Credit Card Bible

Credit Card Information, Effective Debt Management, Guides for Better use of Credit Cards & Related Stuff...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Online Safety

Although the numbers are increasing, consumers are still not using their credit cards on the Internet nearly as much as e-tailers (electronic retailers) would like. That's why many cyber-merchants continue to offer a toll-free order number so that shoppers have the choice of calling their order in. Cyber-shopping may be convenient -- and some people do all of their shopping online -- but credit-card fraud is always a threat, both on the Internet and out in the real world. Hackers have found ways to steal credit-card numbers from Web sites.

To illustrate the importance of tight security, a network TV reporter, tipped off about loose security on an Internet Web-hosting site, was able to gain access to about 1,500 customer records, which included everything from credit-card numbers and payment records to comments about particular customers.

These are the kinds of stories that deflate consumer confidence. Some e-tailers blame consumer reluctance on the inability in cyberspace to make the kind of personal contact that a shopper gets when he looks into the eyes of a store merchant. Experts say that this kind of comfort level will be boosted when online payment methods and security measures are standardized -- much as they are in the retail and mail-order industries.

While Internet companies have taken responsibility for security breaches and resulting losses to credit-card users, there remains the growing problem of people who use stolen credit cards to make purchases on the Internet. And while unfair or fraudulent practices by credit-card companies are not commonplace, they do happen. The good news is that consumers are protected by law -- in case of credit-card fraud online or off, you are only liable for a maximum of $50 of the amount stolen.

If the mailing-list issue bothers you -- and it bothers most of us -- pay attention when you're completing that credit-card application. Some application forms now provide a box that you can check to allow or disallow the selling of your information to mailing lists. You can also protect yourself by taking your name off the credit bureaus' mailing lists. When you write to these companies, include your complete name, name variations and mailing address, Social Security Number and signature and state clearly that you want your name removed from their mailing lists. You can write or call either of these major reporting bureaus and they will contact the other major bureaus with your request.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Why consolidate the debt?

Why consolidate the debt? Debt consolidation has many potential benefits:

  • Ease a cash flow problem. When life requires immediate cash, putting loans into a single monthly payment can allow flexibility in repayment and can free up cash stores for use where you need it most.
  • Free up money for other uses. Debt consolidation offers the opportunity to take money from high monthly payments or interest for other less immediate needs and investments.
  • Simplify your current debt. Convert single or multiple high-interest-rate loans into a single payment with low interest. This allows you to avoid the hassle and stress of dealing with multiple deadlines and creditors. Debt consolidation can help make bill paying and book keeping take less time and energy.
  • Save money and invest in life! More available monthly cash and less time paying bills means you have less stress and a better chance to invest in your family and personal pursuits.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Debt Management

It is a very common question that people pose to themselves across the English speaking world: should I consolidate my outstanding debt? There is no single answer to this question, as no two people have identical finances and other personal circumstances. There are also other factors that come into play that can affect the right or wrong of your decision.In deciding whether to opt for debt consolidation you should take into account the following:

Financial Savings
Being able to save money is, or should be, an important factor in deciding whether to take out a debt consolidation loan. Typically, people who are considering consolidation will have multiple debts which include one or more with high interest rates. This particularly happens when loans are taken out during a period when market interest rates are high. The borrower sees cheaper loans advertised when the market rates decline, but the rates of his loans are fixed at a high level; it is therefore an immediate temptation to switch to one cheaper rate loan and to make interest charges and monthly payments cheaper.

Another type of debt that will bear a high interest rate is credit card debt. It can be attractive to consolidate such debt with any other loans, so that they can be paid off in one monthly payment at a lower level than the current loans added together. The lower monthly payments give the impression that you are making savings when opting for debt consolidation.

However, that apparent saving may be due to a longer term of loan. You do need to make sure you are actually making a saving. You can do this by checking the total annual interest charges for your existing debts, and compare them with what they would be under a new consolidation loan. Only by reducing your interest charges will you be making a true financial saving. When calculating any saving, be sure to take into account any charges made by the new lender, and any penalties you may suffer through paying off other loans early. Such costs can be critical in deciding whether there are any financial savings.

Improving Your Cash Flow With Debt Consolidation
Debt consolidation can bring great relief to your monthly cash flow, if done properly. So, whether it is personal debt or business debt that you are consolidating, you are given an opportunity to put your finances in better order.

Reducing Stress When You Consolidate Debt
Your level of stress can increase steadily if your finances are in poor order, and each month you find it more difficult to meet loan and credit card repayments on time. If you consolidate your debt you should be able to get the monthly repayment to a more affordable level, thus reducing the potential for stress as you struggle to make a lot of monthly repayments. You may also avoid the hassle of creditors chasing you, by preventing yourself from falling behind with payments.

The Affect On Your Credit Report If You Consolidate Debt
The precise affect on your credit report or status when you consolidate debt will depend on your location. Your new consolidation loan will be recorded, but so long as you maintain your payments, on time, for the duration of the loan, then you should emerge at the other end with a decent credit standing.

However, deciding not to consolidate debt may adversely affect your credit status if you subsequently default on any of your loans or credit cards.The above are just some of the factors that should be taken into account in a decision to take out a consolidation loan, and it is wise to consider everything fully before deciding. If you decide to go ahead, then shop around for the best deal. That will help you for many years to come.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Getting Rid of Debt

If your credit-card balance has crept up to uncomfortable levels, you're not alone. Millions of Americans have learned -- the hard way -- how easy it is to use and abuse their credit cards and how difficult it can be to pay them off.

Credit-card debt elimination tips:
  • Always be aware of all of the fees that may be associated with your credit card. (That means not tossing out the fine-print leaflets that come in your bill periodically!) Know the annual fees, current interest rates, finance charges, cash-advance fees and any other fees tied in with your card. This knowledge can help you make better decisions on how to manage your card.
  • Cash advances can be trouble! You should only get cash advances when it is absolutely necessary. Higher interest rates (than you're paying for card purchases) are usually charged, and most banks also charge a service fee related to how much cash you're withdrawing. (The same applies to those handy, personalized "checks" the credit-card company sends you!)
  • Always be on the look-out for cards that offer lower interest rates. Transferring balances from one card to another to take advantage of low introductory rates is a common practice among U.S. cardholders. Low introductory rates can be very helpful in your quest to become free of credit-card debt. You should look for credit cards that offer a low intro rate (usually for six months), and transfer the balance from your previous credit card to that credit card. Before you take this step, however, make sure that, after the intro rate has expired, the new card offers the same (or lower) interest rate as your current card.
  • Experts say that making minimum payments is one of the most common mistakes consumers make. You will save lots of money on interest and get to debt-free goals sooner if you pay more than what is required each month.
  • It's true that it's really easy to fall into the credit-card trap, and not so easy to get out. But don't give up -- there are non-profit centers across the country that will provide counseling to you and will even (at no or low charge) contact your credit-card company and try to get your rate lowered or a different payment plan worked out.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Financial Jargon

Before we get into shopping for a card, let's go over some important terms you'll encounter in credit-card brochures or discussions with potential lenders:
  • Annual fee - A flat, yearly charge similar to a membership fee. Many companies offer "no annual fee" cards today, and lenders who do charge annual fees are often willing to waive them to keep your business.
  • Finance charge - The dollar amount you pay to use credit Besides interest costs, this may include other charges such as cash-advance fees, which are charged against your card when you borrow cash from the lender. (You generally pay higher interest on cash advances than on purchases -- check your latest bill to find out what you're paying for this service!)
  • Grace period - A time period, usually about 25 days, during which you can pay your credit-card bill without paying a finance charge. Under almost all credit-card plans, the grace period only applies if you pay your balance in full each month. It does not apply if you carry a balance forward. Also, the grace period does not apply to cash advances.
  • Annual percentage rate (APR) - The yearly percentage rate of the finance charge. Interest rates on credit-card plans change over time. Some of these adjustments are tied to changes in other interest rates, such as the prime rate or the Treasury Bill rate, and are called variable-rate plans. Others are not explicitly tied to changes in other interest rates and are called fixed-rate plans.
  • Fixed rate - A fixed annual percentage rate of the finance charge
  • Variable rate - Prime rate (which varies) plus an added percentage (For example, your rate may be PR + 3.9 percent.)
  • Introductory rate - A temporary, lower APR that usually lasts for about six months before converting to the normal fixed or variable rate (This is a hot topic -- more about it later.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

What is a Credit Risk Score?

A credit risk score is a statistical summary of the information contained in a consumer's credit report. The most well known type of credit risk score is the Fair, Isaac or FICO score. Sophisticated mathematical processes calculate the score by assigning numerical values to various pieces of information in the credit report.

Credit bureaus provide risk scores to credit grantors who use them to objectively evaluate an applicant's credit-worthiness. The score itself is relative and will be viewed differently by creditors depending on numerous factors, including the creditor's risk level, marketing goals, and business practices. Your risk score will change over time as your credit history develops.

Does a Credit Report Contain Other, Unrelated Personal Information?
No. Your consumer credit report does not contain information about your race, religious preference, medical history, personal lifestyle, personal background, political preference or criminal record.

How Long Does Information Stay on My Credit Report?
Positive credit information remains on your report indefinitely, although information about an account will cycle off your report if no new information is reported about it for seven years. (Thus, a closed account will disappear from your report seven years after it is reported closed by the credit grantor.) Most negative information remains for up to 7 years. Bankruptcies can remain on your credit report for up to 10 years. Other public record information can remain for up to 7 years. Most inquiries stay on your credit report for up to two years.

What Is a Mortgage Report?
A mortgage report is a special credit report that lenders use prior to deciding whether or not to extend you a home loan. Each report is compiled from credit reports from two or three credit bureaus. The mortgage credit reporting company purchases credit reports from the credit bureaus, combines them, and manually verifies specific information such as employment, credit account balances, and public record information.

What Is an Employment Report?
An employment report is a modified credit report that helps potential and current employers make hiring and promoting decisions. The employment report contains much of the same information about your loans and credit cards that your credit report has listed. However, your marital status, year of birth, and account numbers are omitted from the employment report.

Who May Check My Credit Report?
Federal law carefully regulates how credit reports can be used and by whom. By law, you have the right to obtain your own reports at a reasonable price. Before they can access consumer credit information, businesses must offer proof that they will be using the data for no other purpose than that allowed by federal law.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

What Is a Credit Bureau?

A credit bureau or credit reporting agency is in the business of gathering, maintaining, and selling information about consumers' credit histories.

It collects information about consumers' payment habits from credit grantors like banks, savings and loans, credit unions, finance companies, and retailers. The credit bureau stores this information in a computer database and sells it to credit grantors in the form of credit reports. When you apply for a new credit card or loan, the credit grantor orders your credit report from at least one credit bureau and analyzes the information to decide whether to grant you credit.

The credit bureau charges the credit grantor a fee for every credit report sold. Although credit-reporting agencies provide your credit report to lenders when you apply for credit, they do not make actual lending decisions. It is up to individual lenders to evaluate your credit report and any other factors they consider important and then decide whether or not to offer you credit.

The Three Consumer Credit Bureaus
There are three major credit bureaus in the US providing nationwide coverage of consumer credit information in the United States : Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. Although many national lending institutions report consumer credit information to all three, smaller banks and other credit grantors may report to only one-or even none. Therefore, your credit report from one credit bureau is not necessarily exactly the same as your credit report from another.

What Exactly Is a Credit Report?

A consumer credit report is a document that contains a factual record of an individual's credit payment history. Credit grantors are permitted by law to review your credit report to objectively determine whether to grant you credit. There are 190 million credit active people in the United States who have a charge account, car loan, student loan, or home mortgage. As those people pay their bills, most lenders report credit payment information to credit bureaus. So most of the information in your consumer credit report comes directly from the companies you do business with.

What Information Does a Credit Report Contain?
A consumer credit report contains four types of information: identifying information, credit information, public record information, and inquiries. Identifying information includes:
  • Your name
  • Your current and previous addresses
  • Your Social Security number
  • Your year of birth
  • Your current and previous employers
  • If you're married, your spouse's name

Credit information includes credit accounts or loans you have with:

  • Banks
  • Retailers
  • Credit card issuers
  • Other lenders

Public record information includes any information that's contained in state and county court records, like:

  • Bankruptcies
  • Tax liens
  • Monetary judgments

Inquiries indicate to other credit grantors that you have applied for new credit that could result in additional debt. Potential lenders view multiple recent inquiries on your credit report as a sign that you are overextending yourself. (A credit risk score may also be included when your report is provided to a credit grantor, although it is not included on consumer review reports. The ways to calculate and use a credit score vary widely, so a score has little meaning outside of the context of a particular lender's unique guidelines for use. Therefore, it is not included on consumer review reports.)