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Your goal with a balance transfer should be to get out of debt. If you start spending on the credit card, there is a real risk that you will end up in more debt. Additionally, you could end up being charged interest on your purchase balances. If your credit card has a 0% balance transfer rate but does not have a 0% promotional rate on purchases, you would end up being charged interest on your purchases right away, until your entire balance (including the balance transfer) is paid in full. In other words, you lose the grace period on your purchases so long as you have a balance transfer in place.
The best way is to be sure you are paying all your bills on time. And, if you have credit cards, try to keep your balance to less than 30% of your credit limit (less than 10% is even better). We suggest checking your credit score monthly (you can get two scores every 30 days from Credit.com), along with personalized advice for improving your credit. Here’s how to monitor your credit score for free.
We agree that it is very important for individuals to be knowledgeable of their credit standing. When you have a credit-monitoring tool like freecreditscore.com on your side, you get e-mail alerts whenever there’s a change in your credit score–and you can also see your credit score whenever you want. With the free credit report from the government, you only see your report once a year. If you monitor your credit score regularly, it’s easier to catch inaccuracies before it’s too late.
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However, there is a big risk to using a debt consolidation loan. Once you pay off your credit cards, you will be tempted with a lot of newly available credit. If you got into debt because you spent too much money on credit cards, creating more spending power on your credit cards can be a dangerous strategy. Dave Ramsey regularly tells listeners that they cannot borrow their way out of debt. On his blog, he write that "debt consolidation is nothing more than a "con" because you think you’ve done something about the debt problem. The debt is still there, as are the habits that caused it — you just moved it!"
A low credit score won’t necessarily prevent you from getting a loan, but it could impact your ability to get a competitive rate. Most people have credit scores in the range of 600 to 750, according to Experian. For scores that fall within the 300 to 850 range, the consumer credit reporting agency cites a score of 700 or higher as good and 800 or higher as excellent.
Taking out a loan to pay off debt is counter-intuitive, right? Especially when taking on a new loan requires hefty fees, rolled into your total balance, or a long repayment period. The InCharge Debt Consolidation Alternative, or debt management plan, is a program that gives you all of the benefits of debt consolidation without having to take out a new loan. With the debt management program, all of your payments are consolidated into one monthly payment that you pay to InCharge. InCharge then pays each of your creditors. InCharge helps you secure lower interest rates on many of the credit cards you do have (with exceptions), meaning that more of your monthly payment will go to pay off the balance, and less to interest. This will help you pay off your debt faster. The InCharge debt management plan is designed to help you get out of debt in 3-5 years, paying less than you would if you continued on your own, or even with traditional debt consolidation with higher interest rates.
Despite the rosy national picture, we see regional and age-based disparities. A minority of Southerners still rank below prime credit. In contrast, credit scores in the upper Midwest rank well above the national average. Younger consumers struggle with their credit, but boomers and the Silent Generation secured scores well above the national average.
A debt consolidation loan streamlines existing debts into one new loan. Most unsecured consumer debt can be consolidated, including credit cards, medical bills, utility bills, payday loans, student loans, taxes and bills sent to a collection agency. Having one monthly payment instead of several can make it easier to get your finances in order and could allow you to save money on interest fees. When shopping around, it’s essential to find a loan with a lower interest rate and better terms than the original debts.
It might hurt your score. About 30% of your score is based on the amount of your available credit you use. If, for example, you have a credit line of $20,000 and you owe $10,000, you are using 50% of your available credit — and that will hurt your score. You want that percentage to be below 30 (and below 10% is even better). Your best bet may be to put a small, recurring charge on the Wells Fargo card and automate payment. That way, you will be using a tiny percentage of that credit line (and that is potentially helpful, so long as you pay on time). For more, see
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Thank you. I thought my scores were better than they are and I contacted a mortgage lender who said my scores were much lower than I thought. He said to pay off all negative open accounts. Most are medical bills. He also said that even with a car loan and a secured card and Fingerhut it is not enough trade lines. He suggested I open another secured card. Use one for gas and the other for fun/groceries. He said charge no more than 30% on each only if there is the money present to pay it off when I get home that day. If so, pay all but $5 immediately. He said that plus the debt should help within a few months to raise my score in addition to keeping the existing items current. My husband has a tax lien so I promptly made arrangements for that and have applied for and was approved for a second secured card as well. I just have to wait until payday to fund it and then will work to pay off these debts and build my score. Hoping for some big results in six months.
According to Kim Cole, community engagement manager at credit counseling agency Navicore Solutions, bankruptcy can make sense when life circumstances cause people’s finances to spiral out of control. Very often, she said, her company works with consumers who have racked up insurmountable amounts of medical debt that they couldn’t pay off if they tried. Other times, bankruptcy is the result of job loss or another unintended loss of income.
If you transfer your debt and use your card responsibly to pay off your balance before the intro period ends, then there is no trap associated with the 0% APR period. But, if you neglect making payments and end up with a balance post-intro period, you can easily fall into a trap of high debt — similar to the one you left when you transferred the balance. As a rule of thumb, use the intro 0% APR period to your advantage and pay off ALL your debt before it ends, otherwise you’ll start to accumulate high interest charges.
Getting a bump in credit limit on one of your existing cards has a similar effect as getting a new credit card on your credit utilization but is even quicker and easier. Another plus: While you may not get as much of a credit limit increase as with a new card, your credit score will also not suffer the new credit card ding and will benefit from the age of the existing account.
Credit reports record your payment habits on all type of bills and credit extended, not just credit cards. And sometimes these items show up on one bureau's report, but not another's. Old, unpaid gym dues that only appear on one report could be affecting your score without you even realizing it. If you rent a house or apartment, some credit agencies count the history of those payments in their credit score calculations (assuming the landlord reports it to them). For example, credit rating giant Experian began including positive rental payment histories in its credit score ratings in 2010. TransUnion also figures positive rental payments into its credit calculations (look for it under “tradeline expense” on your credit report.)
Assuming you are consistently paying on time (the No. 1 thing you can do to help your credit), take a look at your debt-to-available credit ratio. You want to get that to under 30% (under 10% is even better). Your credit mix is also a factor. If you have the income to make more than minimum payments, though, that is the best way to make an impact. You can read more here:
If you have unsecured debts that qualify for a debt management plan and secured debts that don’t qualify, a debt management plan can still work. When you sign up for a debt management plan with a nonprofit agency, the credit counselor assigned to your case will offer comprehensive financial advice that can help you pay down all your debts — not just debts governed by your debt management plan.
If you are a careful money manager who fell into debt because of unusual circumstances (medical or veterinary bill, loss of employment or some other emergency) and NOT because you spent more on your credit cards than you could afford to pay off each month, then leave the accounts open. Doing so will help your credit score, because the amount of revolving debt you have is a significant factor in your credit score. Just be sure to put the cards away. Don’t use them while you pay down your debt consolidation loan.
The earlier you find out about a credit report or identity theft issue, the easier it is to solve. To ensure that you find out about issues in the future, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. Some companies, like CreditKarma, offer free credit monitoring. Other companies offer daily three-bureau monitoring and resolution services. You can learn more about these options here.
At this point, you will need to continue following the advice of the credit counseling agency you hired to help and remember the benefits of being debt-free. Life is a lot more difficult when you’re juggling credit card bills and other payments each month. If you want to avoid winding up back in debt, it’s crucial to remember how far you’ve come and how wonderful freedom feels.
With that being said, I went to apply for a personal loan to be added to my 5,500 loan for $3,500 to pay off the CC debt and eliminate the high interest rate payments (saving me over $100 a month), but was declined due to increase of debt. So I guess my question is, how is someone to pay off other debts if credit unions are judging your debt off a mortgage payment? My debt to income has not changed since the original loan and I have a “fair” credit score according to a credit simulator. I just purchased a home which wiped out my savings, so what is my best option here?
For example, let’s say you want to use a credit card balance transfer to consolidate. Almost any balance transfer credit card you choose will have a fee that’s applied for each balance transferred. Some have a $3 fee per transfer, while others are 3% of the balance you move. That’s a big difference. If you transfer $25,000, then the 3% card will increase the cost of debt elimination by $750.
Other ways credit card consolidation can hurt your credit include applying for a new line of credit which will result in a hard inquiry on your credit report, adding a new credit account that can lower the average age of your credit history, and getting a new personal loan. All of these things will show that you have a high level of outstanding debt (your scores should improve as your remaining balance shrinks from where it started).
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Do the math on your credit cards and their interest rates, and figure out how long it would take you to pay them all off at your current payment rate. Compare that to the length of the consolidation loan you're looking at taking out. Your average 5 year (60 mo) debt consolidation loan, even at a lower interest rate than your credit card, may cost more over the long haul than if you just paid your cards down faster. Photo by 401(k) 2012.
Credit reports typically have a space for you to provide your comments at the bottom: explaining why a particular debt hasn't been paid or to point out any factual errors. While this is another area of recourse, with the credit bureaus you're seen as guilty until proven innocent, and the burden's on you to correct things. When you write to the credit bureau, be sure to send copies (not the originals) of any proof that can be used.
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