The 5/1 ARM Mortgage: What Is It and Is It for Me?

5/1 ARM mortgage
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Finding the right mortgage can be a confusing process, especially for first-time homebuyers. There are so many options that it can be hard for a consumer to know how to get the optimal rate and terms.

One way to get a better initial interest rate is by taking out a 5/1 ARM mortgage. Small wonder that many potential borrowers want to know what makes a 5/1 ARM mortgage so unique and whether it might be the right loan for them.

Below is a guide to how 5/1 ARM mortgages work, how they are different from traditional 15- and 30-year mortgages, and what pros and cons consumers need to understand.

How a 5/1 ARM works

A 5/1 ARM mortgage, as explained by MagnifyMoney’s parent company, LendingTree, is a type of adjustable-rate mortgage (hence, the ARM part) that begins with a fixed interest rate for the first five years. Then, once that time has elapsed, the interest rate becomes variable. A variable rate means your interest rate can change. Consequently, so can your payment.

The number “5” in “5/1 ARM” means that your interest rate is fixed for five years. The number “1” in “5/1 ARM” means your interest rate could change each year after the first five years have passed.

Interest rates are based on an index, which is a benchmark rate used by lenders to set their rates. An index is based on broad market conditions and investment returns in the U.S.. Thus, your bank can adjust its interest rates at any point that the benchmark rate changes or if there are major fluctuations in the U.S. stock market.

What’s fixed? What’s adjustable?

Fixed-rate mortgages have the same interest rate for the duration of the mortgage loan. The most common loan periods for these are 15- and 30-year.

Because a 15-year fixed rate mortgage is, obviously, for a shorter term than a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, you will likely pay much less interest over time. However, as a result, you will have a higher monthly mortgage payment since the loan payoff period is condensed to 15 years.

Adjustable-rate mortgages like the 5/1 ARM loan mentioned above have a fixed interest rate for the beginning of the loan and then a variable rate after the initial fixed-rate period.

The chart below shows an example of the same house with three different types of mortgages.

As you can see below, the 15-year fixed rate mortgage has a lower interest rate, but a much higher payment. The 5/1 ARM has the lowest interest rate of all, but once that interest rate becomes variable, the lower rate is not guaranteed. This is one of the cons of a 5/1 ARM mortgage, which will be outlined in the next section.

Mortgage snapshot

Here is an example of three different types of mortgage payments for someone taking out a $200,000 mortgage. The chart below makes the assumption that the fictional person this is for has a high credit score and qualifies for good interest rates.

 

Interest Rate

Monthly payment

Principal Paid
After 5 Years

Total Interest Cost
After 5 Years

30-year fixed

3.625%

$912.10

$20,592.12

$35,046.14

15-year fixed

3.0%

$1,403

$57,987.88

$26,263.08

5/1 ARM

2.875%

$829.78

$22,595.20

$27,191.90

The pros and cons of 5/1 ARM mortgages

The pros

The biggest advantage of a 5/1 ARM mortgage is that interest rates are typically lower for the first five years of the loan than they would be with a typical 15- or 30-year fixed-rate deal. This allows the homeowner to put more of the monthly payment toward the principal balance on the home, which is a good way to gain equity in the property.

The 5/1 ARM mortgage commonly has a lifetime adjustment cap, which means that even though the rate is variable, it can never go higher than that cap. That way, your lender can tell you what your highest monthly payment will be in the future should your interest rate ever reach that point.

The cons

As mentioned above, the con of a 5/1 ARM mortgage is the whole “adjustable” component. Once you get past the five-year term, there will be uncertainty. Every year after the fifth year of your mortgage, the rate can adjust and keep adjusting.

There is a way around this. You can refinance your mortgage after the five years and secure a new mortgage with a fixed rate. But be warned: Refinancing comes with fees. You will have to calculate on your own whether or not the savings you derive from a lower payment for five years is worthwhile as you measure it against the cost of refinancing to a fixed-rate loan.

That’s why it’s important to know how long you want to live in your home and whether or not you’ll want to sell your home when you move (as opposed to, say, renting it out).

A 5/1 mortgage is right for …

“For certain people, like first-time homebuyers, 5/1 ARM mortgages are very useful,” Doug Crouse, a senior loan officer with nearly 20 years of experience in the mortgage industry, tells MagnifyMoney.

Here are the types of people who could benefit from a 5/1 ARM mortgage:

  • First-time homebuyers who are planning to move within five years.
  • Borrowers who will pay off their mortgages very quickly.
  • Borrowers who take out a jumbo mortgage.

Crouse explains that with some first-time homebuyers, the plan is to move after a few years. This group can benefit from lower interest rates and lower monthly payments during those early years, before the fixed rate changes to a variable rate.

Mindy Jensen, who is the community manager for BiggerPockets, an 800,000-person online community of real estate investors, agrees. “You can actually use a 5/1 ARM to your advantage in certain situations,” Jensen tells MagnifyMoney.

For example, Jensen mentions a 5/1 ARM could work well for someone who wants to pay down a mortgage very, very quickly. After all, if you know you’re going to pay off your loan early, why pay more interest to your lender than you have to?

“Homeowners who are looking to make very aggressive payments in order to be mortgage-free can use the 5/1 ARM” to their advantage, she explains. “The lower initial interest rate frees up more money to make higher principal payments.”

Another group that can benefit from 5/1 ARM mortgages, Crouse says, is those who take out or refinance jumbo mortgages.

For these loans, a 5/1 ARM makes the first few years of mortgage payments lower because of the lower interest rate. This, in turn, means that the initial payments will be much more affordable for these higher-end properties.

Plus, if buyers purchased these more expensive homes in desirable areas where home prices are projected to rise quickly, it’s possible the value of their home could soar in the first few years while they make lower payments. Then, they can sell after five years and hopefully make a profit. Keep in mind that real estate is a risky investment and nothing is guaranteed.

The 5/1 isn’t right for …

Long-term home buyers who plan to stay put for the long haul probably won’t benefit from a 5/1 ARM loan, experts say. “An adjustable-rate mortgage loan is a bad idea for anyone who sees their home as a long-term choice,” Jensen says.

Crouse echoes the sentiment: “If someone plans to stay in their home for longer than five years, this might not be the best option for them.”

Jensen adds that homeowners should consider whether or not they want to be landlords in the future. If you decide to move out of your home but keep the mortgage and rent a property, it won’t be so beneficial to sign up for a 5/1 ARM loan.

Questions to ask yourself

If, after reading this guide, you think a 5/1 ARM mortgage might be right to you, go through this list of questions to be sure. Remember, you can also consult with your lender.

  • How long do I want to live in this home?
  • Will this home suit my family if my family grows?
  • Is there a chance I could get transferred with my job?
  • How often does the rate adjust after five years?
  • When is the adjusted rate applied to the mortgage?
  • If I want to refinance after five years, what is the typical cost of a refinance?
  • How comfortable am I with the uncertainty of a variable rate?
  • Do I want to rent my house if I decide to move?

Hopefully these questions and this guide can aid you in reaching a sensible decision.

The post The 5/1 ARM Mortgage: What Is It and Is It for Me? appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Review of Chase Bank’s CD Rates

Review of Chase CD rates
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Chase Bank is a consumer and commercial bank operated by JPMorgan Chase & Co., an international business firm dating back to 1799 that currently has $2.6 trillion in assets and operations worldwide. The bank, insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), has 5,100 branches and 16,000 ATMs across the United States. Its products include credit cards; checking, savings and CD accounts; and auto and home equity loans.

But Chase’s CDs are the subject of this article; they can be opened at a branch or completely online at term lengths ranging from one to 120 months.

How Chase CD rates compare with those of other banks

We compared Chase’s CD offerings with entries on our current list of the Best CD Rates for December 2017. On the positive side, you’ll need less money to qualify for a Chase CD than you might at other banks. Chase allows customers to open their CDs with a minimum deposit of $1,000, which is slightly lower than qualifying amounts at some other institutions. Chase CDs are also open to applicants who do not bank with Chase, in contrast with the practices of some banks and credit unions that require member checking or savings accounts.

However, Chase CD rates are far from the most competitive rates out there. You can easily get find better APY rates at other institutions, particularly for one-year CDs. If you decide to go with Chase, look into so-called “relationship rates” with a higher APY. Relationship rates are offered to customers who link their CDs to a Chase personal checking account.

On a 12-month CD for under $10,000, for example, you’ll currently draw twice the percentage rate offered on the standard CD.

As mentioned, a minimum of $1,000 is required to open a Chase CD account, and interest is compounded daily. Depending on the term, your earned interest may be paid monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, annually — and at maturity.

Here’s an overview of the rates Chase currently offers on its CD products. All rates were reviewed at Depositaccounts.com, another LendingTree-owned company, and are current as of Dec. 5, 2017.

CD term

APY

Min. deposit amount

1-Month

0.01%

$1,000

2-Month

0.01%

$1,000

3-Month

0.01%

$1,000

6-Month

0.01%

$1,000

9-Month

0.01%

$1,000

12-Month

0.01%

$1,000

15-Month

0.01%

$1,000

18-Month

0.05%

$1,000

21-Month

0.05%

$1,000

24-Month

0.05%

$1,000

30-Month

0.05%

$1,000

36-Month

0.05%

$1,000

42-Month

0.10%

$1,000

48-Month

0.10%

$1,000

60-Month

0.25%

$1,000

84-Month

0.25%

$1,000

120-Month

0.70%

$1,000

Source: DepositAccounts.com, Dec. 5, 2017

Chase CD relationship rates

Chase CD relationship APY rates are extended to customers who have a linked Chase checking account. You can apply online and if you use a transfer from your account to open the CD, the account can be opened the same day. The minimum deposit is, again, $1,000.

CD term

$0 - $9,999

$10K - $24,999.99

$25K - $49,999.99

$50K - $99,999.99

$100K - $249,999.99

$250K+

1-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

2-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

3-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

6-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

9-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

12-Month

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.02%

0.05%

0.05%

15-Month

0.05%

0.15%

0.15%

0.15%

0.20%

0.20%

18-Month

0.15%

0.25%

0.25%

0.25%

0.30%

0.30%

21-Month

0.15%

0.25%

0.25%

0.25%

0.30%

0.30%

24-Month

0.15%

0.25%

0.25%

0.25%

0.30%

0.30%

30-Month

0.15%

0.25%

0.25%

0.25%

0.30%

0.30%

36-Month

0.40%

0.60%

0.60%

0.60%

0.65%

0.65%

42-Month

0.40%

0.60%

0.60%

0.60%

0.65%

0.65%

48-Month

0.50%

0.70%

0.70%

0.70%

0.75%

0.75%

60-Month

0.60%

0.80%

0.80%

0.80%

0.85%

0.85%

84-Month

0.60%

0.80%

0.80%

0.80%

0.85%

0.85%

120-Month

1.15%

1.25%

1.25%

1.25%

1.29%

1.29%

Source: DepositAccounts.com, Dec. 5, 2017

Here’s a sample comparison between the APY on standard and relationship CDs on new accounts. To calculate on earnings at maturity, we assumed an account balance of $5,000.

Chase standard CD APY

Earnings at maturity

Chase relationship CD

Earnings at maturity

12 months at 0.01%

$.50

12 months at 0.02%

$1.00

24 months at 0.05%

$5.00

24 months at 0.15%

$15.01

48 months at 0.10%

$20.03

48 months at 0.50%

$100.75

120 months at 0.70%

$361.23

120 months at 1.15%

$605.69

Important information about Chase CDs

Fees

There are no monthly service fees, however there are $15 fees for inbound domestic and international wire transfers (waived if from another Chase account) and outbound domestic wire transfer fees. Accounts can be opened online. Deposits of more than $100,000 must be opened at a Chase branch office.

Non-Chase customer access

You do not need to have a Chase checking or savings account to open a standard Chase CD account. You’ll need to provide a Social Security number, driver’s license and contact information. Deposits must be made from a checking or savings account through your existing bank.

Maturity date and grace period
Law requires banks to alert consumers before the maturation date on CDs. Chase considers the maturity date as the last day of the term. It offers a 10-day grace period on all CDs with terms 14 days or longer. During the grace period, you can withdraw the funds without penalty or roll over the account to another term.

Automatically renewable CDs versus single-maturity CDs

Account holders have the option of opening an automatically renewable or single-maturity CD account.

With an automatically renewable CD, the account renews on the maturity date for the same term as the original one, making the new maturity date the last day of the new term. The standard rate will apply unless the owner qualifies for a relationship CD.

The single-maturity CD does not automatically renew and earns no interest following the maturity date. You may want to see if Chase is offering any promotional rates during the 10-day grace period if you plan to invest in another Chase CD using a ladder strategy.

Earning interest on a Chase CD

Interest on Chase CDs begins to accrue on the first business day of deposit into your account and is calculated on a daily balance, 365 days a year. Paid or credited interest can be withdrawn during the term or at maturity without incurring penalties. For maturities of more than one year, interest will be paid at least annually, according to the bank. If the CD matures and automatically renews, the interest in the account is rolled over into the new principal.

Early-withdrawal penalties and fees
According to Chase, early-withdrawal penalties are deducted from your principal and do not exceed the total amount of earned interest. The penalty is 1 percent of the amount withdrawn if the term of the CD is less than 24 months. The early-withdrawal penalty is 2 percent for terms of 24 months or more.

Chase CD early-withdrawal penalties can be waived upon:

  • Death of a CD owner
  • Disability of a retirement CD owner
  • Retitling of a CD
  • A court ruling that the CD owner is incompetent

The bottom line:

Chase’s CD rates are likely best for customers who link the CD to their personal checking accounts because they can qualify for those juicier relationship rates. The rates improve for longer terms and larger deposit amounts. Chase’s online tools allow you to apply for relationship CDs and track your investments. The minimum amount to open a standard CD account ($1,000) is on par or slightly lower than those required by other institutions. Overall, the APY rates are not as good as you can get from some competing banks and credit unions.

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Discover Bank CD Rates Review

Discover
Most people know Discover as a credit card company, but it also operates an online bank and offers some of the best rates and terms on checking and savings accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs).

If you’re looking for CDs in particular, Discover is currently considered one of the best CDs due to their customer service and digital tools.

Discover Bank CD rates

CD term

Annual Percentage Yield (APY)

Minimum deposit amount

3 months

0.35%

$2,500

6 months

0.65%

$2,500

9 months

0.70%

$2,500

12 months

1.50%

$2,500

18 months

1.55%

$2,500

24 months

1.65%

$2,500

30 months

1.70%

$2,500

3 years

1.76%

$2,500

4 years

1.85%

$2,500

5 years

2.25%

$2,500

7 years

2.30%

$2,500

10 years

2.35%

$2,500

Rates as of Dec. 5, 2017

Learn More Secured

on Discover’s secure website

How do Discover Bank CD rates compare?

While Discover Bank CD rates aren’t always the highest available, they are consistently among the top offers across all terms. However, you may be able to find a similar or even better rate with a CD that has a lower minimum deposit than Discover’s. Currently, several nationwide banks offered a 12-month CD at a rate higher than Discover’s 12-month CD APY, while requiring a lower minimum deposit. For example, at the same time the above rates were available at Discover, there were 12-month CDs with rates as high as 1.65% APY with a minimum deposit of $500.

It’s always great to go for the highest interest rates possible, but keep your CD investing strategy in mind. If you’re investing in CDs using the ladder strategy, it might be easier to keep everything in one bank since you’ll be switching in and out of CDs frequently.

Discover also stands out from its competition in the CD space with its mobile app and 24/7 U.S.-based customer service. If you value such features, keep those particulars in mind when weighing Discover CD rates against others’.

What you need to know about Discover Bank’s CDs

Discover Bank is very transparent in terms of fine print. It’s not difficult to understand what’ll happen with your money after you invest it. We’ll cover the basics here about what you need to know to invest in Discover Bank’s CDs.

How to open a CD

It’s very simple to open up a CD with Discover Bank. Go to their CD webpage and click on the orange “Open an Account” button near the top right of the page. You can then choose which accounts you’d like to open. Select “CD,” choose a CD term and enter how much you’d like to deposit.

You’ll then need to complete the application by providing your name, address, date of birth, phone number, Social Security number, employment status and possibly even your driver’s license. Once your application is complete and accepted, you’ll need to fund the account.

How to fund the CD

You’ll need to fund it within 45 days of submitting your application, which you can do in one of three ways:

  • Transfer funds from another bank account over the phone. (You can only do this when you first fund your account.)
  • Transfer funds from another bank via online transfer.
  • Write a check to yourself and send it to the following address:Discover Bank
    P.O. Box 30417
    Salt Lake City, UT 84130

The minimum deposit amount for each of Discover Bank’s CDs is, as the chart above indicates, $2,500. Once you open a CD, you can’t deposit more money later, so it’s a good idea to make sure you have all the cash you want to invest before you open the account.

Withdrawing funds from the CD

When you want to withdraw money from your CD, the biggest thing to consider is whether that CD has matured yet, or finished its term.

If your CD has not matured, you’ve got options: You can take the interest out penalty-free at any time, or you can withdraw the principal (or the money you deposited) at any time as long as you pay an early-withdrawal penalty. This penalty varies depending on the original term of your CD:

  • less than one year: three months’ worth of simple interest
  • one year to less than four years: six months’ worth of simple interest
  • four years: nine months’ worth of simple interest
  • five years to less than seven years: 18 months’ worth of simple interest
  • seven years or longer: 24 months’ worth of simple interest

If your CD has finished its term, you can withdraw your money penalty-free, allow the CD to renew or roll it into a CD of a different term length. (More on that in a bit).

Earning interest on a Discover CD

Your CD will start earning interest on the same business day that you fund the account. The interest will be added to your account once each month, however.

When it comes to what to do with your interest, you have two options: The default option is to allow it to compound within the CD (meaning you’ll earn interest on that interest), or you can have it automatically deposited each month into another Discover bank account.

What happens once the CD matures?

You’ll get a heads-up notice about a month before your CD matures so you can decide what to do with the money. You have two main options: Either reinvest it into another CD (of the same term length or a different term length), or withdraw the money from the CD and put it into another account (such as a checking or savings account, or perhaps a CD at a different institution).

If you don’t let Discover know what you want to do with the maturing CD, the CD will automatically renew into another one of the same term length. You have a nine-day grace period after your CD automatically rolls over to make any changes or withdrawals penalty-free.

The bottom line

As far as big-name banks go, Discover offers great CD products. Wells Fargo, for example, only offers interest rates as high as 1.55% APY on a $5,000 deposit for a 58-month CD. Chase Bank offers even lower maximum rates — an abysmal 1.05% APY, and only if you can commit a minimum of $100,000 for 10 years.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to keep your finances in one place, Discover also has great credit cards, as well as competitive online savings and checking accounts. No matter how long you’re considering putting money in a CD, Discover is worth a look. Even if it doesn’t have the best available rate, it’s usually within several basis points of the top offerings and well above the average APY.

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The post Discover Bank CD Rates Review appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Review of Live Oak Bank’s Deposit Rates

Review of Live Oak Bank
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Chances are you haven’t heard of Live Oak Bank. After all, this lender, based mostly on the web, has only been around since 2008, and it mostly focuses on giving out small business loans to businesses in specific industries, such as veterinary practices or craft breweries.

That’s no reason to pass it up for your personal banking needs, however. In fact, this little gem of a bank has one of the best-kept secrets in the personal banking world: it has one of the highest savings account interest rates you’ll find from an online bank. (More on that below.) And, most of its other personal deposit accounts offer relatively high rates as well.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at its deposit accounts to see if they’re right for you.

How Live Oak Bank rates compare

Live Oak Bank is right on par with the current highest CD rates.

This bank’s minimum deposit requirements also seem to be right on par with other bank’s minimum deposit requirements. The current best CDs out there have minimum deposit requirements both above and below Live Oak Bank’s $2,500 benchmark.

Term

APY

Minimum Deposit

6-month CD

1.25%

$2,500

1-year CD

1.70%

$2,500

18-month CD

1.75%

$2,500

2-year CD

1.85%

$2,500

3-year CD

2.00%

$2,500

4-year CD

2.05%

$2,500

5-year CD

2.30%

$2,500

Rates current as of Dec. 5, 2017.

What else do I need to know about Live Oak Bank’s CDs?

Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible to open these accounts. It’s a relatively straightforward process to open a CD: Simply complete the forms online, provide any needed documentation (such as your current bank account details), and wait for an account approval. Once your account is open, you can transfer over your deposit, where it will be held for five days before officially launching your CD.

If you need to take out your deposit early, bad news: As with many CDs, you’ll face an early-withdrawal penalty at Live Oak Bank. If your original CD term was for six months, one year or 18 months, you’ll be charged 90 days’ worth of interest. If your original CD term was for longer than that, you’ll be charged a higher rate of 180 days’ worth of interest.

If you are able to resist the urge to withdraw your money early, congratulations! Your CD will automatically renew into a second CD with the same term length. However, don’t panic if that’s not what you want: You have up to 10 days after the CD has matured to withdraw your money penalty-free and park it in your own bank account (whether it’s with Live Oak Bank or not).

APY

Minimum Deposit

1.45%

Up to $5 million

(but only up to $250,000 is FDIC-insured)

Rates current as of Dec. 5, 2017.

How do Live Oak Bank’s savings accounts compare?

When it comes to the best savings accounts with high interest rates, Live Oak Bank is right up there. This means that Live Oak Bank is lowering the bar and allowing anyone to take advantage of these high interest rates, no matter how much is in his or her pocket right now.

What else do I need to know about Live Oak Bank’s savings account?

Live Oak Bank wants you to use your savings account, and use it often, which is one reason why it has no monthly maintenance fee. If there is no activity on your account for 24 months and your balance is less than $10.01, Live Oak Bank will take the remainder of your balance as a Dormant Account Fee and close your account.

Getting money into a Live Oak Bank savings account from an external bank account can take a little bit of time depending on how you do it. If you request the money through Live Oak Bank’s online portal, the funds won’t be available for up to five or six business days. But if you opt instead to send the money to Live Oak Bank from your current bank, the money will be available as soon as it’s received. Your Live Oak Bank savings account will start earning interest as soon as the money posts to your account.

You can easily withdraw your money at any time via ACH transfer. Simply log into your Live Oak Bank savings account and electronically transfer it to whichever bank account you wish. It’ll be available in two to three business days.

You are limited to making just six transactions (deposits or withdrawals) per month with this savings account. That’s not a Live Oak Bank thing; that’s a federal regulation imposed upon savings accounts in the U.S. If you absolutely can’t wait until next month to make another deposit or withdrawal past your allotted six per month, you’ll be charged a $10 transaction fee for each additional action.

Overall review of Live Oak Bank

It’s easy to overlook Live Oak Bank for other larger, more established consumer banks like Ally or Discover Bank. But Live Oak has some of the best CD rates around, and the best savings account available on the market today.

Lest you be scared away by its smaller name, consider this: This tiny-but-growing bank is getting rave reviews from customers and employees alike. It carries an “A” health rating, and has a top-notch online banking portal. About the only thing missing is a checking account to let you seamlessly do all of your daily banking with this great company.

The post Review of Live Oak Bank’s Deposit Rates appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

FHA Mortgage Insurance: Explained

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Mortgages with the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) can be especially attractive to credit-challenged first-time homebuyers. Not only can your down payment be as little as 3.5 percent, but FHA loans also have more lenient credit requirements. Indeed, you can qualify for maximum funding and that low percentage rate with a minimum credit score of 580.

On the negative side, the generous qualifying requirements increase the risk to a lender. That’s where mortgage insurance comes into play.

FHA mortgage insurance (MIP) backs up lenders if you default. It’s the price you pay for getting a mortgage with easier underwriting standards. If you put down 10 percent or more, you’ll pay MIP for 11 years. If you put down less than 10 percent, you’ll pay for MIP for the life of the loan. But there are ways you can get MIP removed or canceled, which we’ll also explain in a bit.

MIP can be bit confusing, so we’ll break down exactly how it works and how much it can add to the cost of a mortgage loan in this post.

Upfront and ongoing MIP: Explained

All FHA borrowers have to pay for mortgage insurance.

MIP is paid upfront, when you close your mortgage loan, as well as through an annual payment that is divided into monthly installments. Not all homebuyers have to pay MIP forever, and we’ll get into those specifics, so hang tight.

When you make your upfront MIP payment, the lender will put those funds into an escrow account and keep them there. If you default, those funds will be used to pay off the lender. As for your ongoing MIP payments, they get tacked onto your monthly mortgage loan payment.

How long you have to pay MIP as part of your mortgage payments can vary based on when the loan was closed, your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio, and the size of your down payment. Your LTV is simply how much your loan balance is, versus the value of your home, which our parent company LendingTree explains in this post.

Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP)

UFMIP is required to be paid upon closing. It can be paid entirely with cash or rolled into the total amount of the loan. The lender will send the fee to the FHA. The current upfront premium is 1.75 percent of the base loan amount. So, if you borrow a FHA loan valued at $200,000, your upfront mortgage insurance payment would be $3,500 due at closing.

UFMIP is required to be paid by the FHA lender within 10 days of closing. The payment is included in your closing costs or rolled into the loan. A one-time late charge of 4 percent will be levied on all premiums that aren’t paid by lenders within 10 days beyond closing. The lender (not the borrower) must pay the late fee before FHA will endorse the mortgage for insurance.

With ongoing premiums, your lender will collect your MIP and send it to HUD. The lender, not you, be penalized for any late MIP payments.

Annual MIP payments are calculated by loan amount, LTV, and term. To help estimate your cost, the FHA has a great What’s My Payment tool.

Here’s an example of monthly charges based on a $300,000, 30-year loan at 4 percent interest, with a 3.5 percent down payment and an FHA MIP of 0.85 percent. (This does not include any money escrowed for taxes and insurance):

  • Principal and interest: $1,406.30
  • Down payment: $10,500
  • Upfront MIP at 1.75 percent: $5,066
  • Monthly FHA MIP at 0.85 percent: $203.42
  • Total monthly payment = $1,609.72

Penalties and interest charges for late monthly payments are similar to those levied on the UFMIP.

Base Loan Amount

LTV

Annual MIP

Less than or equal to $625,500

≤ 90.00%

0.80%

> 90.00% but
≤ 95.00%

0.80%

> 95.00%

0.85%

Greater than $625,500

≤ 90.00%

1.00%

> 90.00% but
≤ 95.00%

1.00%

> 95.00%

1.00%

Source: HUD

Base Loan Amount

LTV

Annual MIP

Less than or equal to $625,500

≤ 90.00%

0.45%

> 90.00% but
≤ 95.00%

0.70%

Greater than $625,500

> 90.00% but
≤ 95.00%

0.45%

> 95.00%

0.70%

> 90.00%

0.95%

Source: HUD

How long does MIP last?

The length on MIP requirements also depends on when you closed the loan and the size of your down payment. The rules changed dramatically in July 3, 2013. Until then, you could cancel your MIP after your LTV ratio dropped to 78 percent. Under the new rules, the MIP on loans closed after June 3, 2013, will last either the life of the loan or for 11 years, based on the amount of the down payment.

For loans that were closed before June 3, 2013, you can still request that MIP be dropped after your LTV ratio drops to 78 percent — after five years of payments without delinquencies.

Here’s the breakdown:

Loan Term

Original Down Payment

MIP Duration

20, 25, 30 years

Less than 10%

Life of loan

20, 25, 30 years

More than 10%

11 years

15 years or less

Less than 10%

Life of loan

15 years or less

More than 10%

11 years

Source: FHA

 

Loan Term

Original Down Payment

MIP Duration

20, 25, 30 years

Less than 10%

78% LTV based on original purchase price
(5 years minimum)

20, 25, 30 years

10-22%

78% LTV based on original purchase price
(5 years minimum)

20, 25, 30 years

More than 22%

5 years

15 years

Less than 10%

78% LTV

15 years

10-22%

78% LTV

15 years

More than 22%

No MIP

Source: FHA

How to Eliminate MIP

NOTE: About endorsements

According to the MIP Refund Center, the HUD endorsement on FHA loan is the date your MIP is approved. When you pay your upfront MIP with the lender, the loan is closed.The clock starts ticking on your MIP on the endorsement date.

More on MIP cancellation:

Most of today’s FHA borrowers will have but a few options to end their insurance payments. If you’re hoping to get out of paying FHA mortgage insurance, you’re going to either have to pay off the loan or do some refinancing. The FHA policy allowing borrowers to cancel annual MIP after paying for five years and reaching 78 percent LTV was rescinded with the new regulations in 2013 requiring payments for the life of the loan.

The good news about the FHA policy is that you can retire your loan earlier by making additional payments. If you closed your loan after June 2013, you can cancel MIP by refinancing into a conventional loan once you have an LTV of at least 80 percent.

Here are two strategies to get your MIP canceled:

Replace/refinance with a Streamline FHA Mortgage

If you have a current FHA mortgage and have no late payments, you may qualify for a Streamline FHA mortgage to refinance your existing loan with a better rate. You’ll still need to pay MIP but the savings generated by the lower interest rate can offset your insurance costs.

Replace/refinance, with conventional PMI

Want to switch to conventional refinancing? Credit requirements are tougher and interest rates may be higher on conventional PMI. The minimum qualifying credit score for conventional fixed-rate loans is 620.

PMI is similar to MIP in that both protect the lender’s investment. The MIP is determined by the LTV and term. The PMI is calculated on the size of your down payment.

A minimum of 5 percent down is required and the PMI can be paid in a lump sum or monthly installments — not both. If you put down 20 percent or more, the requirement for PMI on conventional financing can be waived. In conventional refinancing, you may be required to have an appraisal to determine property value. This is essential since the PMI insurance requirement on conventional loans ends once the borrower’s LTV drops to 78 percent. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says that the lender is required to cancel PMI once your payments reach the “midpoint of your loan’s amortization schedule” — no matter the LTV. That’s if you’re current on your payments.

A good way to determine the value of refinancing is to complete an analysis through LendingTree’s Refinance Calculator.

LEARN MORE:

FHA announcements and changes

HUD announces changes in MIP requirements from time to time in reaction to risks such as foreclosures, deficits in the Mortgage Insurance Fund or downturns in FHA lending.

For example, in January 2015, HUD reduced the annual MIP insurance rate by 50 basis points. Another announcement was released this year after President Trump took office when HUD canceled a plan to lower MIP premiums proposed by the Obama administration. According to the National Association of Realtors, the cancellation of lower rates means “roughly 750,000 to 850,000 homebuyers will face higher costs, and 30,000 to 40,000 new homebuyers will be left on the sidelines in 2017 without the cut.”

Consumers should check with lenders or with HUD to stay up to speed on changes that could affect their mortgage.

Am I eligible for a HUD refund?

If you acquired your loan prior to Sept. 1, 1983, you may be eligible for a refund on a portion of your UFMIP. Or, if you refinance your home with another FHA loan, the insurance refund is applied to your new loan.

HUD rules specify how long you have to refinance before you lose your refund:

  • For any FHA-insured loans with a closing date prior to Jan. 1, 2001, and endorsed before Dec. 8, 2004, no refund is due the homeowner after the end of the seventh year of insurance.
  • For any FHA-insured loans closed on or after Jan. 1, 2001 and endorsed before Dec. 8, 2004, no refund is due the homeowner after the fifth year of insurance.
  • For FHA-insured loans endorsed on or after Dec. 8, 2004, no refund is due the homeowner unless he or she refinanced to a new FHA-insured loan, and no refund is due these homeowners after the third year of insurance.

The refund process goes into motion when the mortgage company reports the termination of your insurance on the loan to HUD. You may receive additional paperwork from HUD or receive a refund directly in the mail. You can find out if you’re owed a refund by entering your information at the HUD refund site. If you’re on the list, call HUD to get the ball rolling at: 1-800-697-6967?.???

Final thoughts

If you’re trying to get into a home with less-than-optimal credit, an FHA-backed loan could be your best option. You’ll pay for the benefit of landing the mortgage through MIP over much of the loan’s lifetime, if not all of it. You may save money after you’ve built some equity (or improved your credit) by refinancing to a conventional mortgage that drops the mortgage insurance requirement after you reach the 78 percent LTV milestone.

The post FHA Mortgage Insurance: Explained appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Why You Should Still Talk to a Lender Even if You’re Not Ready to Buy a Home

A mature couple receives an application at a bank.

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, you might think you’re not ready to purchase a house. Perhaps you’re concerned about your job situation, your previous credit history, or your high monthly expenses. Whatever the circumstances, every borrower and financial situation is unique.

Unless you’re a financial expert, it’s best not to self-diagnose your financial problems. You wouldn’t skip out on the dentist to fill your own cavities, so don’t try to solve your financial troubles yourself either. A loan officer can walk you through your options—and they won’t try to drill your teeth!

When you apply for home loans, mortgage loan officers look at your credit score, credit history, monthly liabilities, income, and assets. These officers see the entire financial picture, not just the investable funds. A reputable loan officer with experience can get you on the right track for buying a home.

Here are three common reasons people don’t want to apply for a mortgage and what you should do if you’re really serious about buying a home.

A Less-Than-Ideal Credit Report

The reality is that mortgage companies are required to pull a copy of your credit report, which includes scores from all three credit reporting bureaus. Your credit report is the most accurate representation of your credit available. Don’t let your messy credit report keep you from talking to a lender. After looking at your credit report, the lender can actually tell you what debts are the biggest drain on your borrowing power so you can start making smart financial decisions to improve your score.

Not Enough Income

Let the mortgage company review your paystubs, W-2s, and tax returns for the last two years. If you were self-employed, let the loan officer look at your tax returns and evaluate your credit to determine what down payment you can afford and what you can buy. The lender can give you an idea of what you need to do to qualify, including how much more money you need to make to offset a proposed mortgage payment. With an action plan and a strategy in place, it may just take you a matter of months to button up your financial picture to qualify.

Too Much Debt

Debt and liabilities definitely impact spending power. Every dollar of debt you have requires two dollars of income to offset it. So for example, if you have a car loan that’s $500 a month, you will need $1,000 a month of income to offset that monthly liability. If more than 15% of your income currently goes toward consumer debt, you’ll have to either pay off debt or get more income—perhaps via a cosigner—to qualify for mortgage financing. Again, let the lender look at your financial picture so they can tell you what it takes to make it work.

If you’re planning to buy a house in the future but aren’t financially ready, talk to a professional. Meet with them face-to-face, provide them with all of your financial documentation, let them run a copy of your credit report, and go through a pre-homebuying consultation so they can either preapprove you or tell you what to do to become preapproved in the future.

Many times, potential buyers are not ready, but having a conversation with a professional—so you know where you stand and where you are going—can be tremendously beneficial. You can also take a look at your financial health with a free credit report from Credit.com.

Image: dcdebs

The post Why You Should Still Talk to a Lender Even if You’re Not Ready to Buy a Home appeared first on Credit.com.

How to Handle an Upside-Down Car Loan

iStock

Upside-down. Negative equity. Underwater. No matter what you call it, it means you owe more on your car than it’s currently worth. While it happens to most people who finance the purchase of a vehicle at some point, it’s not a good place to be — especially when you’re planning on selling the car or trading it in for a newer model.

It’s also a situation that’s becoming more common. According to the Edmunds Used Vehicle Market Report for the third quarter of 2016, a record 25 percent of all trade-ins toward a used car purchase have negative equity, and the average negative equity at the time of trade-in was $3,635 — also a record in the used-car market.

You can find out if you’re in this position by looking up the value of your vehicle using a research tool such as Kelley Blue Book. If the value is less than the balance on your current car loan, you are upside-down.

Part I: How do you get upside-down in the first place?

There are some reasons car loans may be upside-down.

Low down payment

Dealerships often offer incentives for new cars, including very low or no down payment loans. A new car loses about 20 percent of its value in the first year, so a small down payment can quickly cause the balance of your loan to soar above its actual value. A healthy down payment can help keep your loan balance in line with the worth of your car.

High interest rate

Remember to shop around for an auto loan, because the higher the interest rate, the less you’re paying toward principal each month. That makes it more likely you’ll become upside-down, even if you made a decent down payment.

Anthony Curren, a sales and marketing manager and salesperson with Rick Curren Auto Sales in Corning, N.Y., says he sees this happen pretty regularly when disreputable salespeople charge higher interest rates to make more money off a loan.

“This happened to my girlfriend before we met,” Curren says. “She had an 800-plus credit score and got stuck in a loan charging 5 percent interest. She should have been paying 2 percent or less at that time.”

Longer loan term

According to Experian’s State of the Automotive Finance Market report for the second quarter of 2017, the average length of a new auto loan is currently nearing 69 months. While longer loan terms may keep your monthly payment low, you’ll end up paying more interest, and you’re more likely to be upside-down.

Past upside-down loan

You could be upside-down because you carried negative equity over from your last car loan. Many dealers offer what’s known as a rollover loan: When people trade in an upside-down vehicle, the dealership rolls the negative equity into the purchase of their next car. With a rollover loan, you are upside-down before you even drive off the lot.

People who trade up for a new vehicle every couple of years are most likely to have car loans with rolled-over negative equity. In the first few years of a new car loan, your car depreciates faster while your loan balance declines the slowest due to interest. This means many people are upside down in the early years of their loans. The longer you keep the vehicle, the more likely it is that the loan balance will be less than the current value of the vehicle.

Being upside-down on your car loan may not pose a problem, as long as you are planning on holding onto the car until you have some equity in it. But if an unforeseen financial setback means you need to sell the car, you may need to come up with extra cash to pay off the loan difference. And if your car is wrecked or stolen, your insurance may not pay out enough to retire the loan.

Part II: How to get out of an upside-down car loan

The first step to dealing with an upside-down car loan is knowing your numbers.

Step 1: Figure out how much you owe.

The fastest and most accurate way to find out how much you owe on your loan is to contact your finance company. If you are planning on selling or trading in your car right away, you’ll need to know the payoff amount, not just the amount remaining on your principal. The payoff amount is how much you actually have to pay to satisfy the terms of your loan. It includes the payment of any interest you owe through the day you intend to pay off the loan, as well as any prepayment penalties.

You may be able to find this figure by logging into your lender’s online account portal. Otherwise, you’ll have to call the finance company.

Step 2: Figure out how much your car is worth

You can get a value estimate using Kelley Blue Book’s What’s My Car Worth tool. You’ll need to provide the car’s year, make, model, mileage, style or trim level (the alphanumeric code that helps identify at what level the vehicle is equipped), and the car’s condition. If you’re not sure how to rate your car’s condition, you can take a quick quiz to help you assess it.

Once you input those details, you’ll receive a range suggesting how much (or how little) you can expect to receive from a dealer for a trade-in. Keep in mind that every dealer is different, but you may be able to negotiate.

Step 3: Calculate your negative equity

If the payoff amount on your loan is greater than the value of your car, you are, as we’ve said, upside-down. Subtract the value of your car from the payoff amount to find out how underwater you are. If the difference is small, you may be able to make extra payments toward the loan’s principal to catch up. If the difference is significant, you may have to take more drastic steps.

Step 4: Strategize remedies

If you find yourself upside-down on your car loan, the most prudent course of action is continue to pay down the debt until you have some equity in the car. You can hasten the process by making extra payments toward the loan’s principal.

If that isn’t an option, here are a few other ideas.

Pay off the car with a home equity loan or line of credit

As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to paying off a car loan with a home equity loan or line of credit (HELOC). One advantage is that you can typically lengthen your repayment period, thereby reducing your monthly payment. HELOCs also have more flexible repayment options, compared with the fixed monthly payment that comes with an auto loan. This may be a good option if you’re having trouble making your monthly payment due to a temporary financial setback.

The second advantage of paying off your car loan in this fashion: The interest paid on your HELOC is typically tax-deductible, while interest on your car loan is not. Keep in mind that you’ll have to itemize deductions on your tax return to take advantage of this benefit. If you take the standard deduction, there’s no tax advantage.

But before you pay off a car loan with a HELOC, consider the downsides. First off, HELOCs are often variable-rate loans. If interest rates rise, your monthly payment could go up. Second, even if the interest rate on your HELOC is lower than the interest rate on your car loan, you could end up paying more in interest by stretching out the loan term. Finally, if you can’t make your HELOC payments, you could lose your home.

If you decide to take this route, make a plan to pay down the HELOC as soon as possible. Otherwise, it could well outlive your car, and you’ll be paying off the HELOC and a new loan for your next vehicle at the same time.

Pay off the car with a personal loan

Paying off a car loan with a personal loan could be a good option if you plan on selling your car without buying a new one. In that case, you would sell the car, use the proceeds to pay down the balance of the car loan, then refinance the remaining balance with a personal loan.

However, keep in mind that auto loans are secured by collateral (the car). If you’re unable to pay, the lender can repossess the car. Personal loans are unsecured. If you stop paying, the lender has fewer options for recovering the money. For this reason, personal loans usually come with higher interest rates than auto loans.

The Federal Reserve Bank’s survey of commercial bank interest rates for the second quarter of 2017 shows just how much higher those rates can be. The average 60-month new car loan comes with an APR of 4.24 percent. The average 24-month personal loan has an APR of 10.13 percent. So with the typical personal loan, you’ll pay more than twice as much interest in half the time. Hard to see that as a good deal.

Refinance the car loan

Refinancing your car loan can help in a few ways. You may be able to lower your interest rate and lower the term of your loan, both of which will help you get equity in your car sooner. Curren says deciding whether refinancing is the right option depends on the remaining loan term and interest rate.

He uses the hypothetical example of a person who, because of credit issues, used a subprime loan with an interest rate of 22.9 percent to purchase a car. “My advice to that person is to build their credit up as much as possible and as quickly as possible,” Curren says. “In one year, they should be looking at refinancing the loan with an interest rate as low as 6 or 7 percent, which is still relatively high, but much more palatable. It will save them thousands of dollars in repayment.”

However, Curren says he doesn’t offer the same advice to someone with only a year or two left on a loan. “At that point, the savings is minimal,” he says. “The better advice is to pay off the car quicker.”

Part III: What to watch out for when you have an upside-down car loan

Car dealers push the latest vehicle designs and advertise very attractive incentives for trading in your old vehicle, no matter how upside-down you are at the moment. But take heed: You’ll want to be very careful about trading in an upside-down vehicle for a new loan. Here’s a look at the problems that can arise:

Rolled-over negative equity

As we mentioned above, many car dealers are willing to roll the negative equity from your old car loan into a new loan. This is a popular option because it doesn’t require coming up with any money immediately. But it also means your new car will be underwater before you even drive it home. That new car may be fun to drive, but your monthly will be higher because it includes the cost of your new vehicle and the remaining balance on the old one.

Dealer cash incentives

Some car dealers offer cash incentives that can help pay off your negative equity. For example, if you have $1,000 in negative equity on your current car loan, you could buy a new car with a $2,500 rebate, use $1,000 of the rebate to pay off the negative equity, and still have $1,500 left over to use as a down payment on the new car.

But be wary of dealers advertising they’ll “pay off your loan no matter how much you owe.” The FTC warns consumers that these promises may be misleading because dealers may roll the negative equity into your new loan, deduct it from your down payment, or both. If the dealer promises to pay off your negative equity, read your sales contract very carefully to make sure it’s not somehow folded into your new loan.

Part IV: How to avoid an upside-down car loan

Being upside-down on your car loan, at least for a little while, is very common. But there are things you can do to prevent it from happening.

  • Make a larger down payment. Because a car depreciates by around 20 percent in its first year, putting down 20 percent of the total purchase price (including taxes and fees) can help you avoid going underwater.
  • Choose a car that holds its value. Some makes and models hold their value better than others. Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds and other car research sites regularly release lists of car brands and individual models with the best resale value. Do your research and pick out a car that will depreciate more slowly.
  • Opt for a shorter loan term. Longer terms are more likely to leave you underwater in the early years of the loan because you’re paying less toward the principal each month. Try not to finance a car for longer than you plan on keeping it.
  • Shop around for the lowest rate. The lower your interest rate, the more money you’ll pay toward principal each month. Don’t settle for the first offer you receive at a dealership. Shop around for a car loan before you go to the dealer, so you can feel confident you’re getting the best deal.
  • Avoid unnecessary options. Sunroofs, leather upholstery, rust proofing, extended warranties, fabric protection, chrome wheels — all these attractive add-ons are often overpriced. They’ll increase the purchase price of your vehicle, but rarely add long-term value.

Final thoughts

Being upside-down on your car loan is not an ideal situation, but you do have options. Understand the circumstances that led you to be upside-down in the first place can help keep the problem from recurring, or from carrying over to your next loan.

The post How to Handle an Upside-Down Car Loan appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

3 Credit Cards That Reward Your Streaming Subscriptions

real estate tv shows

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are reviewed below.]

Streaming entertainment services offer subscribers a virtually bottomless well of entertainment—whether you love movies, TV shows, or music. And while they’re cheap compared to the movie theater and record store, subscription services do add on to your entertainment budget. Some credit cards can negate these costs by specifically rewarding streaming subscriptions.

Here are three credit cards that reward streaming entertainment services.

1. Citi ThankYou Preferred Card

Rewards: Two points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment; one point per dollar spent on other purchases.
Sign-Up Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then variable 14.49% to 24.49% APR.
Why We Picked It: All streaming services earn points toward valuable rewards.
For Your Streaming Content: All entertainment purchases, including streaming services like Netflix or Spotify, earn two points on the dollar. Dining purchases earn double points as well, so you’re covered for a night of pizza and a movie. Points can be redeemed for travel, merchandise, gift cards, and more.
Drawbacks: If you don’t dine out a lot, you won’t earn points as quickly.

2. Sony Card from Capital One

Rewards: Five points per dollar spent on Sony purchases at participating retailers; three points per dollar spent on music and video downloads, theater purchases, movie rentals, and digital streaming and subscription services; one point per dollar spent on other purchases.
Sign-Up Bonus: 5,000 bonus points if you make your first purchase within 90 days.
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% intro APR until March 2018 on purchases, then variable 14.99% to 24.99% APR; variable 14.99% to 24.99% APR on balance transfers.
Why We Picked It: This card is tailored for entertainment, including streaming services.
For Your Streaming Content: You’ll earn three points per dollar spent on streaming and subscription services. Points can be redeemed for Sony merch, music, games, and more.
Drawbacks: This card’s redemption options are limited to Sony’s rewards platform.

3. Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

Rewards: 5% back in points at Amazon.com; 2% back in points at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores; and 1% back in points on other purchases.
Sign-Up Bonus:
$70 Amazon.com gift card upon approval.
Annual Fee:
$0 with a paid Amazon Prime membership.
APR: 
Variable 15.24% to 23.24% APR.
Why We Picked It: 
Amazon Prime members can earn points on their membership and stream select music and movies.
For Your Streaming Content: This card earns special rewards rates on Amazon.com purchases, including the Amazon Prime membership. That means you get rewarded for the annual Prime membership fee while accessing Prime’s free TV shows, movies, and music. And the rewards you earn can be redeemed for future Amazon.com purchases.
Drawbacks: 
To access Amazon’s entire music catalog, you’ll still have to pay extra for Amazon Music Unlimited, as the free version for Prime members isn’t comprehensive.

How to Choose a Credit Card for Streaming Services

If you have quite a few streaming subscriptions, try to find a card that offers rewards for your favorite streaming platforms. Carefully review reward redemption options to ensure you’ll actually use the provided rewards.

If streaming services make up only a small part of your monthly budget, you may want to choose a card that rewards you for bigger expenses or a card that offers equal rewards for all purchases.

What Credit Is Required for a Streaming Subscription Credit Card?

Solid rewards cards generally require good to excellent credit. You should check your credit before you submit an application, and move forward only if you’re likely to get approved. You can check your credit for free at Credit.com.

Image: istock

At publishing time, the Citi Thank You Preferred Card and the Sony Card from Capital One are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees, and terms with credit card issuers, banks, or other financial institutions directly. 

The post 3 Credit Cards That Reward Your Streaming Subscriptions appeared first on Credit.com.

10 Things You Need to Know before Buying a Car

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Buying a new or used car can be an intimidating experience. Many car salespeople may pressure you to leave the lot with a purchased vehicle, so it’s crucial you’re armed with information about the cars you are interested in, the budget you can afford, and the value of your trade-in—if you have one. With these details, you have all the tools you need to negotiate properly.

Here are 10 tips and strategies for making sure you get the best-quality vehicle at the lowest price.

1. Think about Financing

Prior to visiting any dealership, have a sense of what kind of deposit you can put down and what monthly payment you can afford. It also helps to do some research on available auto loans to get a sense of what you qualify for. Or try a service like AutoGravity, which allows you to select rates and terms that fit your budget and then obtain offers from lenders.

2. Check Your Credit Score

Knowing your credit score can be helpful as well. Justin Lavelle, chief communications officer for BeenVerified, says, “Having a good idea of your credit report and credit score and the interest rates available can help you negotiate a good deal and save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.”

3. Shop Around

Research the cars you might be interested in before you head to a dealership, rather than going in unprepared. To determine what kind of car you want, use resources like US News Best Cars, where you can search anything from “best cars for families” to “best used cars under 10k.” Another resource is Autotrader, which can be used to search new and used cars in your area by make, model, price, body style, and more.

4. Compare Prices

Lavelle also stresses getting detailed pricing info in advance: “Price the car at different dealerships and use online services to get invoice and deal pricing.” A reliable tool is Kelley Blue Book. Use the site’s car value tool to find out the MSRP and the dealer invoice of a car as well as a range of prices you can expect to see at dealerships. TrueCar is also helpful to use. You can search for and request pricing on any make, model, or year of car. You may get a slew of phone calls, emails, and texts from dealers immediately after, but having information from different dealerships can help you negotiate prices. You should also visit dealer sites to look for rebate offers.

5. Research Your Trade-In’s Value

If you have a trade-in, don’t wait for the salesperson to tell you what it’s worth. On Kelley Blue Book, you can get a sense of the value ahead of time so you know if you’re receiving a good offer. Or try the Kelley Blue Book Instant Cash Offer feature, where dealers will give you a guaranteed price for a trade, eliminating complicated haggling at the dealership. 

6. Test Drive Potential Purchases

You may want to pass on the test drive if you’re familiar with a particular make and model, but Lavelle recommends taking the time to do it anyway. “It is a good idea to inspect the car and give it a good test drive just to make sure all is working and there are no noticeable squeaks, rattles, or shimmies that could cause you headaches after your purchase,” he says.

7. Look at Car Histories

Before selecting dealerships to visit, search for consumer reviews so you can avoid having a bad experience. However, Lavelle warns that just because a car sits on a reputable, well-reviewed lot does not necessarily mean that the car is issue-free. So he recommends digging deeper, especially for used cars. “Services like CARFAX represent that they can tell you about the car’s life from first purchase forward, so that might be a good place to start,” he says. He also recommends checking the title, which you can do online via the DMV.

8. Find Repair Records

In addition to checking the repair history on the specific car you are interested in, Autotrader suggests looking up the repair record of the make and model. “Check J.D. Power and Consumer Reports reliability ratings to see if the vehicle you’re considering is known to be a reliable one,” the site states. It also recommend Internet forums and word of mouth.

9. Spring for an Inspection

Autotrader also suggests telling the seller you require an inspection from a mechanic before purchase to ensure there aren’t any problems. “While a mechanic may charge $100 or more for such an inspection, it can be worth it if it saves you from thousands of dollars in potential repairs,” it recommends. Some sellers may try to dismiss a mechanic’s inspection. Don’t give in—the seller could be covering up a serious issue with the car. Insist an inspection is done, or rethink your purchase.

10. Know Your Rights

For any new or used car, take the time to get familiar with the warranty package and return policies. Do you need to supplement the warranty? Is there a lemon law in your state? Currently, there are only six states that have one, so be sure to check.

Shopping for a car can be frightening, but with the right research and preparation, you won’t have any regrets. Use the tips and resources above, and snag a free credit report from Credit.com so you know what kind of financing you can expect.

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