Boost Credit 101 News
Credit scores: They determine whether we can buy a home, car and even get student loans. Consumers in general are captive to credit reporting agencies. We expect them to get our payment histories right. For years, FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) has had a corner on the credit score market. Consumers are not privy to their FICO score and the first sign of a problem is a credit rejection. The rejection reasons for most loans is a low credit score. Over the last decade, a FICO competitor has emerged: Vantage.
What is Vantage?
The three major credit reporting agencies came together and created Vantage. Vantage's scoring model is different than FICOs model. Vantage uses a shorter look-back period for late payments. They also use a different grading system for charged off accounts. Vantage's goal was to address a specific need. They believed there as a need for "a highly consistent, more predictive scoring model that is easy to understand and apply". Remember, they still look at many of the same factors as FICO, just for shorter periods of time.
Multiple credit score confusion
Consumers have a different credit score depending on the reporting agency. Transunion, Equifax and Experian reports often contain different information. This is due to the various times they pull reports from your creditors. When you apply for a credit card, car loan or mortgage, your lender pulls your credit report. These reports have a FICO score associated with them. Depending on which report your lender requests, your FICO score will vary. This causes confusion for borrowers who are not provided the same scores offered to lenders.
Vantage Use vs FICO
While some lenders are using Vantage scores, FICO still has a corner on the market. Credit decisions based on FICO scores may be more detrimental to those new to the credit markets. The fact is, like it or not, most major lenders still use FICO to make lending decisions. Borrowers with a strong FICO score are more likely to have their request approved. Low credit scores likely mean a rejected request. This applies to credit cards, car loans and home mortgages and is not shocking.
What does this mean for consumers?
Not much. Access to credit will vary little regardless of whether a lender uses FICO or Vantage. Consumers will have the same access to credit regardless of which score the lender uses. Since a small minority of lenders are using Vantage, you won't see any changes in your ability to borrow. For young borrowers, lenders who use Vantage may offer them a slight edge. The problem is finding these lenders may be challenging.
FICO versions: What you may not know
Early in 2016, FICO released FICO9. Most lenders have not adopted this version of your score. Chances are high they will not adopt this model either. The reason is simple: Many lenders are using older models for credit decisions. For example:
- Car loans - The three major reporting agencies use FICO Auto Score most of the time. Depending on the lender, they may use version 2, 4 or 5.
- Credit cards - Credit card companies prefer FICO Bankcard 8. Credit agencies often still use versions 2, 3, 3 4 and 5.
- Mortgage loans - This is perhaps the most complicated scoring. Experian uses FICO Score 2, Equifax uses FICO Score 5 and Transunion uses FICO Score 4.
Consumers who are considering applying for credit should pull a free credit report. Verify all information in your report is correct. Understand what factors go into determining your credit score. Don't open up credit lines you don't need, make your payments on time and keep your balances low. This is the path to a higher FICO score which you'll most likely need if you apply for a home mortgage or car loan.
Tax time is almost here, and lots of people are already preparing their returns. If you have poor credit, you may be thinking about using your tax refund to make improvements. A variety of credit repair strategies exist, so it can be difficult to decide how to approach the problem. Below is some information to help you decide how to put your tax money to the best use.
Ways to Improve your Credit
The most common methods used to improve credit include professional credit repair, DIY strategies and investing in tradelines.
Professional Credit Repair
Professional credit repair companies offer to improve your credit for a fee. Some lawyers also provide credit repair services. Most reputable credit repair companies and lawyers begin by analyzing your credit report and looking for questionable entries, repetitive entries or other inconsistencies. The professional will analyze each of these issues and take steps to fix them.
Keep in mind that not all credit repair companies are reputable. Some will promise services they can't deliver and/or use illegal tactics in an attempt to raise your credit score quickly. Some unethical credit repair companies have also been known to scam consumers by collecting a fee and then failing to provide promised services.
Instead of investing in credit repair, some people may decide to attempt to improve their credit without help in hopes of saving money. Some of the strategies you may use to improve your credit without professional help include:
- Disputing duplicate and/or fraudulent entries on your credit report by contacting credit reporting agencies and creditors directly.
- Using secured credit cards.
- Applying for new credit or larger limits to reduce debt-to-income ratio.
- Taking out new loans.
- Paying down debts.
- Pay all of your bills in full and on time.
Although these strategies can all improve your credit over time, it can take months or even years before you begin to see results.
Investing in Tradelines
Tradelines are active credit accounts with a long history of on-time payments. When you purchase a tradeline, the owner of the account adds you as an authorized user. Once the account has been added to your credit report, it can improve your score by raising your available credit, increasing the average age of your accounts and enhancing your payment history.
Making a Choice
You receive a tax refund only once each year, so it's important to use it efficiently. Although each of the methods above can improve your credit when used properly, tradelines provide the quickest results. However, as with credit repair, it is important to note that tradelines are offered by both reputable and non-reputable sources. To avoid falling victim to a scam, make sure that you acquire tradelines from a trustworthy source.
Whether you’ve relocated from another country or want to improve your current credit rating to build a more successful future, there are a number of things you can do. Here are seven of the top steps to take in order to build more solid credit and a sound financial foundation:
1. Timely Payments
The most important factor in building or improving credit is a habit of on-time payments. Timeliness counts for a full 35 percent of your credit score, so take it seriously and cultivate this important credit-boosting habit.
2. If You Are An Immigrant
Start by knowing that your credit rating from your home country will not follow you to the U.S. This can be good or bad, as a negative credit history can be left behind; however, if you had a positive credit history, it will not factor into your rating here. Credit history simply cannot be transferred across international boundaries.
A social security number is crucial to the process of establishing credit. When you seek employment in the U.S., you will be required to have a social security number. It is mandatory if you wish to build credit in a meaningful way, such as through purchasing a house or car, or applying for credit cards or personal loans.
3. Co-Signers and Authorized User History
One of the most effective ways to improve and build credit is by signing on with others who have positive credit. A spouse, partner, friend or business associate may be good candidates to ask. Having someone with good credit co-sign with you for a credit card or other loan greatly increases your chances of getting the loan. Have them add you as an authorized user to one or more of their existing accounts. From there, with responsible use of any credit you receive, your rating will rise naturally. You might also look into companies that sell authorized user histories through products called "tradelines," which allow you to benefit from the positive credit histories of others.
4. Secured Credit Cards
A secured credit card is an account that requires a deposit for the amount you would like as your credit limit. The card is used somewhat like a debit card, but responsible use of this type of account will be reflected as positive action on your credit report.
5. Watch Your Credit Utilization Ratio
Credit utilization refers to the amount of available credit used on a credit card at any given time. Persons striving to build positive credit should keep this ratio at less than 30 percent at all times. Make only small to moderate purchases, and pay the balance on the card every month if possible.
6. Reduce Debt
Few things will drag down your credit rating and financial health faster than debt, so strive to carry as little as possible. That said, a home mortgage, car loan, student loan or other installment debt treated responsibly is good for your credit; just make sure to make all payments on time. Excessive revolving consumer debt like credit card debt can hurt your credit score and should be paid down as efficiently as possible.
7. Use Automated Payments
Take advantage of the perks of technology by automating any loan or credit card accounts that you do acquire. You can set the payment amount to any level you wish, from just the minimum to the entire statement balance each month. This will help you to avoid late fees and black marks on your credit report.
Building new credit can seem daunting, but success is possible. With patience, diligence and using these seven tips, you’ll soon be on your way to a positive financial future.
Determining whether it is more economical to lease or buy a car is not simply a matter of looking at the monthly cost or the purchase price. Instead, to get a complete picture, numerous factors need to be taken into consideration.
A Look at Monthly Payments
In terms of monthly payments, leasing tends to be the more economical choice. For example, a sedan that costs $24,775, including leasing fees, results in a monthly payment of $294. In comparison, after a down payment of more than $4,000 on the same new car, the owner pays $400 a month. Purchasing a used car, such as a three-year-old sedan, drops the purchase price to an average of $15,688 with a down payment of $2,304 with a resulting monthly payment of $301.
Other Factors to Consider
When it comes to leasing and buying a car, each option carries unique expenses that need to be factored into the purchase price.
- Interest Rates
Buying a car typically means taking out a loan with its accompanying interest rates. Consumers purchasing a new car tend to have better credit scores, according to data gleaned from Edmunds. This puts them in the position of being offered lower interest rates -- often several percentage points lower when compared to those extended to buyers of used vehicles. Additionally, finance companies often offer special financing for purchasers of new vehicles.
- Repairs and Maintenance Costs
Leasing a car typically means not being responsible for the costs of repairs and maintenance beyond tire rotations and oil changes. However, some lease agreements include a free maintenance program that eliminates even these expenses. Buying a car means the owner foots the entire cost with used cars likely needing more repairs.
When a consumer purchases a car, they are typically required to maintain full insurance coverage on it for the duration of the loan. A lease agreement, on the other hand, might include a requirement for additional insurance which increases its costs.
One reason that people hesitate to lease is that they don't own the car at the end of their lease. However, they often have the option to purchase the vehicle at what is typically the current market value.
The Bottom Line
Leasing is often a more attractive option when it comes to out-of-pocket expenses, especially when compared to purchasing a new vehicle. For the long term, though, because the consumer now owns their vehicle, their costs are actually lower compared to someone who leases the vehicle. That person would either need to purchase a vehicle or enter into another lease agreement in order to obtain transportation.
Do you know you have lots of credit scores? You do, and different lenders use different scores to determine your credit worthiness. Your credit score is a number determined by ranking items on your credit record and then taking those rankings to calculate your credit score. Complicating things is that each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Transunion, Experian, and Equifax) use slightly different criteria when computing your credit score. So, to start, you have 3 different credit scores. But, those credit scores are based on information from Fair Isaac Corporation and is known as your FICO score. But, the credit reporting agencies pay FICO for credit scores and in 2012 created a competing credit score called Vantage. As with FICO, each agency uses slightly different criteria so you have different Vantage scores with each agency. That brings the total number of credit scores to 6.
Both FICO 8, the most common score from FICO and Vantage scores calculate credit scores on a scale of 300 to 850. Both models return similar but not identical credit scores.
More Credit Scores
Other companies provide credit scores too, but the most popular are FICO and Vantage. However, FICO has at least 49 different scores according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFBP). They include older versions of FICO and some industry specific scores.
The newest FICO score is FICO 9, but the one used by most lenders is FICO 8. Even with so many different credit scores, the key to a good credit score is that consumers manage their credit responsibly – for Vantage and FICO scores this means:
- All bills are paid on time
- Credit card balances are low – less than one-third of available credit.
- New lines of credit are opened only when needed
Authorized Use of Credit Cards
Some people think that by becoming an authorized user (AU) of someone else’s credit card they can quickly improve their credit score. And, being an authorized user does help, though if someone has many negative marks and excessive inquiries the help will not be drastic.
- Consumers have more than one credit score
- FICO is owned and operated by the Fair Isaac Corporation. FICO provides many scores, some are industry specific.
- The three largest credit reporting companies developed vantage scores. Vantage and FICO scores both use a 300 to 850-point score. They parallel each other and the higher the score the better you are as a credit risk. Higher scoring consumers get more favorable loan terms.
- FICO 9 is the newest iteration of the FICO credit scores, yet FICO 8 is the most popular.
- Being an AU helps with credit scores, how much depends on what's on your credit report already.
Imagine you are home, the phone rings, as soon as you say hello the person on the line informs you that the call is a debt collection call. You don’t remember owing any entity or person anything and ask for information about the debt. The caller tells you the debt is four years old and they are with a collection company assigned to collect it. Do you pay it? What should you do? If you owe a past due debt, or someone informs you that they are contacting you to collect an old debt you have rights. These rights are enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Your Rights as a Debtor
- Although debt collectors may call you at home, they cannot call until after 8 AM in the morning and not call you after 9:00 PM. A debt collector cannot contact you at work if you inform them orally or in writing that your employer doesn’t allow you to get non-work related calls.
- After a debt collector contacts you by phone, they have five days to send you a document called a “validation notice” that tells you whom you owe and the amount of money you owe. This notice also must tell you how to proceed if you don’t believe you owe any money to the creditor.
- After you receive the validation notice you have 30 days to dispute the debt. However, a collector can contact you if it sends you written proof of the debt such as a copy of a bill for the amount that the collector is attempting to collect.
What Debt Collectors Can’t Do
Collection laws are consistent at the federal and most state levels of government. These laws forbid collectors from:
- Harassing you with threats of violence or harm; using obscene language; threaten to publish your name as a poor credit risk; repeatedly using the phone with the purpose of annoying the debtor
- Making false statements such as claiming you committed a crime; falsely claim they are an attorney or government representative; that they work for a credit bureau, lie about the amount you owe.
- Other things debt collectors cannot do include telling you that you will be arrested if you don’t pay the debt or they will seize your property or wages (unless the law allows them to do so).
What Steps Can I Take for a Debt Collection Violation Against Me?
You can contact an experienced debt collection attorney to file a lawsuit against the debt collector. Other alternatives include contact your state Attorney General’s Office, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Consumer Financial Protection Board.
If you fail to notify the debt collector in writing within 30 days of the first contact with you that you dispute the debt , you will give up most of your debtor rights.
Your credit is in disarray. You have overdue payments, missed payments, collection attempts and other derogatory information on your credit report. Things cannot get worse. Can they?
Yes, they can. Pay a CPN (Credit Privacy Number) broker for a CPN number and you could go to jail for fraud.
Credit Privacy Numbers go by many names including:
- Credit profile number; and
- Secondary credit number (SCN)
There is much debate on message boards concerning their legality for use as a credit repair tool. The information available from trusted authorities suggests their use is often an attempt to break the law concerning a person obtaining credit. It is likely that an offer to get you a CPN by any name is an invitation for you to become involved in a scam. Unfortunately, your use of a CPN to get credit can lead you to a large fine or time in prison, even if a borrower believes that the CPN is legit.
A CPN is a nine-digit number that looks exactly like your social security number. The Credit Repair Organizations Act is a federal law that regulates how credit repair companies do business. The act prohibits untrue or misleading advertising, payment before services are received, and that credit repair contracts be in writing. You have other rights under the act that includes:
- A legal contract
- A three-day cooling-off period
- The anticipated amount of time your credit repair will take
- Your total cost for the service
- Guarantees made by the credit repair company
In addition, the law forbids consumers from opening a second credit file thus making a CPN illegal for credit repair purposes.
Often, shady credit repair companies advertise their ability to get you a new CPN. Most of the time you don’t get a unique CPN if you get any number, it is probably a stolen social security number. In either case, using a CPN or SCN instead of your social security number is fraud making them illegal for purposes of obtaining credit or a loan.
In 2013, 18 people were arrested for participating in a scheme to defraud Social Security using CPNs. David Day was among those arrested who, as a group, consisted of buyers and sellers of CPNs. Day not only sold CPN numbers, he also used them to obtain loans and credit lines. Day was accused and convicted of using a Social Security number frequently and was sentenced to 7 years in prison.
- There are no “quick” ways to repair your credit
- A Credit Privacy Number is not a legal substitute for your Social Security Number and cannot be used to obtain a second credit file.
- Credit reporting agencies and those giving credit don’t want your CPN, they want your Social Security Number. While you don’t have to give them your social security number, they don’t have to give you credit without it. The lure of starting fresh without rebuilding your credit is a hook that unscrupulous credit repair agencies use to reel you in. Don’t fall for the scheme. It’s better to spend your money on a legitimate credit repair agency. Do a little research before you sign up. Check the Better Business Bureau ratings for credit repair companies, less than an A rating means caution on your part. In addition, check to make sure the credit repair agency you want to use is accredited by The National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
So, you just got a new credit card with great terms for balance transfers and low interest for purchases, but, your credit limit is only $500. Some people like having low credit limits on their cards so they cannot run up large bills. But, having a high credit limit gives you several advantages so long as you use your credit wisely.
If the amount of credit you use approaches your credit card limits, you will be penalized on your credit report. But, having a high credit card limit that you use no more than 50% of help maintain a better credit score.
How to Get a High-Limit Credit Card
There are two ways to obtain a high-limit credit card. The first way is to have a high income and low debt. If this is your credit profile, congratulations! you will likely be granted a premium credit card.
The other way to get a high-limit premium credit card is to earn it. Earning a high-limit card requires patience and a plan.
The Plan to Increase Your Credit Card Limits
Before you ask a lender to increase your credit card limit, you must prove to the lender that you handle credit responsibly. The best way to do this is to make sure you pay your credit card bills on time and for more than the minimum payment. (Only paying the minimum amount is very costly in interest payments and will take years to pay off).
Another way to show your credit worthiness is by lowering the amount of your credit utilization. Imagine you have a credit card with a $5,000 limit. You owe $4,000 on the card, meaning you are using 80% of your available credit. Your utilization of available credit is very high. Lenders prefer to see only about 10% of available credit used on a credit card. Lenders place a great deal of reliance on credit utilization as it makes up about 30% of your credit score – this has great significance when seeking a higher credit limit. So, one thing to do is transfer debt from a lower limit card to a higher limit card so that you have a lower amount of credit used.
Applying for a High-Limit Credit Card
People with excellent scores and high incomes may decide to apply for a high-limit credit card directly. These cards include:
- Capital One Venture
- Discover it
- Chase Sapphire Preferred/Reserve
- Gold Delta SkyMiles card
American Express has a card known as the Centurion Card. It has an annual fee of $2,500. AMEX is quite discrete about the benefits of this card but users have spilled some secrets.
Reports are that there is no official requirements for obtaining the Centurion Card, also known as the AMEX Black Card. Like other AMEX cards, there are two versions of the Centurion Card, one is for business and the other is for personal use. Rumors are that to be considered for this card, a business or an individual has to charge and pay off $450 thousand per year.
What Benefits Do I Get from a Higher Credit Card Limit?
If you have been careful in how you use credit and have used your existing credit properly you should ask for an increase in your credit card limit. One huge benefit is that your credit score will rise so long as you keep your credit use in line with responsible use. This will save you money from other lenders, help you get credit for an auto loan or a mortgage to buy a home.
Often, financial institutions offering high-limit credit cards have “rewards” attached to their use. Typically, these types of cards reward users with cash back. Other reward cards offer mileage points or reward points that are redeemable for travel and merchandise.
Make sure you check your credit score before applying for a card or an increased limit on a card you have. When you request a new card or a credit line increase, the financial institution immediately checks your credit score and credit report. This results in a short-term ding to your credit that disappears after a few months.
People have some strange ideas, bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Kim Kardashian being worthy of attention, but none of these are going to do you much harm, and they may even be fun, or at least entertaining. But myths about credit can be damaging, to your reports, and especially to your finances.
Here are six odd viewpoints/questions we've addressed in our time as credit consultants.
1. I’m not looking to get any credit cards, a mortgage, or a car, so I don’t need credit.
Credit is not just about getting loans. Just a few examples, your employer may check your score when you get hired, or any time you are employed. If you want to rent, most places worth renting from will check your score. When it does come time to get a loan, a good credit history and score (760+) will get you the best rates, saving thousands, or even tens of thousands over the course of the loan. Your FICO is important. According to a The Fair Isaac Corp’s testimony before a House Financial Services subcommittee, FICO scores are used in approximately 10 billion decisions annually.
2. I’ve got a great credit score, so I don’t need to worry about it.
You are the warrior upon the wall watching for ninja surprise negative marks. How do you avoid them? Constant vigilance! You don’t need to check your score every day, but pay your debts on time, never miss a payment, don’t rack up balances, keep an eye on your reports to make sure anything you didn’t authorize shows up.
A good FICO score is like getting in great shape. Once you achieve that beach bod, you have to maintain it.
3. I only have a credit card, I better get a car so I can show installment credit.
This is a great place to give a reminder on how credit scores are calculated.
Payment History — 35%, pay your debts on time, even if it is only the minimum
Amounts Owed — 30%, especially on your credit cards vs. how much limit you have available.
Length of History — 15%, how long your accounts have been open. Hey, age does have its benefits!
Types of Credit — 10%, variation is good, you want a mix of installment (student, auto, mortgage), revolving (credit cards)
Inquiries — 10%, too many inquiries can drastically drop your score, keep it under 6/year max if you can
Here you can see how FICO tabulates those all-important scores. It’s always good to have different types of credit, but asking for credit/debt to solely get a better score is foolish. You will shorten your history with a new account, take a hit from the inquiry, and that’s if you get approved. If you don’t, you will only cost yourself points. You need a car to get around? Buy a car. You need a place to live? Buy a home, but never because you think it will help your score.
4. I want/need some type of credit; I’ll just submit an application and see what happens.
See above for how inquiries affect credit, and take our word on this: DO NOT DO THIS. Every inquiry counts against your scores. And too many inquiries will make you seem high risk, which could prevent you from getting approvals even if you have good scores. The only time you should be applying for credit is when you need it, and when you think you have a good chance of approval.
5. I’ll keep a balance on my credit card because that helps my credit scores.
The credit bureaus usually get updated balances once a month on your debts. When this happens is usually around the statement date of your card, so if you pay off the statement balance, it will still show the balance as it takes a few days for the data to get reported.
Keeping a balance from previous statements will only do one thing, cost you $$ in interest fees. You should never pay interest unless you absolutely have to, and then only if it is of the installment variety (auto, student, mortgage). Revolving accounts (credit cards) compound daily, which makes the balances difficult to pay off.
6. I pay my rent/utilities on time, so I should have a good credit score.
This is pretty much the equivalent of “I’m thinking good thoughts, so people should like me.” One doesn’t have anything to do with the other (but still think good thoughts!). Rent and utilities are not things that get reported to the bureaus, with one exception. If you are behind, and consistently behind to the point where the landlord or utility company believes they will not get their money, they may report you to a collection agency, and this can hurt your credit.
So there you have it. Don't fall victim to strange thoughts when credit is involved, and check back to see more myths debunked, or contact us if you have any questions.
Latest Credit News5/5/2016
Do you have bad credit or no credit? Do you have decent credit, but want to amplify your credit score?
You’ve likely heard all the traditional advice for improving your credit score: secure lines of credit, make your payments and don’t fall into poor standing. This conventional advice isn’t always the best, especially for those who wish to repair and rebuild their credit quickly.
Fortunately, tradelines exist as a valuable tool that anyone can use to build, repair and enhance their credit rating.
What Exactly is a Tradeline?
A tradeline is a line of credit that has been held in good standing for an extended period of time. Officially known as “seasoned tradelines,” these accounts have an undoubtedly positive impact on credit ratings.
Borrowers who have seasoned tradelines offer up their accounts to a third party for a fee. Typically, the third party does not have access to any account information that would allow them to use the account. Borrowers add the third party as an authorized user on the account, which places the account on the third party’s credit report.
The practice of adding third parties to seasoned tradelines with the purpose of improving a credit score is known as “piggybacking.” Piggygbacking tradelines is an outstanding, and entirely legal, tool that you can use to amplify your credit score.
How Does a Seasoned Tradeline Benefit Me?
Your credit score is unique to you. There’s no other credit report in the world that’s exactly like yours. This means that the impact of adding one more tradelines is difficult to predict.
Credit scores are calculated by credit unions using a complex algorithm. This algorithm uses many variables to produce a credit score. Adding tradelines introduces a new variable to the equation. Everyone will experience varied results, since the other variables involved will be different.
However, there are a few general benefits that have been found as people have started using tradelines:
- People with few negative items on their credit report see a higher increase than those with many negative items. However, tradelines have been shown provide a worthwhile increase to negative reports.
- The amount of tradelines on your report plays a factor. The fewer tradelines, the more increase you’ll see per tradeline. The amount of tradelines that can be used before the results diminish will vary.
- People with no established credit have experienced large increases in their credit score. This situation is common with immigrants to the United States who have money, but lack an adequate credit rating. Purchasing tradelines helps establish their new credit history.
Getting Started With Tradelines
Are you ready to see how tradelines can improve your credit score? Adding tradelines to your credit report is an option available to anyone.
Your first step is to determine the best credit repair service to employ. It’s ill-advised to try to add tradelines on your own. The right credit repair service will analyze your report and help you find affordable tradelines that will provide the best boost. They’ll also administrate and secure the entire process.
It’s time to take your credit score into your own hands with seasoned tradelines.