Data Facts Blog


Finding the RIGHT Credit Card for YOU!

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Looking for a credit card? If so, you’ll need to shop around. Do some research to compare costs, features and drawbacks before settling on a single card.

 

Annual fee: Some cards charge an annual fee – anywhere between $15 and $50 – while others may not. Check to see which ones do and if their annual fee still makes smart financial sense to you.

Grace period: Most credit cards offer a 25-day time period for you to pay off your total balance without paying a finance charge. The grace period runs from the date printed on the bill, not the date you receive it or the date you make a purchase.

APR/interest rate: The APR or interest rate is the percentage of interest you’re charged on the balance you carry on the card and cash advances. It can either be fixed or variable.   A fixed rate APR is usually higher, but you’ll know what to expect for the year. A variable rate is typically lower, based on an interest rate that swings up and down.

Introductory rate: Some cards offer a super-low introductory rate that will later switch to a higher fixed or variable rate. Make sure you know how long the introductory rate lasts and what the new rate will be. The introductory rate is often terminated if you send a late payment.

Finance charge: This is the actual dollar amount you’ll pay when you carry a balance. It includes interest costs and any other transaction fees. It’s helpful to know how this number is calculated. The average daily balance method is the most common. It adds the amount of debt on your account for each day during the billing period and averages it

Other fees: These include fees for paying late, charging over your limit, and getting a cash advance. Make sure you read the cardholder agreement, which discloses these charges.

Other Rewards and Benefits:  Many cards now offer added benefits, like rebates, discounts and/or frequent flyer miles. With these cards, find out how many dollars equal a free ticket, etc and if you will actually use these types of rebates.

Payback Time:  If you plan to pay your credit card bill in full each month, look for a card with no annual fee & a generous grace period. If you think you’ll carry a balance, then the important thing is a card with a low interest rate.

Be a smart consumer and shop before you buy.

 

STOP! Don’t Mess Up Your Home Mortgage!

approved mortgageYou’ve gone to your lender and been approved for a home mortgage.  You’ve found the home of your dreams.  But just when you are about to close, the lender says you are no longer approved.  What happened?

Since the infamous “mortgage meltdown” a few years back, lenders as well as industry regulations have gotten much stricter.  The latest tightening of the screws comes from Fannie Mae. The mortgage titan’s Loan Quality Initiative, which went into effect June 1, requires lenders to track “changes in borrower circumstances” between application and closing.  While these rules aren’t new, Fannie is enforcing them more vigorously.

The new rules simply want to ensure the new home loans are deemed “low risk” for default or buyback.  Basically, lenders want to be assured that this is the type of borrower that has the ability to repay this loan in full.  With the increase in regulation and scrutiny over any changes, even seemingly small changes can implode your pending mortgage.

Following are three things borrowers can do to mess up their next mortgage closing.

Get a new credit card or auto loan

Get a new credit card or auto loan, and you could find yourself no longer approved for that mortgage loan.

Lenders have long admonished mortgage applicants to avoid getting new credit cards and auto loans while home loans are in underwriting. Fannie’s Loan Quality Initiative adds urgency to this request.

For example, picture a borrower who gets a car loan a week before closing on the mortgage. The mortgage lender doesn’t know about it. Later, the borrower misses a couple of mortgage payments.

Fannie Mae can look back, discover the undisclosed auto loan and make the lender buy back the bad mortgage. That’s a money loser for the lender.

So at the eleventh hour, most lenders check credit for new accounts.

Even merely opening an account — without charging anything to it — can be a mistake.

Charge up credit cards

Charging up credit cards with thousands of dollars’ worth of appliances, tools and yard equipment is another surefire way to muck up a closing. It’s best to leave those cards alone.

Don’t increase your credit card balances at all. Mortgage approval is based partly on debt-to-income ratio.  The lender looks at the borrower’s minimum monthly  debt payments and compares them to income. If the ratio of debt payments to income is too high, the borrower could be turned down for a mortgage.

Fannie encourages mortgage lenders to recalculate debt-to-income ratios just before closing. If a spending spree sends the debt-to-income ratio too high, the mortgage could be doomed. For this reason, borrowers should wait until after closing the mortgage before buying furniture, a refrigerator or a lawn mower on credit.

Change jobs

Changing jobs is another good way to derail a mortgage before closing. Other potential deal-breakers include staying with a current employer, but switching from a salaried position to one where primary income comes from commissions or bonuses.

Any slight change in income could cause you to not qualify.

The main thing to remember is, keep everything exactly the same as the day you got approved.  No new car.  Don’t apply for a credit card so you can get brand new furniture.   And definitely don’t change your job.

Data Facts Answers Question About Authorized User Accounts

Question:  “In the past, our mortgage company has encouraged borrowers who have either little credit or are rebuilding their credit to become an authorized user on the account of a spouse, parent, or sibling. Recently, however, we have heard that authorized user accounts are no longer factored into a person’s credit score, and will not help increase a credit score. What is true?  Help!”

Data Facts answers: The designers of the credit scoring formula model (FICO) meant for authorized user accounts to be utilized for a person with good credit and a long credit history to be able to assist their children, spouses, or siblings with their credit history. When an account holder adds another person to their account as an authorized user, that person gets all the benefit of the good payment history. In lots of cases, this dramatically increases a person’s credit score.

Sneaky people began to exploit this practice. Websites popped up selling “piggybacking”. A person with less than stellar credit history could be added to a complete stranger’s credit, and artificially boost his score.  These websites charged thousands of dollars, and paid people with good credit to add dozens of stranger’s names to their credit accounts!

In an attempt to eliminate this practice, the credit score model builders for Fair Isaac originally decided that their new scoring model- FICO 08- would NOT consider authorized user accounts in the formulation of the credit score.

 After further research, however, they reversed this decision. Eliminating authorized user accounts would wipe out millions of consumers’ credit scores who utilize the authorized user status legitimately (they are authorized users on their parents’, spouse’s, children’s, or siblings’ accounts). The model builders decided to allow the authorized user status to still be figured into the credit scores. (Keep in mind the model builders have added additional- although undisclosed- measures that will close the piggybacking loophole).

Allowing authorized users accounts to be figured into the credit score is great news to millions of consumers who maintain that status legitimately. However, if you are an authorized user, try to follow these tidbits of advice:

 – Make sure the main account holder has a good credit history. An authorized user does not need to be on accounts that have just been opened, or accounts with late payments or high balances. The goal is to use the account to boost a credit score. A credit line that is new, paid late, or almost run to the limit will most likely result in the score dropping.

–  Open at least some accounts in your name. While an authorized user designation does figure into the credit score, some lenders remove those accounts from consideration during lending decisions. Consumers should realize it’s risky to rely on authorized user accounts for their entire credit history. It is recommended that consumers be a main or joint borrower on at least a couple of credit lines.

–  Be sure you trust the main account holder. If the main account holder begins paying late or runs up the balance, your credit will be affected (remember, however, an authorized user will not be responsible for the debt).  Make certain the account holder is someone you trust to make good financial decisions before becoming an authorized user on their account.

When employed correctly, the authorized user designation continues to be a helpful tool which consumers can utilize as a boost to their credit history. It is not a long-term solution, and should be used as only one small portion of the credit building plan.

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 23 year old Memphis-based company.  Data Facts provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

The Truth About Closing Credit Cards

If you have read anything about how to get and keep a high credit score, you have probably seen this advice: never close your credit cards. This advice is true and good. Sort of.

The 2 parts of valid reasoning behind the idea of not closing any credit cards are:

1: Closing a credit card will decrease your debt utilization ratio. A whopping 30% of your credit score is calculated from your Amounts Owed. Your debt utilization ratio (your total revolving debt divided by your total credit limit) needs to be as low as possible in order to reap the maximum credit score. Closing a credit card takes away some of your total credit limit, which can raise this ratio, and lower your credit score.

2. Closing a credit card will impact your length of credit history. It’s a fact that the credit scoring model looks at how long a person has had credit established; the longer, the better. Closing a credit card you have had for many years may cause your length of credit history to decrease, which can result in a lower score.

So, there are valid reasons to not close your credit cards.

ADVICE: Never close a card that has a balance, your only credit card, or your oldest credit card!

But what if you have a ton of cards, are aiming to streamline your finances, and want to close some of them? Which ones can you close that will have minimal impact to your credit score?

If you have made the decision to close some of your credit cards, choose these (in this order):

Your newest card. The last credit card opened needs to be the first one to go. This card is not helping you very much with your length of credit history, so closing it should not have much impact on your credit score.

Your card with a zero balance. If you never use a particular piece of plastic, it is probably not figured into your credit score (credit lines must be used at least every 6 months in order to be factored into your credit score). Closing a card you never, ever use should have no impact on your credit score.

Your card with the worst terms. Big annual fees, high interest rates, and no perks give you no incentive to keep a card active.

You card with the lowest limit. A low limit credit card is probably having little effect on your debt utilization ratio. Closing low limit plastic can help limit your number of cards without great danger of credit score damage.

Closing credit cards doesn’t have to kill your credit score, just make sure you are choosing wisely.

Other points to remember are:

Always look at your debt utilization ratio before closing a credit card. If your ratio is going to be over 30%, don’t do it.

Always keep at least one credit card open and active, and pay the bill on time. This will give you points for managing credit wisely.

Always keep your oldest credit card open and active.

Take these tips to heart to ensure that whittling down your lines of credit has minimal impact on your credit score.

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 22 year old Memphis-based company that provides mortgage product and banking solutions to lenders nationwide

Credit Score Health: Common Conditions that can Tank your Score

Posted in Budget,Credit Score,FICO,Uncategorized by datafactssolutions on October 31, 2011
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A credit score is a measurement to determine your credit worthiness, and we should all strive to keep ours as HIGH as possible. This means managing our payments, watching our credit card balances, and not frivolously applying for new credit.
However, certain seemingly innocent actions can result in credit score decreases. Do you recognize yourself as having any of these “conditions”?
The “I gotta have it-ache”. A new fishing rod, a great pair of heels, a beach vacation. We all have the budget breaking Achilles heel. While splurging every now and then won’t be detrimental, a habit of treating yourself to everything that catches your eye can damage your credit score. Overspending can result in maxed out credit cards, which can lower your credit score (remember, credit utilization accounts for 30% of your score). Another result of over-extending can be not being able to pay your bills on time. If you begin paying bills late, your credit score will definitely pay the price.
The “I’ll worry about it tomorrow-itis”. Procrastinating on making a budget or delaying facing your mounting bills is a sure fire way to sink your credit score. A few missed payments along with a few bad purchases can cause a mess that will take you months (or YEARS) to recover from.
The “I can’t miss a deal-phobia”. 20% off if you open a credit card! Ends today! If either of these speaks to you, this may be a problem. Department stores often offer discounts for opening a new credit card, and these show up on your credit report as an inquiry. Too many of these can have a very negative effect on your credit score.
The “It will work itself out-flu”. Collection calls, liens, lates, OH MY! These are credit score tankers and they need to be dealt with thisveryminute! There is a chance that they are erroneous, and could be removed from your credit report with a little effort on your part. Letting them linger on your credit report will send you straight out of 700 and 800land into 600 or 500ville. And nobody wants to live there.
The best remedies to get and keep a high credit score?
Think about your purchases. Being impulsive with money is going to lead you down a debt-ridden path. If the object of your desire costs more than 1% of your monthly income, think about it for at least 24 hours and figure out how you are going to pay for it.
Always keep your budget on your mind. Write out a monthly budget so that you know how much extra money you can spend every month. This will keep you making your payments on time and your debt manageable.
Just say no to marketing. Don’t be swayed to buy something or open credit lines you don’t need because of a great sale or discount. If you weren’t looking for it before you walked into the store, chances are you can live without it, no matter how great the ‘deal’. Your financial future is more important than saving a few bucks.
Keep your head out of the sand. Big credit problems such as collections and liens will not vanish by themselves. Make sure you are checking your credit report regularly. Never assume that creditors will realize they have made a mistake and then take steps to correct it on their own. Jump in and get any erroneous information handled immediately.
     The health of your credit score depends largely on your ability to control your impulses when shopping. Keeping a handle on spending and seeing your big financial picture will help keep your credit score healthy and in top form.

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 22 year old Memphis-based company that provides mortgage product solutions to lenders nationwide.

Credit Scores and Why You May Not Have One

Posted in Credit Score,FICO,Uncategorized by datafactssolutions on September 2, 2011
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So, you want to buy a house, car, boat, or some other item that requires monthly payments. One of the first actions a lender will take will be to pull your credit report and look at your FICO credit score. Your approval and terms of the loan depend heavily on these numbers.

What if you don’t have a credit score?!?

Not having a credit score is not the end of the world, and about 50 million people fall into this category.  There are several reasons why you may not have one.

  1. You are young. Jennifer just graduated from college. She has no credit cards and her car loan is in her parents’ name. She does not have a credit file, so she has no credit score.
  2. You have always paid in cash. David subscribes to the policy that if you cannot pay for it, you don’t need it. He has always paid cash for his cars, he rents an apartment, and he doesn’t use credit cards. The bureaus would have no record of David, and he would not have a credit score.
  3. You paid off all your loans last year. This is frustrating but true. If you have paid off your car, house, and credit cards and live a life of no debt (sigh, you are so fortunate), then your credit report would not be updated with any new information. Because of this, you may no longer have a credit score.
  4. You are dead. Ok, I added this one to see if you were paying attention. However, sometimes a creditor will report you as deceased, and this wipes out your credit score. This can happen in situations where a person is an authorized user, or co-borrower with another person, and the other person on the account dies. The creditor may report to the bureaus that the owner of the account is deceased. As a result, you would show as deceased, and you would not have a credit score.

If you are one of the millions of people who do not have a credit score, there are steps you can take to build your credit file which will generate a score.

Open a credit card. This is a great way to begin building your credit. By opening a credit card and using it monthly, the creditor will report this usage to the bureaus. They will start a credit file on you and collect your payment habits. After about 6 months, there will be enough information available to generate a credit score for you.

Be an authorized user.  Your parents, spouse, siblings, or friends can add you to one or more of their accounts as an authorized user.  This allows you to take advantage of the credit history that they have built up on the account. An authorized user status will help generate a credit score faster than opening a credit card on your own. HOWEVER; make sure that the account is in good standing (no late pays, balance is low), or the resulting credit score will not be great.

Break out the unused credit cards. If you are debt-free, you can still use your credit cards every month or so and pay the balance off at the end of the month. In order to have a credit score, you must have one credit line that has updated within the last 6 months. This works even if you pay off the balance every month. So, charging dinner or a tank of gas every now and then will keep your score active and alive.

Go nationwide. Small community banks and credit unions may not report to all 3 credit bureaus. If you already have credit, do a little research on your creditors to see if they report to the bureaus.  If not, then your credit line with them is not helping to build your credit score.

Check your credit. Pull your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com to see what is showing up on your report, and if there are any errors. If an item is reporting incorrectly, or you are showing as deceased, get that corrected immediately.

Making sure you have a credit score takes a little effort. However, by taking these actions into consideration and implementing them into your financial life, you will be on your way to a great credit score!