Data Facts Blog


Spending Mistakes Smart People Make Over the Holidays

empty-pocketDecember is a time for families and friends to come together over the holidays. However, the last month of the year can also be a big budget buster that can leave you broke and in debt if you aren’t careful.

We have created a breakdown of mistakes smart people make over the holidays that result in January being hard to bear.  Avoiding these actions can help you make certain you roll into January with some money left in your pocket and your credit score intact.

The “I’ll pay it off next month” blunder.  Perhaps the best thing you can do for yourself is to set a budget for the holidays, and pay for those plans with cash. Using a credit card for holiday purchases sets you up to overspend. Paying for gifts you bought in December all the way through April is nobody’s idea of fun. Not to mention the negative affect those credit card charges could have on your credit score.

The “I’ll know it when I see it” shopping plan. Scour sales papers BEFORE your shopping trip to get an idea of the items you will be buying, and the cost. Shopping without a plan is like going into the grocery store hungry; it sets you up to overspend on impulse items.

The “it’s a bargain” trap. Don’t fall for the deep discount prices and one-day only ads. These ploys can break your budget and rack up lots of credit card charges. If the item wasn’t on your list and included in your budget, don’t buy it.

The “open a credit card today” ambush. Sure, an extra 10 or 15% off for simply opening a store credit card sounds great. However, don’t be taken in by this offer. A new credit card will show up as an inquiry on your credit report, and will give you the urge to use it lavishly. Just say no.

Now, those are goofs that deal with shopping. However, other activities can be budget breakers during the holiday season.

The “this dress makes me look skinny” argument. While we all like a new outfit, do you really need that new dress, new purse, or new cufflinks for your holiday party? Do you really not already own an outfit you can wear? Make sure you don’t overspend on clothing for the holidays that will end up only being worn once.

The “eat, drink, and be merry” boo-boo. Holidays inspire quality time with friends and family. However, expensive meals and overindulging in alcohol can tank your budget. Plan ahead for nights out, and suggest less expensive venues if your budget is tight.

Being aware of these holiday budget saboteurs is the first step to success. By avoiding these mistakes, you can keep your bank account and credit score high! Don’t let money mistakes over the holidays turn HO HO HO into NO NO NO!

~~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.

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From Data Facts: 5 Things Not to do After You Apply for a Mortgage

Buying a home can be one of the most stressful adventures a person can embark upon. From choosing the home, negotiating the price, obtaining a mortgage loan, to securing ownership, there are many pitfalls that can derail the plan.

Consumers often mistakenly believe that it is clean sailing after the mortgage loan process has been started. If the credit score it good, they are good to go, right. Wrong.

There are negative actions that can be taken even after the mortgage loan has been applied for that can decrease or annihilate the chances of getting that loan closed.

Today we are going to discuss the 5 No-No’s. These are the actions that a consumer needs to AVOID after applying for a mortgage loan.

#1: Don’t charge new credit card debt. In many cases, the mortgage loan was narrowly secured based on the consumer’s debt ratio or credit score. In these instances, even a few hundred dollars in new debt can cause the ratios to swing out of favor or credit scores to drop.  Postpone any new purchases on credit. Opt instead to pay cash.

#2:  Don’t quit your job.  The mortgage loan will be figured on your (and maybe your spouse’s) income. Your employment status will be checked again before the loan closes, and if the bank finds out you are unemployed, the mortgage loan will most likely fall through. Quitting your job is one of the most surefire ways to spoil the mortgage loan process.

#3:  Don’t buy a car.  If you get car fever during your mortgage process, REFRAIN from acting on it. A car loan will show up as a new inquiry on your credit report, AND the debt could possibly skew your debt ratios enough to mess up your chances of closing on your mortgage. Trust me, a car is not worth losing your dream home.

#4: Don’t miss payments. Forgetting to pay a bill or paying it late has a tremendously negative impact on a credit score. Just one late payment could tank your credit score to the point that the new mortgage would be unattainable. Practice diligence in paying your bills on time, especially when trying to obtain a mortgage.

#5: Don’t pay off old collections. It is a common misconception that “cleaning up” your credit by paying off old collection will help you look better to creditors. This is often not the case. By paying off an old collection, the date of last activity (which is how the credit scoring model looks at collections) will be brought to the present. The old collection will look like it just happened, which could result in a credit score drop of 100 points or more!  Leave old collections alone, and only pay them at closing, if required.

Securing a mortgage is a big endeavor. It takes lots of time and energy. Be sure to avoid these 5 common pitfalls to ensure you get the mortgage you want!

~~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.

4 Tips for Reviewing Your Credit Report

You have probably read the advice everywhere:  CHECK YOUR CREDIT REPORT!  However, what does that really mean? What are you supposed to be checking?

While pulling your credit report at least once a year is very good advice, a person needs to know what to look for when reviewing their information. Start with these tips to make certain you are making the most out of the credit report:

1: Check out identifying information. Look over the names, addresses, and social security numbers appearing on the credit report. While slight misspellings are common, alarms should sound if an entirely different name or address is associated with your social security number, or if there are multiple social security numbers showing up on the report.

2: Examine the creditors. All tradelines of credit should be reviewed closely. Note any creditors that you are not familiar with. Also review the balances on each account, looking for discrepancies.

Another important piece of information that is in the creditor tradelines area is joint or individual account information. This tells you if you are the only one on the account, or if you share it with another person.

3: Note any late payments. Accounts showing late have the single biggest impact on your credit score. The date of the late payment should be reviewed to see if the account really was paid late, or if the late was reported in error.

4: Review all public records: Serious financial missteps such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, collections, and tax liens will show up in this section. Go over these closely to see if any of the items are reported in error.  If you have relevant public records in this section, make certain the dates are reported correctly.

The hope when assessing your credit report is that you will find no surprises.  That is not, however, always the case. Various reports have found that up to 25% of credit reports contain errors.

What should you do if you find errors on your credit report?

Contact the bureaus. Write all 3  bureaus (either on their website or by mail) and tell them about the error.  Send copies of any documentation that backs up your claim.

Notify the creditor. Send the creditor a letter saying that you dispute the item, along with copies of documents that give evidence to your claim.

Follow up. The credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate your dispute. They will then contact you to give you the outcome.

Implementing these tips can help you understand your report, catch any errors or mistakes, and assist you in staying on top of your reported credit history.  Pulling and reviewing your credit report once a year is an important aspect of maintaining a successful financial life.

~~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.

7 Steps to Protect Your Finances During a Divorce

We all hope it never happens to us. The “D” word.  Divorce.

It’s a sad fact that lots of marriages end in divorce, and sometimes the relationship is contentious and hostile. If you are facing divorce, protect yourself and your finances with these simple tips:

1.  Keep detailed records.  The first step is to commit to making certain that all financial arrangements and obligations are well-documented.  If you end up having problems with a creditor for a debt that is not your responsibility, documentation can help clear the issue up faster and with less effort.

2. Dissolve every joint account.   This is one of the biggest mistakes that divorcing couples make. One person will keep a joint account, and the other person finds out months or years later that the account has been paid late or sent to collection. Be aware that divorce decrees do not supersede contracts. In other words, if you and your ex split certain debts in the divorce, but your name is still on the debt, YOU ARE STILL RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PAYMENT OF THAT DEBT.  This is a biggie, and can completely tank your credit score and ruin your finances.

Remove your spouse’s name on any accounts that you plan to keep (such as your car, etc). Move the utilities and any other bills into one name. If you share joint credit cards, divvy up the balance and open a credit card in just your name, and transfer the balance over to the new account. BE SURE all joint credit cards are closed.

3.  Sell the house if possible. The best idea is to sell the house and split any profits. It is imperative to not walk away from your house with your name still on the mortgage.  If selling the house is not an option, the person who ends up with the house needs to refinance it in his/her name alone as quickly as possible.

4.  Divide all assets. Split all cash, property, and any other assets during the divorce. Do not share assets with an ex.

5.  Be on guard online.  An ex can do some real damage when armed with passwords to bank and credit card accounts. The first action should be password protecting your computer and your cell phone (this will ensure your ex does not add a sneaky spyware).  Change ALL of your passwords on all of your accounts to something your soon to be ex would not know. Do not use birthdays, anniversaries, mother’s name, dog’s name, or anything else that your former beloved would be able to figure out.  Phrases like “bobpleasedie” or “lovereallystinks” probably aren’t good ideas, either.  A long password (10 characters or more) with letters in upper and lower case and numbers is the best option.

6.  Check your credit report. This is a good all-round rule for everyone. However, it’s especially important after going through a divorce.  Pull a credit report every 3-4 months, and scour it to make certain all joint accounts are closed and that there are no accounts you do not recognize. Follow up on any errors and get them cleared up immediately.

7.  Change your will and life insurance beneficiaries.  When moving on after a divorce, make certain to review all important documents, and implement changes where necessary. Remove the ex’s name from your will and any insurance policies in which he/she is named.

Divorce is never a fun endeavor. However, by being educated about the financial facts and following these simple tips, you can make it much easier to move forward and avoid the financial pitfalls that many people fall into when ending a marriage.

~~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.

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.

Credit Score Success from Scratch; a Simple Recipe

A high credit score is like a homemade meal; it takes time, patience, and cannot be whipped up instantly.  Let’s look at the recipe to build a great credit score from scratch:

First, you need to have the ingredient of credit. People who don’t have any credit are not showing the credit scoring model their financial management skills.  A credit card, home loan, or car note is a main ingredient in the credit score recipe.  Remember: you are not required to carry a credit card balance. Using a credit card will help build your credit even if you pay it in full every month.

Second, make sure you pay a lot of attention. Pay those credit obligations on time, because timely payment is the single most important aspect of building a good credit score.  You can gain lots of points by having a good history of on time payment, and, conversely, you can spoil your credit score with just a few missed or late payment patterns.

Third, keep those credit card balances low. Credit card balances are like salt, less is more.  The credit scoring model looks at your credit card balance in relation to your credit limit (this is called a credit utilization ratio). The lower the ratio, the more positively it affects your credit score. Make sure to never charge over 30% of your total credit limit, because you don’t want to get penalized.

Fourth, keep those old credit cards open and use them every now and then. You will get points for a long, lengthy credit history.

Fifth, don’t add too many ingredients all at once. If you don’t have any credit and are just starting out, don’t open too many credit cards too fast. One line of credit every year or so will work out great.

Sixth, remember to have more than one ingredient, if possible. The scoring model likes to see that a person can manage a mix of credit. Having installment loans (mortgage or car) and revolving loans (credit cards) will give a boost to your score.

Seventh, keep an eye on it. Check your credit report at least once a year and examine it carefully.  Make sure there aren’t any errors (such as creditors that you don’t recognize, late payments or collections reporting incorrectly, etc). This happens all the time, and the sooner you catch it, the better off you will be. Dispute any incorrect information to get it removed.

Attaining a great credit score takes a little time, self discipline, and attention. However, putting in the effort will assure that you can get the best deals on mortgage, auto, and credit card rates. Following the recipe we just laid out is a great start to help you cook up a great credit score!

~~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.

Credit Scores: Small Mistakes that Spell Big Trouble

Most people are aware of the big actions that can cause your credit score to take a tumble: filing bankruptcy, having an account sent to collections,or being foreclosed upon. However, these are not the only actions that can decrease your credit score. Here are some other mistakes a consumer can make with their credit. While not ‘major offenders’, these 5 missteps can still prohibit you from joining the credit elite.

Maxing out your credit card.

 The balance to limit ratio is almost as important as paying your bills on time, accounting for 30% of your credit score.  A good rule of thumb is to never charge over 30% of your credit limit. This means if you have a total of $10,000 as the limit on your credit cards, you should never have a balance greater than $3,000.

Consumers who think they are managing their finances wisely by only having one credit card, but are using over 30% of the limit are actually HURTING their credit score.

 Missing a payment

 Just one 30 day late payment can drop your credit score significantly. Payment history is the single most important factor in the calculation of your credit score, at 35%.

A consumer who has no late payments on their credit history is gaining lots of points for their positive usage! One late pay can change all that. It is possible for a good credit score to drop 80 points with just one 30 day late.

Whether you sign up for automatic payments through your bank, get an app that reminds you, or write the date your bills are due on your calendar, pay those bills on time!

 Not checking your credit report.

It is estimated that over a third of credit reports contain some sort of error. These bits of erroneous information can be accounts showing late that were actually not late, collections that should have never gone into collections, or accounts that are not even yours! 

By not checking your credit report, these errors linger on your credit history and can cause your score to take a dive. Be sure you are checking your credit report at least once a year.  Review all accounts, balances, and payment history.  Make certain to follow up on any information that looks erroneous, and get it removed from your report by filing a dispute.

 Co-signing a loan.

 Sure, you want to be a good friend, neighbor, cousin, brother, etc. and help obtain a line of credit your loved one cannot qualify for on their own.   However, becoming a co-signer on a loan for someone else is really asking for trouble.  If the borrower does not pay on time or at all, you are responsible for the loan.

The loan will also show up on your credit report and be factored into your credit score. If the borrower is paying late, all those late pays will show up on your credit report, affecting your credit score in a very negative fashion. And once that happens, there is nothing you can do about it.

The scariest part of all is that this can happen without your knowledge. Co-signers rarely receive a copy of the bill, so they would not be made aware of the issue until the account was in a default status.

The best advice on this one is: Just say NO!

 Closing an old credit card

 15% of a person’s credit score is their length of credit history.  Credit cards are factored in by the age of the oldest account, and the average age of all the accounts.

Look at this example. Say you have 4 credit cards. The oldest is one you opened in college, 22 years ago. The others you have had 15 years, 9 years, and one you just opened 2 years ago.  Currently, the oldest account is 22 years old, and the average age of the accounts is 12 years.  If you close the oldest account, that changes the oldest account to 15 years, and the average age of the accounts decreases to 8 years. This change in credit history can cause a decrease in your credit score.

The best idea would be to keep the old credit card, and use it a few times a year to make sure it is positively factored into your credit score.

 It’s obvious to guard against bankruptcy, foreclosures, and collections.  Also make it a top priority to put measures in place to make sure you don’t make any of these small credit mistakes either.  Your credit score will thank you for it!

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 23 year old Memphis-based company that 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

Pay off your credit card every month? Your credit report may still show a balance

Posted in Credit Score,Uncategorized by datafactssolutions on October 13, 2011
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To all you consumers who pay your credit card balances in full every month; good for you! 

Not carrying a balance on a credit card is one of the best financial maneuvers you can make for yourself. This ensures that you won’t rack up expensive finance charges, nor will you find yourself deep in credit card debt.

However, if you are using your credit cards, your credit report may still show a balance, even if you pay it in full.
What??
The answer is simple. Creditors only report and bureaus (Experian, Transunion, and Equifax) only update your accounts once a month, but not necessarily on the first of the month.

For example:
You charge $2000 on your Visa. The bureaus may have updated their records on the 25th. You pay it in full on the 1st of the month.  If you pulled your credit report before the bureaus updated again, the $2000 balance would show up on your credit report and impact your credit score.
Now remember, balances make up 30% of your credit score, so this little process could cost you lots of points if you don’t manage it beforehand.

Here are 3 points to remember:
know your limit. Your credit card limit is an important piece of knowledge when managing your credit score. Be sure you are aware of the limit of each and every credit card in your possession.
-keep the ratio low. Never at any time charge more than 30% of your credit card limit. This is known as ‘credit utilization’. If you have a Mastercard with a $10,000 limit, never at any time should you have a balance greater than $3,000. Charging more than this could decrease your credit score. If you need to charge more than 30% throughout the month, it is better to increase your credit limit or charge it on more than one credit card, thereby keeping the credit utilization low.
-remember there is no way to know when creditors report to the bureaus. Creditors send their consumer information to the bureaus at different times throughout the month, so there is no set time that your credit report will ‘update’.
Paying your credit card balance in full every month is fabulous for your financial (and mental) health. Taking these extra steps and managing your balances throughout the month will help you greatly in maintaining the very best credit score available to you.

~~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.