Freezing Your Credit

In the age of paperless transactions, identify theft is something that virtually all of us are susceptible to. If your identity is stolen, the consequences can be severe, and in some cases, can take years to recover from. One way to be proactive against fraud and defend yourself from identity theft, is to freeze your credit report with each of the three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. 

Placing a credit freeze on your credit report will stop identity thieves from being able to open new accounts, lines of credit, or make any large purchases in your name, regardless of whether or not they have your Social Security number or any other sensitive information. 

What a credit freeze means

A credit freeze is a process that shuts off access to your credit reports at your request. Without your verified consent, your delicate information cannot be acquired. This means that if someone were to attempt to apply for credit in your name, your report would come up as “frozen,” and therefore the creditor would not be able to see the information needed for the application to be approved.

You can unfreeze your credit at any time by using a PIN or a password. 

Reasons to freeze your credit

It might be a good idea to freeze your credit if you’re experiencing any of the following situations:

  • Your data has been compromised in a data breach: It happens. If you’ve been a victim of a data breach and personal information related to your identity has been leaked or made vulnerable to cyber criminals, a credit freeze can offer you some extra protection. 
  • You have reason to think you’ve been a victim of identity theft: Perhaps you’ve checked your credit recently and noticed open accounts that you don’t recognize. Maybe you’ve been getting phone calls from collections agencies requesting payments from accounts you know you didn’t open. While a credit freeze won’t be able to stop them from using accounts a thief has already opened, it can stop them from opening any more. 
  • You want to protect your child from identity theft: According to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, parents and legally guardians of children 16 years old and younger have the right to open a credit account for their child with the sole purpose of putting a freeze on it to protect them from identity theft. 

How to freeze your credit 

The process of freezing your credit is simple but does require a few steps. You will need to get in touch with each of the three major credit bureaus one by one and request a credit freeze:

  • Experian: Contact by phone at 800-349-9960 or go to their website.
  • Equifax: Contact by phone at 888-397-3742 or go to their website.
  • TransUnion: Contact by phone at 888-909-8872 or go to their website.  

The credit bureaus will ask you for your Social Security number, your date of birth and other information to verify your identity.

Once you freeze your credit, your file will be unattainable even if a thief has sensitive information such as your social security number or date of birth. If you need to use your credit file, you can unfreeze your credit report at any time. 

How to unfreeze your credit

Once you’ve frozen your credit file, it will be remain blocked until you decide that you would like to unfreeze it. You will need to unfreeze your credit report in order to open a new line of credit or make a major purchase. 

Unfreezing your credit file is simple. All you will need to do is go online to each credit bureau website and use the personal identification number (PIN) that you used to place the freeze on the account. If you don’t want to complete this task online, you can also unfreeze your credit file over the phone or through postal mail. 

When the unfreezing process is done online or by phone, it is completed within minutes of submitting the request. However, if you send your request via mail, it will take much longer. 

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to unfreeze your credit through all three of the major credit bureaus if you don’t want to. For instance, let’s say you plan to apply for credit somewhere. You can ask the creditor which credit bureau it will go through to pull up your report, and only unfreeze that one credit bureau. 

You may also have the option to unfreeze for a specific amount of time. Once the time is up, your credit file will automatically freeze again. 

Credit freeze pros and cons

There are a few reasons why you might want to freeze your credit in this day and age, but just like with anything else, there are pros and cons to credit freezing. Here is a general breakdown of the benefits and downfalls of putting a freeze on your credit report:

Pros:

  • It prevents thieves from opening new lines of credit: With a credit freeze placed on your account, no one will be able to open a new line of credit or any other type of account requiring a credit check using your personal data. Anyone trying to commit fraud will be stopped in their tracks as soon as lenders notice that the report is frozen. 
  • It won’t affect your credit score: Freezing your credit report will not damage your credit score. Additionally, if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, freezing your credit report could actually protect your credit score from being damaged due to fraud. 
  • It’s free: It used to be the case that some credit freezes would cost a fee, but that is no longer the way it works. 

Cons

  • It requires some effort: Putting a credit freeze on your credit report takes some effort. You will need to get in touch with all three credit bureaus. 
  • You will need to remember your PINs: A PIN is required to lift or freeze your credit report. If you lose it, you will need to jump through extra hoops to create a new one.

It can’t stop thieves from accessing your existing accounts: Credit freezes can only stop fraudsters from opening new accounts using your information. If you’ve already been a victim of identity theft, a credit freeze can’t block thieves from committing fraud with your current accounts. This means that thieves can still make a purchase using a credit card they stole from you.

Freezing Your Credit is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Does Refinancing Hurt Your Credit?

Before you make any big financial decision, it’s crucial to learn how it may affect your credit score. If you’re looking to refinance, it’s natural to wonder if it might hurt your credit.

Typically, your credit health will not be strongly affected by refinancing, but the answer isn’t always black and white. Whether you’re still considering your options or already made your choice, we’ve outlined what you need to know about refinancing below.

What Is Refinancing?

Refinancing is defined by taking on a new loan to pay off the balance of your existing loan balance. How you approach a refinancing decision depends on whether it’s for a home, car, student loan, or personal loan. Since refinancing is essentially replacing an existing debt obligation with another debt obligation under different terms, it’s not a decision to take lightly.

If you’re worried about how refinancing will affect your credit health, remember that there are multiple factors that play into whether or not it hurts your credit score, but the top three factors are:

1) Having a Solid Credit Score

You won’t be in a strong position to negotiate refinancing terms without decent credit.

2) Earning Sufficient Income

If you can’t prove that you can keep up with loan payments after refinancing, it won’t be possible.

3) Proving Sufficient Equity

You’ll also need to provide assurance that the payments will still be made if your income can’t cover the cost. It’s recommended that you should have at least a 20 percent equity in a property when refinancing a home.

 

criteria-for-being-able-to-refinance-successfully

 

How Does Refinancing Hurt Your Credit?

Refinancing might seem like a good option, but exactly how does refinancing hurt your credit? In short, refinancing may temporarily lower your credit score. As a reminder, the main loan-related factors that affect credit scores are credit inquiries and changes to loan balances and terms.

Credit Inquiries

Whenever you refinance, lenders run a hard credit inquiry to verify your credit score. Hard credit inquiries typically lower your credit scores by a few points. Try to avoid incurring several new inquiries by using smart rate shopping tactics. It also helps to get all your applications in during a 14–45 day window.

Keep in mind that credit inquiries made during a 14–45 day period could count as one inquiry when your scores are calculated, depending on the type of loan and its scoring model. Regardless, your credit won’t be permanently damaged because the impact of a hard inquiry on your credit decreases over time anyway.

Changes to Loan Balances and Terms

How much your credit score is impacted by changes to loan balances and terms depends on whether your refinanced loan is reported to the credit bureaus. Lenders may report it as the same loan with changes or as an entirely new loan with a new open date.

If your loan from refinancing is reported as a new loan, your credit score could be more prominently affected. This is because a new or recent open date usually means that it is a new credit obligation, therefore influencing the score more than if the terms of the existing loan are simply changed.

How Do Common Types of Refinancing Affect Your Credit?

Refinancing could help you pay off your loans quicker, which could actually improve your credit. However, there are multiple factors to keep in mind when refinancing different types of loans.

 

main-types-of-refinancing-that-can-affect-your-credit

 

Refinancing a Mortgage

Refinancing a mortgage has the biggest potential impact on your credit health, and it can definitely affect your FICO score. How can you prevent refinancing from hurting your credit too much? Try concentrating your credit inquiries when you shop mortgage rates to a 14–45 day window — this will help prevent multiple hard inquiries. Also, you can work with your lenders to avoid having them all run your credit, which could risk lowering your credit score.

If you’re unsure about when to refinance your mortgage, do your research to capitalize on the best timing. For example, refinancing your mortgage while rates are low could be a viable option for you — but it depends on your situation. Keep in mind that losing your record of paying an old mortgage on time could be harmful to your credit score. A cash-out refinance could be detrimental, too.

Refinancing an Auto Loan

As you figure out if refinancing your auto loan is worth it, be sure to do your due diligence. When refinancing an auto loan, you’re taking out a second loan to pay off your existing car debt. In some cases, refinancing a car loan could be a wise move that could reduce your interest rate or monthly payments. For example, if you’re dealing with an upside-down auto loan, you might consider refinancing.

However, there are many factors to consider before making an auto loan refinancing decision. If the loan with a lower monthly payment has a longer term agreement, will you be comfortable with that? After all, the longer it takes to pay off your car, the more likely it is to depreciate in value.

Refinancing Student Loans

When it comes to student loan refinancing, a lower interest rate could lead to major savings. Whether you’ve built up your own strong credit history or benefit from a cosigner, refinancing can be rewarding.

Usually, you can refinance both your federal and private student loans. Generally speaking, refinancing your student loans shouldn’t be detrimental in the grand scheme of your financial future. However, be aware that refinancing from a federal loan to a private loan will have an impact on the repayment options available to you. Since federal loans can offer significantly better repayment options than private loans, keep that in mind before making your decision.

Pros Cons
If the cost of borrowing is low, securing a lower interest rate is possible Credit scores can drop due to credit checks from lenders
If your credit score greatly improved, you can refinance to get a better rate Credit history can be negatively affected by closing a previous loan to refinance
Refinancing a loan can help you lower expenses in both the short term and long term Refinancing can involve fees, so be sure to do a cost-benefit analysis

How to Prevent Refinancing from Hurting Your Credit

By planning ahead, you can put yourself in a position to not let refinancing negatively affect your credit and overall financial health.

Try to prepare by reading your credit reports closely, making sure there are no errors that could keep your credit application from being approved at the best possible rate. Stay one step ahead of any errors so you still have time to dispute them. As long as you take preventative measures in the refinancing process to save yourself time and money, you shouldn’t find yourself struggling with the refinancing.

If refinancing makes sense for your situation, you shouldn’t be concerned about it hurting your credit. It might not be the most ideal situation, but it’s extremely common and typically relatively easy for your credit score to bounce back.

If you notice that your new loan from refinancing causes alarming changes when you check your credit score, be sure to reach out to your creditor or consider filing a dispute. As long as you’re prioritizing your overall financial health through smart decision making and budgeting, refinancing shouldn’t adversely hurt your credit in the long run.

 

 

 

The post Does Refinancing Hurt Your Credit? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How to Use Your Cable Bill to Build Credit

Cable companies aren’t in the habit of reporting your payments to the credit bureaus, at least when it comes to your traditional credit reports. But if that’s something you want, there is a way to get those monthly bills to help your credit score.

Simply put, consider paying for cable with your credit card.

Unlike cable providers, credit card issuers do generally report to the major credit reporting agencies, so using your plastic to pay for a bill that you’re already in the habit of covering from month to month can help you build a payment history, the single biggest factor in establishing credit scores.

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Of course, for this strategy to work, you have to pay that credit card off on time and, ideally, in full. Otherwise, it will have the opposite effect on your score and you’ll wind up paying interest just to watch your favorite television shows.

To make sure you don’t miss a payment, sign up for alerts or, even, set your credit card bill to auto-pay. You could also pay the charge off via a linked debit card account as soon as it’s processed if you’re worried about winding up with a big balance (which could affect your credit utilization, another major factor of credit scores) at the end of the month.

A Few More Tips & Tricks

There’s a chance that your provider will charge a fee for paying by credit card, so be sure to check that there’s no extra charge before using this method. And, if you do set that credit card to auto-pay, monitor your monthly cable statements. You don’t want to miss a new fee or billing error and wind up paying more than you owe or intended.

Rewards credit cards can earn you some points, miles or cash back, so if you have one in your wallet, you might want to use that particular piece of plastic to pay your cable bill. If your credit is on the brink and you don’t have any credit cards, you can consider applying for (and then using) a secured credit card, which is designed specifically to help people build credit. (You can learn more about the best secured credit cards in America here.)

A Quick Reminder

Unpaid cable bills can damage your credit, even when they’re not being covered by a credit card. Accounts that go unpaid long enough can wind up in collections, which will hurt your scores. (You can see how any collections accounts may be affecting your credit by viewing your free credit score, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

If your credit is in rough shape, due to an collection account or other payment history troubles, you may be able to improve your scores by paying delinquent accounts, addressing high credit card balances and disputing any errors that may be weighing them down. And remember, you can build good credit in the long term by making all loan payments on time, keeping debt levels low and adding to the mix of accounts you have, as your score and wallet can handle it.

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

  • The Credit.com Credit Reports Learning Center
  • How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report
  • How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life

Image: Ivanko_Brnjakovic

The post How to Use Your Cable Bill to Build Credit appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

16 Small Steps You Can Take Now to Improve Your Finances

Pretty brunette with moneybox in hands

You have all kinds of financial goals you want to achieve, but where should you begin? There are so many different aspects of money management that it can be difficult to find a starting point when trying to achieve financial success. If you’re feeling lost and overwhelmed, take a deep breath. Progress can be made in tiny, manageable steps. Here’s are 16 small things you can do right now to improve your overall financial health. (See also: These 13 Numbers Are Crucial to Understanding Your Finances)

1. Create a household budget

The biggest step toward effective money management is making a household budget. You first need to figure out exactly how much money comes in each month. Once you have that number, organize your budget in order of financial priorities: essential living expenses, contributions to retirement savings, repaying debt, and any entertainment or lifestyle costs. Having a clear picture of exactly how much is coming in and going out every month is key to reaching your financial goals.

2. Calculate your net worth

Simply put, your net worth is the total of your assets minus your debts and liabilities. You’re left with a positive or negative number. If the number is positive, you’re on the up and up. If the number is negative — which is especially common for young people just starting out — you’ll need to keep chipping away at debt.

Remember that certain assets, like your home, count on both sides of the ledger. While you may have mortgage debt, it is secured by the resale value of your home. (See also: 10 Ways to Increase Your Net Worth This Year)

3. Review your credit reports

Your credit history determines your creditworthiness, including the interest rates you pay on loans and credit cards. It can also affect your employment opportunities and living options. Every 12 months, you can check your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) for free at annualcreditreport.com. It may also be a good idea to request one report from one bureau every four months, so you can keep an eye on your credit throughout the year without paying for it.

Regularly checking your credit report will help you stay on top of every account in your name and can alert you to fraudulent activity.

4. Check your credit score

Your FICO score can range from 300-850. The higher the score, the better. Keep in mind that two of the most important factors that go into making up your credit score are your payment history, specifically negative information, and how much debt you’re carrying: the type of debts, and how much available credit you have at any given time. (See also: How to Boost Your Credit Score in Just 30 Days)

5. Set a monthly savings amount

Transferring a set amount of money to a savings account at the same time you pay your other monthly bills helps ensure that you’re regularly and intentionally saving money for the future. Waiting to see if you have any money left over after paying for all your other discretionary lifestyle expenses can lead to uneven amounts or no savings at all.

6. Make minimum payments on all debts

The first step to maintaining a good credit standing is to avoid making late payments. Build your minimum debt reduction payments into your budget. Then, look for any extra money you can put toward paying down debt principal. (See also: The Fastest Way to Pay Off $10,000 in Credit Card Debt)

7. Increase your retirement saving rate by 1 percent

Your retirement savings and saving rate are the most important determinants of your overall financial success. Strive to save 15 percent of your income for most of your career for retirement, and that includes any employer match you may receive. If you’re not saving that amount yet, plan ahead for ways you can reach that goal. For example, increase your saving rate every time you get a bonus or raise.

8. Open an IRA

An IRA is an easy and accessible retirement savings vehicle that anyone with earned income can access (although you can’t contribute to a traditional IRA past age 70½). Unlike an employer-sponsored account, like a 401(k), an IRA gives you access to unlimited investment choices and is not attached to any particular employer. (See also: Stop Believing These 5 Myths About IRAs)

9. Update your account beneficiaries

Certain assets, like retirement accounts and insurance policies, have their own beneficiary designations and will be distributed based on who you have listed on those documents — not necessarily according to your estate planning documents. Review these every year and whenever you have a major life event, like a marriage.

10. Review your employer benefits

The monetary value of your employment includes your salary in addition to any other employer-provided benefits. Consider these extras part of your wealth-building tools and review them on a yearly basis. For example, a Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA) can help pay for current health care expenses through your employer and a Health Savings Account (HSA) can help you pay for medical expenses now and in retirement. (See also: 8 Myths About Health Savings Accounts — Debunked!)

11. Review your W-4

The W-4 form you filled out when you first started your job dictates how much your employer withholds for taxes — and you can make changes to it. If you get a refund at tax time, adjusting your tax withholdings can be an easy way to increase your take-home pay. Also, remember to review this form when you have a major life event, like a marriage or after the birth of a child. (See also: Are You Withholding the Right Amount of Taxes from Your Paycheck?)

12. Ponder your need for life insurance

In general, if someone is dependent upon your income, then you may need a life insurance policy. When determining how much insurance you need, consider protecting assets and paying off all outstanding debts, as well as retirement and college costs. (See also: 15 Surprising Insurance Policies You Might Need)

13. Check your FDIC insurance coverage

First, make sure that the banking institutions you use are FDIC insured. For credit unions, you’ll want to confirm it’s a National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) federally-covered institution. Federal deposit insurance protects up to $250,000 of your deposits for each type of bank account you have. To determine your account coverage at a single bank or various banks, visit FDIC.gov.

14. Check your Social Security statements

Set up an online account at SSA.gov to confirm your work and income history and to get an idea of what types of benefits, if any, you’re entitled to — including retirement and disability.

15. Set one financial goal to achieve it by the end of the year

An important part of financial success is recognizing where you need to focus your energy in terms of certain financial goals, like having a fully funded emergency account, for example.

If you’re overwhelmed by trying to simultaneously work on reaching all of your goals, pick one that you can focus on and achieve it by the end of the year. Examples include paying off a credit card, contributing to an IRA, or saving $500.

16. Take a one-month spending break

Unfortunately, you can never take a break from paying your bills, but you do have complete control over how you spend your discretionary income. And that may be the only way to make some progress toward some of your savings goals. Try trimming some of your lifestyle expenses for just one month to cushion your checking or savings account. You could start by bringing your own lunch to work every day or meal-planning for the week to keep your grocery bill lower and forgo eating out. (See also: How a Simple "Do Not Buy" List Keeps Money in Your Pocket)

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With the new year here, it’s time to take control of your financial goals. From creating a household budget, to calculating your net worth, or setting a monthly savings amount, we’ve got 16 small steps you can take to improve your finances. | #personalfinance #moneymatters #budgeting


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How to Negotiate Your Medical Debt

Let’s face it: The worst thing about having to go to the hospital to receive medical treatment is being slammed with a huge bill afterwards. Sometimes, these medical bills are so expensive that you simply don’t have the means to pull it off right away, especially without health insurance. While we may find it easier in the short term to pretend that our unpaid medical bills don’t exist, avoiding the problem could only make it worse. Many medical providers are aware of this, which is why there are ways that you can negotiate your medical debt when you are unable to pay in full. In this article, we will discuss the different ways you can go about taking care of those medical expenses so that they don’t stack up later and wreak havoc on your credit.

Negotiate for insurance rates

Without health insurance, you’ll most likely be charged a much steeper price. If you want to negotiate your medical bills, one thing you can do is research what the fair market value is for whatever treatments you received. Usually, this is the price that insurance companies have to pay medical providers, and most of the time, it’s a lot cheaper.

Once you’ve found the dollar amount you’d like to ask for, you will need to get in touch with the billing department. If the person on the phone turns you down, ask to speak to their supervisor. It’s important to remain calm and polite while doing this but be persistent. Continue to ask to speak to a higher ranking individual until you reach someone who agrees to make a deal with you.

Pay it in cash

Cash payments are hard to turn down in most cases. if you want to negotiate a lower price on medical bills, you can offer to make a cash payment. Call your medical provider or the billing department and ask them if they would be willing to knock down the price of your bills if you were to pay in cash. Explain to them that if they can’t offer you any other sort of financial assistance, then this is another route you can take.

Not only will this save them money on credit card fees and hours worked by office employees, but it will also save time spent on processing paperwork. This is a smart offer to make, as instant cash payments as opposed to electronic payments are a lot harder to say no to for any business or institution.

Ask for a payment plan

There’s a good chance that even after you’ve asked for a lower price and offered to pay in cash, your medical provider will be unwilling to give you a deal. When this happens, there is still one more thing you can try. Before readily handing over your credit card, ask them if you can make payments on your bill. Most companies will allow you to do this and are used to working with people who are unable to pay their bills in full. Be honest about how much you are able to pay at a time.

It’s likely that they will try to negotiate a higher payment amount, but politely tell them that it’s not feasible for you. Most of the time, they will be understanding and take whatever payment they can get. If you’re struggling financially, making small payments on your medical bills is the best way to go to keep your credit score in tact. As long as you are making payments on your bills, the companies will not report you to the credit bureaus.

Take precautionary measures

A lot of medical providers and medical facilities have programs that offer financial assistance, but you are going to have to ask them for it. Be transparent at the time of or even before your medical treatment occurs. If the treatment you are seeking is not a medical emergency, ask ahead of time if there is a cheaper option or if you can get a discount. If you don’t have health insurance, this needs to be explained as early on as possible. Let your doctor know if you are living off of low income or if you are in the midst of some other type of financial hardship that is keeping you from being able to pay for service.

If you are successful in negotiating your medical bills, you might want to get it in writing so that you have proof. In some cases, you may even want to make your request in writing so that you have it on record in case anything goes wrong later. Once a deal has been agreed upon by both you and the medical provider or billing department, type up a summary of the conversation including key details of who you spoke to and the prices that were negotiated.

Other options for paying bills

There is no one-size-fits-all way of clearing your medical bills once and for all.  Some people have insurance, some can afford to pay in full, and some are going to have to negotiate a lower price. If you have already tried negotiating medical bills and were unsuccessful, there are other options to explore. Here are some other ways you can go about paying your medical bills:

  • Medical credit cards: There’s no guarantee that your medical provider will accept a payment plan. However, most of the time, they will accept payment with the use of a medical credit card. If you have no other choice, ask your doctor’s office about how you can apply for a medical credit card. Usually, you are able to apply at the office right then and there. Most medical credit cards offer zero interest for up to 12 months. If you can manage to pay off the medical debt within that timeframe, then perhaps a medical credit card is a good choice for you. Be wary of this if you already have poor credit.
  • Personal loan: If you’ve already been through all of your other options and were unable to make something work, it might be time to look at taking out a type of unsecured credit, such as a personal loan. If you have a significant amount of medical debt looming over your head, this might be a good idea as you can usually take out anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000. Once again, if you don’t have a good history with using credit, seriously consider the pros and cons of doing this.
  • Interest free credit card: If you don’t end up qualifying for a payment plan or a medical credit card, you can use a 0% interest credit card to pay the tab as long as you have good or outstanding credit.
  • Hire a medical bill advocate: If you feel overwhelmed by the task of reading through your medical bills and looking for errors, you can hire a professional to do it for you. Medical bill advocates are familiar with common procedures and the prices of treatments. If you have been wrongfully charged or overcharged, a medical bill advocate will be able to find this right away. Aside from pinpointing any errors, experts in medical bills will also do the negotiating for you.

Final Thoughts

If you are feeling overwhelmed by a large medical bill, remember that you have several options for taking care of it. It might be tempting to ignore the bill altogether but doing this could really damage your credit. Being honest with your medical provider from the beginning can prevent you from having to deal with extra costs. However, sometimes medical bills are ineveitable and we have to pay them. Consider payment plans or a medical credit card, but whatever you do, don’t let your unpaid medical bills be a show stopper!

How to Negotiate Your Medical Debt is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

How to Build Credit with Fingerhut

If you’ve been wanting to make a big purchase, but your credit is less than spectacular, you might have looked into Fingerhut as an option. 

Fingerhut is an online catalog and retailer that showcases a multitude of products. On this website, customers can shop for anything from electronics to home décor to auto parts. Fingerhut offers financing through their own line of credit, making it appealing to shoppers with poor credit or a nonexistent credit history. Many consumers have a better chance of getting approved by Fingerhut, than they might have of getting approved through most other credit card companies. It’s an option worth looking into if you want to improve your credit score through credit utilization.  

The major difference between Fingerhut and credit cards that cater to low credit scores is that Fingerhut credit is exclusively available for use with its own company’s products and authorized partners. You’ll also find that the company’s products are pricier than they would be through most other retailers, while also bearing the weight of higher interest rates. While it might seem like a good idea if you don’t have good credit, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the company beforehand so that you know what you’re signing up for. 

How Fingerhut credit works

When you apply for a Fingerhut credit account, you can get approved by one of two accounts:

  • WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account.
  • Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan issued by WebBank.

As it happens, by submitting your application, you are applying for both credit accounts. Applicants will be considered for the Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan issued by WebBank as a direct result of being denied for the WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account. In other words, you won’t have a way of knowing which one you will be approved for prior to applying. Both credit accounts are issued by WebBank and are set up so that customers can purchase merchandise by paying for them on an installment plan with a 29.99% Annual Percentage Rate (APR). These are the only things that the different Fingerhut credit accounts have in common.

The WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account

The WebBank/Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account works very much like an unsecured credit card, except that it’s an account that you can only use it to shop on Fingerhut or through its authorized partners. 

This credit account features:

  •  No annual fee.
  • A 29.99% interest rate.
  • A $38 fee on late or returned payments.
  • A possible down payment; it may or may not be required. You won’t know prior to applying. 

If you get denied for this line of credit, your application will automatically be reviewed for the Fingerhut FreshStart Credit Account issued by WebBank, which is both structured and conditioned differently.

Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan issued by WebBank

If you get approved for the Fingerhut FreshStart Installment Loan, you must follow these three steps to activate it:

  • Make a one-time purchase of no less than $50.
  • Put a minimum payment of $30 down on your purchase, and your order will be shipped to you upon receipt of your payment. You may not use a credit card to make down payments, but you can use a debit card, check, or a money order. 
  • Make monthly payments on your balance within a span of six to eight months.

You can become eligible to upgrade to the Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account so long as you are able to pay off your balance during that time frame or sooner without having made any late payments. Keep in mind that paying for the entire balance in full at the time you make your down payment will result in you not qualifying for the loan as well as being ineligible for upgrade. 

How a Fingerhut credit account helps raise your credit score

The fact that it can help you improve your credit is one of the biggest advantages of using a Fingerhut credit account. 

When you make your payments to Fingerhut in full and on-time, the company will report that activity to the three major credit bureaus. This means that your good credit utilization won’t go unnoticed nor unrewarded. If you use Fingerhut to improve your credit score, you will eventually be able to apply for a credit card through a traditional credit card company—one where you can make purchases anywhere, not just at Fingerhut. 

Additional benefits of a Fingerhut credit account

Besides using it as a tool to repair your bad credit, there are a few other benefits to using a WebBank Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account such as:

  • No annual fee.
  • Fingerhut has partnerships with a handful of other retailers, which means you can use your Fingerhut credit line to make purchases through a variety of companies. Fingerhut is partnered with companies that specialize in everything from floral arrangements to insurance plans.
  • There are no penalties on the WebBank Fingerhut Advantage Credit Account when you pay off your balance early.

How to build credit with Fingerhut

Fingerhut credit works the same way as the loans from credit card companies work: in the form of a revolving loan. 

A revolving loan is when you are designated a maximum credit limit by your lender, in which you are allowed to spend. Whatever you spend, you are expected to pay back in full and on-time through a series of monthly payments. This act of borrowing money and paying off bills using your Fingerhut account causes your balances to revolve and fluctuate, hence, its name. 

Your credit activity, good or bad, gets reported to the three major credit bureaus and in turn, will have an effect on your credit report. Revolving loans play a large role in your credit score, affecting approximately 30% of your score through your credit utilization ratio. If your credit utilization ratio, the amount of available revolving credit divided by your amount owed, is too high then your credit score will plummet. 

When using a Fingerhut account, the goal is to try to keep your amounts owed as low as you possibly can so that you can maintain a low utilization ratio, and as a result, have a higher credit score.

Alternatives to Fingerhut

If you’ve done all your research and decided that Fingerhut isn’t the right choice for you, there are other options that might serve you better, even if you have bad credit. There are a variety of secured credit cards that you can apply for such as:

  • The OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card: You will need a $200 security deposit to qualify for this secured credit card, but you can most likely get approved without a credit check or even a bank account. It can also be used to improve your credit, as this card does report to the three major credit bureaus. While this card does come with an annual $35 fee, you can use it to shop anywhere that will accept a Visa. 
  • Discover it Secured:  For all those opposed to paying an annual fee of any sort, this card might just be the one for you. With a $0 annual fee and the ability to earn rewards through purchases, there’s not much to frown about with this secured credit card. One of the best perks, is that it allows you the chance to upgrade to an unsecured card after only eight months. 
  • Deserve Pro Mastercard: This card is a desirable option for those with a short credit history. There is no annual fee and no security deposit required and, if your credit history isn’t very long-winded, that’s okay. The issuers for this card may use their own process to decide whether or not you qualify for credit, by evaluating other factors such as income and employment. This card is especially nifty because you can get cash-back rewards such as 3% back on every dollar that you spend on travel and entertainment, 2% back on every dollar spent at restaurants, and 1% cash back on every dollar spent on anything else. 

Final Thoughts 

Fingerhut is an option worth looking into for those with bad credit or a short credit history. If you want to use a Fingerhunt credit account to improve your credit score, be sure to use it wisely and make all of your payments on time, just as you would with any other credit card.

Even though it might be easy to get approved, the prices and interest rates on items sold through Fingerhut are set higher than they would be at most other retailers, so it’s important to consider this before applying. 

There are a ton of options available, regardless of what your credit report looks like, if you are trying to improve your credit. If the prices of Fingerhut’s merchandise are enough to scare you away, you might want to consider applying for a secured credit card. 

How to Build Credit with Fingerhut is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

How and When to Talk to a Credit Bureau

Two women wearing pink smile at a phone while drinking coffee in a cafe against a gray wall.

Your credit score can have a huge impact on your life—for better or worse. In many ways, the three major credit bureaus are the keepers of your credit score. They’re responsible for maintaining credit reports, which means you may need to contact them about the information included on yours. While this may seem daunting, it’s really not complicated.

Read on to learn about when to contact a credit bureau and how to do it. Contact information and tips have been provided for each of the three credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—to make it as simple as possible.

When to Contact a Credit Bureau

Anytime you notice inaccuracies on your credit report, you should immediately contact the credit bureau. This can include misspelled names, incorrect address information, unreported salary changes or erroneous employment information.

Here are some other reasons why you might need to contact a credit bureau:

  • There are credit cards, collections missed payments or anything else on your report that you don’t recognize.
  • You’re in credit disputes with your credit card issuer or financial institution. You can address this with the credit bureaus, which are required to investigate.

For help talking to the credit bureaus and starting a credit repair plan, you can work with a professional credit repair agency. They offer credit monitoring, credit repair services and text alerts so you don’t miss a thing.

Get Credit Repair Help
  • You want to get a hard inquiry removed from your history, especially if it’s an unauthorized inquiry.
  • An account is missing from your report.
  • You want to remove inaccurate or unfair collection accounts from your report. Keep in mind that if you can’t dispute them successfully, these accounts can stay on your account for a number of years.
  • You want to request a free annual credit report.
  • You want to put a temporary freeze or lock on your credit file.
  • You notice any sign of fraud on your credit report.

Information to Gather before You Call

You want to have the right information on hand when you call a credit bureau. Prepare yourself by collecting the following information in advance, just in case:

  • Your name, address, Social Security number and date of birth
  • A copy of your annual credit report
  • Evidence of the inaccuracies or errors, if relevant
  • Personal financial information, such as your mortgage information, depending on the reported issue
  • Any other supporting documentation

Credit Bureau Contact Information

Because there are so many potential reasons to contact a credit bureau—general inquiries, disputes and credit freezes, for example—there are many different phone numbers and online contact forms to wade through. If you call the wrong number, you may simply be told they cannot help you and directed to call a different number, wasting precious time and energy.

To help you avoid that frustration, we’ve gathered several ways you can contact the credit bureaus for common inquiries here.

Equifax Phone Numbers

Reason to Contact

Phone Number

Availability

General inquiries

866-640-2273

 

Service cancellation

866-243-8181

8 a.m. to 3 a.m. (ET)
7 days a week

Request a copy of your credit report

866-349-5191

8 a.m. to midnight (ET)
7 days a week

Fraud alert

800-525-6285

8 a.m. to midnight (ET)
7 days a week

Credit dispute

866-349-5191

8 a.m. to midnight (ET)
7 days a week

Credit freeze

888-298-0045

8 a.m. to midnight (ET)
7 days a week

2017 data breach

888-548-7878

8 a.m. to midnight (ET)
7 days a week

Opt out of mailing lists

888-567-8688

 

 

If you don’t like talking on the phone, Equifax also offers live chat support. You can chat with a member of their customer support team between 8 a.m. and midnight (ET), Monday through Friday.


TransUnion Phone Numbers

Reason to Contact

Phone Number

Availability

General inquiries

833-395-6938

8 a.m. to 11 p.m. (ET)
Monday–Friday

Credit dispute

833-395-6941

8 a.m to 11:00 p.m. (ET)

Monday–Friday

Credit freeze

888-909-8872

8 a.m. to 11 p.m. (ET)

Fraud alert

800-680-7289

8 a.m.to 11 p.m. (ET)

Free annual report

877-322-8228

 

Haven’t received your report

800-888-4213
800-916-8800 (to speak to a representative)

 

Manage your subscription

833-806-1626

8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (ET)

Monday–Friday

 

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET)
Saturday–Sunday

Technical support

833-806-1626

8 a.m. to 9 pm. (ET)

Monday–Friday

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET)
Saturday–Sunday


Experian Phone Numbers

Reason to Contact

 Phone Number

Availability

Experian membership

479-343-6239

6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (PT)
Monday–Friday

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT)
Saturday–Sunday

Free credit report

888-397-3742

 

Credit dispute

866-200-6020

 

Fraud alert

888-397-3742

 

Credit freeze

888-397-3742

 

Cancel membership

479-343-6239

 

ProtectMyID subscription

866-960-6943

 

Opt out of prescreened offers

888-567-8688

 


Alternatives to Calling Credit Bureaus

Not all experts think calling a credit bureau is the best approach. Don Petersen, an attorney at Howard Lewis & Peterson, PC, in Utah, recommends calling a bureau for only basic administrative questions—such as updating an address or asking if a recent data breach has affected you.

For most other issues, Petersen advises his clients to write to credit bureaus or submit disputes online. This provides you with an official record of your request.

If you do prefer to call a credit bureau, take notes during the call and follow up in writing after the telephone conversation. In your follow-up letter, you should include the name of the representative you spoke with as well as details of what transpired in your conversation.

Send important requests—especially disputes—through certified mail. This allows you to track the letter and ensure that the credit bureau responds in a timely manner. Never send original copies of documents, as the bureaus may not return anything you send.

Equifax Mailing Addresses

Reason for Contact

Address

Credit dispute

Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256

Request a copy of your credit report

Equifax Disclosure Department
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Fraud alert

Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 105069
Atlanta, GA 30348-5069

Credit freeze

Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348-5788


TransUnion Mailing Addresses

Reason to Contact

Address

Credit freeze

TransUnion
P.O. Box 160
Woodlyn, PA 19094

Credit dispute

TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016-2000

Fraud alert

TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016

Request credit report

TransUnion LLC
Consumer Disclosure Center
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19016


Experian Mailing Addresses

Reason to Contact

Address

Credit dispute

Experian Dispute Department
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013

Credit freeze

Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013

Privacy

Chief Privacy Officer
Compliance Department
Experian
475 Anton Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Report a relative’s death

Experian
P.O. Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013


Track Your Credit

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to obtain a free copy of all three reports once each year. These free reports can be accessed on the government-mandated site operated by the big three credit bureaus, AnnualCreditReport.com.

You can also sign up for the free credit report card offered by Credit.com, which provides a snapshot of your credit as well as the ability to dig deeper into the elements that affect your credit score. When you sign up, you’ll also get regular emails with tips and tricks for keeping your credit healthy.

Sign Up Now

The post How and When to Talk to a Credit Bureau appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com