Credit Card Payoff Calculator: When Could You Reach Financial Freedom?

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Have credit card debt? You’re not the only one. It’s reported that 43 percent of households carry credit card debt month after month. While credit cards can be a great tool to build your credit score, they can easily impact your budget. If you’ve detoured from your financial goals and racked up a hefty bill, now is the perfect time to create a payoff plan. Use our credit card payoff calculator to see when you could be financially free.

Credit Card Payoff Calculator

Enter your card details to calculate your payoff timeline.

Choose One

Source: mint.intuit.com

Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You.

Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You

It wasn’t until a few months after my husband and I got married that I decided to check both our credit scores. While my husband’s credit score wasn’t horrible, it certainly didn’t qualify as “excellent.” This got me thinking about how newlyweds’ financial histories can affect both spouses’ finances moving forward, and how critical it is to acknowledge this reality—ideally before getting hitched.

Why It’s Important to Have a Good Credit Score

Manisha Thakor cuts right to the chase in her book On My Own Two Feet: “Your credit score is essentially your financial reputation in numeric form.”

Aiming for an excellent credit score—generally defined as 750 or more—is a worthy goal, owing to the range of ways in which it can save you money. Credit scores are critical when applying for loans—for instance, car loans and mortgages. In addition, many employers consider prospective employees’ credit scores during the hiring process.

A high credit score means you can access lower interest rates when borrowing, because creditors will view you as reliable. The perceived risk that you’ll default on your loan is lower compared to those with poor credit scores. Lower interest rates, especially on large amounts borrowed over significant timeframes, can save you thousands and thousands of dollars!

A poor credit score can indirectly hurt your financial efforts as well; consider the fact that when you’re paying over the odds in debt repayments, you’re committing fewer dollars to saving and retirement planning.

photo credit: LendingMemo via photopin cc

Till Debt Do Us Part

Marriage makes you one combined financial unit.

However, that doesn’t mean your credit scores are merged; your credit history continues to be maintained on an individual basis. One spouse’s poor credit cannot directly damage the individual score of the other spouse.

That being said, if you apply for a loan as a married couple, creditors look at both your credit scores to determine your eligibility and terms. So, if one of you has the credit of an angel whereas the other’s credit history is limited or even littered with missed payments and liens, you may find your application is denied.

But, this is not just about loan applications—poor credit can belie more than just a few bad credit card habits. Other financial follies, like paying taxes late, not focusing on saving, and day-to-day overspending, could be lurking in the closet.

What Do You Do After You’ve Said I Do?

While bad credit isn’t good news, it’s not necessarily a reason not to get married. And, it’s not necessarily the precursor to divorce! It is, however, an alarm signaling that it is time to get clear on your joint financial situation and start communicating. Make sure you do this respectfully and compassionately to minimize blame and financial stress. (If you’re the type of person who’d like to know this information from prospective partners before things get serious, there are now dating sites catering just to you.)

Once you’ve identified that one of you has less-than-optimal credit, it’s time to take action. Here are four top tips for taking immediate action:

1. Check your credit report for mistakes: Errors are, unfortunately, pretty common and can be really detrimental. Check your report at least once per year.

2. Make payments on time: Yes, this is stating the obvious, but it needs to be said! Mary Beth Storjohann of Workable Wealth says, “35% of your credit score is based on how you pay your bills (making this the biggest determining factor for your score)! Are you often late of missing payments? The impact of just one 90-day late payment goes way beyond the three months you took to pay, so set up automatic bill payments.”

3. Lower your debt-to-credit ratio: This is how much debt you have as a proportion of your overall credit limits. 30% of your credit score is based on the amount of money you owe versus the amount of credit available to you. The higher the amount of credit you’re utilizing, the more negative the impact on your score. Keep the debt level as low as possible (30% of your limits, or less).

4. Pay down your debt faster: Make more than the minimum payments wherever possible by utilizing the snowball method or targeting the balance with the highest interest rate to pay down first.

photo credit: natloans via photopin cc

Alongside these tips, it’s super important to remember that improving your credit score won’t happen overnight. The length of time it takes for your score to improve is directly related to reasons for the drop. It can take anywhere from a few months to several years for your credit report to reflect the positive changes you’re making. As Mary Beth notes, “The most important thing is to be proactive in clearing up any issues.” In addition, two of the criteria factored into your score are the length of your overall credit history and the average age of your accounts.

So, don’t be discouraged—be patient and give it time.

And, Finally, Some Tips on What Not to Do!

There are always two sides to every coin so, while you’re following the tips above, make sure that you’re not unwittingly hurting your score and negating your good work.

Be mindful of the following ways that you could be hurting your credit score:

1. Opening too many new accounts: This comes back to the point that the average age of your accounts is a key factor. Opening lots of new accounts reduces that average.

2. Closing too many old accounts: Older accounts indicate that you have managed payments for a long time and increase the average age of your accounts. When you close credit card accounts, this also decreases the amount of credit available to you, which can reflect negatively if you have other accounts that are still carrying high balances (it essentially increases your debt to credit ratio).

3. Signing up for lots of retail incentive programs: Every time you apply for credit, the company issuing the credit will request information about you from the credit bureaus. Too many of these requests can reduce your score.

4. Over-utilizing your credit. Mary Beth advises, “If you’re depending on your credit cards to fund your daily expenses and lifestyle needs, but aren’t able to pay them off in full at the end of each month, something needs to change. Start tracking your spending and get a handle on your expenses.”

In summary, start taking positive steps, be aware of actions that can hurt your credit, and focus on building solid financial foundations for the future.

This post was written by Erika Torres of GoGirl Finance. GoGirl Finance is a fast-growing community of women seeking and providing financial wisdom across money management, lifestyle, family and career. For more finance tips, follow GoGirl Finance on Twitter @GoGirlFinance

The post Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You. appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Understanding Debt Settlement Letters

If you’re unable to pay back a large amount of debt, you might be interested in learning more about debt settlement. Debt settlement works to negotiate with your creditors to forgive all or part of your debt. Throughout this process, communication is usually done with written letters. Written letters work best to convey the clear and detailed terms you have for your creditor.

A debt settlement letter is a written proposal for you to offer a specific amount of money in exchange for forgiveness of your debt. These letters address why you’re unable to pay the debt, how much you’re willing to pay now, and what you would like from the creditors in return. Working through the proposal is how both parties determine the terms and agreements of the debt settlement exchange.

What Is Debt Settlement?

Debt settlement is the meticulous process of negotiating terms with your creditors, in hopes of them forgiving a portion of your debt. Those who look for debt settlement usually are doing so because they can’t pay off all the debt they’ve accumulated. Instead, they offer a decent portion of the debt owed upfront in exchange for the account to close in full.

The following are the key steps in reaching a debt settlement:

  1. Decide if you want to work on your own or hire debt settlement professionals. Professionals can be of great help, but sometimes their fees can get quite expensive.
  2. Save up the amount of money you are proposing before even getting started. If the creditor accepts your proposal, you’ll need to pay the agreed amount within a specified time frame.
  3. Write a debt settlement letter to your creditor. Explain your current situation and how much you can pay. Also, provide them with a clear description of what you expect in return, such as removal of missed payments or the account shown as paid in full on your report.
  4. Ask for a written confirmation after settling on an agreement. Request this before you send the payment, as it acts as an extra layer of liability coverage in the future.
  5. Send your payment. Keep in touch with your creditors until all terms and agreements are fulfilled.

What Is Debt Settlement?

What To Consider Before Sending a Debt Settlement Letter

Sending a debt settlement letter has the potential to do both harm and good. The extent to which you are affected depends on your current situation. Some people may not think that the benefits outweigh the negatives when settling debt. Others may be limited when it comes to other options and are more willing to take the risk.

Pros of Writing a Debt Settlement Letter

Sending out a debt settlement letter can be beneficial if you’re in financial hardship. Many people who can’t afford to pay off their debt end up filing for bankruptcy. While settling is never a guarantee, it may put you in a better financial position. If the request is accepted, debt settlement amounts usually settle for around 50 to 80 percent of the total balance. Reaching out to your creditors and addressing the issue can also relieve some of the stress you feel to pay off your debt.

Cons of Writing a Debt Settlement Letter

As mentioned, debt settlement is never a guarantee. If there’s no agreement made, you may end up owing more than you did originally due to missed payments and late fees. If you hire professionals, you may owe them various fees and payments.

Settling debt can often appear as a bad financial move and can negatively impact your credit health. Missed payments on the account may still appear in your report, even if you were negotiating your settlement during that time. There’s also a chance that your account shows up as a debt settlement on your credit report. This may cause other creditors to see you as an unreliable candidate in the future.

Pros and Cons of Writing a Debt Settlement Letter

How To Write a Debt Settlement Proposal Letter

When writing a debt settlement letter, it’s important to be explicit and detailed. Treat the letter as a contract between you and your creditor. Include your personal information and account number for easy identification. You’ll need to outline the amount you can pay and what you expect in return. If you want to propose a good settlement offer, consider offering around 30 percent of what you owe. This can set the baseline for the negotiations your creditor will put forth.

In order to have your proposal approved, creditors must believe that you’re truly unable to pay off what you owe. This is why elaborating on the reason you can’t pay off your debt can benefit you. Financial hardships can include serious injury, unexpected loss of work, and environmental disasters. Depending on your hardship, creditors may ask for documented proof. For instance, a serious injury may need proof from a doctor.

Below is a template to guide you when writing your letter:

[First & last name]
[Home or mailing address]
[Telephone number]

[Current date]

[Account number of which you’re looking to settle]

[Creditor or organization name]
[Creditor’s address]

Dear Sir/Madam,

I’m writing this letter in regards to the amount of debt on the account number stated above. As a result of financial hardship, I am unable to pay back the amount in full. [Here, take the time to explain your hardship so the creditor has a better picture of what’s going on].

I would like to propose an offer to settle this debt for [$ how much you will pay] as a final settlement. In return, I request [what you expect in return; ex: removing late payments on your credit report]. I would also like freedom from any liability associated with the debt of this account. I expect this to appear in my report by stating that the account is now paid in full.

If you are willing to accept this offer, please send me a signed and written agreement. Once I receive this, I will pay the agreed amount within [number of days they can expect your payment]. Please let me know by [a specified deadline].

Sincerely,

[Your Signature]

[Printed Name]

What To Outline in Your Debt Settlement Letter

What To Expect After Sending Your Letter

After sending your letter, you may be eager to see if your creditor approves or declines the request. For this reason, including a response date in your letter will help your chances of a prompt reply. As you wait, ensure you have the agreed amount of money saved up and ready to go if they accept your offer. It can also be a good idea to request confirmation that they have received your payment.

You may want to check and make sure the appropriate changes appear on your credit report and account. Debt settlement may relieve your debt, but it can also negatively impact your financial health. Debt settlement is usually reflected in your report for some time. Seeing this may make you appear as risky to future lenders.

Debt settlement may be worth your while if you find yourself struggling due to a hardship. When writing a letter, remember it’s very important to be careful with your words. A well thought out debt settlement letter can make all the difference when it comes to liability. This helps in ensuring that both parties uphold their part of the agreement.

Since it may negatively impact your credit score, you may feel nervous about settling your debt. You may fear creditors thinking you’re a poor candidate for future financial requests. Keep in mind that there are still many credit card and loan options out there for people who are working towards rebuilding their credit.

The post Understanding Debt Settlement Letters appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How Long Does It Take To Get a Credit Card?

Generally speaking, it takes seven to 10 business days to get a credit card once you’re approved. The specific amount of time can vary as many factors throughout the process affect how fast you receive your card. Getting approved can happen in a matter of seconds or days, depending on what kind of card you apply for. Whether you apply online or in person may also affect how fast you’ll receive your credit card in the mail.

How Long Does It Take to Get My Card in the Mail?

The longest step in getting a credit card is waiting for it to come in the mail. Shipping time frames can vary depending on which credit card you apply for. Here are the average time frames of many popular credit card companies today:

  • American Express: seven to 10 business days
  • Wells Fargo: seven to 10 business days
  • Discover: three to five business days
  • Capital One: seven to 10 business days
  • Bank of America: seven to 10 business days
  • Chase: three to 5 business days
  • Citi: seven to 10 business days

Unfortunately, the time it takes for the credit card to go through the mail can be impacted by many factors out of your control. You may get your card sooner than stated above, or later if there are external mail carrier issues.

How to Get a Credit Card Right Away

Unfortunately, most credit cards aren’t made available to you the same day you apply. Even though you can get approved for a card almost instantly, you must still wait for the card to come in the mail. However, credit card companies sometimes offer options to help speed up the process.

Most banks offer expedited shipping if you need your card delivered faster than usual. Depending on what type of card and bank you apply with, they may charge you an extra fee for this option. Some banks will make things easier for you by giving you your credit card number right after approval. This allows you to start making purchases while waiting for the physical card to arrive. American Express typically allows this with all of their cards to increase their user satisfaction.

What to Do If You Haven’t Received Your Card Yet

If you notice that you haven’t received your card after some time, reach out to your bank or credit card company. By reaching out, you minimize the risk of the card getting lost or stolen. Your bank may also be able to provide you with a temporary card while they sort everything out. Not all lenders, but if they do they may charge you an additional fee.

How To Apply for a Credit Card

To get a credit card, you must first apply either online or in person for approval. Receiving the credit card itself and waiting to be approved are two separate steps. Therefore, the time it takes to receive your card can vary from person to person.

What Do Creditors Look for in Applications?

Credit card applications typically ask for your personal information as well as your financial background. To determine your financial background, they’ll ask for your Social Security number and source of income.

Your Social Security number will allow the creditors access to your credit report. After close evaluation, you’ll either be approved or declined for the card. When looking at your report, creditors typically pay close attention to data such as your debt-to-income ratio, hard inquiries, and any delinquent accounts you may have.

What Do Creditors Look for In a Credit Report?

Your debt-to-income ratio refers to how much of your card’s limit is spent. Consistently using too much of your limit may cause creditors to view you as more of a high-risk borrower. Similarly, too many hard inquiries can make you seem risky. Finally, a delinquent account is another red flag. This shows that you may not have been paying off your credit card bills on time. Lenders won’t be as willing to approve you for a credit card if you have a history of account delinquency, as it’s not a good sign for them that you’ll be a reliable borrower.

Some credit card companies pre-approve users who they think may be a good fit based on a soft version of their credit report. A soft version of your report gives lenders a glimpse of your financial background, but won’t affect your credit score. When your report shows that you meet a few requirements, they’ll send a card in the mail for you to use if you apply. Receiving the card in the mail doesn’t mean that you are automatically approved. It just helps speed up the process of getting a credit card. Pre-approving users is a way companies market their cards to users, in hopes of them applying later on.

How to Build Credit With a Credit Card

When you use a credit card, you build credit simultaneously. The way you manage and use your card can have either a positive or negative effect on your credit score.

How Long Does It Take to Build Credit?

If this is your first time using a credit card, then you are most likely building credit from scratch. Building a credit score doesn’t happen overnight. It usually takes about six months or so to build enough credit to have a credit report. Beginning early can be of great benefit to you down the line. A major factor in the calculation of your credit score is the length of your credit history. The longer you’ve spent building your credit, the more of a positive impact it can have on your score.

Ways to Keep Your Credit Score Healthy

When using a credit card, it can pay off in the long run to follow some best practices. You can do this by having a good understanding of what exactly factors into your credit score. The following are good habits to establish for maintaining a healthy score:

  • Make on-time payments to avoid a delinquent account.
  • Aim to only use 30 percent of your credit limit at a time to show you can manage your card wisely.
  • Avoid applying to too many cards or loans in a short time, as it can result in a hard inquiry. Too many hard inquiries can be the reason you are getting declined for your financial requests.
  • Stay on top of monitoring your credit score and report, so you can identify any mistakes before it’s too late to fix.

Buildig Credit Best Practices

While the most common time frame for getting a credit card is seven to 10 days, it can vary from person to person. If this seems like a long time, try reaching out to your bank. They may be able to expedite shipping or give you access to your credit card number in advance. Each credit card lender is different, so it’s important to do your research before applying. Take a look at our guide on the best credit card offers to help start your search.

The post How Long Does It Take To Get a Credit Card? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com