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

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

Late Payments, Credit Scores and Credit Reports

A missed credit card or loan payment can have a seriously detrimental effect on your credit report. The golden rule of using a credit card is to make your payments on time every time, building a respectable payment history, avoiding debt, and keeping your creditor happy.

But what happens when you fall behind with your monthly payments; what happens when you miss a single loan or credit card payment as a result of a mistake, an oversight or a lack of funds? How will your creditor react, how quickly will the credit reporting agencies find out, and what options do you have for getting back on your feet?

How Late Payments Affect Your Credit Score

A late payment can reduce your credit score significantly and remain on your report for 7 years. It won’t impact your score throughout that time and the longer you leave it, the less of an impact it will have. However, the impact could be significant for individuals with good credit and bad credit.

As an example, if you have a credit score of 750 to 800, which is towards the upper end, a late payment could knock up to 710 points from your score. More importantly, it will remain on your payment history for years to come and reduce your chances of getting everything from a student loan to a credit card and mortgage.

How Soon do Late Payments Show on Credit Reports

You won’t be hit with a derogatory mark as soon as you miss a credit card payment. The credit card issuer may charge you a fee, but by law, they are not allowed to market it as a missed payment until it is 30 days due. And this doesn’t just apply to credit card debt, it’s true for loans as well.

Providing you cover the payment within 30-days, you can avoid a missed payment mark appearing on your credit report. But as soon as that period passes, your lender will inform the major credit bureaus and your score will take a hit.

Some lenders wait even longer before reporting, so you may have as long as 60 days to make that payment. Check with your creditor to see when they start reporting missed payments.

What About Partial Payments?

Many lenders treat a partial payment the same as a missed payment, especially where credit cards are concerned. If you’re struggling to meet your payment obligations, contact your creditor in advance, tell them how desperate your situation is and inform them that you can meet part of the payment.

They may offer you some reprieve, they may not, but you won’t know if you don’t ask. However, it’s worth noting that this will only impact your score if you don’t cover the remaining credit card payment before the 30-day period is up.

To avoid confusion, we should also mention that this only applies to the minimum payment. Some credit card users get confused with the difference between a balance and a minimum payment.

Simply put, the balance is what you clear at the end of the month to avoid accumulating debt and paying interest. If you fail to pay that balance on time, your debt will simply roll over to the next month, after which you will be required to meet a minimum payment on your debt. If, however, you miss that minimum payment, then you’re at risk of your credit report taking a hit.

Reporting agencies don’t record the difference between a rolling balance and a debt. If you spend $3,000 on your card every month but pay it off without fail and without delay, you won’t accumulate interest and technically, you won’t have debt. However, at the end of the month, the reporting agencies will show that you owe $3,000 on that card, just as they would show if you had accumulated a balance of $1,000 a month for three months and let it rollover.

How Long Does a Late Payment Stay?

A late payment will remain on your credit report for 7 years. But herein lies another confusion. Just because it reduces your score by 100 points and remains for 7 years doesn’t mean you will suffer a reduction of 100 points for those 7 years. 

It generally stops having a major impact on your score after a couple of years and while it will still have an impact in that 7-year period, it will be infinitesimal by the time you reach the end.

How Many Late Payments Can You Make Before it Reduces Your Score?

One late credit card payment is all it takes to reduce your score, providing that late payment was delayed by at least 30-days. However, that doesn’t mean you can forget about it once the 30-day period has passed and it definitely doesn’t mean that all the possible damage has been done.

It can and will get worse if you continue to avoid that payment. Your credit report will show how late the payment is in 30-day installments. When it reached 180 days, your account will enter default and may be charged-off, which will reduce your score and your chances of acquiring future credit even more.

Your creditor may sell your account to a collection agency. If this happens, the agency will chase you for repayment, seeking to establish a repayment plan or to request a settlement. Accounts are often in this stage when a consumer goes through debt settlement, as creditors and debt collectors are typically more susceptible to accepting reduced settlements because the debt has all but been written off.

How to Remove Late Payments from Your Credit Report

Although rare, it is possible to remove late payments from your credit report. There are also numerous ways you can reverse late payment fees, and we recommend trying these whenever you can as it will save you a few bucks.

Here are a few options to remove late payments and late payment fees:

Use Your Respectable History

The quickest way to get what you want is to ask for it. If you have a clean credit history and have made your payments on time in the past, you can request that the fee/mark be removed. 

Write them a letter requesting forgiveness, explain that it was an oversight or a temporary issue and point to your record as proof that this will likely not happen again. Creditors may seem like heartless corporations, but real humans make their decisions for them and, like all companies, they have to put their customers first.

Request Automatic Payments

Lenders have been known to remove late payment fees if the debtor signs up for automatic payments. It makes their job easier as it prevents issues in the future and ensures they get what they are owed, so it’s something they actively promote.

They may make this offer themselves, but if not, contact them and ask them if there is anything you can do to remove the late payment. They should bring this up; if they don’t, you can. It doesn’t hurt to ask and the worse they can do is say no.

Claim Difficulties

If you claim financial difficulties or hardships and make it clear that a late payment will make those difficulties much worse, the lender may be willing to help. Contrary to what you might think, their goal is not to make life difficult for you and to destroy you financially. 

It’s important to see things from their perspective. If you borrow $15,000 and your balance climbs to $20,000 with interest, their main goal is to get that $15,000 back, after which everything else is profit. If you pay $10,000 and start slipping-up, the risk of default will increase. The worse your financial situation becomes, the higher that risk will be. 

If they eventually sell the account to a debt collector, that remaining $10,000 could earn them just a couple of hundred dollars, which means they will lose a substantial sum of money. They are generally willing to help any way they can if doing so will increase their profits.

How to Avoid Late Payments

A late payment can do some serious damage to your payment history so the best thing to do is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. It’s a no-brainer, but this is a common issue and it’s one that countless consumers have every single year. So, keep your credit card and loan payments stable with these tips.

Set Automatic Payments

Occasionally, consumers forget to pay. Life is hectic, they have a lot of responsibilities to juggle, and it’s easy for them to overlook a single payment. If this happens, it should be caught and fixed before the 30-day period ends and the credit bureaus find out. But even then, fees can accumulate, and problems escalate.

To avoid this, set up automatic payments so your minimum payment is paid in full every month. You can do this for all debt, including student loan payments. Just make sure you have the money in your account to meet this minimum charge, otherwise, you could be paying for debt on one account by accumulating it on another.

Set a Budget

A credit card is designed to encourage you to spend money you don’t have. You’re buying things you can’t afford now in the hope or expectation that you will cover them later, only to realize that you’re struggling so much you can’t even cover the minimum payment.

If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, it’s time to analyze your finances and create a sensible budget. You may feel like you have a good idea of what you’re spending each month and how this compares to your gross income, but the vast majority of consumers seriously underestimate their expenses.

Improve Your Credit by Fixing Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Calculate your debt to income ratio by comparing your total debt (credit card payments, student loans) to your gross income. The higher this is, the harder you need to work, and the less you need to spend on your credit card. 

Your debt to income ratio should be your central focus when seeking to improve your credit score, because while it’s not considered for loan and credit card applications, it does play a role in mortgage applications and is important for calculating affordability.

Conclusion: It’s Not the End of the World

A late payment can strike a disastrous blow to your credit report, but it’s not the end of the world and you do have a few options at your disposal. Not only do you have up to 30 (and sometimes 60) days to make the payment and prevent a derogatory market, but you can file a claim to have it removed in the event that it does appear.

And if none of that works, a little credit repair can get you back on track. Just keep making those payments every month, talk with your lender when you find yourself in trouble, and remember that nothing is unfixable where credit is concerned.

Late Payments, Credit Scores and Credit Reports is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com