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Credit card consolidation can affect your credit in many ways, depending on which strategy you choose. For example, if you’re consolidating multiple balances onto one credit card, you’ll want to avoid maxing out that card’s credit limit because that will hurt your credit utilization rate (how much debt you’re carrying compared to your total credit limit).
Note: Below we’ve listed our favorite offers from credit unions and lesser known banks that provide balance transfer offers up to 12 months. If you need a longer intro period, you might be better off paying a standard 3% balance transfer fee for a card like the Discover it® Balance Transfer which offers an intro 0% for 18 months on balance transfers (after, 13.99% - 24.99% Variable APR).
Credit card companies make balance transfer offers because they want to steal business from their competitors. So, it makes sense that the banks will not let you transfer balances between two credit cards offered by the same bank. If you have an airline credit card or a store credit card, just make sure you know which bank issues the card before you apply for a balance transfer.
The Citi® Secured Mastercard® requires a $200 security deposit, which is typical of secured cards and a good amount to establish your credit line. You can deposit more money if you want to receive a higher credit line, but if you don’t have a lot of money available to deposit, coming up with $200 is manageable. This card doesn’t have any additional card benefits like rewards or insurances, but you can access Citi’s Credit Knowledge Center for financial management tips.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires a $235 case filing fee and a $75 miscellaneous administrative fee, plus attorney costs. Chapter 7 bankruptcy comes with a $245 case filing fee, a $75 miscellaneous administrative fee and a $15 trustee charge, as well as attorney charges. With both types of bankruptcy, you are also required to pay for two credit counseling sessions that cost $50 to $100 each.
Negative credit information is any action that causes creditors to consider you a riskier borrower. It includes late payments, accounts in collections, foreclosures, bankruptcy, and tax liens. Once negative credit information is introduced into your credit history, you cannot remove it on your own. However, time heals all wounds. The longer it’s been since the negative information was introduced, the less it will affect your credit score. In time, negative information falls off your credit history.
If you are unable to qualify for a balance transfer deal or personal loan that makes financial sense, and you prefer to not touch any of your assets, you may want to set up a chat with a reputable credit counseling firm to see if you are a good candidate for a Debt Management Plan (DMP). A DMP can make it easier for you to pay your credit card bills, but it will likely have a negative impact on your credit score.
Most employer-provided retirement plans permit participants to borrow from their own savings. Since it's your money, there's no credit check or qualifying hoops to jump through. You can generally borrow up to half of your vested retirement balance, up to $50,000. The interest rate may be one or two percentage points higher than the Prime Rate, which recently was around 4%. You usually have up to five years to pay back money used for consolidating credit card debt. Miss that deadline and you may owe income tax and potentially a 10% fee on the remaining balance.
Your credit score can be affected by consolidating credit card debt — but the overall effect on your credit score should be positive, as long as you pay off your debt. If you open a new credit product like a credit card and consolidate your credit card debt, your credit score may temporarily decrease due to the inquiry and opening of a new account, but it’ll bounce back soon. Your score can actually benefit from the increased line of credit you’ll receive from the new card, as long as you keep your other credit cards open. And if you are consolidating credit card debt with a personal loan, you should see a boost to your score because you are paying off revolving lines of credit. Also, by taking out a fixed-rate installment loan, your mix of credit may improve, which is one of the factors that make up your credit score.
If you consolidate by taking a personal loan to pay off your credit cards, your utilization ratio could go down, causing your score to go up. For this to work, you need to leave the credit card accounts open after you pay them off. But your credit rating could go down if an underwriter has cause for concern that you could easily rack up new debt on the open and now balance-free credit cards (many people do).
Basically, the trick is to aggressively dispute negative records, especially older ones, and force the source of that information (otherwise known as “data furnishers”) to produce verifying documentation. A lot of times, the so-called data furnishers can’t, which obligates them to stop reporting the negative item to the credit bureaus and thus removed from the consumer’s file.
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Although you may understand the concept of credit limits, few people take the time to examine their credit utilization—or the amount of debt owed vs. the total credit limit. An ideal credit score boasts a utilization ratio of 25 percent or less. If you have a $10,000 credit limit, you should never charge more than $2,500 at a time. The same goes for individual cards. For example, Margot has three credit cards with the following limits:
Many times, a credit counselor can offer insights into your financial situation that you may not see on your own. They may see obvious ways you can cut your spending that you may have overlooked, for example. Their extensive knowledge of debt relief options also makes them ideal mentors for consumers who need professional help when it comes to assessing their debts and figuring out a plan that will work.
One of the biggest pitfalls of debt consolidation is the risk of running up new debt before the consolidated debt is paid off. When you finish paying off credit cards with a consolidation loan, don’t be tempted to use the credit cards with their newly free credit limits. If you think you might, close the accounts. You may have heard that doing so could hurt your credit score, and it might. But you can recover from credit score damage much more easily and quickly than you can recover from crushing debt.
A higher credit score: If you have maxed out your credit cards, your utilization ratio will be very high. That ratio can have a big, negative impact on your credit score. By paying off credit cards with a loan, you will be reducing the utilization on your cards. According to a study by Lending Club , people who used a loan to pay off credit cards saw an average score increase of 21 points within three months of the loan. The best way to improve your credit score is to eliminate your credit card debt burden completely.
Cons: You lower your retirement savings, and you may have to pay income taxes and an early withdrawal penalty if you’re younger than 59 ½. Also, you can usually only borrow up to 50 percent of your account balance (up to $50,000), and you must pay back the money within five years unless you’re using it to buy a home that will be your principal residence.
The best way to consolidate debt is to consolidate in a way that avoids taking on additional debt. If you're facing a rising mound of unsecured debt, the best strategy is to consolidate it through a credit counseling agency. When you use this method to consolidate bills, you're not borrowing more money. Instead, your unsecured debt payments are consolidated into one monthly payment to the agency, which in turn pays your creditors each month. Your credit counselor works with your creditors to try to reduce your interest rates and eliminate extra fees, like late charges or over-limit charges.
The key to this strategy is obtaining more credit, but not using more credit. In other words, if your limit goes up $1,000, don’t go out and charge half of it. Think of the boost as a way to save money later when you apply for an auto loan, home loan or another form of long-term debt where a high credit score will likely result in big savings via a lower interest rate.
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Shopping for a private student loan, comparing the pros and cons of different lenders, and submitting multiple applications so you can accept the loan with the best terms is generally a good idea. Hard inquiries usually only have a small impact on credit scores, and scores often return to their pre-inquiry level within a few months, as long as no new negative information winds up on your credit reports.
To have a good credit score, you need to have positive information reported into your credit report on a monthly basis. The easiest way to do that is with a credit card. Just try to keep your utilization low (although there is no magic number, VantageScore released data showing that people with excellent credit scores tend to have utilization below 10%). And make sure you pay your statement balance in full and on time every month. If you repeat this, over time your score will improve.