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Building Credit, Credit Cards, Reviews

Georgia’s Own Visa Classic Review: Good Choice for Rebuilding Credit

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The Georgia’s Own Visa Classic card is made for those with low credit scores and helps you rebuild and re-establish your credit. If you’ve struggled in the past with getting approved for other credit cards due to poor credit, you may qualify for this card. By using this card, coupled with proper credit behavior, you will be able to improve your credit score.

Visa® Classic from Georgia's Own Credit Union

APPLY NOW Secured

on Georgia's Own Credit Union’s secure website

Visa® Classic from Georgia's Own Credit Union

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

Fair Variable

Credit required
bad-credit
Bad

How the Card Works

This is a relatively straightforward credit card. There is no annual fee and no rewards. Lack of a rewards program makes this card predominantly for rebuilding credit. Look at it this way — there are no tempting rewards to lead you to overspend, allowing you to focus on rebuilding your credit.

The APR for this card is a fair 12.99% to 17.99%. Other cards charge upward of 20%, so this is reasonable. However, a lower APR shouldn’t encourage you to accrue a balance month to month. Always make it a point to pay your balance in full and on time.

A good way to start rebuilding your credit with the Georgia’s Own Visa Classic is to add a recurring payment, like Netflix or Spotify. You can solely have your monthly Netflix or Spotify charge on your credit card statement and increase your credit score as long as you pay your bill in full and on time. This will give you a low utilization (the amount of your credit limit you use), which is a key factor in determining your credit score. For example, if you have a credit limit of $100 and charge your recurring $7.99 Netflix bill, then you will have a utilization of 8% (below 20% is ideal).

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for this card, you need to have a stable source of income, so a job is needed. This will prove that you can afford to make your monthly payments on time and are responsible.

In addition, since this card is provided by a credit union, you have to join Georgia’s Own Credit Union. Don’t worry if you reside outside of Georgia; anyone can become a member regardless of residence. There are four free eligibility options that can qualify you for free membership. Otherwise you will have to join the GettingAhead Association, with a $5 annual membership fee. The best bet is to speak to a Georgia’s Own loan officer (404-874-1166) and see if you’re pre-approved for the credit card. If pre-approved, you can join the GettingAhead Association while completing your credit card application. All members will also need to keep $5 in a savings account that must remain in the account while you have the card open.

A note on the application process for Georgia’s Own — when you apply for a credit card on Georgia’s Own website, you are directed toward an application  that is for all the 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.

What We Like About the Card

Good chance of getting approved

Georgia’s Own tailored this credit card toward those needing to rebuild or re-establish their credit history. This gives those with bad credit a greater chance of being approved. Also, if your score is above 620, you are more likely to be approved.

Fair APR

This card has a fair APR ranging from 12.99% to 17.99%. This is significantly lower compared to other cards targeted to people with less than perfect credit, with APRs as high as 23.99%. Although your goal is to pay every bill in full and on time each month, if you keep a balance this low, APR won’t accrue as much interest as other cards.

What We Don’t Like About the Card

Have to join the credit union

In order to get this card, you have to join Georgia’s Own Credit Union. There are four free eligibility options, and if you don’t qualify for free membership, you will have to join the GettingAhead Association, with a $5 annual membership fee. You will also need to keep $5 in a savings account that must remain in the account while you have the card open.

2% foreign transaction fee

Make sure to leave this card at home when you travel abroad as you’ll be charged a 2% foreign transaction fee on all purchases. This is slightly lower than most cards, which charge a 3% foreign transaction fee, yet high enough to increase your bill significantly if you make purchases abroad.

No rewards program

There is no rewards program for this credit card. Georgia’s Own offers a Visa Platinum card that has a rewards program, but you may have a harder time qualifying if you don’t have a good credit score.

Who the Card Is Best For

If you’re someone who has a low credit score and doesn’t mind working with a credit union, this card may be right for you. We recommend this no-frills card for people who want to rebuild their credit with a credit card. While you won’t earn any rewards with this card, if you practice proper credit behavior, you’ll be rewarded by a better credit score.

Alternatives

Secured Card with Rewards

Discover it<sup>®</sup> Secured Card - No Annual Fee

Annual fee

$0

Minimum Deposit

$200

Regular Purchase APR

24.24%

Variable

If you don’t want to join a credit union, you might want to consider a secured credit card to help you build credit. With a secured card, you make a deposit - and receive a credit limit based upon that deposit. The good news is that your secured credit card will report to the credit bureaus. That means your good behavior can help you improve your credit score over time. One of our favorite secured credit cards is from Discover.

Rewards Card with Good Approval Odds

Walmart® MasterCard<sup>®</sup>

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

3% cash back on Walmart.com purchases (including purchases made on the Walmart app), 2% back on fuel purchases made at Walmart or Murphy USA (excluding Murphy Express) gas stations and 1% at Walmart & anywhere your card is accepted

Regular Purchase APR

17.65%-23.65%

APPLY NOW Secured

on Walmart’s secure website


Store cards are more likely to approve people with low credit scores, and the Walmart® MasterCard® can be a good option for you. The Walmart MasterCard has unlimited rewards with up to 3% cash back. Don’t worry if you don’t shop at Walmart since you can earn rewards on any purchase. Be aware that this card has a higher interest rate than the Georgia’s Own card, so compare which card is best for you.

Bottom Line

With no annual fee and fair interest rates, the Georgia’s Own Visa Classic credit card is a good option for those with bad to fair credit who are looking to improve their credit score. If you don’t mind working with a credit union, this card is a good option to rebuild credit.

FAQ

If you don’t qualify for the four free eligibility options, you will have to join the GettingAhead Association, with a $5 annual membership fee. The best bet is to speak to a Georgia’s Own loan officer (404-874-1166) and see if you’re pre-approved for the credit card. If pre-approved, you can join the GettingAhead Association while completing your credit card application. All members will also need to keep $5 in a savings account that must remain in the account while you have the card open.

You should work hard to make sure you make payments on time every month. A missed payment will lead to a late fee and interest accruing on the balance. This will ultimately leave a negative mark on your credit report and lower your credit score. Try not to spend more than you are able to and stick to a budget with these helpful budgeting apps in order to rebuild your credit score.

There is no one way to increase your credit score; rather, there are numerous behaviors responsible cardholders practice to establish good credit history. Good practices include paying all of your statements on time and in full and keeping a utilization below 20%; these will help you rebuild credit.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at alexandria@magnifymoney.com

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Building Credit, Credit Cards

A Guide to Getting Your Free Credit Score

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

As a consumer of financial products it is important to monitor your credit score on a regular basis. This will ensure that you know where you stand in the credit landscape when it comes time to apply for a new credit card, loan, mortgage, or other product. Monitoring your credit score regularly can also help notify you of any unexpected changes to your credit history such as fraud.

There are numerous free credit scores available for you to access; however, not all scores are considered equal. Credit lenders will often pull specific scores, depending on the product you are applying for. Therefore, we have created a simple chart for you to see where you can get specific credit scores from the top two companies — FICO® and VantageScore. The best part is, it's all for free!

Read on for details on important aspects that make up your credit score and which score suits your individual needs.

 

Finding the Right Credit Score

Where to Access Your Credit Score for Free

The below chart lists some of the various versions of credit scores and where you can access them for free from a variety of banks, credit card companies, and personal finance websites.

 

VantageScore 3.0

-

-

-

-

-

Disclosure: LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

FICO 5

-

-

FICO 8

-

-

-

FICO Bankcard
Score 2

-

FICO Bankcard
Score 8

-

-

FICO NextGen
Score

-

-

-

-

Unknown FICO
Model

-

FICO® Score vs. VantageScore

You may be wondering which score is better — FICO® score or VantageScore? We're going to break down what the different versions of the two scores are best for in the next section, but for now here are several differences between the two major types of credit scores.

Find the Best Credit Score for Your Needs:

The credit score that you are looking for varies, depending on what type of credit you are looking to apply for. Each credit score version has different benefits, and lenders pull certain scores in accordance with your application.

 

Credit Score Monitoring


Credit Cards

Mortgage Loans & Mortgage ReFis

Auto Loans

Personal Loans, Student Loans, Retail Credit

The Best Option

All Vantage- Scores & FICO® scores

FICO® Bankcard Scores & FICO® Score 8 primarily; FICO® Score 3

FICO® Scores 2, 4, 5

FICO® Auto Scores 2, 4, 5, 8, 9

FICO® Score 8

Where to Find Them

Plenty of free options. See our chart above.

FICO® Score 8 only:-Credit Scorecard by Discover -freecreditscore.com

myFICO for $59.85

myFICO for $59.85

Credit Scorecard by Discover -freecreditscore.com

Additional Info

If you’re simply looking to monitor your credit score and stay on top of your credit, either VantageScore or FICO® score will suffice.

When applying for a new credit card, these scores are most likely to be pulled by credit card issuers. Lenders may pull your score from one or all three bureaus.

These scores are used in the majority of mortgage-related credit evaluations, with lenders pulling your score from all three bureaus. However, these scores are not free and can only be purchased at myFICO.

Auto scores are industry-specific and used in the majority of auto-financing credit evaluations. Lenders may pull your score from one or all three bureaus. Unfortunately, these scores are not free and need to be purchased at myFICO.

For other financial products such as personal loans, student loans, and retail credit, FICO® Score 8 is best. This is the credit score most widely used by lenders, and they may pull your score from one or all three bureaus when making a decision.

Credit Score Monitoring

The best options: All VantageScores and FICO® scores

If you're simply looking to monitor your credit score and stay on top of your credit, either VantageScore or FICO® score will suffice.

New Credit Card

The best options: FICO® Bankcard Scores or FICO® Score 8 primarily; FICO® Score 3

Where to get them: Get your FICO® Score 8 from Credit Scorecard by Discover or freecreditscore.com

When applying for a new credit card, these scores are most likely to be pulled by credit card issuers. Lenders may pull your score from one or all three bureaus.

Mortgage Loans and Mortgage ReFis

The best options: FICO® Scores 2, 4, 5

Where to get them: myFICO for $59.85

These scores are used in the majority of mortgage-related credit evaluations, with lenders pulling your score from all three bureaus. However, these scores are not free and can only be purchased at myFICO.

Auto Loans

The best options: FICO® Auto Scores 2, 4, 5, 8, 9

Where to get them:myFICO for $59.85Auto scores are industry-specific and used in the majority of auto-financing credit evaluations. Lenders may pull your score from one or all three bureaus. Unfortunately, these scores are not free and need to be purchased at myFICO.

Personal Loans, Student Loans, and Retail Credit

The best option: FICO® Score 8

Where to get it: Credit Scorecard by Discover or freecreditscore.com

For other financial products such as personal loans, student loans, and retail credit, FICO® Score 8 is best. This is the credit score most widely used by lenders, and they may pull your score from one or all three bureaus when making a decision.

Other Scores and Their Value

FICO® Score 9 is the newest model and not widely used yet. It is also not available for free at this time. The benefits of this score are that it doesn't penalize you for paid collections and reduces the ding you get from unpaid medical collections. See our review for more information.

The FICO® NextGen score is used to assess credit risk, but only a small number of lenders use it due to its 150-950 scoring range and older model.

Credit Score Basics

What are the three credit bureaus?

There are three credit bureaus that report your credit score to financial institutions and personal finance websites. The bureaus are TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. They collect credit information from a plethora of lenders and data providers and then consolidate it into a credit file, with your credit score being the key piece of information. You can't get your credit score directly from the bureaus, but earlier in this article we discussed numerous resources where you can access your credit score — for free.

What is a FICO® score?

A FICO® score is a number that predicts how likely you are to pay back a loan or other credit products in a timely manner. FICO® scores range from 300 to 850. The higher your score, the more likely you are to be approved for credit cards, loans, mortgages, and other financial products. FICO® scores are the most widely used credit scores — influencing over 90% of U.S. lending decisions.

How is a FICO® score calculated?

FICO® scores are calculated from data in your credit reports and made up of the following five key factors:

Source: ficoscore.com

  1. Payment history (35%):
    Your payment history is simply a record of your on-time or missed payments. It's the largest component of your FICO score — and therefore the most important aspect to focus on if you want to improve it.
  2. Amounts owed — aka utilization (30%):
    Utilization is the amount of your credit limit you use. It is ideal to have a utilization below 20%. If you have two credit cards, one with a $10,000 limit and the other $5,000, then your total credit limit is $15,000. If you have a combined $3,000 debt across both cards, then your utilization would be 20%.
  3. Length of credit history (15%):
    The total length of time that you've had credit across all products you have. For example, expect your credit score to be slightly lower if you have had credit for six months versus six years.
  4. New credit (10%):
    Frequency of credit inquiries and new account openings. When you open a new account, your credit score will take a slight dip for about six months, then it will rise — as long as you're responsible in the other four factors mentioned.
  5. Credit mix (10%):
    This is the different types of credit you have. This includes credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, and other financial products. The more variety of credit you're responsible with, the better your score will be.

What is a VantageScore?

A VantageScore is also a number that measures your credit risk. These scores typically range from 300 to 850 (501-990 for earlier models) and are used by 20 of the 25 largest financial institutions. VantageScores are in line with FICO® — the higher your score, the better. VantageScores are more widely available for free from online resources than FICO® scores; however, a majority of lenders pull your FICO® score when making decisions.

How is a VantageScore calculated?

VantageScores are calculated from data in your credit reports and influenced by the following six key factors:

Source: your.vantagescore.com

FAQ

Credit scores are typically updated every 30 days. Depending on your activity, your score may remain the same or fluctuate.

No, checking your score will not do any damage to your score.

Your credit scores differ based on the information that each bureau pulls. Most information is the same, but one bureau may use unique information that another bureau doesn't have, creating a difference in scores. Also, if you compare your FICO® scores and VantageScores, they will differ because they use different criteria when pulling your score.

A FAKO score is a non-FICO score that is known as an “equivalency score” or “educational score.” FAKO scores give you a general picture of where you stand, but aren't used by lenders when making a credit decision and therefore aren't accurate in predicting if you'll be approved.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Alexandria White
Alexandria White |

Alexandria White is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Alexandria at alexandria@magnifymoney.com

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Building Credit, Featured

12 Million People Are About to Get a Credit Score Boost — Here’s Why

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

12 Million People Are About to Get a Credit Score Boost

Some serious tax liens and civil judgments will soon disappear from millions of credit reports, the Consumer Data Industry Association announced this week. As a result, millions of consumers could see their FICO scores improve dramatically.

(This post was originally published on March 15, 2017.)

The CDIA, the trade organization that represents all three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — says they have agreed to remove from consumer credit reports any tax lien and civil judgment data that doesn’t include all of a consumer’s information. That information can include the consumer’s full name, address, Social Security number, or date of birth. The changes are set to take effect July 1.

Roughly 12 million U.S. consumers should expect to see their FICO scores rise as a result of the change says Ethan Dornhelm, vice president of scores and analytics at FICO. The vast majority will see a boost of 20 points or so, he added, while some 700,000 consumers will see a 40-point boost or higher.

Even a small 20-point increase could improve access to lower rates on financial products for these consumers.

“For consumers, the news is all good,” says credit expert John Ulzheimer. “Your score can’t go down because of the removal of a lien or a judgment.”

The change will apply to all new tax lien and civil-judgment information that’s added to consumers’ credit reports as well as data already on the reports. Ulzheimer says consumers who currently have tax liens or judgments on their credit reports that are weighing down their credit scores will be able to reap the rewards of removal almost immediately

“The minute the stuff is gone, your score will adjust and you’re going to find yourself in a better position to leverage that better score,” says Ulzheimer.

But, importantly, he notes that just because credit reporting bureaus will no longer count tax liens or civil judgments against you, it does not mean they no longer exist at all. Consumers could still be impacted by wage garnishment and other punishments associated with the liens and judgments.

“This is the equivalent of taking white-out and whiting it out on your credit report. You can’t see it any longer, but you still have a lien, you still a have a judgment,” Ulzheimer says.

Solution to a longstanding problem

Many tax liens and most civil judgments have incomplete consumer information.

The changes are part of the CDIA’s National Consumer Assistance program that has already removed non-loan-related items sent to collections firms, such as past-due accounts for gym memberships or libraries. The program also has set a 2018 goal to remove from credit reports medical debt that consumers have already paid off.

“Some creditors may have liked having inaccurate credit reports, as long as they were skewed in their favor. That’s not the way the system is supposed to work. This action is just one more proof that the CFPB [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] works, and works well, and shouldn’t be weakened by special interest influence over Congress,” says Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

The move is likely the result of several state settlements and pressure from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal financial industry watchdog.  Beginning in 2015, the reporting agencies reached settlements with 32 different state Attorneys General over several practices, including how they handle errors. The CFPB also released a report earlier this month that examined credit bureaus and recommended they raise their standards for recording public record data.


Time to start shopping for better loan rates?

High credit scores can lead to long-term savings. Borrowers who expect their scores to improve as a result of these changes may find better deals if they can wait a few months to buy a new house, refinance a mortgage, or purchase a new car. Even a 10-point difference can lead to lower rates on loans.

If you expect the credit reporting changes might benefit you, Ulzheimer suggests holding off on taking out new loans or shopping for refi deals, such as student loan refinancing.

“Let it happen, pull your own credit reports to verify the information is gone, then take advantage of the higher scores,” Ulzheimer says.

Ulzheimer also says the changes may not be permanent. “There is a possibility that if the credit reporting bureau is able to find the missing information, the negative information could reappear on consumer credit reports,” he says.

There isn’t anything in the law that forbids the reporting of liens and judgments anymore, and lenders can still check public records on their own to find missing information.

Ulzheimer says if he were the CEO of a reporting agency, that’s exactly what he would do.

“I would embark on a project to get this information immediately back in the credit reporting system,” he says, then adds all he’d need to do is find an economic way to populate the missing data.

“From a business perspective, I would do it in a New York minute. Because I would immediately have a competitive advantage over my two competitors,” says Ulzheimer.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

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Building Credit

How to Get Approved for a Credit Card After Bankruptcy

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

 

While filing for bankruptcy can discharge your debt burden or provide you with a more manageable repayment plan allowing you to start fresh, it can have serious negative effects on your credit score. The better your credit, the worse the damage could be, according to myFICO:

“Someone that had spotless credit and a very high FICO score could expect a huge drop in their score. On the other hand, someone with many negative items already listed on their credit report might only see a modest drop in their score.”
Understandably, some lenders are hesitant to approve borrowers who have filed for bankruptcy in the past. And it can take 7 to 10 years for that bad mark to disappear from your credit history.

But there is life after bankruptcy, even if your credit score has suffered.

In this post, we’ll explain a few options you have if you filed for bankruptcy but still want to get approved for a new credit card.

Set realistic expectations

When you’re ready to take on new credit after a bankruptcy, your credit score will be more fragile than ever. It’s not exactly the best time to apply for a bunch of different cards and hit your credit file with a bunch of hard inquiries.

The good news is that you can do your homework ahead of time and avoid applying for cards that are bound to deny you. All credit card issuers have their own policies and protocol they follow when it comes to considering applicants who have filed for bankruptcy in the past.

Some banks and credit card issuers clearly state on their website that they will not approve applicants who filed for bankruptcy and have not yet received a formal discharge, meaning it is still unresolved or not finalized.

In other cases, you can tell you probably won’t qualify if the credit card details state that you need excellent credit to qualify. A bankruptcy will bring your credit score down or you may have even had low credit before you filed if you were missing payments and struggling to pay your debt off for some time beforehand.

Therefore, it’s clear that you won’t qualify for credit cards that offer low interest rates and competitive rewards.

Make sure your delinquent accounts are scrubbed from your credit report

One of the first things you want to do before you consider applying for a credit card is to check your credit report with all three credit bureaus. You should do this to make sure your delinquent accounts are discharged from the bankruptcy as well as to clear up any inaccuracies.

If you still have delinquent accounts open, there’s a slim chance you’ll qualify for a new credit card since your score will just continue to go down. Once your bankruptcy is finalized, you’ll have a chance to start rebuilding your credit.

You can get a free copy of your full credit report annually at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Rebuild your credit with a secured card

If you’ve recently filed for bankruptcy and you’re not even close to the 7- or 10-year mark, you may want to consider trying a secured credit card instead of an unsecured credit card. A secured credit card works just like a traditional unsecured credit card only you need to put down a cash collateral deposit that becomes your credit limit.

Secured credit cards are a great option if you need to rebuild bad credit, and if you use your card wisely, you can establish some positive credit history post-bankruptcy, which will help you qualify for unsecured cards in the future.

With secured credit cards and other credit cards for those with bad credit, you’ll want to watch out for the fees, which are likely to be higher.

Below are some options to consider for secured credit cards post-bankruptcy.

Recommended Secured Cards

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

This card is for people with limited or bad credit. It has no annual fee and a variable interest rate of 24.99%. There is a required security deposit of $49, $99, or $200 depending on your creditworthiness, and you’ll receive an initial credit limit of $200.

After five months of making your monthly payments on time, you’ll have access to a higher credit line without having to put up another deposit. Card users will also be able to have unlimited access to their credit score and tools to help monitor their credit with Capital One’s free CreditWise service.

First Progress Platinum Secured MasterCard

The First Progress Platinum secured card is for people with bad or no credit. This card has an annual fee of $44 and a variable 11.99% APR. You must deposit at least $200, but you can deposit at much as $2,000 and your cash deposit will determine your starting credit limit.

The minimum interest charge for this card is $1.50, and there’s a late payment fee of up to $38 if you fail to make at least your minimum monthly payment on time.

Discover it® Secured Card - No Annual Fee

The Discover it® Secured Card has no annual fee, has a variable 24.24% APR, and requires only a minimum security deposit of $200. You can also still qualify for this card if you’ve filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the past.

Discover also mentions on their website that this card is geared toward people who are new to credit or looking to rebuild their credit. They determine eligibility based on the information you provide on the application, your credit report, and other information they may have about your creditworthiness.

If you don’t happen to be approved, they provide you with the score they obtained, which credit reporting agency it was obtained from, and the reasons why they couldn’t approve your application.

This card allows you to earn 2% at restaurants and gas stations (up to $1,000 of spending each quarter) and unlimited 1% on everything else. Discover also matches the cash back you earn during the first year only, automatically (new cardmembers only). You can redeem rewards at any time.

In addition, cardholders receive their free FICO score and can qualify for a higher credit limit after seven months. Most secured credit cards don’t offer rewards, but this one does.

Final word

While at first it may be more difficult to get a new credit card after filing for bankruptcy, it’s not impossible.

Before anything, you need to make sure you’re ready to use a new credit card properly. Make sure your finances are in order and you have a handle on any existing debt you owe especially if you have a payment plan set up as a result of filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Also, make sure you can control your spending and can afford to make credit card payments each month. Then, check your full report and start by comparing options for secured credit cards that will allow you to rebuild your credit.

Watch out for fees like monthly maintenance fees, annual fees, and high interest rates to make sure you’re not losing any money as well.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Chonce Maddox
Chonce Maddox |

Chonce Maddox is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Chonce at chonce@magnifymoney.com

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Balance Transfer, Building Credit, Credit Cards

How to Do a Balance Transfer with Citi

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Here's the Right Way to Use a Student Credit Card

A balance transfer can be a great way to consolidate debt and reduce your interest rate. Citi credit cards offer some of the best options for balance transfers. If you’re looking for a balance transfer card that has low fees and a long 0% introductory APR, you might want to consider the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card– 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer.

The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card– 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer currently has a 0% intro balance transfer offer good for 21 months. There is no annual fee; however, Citi will charge $5 or 3% of the total amount transferred to the card, whichever is greater. The card does offer some perks. Citi cardholders can access their FICO score for free and have access to the Citi Easy Deals portal, which provides discounted shopping items for everything from clothing and accessories to household goods. In this guide, we’ll explain exactly how to apply for a balance transfer with the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card– 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer. Although Citi offers balance transfers on other Citi cards, this is one of the best offers out there at this time.

If you have a Citi card and want to complete a balance transfer, keep reading and we will explain the process step by step.

How to Apply for a Balance Transfer with Citi

With the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card– 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer, you can apply for a balance transfer by phone or online. If approved, you can opt to receive a balance transfer check easily and quickly by phone or online. A balance transfer check is similar to a regular check only it’s issued by the bank (Citi in this case) and used to withdraw cash from your credit line.

With the check, you’ll need to send the money directly to the company that has the debt you’d like to pay off. With the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card– 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer, you can even set up direct deposit for your balance transfer so the funds will go directly into your account if you are trying to pay off a credit card online.

What You Need

To get started, you’ll need the account number and amount(s) you wish to transfer from your current credit card.

The account you are transferring is considered the “transfer from” account, while the Citi credit card will be the “transfer to” account.

If you choose to have the money deposited directly into your account, you’ll also need your bank account and routing number. With direct deposit, the funds can be deposited into your account within 1 to 2 business days. Checks are received within 10 business days.

Keep in mind that you cannot transfer the balance from other accounts issued by Citibank or its affiliates.

Completing a Balance Transfer Online

Like many other banks, Citi allows you to complete a balance transfer conveniently online. Once you receive your card and sign up for online banking, you’ll be able to complete a balance transfer online. Here are the steps you’ll need to take.

  1. Log in to your account. On the main dashboard, you should see an account summary and a link to view a balance transfer offer. Click on “View Offer.”
  1. Next, you’ll be taken to a balance transfer request page where you can review the offer and accept it by clicking “Select Offer.”
  1. Now, you’ll need to enter the transfer information, such as the amount you need to transfer, the account number, and the creditor. At this stage, you can pay up to four creditors at once under the same offer if you wish ($100 minimum amount per transfer).

If you’d like to receive a check transfer, you can also choose if you’d prefer direct deposit or a check by mail. After you’ve finished filling out all the required fields and read the terms and conditions, move to the next step.

  1. Next, you’ll be taken to a summary page where you can verify that all the information you entered was accurate. If everything looks OK, look over the terms and conditions once more and check the box at the bottom, then press the green “Submit” button.
  1. Once you click “Submit,” your balance transfer request will be complete, and you’ll be taken to a confirmation page that you can print for your records.

If you sent a payment to your creditor electronically, keep in mind that it will be received in 2-4 business days. If a balance transfer check was sent, your creditor should receive it in 7-10 business days.

Completing a Balance Transfer by Phone

If you prefer to request a balance transfer by phone, you can call the number on the back of your card and speak to a customer service representative, who can help submit the balance transfer request on your behalf.

To complete your balance transfer request over the phone, you’ll need:

Name the account is held in
Type of card/account
Card/account number
Amount to be transferred
Name of issuing organization

Balance Transfer Best Practices

Remember to keep these things in mind before you do a balance transfer:

  • Make sure you request a balance transfer within 60 days of receiving your new credit card or receiving an offer.
  • Check to make sure the terms of the balance transfer match the offer you received.
  • Keep making payments on your credit card debt even after submitting a balance transfer request. If the request takes a few days to process and your credit card bill is due, you don’t want to be stuck with a late fee for not paying on time.
  • If your sole goal of setting up a balance transfer is to pay off existing credit card debt, you may want to avoid receiving a check or direct deposit payment as you could be tempted to use the money you receive on something else instead of paying off the creditor.
  • Read the fine print carefully before you make purchases on your Citi card. Some introductory 0% balance transfer offers do not apply to purchases. In that case, you would be charged the regular APR.
  • Make sure you pay your bill on time or you may lose your balance transfer offer.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

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Chonce Maddox is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Chonce at chonce@magnifymoney.com

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Which Credit Cards Allow a Co-Signer (And What to Do If You Can’t Get One)

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.

Which Credit Cards Allow a Co-Signer (And What to Do If You Can't Get One)

There may be no greater misconception in the financial world than the notion that “anyone” can get a credit card. Getting approved for a traditional credit card is no sure thing. In fact, a recent study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found the approval rate for general-purpose credit cards to be less than 40%.

All of which means many borrowers, particularly those who are routinely denied new credit, need another way to access credit if they want to build or improve their credit history. Finding a reliable co-signer is one option. The concept is simple. If you can’t get approved for a traditional credit card on your own, you find a co-signer with a stronger credit profile who is willing to agree (in writing) to bear full responsibility for the card’s balance should you not pay, thus easing the lender’s concerns.

Joint accounts work much the same way, but there’s a big difference: joint account holders have charging privileges, meaning they can use the card as they want, whereas co-signers usually do not. At the end of the day, whether someone is a co-signer or a joint account holder, they’re every bit as liable as you for any outstanding debt on the card and, for better or worse, the resulting impact on their credit history.

Banks That Accept Co-signers

Among the major credit card providers, only a few, such as Bank of America and U.S. Bank, allow for joint or co-signed accounts, while most others, such as American Express, Capital One, Chase, Citi, and Discover, do not.

Should You Ask Someone to Co-sign Your Credit Card?

According to most credit experts, however, it’s not really a question of can you get a co-signed credit card, but rather, should you?

The answer, according to those same experts, is virtually unanimous.

Experts Agree: Avoid Co-signed Credit Cards

“Few people realize what they’re asking when they ask someone to co-sign,” says Ben Woolsey, president and general manager of CreditCardForum. “They think the bank just needs someone as a credit reference. It’s way beyond that, and something that’s never really a good idea.”

Among the many drawbacks to pursuing a co-signed or joint account is the significant risk you’re asking that co-signer to accept, according to Michelle Black, a credit expert with HOPE4USA, an organization that specializes in helping consumers and businesses repair and access credit. Ultimately, the co-signer has nothing to gain and everything to lose. If you fall behind on payments, they must either pick up the slack or see their own credit dragged down by your failure to stay current.

“Co-signing is like playing Russian roulette with your credit scores,” says Black. “It’s extremely dangerous and typically ends badly.”

The fact that all of the risk associated with a co-signed credit card generally falls on the shoulder of the co-signer often creates challenges that go beyond the financial realm, according to Woolsey.

“It’s something people should approach carefully with respect to the ethical position you’re putting someone in,” Woolsey says. “Aside from the financial risk, there’s also the dynamic of potentially hurting the personal relationship, and that’s something people don’t really think about.”

Fortunately, there are many alternatives to co-signed credit cards, most of which are equally effective at providing access to credit and building your overall credit profile, without the financial and moral hazards.

Alternatives to Getting a Co-signed Credit Card

Become an authorized user on someone else’s account

One of the best alternatives to a co-signed credit card is to have someone add you as an authorized user to an already existing account, says Woolsey.

“It gives you all the benefits of getting a card in your own name, but it gives the primary account holder the control they don’t have as a co-signer, because they can revoke that privilege any time they want,” he says.

Whereas only some of the aforementioned credit card companies allow for co-signed credit cards, all allow for the addition of authorized users to an account.

Get a secured credit card

If you’re strictly looking to build or improve your credit, the secured credit card is another alternative. With a secured credit card, you put down a cash deposit that in turn becomes the line of credit for your account. If you put down a $1,000 deposit, you have $1,000 against which to spend and build credit. As you make “payments” on your secured card over a set period of time (usually 6 to 12 months), the lender will report your good behavior to credit bureaus. Some lenders may even upgrade you to a traditional credit card once you’ve proven you can make on-time payments.

Most major credit card companies offer secured credit cards, as do most credit unions.

“Secured cards can be a wonderful credit-building tool when managed responsibly,” says Black.

Take out a personal loan

If you’re looking to build your credit profile while also gaining access to cash, a personal loan is another option to consider, says Tim Hong, SVP of Products at MoneyLion.

“When you agree to a personal loan, you get your funds upfront and have a steady, predictable payment schedule,” Hong says. “You know exactly how much it will cost over time and when you’ll be done. That’s a dramatically different and more predictable experience than a credit card.”

Apply for retail credit cards

Finally, borrowers needing to build their credit profile can always fall back on the old-fashioned store credit card. Though not everyone is a proponent of store credit cards, most such cards, especially those from retailers, tend to have a lower barrier to entry than standard credit cards, says Ryan Frailich, a financial coach and planner based in New Orleans, La.

“Of course, since they're taking on more risk by approving cards for those without a great track record, they also have the highest interest rates,” says Frailich. “If you go this route, you have to be absolutely certain you can pay off the full balance monthly.”

The Bottom Line

Whether you find a co-signer for your credit card or pursue one of the many alternatives, the experts agree your primary focus should be on building your credit to the point where banks will approve you on your own.

“What it boils down to is that co-signing is really just one option amongst many,” says Hong. “In the big picture, it’s about showing that reliable payment history and improving your credit score so you avoid having the need for the co-signed card to begin with.”

 

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

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Guide to Adding an Authorized User to Your Credit Card

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.

Disclaimer: Though we have done our best to research information regarding this topic, be aware that issuing banks may have unique rules and agreement terms that apply to their particular credit card accounts. Contact issuing banks directly for questions on terms and policies relevant to specific credit card accounts.

What is an Authorized User?

An authorized user on a credit card account is any person you allow to access your credit card account. Not to be confused with a joint account holder, an authorized user can only make purchases and, in some cases, have access to certain card benefits and perks. Joint account holdership is becoming extremely rare, but typically occurs when two people apply for a credit card together. In joint account ownership, both people are liable for charges and can access and make changes to a credit card account.

An authorized user can be a spouse, relative, or employee. When you designate an authorized user on your credit card account, this person usually gets a card bearing their name with the same credit card number as the primary cardholder. In this scenario, the primary cardholder is liable for all transactions made by themselves as well as by any authorized user tied to their account.

Why Would You Add an Authorized User to Your Credit Card Account?

There are many reasons you might think about designating an authorized user for your credit card account. It all comes down to convenience and extending benefits that a credit account offers: access to credit, related perks, and credit card rewards, as well as the potential to improve the credit score of the authorized user.

For example, couples that share expenses might find it easier to designate one or the other as an authorized user to avoid passing a single card back and forth to make purchases. Perhaps you have a relative who lives far away, and it would be easier to give them access to your credit account for emergency purchases. You may also have a child that you want to assist in building credit history to increase their credit score. Adding them as an authorized user could help with this, but we’ll cover that more in another section.

Additionally, if you are an employer whose employees need to make purchases on behalf of the company, it would make sense to make them an authorized user. Without this designation, it could be extremely inconvenient for them to not have a company credit card at their disposal.

In some cases, adding an authorized user can also accrue reward points connected to a credit card account. These reward points can be used to make purchases or receive discounted pricing on things like travel and retail products. Typically, points are accrued from reaching credit card spending amounts within a certain time frame. Sometimes, the act of adding an authorized user can garner additional rewards as well.

How Can I Add an Authorized User to My Credit Card Account?

screen shot 1

As the primary cardholder you are the only person who can designate an authorized user. The authorized user cannot contact the credit card issuer and add themselves to your account. You will have to contact the issuing bank and request to add one or more authorized users to your account.

Depending on the bank and the technology in place, you may be able to handle this process entirely online. Some banks allow you to log in to your banking portal to designate additional authorized users, create their own bank login and profile as well as determine the level of access you’d like them to have to your account. Levels of access can range from being able to view transactions only to making purchases. If your bank doesn’t have this technology in place, usually a phone call is sufficient.

Adding Authorized Users Online

How to Add an Authorized User to a Chase Credit Card Account:

  1. Log into your Chase credit card account
  2. Under “My Accounts” click “Add Authorized User”
  3. Complete the information requested (see screenshot below for reference)How to Add an Authorized User to a Chase Credit Card Account

How to Add an Authorized User to a Bank of America Account:

  1. Log onto your Bank of America account.
  2. Select the credit card you'd like to change.
  3. Click on the tab labeled 'Information & Services'
  4. Scroll down to the section labeled "Services"
  5. Click on "Add an authorized user"

How to Add an Authorized User to a Chase Credit Card Account

screen shot 2

How to Add an Authorized User to a Capital One account:

  1. Log onto your Capital One credit card account online.
  2. Under the "Services" tab, click "Manage Authorized Users"
  3. Click "Add New User"

screen shot 6
screen shot 7

How to Add an Authorized User to a American Express credit card account:

  1. Log onto your Amex account online.
  2. Click on "Account services"
  3. From the lefthand menu, select "Card Management"
  4. Under "Account Managers", click "Add and Manage Users with Account Manager"screen shot 10
    screen shot 11

How to Add an Authorized User to a Citi credit card account:

1. Log onto your Citi credit card account online.
2. Select the "Account Management" tab.
3. Click "Services" from the lefthand menu.
4. Click "Authorized Users"
5. Click "Add an authorized user"
6. Fill in the authorized user's personal information.

 

screen shot 14

 

 

screen shot 12

How to Add an Authorized User to a Barclays credit card account:

  1. Log onto your Barclays credit card account.
  2. Select the "services" tab.
  3. Under the dropdown menu, select "Authorized users"
  4. Select "Add an authorized user"
  5. Complete the form to add an authorized user.
    screen shot 17screen shot 18screen shot 20

Who Can Be an Authorized User on My Account?

An authorized user can be anyone you choose, whether they are related to you in some way or not. In most cases, the bank will request identifying information such as name, birthdate, Social Security number, and address. Some card issuers require that authorized users meet age requirements, and others do not have age requirements. As always, check with the bank to understand the criteria authorized users must meet for your card.

The Fees

Some credit cards will charge an additional fee for more additional authorized users, while others will offer this benefit at no charge. Make sure you read the fine print in your cardholder agreement so that you are aware of all the fees associated with having one or more authorized users on your account.

Fees can range from less than $100 to a few hundred dollars and beyond each year. Business accounts especially can carry higher fees when multiple authorized users are associated to one account.

Liability

As the primary account holder, you must understand that you are 100% solely liable for any and all charges made on your account by both yourself and your authorized user. If you have been designated as an authorized user, you do not legally share liability for purchases made on the credit card account. However, you may have a personal arrangement with the primary account holder to pay your share of charges when the bill is due.

What Can an Authorized User Do?

This can depend on the level of access you’ve chosen with your card issuer for your authorized user. If there are not varying levels of access to choose from, check with the card issuer to find out exactly what an authorized user can and cannot do.

In most cases, an authorized user cannot make changes to an account. They cannot close an account, request changes in bill due dates, change account information, or request limit increases or a lower annual percentage rate.

Again, this varies from card issuer to card issuer, but there are many other things an authorized user can do.

Here are some possible capabilities based on the terms of your credit card issuer:

  • Make purchases
  • Report any lost or stolen cards
  • Obtain account information
  • Initiate billing disputes
  • Request statement copies
  • Make payments and inquire about fees

Benefits of Adding an Authorized User

As mentioned before, adding an authorized user to a card can be for convenience, accruing rewards, or sharing card perks and benefits. An authorized user can be incredibly convenient in the case that you don’t have your personal card or for some reason don’t have immediate access to it.

Having an authorized user can help a primary user reach limits to earn reward points for some cards. One of the most effective marketing strategies of credit card companies is to offer bonuses and rewards for adding authorized users to your account. Adding another user to your account could add a few thousand extra reward points you would not have earned without adding the user. Then, there’s always the chance that the authorized user will make purchases that contribute even more to your attempt to accrue reward points.

Finally, there are a number of credit cards that offer perks or benefits that can extend to your authorized users. Depending on your credit card, benefits like car rental insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, and extended warranties could apply to all purchases made, including those by your authorized users, on your credit card account.

Benefits of Becoming an Authorized User

Though the credit-reporting landscape is changing, there’s still the potential to “piggyback” on a primary account holder’s credit history for a card in good standing. But not all credit card companies report information to credit bureaus for authorized users in all circumstances. However, to know for sure what will be reported to the credit bureaus in regard to your authorized user status, speak with your card issuer for the details of what information is reported and when to credit bureaus.

Another benefit is having access to more credit. If you are in a bind and have emergencies that come up, access to credit can be helpful. Plus, exercising diligence in managing purchases and bill payment can help you develop good credit habits.

You should also know that being an authorized user may grant you access to certain perks for account holders and their primary users. There are benefits like access to travel lounges, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application, travel credits, and discounts an authorized user could be privy to as well.

What Could Go Wrong?

If for some reason the credit card account doesn’t remain in good standing, the credit score of both the primary account holder and the authorized user could be affected. If you are a primary account holder, make sure your authorized user understands the terms under which they can make purchases. If they make purchases that cause your payments to be delinquent, your credit score could suffer.

Even if you did not give this person permission to make purchases with your credit card account, the fact that you designated them as an authorized user is evidence that you at some point trusted them with your credit card access. A claim of criminal or fraudulent activity in this instance would be extremely difficult to prove, so choose your authorized users wisely.

Though not as common with an authorized user, your credit score could be negatively affected if an account becomes delinquent. Because tradeline reporting for authorized user accounts to credit bureaus varies from card to card and scenario to scenario, a delinquent account status could still appear on your credit report. If you will be added to someone’s account as an authorized user, find out whether or not the credit history of the account will be reported to credit bureaus under your authorized user status.

Removing an Authorized User from an Account

Either the primary cardholder or the authorized user can remove an authorized user from an account by contacting the credit card issuer. You may be asked to verify your information as well as the information of the primary account holder.

In many cases, only one card number is issued between one or more users. Your credit card company may deactivate the primary cardholder’s credit card number and reissue a new card and number once an authorized user is removed from an account.

If your status as an authorized user does show up on your credit report for the credit account after you’ve been removed from a credit card account, you may have to contact credit bureaus to have it removed.

The Best Way to Manage Shared Credit Access

Designating someone as an authorized user is not something to be taken lightly. Even a small misunderstanding of credit card issuer terms and your own interpersonal credit arrangement can cause problems. Before adding an authorized user to your account, set ground rules around card use that covers access to perks and making purchases.

Some things to consider and discuss with your authorized user include:

  • What is the goal in having the authorized user on the account?
  • Will the authorized user have a physical card?
  • When is it OK to use or not use the credit card to make purchases or access card perks?
  • The credit history of both the primary cardholder and the authorized user
  • Good credit habits that will prevent identity theft and fraud
  • Setting up monitoring alerts with the credit card company or an identity theft protection service

The ability to add an authorized user to a credit card account can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, convenient benefits of access to credit and credit card perks can make life easier in so many ways.

On the other hand, this same convenience can cause problems if both the primary cardholder and the authorized user don’t understand the rules of engagement with each other or the terms set forth by the credit card company.

Adding an authorized user to your account has the potential to be incredibly convenient and mutually beneficial if handled the right way. Make sure you follow best practices to get the most out of this financial arrangement.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Aja McClanahan
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Aja McClanahan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Aja here

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Collection Accounts Don’t Always Hurt Your Credit for Seven Years

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Collection Accounts Don't Always Hurt Your Credit for Seven Years

When you fall behind on a bill, you might get charged a late fee and your late payments could be recorded in your credit reports. If a bill goes unpaid for long enough, your creditor may send or sell your account to a collection agency.

The collection agency will then attempt to collect the balance from you — sometimes aggressively — and often reports its possession of your account to the credit bureaus. A new account with the collection agency’s name will then appear on your credit reports, and this can have a significant negative impact on your credit scores.

You might think that paying off the debt clears everything up, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

Generally, if you pay the amount you owe or settle for a lower payment, the collection account on your reports will be updated and marked paid in full, settled, or something similar. The impact of a collection account on your credit scores diminishes over time, and a paid account could look better to creditors than an unpaid account. But like other derogatory marks, the account can remain on your reports for up to seven years and 180 days since the account first became delinquent (your first late payment with the original creditor).

After an account is removed from your credit report, collection agencies can still continue to attempt to collect payment as long as the account isn’t outside the governing statute of limitations (state laws determine how long a creditor can attempt to collect certain debts).

Even so, removing a collection account could improve your credit scores, making it easier and less expensive to open new loans or lines of credit. Here are a few exceptions to the standard timeline and instances when a collection account won’t affect your credit score.

You’re a New York state resident. For current New York state residents, satisfied judgments and paid collection accounts must be removed five years from the date filed or date of last activity, respectively.

The collection account was for a medical bill that your insurance paid. A settlement between New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the three nationwide credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — in March 2015 resulted in new national credit-reporting policies. Now, medical debt can’t be reported to the credit bureaus for 180 days, and medical collection accounts that are being paid, or are paid in full, by an insurance company must be removed from your credit report.

You didn’t have a contractual agreement to pay the debt. Another result of the settlement in New York was that credit reporting agencies can no longer report debts that aren’t a result of a contract or agreement you signed. In other words, if your debt from a parking ticket or library fine gets sent to a collection agency, it won’t be added to your credit reports.

The collection agency agrees to a pay for delete. Also known as pay for removal, a pay-for-delete agreement with a collection agency is an arrangement in which you agree to pay some or all of the amount owed the collection agency and requests the credit bureaus delete the collection account from your reports.

You’ll want to get a written agreement from the collection agency before sending a payment, but this could be difficult because in general a pay-for-delete agreement is considered a little shady. “Right now, the credit reporting standards do not allow for deletion of accurate collections simply because they're paid,” says credit expert John Ulzheimer, formerly of FICO and Equifax. “That doesn't mean it doesn't happen, simply that it's counter to the standards that debt collectors have been given by the credit reporting industry players.”

It requires the collection agency to stop reporting an account that legitimately existed, which may violate the agreement the collection agency has with one or more of the credit reporting agencies.

Your debt collection agency has a special policy. In October 2016, Midland Credit Management, a subsidiary of Encore Capital Group, one of the largest debt collection agencies in the world, announced a new policy.

If MCM bought your debt and you begin payments within three months, and continue making payments until the account is paid off, the company won’t report the account to the credit bureaus (i.e., it won’t appear on your credit reports).

Additionally, if it’s been more than two years since the date of delinquency and you pay the account in full or settle the account, MCM will request the credit bureaus delete the collection account from your credit reports.

The account isn’t yours. If a collection account is on one of your credit reports and you don’t owe the debt, or it’s a type of collection account that meets one of the above criteria for removal, you may be able to dispute the account. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the credit bureaus and data furnishers (such as a collection agency) to correct inaccurate information.

Your lender uses one of the latest credit-score models. You might have paid or settled a collection account and still have to wait for the account to drop off your credit reports. However, if your lender is using the latest base FICO Score, FICO 9, or the VantageScore 3 scoring model, paid or settled collection accounts won’t affect your credit score. FICO Score 8 and 9 don’t consider collection accounts if your original balance was under $100.

However, lenders may use older credit-scoring models, which means a collection account could affect your score for as long as it’s on your credit reports and regardless of the original debt.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Louis DeNicola
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Louis DeNicola is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Louis at louis@magnifymoney.com

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7 Signs You’re Working With a Shady Credit Repair Firm

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7 Signs You're Working With a Shady Credit Repair Firm

It’s natural to want a quick fix for your credit problems, but be wary of any practice that seems deceptive — even if it could work in your favor.

In September 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed a lawsuit against Prime Marketing Holdings, a credit repair firm based in Van Nuys, Calif. In its complaint, the CFPB alleged the company charged customers advance fees “totaling hundreds of dollars” and misled customers about their ability to remove negative items from their credit reports.

The case is still active, but it’s just one example of the proliferation of credit repair abuse in the U.S. And it gives rise to the question: How do I know if a credit repair company is legitimate or just another scam?

We’ve put together a litmus test of seven signs you could be working with a shady credit repair company.

1. They ask you to pay before they start working.

One of the biggest red flags in the credit repair business is requiring an upfront fee before any services are rendered. Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA), credit repair companies can’t charge advance fees before rendering services.

In some cases, advance fees can be only a couple of hundred dollars. But some companies have been found to ask for thousands of dollars upfront. In 2011, the Federal Trade Commission sued Doug and Julie Parker, owners of a Texas-based credit repair firm called RMCN Credit Services, Inc. The FTC claimed the couple charged customers a staggering $2,000 retainer fee before they completed any work. In the end, the Parkers were fined $400,000 by the federal watchdog.

2. They try to give you a new “credit identity.”

Another dodgy credit repair practice is when a company tries to convince clients to create a “new credit identity.” To establish this identity, the firm may offer to issue the client a nine-digit “credit profile number” or even prompt them to apply for an employer identification number with the IRS. With the new number in place, the firm could them encourage the client to apply for new credit and stop using their real Social Security number.

Don’t be fooled — this practice is completely illegal. An EIN is only used to identify businesses, and it is not a substitute for a Social Security number. Additionally, that credit profile number could easily be someone else’s stolen Social Security number. “These companies may be selling stolen Social Security numbers, often those taken from children,” the FTC warns. If you fall for this trap, you are essentially committing identity theft.

3. They ask you to lie on credit applications.

Some credit repair organizations may also ask you to lie on credit applications in order to qualify for more credit. For example, they may ask you to report more income than you earn. It’s illegal to make false statements on credit applications.

4. They dispute correct information on your credit report.

Yet another way credit repair companies try to manipulate the system is by misinforming consumers about the rules surrounding credit reports. They may tell consumers that they can fight every single item on their credit report — even if the item is accurate.

This is not true. If there is a negative item on your credit report that you feel is an error, you absolutely can fight to have it removed. But if it’s negative because you were, indeed, late on your bill, or did, in fact, file for bankruptcy, you cannot file to have it removed by claiming it is inaccurate.

5. They promise to get you a perfect credit score.

When a company promises they can improve your credit score or even get your score up to a specific number, don’t believe their hype.

In 2015, the FTC filed suit against a company called FTC Credit Solutions for making exactly these types of claims. The company's representatives told customers they would get their credit score into the 700s and promised any negative credit report information could be removed. On top of that, they also charged advance fees before rendering any services. The case was settled very quickly to the tune of a $2.4 million penalty against the defendants.

6. They claim they are affiliated with a government agency.

Some repair firms fraudulently claim they are affiliated with the FTC or another government agency. If you are filing bankruptcy, it is true that you’ll be required to get some kind of credit counseling. But that counseling must be from a government-approved organization. There’s a full list of approved credit counseling firms on the U.S. Trustee Program website. If you’re thinking of working with a firm that isn’t on that list, you might want to reconsider.

7. They don’t want you to contact the credit bureaus on your own.

Don’t believe a company that tells you they are the only way to contact the credit bureaus. By law, any consumer can contact credit bureaus directly without a third party. You also have the right to access your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once per year for free. If you’ve been rejected for anything for credit-related reasons, you have 60 days to request a free copy of your report. This enables you to keep potential creditors honest.

If a company ever tells you that you are not allowed to contact the credit bureaus on your own, walk away — fast.

How to Repair Your Credit All by Yourself

The MagnifyMoney team highly recommends taking simple steps to improve your credit on your own, without the risk of working with a shady credit repair firm.

Read MagnifyMoney’s full, in-depth guide to repairing your own credit.

Start by getting a copy of your free credit report from each of the credit bureaus. The simplest way to do this is by requesting copies at AnnualCreditReport.com, which is a government-sponsored website.

From there, look over your information to make sure everything is accurate. If there are late payments listed, did you actually pay late? Does it show closed accounts accurately? Do you recognize all of the accounts?

Sometimes reports do have errors. If you find one, consider the fact that you may be a victim of identity theft and take appropriate steps as necessary.

If you’re instead the victim of an honest mistake, contact the credit bureaus directly. You will have to do so online and via written letter. You will also have to contact the entity that incorrectly reported the line item. You can get a sample letter here.

Be sure to keep copies of all of your paperwork and follow up on your dispute. The credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate. If all turns out well, they will remove the item, which could result in a higher credit score.

If they do not find in your favor, you can request that a copy of the dispute be attached to your credit report moving forward, but you will have to pay a fee to do so. While this will not improve your credit score, it could potentially alert future creditors to the fact that you do not agree with the negative item.

There are also rare cases where you can attempt to get an accurate item removed from your credit report. If you were not aware of a debt, but you quickly paid it off once you were properly notified, the creditor may be willing to remove the item from your report. This kindness may also be extended if you were experiencing a temporary illness or life emergency. These removals are rare, but are most often rewarded when you are an otherwise responsible steward of your debts.

To make your case to your creditor, you will need to write them a letter of goodwill. In it, explain that you understand why the item is on your report, but also explain why you temporarily were unable to fulfill your obligation. Stress the fact that you are an otherwise responsible borrower, and point out specific instances in your business relationship where this has proven to be true.

It’s also a good idea to appeal to their human side. Explain what the removal of the debt would mean for you. Is there a major milestone coming up, such as a job interview or a mortgage application? Thank them sincerely for the time they’re taking to review your case and cross your fingers. Goodwill letters do not have a high success rate, but you will have a zero percent success rate if you don’t try.

Read MagnifyMoney’s full guide on letters of goodwill.

Finding Legitimate Solutions

Even though there are a lot of scammers out there, it’s good to remember that there are legitimate credit repair organizations, too. However, before you pay a company to help you repair your credit, read our guide on repairing your credit on your own and our guide on credit counseling. At the very least, properly vet a credit repair firm before you sign up for their services — and watch out for the warning signs we covered before.

Another potentially safer way to go about credit repair is by working with a not-for-profit credit counselor. These organizations have a lower rate of deceptive practices and can work with you in a more holistic manner to resolve not just your credit report woes but also your current debt situation.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brynne Conroy
Brynne Conroy |

Brynne Conroy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brynne at brynne@magnifymoney.com

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Where to Get Your Credit Report for Free

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Where to Get Your Credit Report for Free

If you haven’t checked your credit report lately, you’re not alone. A 2016 survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International found more than half — about 54% — of Americans hadn’t even checked their credit score — the number constructed from factors in your credit report — within the past year. What’s worse, almost a quarter of respondents had never checked their score, making them extremely vulnerable to financial crime. Checking your credit report may seem like any other financial chore, but you shouldn’t keep placing it on the back burner. Similarly to getting a check-up at the doctor's office, checking your credit report is a preventative measure you should take at least once a year with a bonus: it’s free.

What Is a Credit Report?

Your credit report paints a financial picture of your life. It is a complete history of your use of credit going back at least seven years, good and bad. This includes credit card accounts, student and personal loans, and mortgages, and information about how you use them such as payment history or accounts that have gone to collections. It may also include any utility and other bills that have gone unpaid and were sent to collections. There are three main companies that track your credit report: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

Don’t confuse your credit report with your FICO credit score. Your credit score is a numerical figure that is calculated by using the information from your credit reports. Banks and lenders weigh information from your credit report to create a credit score to gauge how responsible you are when it comes to credit. If your credit reports show a solid history of on-time payments and a good mix of different types of loans, your score will reflect that. Likewise, if your credit report shows lots of missed payments and debt collection accounts, you can expect a poor score.

Knowing the information that is currently on your credit report can help you stay ahead of fraudsters and give you details about how you can improve your credit score. If you don’t check your credit report annually, you may not be able to accurately track the health of your credit score, or know when someone has used stolen personal information from you. In addition to those benefits, checking your reports annually can be an exciting way to benchmark your financial progress.

Where to Get Free Credit Reports

You should check your credit report annually for yourself, but you may also need a report to apply for a car loan or to rent an apartment, etc. When you do need a copy of your report, you can get one for free from a few sources.

You are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting bureaus. You can order a free copy of your credit report from all three bureaus from AnnualCreditReport.com. Like the name implies, you can only order each report once a year for free.

Since you only get one free report from each of the three bureaus per year, stagger them throughout the year. For example, once every four months, request a report from one of the bureaus.

If you want to get an update on your credit report more than once a year, but you don’t want to pay for it, there are a bunch of tools out there that offer credit monitoring for free.

Credit.com offers a Credit Report Card tool to monitor your Experian credit report. All you need to do is go to credit.com, and click “Free Credit Report Card” under the “Credit Cards & Score” tab to create an account. The report card updates every 14 days.

Credit Karma gives you access to your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports for free. You can also sign up for their free credit and account monitoring services. If you do, you’ll receive an email alert whenever your credit score changes, and you’ll be notified whenever a new account is opened. The reports update weekly.

Credit Sesame gives you access to your TransUnion credit report via their credit monitoring service. The service updates your report each month.

Mint.com, a free money-management website and app, gives anyone with a Mint account access to their free Equifax credit report. The report is updated every 30 to 60 days.

Quizzle offers a free VantageScore — a scoring model developed by all three credit bureaus — and a free Equifax credit report, which is updated every six months.

Once You Have Your Report

Once you see your credit report, you should check it carefully for any wrong or negative information impacting your credit score. Double check to make sure the open accounts reported all belong to you. Check that the payment information is accurate and all of the account balances are correct. If you find any errors, you should dispute them directly through the bureau websites. MagnifyMoney has a more in-depth guide about how to do that here.

You might not see any errors, but realize that you need to work on rebuilding your credit. A healthy credit score can be very helpful to you when making a large purchase like a car or first home. MagnifyMoney’s complete guide to help you rebuild your credit can be found here.

You may also notice that you’ve been a victim of identity fraud. That may take a few more steps to clear up, but you can find what to do here.

 

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

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