What is it? Home equity loans are for a fixed amount of money for a fixed time and at a fixed interest rate — but they are secured by your home. That means your home is collateral, and if you default on your loan, the lender may foreclose on your home. You can borrow a certain percentage of your home equity. That’s how much your home is worth minus how much you owe on the mortgage.
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None of the other banks approved my applications, and my score went down from the very beginning due to the number of “hard inquiries” against my report. Hard inquiries occur when lenders check your credit report before they make lending decisions, and having too many inquiries in a short period of time can result in several dings to your credit score.
It’s always possible there are some errors on your credit report causing your credit score to be much lower than it should be. At the beginning of any endeavor to improve your credit, get acquainted with your free 3-bureau credit report (from annualcreditreport.com) so you know what belongs on them. Check carefully for any errors to your name, identifying information, account names, account numbers, credit limits, balances, and payment dates, and if you find any errors dispute them and have your report corrected. If there were errors regarding payments or credit limits and they are resolved, your credit score may improve dramatically and quickly, depending on the error.
If you are unable to get a credit card, consider applying for a secured credit card instead. You need to provide a deposit, and you will be given a credit limit that is tied to your deposit amount. A secured credit card is reported to the credit bureau and can help you build your credit score. You can shop for the best secured cards at sites like MagnifyMoney and NerdWallet.
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 third of your overall credit score is based on the credit utilization ratio across all of your cards. Because of the way credit scoring works, it's better to carry a $1,000 balance on a card with a $5,000 limit (20% credit utilization) than to carry a $500 balance on a card with a $1,000 limit (50% credit utilization). That's why, in discussing payment pecking order, we recommended paying off the cards closest to being maxed out. That's also why you shouldn't terminate accounts. It'll increase the percentage of total available credit that you’re using – and that will reduce your score.
This is a riff off the strategy to pay before the statement date for those that cannot make a lump sum payment, similar to making bi-monthly payments to reduce your mortgage debt faster. For a 30-year mortgage, this strategy results in reducing the balance before interest is charged every month and in making an additional month’s payment every year, effectively reducing the loan term and interest charges dramatically over the life of the loan. For credit card payments, it can also mean the difference between being able to pay extra and not being able to pay extra during the month. So try making one payment before the statement date and another payment by the due date to pay down the balance as quickly as possible.
The best way to consolidate debt varies by individual, depending on your financial circumstances and preferences. For some, the best way to consolidate debt may be paying off smaller balances first and then adding those payments to the bigger bills until those are paid off. Others might consider transferring balances to one credit card or getting a consolidation loan. However, consolidating balances to one credit card or using a loan can be risky because, if you need to borrow additional money, it may be tempting to use one of the accounts with a zero balance. Then the debt grows, and you can find yourself in financial trouble quickly.
Next, estimate your monthly spending habits for other expenses such as gas, groceries and entertainment. Create a limit, based on your income, of what you can spend in each of the different categories of expenses. For example, if you tend to spend $400 a month on groceries, try to stick to $300 a month on groceries by making changes like buying generic brands, using coupons, and resisting impulse purchases.