in the United States is around $5,000 to $6,000 per consumer. However, this doesn’t paint a complete picture as these figures don’t differentiate rolling balances. In other words, even if you repay your balance in full every month, that balance will still be recorded as debt until it is repaid.

For many consumers, $6,000 is not “too much”. It’s a manageable sum that they can afford to clear. However, if you’re out of work, relying on government handouts and have no money to your name, that $6,000 can seem like an unscalable mountain. And that’s an important point to note, because everything is relative.

To the average American, unsecured debt of $50,000 is catastrophic. It’s the sort of debt that will cause you to lose sleep, stress every minute of the day, and panic every time your lender sends you a letter. To a multi-millionaire homeowner who runs several successful businesses, it’s nothing, an insignificant debt they could repay in full without a second thought.

One man’s pocket change is another man’s fortune, so we can’t place an actual figure on what constitutes “too much debt”. However, this is something that credit reporting agencies, creditors, and lenders already take into consideration and to get around this issue, they use something known as a debt-to-income ratio.

Your Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)

Your DTI can tell you whether you have too much debt, and this is true for credit card debt and all other forms of debt (student loans, car loans, personal loans, and even mortgages). 

DTI is not used to calculate your credit score and won’t appear on your credit report, but it is used by mortgage lenders and other big lenders to determine your creditworthiness and if you don’t past the test then you won’t get the money.

To calculate your DTI, simply calculate the amount of debt payments that you have and compare this to your gross monthly income. For instance, let’s imagine that you make $400 in credit card payments and $600 in auto loan payments, creating a total debt payment of $1,000. Your gross monthly income is $4,000 and you don’t have any investments.

In this scenario, your DTI would be 25%. as your monthly debt payments ($1,000) are 25% of your monthly income. If you have a $1,000 mortgage payment to make every month, your obligations increase and your DTI hits 50%, which is when you should start being concerned.

Many lenders will not accept you if you have a DTI greater than 50%, because they are not convinced you will make your payments. $2,000 may seem like a lot of money to have leftover at the end of the month, but not when you factor tax, insurance, food, bills, and everyday expenses into the equation.

If your DTI is below 50%, you may be safe, but it all depends on those additional expenses.

How to Tell If You’ve Borrowed Too Much

Your debt-to-income ratio is a good starting point to determine if you have borrowed too much, and if it’s higher than 50%, there’s a good chance you have borrowed more than you should or, at the very least, you are teetering on the edge. However, even if your DTI is above 30%, which many consider the ideal limit, you may have too much credit card debt.

In such cases, you need to look for the following warning signs:

You Can’t Pay More Than the Minimum

Minimum payments cover a substantial amount of interest and only a small amount of the actual principal. If you’re only paying the minimum, you’re barely scratching the surface and it could take years to repay the debt. If you genuinely don’t have the extra funds to pay more money, then you definitely have a debt problem.

Your Credit Card Balance Keeps Growing

The only thing worse than not being able to pay more than the balance is being forced to keep using that card, in which case the balance will keep growing and the interest charges will keep accumulating. This is a dire situation to be in and means you have far too much credit card debt.

Your Debt is Increasing as Your Take-Home Pay is Reducing

If your credit card bill seems to be going in the opposite direction as your paycheck, you could have a serious problem on your hands. You may be forced to take payday loans; in which case you’ll be stuck repaying these on top of your mounting credit card interest, reaching a point when your debt eventually exceeds your disposable income.

You Don’t Have Savings or an Emergency Fund

A savings account or emergency fund is your safety net. If you reach a point where you feel like you can no longer meet the monthly payments, you can tap into these accounts and use the funds to bail you out. If you don’t have that option, things are looking decidedly bleaker for you.

Dangers of Having Too Much Credit Card Debt

The biggest issue with excessive credit card debt is that it has a habit of sticking around for years. Many debtors only make the minimum monthly payment, either because they can’t look at the bigger picture or simply can’t afford to pay more. 

When this happens, a $1,000 debt could cost them over $2,000 to repay, which means they’ll have less money to their name. What’s more, that credit card debt could impact their credit score, thus reducing their chances of getting low-interest credit and of acquiring mortgages and auto loans.

It’s a cycle. You use a credit card to make big purchases and are hit with a high-interest rate. That interest takes your disposable income away, thus making it more likely you will need to use the card again for other big purchases. 

All the while, your credit utilization ratio (calculated by comparing available credit to total debt and used to calculate 30% of your credit score) is plummeting and your hopes of getting a lower interest rate diminish.

What to do if you Have too Much Credit Card Debt?

If you find yourself ticking off the boxes above and you have a sinking feeling as you realize that everything we’re describing perfectly represents your situation, then fear not, as there are a multitude of ways you can dig yourself out of this hole:

Seek Counseling

Credit counselors can help to find flaws in your budget and your planning and provide some much-needed insight into your situation. They are personal finance experts and have dealt with countless consumer debt issues over the years, so don’t assume they can only tell you what you already know and always look to credit counseling as a first step.

Avoid Fees

Credit card companies charge a higher annual percentage rate to consumers with poor credit scores as they are more likely to default, which means they need those extra funds to balance their accounts. Another way they do this is to charge penalty fees, penalty rates, and cash advance fees, the latter of which can be very damaging to an individual struggling with credit card debt.

Cash advance fees are charged every time you withdraw money from an ATM, and the rate is often fixed at 3% with a minimum charge of $10. This means that if you withdraw as little as $20, it’ll cost you $10 in charges, as well as additional interest fees.

If the cash flow isn’t there, this can seem like a good option, but it will only make your situation worse and should be avoided at all costs.

Use Debt Relief

Debt management, debt settlement, and debt consolidation can all help you to escape debt, creating a repayment plan and clearing everything from credit card debt to student loan debt in one fell swoop. You don’t even need an excellent credit score to do this, as many debt management and debt consolidation companies are aimed towards bad credit borrowers.

Balance Transfers

A balance transfer credit card moves all of your current credit card balances onto a new card, one with a large credit limit and a 0% introductory APR that allows you to swerve interest charges for the first 6, 12, 15 or 18 months. It’s one of the best options available, assuming you have a credit score high enough to get the limit you need.

Monitor Your Situation

Whatever method you choose, it’s important to keep a close eye on your finances to ensure this never happens again. You should never be hit with an unexpected car payment or mortgage payment, because you know those payments arrive every single month; you should never be surprised that you have interest to pay or that your credit score has taken a hit because of a new account or application. 

If you paid attention to your financial situation, you wouldn’t be surprised, you would understand where every penny goes, and as a result, you will be better equipped to deal with issues in the future.

How Much Credit Card Debt is too Much? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

What Is the Average Used Car Loan Rate?

average-used-car-loan-rate

Article originally published July 13th, 2016. Updated October 30th, 2018.

More people are opting to lease their new set of wheels instead of purchasing them, according to Q2 2018 data from Experian.

The number of auto loans grew to an all-time high, with leasing surpassed 30% of all new consumer vehicle sales. But the interest rates consumers are getting on these loans has stayed low, especially for used cars. In fact, Experian reported that average loan rates saw some increases, but still remain historically low.

Loan rates for a new car in Q2 of 2018 were 5.76%, up from 5.20% a year prior. Franchise used rates are 8.28% (down from 7.88% in Q2 2017), while independently used rates are 11.87% (down only 0.17% from Q2 2018).

The Experian Automotive scoring deems prime consumers as those with scores of 661 to 850, nonprime users with scores of 601 to 660, and subprime users as those with scores of 300 to 600. Consumers on all risk tiers are increasingly choosing to lease over purchasing cars, according to the report.

The number of prime consumers choosing used vehicles increased from 55.61% in Q2 2016 to 55.79% in Q2 2018. The number of nonprime and subprime consumers also saw increases, from 21.75% to 22.05% and decreases of 25.71% to 25.05%, respectively.

Experian reported that the increased number of prime consumers choosing used vehicles resulted in “score increases, greater percentages of used financing in the prime risk tier and lower average used rates.”

Getting a Car Loan

If you’re thinking about buying a used car and taking out an auto loan to do it, it’s a good idea to review your credit first. Having a good credit score can help you qualify for better terms and conditions on your financing. (To find out where your credit stands, you can see two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

And when you’re figuring out how much you can afford, remember to consider not only how much your monthly car payment will be but also how much the loan will cost you in the end, by considering the interest rate and length of the loan term. (The longer the loan term, the more interest you will pay.)

If you aren’t happy with what you see, don’t worry — you may be able to improve your credit scores by paying down any big credit card balances, disputing errors and limiting credit inquiries until your score has had time to rebound.

Gather All Documentation

When attempting to get a used car loan, you will want to gather all the necessary documentation including the following:

  • Your Driver’s License
  • Proof of all of your income- this can be a paycheck stub or even a tax return
  • A utility or phone bill to prove your residency
  • Your social security number so they can run your credit check

These days, you can often apply for the used car loan right online or even by phone which makes it the process that much easier and accessible.

Start With Your Own Banking Institution

It is always a good idea to start with your own bank or credit union for financing because you have already established history and relationship with them. Typically, you will be able to find the absolute best rates and more favorable terms if you go through your own bank.

They will also be able to advise you on all the options that are available to you as you begin the journey toward car ownership.

Shop for the Best Rates

You never want to settle on the first rate you are given; don’t be afraid to shop around to see if you can find something better than the typical auto loan rates. You will find the best auto loan rates if you have good credit. Additionally, if you apply for multiple loans within a 14 day period, it will only count as one hard inquiry so that you can find the best rate possible.

What is the Average Used Car Loan Rate?

Typically, you will find that the car loan rate on a used car is going to be a bit higher than the rates you would find with a newer car. For example, good credit car loans can see an interest rate as low as 3.9% for a newer model and a little more than 5% for its older version.

Average Auto Loan Rates by Credit Score

The following are the average rates you may find for a used car loan that carries a 60-month repayment term based on a range of different FICO Scores.

With a credit score between 500 and 589, you may be looking at interest rates on the loan as high as 16%. A bad credit score also makes it a lot harder to get approved for the car loan initially as well.

A credit score in between 590 and 619 will typically see the 15% mark, and the percentages get lower from here with the lowest coming in at 4.39% with a credit score between a 720 and 850.

A longer loan term will usually mean you will have a lower monthly payment, but you will also accrue more in interest with a longer loan term.

Bottom Line

When determining the average used car loan rate and the amount of interest you may have to pay on a loan, you will want to check all three of your credit reports, examine your credit score and credit history and determine what steps you can take to improve your credit, so you can qualify for a lower interest rate.

Again, if you bank with a credit union, always start there first because the lender will already be able to see if you are high risk or not. Car buyers should always take their time, do their research, and tackle the work of fixing their credit prior to obtaining a loan for a car. It is always best to shop smarter and save money in the long run.

The post What Is the Average Used Car Loan Rate? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

How COVID-19 is Affecting Auto Loans

COVID-19 is having a massive impact on the global economy and very few industries have been untouched by it. If your business relies on employees working in a physical space and profits only when people are willing to shop and spend, there’s no escaping it. 

It’s no surprise, therefore, that the auto industry has been so negatively affected. In a recent guide, we looked at the many auto loan relief options that manufacturers offering in light of the coronavirus. In this guide, we’ll highlight the ways this industry has been stung by the pandemic and look at what it means for the future of the US automobile and car financing sectors.

How is the Coronavirus Affecting Car Sales?

The automobile manufacturing industry experienced a minor surge at the beginning of 2020 but COVID-19 began to impact sales heavily in March. Many companies, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors included, began the year with strong momentum behind them, but March hit them hard and negated all the gains made during the first two months.

Both of these companies recorded losses for the first quarter of 2020, with Fiat Chrysler losing 10% in total.

Toyota, one of America’s biggest manufacturers, also recorded massive losses for March, with daily sales dropping by nearly a third during this month.

All of this is to be expected. The US has yet to announce the sort of national lockdowns we have seen in countries like the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and Greece, but many citizens are in self-isolation, countless businesses have shut their doors, and there are fewer cars on the road as a result.

Combine this with the fact that people are losing their jobs and worrying about their futures, and it’s easy to see why car sales have been affected so severely. 

What are Manufacturers Doing About It?

Automobile manufacturers have moved quickly to stem the rising tide of financial devastation caused by COVID-19. Fiat Chrysler, for instance, is offering improved auto loan conditions to convince consumers to make sizeable purchases and keep the wheels turning. It has also made it easier to purchase a car for those in self-isolation or lockdown.

You can now buy a Fiat Chrysler online, with options for trade-ins, auto loans, and pretty much everything else you would get when buying in person.

They’re making it easier for you to buy because they need you to make that commitment. At the same time, the production of many new vehicles has been halted.

While some plants and showrooms are still open in the United States, Europe has experienced an almost continent-wide shutdown, leading to a decreased demand. 

Manufacturers are also anticipating that things will get worse, as many experts predict that the USA will experience a spread similar to that of Spain and Italy.

How Has COVID-19 Hurt the Automobile Industry?

We have already touched upon some of the ways that COVID-19 has impacted the automobile industry, but the problem goes far beyond people not being able to make it to their local showrooms. Furthermore, if events in Europe are anything to go by, the problems will only get worse and it could be several years before the automobile sector recovers.

Here are a few reasons the industry has been hit hard:

Uncertainty

There is a genuine fear that the COVID-19 pandemic will remain for all of 2020 and even beyond that. It seems unlikely that it will last for that long, but if the country doesn’t go into lockdown and a vaccine isn’t produced, it’s possible. 

With this in mind, many consumers are putting off buying new cars out of fear that they simply won’t need them. New cars depreciate rapidly and can lose 20% in the first year. What’s the point of spending $30,000 on a new car if it will be worth $24,000 by the time you actually get behind the wheel?

Struggling Stock Markets

The stock market doesn’t just impact big companies and investors. It also affects average American families who have their money tied into savings accounts, stocks, and pensions. Savers have lost a lot of money and are worried that they’ll lose even more in the near future, making buying a $30,000+ vehicle incredibly reckless. 

Price of Gas

One of the few things that the automobile industry has on its side is the price of fuel, which has plummeted in the past few weeks. The problem is, no one cares about the price of fuel when they’re stuck inside the house worrying about their health and their jobs.

Closed Plants

Automotive plants can’t simply shut down for a few weeks and then start up again when everything has cleared up. Many plants were already struggling to keep things together and once production stops and their profits disappear, they may close down entirely, taking hundreds, if not thousands of jobs with them. 

Bottom Line: Car Sales After COVID-19

It’s highly likely that the hard times will continue for the manufacturing industry. As the coronavirus continues to spread across the country, manufacturing plants will struggle to retain employees, showrooms will shut, and fewer Americans will be willing to pay the $30,000+ required for a new vehicle.

Whether this impacts the future price and availability of automobiles remains to be seen, but it’s highly likely that we’ll see some massive changes in this industry. America’s best-loved manufacturers will lose millions and could be sent to the brink of financial destruction, while many salespersons and mechanics will likely lose their jobs as demand drops and garages/showrooms close down. 

 

How COVID-19 is Affecting Auto Loans is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Auto Loan: New Car vs Old Pros and Cons

There are over 25 million auto loans every year in the United States, with the majority of drivers using finance to pay for new and used vehicles. Car loans are some of the most common secured loans in the country and for many Americans, a car is the second most expensive purchase they will make in their lifetime.

But shopping for a new car and applying for a suitable car loan is a stressful experience filled with uncertainty and difficult decisions. One of the most difficult decisions is whether to opt for a new car or a used one. In this guide, we’ll showcase some of the pros and cons of both options, pointing you in the right direction and helping you to make the right choice.

Reasons to Buy Used

It is satisfying to own something that is brand-new. It’s fresh out of the factory—you’re the first to use it, the first to experience it. 

Consumers are prepared to pay a premium just to be the first owner. iPhones and other tech are great examples of this. You could save 30% on the price of a new phone by opting for a refurbished model. The screen and case will be near-perfect, the hardware and software will be fully functional, and everything will be backed by a warranty. However, you don’t get the satisfaction of peeling back the protective stickers and being the first to open the box.

It’s a similar story with cars. There are no stickers to peel and boxes to open, but you can’t beat the new car smell or the way the steering wheel feels in your palms.

That’s not all, either. There are many other benefits to owning a brand-new car and using your auto loan to acquire one.

New Cars Depreciate Fast

A $200,000 mortgage acquired today might cost you $300,000 or more over the lifetime of the loan. However, in a couple decades, when that mortgage is in the final stretch and you own a sizeable chunk of home equity, you’ll likely have something worth $250,000, $300,000, or more.

If you get an auto loan on a new car, it’s a different story. As your interest increases and your payments exceed the original value, the current value nose-dives. At the end of the term, you could have something that is worth a small fraction of what you paid for it.

As an example, let’s assume that you purchase a $40,000 car with a $10,000 down payment and a $30,000 loan. With an interest rate of 6% and a term of 60 months, you’ll repay just under $35,000 over the lifetime of the loan.

However, as soon as you drive that car out of the lot, the price will plummet. At the end of the first year, it will have lost between 20% and 30% of its value. If we assume a 20% loss, that car is now worth just $32,000. The irony here is that you will have paid just under $7,000 in that year, and as the years progress, you fall into a pattern where the more you pay, the less it’s worth.

In the next 4 years, the car will experience an average deprecation of between 15% and 18%. Again, let’s assume a conservative estimate of 15%. That $40.000 purchase will be worth $27,200 at the end of year 2; $23,120 at the end of year 3; $19,653 in year 4, and $16,705 at the end of the loan.

And don’t forget, that vehicle cost you $45,000 in total.

Unless you’re buying a rare car that will become a collectible, all cars will depreciate, and that depreciation will be pretty rapid. However, used cars don’t suffer such rapid deprecation because they don’t have that inflated sticker price. If you take good care of them and pay a good price, you won’t stand to lose as much money.

Used Cars are Cheaper

As stated above, all cars depreciate, but if the first year suffers the biggest drop then why not buy a car that is just a year or two old?

It’s the same car and offers many of the same benefits, but you’re getting it for up to 30% less on average. For a $40,000 car, that’s a saving of $8,000. Once you add a 20% down payment, your loan only needs to cover $25,600. For a 6% loan, that’s just $495 a month, compared to the $619 you’d pay on a $40,000 new car with the same 20% down payment.

That puts more money in your pocket and less debt on your credit report. That’s a double-whammy well worth sacrificing a new car smell for.

It’s Still Nearly New

If you buy a used car that is just a couple of years old, you can still get something that has been well maintained and is just as impressive as it was the day it rolled off the lot. 

Think about the last time you bought a brand-new car, computer, phone, musical instrument—or anything else that came with a premium price tag. You probably kept it in perfect condition soon after buying. Everyone goes through a period of doing their utmost to keep a new purchase immaculate and the more they pay, the longer than period lasts.

Most consumers will keep a car in perfect condition for at least two or three years, but no matter what they do, they are powerless to the depreciation. This means you can get an almost-new, perfect car that is nearly a third cheaper than it was when it was new.

Reasons to Buy New

Α used car doesn’t provide you with that enjoyable, tactile experience. You can’t enjoy the ubiquitous new car smell and you won’t be the first owner. However, there are numerous benefits to buying used instead of new, not least of which is the amount of money you will save now and in the future.

More Finance Options

You have a few more options at your disposal when it comes to financing a new car. Many dealerships offer low-interest and even no-interest financing to encourage you to sign on the dotted line. 

These deals often have hidden terms, penalties, and other issues, and if you fail to make a payment, they won’t hesitate to take your car from you. However, if you’re struggling to finance elsewhere and have your heart set on a brand-new car, this could be your only option.

Make sure you read the terms and conditions closely and don’t let them bombard you with small print and sales talk. They are there to sell you a car. All they care about is your signature on that contract and if that means glossing over a few of the terms, they won’t hesitate.

More Customization and Better Features

Technology is advancing at a tremendous pace and this can be felt in all industries, including the automotive sector. A lot can happen in a few short years and if you buy a used car as opposed to a new one, you could miss out on a host of electronics, safety features, and more.

Customization is also possible with new cars. You can request colors, fabrics, and other aesthetic changes, as well as additional features relating to the power and performance of the vehicle.

Better Cover

New cars offer bumper-to-bumper warranty cover, which means that you’re covered in the event of an issue. If major repairs are needed, you won’t be out of pocket, and these warranty plans tend to offer roadside assistance as well.

This can be true for used cars as well, with the manufacturer’s warranty being transferred when the car is in the hands of a new owner. However, the warranty is at its longest and most useful when the car is first purchased.

Cheaper Maintenance

The warranty won’t cover everything, and you will still be responsible for normal wear and tear. However, because the car is new, it should require less maintenance and may take several years before you need to make significant purchases.

Surveys suggest that new car owners pay anywhere from $0 to $300 for maintenance during the first 12 months, with this fee spanning between $300 and $1,100 once the car is a decade old.

Simpler Process

Used car purchases take time. You need to find the vehicle, inspect it, negotiate with the seller, and then hope you can agree to a price and payment plan. If you want something specific with regards to colors and features, you may have to search many inventories and individual sellers before you find something that fits.

With a new car, you simply agree to a budget and see what’s available. If you need any tweaks or changes, you can request them directly from the dealer.

Summary: New vs Old

There are two ways at looking at this. Firstly, there are more advantages for buying a new car and these include some pretty important ones. However, the advantages for buying used are much bigger and if your bank balance or credit score is low, that could be the deciding factor. 

In any case, it’s important to look closely at the pros and cons, evaluate them based on your personal situation, and don’t rush this decision.

Auto Loan: New Car vs Old Pros and Cons is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Should You Transfer Balances to No-Interest Credit Cards Multiple Times?

Karen, our editor at Quick and Dirty Tips, has a friend named Heather who listens to the Money Girl podcast and has a money question. She thought it would be a great podcast topic and sent it to me. 

Heather says:

I had a financial crisis and ended up with a $2,500 balance on my new credit card, which had a no-interest promotion for 18 months when I got it. That promotional rate is going to expire in a couple of months. I have good credit, and I keep getting offers from other card companies for zero-interest balance transfer promotions. Would it be a good idea to apply for another card and transfer my balance so I don't have to pay any interest? Are there any downsides that I should watch out for?

Thanks, Karen and Heather! That's a terrific question. I'm sure many podcast listeners and readers also wonder if it's a good idea to transfer a balance multiple times. 

This article will explain balance transfer credit cards, how they make paying off high-interest debt easier, and tips to handle them the right way. You'll learn some pros and cons of doing multiple balance transfers and mistakes to avoid.

What is a balance transfer credit card or offer?

A balance transfer credit card is also known as a no-interest or zero-interest credit card. It's a card feature that includes an offer for you to transfer balances from other accounts and save money for a limited period.

You typically pay an annual percentage rate (APR) of 0% during a promotional period ranging from 6 to 18 months. In general, you'll need good credit to qualify for the best transfer deals.

Every transfer offer is different because it depends on the issuer and your financial situation; however, the longer the promotional period, the better. You don't accrue one penny of interest until the promotion expires.

However, you typically must pay a one-time transfer fee in the range of 2% to 5%. For example, if you transfer $1,000 to a card with a 2% transfer fee, you'll be charged $20, which increases your debt to $1,020. So, choose a transfer card with the lowest transfer fee and no annual fee, when possible.

When you get approved for a new balance transfer card, you get a credit limit, just like you do with other credit cards. You can only transfer amounts up to that limit. 

Missing a payment means your sweet 0% APR could end and that you could get charged a default APR as high as 29.99%!

You can use a transfer card for just about any type of debt, such as credit cards, auto loans, and personal loans. The issuer may give you the option to have funds deposited into your bank account so that you can send it to the creditor of your choice. Or you might be asked to complete an online form indicating who to pay, the account number, and the amount so that the transfer card company can pay it on your behalf.

Once the transfer is complete, the debt balance moves over to your transfer card account, and any transfer fee gets added. But even though no interest accrues to your account, you must still make monthly minimum payments throughout the promotional period.

Missing a payment means your sweet 0% APR could end and that you could get charged a default APR as high as 29.99%! That could easily wipe out any benefits you hoped to gain by doing a balance transfer in the first place.

How does a balance transfer affect your credit?

A common question about balance transfers is how they affect your credit. One of the most significant factors in your credit scores is your credit utilization ratio. It's the amount of debt you owe on revolving accounts (such as credit cards and lines of credit) compared to your available credit limits. 

For example, if you have $2,000 on a credit card and $8,000 in available credit, you're using one-quarter of your limit and have a 25% credit utilization ratio. This ratio gets calculated for each of your revolving accounts and as a total on all of them.  

Getting a new balance transfer credit card (or an additional limit on an existing card) instantly raises your available credit, while your debt level remains the same. That causes your credit utilization ratio to plummet, boosting your scores.

I recommend using no more than 20% of your available credit to build or maintain optimal credit scores. Having a low utilization shows that you can use credit responsibly without maxing out your accounts.

Getting a new balance transfer credit card (or an additional limit on an existing card) instantly raises your available credit, while your debt level remains the same. That causes your credit utilization ratio to plummet, boosting your scores.

Likewise, the opposite is true when you close a credit card or a line of credit. So, if you transfer a card balance and close the old account, it reduces your available credit, which spikes your utilization ratio and causes your credit scores to drop. 

Only cancel a paid-off card if you're prepared to see your credit scores take a dip.

So, only cancel a paid-off card if you're prepared to see your scores take a dip. A better decision may be to file away a card or use it sparingly for purchases you pay off in full each month.

Another factor that plays a small role in your credit scores is the number of recent inquiries for new credit. Applying for a new transfer card typically causes a slight, short-term dip in your credit. Having a temporary ding on your credit usually isn't a problem, unless you have plans to finance a big purchase, such as a house or car, within the next six months.

The takeaway is that if you don't close a credit card after transferring a balance to a new account, and you don't apply for other new credit accounts around the same time, the net effect should raise your credit scores, not hurt them.

RELATED: When to Cancel a Credit Card? 10 Dos and Don’ts to Follow

When is using a balance transfer credit card a good idea?

I've done many zero-interest balance transfers because they save money when used correctly. It's a good strategy if you can pay off the balance before the offer's expiration date. 

Let's say you're having a good year and expect to receive a bonus within a few months that you can use to pay off a credit card balance. Instead of waiting for the bonus to hit your bank account, you could use a no-interest transfer card. That will cut the amount of interest you must pay during the card's promotional period.

When should you do multiple balance transfers?

But what if you're like Heather and won't pay off a no-interest promotional offer before it ends? Carrying a balance after the promotion means your interest rate goes back up to the standard rate, which could be higher than what you paid before the transfer. So, doing another transfer to defer interest for an additional promotional period can make sense. 

If you make a second or third balance transfer but aren't making any progress toward paying down your debt, it can become a shell game.

However, it may only be possible if you're like Heather and have good credit to qualify. Balance transfer cards and promotions are typically only offered to consumers with good or excellent credit.

If you make a second or third balance transfer but aren't making any progress toward paying down your debt, it can become a shell game. And don't forget about the transfer fee you typically must pay that gets added to your outstanding balance. While avoiding interest is a good move, creating a solid plan to pay down your debt is even better.

If you have a goal to pay off your card balance and find reasonable transfer offers, there's no harm in using a balance transfer to cut interest while you regroup. 

Advantages of doing a balance transfer

Here are several advantages of using a balance transfer credit card.

  • Reducing your interest. That's the point of transferring debt, so you save money for a limited period, even after paying a transfer fee.
  • Paying off debt faster. If you put the extra savings from doing a transfer toward your balance, you can eliminate it more quickly.
  • Boosting your credit. This is a nice side effect if you open a new balance transfer card and instantly have more available credit in your name, which lowers your credit utilization ratio.

Disadvantages of doing a balance transfer

Here are some cons for doing a balance transfer. 

  • Paying a fee. It's standard with most cards, which charge in the range of 2% to 5% per transfer.
  • Paying higher interest. When the promotion ends, your rate will vary by issuer and your financial situation, but it could spike dramatically. 
  • Giving up student loan benefits. This is a downside if you're considering using a transfer card to pay off federal student loans that come with repayment or forgiveness options. Once the debt gets transferred to a credit card, the loan benefits, including a tax deduction on interest, no longer apply. 

Tips for using a balance transfer credit card wisely

The best way to use a balance transfer is to have a realistic plan to pay off the balance before the promotion expires.

The best way to use a balance transfer is to have a realistic plan to pay off the balance before the promotion expires. Or be sure that the interest rate will be reasonable after the promotion ends.

Shifting a high-interest debt to a no-interest transfer account is a smart way to save money. It doesn't make your debt disappear, but it does make it less expensive for a period.

If you can save money during the promotional period, despite any balance transfer fees, you'll come out ahead. And if you plow your savings back into your balance, instead of spending it, you'll get out of debt faster than you thought possible.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

The 5 Best Financial New Year’s Resolutions

Change has to start somewhere, and for many people that change is easier to make if the starting point has some meaning. It can be a birthday, an anniversary, or any other date with some symbolic weight. Most commonly, people choose the beginning of the new year.

If you’re looking for some New Year’s resolutions that will truly change your life, consider adjusting your financial strategy. Here are five things you can do in 2021 to take your money game to the next level.

Refinance Loans

Interest rates are at near-historic lows, which makes this the perfect time to refinance your debt. Refinancing means switching your loans from your current lender to a new lender in order to take advantage of a lower interest rate. Refinancing can save you thousands of dollars, depending on the original interest rate and total balance.

 For example, let’s say you have a $200,000 30-year mortgage with a 5% interest rate, and you refinance to a 3% interest rate. Your monthly payment will be $244 lower, and you’ll save $31,173 in total interest over the life of the loan. 

You can refinance auto loans, personal loans, and even student loans. However, if you have federal student loans, you may want to hold off on refinancing. Refinancing a federal student loan converts it into a private student loan. This means you’ll give up extra perks and benefits like income-driven repayment plans and deferment and forbearance options.

Transfer Credit Card Debt

If you have credit card debt, you can pay less interest by transferring the balance to a new card with 0% APR on balance transfers. These special discounts usually last between 12 to 18 months, during which time you won’t be charged interest on the credit card balance.

For instance, let’s say you have a $5,000 balance on a card with a 17% APR. If you only make the minimum payments, you’ll pay $1,223.61 in total interest. If you transfer that balance to a card with 0% APR for 12 months and repay the balance in that time, you won’t pay any interest.

There is often a small fee associated with balance transfers, around 3% of balance transfers. For example, if you transfer $5,000, you’ll pay a $150 fee. That still leaves a net savings of $1,073.61 in the scenario outlined above.

Decrease Your Fixed Expenses

One of the best things to do for your budget in 2021 is to decrease fixed expenses like your car insurance, internet, cable, and cell phone. Call those providers and try to negotiate a lower rate.

 Go through your transactions for the past few months and write down all the recurring subscriptions like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and DoorDash. Then, group them into categories like “frequently use,” “sporadically use” and “rarely use”. Consider canceling anything you rarely use.

 See if you can get a better deal on your most popular subscriptions. For example, if you and your significant other both pay for Spotify Premium, get a Spotify Duo account instead, and save yourself $83.88 a year.

Open a Better Bank Account

Most people are missing out on an easy way to earn money through your bank account. You could be leaving hundreds of dollars on the table if you still have a traditional savings account.

According to the FDIC, the current average interest rate on a savings account is 0.05%. Many high-yield savings accounts offer rates between .40% and .60%. 

Let’s say you have $10,000 in a savings account with .05% interest. After one year, you’ll have earned $5.04 in interest. If you moved that amount to a high-yield savings account with .5% interest, you would earn $49.92 in interest over that same time period.

Start Investing

If you’re not investing for retirement yet, this might be the most important financial resolution you can make. Thanks to the power of compound interest, you can start investing now and see huge growth by the time you’re ready to retire.

IRAs and 401(k)s are the two main retirement accounts. Anyone can open an IRA, while only those who have access to an employer-sponsored 401(k) can open one.

 If you’re not sure how to invest in your retirement account, consider hiring a qualified financial planner through the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA).

If you’re not ready to work with a financial planner, you can use a robo advisor like Betterment or Wealthfront, which will create a portfolio based on your age, income, and expected retirement age. Robo advisors have low fees and are designed to help beginner investors.

How to Keep Financial Resolutions

First, start small. Pick one habit to change at a time. If you try to accomplish five goals at once, you’ll burn out quickly and give up. 

When you decide on a resolution, break it up into smaller, more manageable tasks. For example, if your goal is to talk to a financial planner about investing, break it down into the following steps:

1) Research financial planners through NAPFA

2) Send introductory emails to three financial planners

3) Choose the one that seems like the best fit

4) Schedule a consultation

Give yourself a deadline to accomplish each of these tasks, and ask a friend to hold you accountable.

Another tip is to tie your resolutions to a bigger goal. Like dieting or starting a new exercise plan, changing your financial habits is hard. If you’re used to grabbing lunch with your co-workers every day, bringing leftovers from home instead will seem like a huge change.

The key is to imagine the future version of yourself who will benefit from the changes you make today. If your goal is to open and contribute to a retirement account, imagine yourself as a senior citizen living comfortably.

When you’re tempted to skip this month’s retirement contribution to buy concert tickets, think about your future self, what you’d want for them and how they would appreciate your sacrifice. It can also help to remember some of the financial mistakes you’ve made in the past, and how much easier your life would be right now if you had made a different choice.

The post The 5 Best Financial New Year’s Resolutions appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

5 Steps for Getting a Car Loan

This Article was Updated July 5, 2018

When you are looking to buy a vehicle, the first thing you should do is apply for a preapproved loan. The loan process can seem daunting, but it’s easier than you think and getting preapproval prior to going to the car dealer may help alleviate a lot of frustration along the way.

Here are five steps for getting a car loan.

  1. Check Your Credit
  2. Know Your Budget
  3. Determine How Much You Can Afford
  4. Get Preapproved
  5. Go Shopping

1. Check Your Credit

Before you shop for a loan, check your credit report. The better your credit, the cheaper it is to borrow money and secure auto financing. With a higher credit score and a better credit history, you may be entitled to lower loan interest rates, and you may also qualify for lower auto insurance premiums.

Review your credit report to look for unusual activity. Dispute errors such as incorrect balances or late payments on your credit report. If you have a lower credit score and would like to give it a bit of a boost before car shopping, pay off credit card balances or smaller loans.

If your credit score is low, don’t fret. A lower score won’t prevent you from getting a loan. But depending on your score, you may end up paying a higher interest rate. If you have a low credit score and want to shoot for lower interest rates, take some time to improve your credit score before you apply for loans or attempt to secure any other auto financing.

2. Know Your Budget

Having a budget and knowing how much of a car payment you can afford is essential. You want to be sure your car payment fits in line with your other financial goals. Yes, you may be able to cover $400 a month, but that amount may take away from your monthly savings goal.

If you don’t already have a budget, start with your monthly income after taxes and subtract your usual monthly expenses and how much you plan to put in savings each month. For bills that don’t come every month, such as Amazon Prime or Xbox Live, take the yearly charge and divide it by 12. Then add the result to your monthly budget. If you’re worried, you spend too much each month, find simple ways to whittle your budget down.

You’ll also want to plan ahead for new car costs, such as vehicle registration and auto insurance, and regular car maintenance, such as oil changes and basic repairs. By knowing your budget and what to expect, you can easily see how much room you have for a car payment.

3. Determine How Much You Can Afford

Once you understand where you are financially, you can decide on a reasonable monthly car payment. For many, a good rule of thumb is to not spend more than 10% of your take-home income on a vehicle. In other words, if you make $60,000 after taxes a year, you shouldn’t spend more than $500 per month on car payments. But depending on your budget, you may be better off with a lower payment.

With a payment in mind, you can use an auto loan calculator to figure out the largest loan you can afford. Simply enter in the monthly payment you’d like, the interest rate, and the loan period. And remember that making a larger down payment can reduce your monthly payment. You can also use an auto loan calculator to break down a total loan amount into monthly payments.

You’ll also want to think about how long you’d like to pay off your loan. Car loan terms are normally three, four, five, or six years long. With a longer loan period, you’ll have lower monthly payments. But beware—a lengthy car loan term can have a negative effect on your finances. First, you’ll spend more on the total price of the vehicle by paying more interest. Second, you may be upside down on the loan for a larger chunk of time, meaning you owe more than the car is actually worth.

4. Get Preapproved

Before you ever set foot on a car lot, you’ll want to be preapproved for a car loan. Research potential loans and then compare the terms, lengths of time, and interest rates to find the best deal. A great place to shop for a car loan is at your local bank or credit union. But don’t stop there—look online too. The loan with the best terms, interest rate, and loan amount will be the one you want to get preapproved for. Just know that preapproved loans only last for a certain amount of time, so it’s best to get preapproved when you’re nearly ready to shop for a car.

However, when you apply, the lender will run a credit check—which will lower your credit score slightly—so you’ll want to keep all your loan applications within a 14-day period. That way, the many credit checks will only show as one inquiry instead of multiple ones.

When you’re preapproved, the lender decides if you’re eligible and how much you’re eligible for. They’ll also tell you what interest rate you qualify for, so you’ll know what you have to work with before you even walk into a dealership. But keep in mind that preapproved loans aren’t the same as final auto loans. Depending on the car you buy, your final loan could be less than what you were preapproved for.

In most cases, if you secure a pre-approved loan, you shouldn’t have any problems getting a final loan. But being preapproved doesn’t mean you’ll automatically receive a loan when the time comes. Factors such as the info you provided or whether or not the lender agrees on the value of the car can affect the final loan approval. It’s never a deal until it’s a done deal.

If you can’t get preapproved, don’t abandon all hope. You could also try making a larger down payment to reduce the amount you are borrowing, or you could ask someone to cosign on the loan. If you ask someone to cosign, take it seriously. By doing so, you are asking them to put their credit on the line for you and repay the loan if you can’t.

When co-signing a car loan, they do not acquire any rights to the vehicle. They are simply stating that they have agreed to become obligated to repay the total amount of the loan if you were to default or found that you were unable to pay.

Co-signing a car loan is more like an additional form of insurance (or reassurance) for the lender that the debt will be paid no matter what.

Usually, a person with bad credit or less-than-perfect credit may require the assistance of a co-signer for their auto financing and loan.

5. Go Shopping

Now you’re ready to look for a new ride. Put in a little time for research and find cars that are known to be reliable and fit into your budget. You’ll also want to consider size, color, gas mileage, and extra features. Use resources like Consumer Reports to read reviews and get an idea of which cars may be best for you.

Once you have narrowed down the car you are interested in, investigate how much it’s worth, so you aren’t accidentally duped. Sites such as Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds can help you figure out the going rate for your ideal car. After you’re armed with this information, compare prices at different car dealerships in your area. And don’t forget to check dealer incentives and rebates to get the best possible price.

By following these steps, you’ll be ready to make the best financial decision when getting a car loan. Even if you aren’t ready to buy a car right now, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Start by acquiring a free copy of your credit summary.

It is always a good idea to pull your credit reports each year, so you can make sure they are as accurate as they should be. If you find any mistakes, be sure to dispute them with the proper credit bureau. Remember, each credit report may differ, so it is best to acquire all three.
If you want to know what your credit is before purchasing a car, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get a free credit score updated every 14 days.

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Image: istock

The post 5 Steps for Getting a Car Loan appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com