Best Cash Back Sign-On Bonus Credit Cards of December 2017

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Do you normally use your credit card for making every day purchases? Can you manage your money responsibly and pay off your balance in full every month? If so, you should be using a rewards credit card to take advantage of the free cash back and bonuses that are offered.

Many credit card companies are offering cash back rewards and sign-up bonuses these days. You can earn an equivalent of $400 or more just keeping to your regular spending. It’s essentially free money, as long as you use your credit card correctly.

Let’s take a look at how you can be a responsible consumer first, and then we’ll review the credit cards with the best cash back sign-on bonuses.

How to Be Responsible With Your Credit Card

Before we recommend credit cards with the best sign-on bonus, we want to make sure you understand exactly how rewards credit cards should and shouldn’t be used.

You shouldn’t try and take advantage of a rewards credit card by charging anything and everything to it. Yes, you acquire cash back or points based on your purchases, but you’re also acquiring debt if you charge more than you can afford.

You should use a rewards credit card exactly as you would use any other credit card (or your debit card). Only swipe for what you can afford to pay at the end of your billing cycle.

While many of these cards have 0% introductory APRs, after the introductory period is over, you’ll have high APRs (in the 14% – 24% range). If you carry a balance, any cash back you receive will be negated by the interest you’ll have to pay.

Only charge your necessary expenditures and stick to your budget. Don’t look for extra opportunities to pay more just for the sake of getting points.

You want to take advantage of credit card companies – not have it the other way around.

Best Cash Back Sign-On Bonuses

Now that you know how to use rewards cards, let’s review the best options out there.

Uber Visa Card

  • You have to spend $500 on purchases in the first 90 days to receive the $100 bonus.
  • There is no annual fee.
  • Earn 4% back on restaurants, takeout and bars, including UberEATS; 3% back on hotel and airfare, including vacation home rentals; 2% back for online purchases including Uber, online shopping, video and streaming music services; and 1% back for everything else.
  • Earn up to a $50 credit for online subscription services after you spend $5,000 or more on your card per year.
  • The variable APR is 15.99%, 21.74% or 24.74%.
  • There is no foreign transaction fee.

This card is not only great for its sign-up bonus requiring a low spend, but also for the great 4-3-2-1 rewards program.

Read our full review here >

Uber Visa Card

Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card

  • You have to spend $3,000 in the first 3 months to receive the 20,000 bonus points
  • There’s an annual $45 fee, which is waived for the first year
  • You earn 3x the points at U.S. gas stations, 2x the points at U.S. restaurants, and 1x the points on all other net purchases
  • You can redeem points for travel, merchandise, cash back, gift cards, and more
  • Points can be redeemed for cash by applying them to your qualifying Wells Fargo account or requesting a paper check. Cash redemption options are available by phone and online in increments of $25 only.
  • You can get an additional annual bonus of 10%, 25%, or 50% on non-bonus rewards points if you have a qualifying consumer Wells Fargo Checking or Savings Account
  • There’s an introductory APR of 0% for the first 12 months on balance transfers and purchases, and after that, the variable APR ranges from 14.99% – 22.99%
  • There are no foreign currency conversion fees
  • There’s a late and returned payment fee up to $37
  • Up to $100 off qualifying air + hotel packages at destinations worldwide

This card is a great option if you’re already a customer with Wells Fargo because of the relationship bonus offered.

Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Wells Fargo’s secure website

Visa® Signature Elite Card from NEFCU

  • You have to spend $2,000 in the first 3 months for 20,000 points
  • Those 20,000 points are redeemable for travel, merchandise, gift cards, and more. These points are not redeemable for a cash equivalent
  • You earn 1.25 points per $1 spent, which can be redeemed for travel, merchandise, gift cards and more
  • The points to cash option allows members to use points to make a NEFCU Visa Signaure Elite Credit Card payment or a cash deposit to their NEFCU accounts. There is a $25 minimum per conversion.
  • Rates range from 11.99% – 17.99% APR on the Visa® Signature Elite Card
  • No annual fee

This card requires a membership to NEFCU, a credit union located on Long Island, NY. If you live, work, worship, attend school, or regularly conduct business in Nassau or Suffolk County, you’re eligible for membership. If a relative is already a member, he or she can sponsor you.

Visa Signature Elite Card from NEFCU

APPLY NOW Secured

on NEFCU’s secure website

Wells Fargo Rewards® Card

  • You have to spend $1,000 in the first 3 months to receive 20,000 bonus points (note this is an online only offer)
  • You can earn 5% cash back for every $1 you spend on groceries, gas, and drugstore net purchases for 6 months on up to $12,500 spent, plus 1% for every $1 spend on all other purchases
  • You can redeem points for travel, merchandise, cash back, gift cards, and more
  • Points can be redeemed for cash by applying them to your qualifying Wells Fargo account or requesting a paper check. Cash redemption options are available by phone and online in increments of $25 only.
  • There’s no annual fee
  • There’s a 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months on balance transfers and purchases. The variable APR then ranges from 18.15% – 26.99% based on your creditworthiness
  • There’s a late fee and returned check fee up to $37
  • The foreign exchange currency conversion fee is 3%

This is a good “every day” rewards card to carry with you. You’re automatically enrolled in the Wells Fargo Rewards Program when you get this card.

You need a Wells Fargo account to apply online, though you can also apply at a branch.

Wells Fargo Rewards Visa® card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Wells Fargo’s secure website

Use Cash Back Credit Cards With Caution

As you can see, some of these cards come with annual fees and introductory APRs that are great for the first year. However, some of the benefits might not be good enough to warrant keeping the card once that year is over.

Keep in mind that “credit card churning” – canceling your cards after the first year and applying for a new one – will have an effect on your credit score. It might not be huge, but it’s a good idea to avoid this practice if you’ll be making an important purchase in the near future (like buying a home).

Otherwise, take advantage of credit card companies and save money on travel, gift cards, and more. You should absolutely earn points on your regular purchases by spending with a rewards credit card.

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The post Best Cash Back Sign-On Bonus Credit Cards of December 2017 appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

7 Low Interest Rate Credit Cards – December 2017

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Credit cards are notoriously known for having extremely high interest rates. In fact, the average interest rate for credit cards is 15% – that’s much higher than the interest rates you can get on a personal loan.

Unfortunately, these high interest rates can pack a big punch when it comes to paying back your consumer debt. If you only pay the minimum amount you owe, you’re paying a lot more toward interest and not making much progress toward your principle balance. Having a lower interest rate can help you pay off your debt quicker, especially if you tend to keep a balance on your card each month.

Luckily, not all credit cards have insane interest rates. There are quite a few out there in the 6% range.

If you’re unable to pay your entire credit card balance off in full each month, these low interest rate credit cards are a good alternative for you. However, many of these cards are offered by credit unions with strict memberships policies, so you may not be eligible.

One thing to note: all of these credit cards offer variable rates, which means your rate is subject to change. Many of these cards have a cap of 18% APR so your rate won’t go higher than that, but it’s something to check. Most cards also offer rates that vary based on the prime rate. The prime rate is the lowest interest rate at which banks are willing to lend money.

Apple Federal Credit Union Educator Credit Card

Educator Visa from Apple FCU

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

APR

8.99%-18.00%

APPLY NOW Secured

on Apple Federal’s secure website

This credit card has an introductory rate of 3.99% APR for the first 12 months for qualifying members. Be aware this rate increases to between 8.99% – 18.00% APR after the promotional period expires. The rate you receive is determined by your creditworthiness, and the APR varies with the prime rate.

The maximum credit line is $35,000, and you have the option to skip a payment during July, August, and September if you meet the eligibility requirements. If you skip a payment, interest still accrues, so only skip if you can’t come up with your minimum payment.

There are no miscellaneous fees charged for regular use of this card – no annual fee, account set-up fee, cash advance fee, or foreign transaction fee.

You have a grace period of 25 days on purchases made, but if you’re late 15 days late (or more) making a payment, you’ll have to pay $25 or the minimum amount owed, whichever is less. There’s also a returned payment fee of $25 if your payment doesn’t go through.

Other fees to watch out for include a statement copy fee of $5 (you’ll receive e-statements for free), a $5 card replacement fee, and a $20 stop payment fee.

Because this is a credit card from a credit union, you must be eligible to become a member to apply for the card. According to the disclosure agreement, “Applicants must be currently employed by an Apple Federal Credit Union Select Employee Group School System: Clarke County, Fairfax, Falls Church, Frederick County, Loudoun County, Manassas City, Manassas Park, Prince William and Stafford AND have a minimum $1,000 Direct Deposit.” Apple Credit Union is based in Virginia.

Kitsap Credit Union Gold Card

Kitsap Credit Union Gold Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

APR

7.15%

APPLY NOW Secured

on Energy Plus’s secure website

This credit card has a 7.15% variable rate APR. The maximum interest rate this card can have is 18%, and there’s no annual fee.

This card comes with a 25 day grace period on purchases, no fees for cash advances, travel accident insurance up to $400,000, and no balance transfer fees.

In order to qualify for the Gold Card (it offers Classic, Standard, and Platinum choices as well), you must have an annual income of $30,000.

To become a member of Kitsap Credit Union, you must live, work, worship, or attend school in Washington State. If someone you’re related to resides there, or has membership, you can also apply.

Abri Credit Union Visa Platinum Credit Card

Visa Platinum Credit Card from Abri CU

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

APR

8.15%-17.15%

APPLY NOW Secured

on Abri Credit Union’s secure website

Abri’s Visa Platinum Credit Card also offers a 8.15% – 17.15% variable rate APR. These rates are subject to change monthly with the prime rate. Your rate is based on your credit score.

Abri also offers a balance transfer promotion: 1.99% APR for 6 months, after which time you’ll receive the normal variable rates.

The credit line ranges from $500 to $25,000, there are no balance transfer fees, there’s a 25 day grace period on purchases made, and there’s no annual fee.

There is a cash advance fee of 1.5% of the amount requested – this fee maxes out at $50. There’s also a foreign transaction fee of 1% of the amount of the transaction in U.S. dollars.

Late fees and returned payment fees are both $25, while a card replacement fee is $5.

To join Abri Credit Union, one of the largest Credit Unions in Illinois, you must live or work in DuPage, Will, Grundy, or Kendall Counties. Parts of Kane and Cook Counties are eligible as well. You can also become a member if a relative has membership.

Visa Gold Card by Educators Credit Union

Visa Gold Card from Educators

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

APR

7.25%

APPLY NOW Secured

on Educators’s secure website

Educators Credit Union offers a Visa Gold Card at a current variable rate of 7.25% APR. It also doesn’t come with an annual fee.

Those with well-established credit can qualify for the Visa Gold Card.

The normal credit limit of this card ranges from $2,000 to $5,000 and over, and there’s a 25 day grace period.

If you’re late on a payment by 10 days or more, you’ll have to pay a fee of $10. If your payment is unsuccessful, you’ll have to pay a fee of $30.

There are no fees on cash advances or balance transfers, and there are no foreign transaction fees. There’s a rewards component to this card, and you earn one point for each $1 purchase.

Additionally, you’re eligible for $500,000 worth of travel accident insurance, rental car collision coverage, and extended warranties.

To become a member of Educators Credit Union, you must live and work in Southeastern Wisconsin. Special preference is given to those in education, healthcare, and government fields.

Visa® Platinum Credit Card by Whitney Bank

VISA Platinum Rewards Credit Card from Whitney Bank

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

APR

13.99%-17.99%

The Visa® Platinum Credit Card from Whitney Bank  has a 13.99% – 17.99% variable APR. There’s an introductory offer of 0% APR for 7 months on purchases.

There’s also an introductory APR of 1.90% for 12 months for balance transfers.

If you’re late on making a payment after 10 days, a late fee of $15 will be incurred. If your payment gets returned, you’ll be subject to a $25 fee. Balance transfer fees are equal to 3% of the amount you’re transferring, up to a maximum of $50 for each transfer. Cash advance fees are equal to 3% of the amount requested.

Benefits of this card include $500,000 travel accident, auto rental, and baggage delay insurance. Additionally, new cardholders are automatically enrolled in the Whitney Points Plus program, so you’re eligible to earn rewards.

You must already have an account with Whitney Bank to apply for this credit card online. Otherwise, you can visit a branch to apply (it serves the Gulf South area). If you do have an account with them, you’ll be able to fill out the online application.

Lake Michigan Credit Union Prime Platinum Card

Platinum Visa Card from Michigan State FCU

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

APR

8.90%-16.90%

APPLY NOW Secured

on Michigan State Federal’s secure website

Lake Michigan’s Prime Platinum Card has a 8.90% – 16.90% variable APR.

There’s no annual fee with this card, the maximum credit line is $25,000, and you’re eligible for free car rental insurance, 24 hour member service, a 25 day grace period, and emergency card replacement.

There are no balance transfer fees, although there’s a cash advance fee of 3% of the amount requested. There’s also a 1% foreign transaction fee.

If you’re late on a payment, you’ll incur a fee of up to $15 on balances less than $1,000, and up to $25 for balances of $1,000 or more. If your payment is returned, you’ll have to pay a fee of up to $25.

Anyone can become a member of the Lake Michigan Credit Union by donating at least $5 to in the West Michigan Chapter of the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association. You are also eligible if you work, reside, attend school, or worship within any county in the State of Michigan’s lower peninsula. Finally, you can join if an immediate family member is a member.

VISA Platinum Credit Card by Fort Community

VISA Platinum Credit Card from Fort Community CU

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

APR

8.90%-13.96%

APPLY NOW Secured

on Fort Community’s secure website

This credit card has an interest rate of 8.9% – 13.96% variable (it’s based on the prime rate + 3.99% APR), but it’s still less than half the average interest rate of most credit cards.

There’s no annual fee, no balance transfer fee, and no transaction fee for purchases.

The late payment fee is up to $10 if you’re late on your payment by 10 days or more, and the returned payment fee is up to $12. There’s also a cash advance fee of 3% of the amount requested, and a 1% foreign transaction fee.

To be eligible for membership to the Fort Community Credit Union, you must live or work in Dane, Dodge, Jefferson, Rock, Walworth, or Waukesha County in Wisconsin.

Always Get the Best Rates

Anytime you’re looking to borrow money, you should be making sure you’re getting the best rates possible. Otherwise, borrowing becomes a lot more expensive than it needs to be.

If you’re not eligible to apply for any of these cards, try checking your own local credit union to see what rates they offer. Aim to have an interest rate of less than 7% on your credit cards, but also make it a goal to pay off your balance in full every month to avoid every paying interest.

Find other options on our low interest rate credit cards comparison table here.

The post 7 Low Interest Rate Credit Cards – December 2017 appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

PNC Personal Loan Review

personal loan_lg

Updated November 08, 2017
With about 2,800 branches in 19 states and the District of Columbia, [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL]is the fifth largest bank in the United States. It’s primarily located in the eastern half of the US, with most of its branches and its headquarters being in the northeast.

If you’re looking for a personal loan from a trustworthy, familiar source, [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL] might be your answer. It offers an unsecured personal loan on par with most lenders, as well as a [PNCLoanAmt]secured loan that allows up to $100,000 to be borrowed[/PNCLoanAmt].

Most traditional banks haven’t been able to compete with online-only lenders in the personal loan space, so let’s see how [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL] compares.

Personal Loan Details

PNC has three personal loan options – secured and unsecured installment loans, and a line of credit. For the purpose of this review, we’ll be focusing on the installment loans.

Most online lenders only offer unsecured loans. In case you’re not sure of the difference:

  • Secured loans require an agreement to let your creditor use your assets as collateral in the event you default on your loan. This protects the creditor as it can sell your assets and recoup the cost of the loan.
  • Unsecured loans are the exact opposite – there’s no collateral involved. There’s less risk for the borrower and more for the creditor.

While secured loans seem to take the creditor’s side, the bonus is they often have more favorable terms because creditors are taking on less risk. You may have access to better interest rates or more money.

A simple example of a secured loan is a mortgage loan. Your home (property) is used as collateral. If you don’t pay your mortgage, your mortgage lender can seize the property and sell it.

Now that you know what it means to have a secured or unsecured loan, we’ll take a look at the differences between the details.

[PNCPL]PNC’s[/PNCPL] unsecured personal loan allows you to [PNCLoanAmt]borrow between $1,000 and $25,000[/PNCLoanAmt] on a [PNCTerm]variety of terms: 6 months, and 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5-year options are available[/PNCTerm].

[PNCPL]PNC’s[/PNCPL] secured loan allows you to [PNCLoanAmt]borrow much more – between $2,000 and $100,000[/PNCLoanAmt]. The collateral required for this loan is non-real estate (a vehicle, for example).

Both the unsecured and secured loans have fixed interest rates.

Unfortunately, you can’t check APRs or sample payments for secured loans online, and when we called, we were told they vary based on your credit. They were unable to give any APR range.

The APR for unsecured loans varies by the loan amount:

  • [PNCAPR]For a $5,000 loan, the APR ranges from 9.49% – 21.99%
  • For a $10,000 loan, the APR ranges from 6.74% – 19.24%
  • For a $15,000 loan and up, the APR ranges from 5.99% – 18.49%[/PNCAPR]

A payment example: if you borrow $20,000 on a 5-year term with an APR of 7.74%, your monthly payment will be $403.04.

The Pros and Cons

Applying for a personal loan with a bank is typically a bit more time consuming than applying with an online-only lender. This is because banks are thorough with the documentation they request.

However, [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL] states the application should take no longer than 15 minutes online.

Unfortunately, if you’re looking at the secured loan option, you can’t apply online. You can only apply by phone, or in person at a branch. You can apply online with the unsecured loan option.

[PNCPL]PNC’s[/PNCPL] APRs are also quite high, especially for the loan amounts. Many online-only lenders are offering better rates starting in the 5% range.

An additional negative might be that [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL] only offers fixed rates. While variable rates aren’t stable, they’re usually lower than fixed rates. If you’ll have the ability to pay the loan off soon after it’s disbursed, having the lower variable rate can be beneficial.

If you fall on hard times, there’s a possibility that [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL] will allow you to defer your payments, but this is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

[PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL] urges borrowers to contact the bank at the first sign of trouble – before their payment is due.

Application Process and Documents Needed to Apply

If you’re applying for an unsecured loan, you can easily apply online and be done within 15 minutes. [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL] recommends having the following information ready:

  • Your photo ID
  • Annual income, plus any other sources of income you have
  • Employer information (if you’ve been working there for less than 2 years, have your previous employer information as well)
  • Address/proof of residence (if you’ve been living there for less than 2 years, have your previous address ready)
  • If you’re applying with a co-applicant, you’ll need the same information for them
  • If you’re applying for a personal loan to consolidate debt, you’ll need account statements as [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL] needs to know your account number, monthly payment, and outstanding balance

[PNCPL]PNC’s[/PNCPL] application is straightforward, and it also has a checklist available for you on the application in case you need to reference it.

[PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL] will use [PNCInq]a hard credit inquiry when applying for a loan with them[/PNCInq].

Who Qualifies for a Personal Loan With [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL]?

To have the best chances of being approved for a loan with [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL], you need very good and established credit, along with a reasonable debt-to-income ratio. Your loan terms greatly depend on these two factors. Being a customer with [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL] doesn’t increase your chances of getting approved.

Just a note – if you choose the secured loan and want to use your vehicle as collateral, it must be less than 8 years old and have less than 80,000 miles on it.

Who Benefits the Most from a Personal Loan With [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL]?

Borrowers looking for a larger loan amount would benefit from the secured personal loan with [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL].

[SoFiPL]SoFi[/SoFiPL] is the only other personal loan lender offering that much money, and while the loan is unsecured, it doesn’t have any physical locations. If you feel more secure applying in-person and receiving assistance from a trusted bank, you might prefer to go with [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL].

However, most borrowers will benefit from going elsewhere to get an unsecured personal loan.

The Fine Print

[PNCPrepayFee]There is no prepayment penalty for either loan[/PNCPrepayFee], so you can pay your loan in full at any time.

[PNCOrgFee]There’s no origination[/PNCOrgFee] nor annual fee for the unsecured personal loan.

When called, a [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL] representative wouldn’t disclose any other fees associated with the loan (late fees, returned payment fees, etc.).

Transparency

Since there is so little information on its website about the secured loan, it was important to find out as many details as we could from a call.

Unfortunately, the [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL] representative that answered the call wasn’t very helpful. The most she could offer was that the loan rates and terms were dependent upon credit, and that the credit score and debt-to-income ratio of an applicant was extremely important.

When asked about late fees for the loan, she said “another department” handles that, and was unable to transfer the call to the appropriate personnel, as you need to have a loan with [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL] before fees can be discussed.

This was rather disappointing. Most lenders are open to discussing these details with potential borrowers – fees can make a huge difference when considering loan options. To be one of the few lenders unwilling to discuss fees and rates beforehand kicks [PNCPL]PNC’s[/PNCPL] transparency down a notch.

PNC

APPLY NOW Secured

on PNC’s secure website

Alternative Personal Loan Solutions

As mentioned, [SoFiPL]SoFi[/SoFiPL]* is the closest competitor as it allows borrowers a [SoFiLoanAmt]maximum of $100,000 as well. The minimum you can borrow is $5,000[/SoFiLoanAmt]. Most personal loan lenders have limits of around $25,000 – $35,000.

[SoFiPL]SoFi[/SoFiPL] offers fixed rates and variable rates, while [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL] only offers fixed rates for its installment loans. [SoFiPL]SoFi’s[/SoFiPL] [SoFiAPR]fixed APR ranges from 5.49% – 14.24%, and its variable APR ranges from 5.19% – 11.34%, if you’re enrolled in autopay (with a cap of 14.95%)[/SoFiAPR].

There are no fees associated with [SoFiPL]SoFi’s[/SoFiPL] personal loan except for a [SoFiLateFee]late fee, which is 4% of the amount due or $5 – whichever is less[/SoFiLateFee].

You can borrow funds on [SoFiTerm]3, 5, or 7-year[/SoFiTerm] terms, and personal loans are available in 46 states, including the District of Columbia.

[SoFiPL]SoFi[/SoFiPL] also offers unemployment protection. If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you can apply for payment assistance.

[SoFiPL]SoFi[/SoFiPL] uses a [SoFiInq]soft credit inquiry[/SoFiInq] when you first apply to get your rates, which means your credit score won’t be affected. If you choose to move forward with the loan, a hard credit inquiry will be used.

SoFi

APPLY NOW Secured

on SoFi’s secure website

If you’re looking for good alternatives to [PNCPL]PNC’s[/PNCPL] unsecured loan, take a look at [EarnestPL]Earnest[/EarnestPL]. You can borrow between [EarnestLoanAmt]$2,000 and $50,000[/EarnestLoanAmt] on a [EarnestTerm]1, 2, or 3-year[/EarnestTerm] term.

There are no hidden fees associated with [EarnestPL]Earnest’s[/EarnestPL] personal loan, and it’s offered in 23 states plus the District of Columbia.

You’ll need a [EarnestCreditScore]minimum credit score of 720[/EarnestCreditScore] to be eligible for approval with [EarnestPL]Earnest[/EarnestPL], and a [SoFiCreditScore]minimum of 700[/SoFiCreditScore] to be approved with [SoFiPL]SoFi[/SoFiPL], but both lenders take other factors into account, unlike [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL]. Your employment history, education, and salary matter as well.

*referral link

It Pays to Shop Around

While it would be convenient to have the first lender you apply with be the best solution, that’s not always the case, even with a trusted lender like [PNCPL]PNC[/PNCPL]. Personal loans from bigger banks are falling by the wayside as online-lenders are offering much better rates and terms. Do yourself a favor and shop around to get the best rates, even if you have a prior relationship with the bigger names out there. If you shop around within a 30-day window, your credit won’t take a big hit.

promo-personalloan-wide

*We’ll receive a referral fee if you click on offers with this symbol. This does not impact our rankings or recommendations. You can learn more about how our site is financed here.

The post PNC Personal Loan Review appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Wedding Loans: Find Better Options with Lower Rates

Frugal Wedding

Updated November 03, 2017
Did you know that the average cost of a wedding in the United States is around $31,200? That’s the number uncovered in a 2014 survey conducted by The Knot, a top resource for wedding planning. A figure that doesn’t even include the honeymoon.

If you’re planning a wedding, you’re probably well aware that your big day isn’t likely to be cheap, especially if you have a guest list that exceeds 100.

So what can you do if you can’t afford your dream wedding and aren’t willing (or ready) to compromise on cost? You may have already come across wedding loans, but it’s important to know a few things before you sign for one.

This guide is intended to walk you through the pros and cons of a wedding loan, what to look out for with lenders, other methods you can use to affordably finance your wedding, and finally, what alternatives are available if you realize that a loan isn’t the right option for you.

Wedding Loans Are Personal Loans in Disguise

When searching Google for “wedding loans,” you’ll find plenty of lenders offering them. However, you should know that a wedding loan is really just a personal loan that anyone can get. They’re not specifically meant for weddings. In fact, if you fill out an application for a personal loan and have to choose the purpose of the loan, you’ll likely have a few options to choose from.

Lenders are aware that people are searching for “wedding loans” just like they’re searching for “home renovation loans” and “vacation loans.” They create these specific pages you find for those keywords (so they get more search engine traffic), when they actually offer more than just wedding loans.

What this means is that you should broaden your search to all personal loan lenders. You don’t have to specifically search for wedding loans as, in most cases, you can use a personal loan for a wedding (or anything, for that matter). The good news is that there are plenty of personal loan lenders out there for you to shop around with.

What to Watch Out For

As with any loan, you want to get the lowest APR possible. Unfortunately, because lenders have these “wedding loan” pages, you may not be aware that other types of loans are offered at a lower APR. If you find yourself on such a page, try going to the lender’s homepage to see how the rates compare.

promo-personalloan-halfFor example, upon searching “wedding loans,” [KarrotPL]Karrot’s[/KarrotPL] wedding loan came up in the results. The landing page says it [KarrotAPR]offers APRs as low as 8.99%[/KarrotAPR], but if you visit the main page, you’ll see that personal loans are available with APRs starting at 6.44%. For the most part, the APR you’re eligible for won’t depend on the purpose of the loan; it will depend on your credit history. It’s worth digging deeper so you’re not caught paying more than you have to.

As you go through search results, you may also find that there are sites specifically for wedding loans that are a bit misleading. For example, MyWeddingLoans.com looks like a legitimate site, but when you click “apply,” it leads to [LendingClubPL]LendingClub’s[/LendingClubPL] website.

The URL of the application also contains a “partner ID,” which means it’s an affiliate of [LendingClubPL]LendingClub[/LendingClubPL] and receives a commission every time someone applies through that link. MyWeddingLoan discloses this in the fine print on its “Terms of Use” page. It’s important to know that MyWeddingLoans isn’t the actual lender or the company you’ll be dealing with if you obtain financing.

Other “wedding specific” lenders, such as Promise Financial, claim there are no hidden fees and prepayment penalties. While its fees aren’t necessarily “hidden,” there are fees to watch out for, such as an origination fee. You need to make sure you read the fine print for any loan you’re considering; otherwise it may cost you more.

[Four Times You Shouldn’t Use a Personal Loan]

What Will a Wedding Loan Cost You?

Do you think weddings are expensive? Then you should know how costly personal loans are. You’re going to pay interest on your loan, which means you’ll end up paying more than what you borrow. Let’s look at an example.

Say you want to finance $20,000 of your wedding as you’ve already saved $10,000. $20,000 on a 3-year term at a fixed APR of 7.246% results in a monthly payment of $619.79. You’ll pay a total of $22,312.44. If you choose a 4-year term at a fixed rate of 8.247%, your monthly payment will be $490.58, for a total amount of $23,547.84.

Both of these are actual examples, and in each case, you end up paying a few thousand dollars in interest. The APR you’re eligible for is largely based on your credit score. Having a higher credit score and a longer credit history will make lower APRs available to you.

If you’re absolutely set on borrowing money for your wedding, then it literally pays to increase your credit score prior to applying for a personal loan. Do yourself a favor and check your score using a free tool like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame, and download your free credit report at annualcreditreport.com. Is your score below 700? Then have a look at 6 ways you can improve your credit score before you shop for a loan.

As you’ll see below, some lenders have APRs with a large range. To get on the lower end of that range, you should have a score close to 700. Having a score below 600 will put you on the high end of the range, which will make the loan less affordable.

Least Expensive Wedding Loan Options – Good Credit Required

These lenders are your best bet if you must take out a personal loan to afford your wedding. They have the lowest APRs, lowest fees, and the most flexibility. These are all online lenders for a reason – traditional banks tend to have pricier personal loans.

We recommend shopping around to all the lenders that make the most sense for your situation. Similar inquiries to your credit made within a 30-day period will only count as one inquiry, so your credit score won’t take too much of a hit.

[SoFiPL]SoFi[/SoFiPL]: One of the leading online lenders in almost all categories, [SoFiPL]SoFi[/SoFiPL] offers borrowers excellent terms. There’s [SoFiOrgFee]no origination fee[/SoFiOrgFee] to worry about, and [SoFiAPR]fixed APRs range from 5.49% to 14.24% if enrolled in autopay. Variable rates range from 5.19% – 11.34% with a cap of 14.95%[/SoFiAPR]. You can borrow a maximum of [SoFiLoanAmt]$100,000[/SoFiLoanAmt] (hopefully you don’t need that much for your wedding) on terms of [SoFiTerm]up to 7 years[/SoFiTerm]. There’s [SoFiCreditScore]no minimum credit score required[/SoFiCreditScore], although your accounts should be in good standing.

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[EarnestPL]Earnest[/EarnestPL]: Another good choice for personal loans, [EarnestPL]Earnest[/EarnestPL] offers borrowers [EarnestLoanAmt]up to $50,000[/EarnestLoanAmt] on a [EarnestTerm]3-year term[/EarnestTerm] with [EarnestOrgFee]no origination fee[/EarnestOrgFee]. You need a minimum [EarnestCreditScore]credit score of 720[/EarnestCreditScore] to be approved.

[LightStreamPL]LightStream[/LightStreamPL]: You can borrow [LightStreamLoanAmt]up to $100,000[/LightStreamLoanAmt] on terms ranging [LightStreamTerm]from 2 to 7 years[/LightStreamTerm]. [LightStreamAPR]APRs range from 5.99% to 15.69%[/LightStreamAPR], and there’s [LightStreamOrgFee]no origination fee[/LightStreamOrgFee]. The minimum [LightStreamCreditScore]credit score needed to apply is 680[/LightStreamCreditScore]. [LightStreamPL]LightStream’s[/LightStreamPL] maximum APR is slightly higher than [SoFiPL]SoFi’s[/SoFiPL] and [EarnestPL]Earnest’s[/EarnestPL], and it’s the only lender out of these choices that requires a [LightStreamInq]hard credit pull[/LightStreamInq].

[UpstartPL]Upstart[/UpstartPL]: We recommend looking at [SoFiPL]SoFi[/SoFiPL] and [EarnestPL]Earnest[/EarnestPL] first, only because of the lack of an origination fee. However, if your credit isn’t the best, lenders such as [UpstartPL]Upstart[/UpstartPL] can help. You can borrow [UpstartLoanAmt]up to $50,000[/UpstartLoanAmt] on a [UpstartTerm]3 or 5-year term[/UpstartTerm] with [UpstartAPR]APRs ranging from 9.45% to 29.99%[/UpstartAPR]. [UpstartOrgFee]Origination fees range from 3.655% to 8%[/UpstartOrgFee] depending on the terms of your loan, and a minimum [UpstartCreditScore]credit score of 640 is required[/UpstartCreditScore].

Prosper: This is a peer-to-peer marketplace where people can invest in your loan. As a result, requirements are a bit leaner, but you’ll pay for it with higher APRs and an origination fee. [ProsperAPR]APRs range from 5.99% to 36.00%[/ProsperAPR], [ProsperOrgFee]origination fees range from 1% to 5%[/ProsperOrgFee], and the [ProsperLoanAmt]maximum amount you can borrow is $35,000[/ProsperLoanAmt]. You can [ProsperTerm]borrow on 3 or 5-year terms[/ProsperTerm], and [ProsperCreditScore]need a minimum credit score of 640 to qualify[/ProsperCreditScore].

[LendingClubPL]LendingClub[/LendingClubPL]: Another great option is [LendingClubPL]LendingClub[/LendingClubPL], which has a minimum [LendingClubCreditScore]credit score requirement of 600[/LendingClubCreditScore]. It works in much the same way as Prosper as it’s also a peer-to-peer marketplace lender. Again, you can borrow [LendingClubLoanAmt]up to $40,000[/LendingClubLoanAmt] for [LendingClubTerm]up to 5 years[/LendingClubTerm], and [LendingClubAPR]APRs range from 5.99% to 35.89%[/LendingClubAPR], with [LendingClubOrgFee]origination fees ranging from 1% to 6%[/LendingClubOrgFee]. [LendingClubPL]LendingClub[/LendingClubPL] is not available in Iowa or West Virginia.

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PenFed: Pentagon Federal Credit Union offers personal loans starting with a fixed interest rate of [PenfedAPR]9.99%[/PenfedAPR]APR for 36 months. You do need to be a member of the credit union, but anyone can become. You pay a one time dues to Voices for America’s Troops for $14 or National Military Family Association for $15 in order to become eligible for a PenFed membership.

As you can see, [UpstartPL]Upstart[/UpstartPL], Prosper, and [LendingClubPL]LendingClub[/LendingClubPL] all have high APR caps. If your credit isn’t in the best shape, you’ll likely be approved for a rate on the higher end.

Also note that aside from [LightStreamPL]LightStream[/LightStreamPL] and PenFed, all of these lenders allow you to apply for a pre-approval without a hard credit pull. That means you can see your potential terms before committing, and your credit score won’t be harmed in the process. Just remember that these rates and terms are estimated; those rates and terms may change after a hard credit pull.

[How to Create a Frugal Wedding]

Credit Card Options for Those With Good Credit

We wouldn’t normally recommend that you finance your wedding on a credit card, as purchase APRs are typically much higher than APRs on personal loans. However, if you have the means to pay off the debt quickly, then you might want to consider these 0% APR offers. This gives you a way to avoid paying interest on your debt for a short period of time.

Please keep in mind when using this method that you should be absolutely certain you could pay off the amount you finance within the 0% APR introductory period. If you don’t, you’ll be subject to very high interest rates after it expires, negating the entire point of this strategy.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to know how much you’re planning to finance beforehand. You can use that number to calculate how much you’ll have to pay per month to get your balance paid off. Make sure it’s realistic for your situation.

Citi Simplicity: This card has a 21-month 0% introductory APR. That means you have just shy of two years to pay off your balance before the regular purchase APR kicks in. The Citi Simplicity card also has no late fees, no annual fee, and no penalty APR if you’re late in making a payment. These benefits make it a great everyday use card after you’re done paying off your wedding charges.

Barclaycard Ring: This offer is no longer available. With this card, you can save with no transfer fee and get a 0% introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers made within the first 45 days. Plus, receive your monthly FICO® Score for free. This is our favorite balance transfer offer.

If you don’t qualify for any of these offers, you can try checking around local credit unions and community banks for low interest credit cards. Many of our top recommendations have APRs ranging from 6.25% to 9%. While these aren’t ideal, they may be more affordable than a personal loan, depending on your credit.

Because credit cards are revolving debt, if you go this route, do not be fooled into making just the minimum payments. Do your best to pay extra and get the balance paid off within 3 years or less.

We also want to mention the possibility of using a 0% APR balance transfer offer. This should only be considered if you have strong credit (otherwise you might not be approved for one). If you must charge wedding expenses to your card and can’t pay them off right away, or you plan on using your credit card to finance most of your wedding, then you can still avoid paying interest with this option.

[Find the Best 0% APR Balance Transfer Offers Here.]

Top Wedding Loans for Those With Bad / Poor Credit

There are a few solutions available for couples with bad or poor credit that don’t qualify for any of the above offers, but they come with a hefty price tag. We’re hesitant to recommend going this route in the first place, but if your wedding can’t wait and you don’t have time to improve your credit score, these options might be worth looking at.

[AvantPL]Avant[/AvantPL]: With [AvantPrepayFee]no prepayment fee[/AvantPrepayFee] and [AvantAPR]APRs ranging from 9.95% to 35.99%[/AvantAPR], [AvantPL]Avant[/AvantPL] could be a good option. You could [AvantLoanAmt]borrow $2,000 to $35,000[/AvantLoanAmt] and need a [AvantCreditScore]credit score of 580 to apply[/AvantCreditScore]. Through [AvantPL]Avant[/AvantPL], you could get your money as soon as the next business day. Loans through [AvantPL]Avant[/AvantPL] are available in all states except Colorado, Iowa, West Virginia, and Vermont.

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[OneMainFinancialPL]OneMain Financial[/OneMainFinancialPL]: This company is known for making loans to those with less than stellar credit, and its rates reflect that reality. You can only [OneMainFinancialLoanAmt]borrow a maximum of $10,000[/OneMainFinancialLoanAmt] on [OneMainFinancialTerm]terms of 3 or 5 years[/OneMainFinancialTerm]. While [OneMainFinancialOrgFee]there’s no origination fee[/OneMainFinancialOrgFee], [OneMainFinancialAPR]the APRs range from 17.59% to 35.99%[/OneMainFinancialAPR], and you need a minimum [OneMainFinancialCreditScore]credit score of 600 to apply[/OneMainFinancialCreditScore].

OneMain Financial

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[FreedomplusPL]FreedomPlus[/FreedomplusPL]: With [FreedomplusAPR]APRs ranging from 4.99% to 29.99%[/FreedomplusAPR], this loan is similar to [AvantPL]Avant[/AvantPL] in that you’re probably looking at an [AvantAPR]APR closer to 29.90%[/AvantAPR]. There’s also an [FreedomplusOrgFee]origination fee ranging from 1.38% to 5%[/FreedomplusOrgFee] that you need to watch out for. You can [FreedomplusLoanAmt]borrow up to $35,000[/FreedomplusLoanAmt]on a term of [FreedomplusTerm]up to 5 years[/FreedomplusTerm], and need a [FreedomplusPL]minimum score of 600 to qualify[/FreedomplusPL].

Note that with the exception of [AvantPL]Avant[/AvantPL], all of these lenders use a [AvantInq]hard credit pull[/AvantInq] when you check your rate. ([AvantPL]Avant[/AvantPL] does not use a hard pull to check your rate, but will complete a hard pull if you decide to take out the loan).

Consider Creative Alternatives to Borrowing

As you can tell, financing all or part of your wedding may cost a lot more than you anticipated. If it’s at all possible, we suggest using one of the alternatives below as opposed to going into debt for your big day.

While it’s undoubtedly a day you want to remember forever, starting out married life with a bunch of debt (especially if you already have consumer debt or student loans to deal with) doesn’t feel great. It also doesn’t bode well for your relationship, considering arguments about money are a top reason for divorce.

Instead of taking chances with debt and your sanity, try these alternatives instead.

Hold off on the wedding: According to another survey conducted by The Knot in 2014, the average length of an engagement is 14 months. That’s not a long time to save up $10,000, let alone $30,000 (the estimated average cost of a wedding). That would take a monthly savings of $714 and $2,142 respectively. Instead of rushing to the altar, try lengthening your engagement to lessen the financial burden. Giving yourself more time to save is a wise idea; what’s the rush?

“Crowdfund” your honeymoon: We don’t literally mean asking strangers on the internet to fund your honeymoon, but you could ask your family and friends to “crowdfund” your honeymoon by using sites like Honeyfund. It’s a honeymoon registry that allows you to ask for cash from your wedding guests in a classier way, and hopefully, they feel more comfortable giving it. Remember, that $31,000 figure didn’t take the honeymoon into account. Now isn’t the time to go further into debt for your dream vacation.

Side hustle for extra money: If you’re really hurting for money, you need to find a way to earn more of it. Side hustling can be a great option if you have marketable skills that are in demand, especially online. These extra jobs should also be flexible – what’s better than working from home? You can also try picking up extra shifts at your job, working overtime, or getting a part-time job temporarily to cover costs. This doesn’t have to be forever; you just need enough stashed away in your wedding savings fund to cover your needs.

Reevaluate your wedding budget: Speaking of needs, are you going over your original wedding budget? Something might have to give. It’s time to take another look at it. For example, maybe you need to narrow your guest list down. Perhaps you need to reconsider your dream venue if it’s costing you an arm and a leg. Can you have DIY decorations and invitations? Postage often costs couples much more than they thought; classy invitations from Paperless Post can help offset that cost. The Knot has a list of common wedding expenses and what percentage of your budget can be expected to go toward each here if you need a comparison.

Know how to deal with deposits: Many items, such as the venue, food, and photography, will require a deposit. That means you don’t need to pay an overwhelming amount in one lump sum, but it does mean that you need to come up with something to reserve these things. If you have anything saved for your wedding, you should earmark it for deposits first to ensure you can pay the upfront cost.

You can pay for deposits with cash or check, but some advice says to pay via credit card to cover you in case something happens. As most deposits are non-refundable, if you’re unhappy with the services provided, or if services aren’t provided, you can contact your credit card company and dispute the charge as long as you do so within 60 days of the event. Some vendors and merchants might do wrong by you, and miscommunication can occur. Using your credit card gives you a better chance of recovering your money.

Of course, you should only charge expenses that you have the cash to cover. Putting your wedding expenses on a credit card and then not paying it off in full can be extremely expensive – the average credit card APR is 15%!

Remember to keep in mind that the deposit is only one portion of what you have to pay. You’ll need to come up with the rest of the funds prior to your wedding. Do your best to save up before then. If it helps, create a separate “wedding expenses” savings account so you won’t be tempted to raid it for another reason.

[How to Effectively Combine Income and Debts After Marriage]

Be Realistic and Create a Plan

You now have all the information you need to create a plan to fund your wedding. You might find that it’s not as easy as you thought it would be, but don’t let that dampen your spirits. If your wedding means that much to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Whether you take on side jobs to earn more, slash everyday expenses (such as cutting cable and brown-bagging lunch), or work toward improving your credit score, you can make room in your regular budget for your wedding.

Just stay realistic on costs and include your future spouse in all discussions pertaining to your finances. Now is the time to work as a team, not to surprise each other by going into debt to afford certain aspects of your wedding. Talk it through –your future spouse may have a great idea on how to lessen the financial burden of your wedding

The post Wedding Loans: Find Better Options with Lower Rates appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Review: LendKey Private Student Loan

mortar board cash

Updated August 8, 2017

Most private student loans can’t compete with Federal loans when it comes to interest rates. Private loans are typically more expensive, especially if longer repayment periods are offered. (You’ll pay more in interest over the life of your loan.)

However, LendKey provides a different solution. It’s a marketplace that offers you a chance to browse private student loans offered by credit unions and community banks. These institutions usually have better interest rates than big banks. As another bonus, credit unions offer a more personalized banking experience, and tend to be more lenient when it comes to credit history.

If you’ve had a rough time finding a private student loan lender who will work with you, then you should give LendKey a shot.

How Does LendKey Work?

It’s important to understand that LendKey itself is not a lender. It’s a portal you can use to find a lender. Filling out one application (on LendKey’s website) enables you to view all the private loans you’re eligible for from community banks and credit unions that have partnered with LendKey.

Unfortunately, because there are hundreds of banks listed with LendKey, it’s impossible to say what the specifics of each loan are. On its website, LendKey says variable interest rates start as low as 2.99% APR (with autopay).

Eligibility Requirements

You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to apply for a private student loan through LendKey. You must also be pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree at an eligible school. You can check to see if your school is eligible in the first section of the application.

Be prepared to join a credit union or community bank if you choose to move forward with a loan offered. Most institutions require that you become a member during the application process. This is standard for credit unions and community banks that have specific membership requirements.

Application Process

The LendKey application process has three steps:

  1. Check your eligibility: You can fill in preliminary information to see if you’re eligible to apply for a loan.
  2. Apply for a loan: If you want to move forward with any loan option presented, you can do so in this step. This requires you to fill out personal information such as your Social Security number and identification information.
  3. Submit documents: LendKey requires you to submit proof of identity (photo ID, such as a Driver’s License), your school transcript, and other documents as needed.

Overall, the application process should take around 15 minutes or less to complete. LendKey will then review the information you’ve provided and give you a decision.

If your credit history isn’t the best (or isn’t very lengthy), you can apply with a cosigner. This gives you a better chance of getting the best interest rates possible on your private student loan. Some lenders affiliated with LendKey may actually require you to apply with a cosigner. Be aware that a hard credit inquiry will be used when you apply.

[What happens when a borrower defaults on a co-signed loan?]

The Fine Print

LendKey claims that there are no origination fees associated with any of the private loans offered by the credit unions or community banks it has partnered with. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any fees; late fees may still apply.

Additionally, a search for credit unions that use the LendKey application revealed one that does charge an origination fee. On The Great Lakes Credit Union page, a 2.5% fee is listed. It states there is an “upfront fee” which “is charged one time at loan disbursement.” As you can see on the page, “Powered by LendKey” is at the bottom.

We strongly recommend reading through the fine print of the organization you choose should you find a loan through LendKey. Don’t be afraid to ask about fees before signing anything.

The disclaimers are also nearly hidden at the bottom of LendKey’s site as you need to click on “Some Disclaimers” to review them.

Pros and Cons of LendKey

There are many advantages to applying for a loan through LendKey:

Pro: After paying back 10% of your loan principal, you’ll be eligible for a 1% interest rate reduction. This is only applicable to those who have entered full repayment status (after your grace period has ended).

Pro: You’re also eligible for a 0.25% interest rate deduction if you enroll in automatic payments. Most lenders offer this.

Pro: Most of the lenders that partner with LendKey don’t charge origination fees for private loans.

Pro: If you apply with a cosigner, a release is available after a certain amount of consecutive payments have been made. For most lenders, this period is between 24 to 48 months.

Pro: Most loans offered through LendKey seem to come with a 30-day return if you decide you don’t want to take the money. No fees or interest will be charged.

Pro: The application process is simple. Instead of having to shop around for loans individually, you have one company that will do it for you. This is much more convenient for you and takes less time.

Pro: LendKey has extensive customer service hours. You can call 888-549-9050 Monday through Friday from 9AM – 8PM ET.

There are several disadvantages to LendKey as well:

Con: You’re dealing with a number of different lenders, and it may be difficult to choose the best from a large list. You should do your own research on the banks LendKey matches you with.

Con: There are possible origination fees even though LendKey claims its lenders don’t charge upfront fees. You should call and confirm if you go with a loan that says its origination fee is 0%.

Con: Many of the individual lenders have loan pages that state the only options for repayment are interest-only or a minimum of $25 per month while in school. This means your loans are never in deferment, unlike Federal student loans.

Con: One large negative to consider with any private student loan is the lack of inherent benefits that come with them. Federal student loans give you more options when it comes to repayment plans and flexibility during tough financial times. It’s worth calling and asking if repayment assistance is offered before you go through with any of these loans.

Con: Some institutions may not offer fixed rates. Variable rates may be lower, but they’re subject to change, which can make it difficult to budget for your student loan payment in the future. Fixed rates offer stability as they’re locked in for the life of your loan.

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Other Private Student Loan Alternatives

Some states may not have as many private student loan choices as others. If you can’t find a loan that fits your needs, you may have to look elsewhere.

Citizen’s Bank: Fixed APRs range from 5.76% to 11.51%, and variable APRs range from 2.69% to 9.15%. You can choose to repay your loans on terms of 5, 10, or 15 years, and the maximum amount you can borrow is $90,000.

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SunTrust Custom Choice Loan: Fixed APRs range from 4.751% to 10.415% and variable APRs range from 3.21% to 8.672%. A 7 and 10 year repayment term is available, and if you borrow over $5,000, you can choose a 15-year term. The minimum amount required to borrow is $1,001 and the maximum amount is $65,000. SunTrust also offers a 1% reduction on your principal loan balance if you graduate with (at minimum) a Bachelor’s degree.

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It’s worth mentioning that you should exhaust your federal loan options before considering private student loans. Fill out the FAFSA and see how much you’re eligible for. Private student loans should only be used to bridge the gap if federal loans aren’t enough to cover your tuition.

Conclusion

LendKey is a great tool to use if you want to see what your local credit unions and community banks can offer you in terms of private student loans. There’s no application fee, but you should double check origination fees on any loan recommended to ensure you’re not left paying extra for a loan.

It’s also a good idea to shop around for private student loans as you want to get the best rates available. As long as you apply to multiple lenders within a 30-day period, the credit bureaus will count those inquiries as one inquiry. There’s no reason not to apply with more than one lender as one could offer you better rates, saving you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

The post Review: LendKey Private Student Loan appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

SoFi Parent PLUS Loan Refinance Review

Senior Couple Talking To Financial Advisor At Home

Updated August 21, 2017

Are you a parent who wanted to help your child finance his or her education, and ended up taking out more loans than anticipated? Many parents find themselves in a precarious situation as they try to plan for retirement and while balancing student loan debt.

If you’re looking to save on the amount of interest you’re paying, SoFi’s Parent PLUS loan refinance program may be right for you.

Details of the Parent PLUS Loan

You can refinance a minimum of $5,000 under SoFi. Fixed rates range from 3.35% to 6.75% APR and variable rates range from 2.815% – 6.490% APR (these rates assume you enroll in autopayment).

Terms of 5, 7, 10, and 15 years are available. Variable rates on terms of 5, 7, and 10 years are capped at 8.95%, while the 15 year term is capped at 9.95%.

An example payment looks like this: if you refinance $10,000 on a 5 year term with a fixed APR of 5.49%, your monthly payment will be $190.97 and you’ll pay a total of $11,457.93 over the life of the loan. If you refinance $10,000 on a 5 year term with a variable APR of 4.2%, your monthly payment will be $185.07 and you’ll pay a total of $11,104.43.

How Does the Parent PLUS Loan From SoFi Compare to a Federal PLUS Loan?

The interest rate for Federal Direct PLUS Loans disbursed on or after July 1st, 2015 and before July 1st, 2016 is 6.84%. During much of the 2000s, interest rates were higher. Currently, interest rates are fixed – variable rates are unavailable.

Most people are looking to refinance to save money, and SoFi offers very competitive rates compared with the Direct PLUS Loan, especially on variable rates.

While there are no fees to refinance, you should calculate your estimated savings before going through the process. Be aware if you do refinance, you’ll lose out on certain benefits that come with having Federal student loans, such as deferment, forbearance, and various repayment options.

PLUS loans made to parents are eligible for the Graduated or Extended Repayment Plans, and Direct PLUS loans are also eligible for forgiveness. In some cases, PLUS loans can be discharged due to the death of the borrower (or student).

Private loans often don’t extend these same benefits. In fact, SoFi explicitly states on its legal page that this loan “is not discharged in the event of death or permanent disability of the borrower or student on whose behalf the loan is taken out.”

Eligibility Requirements

You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and employed to be approved. SoFi is unable to lend in Nevada, and variable rates aren’t offered in Illinois, Ohio, or Tennessee. The loans must have been used to obtain at least a Bachelor’s degree with an eligible school as well.

There are no specific credit score requirements as SoFi tries to take a broader view of borrowers. It focuses on income and credit history instead.

Application Process and Documents Needed

The application process to refinance a PLUS Loan with SoFi is easy and can be done completely online. The application takes around 15 minutes to complete, and you’ll know whether or not you qualify by going through the pre-approval process first. During this portion of the application, a soft credit inquiry is used. If you decide to move forward with the loan offered to you, a hard credit inquiry will be used.

You’ll be asked to upload a few documents, so it’s a good idea to have the following ready to go:

  • Proof of residence – ID with matching address, otherwise a utility bill dated within the last 60 days is okay
  • Proof of income – most recent pay stubs
  • Proof of citizenship – a passport or birth certificate can be provided
  • Verification of loans – most recent loan statements for the loans you’re refinancing

Once you submit this documentation, SoFi’s review team gets to work on evaluating your loan. If no other documentation is needed, reviews can take anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks to complete.

The Fine Print

There isn’t an origination fee or application fee, and there are no prepayment penalties. Rates are determined on a number of factors, including the term you choose, your income, and your credit history.

There are late fees associated with the loan. The Parent PLUS Refinance program is currently offered through SoFi’s lending partner, Mohela, and it assesses any fees owed. When you receive the paperwork for the loan, the fees can be found under the disclosures.

Repayment Assistance Options

If you’re struggling to repay the loan after refinancing with SoFi, we recommend you contact a representative and make them aware of the situation. The worst thing you can do with any loan is not make a payment.

SoFi offers unemployment protection on a case-by-case basis, during which payments can be paused for a period of 3 to 12 months.

Pros and Cons of SoFi Parent PLUS Loan

Pro: SoFi offers much better rates than the 6.84% fixed rate that comes with Direct PLUS loans. If you have a higher interest rate – around 8% – you’ll stand to benefit even more.

Con: As we mentioned, refinancing means losing out on benefits associated with Federal student loans. If you’re not as concerned about needing repayment assistance, the savings might be enough to make refinancing worthwhile.

Pro: SoFi also offers variable interest rates, whereas the most recent Direct PLUS loans don’t. Variable rates can be tricky, though – SoFi says rates may change on a monthly basis. If you value stability and peace of mind, variable rates may not be for you. If you’re trying to pay off your balance quicker, and a lower interest rate would help, then it might be worth considering this option. 

Con: You may have to extend the repayment term to get a lower monthly payment, as SoFi offers terms up to 15 years. Unfortunately, this increases the amount of interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan. It’s important to use a calculator to estimate how much your savings will be to make sure refinancing is worth it. For example, if you have less than 5 years remaining on your loan, refinancing may not save you a lot of money.

Pro: SoFi offers unemployment protection, and you can also take advantage of SoFi’s career assistance program. If you or your child is experiencing trouble finding employment, it will connect you with its network of alumni and give you tools and tips to succeed in your job search.

SofiLogo

 *referral link

Other Parent PLUS Refinance Alternative

If you don’t qualify with SoFi, you can try these lenders that also offer refinancing options:

CommonBond: Fixed APRs range from 3.35% to 6.74%, and variable APRs range start at 2.80%, and terms offered are 5, 10, 15, and 20 years. CommonBond also has hybrid APRs. Only a 10 year term is offered with this choice; it starts off as fixed for 5 years, and changes over to variable for 5 years. There are no origination fees or application fees, no prepayment penalty, and CommonBond actually allows you to transfer your loan to your child (which isn’t allowed with Federal loans). You can borrow a maximum of $110,000.

CommondBondbank

 

 

Citizens Bank: Citizens Bank refinances Parent PLUS and Direct PLUS loans through its Education Refinance program. The minimum amount you can refinance is $10,000 and up to $90,000 for Bachelor’s degrees and below, $130,000 for graduate and doctoral degrees, and $170,000 for professional degrees. For a Bachelor’s degree and above, you must have made 3 consecutive monthly payments to refinance. For anything less than a Bachelor’s degree, you must have made 12 consecutive monthly payments. The loan you’re refinancing must be in repayment status and can’t be enrolled in an Income-Based Repayment plan. Fixed APRs start at 6.24%. Terms of 5, 10, 15, or 20 years are offered. You need a minimum income of $24,000 to qualify.

citizens-bank

 

Be sure to shop around as there are other lenders out there that will refinance PLUS loans – you want to make sure you’re getting the best rates and terms available to you so you can save the most. Shopping around within 30 days will only count as one credit inquiry, so your credit won’t get penalized heavily. Take advantage of this and lessen the burden of student loan payments so you can focus on saving for your future.

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CommonBond Student Loan Refinance Loan Review

CommonBond Grad Student Loan Refinance Loan Review

Updated September 7, 2017

[CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] was founded by three Wharton MBAs who felt the sting of student loans after they graduated. The founders decided to provide a better solution for graduates, as they thought the student loan system was broken and in need of reform. As a result, they strive to make the refinance (and borrowing) process as simple and straightforward for graduates as possible.

[CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL]* began by servicing students from just one school, and has rapidly expanded. Today, [CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] loans are available to graduates of over 2,000 schools nationwide. Although the company traditionally offered loan refinancing to undergraduate and graduate students, [CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] recently started offering loans for current students as well (both undergraduates and graduates).

[CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] is one of the top four lenders identified by MagnifyMoney to refinance student loans.

As you might be able to tell by the name, [CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] thinks of its community as family. There is a network of alumni and professionals within the community that want to help borrowers. This alone sets it apart from other lenders, as members often meet for events.

While these are all great things, we know you’re more interested in how [CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] might be able to help you make your student loans more affordable. Let’s take a look at what terms and rates they offer, eligibility requirements, and how they compare against other lenders.

Refinance Terms Offered

[CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] offers low variable and fixed rate loans. [CommonBondSLAPR]Variable rates range from 2.81% – 6.74% APR, and fixed rates range from 3.35% – 7.12% APR[/CommonBondSLAPR].

Note that these rates take a 0.25% auto pay discount into consideration.

There is [CommonBondSLLoanAmt]no maximum loan amount[/CommonBondSLLoanAmt]. [CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] will lend what you can afford to repay. [CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] offers fixed and variable rates with [CommonBondSLTerm]terms of 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years[/CommonBondSLTerm].

The hybrid loan is only offered on a [CommonBondSLTerm]10 year term – the first 5 years will have a fixed rate, and the 5 years after that will have a variable rate[/CommonBondSLTerm].

[CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] has a great chart listing repayment examples based off of borrowing $10,000, which can be found on its rates and terms page.

To pull an example from that, if you borrow $10,000 at a fixed 4.74% APR on a 10 year term, your monthly payment will be $104.80. The total amount you will pay over the 10 year period will be $12,575.90.

The Pros and Cons

[CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] is available to graduates of 2,000 universities. While that is a very long list, not all colleges and universities are included.

One pro to consider is the hybrid loan option available. It might seem a little confusing at first – why would someone want a variable rate down the road?

If you’re confident you’ll be able to make extra payments on your loan and pay it off before the 5 years are up, you might be better off going with the hybrid option (if you can get a better interest rate on it).

This is because you’ll end up paying less over the life of the loan with a lower interest rate. If you were offered a 10 year loan with a fixed rate of 6.49% APR, and a hybrid loan with a beginning rate of 5.64%, the hybrid option would be the better deal if you’re intent on paying it off quickly.

What You Need to Qualify

[CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] doesn’t list many eligibility requirements on its website, aside from the following:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • You must have graduated

[CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] doesn’t specify a minimum credit score needed, but based on the requirements of other lenders, [CommonBondSLCreditScore]we recommend having a score of 660+, though you should be aiming for 700+[/CommonBondSLCreditScore]. The good news is [CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] lets [CommonBondSLCoSigners]you apply with a cosigner in case your credit isn’t good enough[/CommonBondSLCoSigners].

Documents and Information Needed to Apply

[CommonBondSL]CommonBond’s[/CommonBondSL] application process is very simple – it says it takes as little as 2 minutes to complete. Initially, you’ll be asked for basic information such as your name, address, and school.

Once you complete this part, [CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] will perform a [CommonBondSLInq]soft credit pull[/CommonBondSLInq] to estimate your rates and terms.

If you want to move forward with the rates and terms offered, you’ll be required to submit documentation and a [CommonBondSLInq]hard credit inquiry will be conducted[/CommonBondSLInq]. [CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] lists the following as required:

  • Pay stubs or tax returns (proof of employment)
  • Diploma or transcript (proof of graduation)
  • Student loan bank statement
  • ID, utility bills, lease agreement (proof of residency)

[CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] also notes it can take up to 5 business days to verify documents submitted, so the loan doesn’t happen instantaneously.

Once your documents are approved, you electronically sign for the loan, and [CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] will begin the process of paying off your previous lenders. It notes this can take up to two weeks from the time the loan is accepted.

Who Benefits the Most from Refinancing Student Loans with [CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL]?

Borrowers who are looking to refinance a large amount of student loan debt will benefit the most from refinancing with them.

Keeping an Eye on the Fine Print

[CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] [CommonBondSLPrepayFee]does not have a prepayment penalty[/CommonBondSLPrepayFee], and there are [CommonBondSLOrgFee]no origination fees[/CommonBondSLOrgFee] nor application fees associated with refinancing.

As with other lenders, there is a late payment fee. [CommonBondSLLateFee]This is 5% of the unpaid amount of the payment due, or $10, whichever is less[/CommonBondSLLateFee].

If a payment fails to go through, you’ll be charged a $15 fee.

It’s also noted that failure to make payments may result in the loss of the 0.25% interest rate deduction from auto pay.

Transparency Score

Getting in touch with a representative is simple and there is a chat and call option right on the homepage. Some lenders have this hidden at the bottom, or they don’t offer a chat option at all.

[CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] also lets borrowers know they can shop around within a 30 day period to lessen the impact on their credit.

It does not list its late fees on its website, unlike other lenders. However, after making a chat inquiry, the question was answered promptly.

[CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] does offer [CommonBondSLCoSigners]a cosigner release[/CommonBondSLCoSigners] and is ranked with a A+ transparency score.

Alternative Student Loan Refinancing Lenders

The student loan refinancing market continues to get more competitive, and it makes sense to shop around for the best deal.

One of the market leaders is [SoFiSL]SoFi[/SoFiSL]. It’s always worth taking a look to see if [SoFiSL]SoFi[/SoFiSL]* offers a better interest rate.

The two lenders are very similar – [CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] offers “CommonBridge,” a service that helps you find a new job in the event you lose yours. [SoFiSL]SoFi[/SoFiSL] offers a similar service called Unemployment Protection.

[SoFiSL]SoFi’s[/SoFiSL] [SoFiSLAPR]variable rates are currently 2.815% – 6.740% APR with autopay, and its fixed rates are currently 3.35% – 7.125% APR[/SoFiSLAPR], which is in line with what CommonBond is offering.

[SoFiSL]SoFi[/SoFiSL] also doesn’t have a limit on how much you can refinance with them.

SoFi

APPLY NOW Secured

on SoFi’s secure website

Another lender to consider is [EarnestSL]Earnest[/EarnestSL]. There is [EarnestSLLoanAmt]no maximum loan amount[/EarnestSLLoanAmt], and [EarnestSL]Earnest[/EarnestSL] has a very slick application process. [EarnestSLAPR]Interest rates start as low as 2.81% (variable) and 3.35% (fixed)[/EarnestSLAPR].

Lastly, you could check out [LendKeySL]LendKey[/LendKeySL]. It offers student loan refinancing through credit unions and community banks, but only offers variable rates in most states and fixed rates in a select few. [LendKeySLLoanAmt]The maximum amount to refinance with an undergraduate degree is $125,000, and the maximum amount to refinance with a graduate degree is $175,000[/LendKeySLLoanAmt].

All three of these options provide forbearance in case of economic hardship and offer similar loan options (5, 10, 15 year terms).

Don’t Forget to Shop Around

As [CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] initially conducts a [CommonBondSLInq]soft pull on your credit[/CommonBondSLInq], you’re free to continue to shop around for the best rates if you’re not happy with the rates it can provide. As the lender states on its website, if you apply for loans within a 30 day period, your credit won’t be affected as much.

Since [CommonBondSL]CommonBond[/CommonBondSL] does have strict underwriting criteria, you should continue to shop around and don’t be discouraged if you are not approved. The market continues to get more competitive, and a number of good options are out there.

Customize Your Student Loan Offers with MagnifyMoney Comparison Tool

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Earnest: Personal & Student Loans for Responsible Individuals with Limited Credit History

Earnest - Personal & Student Loans for Responsible Individuals with Limited Credit History

Updated August 21, 2017

Earnest is anything but a traditional lender for unsecured personal loans and student loans. They offer merit-based loans instead of credit-based loans, which is good news for anyone just starting to establish credit. Their goal is to lend to borrowers who show signs of being financially responsible. Earnest is working to redefine credit-worthiness by taking into account much more than just your score.

They have a thorough application process, but it’s for good reason – they consider different variables and data points (such as employment history, education, and overall financial situation) that traditional lenders don’t.

Earnest*, unlike traditional lenders, says their underwriting team looks to the future to predict what your finances will look like, based upon the previously mentioned variables. They don’t place as much emphasis on your past, which is why a minimal credit history is okay.

Additionally, as their underwriting process is so thorough, Earnest doesn’t take on as much risk as traditional lenders do. With their focus on the financial responsibility level of the borrower, they have less defaults and fraud, which allows them to offer some of the lowest APRs on unsecured personal loans.

Personal Loan (Scroll Down for Student Loan Refinance)

Earnest offers up to $50,000 for as long as three years, and their APR starts at a fixed-rate of 5.25% and goes up to 12.99%. They claim that’s lower than any other lender of their type out there, and if you receive a better quote elsewhere; they encourage you to contact them.

Typical loan structure

How does this look on paper? If you needed to borrow $20,000, your estimated monthly payment would be $599-$638 on a three- year loan, $873-$911 on a two- year loan, and $1,705-$1,744 on a one-year loan. According to their website, the best available APR is on a one-year loan.

Not available everywhere

Earnest is available in the following 36 states (they are increasing the number of states regularly, and we keep this updated): Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Washington D.C., West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Get on LinkedIn

Earnest no longer requires that you have a LinkedIn profile. However, if you do have a LinkedIn profile, the application process becomes a lot faster. When you fill out the application, your education and employment history will automatically be filled in from your LinkedIn profile.

What Earnest Looks for in a Borrower

Earnest AppEarnest wants to lend to those who know how to manage and control their finances. They want borrowers to know the importance of saving, living below their means, using credit wisely, making timely payments, and avoiding fees.

They look at salary, savings, debt to income ratio, and cash flow. They want borrowers with low credit utilization – not those maxing out their credit cards and experiencing difficulty in paying.

Borrowers must be over 18 years old and have a solid education background. Ideally, they attended college or graduate school, have a degree, and have a history of consistent employment, or at least a job offer that gives them the opportunity to grow.

Overall, Earnest wants to make sure borrowers are taking their future as seriously as they are. After all, they’re investing in it! The team at Earnest knows that money often holds people back when it comes to being able to achieve their dreams and goals, and they’re all about helping borrowers get there.

For that reason, Earnest seeks to learn more about those that apply for loans with them. They review every line of your application, and they want to develop a lifelong relationship with their borrowers. They genuinely want to help and see their borrowers succeed.

The Fine Print – Are There Any Fees?

Earnest actually doesn’t charge any fees. There are no late fees, no origination fees, and no hidden fees.

There’s also no penalty for prepaying loans with Earnest – they encourage borrowers to prepay to reduce the amount of interest they’ll pay over the life of the loan.

Earnest states that one of its values is transparency (and of course, here at MagnifyMoney, that’s one of ours as well!), and they are willing to work with borrowers who are struggling to make payments.

Hala Baig, a member of Earnest’s Client Happiness team, says, “We would work with the client to make accommodations that are appropriate to help them through their situation.”

She also notes that if borrowers are late on payments, they do report the status of loans on a monthly basis.

What You Can Do With the Money

The $30,000 loan limit is enough to pay off debt such as an undergraduate student loan, medical debt, or consumer debt, relocate for a job, improve your home or rental property, help you fund a down payment, or further invest in your education.

Earnest’s APR is much, much better than you’ll receive on many credit cards, and it could be a viable way to decrease the burden of debt you’re currently experiencing.

Earnest logo 1

The Personal Loan Application Process

Earnest does a hard inquiry upon completion of the application. They’re very open about this on their website, stating that hard inquiries remain on credit reports for two years, and may slightly lower your credit score for a short period of time.

Compared to Upstart, their application process is more involved, but that’s to the benefit of the borrower. They aim to underwrite files and make a decision within 7 business days – it’s not instantaneous.

However, once you accept a loan from Earnest and input your bank information, they’ll transfer the money the next day via ACH, so the money will be in your account within 3 days.

Student Loan Refinance

When refinancing with Earnest, you can refinance both private and federal student loans.

The minimum amount to refinance is $5,000 – there’s no specific cap on the maximum you can refinance.

We encourage you to shop around. Earnest is one of the best options, but there are others. You can see the best options to refinance your student loans here.

Earnest offers loans up to 20 years. Unlike other lenders, Earnest allows borrowers to create their own term based on the minimum monthly payment you’re comfortable making. Yes, you can actually choose your monthly payment, which means the loan can be customized to your needs. Loan terms start at 5 months, and you can change that term later if needed.

You can also switch between variable and fixed rates freely – there’s no charge. (Note that variable rates are not offered in IL, MI, MN, OR, and TN. Earnest isn’t in all 50 states yet, either.)

Fixed APRs range from 3.35% to 6.39%, and variable APRs range from 2.81% to 6.19% (this is with a .25% autopay discount).

If you refinance $25,000 on a 10 year term with an APR of 5.75%, your monthly payment will be $274.42.

The Pros and Cons of Earnest’s Student Loan Refinance Program

Similar to SoFi, Earnest offers unemployment protection should you lose your job. That means you can defer payments for three months at a time, up to a total of twelve months over the life of your loan. Interest still accrues, though.

The flexibility offered from being able to switch between fixed and variable rates is a great benefit to have should you experience a change in your financial situation.

As you can see from above, variable rates are much lower than fixed rates. Of course, the only problem is those rates change over time, and they can grow to become unmanageable if you take a while to pay off your loan.

Having the option to switch makes your student loan payments easier to manage. If you can afford to pay off your loans quickly, you’ll benefit from the low variable rate. If you have to take it slow and need stability because you lost a source of income, you can switch to a fixed rate. Note that switching can only take place once every 6 months.

Earnest also lets borrowers skip one payment every 12 months (after making on-time payments for 6 months). Just note this does raise your monthly payment to adjust for the skipped payment.

Beyond that, Earnest encourages borrowers to contact a representative if they’re experiencing financial hardship. Earnest is committed to working with borrowers to make their loans as manageable as possible, even if that means temporary forbearance or restructuring the loan.

Lastly, if you need to lower your monthly payment, you can apply to refinance again. This entails Earnest taking another look at your terms and seeing if it can give you a better quote.

Who Qualifies to Refinance Student Loans With Earnest?

Earnest doesn’t have a laundry list of eligibility requirements. Simply put, it’s looking to lend to financially responsible people that have a reasonable ability to pay their loans back.

Earnest describes its ideal candidate as someone who:

  • Is employed, or at least has a job offer
  • Is at least 18 years old
  • Has a positive bank balance consistently
  • Has enough in savings to cover a month or more of regular expenses
  • Lives in AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, HI, IL, IN, KS, MA, MD, MI, MN, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, Washington D.C., and WI
  • Has a history of making timely payments on loans
  • Has an income that can support their debt and routine living expenses
  • Has graduated from a Title IV accredited school

If you think you need a little help to qualify, Earnest does accept co-signers – you just have to contact a representative via email first.

Application Process and Documents Needed to Refinance

Earnest has a straightforward application process. You can start by receiving the rates you’re eligible for in just 2 minutes. This won’t affect your credit, either. However, this initial soft pull is used to estimate your rates – if you choose to move forward with the terms offered to you, you’ll be subject to a hard credit inquiry, and your rates may change.

Filling out the entire application takes about 15 minutes. You’ll be asked to provide personal information, education history, employment history, and financial history. Earnest takes all of this into account when making the decision to lend to you.

The Fine Print for Student Loan Refinance

There aren’t any hidden fees – no origination, prepayment, or hidden fees exist. Earnest makes it clear its profits come from interest.

There are also no late fees, but if you get behind in payments, the status of your loan will be reported to the credit bureaus.

Earnest logo

Who Benefits the Most from Earnest

Those in their 20s and 30s who have a good grip on their finances and are just getting started with their careers will make great borrowers. If you’re dedicated to experiencing financial success once you earn enough money to actually achieve it, you should look into a loan with Earnest.

If you have a history of late payments, being disorganized with your money, or letting things slip through the cracks, then you’re going to have a more difficult time getting a loan.

Amazing credit score not required

You don’t necessarily need to have the most amazing credit score, but your track record with money thus far will speak volumes about how you’re going to handle the money loaned from Earnest. That’s what they will be the most concerned about.

What makes you looks responsible?

Baig gives a better picture, stating, “We are focused on offering better loan alternatives to financially responsible people. We believe the vast majority of people are financially responsible and that reviewing applications based strictly on credit history never shows the full picture. One example would be saving money in a 401k or IRA. That would not appear on your credit history, but is a great signal to us that someone is financially responsible.”

Conclusion

Overall, it’s very clear that Earnest wants to help their borrowers as much as possible. Throughout their website, they take time to explain everything involved with the loan process. Their priority is educating their borrowers.

While Earnest does have a nice starting APR at 3.35%, remember to take advantage of the other lenders out there and shop around. You are never obligated to take a loan once you receive a quote, and it’s important to do your due diligence and make sure you’re getting the best rates out there. If you do find better rates, be sure to notify Earnest. Otherwise, compare rates with as many lenders as possible.

Shopping around within the span of 45 days isn’t going to make a huge dent in your credit; the bureaus understand you’re doing what you need to do to secure the best loan possible. Just make sure you’re not applying to different lenders once a month, and your credit will be okay.

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Pay for Delete Letters: Do They Work?

Businessman Holding Document At Desk

Are you looking to clean up your credit report? Have you recently discovered a delinquent account on your report that you were unaware of until now? Then you might be considering using a pay for delete letter to get this negative mark off your credit report.

There are a few important things you need to know about pay for delete letters – namely, what they are, how (and if) they work, whether or not they’re ethical, and what other credit restoring options are available to you.

What is a Pay for Delete Letter?

Say you have a delinquent account or two on your credit report, and these accounts are bringing your credit score down. You can send a pay for delete letter to the collection agency that purchased your debt. This letter requests that the account be deleted from your credit report upon being paid either in full, or for a settled amount.

It’s essentially as the name describes – debtors pay the collection agency to get the negative mark to disappear from their credit report. Once the mark is lifted, their credit score will likely rise.

Why is this a tactic some people choose to use? Even if you pay the balance in full, the negative mark still stays on your credit report until seven years from the date of delinquency have passed. Those who don’t wish to wait that long turn to pay for delete as a quicker solution.

Keep in mind that pay for delete letters generally have a much higher chance of success if you’re dealing with the collection agency – not the original creditor. So if your credit card with Chase is past due, and your balance has not been charged off yet, a pay for delete letter may not work. Generally, the lower the balance, the easier it might be to obtain a pay for delete. We offer a few alternative solutions below that might work as well.

Note that a pay for delete letter doesn’t delete your debt. You’re only asking for the account to be deleted from your credit report. Most people use pay for delete letters when they know they owe the debt, but due to unusual circumstances, were unable to pay at the time.

A good example of when to request a pay for delete is if you moved and you never received a bill due to changing addresses. You legitimately owed the balance, but you were never aware of it. This doesn’t exactly make you an irresponsible consumer, it just means there was an error along the way and an account ended up delinquent.

The same goes for owing medical debt when you thought your insurance was covering the bill because you never received a request for payment.

In both situations, you technically owe the money, but through no fault of your own, you were never notified of the debt, so you didn’t pay. Debt collectors are more likely to be understanding in such a situation. Just make sure to have proof (such as a change of address) that might help your case.

However, if your credit card balance was charged off and you simply never paid it because you didn’t have the means to, you may be less likely to get a pay for delete approved.

To see an actual example of an effective pay for delete letter, take a look at the myFICO forums. The Credit Karma forums have a slightly different example that may help you craft your own. Note that some pay for delete letters may outright deny the debt is yours; this is not something we recommend as you shouldn’t be lying to collection agencies if you truly owe the debt.

Can a Pay for Delete Letter Help You?

A pay for delete letter won’t necessarily hurt you, but it’s not guaranteed to help you, either.

That’s because collection agencies don’t have to respond to your letter if the debt is accurate. Furthermore, if you write a pay for delete letter and only obtain a verbal agreement from the collection agency, and you pay, they may not honor your request. The negative mark could remain on your credit report. Even worse, the debt could be sold again, and a new collection agency may ask you for payment.

Unless you get a response from the collection agency in writing, you’re out of luck if the agency doesn’t make good on removing the information from your credit report. They’re not obligated in any way to agree to a pay for delete.

Before you even write a pay for delete letter, send a debt validation letter to the collection agency to ensure the information it has on file is accurate. It may not legally be allowed to collect on the debt, so it’s important to start here before offering to pay, otherwise, you risk paying the wrong company.

If the debt is proven to be valid, and you agree that you owe the balance and want to pay it off to get it deleted from your report, you may actually have more luck calling than writing a letter.

Keep in mind that if it comes to that, you should never agree to pay anything over the phone. Always get things in writing when dealing with a debt collector. In most cases, offering to pay in full will typically result in a pay for delete agreement much more often than offering to pay less than the original amount owed.

Are Pay for Delete Letters Ethical?

Pay for delete letters have been labeled as a shady practice, and for good reason: it requires that collection agencies misrepresent the accuracy of their reporting to credit reporting agencies. That means collection agencies are in violation of the service agreement they have with credit reporting agencies if they accept a pay for delete.

Overall, pay for delete is detrimental to the fundamental purpose of the credit reporting system. If someone was unable to pay their balance and their account was sent to collections, paying after the fact and getting the account erased isn’t an accurate representation of his or her credit history. If a lender looks at said person’s credit report, it might deem him worthy to lend to when he’s been irresponsible with credit in the past.

To be clear, pay for delete letters are not illegal. However, remember that collection agencies aren’t required to acknowledge your request; they’re under no obligation to agree to a pay for delete.

Some will because they would rather get paid, and others might agree to settle on a lower amount because they don’t want the hassle. Don’t get your hopes up, though.

In general, we recommend being honest and not trying to game the system. Pay the debts you owe fair and square. If you find any information on your credit report that isn’t accurate, then use the steps outlined in this Credit Repair eBook to help you restore your credit to good standing.

Recommended Credit Boosting Alternatives

A goodwill letter is a good alternative to start with. It’s different from a pay for delete letter in that you’re admitting you were in the wrong, and are asking for forgiveness. A goodwill letter typically works well if you made a late payment, or if an honest mistake occurred and you’re trying to get it corrected. If you’ve had an account in collections for years, the chances of this alternative working aren’t as a great, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

If the collection agency is unwilling to do a pay for delete, they may be willing to settle for the amount owed. What this means is the negative mark will stay on your credit report (until seven years from the date of delinquency have passed), but it will show as “paid in full” or “settled,” depending on the arrangement agreed upon. This might not be as ideal as having the entire account knocked off your report, but it’s a minor improvement over having an unpaid debt on there.

Depending on the FICO scoring model being used, paid collections can improve your score and your chances of getting approved for a loan. FICO 9 won’t penalize you for paid collections accounts, but you will get dinged for unpaid collections (the exception is medical debt). FICO 8 doesn’t take unpaid collections under $100 into account.

Remember that information on your credit report will fall off after seven years. If you just found out about an unpaid debt because you checked your report, and the debt is several years old, you might be better off waiting it out as long as you’re not in the market for a loan anytime soon. The older a collection is, the less of an impact it has on your credit score, too.

Of course, you should also continue to do what you can to repair your credit. You might need to wait out the seven years it takes for black marks to fall off your credit report, but in the meantime, you should take action to maintain a good score for the future. Pay on time, don’t max out your credit lines, and borrow responsibly.

Conclusion

You can’t bribe your way to a perfect credit report. If the information on your credit report is accurate, then you should bear the consequences. Pay for delete letters aren’t guaranteed to work, and it can be difficult to try and get a collection agency to agree to it. Keep proving that you’re a responsible consumer using the methods outlined in this article, and hopefully your actions will show lenders that you’re a reformed consumer.

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