Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit October 2017

If you have bad credit, it can be difficult to get approved for loans and credit cards. But it is not impossible. Even people with bad credit have options – which we will now explain.

What exactly is a bad credit score? When we’re talking about obtaining credit via credit cards, the magic number is somewhere between 620 and 650. If your credit score falls below 650, you’re going to have a difficult time obtaining credit from some of the larger lending institutions, and if it’s below 620, you’re going to have a difficult time obtaining credit from anyone — including smaller financial institutions like credit unions and independent marketplace lenders.

There are, however, some products for which you’ll have an easier time qualifying. Before you apply, make sure you’re prepared to be responsible with your new line of credit so you can boost your score and credit history rather than damaging it further. The best way to do this is to spend within your means by creating a budget and sticking to it. Here are some helpful tools to help you do just that. Remember to always pay your bill off in full on or before the due date each month to establish good credit.

Here are the products and topics we’ll be discussing today:

Check if You’re Pre-qualified

Before you apply for a credit card check if you’re pre-qualified from a variety of institutions. This does not hurt your credit score. Sites such as CreditCards.com provide good tools that can match you to offers from multiple credit card companies without impacting your credit score. This is a good first step when looking to apply for credit. You can read our complete guide to getting pre-qualified for a credit card here.

Build Credit with Secured Credit Cards

If you are trying to rebuild your credit, one of the best approaches is to get a secured credit card. In order to get the card, you will have to write a check to deposit with the credit card company. This money will be your line of credit.

In order to effectively rebuild your credit, you must actually use the card, and we recommend not charging more than 20% of your credit line. For example, if you have a $500 credit line, you should not charge more than $100. Then, pay off your balance in full every single month. You can even build credit with $10 a month on a secured card and see your credit score rise.

After you’ve consistently managed your secured card well over a period of time, you may be able to increase your credit line beyond your initial deposit or migrate to an unsecured credit card. With most companies, this is a tedious process that you’ll have to initiate. You also aren’t guaranteed to get results even after you’ve made a request.

Discover operates differently than most companies in this realm, making it our number one pick for secured cards.

Discover it Secured Card

If you’re looking for a secured credit card, look no further than Discover it Secured card. On top of being great for people with a bad credit score, Discover will also accept applicants who have no credit history at all. Discover offers great ways for you to rebuild your credit and be on the way to an unsecured card.

Build Credit with Secured Cards

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover’s secure website

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Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Minimum Deposit
$200
APR
23.99% APR

Variable

Credit required
bad-credit
Bad

Also Consider Also Consider

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card from Capital Bank N.A.

OpenSky Secured Visa

This card does not do a credit check, and no bank account is needed to apply. This is beneficial for those with low credit scores or no access to a bank account. If you’ve filed for bankruptcy, you’re in luck because they don’t care to know, unlike other institutions. However, OpenSky charges a $35 annual fee, which Discover does not. This can be a deal breaker if you don’t want to pay a fee, since there are many secured cards without fees.

Read MagnifyMoney’s full Secured Credit Card Guide.

Our Credit Union Favorite

If you’re looking to open a credit card with bad credit, it can be hard to find a card you qualify for. That’s where credit unions come in. They are sometimes more accepting of your credit history and have cards especially designed for people with low credit scores — helping your approval chances.

Georgia’s Own Visa Classic

Georgia’s Own Credit Union offers a variety of credit cards all with low interest. Their Visa Classic unsecured card is positioned toward those who need to rebuild credit and boasts a low APR. When you apply for a credit card on Georgia’s Own website you are directed toward an application that is for all credit cards they offer. This means that depending on your creditworthiness, you may not be directed to the Visa Classic as an option. Therefore, if you want to apply directly for the card, the best bet is to speak with a loan officer who will tell you if you’re pre-approved for the Visa Classic card.

Our Credit Union Favorite

Visa® Classic from Georgia's Own Credit Union

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on Georgia's Own Credit Union’s secure website

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Visa® Classic from Georgia's Own Credit Union

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
APR
12.99%-17.99%

Fair Variable

Credit required
bad-credit
Bad

Best for Cash: Personal Loans

If you’re looking to get some cash in your pocket, credit cards in general aren’t your best answer. Cash advances are not ideal, and putting a purchase you can’t currently afford onto a credit card with a high interest rate attributable to your not-so-great credit score is going to be an expensive venture.

Instead, you’ll want to consider personal loans. They’re admittedly a little more work up front with the application process, but the savings can be worth it. YOu can check to see if you are prequalified without impacting your credit score at most lenders. And [LendingTreePL]LendingTree[/LendingTreePL] (the parent company of MagnifyMoney) has created a tool that lets you compare rates from dozens of lenders at once, without impacting your score.

[LendingTreePL]LendingTree[/LendingTreePL]

LendingTree, our parent company, offers a one-stop tool that can help borrowers find numerous personal loan offers. After entering some basic information, you can receive offers from lenders in a matter of minutes. If you prefer to go directly to the lender’s site you can use one of the options listed below.

LEARN MORE Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree

Loan Amount
up to $35,000
Term
up to 60 Months
APR Range
5.99%-35.99%
Origination Fee
Varies
Credit Required
Bad or Could be Better/Average/Good/Excellent
Soft Pull
You can get your rate without hurting your score.

Pros Pros

  • Check Multiple Offers at OnceYou can check personal loan offers from a wide range of lenders including Avant, LendingClub and Best Egg. The entire process happens online for free and is fast and easy.
  • Soft Pull on Your CreditLendingTree performs a soft pull on your credit in order to give you accurate loan offers. This does not affect your credit score and can give you a good picture of what to expect if you're approved for a loan.

Cons Cons

  • Need to Create and Account to View OffersThe only way to view your personal loan offers is to create and account at LendingTree. This is a minor step, but it does allow you the ease of saving your offers so you can review them later.
Bottom line

Bottom line

LendingTree offers a great tool that lets you easily check your rates for a variety of lenders, all in a matter of minutes. This is a great way for you to see what rates you may get and allows you to shop around for the best offer, without the hassle of going to multiple websites.

[AvantPL]Avant[/AvantPL]

[AvantPL]Avant[/AvantPL] offers personal loans even to those with less-than-desirable credit. Because [AvantPrepayFee]there is no prepayment penalty[/AvantPrepayFee], you can pay off your loan before the end of your term without consequence.

APPLY NOW Secured

on Avant’s secure website

Avant

Loan Amount
up to $35,000
Term
up to 60 Months
APR Range
9.95%-35.99%
Origination Fee
0.95%-4.75%
Soft Pull
You can get your rate without hurting your score.

Pros Pros

  • Apply Online The entire Avant application process happens online. This saves you the hassle of filling out paperwork and visiting a local branch.
  • Find Your Interest Rate Before You Apply Avant allows you to preview the interest rate you would be offered with a soft pull on your credit. This will not impact your credit score. This is helpful if you’re shopping around for different rates and gives you a realistic picture of what to expect should you choose Avant.
  • Could Save Money over Subprime Credit Cards Depending on the interest rate and upfront fee percentage you are offered, a personal loan from Avant could save you money over putting purchases on a subprime credit card. The ability to preview your interest rate can also help you compare between personal loans and other possible options.

Cons Cons

  • High Interest Rates Because you’re a subprime borrower, you’re not likely to qualify for the lowest interest rate offered. You’re more likely to be offered something closer to the 35.99% rate. This is a very high rate, and it’s important that you make all of your payments on time to avoid paying interest and damaging your credit score.
Bottom line

Bottom line

While there’s only one con for Avant’s personal loans, it’s a pretty big one. The interest rate can be extremely high, so do your math before deciding if this is a good product for you. And be sure to take advantage of the fact that they’ll let you check your interest rate before officially submitting your application. Use this feature to shop around for best offers and check if you qualify for a better loan

[OneMainFinancialPL]OneMain Financial[/OneMainFinancialPL]

Avant is easier to apply for as the application process will take place online, but if you’re willing to go somewhere in person, you can also apply with OneMain. Its application is also online, but in order to be approved, you’ll have to show up at a local branch with documentation backing the information you submitted at home.

APPLY NOW Secured

on OneMain Financial’s secure website

OneMain Financial

Loan Amount
up to $25,000
APR Range
25.10%-36.00%
Origination Fee
No origination fee
Credit Required
Average/Good/Excellent

Pros Pros

  • Talk to a Loan Officer At OneMain you have the benefit of talking to a loan officer and explaining your personal situation. This is a positive experience that can help you explain anything that can’t be seen on an application.
  • Receive Money Same Day If you apply online before noon, you usually will receive the loan the same day. This is helpful if you need money quickly. After the loan is approved, you have 14 days to change your mind and return the loan proceeds. If you do that, you will not be responsible for any of the accrued interest.

Cons Cons

  • High Interest Rates Accrued Daily Even though the interest rates may be more reflective of your situation, they are still high. Interest accrues daily, which could add years to your loan if you don’t pay on time. Be sure to make your payments on time each month to avoid paying high interest rates.
  • Must Meet in Person You have to physically bring your paperwork into a OneMain branch after applying online. You will also have to complete an interview with a loan officer. This can be a tedious process if there is no OneMain branch located near you.
  • Must Borrow a Minimum of $1,500 Depending on how much cash you need, the $1,500 minimum may be too high if you only need a couple of hundred dollars. There is no maximum loan amount offered.
Bottom line

Bottom line

OneMain locations can be a good choice if you want to have your loan the day you apply. If you’re okay meeting someone in person and have the transportation to get to your closest branch, this may be an option worth exploring. Make sure you decide if this offer is right for you and if you need a loan over $1,500. Check to see if you’re pre-qualified for a better offer from other institutions.

Last Resort: Subprime Credit Cards

Subprime credit cards are those that lending institutions issue to those with “bad” credit. They are not a good solution to your credit woes. They almost always come with high interest rates and a litany of fees — both of which make it difficult to use this product responsibly.

For example, First Premier makes a business out of lending to subprime borrowers with bad credit. Most of their applicants are only awarded a $300 line of credit. That’s after they pay a $95 fee just to apply (which is not a common practice in the credit card industry) and a $75 annual fee. If you are approved for a higher credit limit, your annual fee for the first year may be higher ($79-$125). In the second year, the annual fee drops ($45-$49), but at this point you are charged a $6.25-$10.40 account servicing fee every single month.

The cherry on top? The card’s APR is 36%. Heaven forbid you are ever late on a payment — your balance will skyrocket with the insanely high interest rate. Don’t forget about the late payment fee — up to $38.

Another example is Credit One Bank — not to be confused with Capitol One Bank, though their logos do look eerily similar. Not every Credit One Bank credit card comes with outrageous fees. In fact, there are 26 separate possible card agreements. But if you are a subprime borrower, you’re likely to qualify for higher rates.

Your credit may not be great, but that doesn’t make subprime credit cards a “fair” product. You may qualify for other, better options that aren’t as laden with fees. That’s why we recommend you first check if you’re pre-qualified for offers then look at store cards and personal loans before choosing a subprime credit card.

Bad Credit FAQs

Store cards can be used as payment anywhere the credit card company, such as MasterCard or Visa, is accepted. Private label cards can only be used at the branded company’s store. For example, if you get a private label card for New York & Company, you can only use it for purchases at New York & Company. You would not be able to use it at any other store.

Your best bet is to ask. If you are applying online, pick up the phone and call or use the company’s online chat if available.

If you have a physical card in front of you, you’ll notice that store cards always have the associated credit card company shown on the front, whether that be Visa, American Express, MasterCard, or another.

Private label cards tend not to display this information, though a major financial institution that a lot of companies work with for their private label cards is Comenity. If you have a card associated with Comenity Bank, it is likely a private label card.

No. Most businesses have an online application for their store cards.

Personal loans are typically issued by more reputable lenders who aspire to more transparency than those in the payday loan space. Payday loans are often advertised as having interest rates somewhere between 10% and 30%, but that interest is charged over a short period of time, making their effective APR (annual percentage rate) much higher. Some payday loans have an effective APR of 400% or more.

The lender isn’t likely to tell you that, though. Many businesses in this space are predatory. Payday loans also tend to come with outrageous fees.

While rates and fees on personal loans for those with bad credit aren’t ideal, they’re more than substantially lower than those of payday loans. Make no mistake about it: despite enticing advertising promises of deceptive payday lenders, personal loans are an infinitely better option.

Borrowing cash from your credit card company often comes with a fee of 1%-5%. That may not seem terrible when you look at the upfront fees of many personal loans, but you also have to account for interest.

Unlike purchases you charge to your card, interest on cash advances starts accruing immediately. You do not get to wait for your next statement to be issued. The interest rate for cash advances is also often higher than that of regular purchases.

A personal loan is an installment loan with a balance that will go down if you pay the minimum payment each month. This makes it far easier to manage than debt accrued via a cash advance. If you only pay the minimum payment on a cash advance each month, your balance will go up at a quick pace, potentially spiraling out of control.

First of all, the less you charge, the easier it will be to pay back. Since you have a bad credit score, you may have had issues with charging too much in the past and being unable to pay it off.

Secondly, around 30% of your credit score is made up of your credit utilization ratio. You find this ratio by dividing the amount of credit extended to you by the amount you have borrowed. By borrowing only 20% of your available credit, you reduce the risk of having your current balance negatively impacting your credit score.

It can sometimes take a year or more to see your score improve by 100 points if you are doing everything correctly and responsibly.

Yes, but only if you use them responsibly, paying the balance off in full every month. Keep in mind your credit utilization ratio here, too.

Potentially. Ten percent of your credit score is made up of something called “credit mix.” You don’t need to have every single type of credit in your credit report, but you should have more than one type. Here are the five that count:

  • Credit cards
  • Installment loans
  • Retail accounts
  • Finance company accounts
  • Mortgage loans

Conceivably, if you have a mortgage or business debt tied to your Social Security number or EIN, you might be able to get away with rebuilding your score through a personal loan (which is an installment loan). The key is to manage all of those debts well — and to do so consistently — especially since you already have bad credit.

No. Transactions on prepaid debit cards do not get reported to the credit bureaus. Also, it’s important to remember than many prepaid cards come with a ton of fees.

The post Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit October 2017 appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

11 Reasons Why Cash Is Still King

Here are 11 reasons why you might want to pay with cash — or at least keep some on hand.

All I wanted was some cilantro and onions, and I didn’t have the money. Correction: I had the money, but it was in my bank account, not in my pocket. The corner fruit market I go to when I need a couple of quick ingredients only accepts cash for small transactions. My plastic wasn’t going to help me.

My wallet was empty, but my husband had a couple bucks in his pocket, so dinner was saved. But the experience made me remember sometimes it pays to have old-fashioned currency on hand.

Not all Americans agree cash is still king. About a third of people in the U.S. never or rarely carry cash, and 34% said they would go completely cashless if they could, a 2017 ING International survey found.

These days, you can use cards or mobile payments for everything, from taxis to paying the babysitter, meaning it’s easier than ever to live without cash. At some stores — such as Amazon’s brick-and-mortar bookshops — paying with cash isn’t an option. But a fully cashless society isn’t here yet, and there are still good excuses for keeping a few bills tucked in your wallet.

Here are 11 reasons why you might want to pay with cash — or at least keep some on hand.

1. It’s Accepted (Almost) Everywhere

Unlike your American Express or Discover Card, cash is accepted almost everywhere. Most merchants in the U.S. happily take greenbacks for payments, even as they refuse to run your credit or debit cards for smaller purchases. Of course, the flip side of the cash-only (or cash-preferred) business is the one that requires you to pay with a card. That’s a perfectly legal practice, and one common in certain industries. So it’s smart to carry both cash and plastic. (Here are the best low-interest cards to consider.)

2. It’s Useful in Emergencies

Credit cards are convenient, until they don’t work or aren’t available. If the power goes out or your wallet is stolen, you’ll be happy you have some paper money tucked in a cookie jar. In fact, the government includes cash on its disaster supplies list, along with essentials such as food, water and prescription medications. Although you shouldn’t hide your life savings under your mattress, $100 or $200 will buy gas or food if the unexpected happens.

3. It Can Save You Money & Hassle When Traveling

You need cash if you’re on the road, especially if you’re venturing abroad. Not only are cards not accepted everywhere, but pockets get picked, ATMs eat debit cards and other misadventures can befall you. Cold, hard cash can get you out of a jam almost anywhere. It’s best to carry a small traveler’s emergency fund on you separate from your main wallet and leave the rest of your cash and a backup credit card in the hotel safe.

4. Your Server Will Love You

You can add your tip to your credit card receipt when you pay the bill for dinner, or you could make your server smile and leave the cash on the table. Your waiter or waitress will be able to collect their earnings right away, rather than waiting for your tip to show up on their paycheck. Plus, restaurant managers sometimes take credit card fees out of tips that show up on cards, which means less for your hard-working server.

Cash is also useful for other tipping situations. The maid or bellhop at the hotel isn’t carrying a Square reader in their pocket, and if you want to tip your Uber driver, you’ll need bills because there’s no way to tip in the app.

5. You Might Get a Discount

Card issuers charge businesses a small fee for processing transactions. Some businesses pass the charge on to customers in the form of an extra fee. Others, especially in states where such surcharges aren’t allowed, offer cash-payment discounts. For consumers, the difference is one of semantics, but the point is sometimes cash will save you money. Cash discounts are especially common at gas stations in certain areas, where you’ll usually save 5 to 10 cents a gallon if you pay with paper rather than a card.

Gas stations aren’t the only ones cutting prices for those with greenbacks. Doctors might slash bills for uninsured patients if they can pay their bill in cash. Jewelry stores might also offer cash discounts.

6. You’ll Spend Less

Do you really spend more when you pay with plastic instead of cash? Studies say yes. Researchers at MIT found people who were told to use a credit card instead of cash were willing to pay more for purchases. Another study found people paying with cash were more likely to focus on an item’s cost, rather than its benefits. In a third study, consumers who were urged to pay cash for small purchases had less debt after six months than those who didn’t receive the same advice.

7. You’ll Enjoy Your Purchases More

Not only will you spend less when you pay with cash, you’ll also get more enjoyment out of what you buy. We have greater emotional attachment to purchases we make with cash than those we put on credit, a study published in the Journal of Consumer research found.

8. You Won’t Run up Debt

If you’re one of the many Americans who have trouble using credit responsibly, going cash-only has a significant benefit: You won’t be able to run up more debt on your cards. Give yourself a cash budget for the week and stick to it. If the money isn’t in your wallet, you can’t spend it.

9. It’s Perfect for Certain Types of Budgeting

Some people give themselves a cash budget to control discretionary spending, but they still use cards for other purchases. Others go all-in with cash, switching over to what’s commonly called the “envelope system.” Popularized by author Dave Ramsey, this approach to budgeting involves dividing all your money for a month into different envelopes — say, $400 for groceries, $200 for gas and $100 for lunches at work.

You only use money from the grocery envelope to pay for groceries, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. The rigidity of the envelope system doesn’t appeal to everyone, but for those trying to live within a strict budget, it works.

10. Your Bad Credit Won’t Be an Issue

So reckless credit card use or other financial problems have tanked your credit score. That means you’ll pay a premium in the form of higher interest next time you need to borrow money. But if you can pay cash instead, you can minimize or avoid the bad-credit penalty. (Not sure where your credit stands? You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

Use hard currency for your next used car and you won’t have to deal with crummy loan terms. At the furniture store, you might not qualify for the special financing, but showing up with a wallet full of $100 bills could earn you an even better deal: a cash discount.

11. Your Purchases Stay Private

There’s a reason criminals like to do business in cash: It’s hard to trace. But even law-abiding citizens who value their privacy appreciate the anonymity of cash transactions.

Aside from the possibility of identity theft, credit card companies and retail stores sell your purchase data, which marketers then use to try to sell you more stuff. In one infamous case, a teen’s purchases at Target clued the store in to the fact she was pregnant. The chain then sent the mom-to-be some coupons for baby stuff, much to the surprise of her parents.

The Cons of Paying With Cash

Cash has advantages, but there’s a reason most of us don’t rely on it exclusively. For one, it’s difficult or impossible to use it in certain situations. If you want to pay cash for your plane ticket, you’ll need to make a special trip to the airport, and renting a car without plastic is difficult.

There are drawbacks to cash that go beyond inconvenience. Cash can be lost or destroyed. You won’t get perks, such as purchase protection, that you get with some credit cards. Rewards points are nonexistent, and some people find it harder to keep track of cash purchases than those on cards. The disadvantages of sticking strictly to cash are enough to make a hybrid solution — cards for some purchases, cash for others — the right choice for most people.

This article originally appeared on The Cheat Sheet.  

Image: LarsZahnerPhotography 

The post 11 Reasons Why Cash Is Still King appeared first on Credit.com.

7 Red Flags to Look for When Choosing a Credit Card for Bad Credit

All credit cards are not created equal, particularly those for people with bad credit.

Digging yourself out of a bad credit situation can seem tough but there are tools to help. Credit cards are one of the chief ways to improve your credit, but they can be difficult to attain when your credit has a checkered past.

That’s not to say it’s impossible to get a secured credit card or even unsecured credit card if you have bad credit. There are cards that can help you get back on the right track, but you’ll want to watch out for problematic cards, like those that offer predatory terms and policies that can actually worsen your situation. Choosing the right credit card requires knowing what to avoid.

Here are seven red flags to look for when you evaluate credit cards for bad credit.

1. Sky-High Interest Rates

People with bad credit usually can’t qualify for the same interest rates as people with good or even fair credit. It’s the industry’s way of protecting itself against risky customers. But some cards aimed at people with bad credit charge unnecessarily high interest rates, sometimes more than twice what someone with good credit can get.

The best way to avoid sky-high interest rates is to shop around, and find the cards for bad credit that offer lower rates.

2. High Annual Fees

Some credit cards for bad credit charge no annual fee, while others charge fees, but keep them on the lower end. Then there are cards that may charge upwards of $100, which is comparable to annual fees for some rewards credit cards. As you pay down those balances, look for a card with little or no annual fees so you can put that money toward getting out of debt faster.

3. Tacked-On Fees

Some credit card issuers will tack on suspicious fees that most credit cards don’t include. These may include processing or application fees required to open your card or monthly maintenance fees that add to your annual cost.

While annual fees and late payment fees are commonplace, look out for excessive fees that would lead you to pay much more for the card than you bargained for. Make sure you understand the card’s fee structure before you apply.

4. Incomplete Credit Reporting

The purpose of these types of cards is to improve your credit. For that to happen, your credit card activity should be reported to all three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. If your card doesn’t do that, you can’t improve your credit to its full potential.

This is why a secured credit card, which requires a security deposit, is preferable to a prepaid debit card, which does not typically affect your credit because your use of this card isn’t reported. You should make sure any card you’re considering reports to all three of the main credit bureaus.

5. High Credit Limits

High credit limits sound great. But when it comes to credit cards for bad credit, you may want to be wary. For one thing, you may have to pay a lot of fees or an excessive interest rate to access a high credit limit. For another, high credit limits can quickly spiral out of control if you have trouble managing your debt. Be wary of any card promising high credit limits out of the gate for people with bad credit.

6. A Lack of Monitoring

People with bad credit need to pay extra attention to their finances. If a card offers no way to monitor your credit progress or keep track of payments, you may want to keep looking. Opt for a card that has the option to send you an email or text alert when you have an upcoming payment so you can amp up the payment history portion of your credit profile — it counts for 35%, after all.

7. No Room for Improvement

Cards for bad credit should be designed to improve your credit and reward you for responsible behavior. If they don’t, you should look for a card that does. For instance, secured credit cards may offer the ability to earn an unsecured card after a period of responsible use and timely payments. Or, they’ll offer to raise your credit limit without requiring an additional deposit.

You can start your research on credit cards that can help to improve your credit by checking out our roundup of credit cards for bad credit. Remember, before applying, you’ll want to find out where your credit stands by reviewing your free credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com or taking a look at two of your free credit scores on Credit.com.

Image: AntonioGuillem

The post 7 Red Flags to Look for When Choosing a Credit Card for Bad Credit appeared first on Credit.com.

5 Things to Know if You’re Trying to Get a Mortgage With Bad Credit in 2017

hopping for the right mortgage lender is key to getting the best loan terms, especially if you have less-than-stellar credit.

Believe it or not, your credit doesn’t have to be stellar to get a mortgage. Many banks and lenders will extend a mortgage to applicants with at least a 640 credit score. However, not all lenders are created equal — and, even if you can score a home loan, bad credit is going to seriously cost you in interest.

What Credit Score Do I Need to Get a Mortgage in 2017?

There are two main types of mortgages: conventional and Federal Housing Administration, or FHA, loans.

Some lenders will offer conventional mortgages to consumers with a credit score of just 620. Other lenders will go even lower, but the process for getting that mortgage will be difficult and involve thorough explanations of your credit history.

For FHA loans, some lenders will go as low as 580, with just 3.5% in equity. However some folks can get a new mortgage or even do a cash-out refinance with a credit score as low as 550 — but there’s a catch. You’ll need at least a 10% equity position. This means you need 10% down when buying a home or 10% equity when refinancing.

Keep in mind, though, not all lenders will extend a mortgage to someone with a bad credit score — it has to do with their tolerance for risk. (From an underwriting perspective, poor credit indicates a higher risk of default.) The more risk a bank is willing to take on, the higher your chances of getting approved with a not-so-hot score. You can see where you currently stand by viewing your two free credit scores on Credit.com.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you have a low credit score and are shopping for a mortgage.

1. It’s a Good Idea to Rebuild Your Credit

If you are looking to increase your credit score to have an easier time getting a mortgage, you’ll need to be able to clear the 620 mark to see any significant difference. Hitting that threshold (and beyond) will likely make better mortgage rates and terms available to you, plus keep you from going through the type of scrutiny a lower tier credit score bracket often requires. You can generally improve your credit score by disputing errors on your credit report, paying down high credit card balances and getting any delinquent accounts back in good standing.

2. Down Payment Assistance Will Be Hard to Come By 

Down payment assistance programs are currently quite scarce. Beyond that, to be eligible for down-payment assistance, a borrower would typically need at least a 640 credit score. You can expect this across the board with most banks and lenders. It is reasonable to assume you are ineligible for assistance if your credit score is under 640.

3. Previous Short Sale, Bankruptcy or Foreclosure Are Subject to ‘Seasoning Periods’

If you have one of these items on your credit report, it’s going to impact your ability to get a mortgage. There’s typically a three-year waiting period — also known as a “seasoning period” — before you can qualify for a mortgage after you’ve been through a foreclosure or short sale. The waiting time after a bankruptcy is two years. Note: There are some loan programs that have shorter seasoning periods. For instance, VA loans can get approved at the two-year mark following a foreclosure.

4. Higher Debt-to-Income Ratios Make it Harder

It’s no secret that FHA loans allow debt-to-income ratios in excess of 54%. In order to be eligible for this type of financing, your credit score should be around 640 or higher. That’s not to say your credit score of 620, for example, will not work. It’s almost a guarantee, though, that if your credit score is less than 600 you’re going to have a difficult time getting a loan approved with a debt-to-income ratio exceeding 45%.

5. Cash-Out-Refinancing Is On the Table

This is a big one. If you already own your own home, you could use your equity to improve your credit. How? You could do a cash-out refinance with your home. This would allow you to pay off installment loans and credit cards, which often carry a significantly higher rate of interest than any home loan. Wrapping them into the payment could end up saving you significant money, and it’s still an option for borrowers with lower credit scores. (As I mentioned earlier, some lenders will do a cash-out refinance for borrowers with a credit score as low as 550, so long as they’re in a at least 10% equity position.) However, if this is something you’re considering, be sure to read the print and crunch the numbers to determine if you’ll come out ahead. Cash-out re-fis require you to pay closing costs and your bad credit might not merit a low enough interest rate to make this move worthwhile. You’ll also want to make sure the new monthly mortgage payment is something you can handle.

Remember, just because you can technically get a mortgage with bad credit, doesn’t mean it’s the best move for you. You may want to improve your standing, lower your debt-to-income ratio and bolster your down payment funds before hitting up the housing market. Still, it can be done and if you’re currently looking for a home loan, be sure to ask prospective lenders or mortgage brokers lots of questions to find the best deal you can get. To help you through the process, good credit or bad, here’s 50 full ways to get ready for your house hunt.

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Got the Worst Credit? These Cards Can Help You Rebuild It

Sounds counterintuitive, we know, but a new credit card can help you re-establish your payment history. Just use it wisely.

Chances are, your credit isn’t actually the worst. According to data furnished to Credit.com by TransUnion, only a very tiny portion of the U.S.’s scoreable population has the lowest VantageScore possible. Of course, escaping the dreaded 300 won’t get your credit out of the woods. Any score below 600 is considered, well, bad, and even a score in the 650 to 699 range will cost you in interest.

Still, there’s no need to despair: Nothing lasts forever, including a terrible credit score. You’ve just got to take steps to rebuild it. Paying down high balances, shoring up delinquencies, paying collection accounts and disputing errors on your credit report are great places to start. (The further you get from 300, the better. You can track your progress using Credit.com’s free credit report summary.)

After that, consider getting a new credit card. It sounds counterintuitive, we know, but that plastic can be instrumental when it comes to reestablishing a solid payment history. Just be sure to pay all your bills on time and keep balances as low as possible.

Here are five cards designed to help people with bad credit rebuild their scores. (See card agreements for full terms and conditions.)

1. OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card

Annual Fee: $35

Purchase Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Variable 18.14%

Why It’s a Good Option: Yes, secured credit cards are designed for people with bad credit, but most still require a credit check, and there’s no guarantee you’ll be approved. The OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card foregoes pulling your credit and doesn’t require a checking account either, so if your finances are really damaged, you may want to take up their offer. OpenSky reports to all three credit bureaus, so you’re covered there. And there’s a wide range for a security deposit: You can put down as little as $200 and up to $3,000.

Beyond that, the terms of the card are decent, especially given that there’s no credit check. (There are certainly secured credit cards out there touting higher APRs and annual fees.) One drawback worth mentioning: There’s no built-in way to upgrade to an unsecured credit card, so you’ll have to improve your scores and apply elsewhere.

2. Discover it Secured

Annual Fee: $0

Purchase APR: Variable 23.74%

Why It’s a Good Option: Back in Dec. 2016, Discover announced that Chapter 7 bankruptcy would no longer automatically disqualify Discover it Secured applicants, so someone with that big blemish on their credit report could conceivably get approved. That’s great news for people with bad credit, because this card is pretty tops, as far as secured credit cards go.

There’s no annual fee, account reviews begin at seven months to determine whether to refund your deposit (a minimum of $200 is required to open an account), and there’s even a rewards program. Cardholders earn 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, and 1% cash back on everything else. Plus, Discover is currently matching all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.

Other Big Perks: Discover reports to all three credit bureaus, waives the late fee on your first missed payment and won’t impose a penalty APR if you miss a bill. Just be sure to pay your balances off in full: That APR is on the high side and will quickly negate any rewards you do earn.

3. First Progress Platinum Select MasterCard Secured Credit Card

Annual Fee: $39

Purchase APR: Variable 14.99%

Why it’s a Good Option: There’s no credit history or minimum credit score required for approval — so long as you don’t have a pending bankruptcy. First Progress reports to all three major credit bureaus, offers a flexible deposit range ($200 to $3,000) and features a reasonable annual fee and low APR. Again, the potential drawbacks are that you don’t have a built-in option to upgrade and the card isn’t currently available in Arkansas, Iowa, New York or Wisconsin.

4. primor Secured Visa Gold Card

Annual Fee: $49

Purchase APR: Fixed 9.99%

Why It’s a Good Option: This card touts guaranteed approval so long as your monthly income exceeds your monthly expenses by $100 or more. Plus, while that $49 annual fee can be bested, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a secured credit card with an APR lower than primor’s. There’s no penalty APR either, though you’ll still want to pay your bills on time and ideally in full. Your card use will be reported to all three credit bureaus, and you can put down a deposit of $200 to $5,000. There are no built-in upgrades with an unsecured credit card, however.

5. CreditOne Bank Visa

Annual Fee: $0 to $75, the first year; $0 to $99 thereafter, based on your credit

Purchase APR: Variable 15.90% to 24.40%

Why It’s a Good Option: OK, if you’ve got really bad credit, you’re probably going to pay a high annual fee and receive a high APR with the CreditOne Bank Visa. But it’s an unsecured credit card, meaning you won’t have to put down a deposit that serves as your credit limit. Plus, it’ll let you pre-qualify without incurring an inquiry (which would damage your already-hurt credit score), so it’s worth considering if you don’t want to go the secured-credit-card route. There are also rewards — 1% cash back on eligible purchases, including gas, groceries, mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV services. Just be extra careful about paying your balances off in full, and prepare for a fee when looking to get a higher credit limit, as one may apply.

At publishing time, the OpenSky Visa Secured, Discover it Secured, First Progress MasterCard Select Secured, primor Secured Visa Gold and CreditOne Bank Visa credit card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, these relationships do not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

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4 Ways You Can Wind Up With Bad Credit & Not Even Know it

Did you just check your credit scores and find out the numbers are much lower than you expected?

“While you might remember missing a payment or defaulting on a loan, there could be many other reasons your credit score can take a dive while you are unaware,” said Cary Carbonaro, managing director at United Capital Financial Advisers and author of “The Money Queen’s Guide.”

Here are four ways your credit score can be negatively affected without you knowing it.

1. You Only Pay the Minimum Payment

You may think you have good credit because you are paying all your minimum payments on time every month. While making on-time payments is the largest factor in your credit scores — making up roughly 35% of your scores — the second largest factor is your debt usage in comparison to your total credit limit. Many experts advise keeping that percentage below 30% — ideally 10% — to have the best effect on your scores.

“Making minimum payments while continuing to charge or keeping high balances lowers your credit score, even though you are paying on time,” Carbonaro said. “With high balances, the more you can stop swiping the card and pay over the minimum payment while still paying on time, the more your score will steadily improve.”

2. You Forgot an Outstanding Bill That Went Into Collections

Carbonaro says it’s easy to move away and forget about an outstanding bill you owe. One common example of this happening is when college students move out of apartments at the end of the year without paying the final utilities or cable bill balance. These small forgotten bills can end up as a collection account on their credit report and they find out about it years later when they apply for an auto loan.

Once any type of account is sent to collections for non-payment, your credit score may decrease by more than 100 points depending on other aspects of your credit report, according to a recent VantageScore report on how credit behaviors affect your credit score.

Collections are serious business, no matter what the amount and can stay on your credit report for up to seven years even after they’re paid, Carbonaro said. She advised following up with all billers when you move to provide forwarding addresses and pay all final balances so this doesn’t happen to you.

3. You Are the Victim of Financial Infidelity in a Marriage

Never heard of that?

“That’s when there is hidden spending or debt on either side of a marriage, both of which can destroy your credit without you knowing it,” Carbonaro explained. “Many types of negative marks can end up on your credit report if your spouse is using your credit to open accounts or taking out joint credit cards and spending up a storm while you don’t know about it.”

Her best advice for avoiding additional credit problems during a divorce if you don’t trust your spouse financially is to put a credit freeze on your credit with all three bureaus. This way, at least no one can open any new credit accounts in your name during this time. (And, keep in mind, taking out credit in someone’s else name without their involvement — meaning that person has agree to co-sign or otherwise open a joint account — is considered identity theft.)

“While this makes life tough for you, too, the peace of mind that your credit is safe is worth it,” advises Carbonaro.

4. You Never Check Your Credit Reports or Credit Scores

If you are a victim of identity theft or there are errors reported on your credit report, your credit can take a deep dive.

“But, if you never check your credit score and see the dip or check your credit reports and find the errors, you will be oblivious to credit problems that you didn’t even cause,” Carbonaro said.

She says the more proactive you can be about checking your credit scores and credit reports, the easier it is to dispute mistakes and correct them and to catch identity theft if it happens. (You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and see two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

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Here’s How to Tell Your Love Your Credit Stinks

telling_your_love_your_credit_stinks

When you find yourself staring down a mountain of debt, you probably want to just find a cave somewhere and hide. But if the way you’re managing your money has the potential to affect your spouse or significant other, it’s worth talking about it, lest you suffer the fallout of financial infidelity later on.

While everyone’s financial situation may differ, the tips outlined here can help you get started with having that tough conversation.

Know Why You Want to Talk 

Before you sit down with your loved one, “you have to think about why it is you want to discuss this,” said Amanda Clayman, a New York City-based financial therapist who works with people around all aspects of financial behavior and their relationship with money. Ask yourself, “Why is it that you want to come clean about this? Do you want emotional support? Do you need financial help?” Perhaps you feel like you’ve been misleading, or even dishonest, in the way that you held onto this information or disclosed other information in the past. Whatever it is, knowing your own motivations will help you structure the conversation around what needs to be said.

Do Your Homework  

“To prepare, you really need to be clear on the situation,” said Clayman. “You can’t disclose the truth without knowing what the truth is.” Do as much of your own homework as you can before your discussion by pulling your credit report and doing an overall assessment of your finances. (You can view two of your credit scores, updated monthly, on Credit.com.)

Know Your Audience

“It’s a different conversation to have with your parents versus a person with whom you already share finances,” said Clayman. In other words, try to anticipate what you need to disclose to this person in particular. Is the way that you’ve been using your credit card affecting your spouse’s ability to put away savings? If so, you’ll need to be more upfront. If your spending is so out of control that you need to move back home with your parents to pay off the debt, you’ll want to choose your words carefully when telling your parents.

Be Direct 

“The best thing to do is bring it up as its own conversation,” said Clayman. “You want to be direct and honest, and acknowledge why you haven’t talked about [this subject] in the past.” You’ll also want to address any concerns you have about how your loved one may react — and how you hope they’ll respond. Offering some context can be helpful, said Clayman, since being honest is a step toward taking responsibility and hopefully putting yourself on a path to addressing your own financial instability and creditworthiness.

Being upfront about these emotions will also help the other person be aware of their own reaction as they hear this, said Clayman. What’s more, it will give them a sense of why you may not have been so forthcoming up until now.

“It’s not saying that you can’t have your own reaction to it,” she said. “It’s a way of keeping the relational context intact as you talk about something that can be surprising to some people.” She added, “If you’re to say, ‘I’m sharing this, and the reason I didn’t share it [before] was because I was worried you’d see me in a certain way or be disappointed,’ that way the person can address or refute it.”

Give Yourself Space & Time 

When having a talk like this, it’s important to do what you can to make the situation feel less overwhelming, both to you and your loved one. You want to be able to say what needs to be said — and ensure that you have space to do it. “Try to do this at a time when you’re not going to be interrupted,” said Clayman. Also, make sure there’s adequate time. “This is going to be really emotional and a little unpredictable,” she said. “Neither of these things will be improved by having too little time or quiet.”

Focus on Your Loved One 

Discussing your financial woes is never easy, but focusing on your loved one can help you stay connected, even when you feel yourself getting worked up. “Even when people disagree or there’s a breach of trust, look for ways that you’re still connected in other aspects of your relationship,” Clayman says. Reminding yourself of those things will help you get through the worst of the problem — and remind you what you’re working toward.

Remember, disclosing your money woes and/or lousy credit isn’t a time to unburden yourself of your worries and guilt. It’s about finding a way to work through the problem together. Not taking this approach can be destructive, especially if you’re not prepared for your loved one’s “anger, bewilderment and so on,” Clayman says. So take the time to learn where you stand and plan the conversation accordingly. Things may just go more smoothly than you expected.

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A Credit Card That Wants to Teach You How to Use It

credit-cards-for-low-credit-scores

Consumers with low credit scores often have to deal with limited access to credit. After all, they are by definition risky customers for creditors to do business with because their history has shown they are less likely to repay their debts than borrowers with good credit.

Unfortunately, that also means that when credit is available to subprime borrowers (traditionally, those with credit scores lower than 680), loans and credit cards tend to come with higher interest rates and far fewer perks. And some subprime credit cards can be downright predatory in the extra fees they heap onto borrowers.

LendUp, a Silicon Valley-based startup focused on expanding access to safe credit for traditionally underbanked consumers, is trying to change that through its new L Card, which is currently available on a limited basis only.

The card offers credit lines between $300 and $1,000, features an annual percentage rate (APR) between 19.99% and 29.99% with annual fees between $0 and $60 (based on creditworthiness), according to Leslie Payne, head of corporate affairs and social impact for LendUp.

Those interest rates are significantly higher than the average interest rate for all credit card accounts, which is just over 12%, according to the Federal Reserve, but are in keeping with subprime credit card rates, which are traditionally higher.

Where LendUp really stands apart is in their education offerings. Accountholders can take roughly a dozen classes aimed at improving their credit scores and understanding of everything from reading a credit report to protecting their identity online. Those classes can count toward a customer’s increased credit line or lowered APR, Payne said, as can on-time payments and general good management of the card.

“With other cards, you don’t know what you have to do for how long to know when you get a credit increase or a reduction in [APR],” Payne said. “We want to make that process as clear as possible.”

The card has no hidden fees and a grace period for payments, which, as Payne pointed out, can be uncommon among subprime cards. LendUp also provides a smartphone app that lets users freeze charges in case of loss or theft, and a “financial health meter” that TechCrunch.com said “clearly shows how much credit the customer has left to spend.”

“LendUp’s mission is to provide anyone with a path to better financial health,” Payne said.

Besides the L Card, LendUp also offers a variety of loan products. Payne said the company is still focused on learning and will make the L Card more widely available at a later time.

Looking for Credit? 

Remember, no matter what credit card you are considering, it’s important to read the full terms and conditions carefully to be sure it’s right for you. And it’s also a good idea to avoid charging more than you can afford to pay off in full (and on-time) at the end of the month, particularly if you’re focused on building your credit. High credit card balances can hurt your scores. Not to mention, credit card interest can quickly add up. (You can calculate the lifetime cost of your current debts here.)

If you have so-so credit, there are many steps you can take to make improvements, starting with checking your credit scores regularly and requesting your free annual credit reports every year at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also get your own personal credit report card at Credit.com, which offers you two free credit scores, updated monthly, plus a personalized report that tells you how you’re doing in the five key areas that are included on your credit report and determine your credit score: payment history, debt usage, credit age, account mix and inquiries.

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Can Alternative Credit Scores Hurt You?

alternative_credit_scores

We’ve written quite a bit on alternative credit scores at Credit.com over the years — and on how these non-traditional scores based on things like utility and rent payments can help consumers with “thin” credit files qualify for credit cards and loans. But can the opposite also be true? Can people who have healthy “traditional” credit scores be stymied by the use of alternative scores?

There’s emerging evidence that it is, in fact, possible.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times recounts the experience of one such man, Joseph, who applied for a travel rewards card through Bank of America only to be rejected because of the bank’s use of an alternative credit score from a company called Credit Optics.

Now, keep in mind that Joseph told the Times that his traditional credit score from FICO is an 820. That’s an excellent score based on FICO’s scale of 300-850 (learn more about what counts as a good credit scores here). And Joseph told the Times that his debt-to-income ratio is below 20%, which you might already know means he carries very little debt based on his ability to repay. While FICO doesn’t measure debt-to-income, the amount of debt you’re carrying compared to your total credit availability is a critical part of your FICO score.

Joseph’s alternative score through Credit Optics was a 374 on a wide scale of 1 to 999, which, a company representative reportedly told the Times was a “pretty good” score. But it wasn’t good enough for Bank of America to approve his request for a new credit card. (Bank of America did not immediately respond to Credit.com’s request for comment.)

The rest of the details around Joseph’s rejection aren’t clear, but it begs the question: Can it happen to you? The short answer is yes.

It Could Happen to You

“When alternative credit data first started to be used, the idea was that this was going to fill in thin files for people who didn’t have a lot of credit history with traditional financial products,” said Thomas Bright, a writer with Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions. “That was the idea early on, and this looks like more of a trend toward using these scores for even the traditional consumer who has a positive traditional credit history. That’s a new trend that brings a whole new set of concerns.”

Specifically, those concerns revolve around not knowing what information will be used to make up your alternative credit scores. It could be your utility bills, your rent — essentially every single bill you might receive. Bills for not returning library books on time. Or even your driving and arrest records, as some alternative scores include information from public records. Nearly anything could be fair game when it comes to determining your creditworthiness.

“It’s really comes down to transparency,” Bright said. “When you look at FICO, it’s very clear. There are five categories that make up your score, and then it’s one step from there to figure out how you can influence these five categories. And then you can really take your destiny into your own hands and shape your credit score and credit profile. But when we talk about alternative data, that’s not possible for most people because … it’s not clear how much alternative data there is on them, and they don’t have access to see it.”

What You Can Do

Broader use of alternative scores in conjunction with traditional credit scores means you’ll need to make certain you make timely payments on every financial commitment you have to avoid any blemishes that could negatively impact you, Bright said. You’ll also need to appear stable, so having direct deposit from your employer can be helpful, as can moving infrequently.

Setting up auto-pay for your monthly bills can help ensure you don’t miss or make a late payment. Also, avoiding overdrafts on your bank accounts can also help because some alternative data takes that information into account when determining your credit score.

If you’re ever denied credit, it’s good to review the denial to find out what credit reporting agency the financial institution used. If it’s one of the big three agencies, it’s a good idea to pull your credit reports, which you can do for free every year at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can then begin to clean up any blemishes and improve your credit scores. Likewise, if you see errors on your reports, you can dispute those errors so they are removed.

If you were denied because of a report issued by an alternative credit scoring company, you can contact them and see if they will explain to you what is included in their calculations so you can attempt to dispute, correct or mitigate that data. But that could be easier said than done.

[CREDIT REPAIR HELP: If you need help fixing your credit but don’t want to go it alone, our partner, Lexington Law, can manage the credit repair process for you. Learn more about them here or call them at (844)-346-3295 for a free consultation.]

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