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).
If your wallet is stuffed with multiple credit cards staying on top of your accounts is probably a hassle you could do without. Keeping track of balances and due dates takes some elbow grease, and then there's the not-fun monthly ritual of figuring out how much you can afford to pay on each card. The good news is that if you are currently juggling a few cards with balances, you may be able to streamline your credit by consolidating your credit cards.
One of the main benefits of consolidating your credit card debt is getting a reduced interest rate. Reducing your interest rate allows you to lower your monthly payment and pay off your debts sooner. As a result, if you can’t lower your interest rates by consolidating your credit card debt, then it is probably not worth the extra cost and fees you will have to incur to do it.
Your credit score (often referred to as your FICO score) provides a snapshot of your credit status. It's determined by a variety of factors, and obviously, you need to understand the components that affect your credit score before you can start to repair it. Although the exact formula used by the Fair Isaac Corporation, which compiles the score, is proprietary and not publicly disclosed, here's basically what it looks at, and how each factor is weighed:
For example, assume you have a credit card with a $1,000 limit. It’s a rewards card, so you use it for everything. In fact, every month, you hit your limit. The statement arrives, you owe $1,000, and you send in a check to pay it off. But the credit card company is likely reporting the statement balance each month. So, it looks like you have a $1,000 limit and a $1,000 balance. That’s a 100 percent credit utilization rate.
The deal is you get the prime rate for 3 years with no intro balance transfer fee. That’s currently 4.75% variable, though your rate will change if the prime rate changes, either up or down, and you have 60 days to complete your transfer with no fee. After that, it’s $10 or 3% of the amount of the transfer, whichever is greater. Also beware the prime rate deal isn’t for new purchases, so only use this card for a balance transfer.
Secured cards are a great way to build or improve credit. When you open a secured card, you submit a security deposit that typically becomes your credit limit. This deposit acts as collateral if you default on your account, but you can get it back if you close your account after paying off your balance. As long as you use a secured card responsibly — for example, make on-time payments and use little of your available credit — you may see improvements in your credit score. Unfortunately, in addition to the upfront deposit, this credit-building tool can have extra costs, like an annual fee.
An easier way to pay: If you have debt across multiple credit cards, you might find managing all of the accounts painful. With a consolidation loan, you only have to make one payment. However, this benefit is often over-sold. The APR is still the most important consideration, and you should avoid paying a higher interest rate for the convenience of consolidation.
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