Tag: FICO

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Average Credit Score in America Reaches New Peak at 700

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.

In late 2016, American consumers hit an important milestone. For the first time in a decade, over half of American consumers (51%) recorded prime credit scores. On the other side of the scale, less than a third of consumers (32%) suffered from subprime scores.1 As a nation, our average FICO® Score rose to its highest point ever, 700.2

Despite the rosy national picture, we see regional and age-based disparities. A minority of Southerners still rank below prime credit. In contrast, credit scores in the upper Midwest rank well above the national average. Younger consumers struggle with their credit, but boomers and the Silent Generation secured scores well above the national average.

In a new report on credit scores in America, MagnifyMoney analyzed trends in credit scores. The trends offer insight into how Americans fare with their credit health.

Key insights

  1. National average FICO® Scores are up 14 points since October 2009.3
  2. 51% of consumers have prime credit scores, up from 48.1% in 2007.4
  3. One-third of customers have at least one severely delinquent (90+ days past due) account on their credit report.5
  4. Average VantageScores® in the Deep South are 21 points lower than the national average (652 vs. 673).6
  5. Millennials’ average VantageScore® (634) underperformed the national average by 39 points. Only Gen Z has a lower average score (631).7

Credit scores in America

Average FICO® Score: 7008

Average VantageScore®: 6739

Percent with prime credit score (Equifax Risk Score >720): 51%10

Percent with subprime credit score (Equifax Risk Score <660): 32%11

Credit score factors

Percent with at least one delinquency: 32%12

Average number of late payments per month: .3513

Average credit utilization ratio: 30%14

Debt delinquency

Percent severely delinquent debt: 3.37%15

Percent severely delinquent debt excluding mortgages: 6.9%16

States with the best and worst credit scores

What is a credit score?

Credit scoring companies analyze consumer credit reports. They glean data from the reports and create algorithms that determine consumer borrowing risk. A credit score is a number that represents the risk profile of a borrower. Credit scores influence a bank’s decisions to lend money to consumers. People with high credit scores will find the most attractive borrowing rates because that signals to lenders that they are less risky. Those with low credit scores will struggle to find credit at all.

The Big 3 credit scores

Banks have hundreds of proprietary credit scoring algorithms. In this article, we analyzed trends on three of the most famous credit scoring algorithms:

  • FICO® Score 8 (used for underwriting mortgages)
  • VantageScore® 3.0 (widely available to consumers)
  • Equifax Consumer Risk Credit Score (used by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York)

Each of these credit scores ranks risk on a scale of 300-850. In all three models, prime credit is any score above 720. Subprime credit is any score below 660. All three models consider similar data when they create credit risk profiles. The most common factors include:

  • Payment history
  • Revolving debt levels (or revolving debt utilization ratios)
  • Length of credit history
  • Number of recent credit inquires
  • Variety of credit (installment and revolving)

However, each model weights the information differently. This means that a FICO® Score cannot be compared directly to a VantageScore® or an Equifax Risk Score. For example, a VantageScore® does not count paid items in collections against you. However, a FICO® Score counts all collections items against you, even if you’ve paid them. Additionally, the VantageScore® counts outstanding debt against you, but the FICO® Score only considers how much credit card debt you have relative to your available credit.

American credit scores over time

Average FICO® Scores in America are on the rise for the eighth straight year. The average credit score in America is now 700.

On top of that, consumers with “super prime” credit (FICO® Scores above 800) outnumber consumers with deep subprime credit (FICO® Scores below 600).

We’re also seeing healthy increases in prime credit scores, defined as Equifax Risk Scores above 720. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 51% of all Americans have prime credit scores as measured by the Equifax Risk Score. Following the housing market crash in 2010, just 48.4% of Americans had prime credit scores.20

A major driver of increased scores is the decreased proportion of consumers with collection items on their credit report. A credit item that falls into collections will stay on a person’s credit report for seven years. People caught in the latter end of the real estate foreclosure crisis of 2006-2011 may still have a collections item on their report today.

In the first quarter of 2013, 14.64% of all consumers had at least one item in collections. Today, just 12.61% of consumers have collections items on their credit report. Overall collections rates are approaching 2005-2006 average rates.40

Credit scores and loan originations

Following the 2007-2008 implosion of the housing market, banks saw mortgage borrowers defaulting at higher rates than ever before. In addition to higher mortgage default rates, the market downturn led to higher default rates across all types of consumer loans. To maintain profitability banks began tightening lending practices. More stringent lending standards made it tough for anyone with poor credit to get a loan at a reasonable rate. Although banks have loosened lending somewhat in the last two years, people with subprime credit will continue to struggle to get loans. In June 2017, banks rejected 81.4% of all credit applications from people with Equifax Risk Scores below 680. By contrast, banks rejected 9.11% of credit applications from those with credit scores above 760.22

Credit scores and mortgage origination

Before 2008, the median homebuyer had an Equifax Risk Score of 720. In 2017, the median score was 764, a full 44 points higher than the pre-bubble scores. The bottom 10th of buyers had a score of 657, a massive 65 point growth over the pre-recession average.23

Some below prime borrowers still get mortgages. But banks no longer underwrite mortgages for deep subprime borrowers. More stringent lending standards have resulted in near all-time lows in mortgage foreclosures.

Credit scores and auto loan origination

The subprime lending bubble didn’t directly influence the auto loan market, but banks increased their lending standards for auto loans, too. Before 2008, the median credit score for people originating auto loans was 682. By the first quarter of 2017, the median score for auto borrowers was 706.26

In the case of auto loans, the lower median risk profile hasn’t paid off for banks. In the first quarter of 2017, $8.27 billion dollars of auto loans fell into severely delinquent status. New auto delinquencies are now as bad as they were in 2008.28

Consumers looking for new auto loans should expect more stringent lending standards in coming months. This means it’s more important than ever for Americans to grow their credit score.

Credit scores for credit cards

Unlike other types of credit, even people with deep subprime credit scores usually qualify to open a secured credit card. However, credit card use among people with poor credit scores is still near an all-time low. In the last decade, credit card use among deep subprime borrowers fell 16.7%. Today, just over 50% of deep subprime borrowers have credit card accounts.30

The dramatic decline came between 2009 and 2011. During this period, half or more of all credit card account closures came from borrowers with below prime credit scores. More than one-third of all closures came from deep subprime consumers.

However, banks are showing an increased willingness to allow customers with poor credit to open credit card accounts. In 2015, more than 60% of all new credit card accounts went to borrowers with subprime credit, and 25% of all the accounts went to borrowers with deep subprime credit.

State level credit scores

Consumers across the nation are seeing higher credit scores, but regional variations persist. People living in the Deep South and Southwest have lower credit scores than the rest of the nation. States in the Deep South have an average VantageScore® of 652 compared to a nationwide average of 673. Southwestern states have an average score of 658.

States in the upper Midwest outperform the nation as a whole. These states had average VantageScores® of 689.

Unsurprisingly, consumers across the southern United States are far more likely to have subprime credit scores than consumers across the north. Minnesota had the fewest subprime consumers. In December 2016, just 21.9% of residents fell below an Equifax Risk Score of 660. Mississippi had the worst subprime rate in the nation: 48.3% of Mississippi residents had credit scores below 660 in December 2016.35

These are the distributions of Equifax Risk Scores by state:37

Credit score by age

In general, older consumers have higher credit scores than younger generations. Credit scoring models consider consumers with longer credit histories less risky than those with short credit histories. The Silent Generation and boomers enjoy higher credit scores due to long credit histories. However, these generations show better credit behavior, too. Their revolving credit utilization rates are lower than younger generations. They are less likely to have a severely delinquent credit item on their credit report.

Gen X and millennials have almost identical revolving utilization ratios and delinquency rates. Compared to millennials, Gen X has higher credit card balances and more debt. Still, Gen X’s longer credit history gives them a 21 point advantage over millennials on average.

To improve their credit scores, millennials and Gen X need to focus on timely payments. On-time payments and lower credit card utilization will drive their scores up.

A report by FICO® showed that younger consumers can earn high credit scores with excellent credit behavior. 93% of consumers with credit scores between 750 and 799 who were under age 29 never had a late payment on their credit report. In contrast, 57% of the total population had at least one delinquency. This good credit group also used less of their available credit. They had an average revolving credit utilization ratio of 6%. The nation as a whole had a utilization ratio of 15%.39

Sources

  1. Community Credit: A New Perspective on America’s Communities Credit Quality and Inclusion” from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  2. Ethan Dornhelm, “US Average FICO Score Hits 700: A Milestone for Consumers,” Fair Isaac Corporation. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  3. Ethan Dornhelm, “US Average FICO Score Hits 700: A Milestone for Consumers,” Fair Isaac Corporation. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  4. Community Credit: A New Perspective on America’s Communities Credit Quality and Inclusion” from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed May 24, 2017.
  5. 2016 State of Credit Report” National 2016 90+ Days Past Due, Experian. Accessed May 24, 2017
  6. 2016 State of Credit Report” State 2016 Average VantageScore®, Experian. Accessed May 24, 2017.
  7. 2016 State of Credit Report” National 2016 Average VantageScore®, Experian. Accessed May 24, 2017.
  8. Ethan Dornhelm, “US Average FICO Score Hits 700: A Milestone for Consumers,” Fair Isaac Corporation. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  9. 2016 State of Credit Report” National 2016 Average VantageScore®, Experian. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  10. Community Credit: A New Perspective on America’s Communities Credit Quality and Inclusion” from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  11. Community Credit: A New Perspective on America’s Communities Credit Quality and Inclusion” from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  12. 2016 State of Credit Report” National 2016 90+ Days Past Due, Experian. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  13. 2016 State of Credit Report” National 2016 Average Late Payments, Experian. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  14. 2016 State of Credit Report” National 2016 Average Revolving Credit Utilization Ratio, Experian. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  15. Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit May 2017” Percent of Balance 90+ Days Delinquent by Loan Type, All Loans, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  16. Calculated metric using data from “Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit May 2017” Percent of Balance 90+ Days Delinquent by Loan Type and Total Debt Balance and Its Composition. All Loans, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017. Multiply all debt balances by percent of balance 90 days delinquent for Q1 2017, and summarize all delinquent balances. Total delinquent balance for non-mortgage debt = $284 billion. Total non-mortgage debt balance = $4.1 trillion$284 billion /$4.1 trillion = 6.9%.
  17. 2016 State of Credit Report” State 2016 Average VantageScore®, Experian. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  18. Ethan Dornhelm, “US Average FICO Score Hits 700: A Milestone for Consumers,” Fair Isaac Corporation. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  19. Ethan Dornhelm, “US Average FICO Score Hits 700: A Milestone for Consumers,” Fair Isaac Corporation. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  20. Community Credit: A New Perspective on America’s Communities Credit Quality and Inclusion” from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  21. Community Credit: A New Perspective on America’s Communities Credit Quality and Inclusion” from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  22. Survey of Consumer Expectations, © 2013-2017 Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY). The SCE data are available without charge at http://www.newyorkfed.org/microeconomics/sce and may be used subject to license terms posted there. FRBNY disclaims any responsibility or legal liability for this analysis and interpretation of Survey of Consumer Expectations data.
  23. Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit May 2017” Credit Score at Origination: Mortgages, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  24. Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit May 2017” Credit Score at Origination: Mortgages, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  25. Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit May 2017” Number of Consumers with New Foreclosures and Bankruptcies, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  26. Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit May 2017” Credit Score at Origination: Auto Loans, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed May 24, 2017.
  27. Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit May 2017” Credit Score at Origination: Auto Loans, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  28. Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit May 2017” Flow into Severe Delinquency (90+) by Loan Type, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  29. Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit May 2017” Flow into Severe Delinquency (90+) by Loan Type, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  30. Graham Campbell, Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Joelle Scally, and Wilbert van der Klauuw, “Just Released: Recent Developments in Consumer Credit Card Borrowing,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York Liberty Street Economics (blog), August 9, 2016. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  31. Graham Campbell, Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Joelle Scally, and Wilbert van der Klauuw, “Just Released: Recent Developments in Consumer Credit Card Borrowing,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York Liberty Street Economics (blog), August 9, 2016. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  32. Graham Campbell, Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Joelle Scally, and Wilbert van der Klauuw, “Just Released: Recent Developments in Consumer Credit Card Borrowing,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York Liberty Street Economics (blog), August 9, 2016. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  33. Graham Campbell, Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Joelle Scally, and Wilbert van der Klauuw, “Just Released: Recent Developments in Consumer Credit Card Borrowing,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York Liberty Street Economics (blog), August 9, 2016. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  34. 2016 State of Credit Report” State 2016 Average VantageScore®, Experian. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  35. 2016 State of Credit Report” State 2016 Average VantageScore®, Experian. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  36. Community Credit: A New Perspective on America’s Communities Credit Quality and Inclusion” from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  37. Community Credit: A New Perspective on America’s Communities Credit Quality and Inclusion” from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  38. 2016 State of Credit Report” National 2016 VantageScore®, Experian. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  39. Andrew Jennings, “FICO® Score High Achievers: Is Age the Only Factor?” Fair Isaac Corporation. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  40. Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit May 2017” Third-Party Collections (Percent of Consumers with Collections), from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017.
  41. Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit May 2017” Third-Party Collections (Percent of Consumers with Collections), from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Equifax Consumer Credit Panel. Accessed July 23, 2017.
Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah at hannah@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

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Disclosure: LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney

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FICO 5

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FICO 8

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FICO Bankcard
Score 2

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FICO Bankcard
Score 8

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FICO NextGen
Score

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Unknown FICO
Model

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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 $59.85

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.

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.

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

View Your Free FICO Score for all 3 Credit Bureaus

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.

View Your Free FICO Score for all 3 Credit Bureaus

There are lots of free credit scores floating around, but most of them are not the true FICO score that lenders subscribe to and use as part of their decision.

However FICO is working to change that by allowing banks and credit unions to give you free ongoing access to the real score they use to make lending decisions as long as you are an account holder.

The easiest place for anyone to get their free FICO is via the Discover Credit Scorecard. You do not need to be a customer of Discover – anyone can register and get their official FICO score for free. The data is from the Experian credit bureau.

You can also get a free Experian FICO 8 score at FreeCreditScore.com. While that site used to require you to enter your credit card to get information, your FICO score and Experian report are now completely free with no credit card information needed.

To find out where to get your FICO score from the other credit bureaus, read on.

Every bank chooses at least one of three credit bureaus to calculate a FICO score: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. The FICO score one bank uses can be different than another depending on which credit bureau they pulled a report from.

The good news is, you can now see your real, free FICO score from all three credit bureaus depending on which banks hold your accounts. FICO itself charges almost $60 for you to see those scores, though they also throw in full copies of your credit reports, which the free bank scores do not.

Here’s where to find your real, free FICO scores from banks or credit unions anyone can join:

Equifax Scores

Citibank

  • Available With: Any Citibank branded credit card. This does not include Citibank cards with other brands like the American AAdvantage or Hilton HHonors cards.
  • Where to Find It: On your online statement
  • Score updated: Monthly
  • Learn more

DCU Credit Union

  • Available With: Any credit card, or a checking account with direct deposit
  • Where to Find It: Look for an invitation in your online account
  • Score Updated: Monthly
  • Learn more

Huntington Bank

  • Available With: The Huntington Voice credit card – you will get a FICO Bankcard 02 Score from Equifax
  • Where to Find It: Log into your account and you’ll see a link

PenFed

  • Available With: PenFed members with active checking accounts, installment loans, and revolving lines of credit
  • Score Updated: When PenFed refreshes – no set schedule
  • Where to Find it: Login to your account and click ‘Your FICO Score is Ready’
  • Notes: PenFed uses a more advanced ‘Next Gen’ FICO score that has a different scale than traditional FICO scores, with 150 as the lowest score and 950 as the highest score. Most banks use a score with a scale of 300 to 850. Because of this the score you see on PenFed’s site may be higher or lower than what you see from others.
  • Learn more

Experian Scores

Capital One and American Express regularly use Experian’s FICO among others for credit decisions.

American Express

  • Available With: Any American Express credit card
  • Score Updated: Monthly
  • Where to Find It: On your online account

Chase

  • Available With: Chase Slate® credit card accounts
  • Score Updated: Monthly
  • Learn more

Discover

  • If you have a Discover credit card already, you will see your FICO score on your statement and online. It is updated monthly.
  • If you are not a Discover customer, you can sign up to get your FICO score for free by visiting CreditScoreCard.com.

First National Bank of Omaha

  • Available With: Any credit card account
  • Score Updated: Monthly
  • Where to Find It: On your online account
  • Learn more

Please note: a previous version of this blog post noted that USAA provides a free FICO credit score. USAA actually provides a free VantageScore.

Transunion Scores

Bank of America

  • Available With: Select credit card accounts
  • Score Updated: Monthly, with history
  • Where to Find It: Link available on your account summary page under the ‘Tools and Investing’ section

Barclaycard

  • Available With: Any credit card account
  • Score Updated: Monthly
  • Where to Find It: Link available on your account summary page
  • Learn more

Walmart / Sam’s Club

  • Available With: A Walmart Credit Card, Walmart MasterCard, or Sam’s Club Credit Card
  • Score Updated: Monthly
  • Where to Find It: At Walmart.com/creditlogin, only if you enroll in online delivery of monthly statements
  • Learn more

Unknown Bureau

 State Employees Credit Union of North Carolina

  • Available to all credit card holders

Other, less open to the public free FICO providers include:

  • Ally, for auto loan holders
  • Hyundai and Kia Motor Finance, which offer a quarterly score, but only if you’re a new buyer, recent college grad and bring your diploma to the dealer at the time of purchase.
  • Sallie Mae, which offers a free, quarterly Transunion score if you receive a new Smart Option Student during the 2014-2015 academic year or later.
  • Merrick Bank doesn’t have open applications, but does offer free scores to its cardholders.
  • Some credit unions with limited membership also offer scores, so check yours to see if it provides them.

 

Nick Clements
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Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

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The Perfect Credit Score Isn’t Really 850

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.

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Do you really need an 850 credit score to get the best rates?

Most people assume that in order to get the best treatment from lenders, you need to have perfect credit. Across both of the most common credit scoring brands, FICO and VantageScore, that highest score is 850 out of the now-standard range of 300 to 850.

But the truth is that while it’s nice to boast that you’ve maxed out your credit score, it’s almost impossible to achieve the magical 850. It’s also entirely unnecessary. There is no lender or credit product that requires you to have a credit score of 850 in order to be approved.  There is no lender or credit product that requires you to have a credit score of 850 in order to earn the best terms. In fact, your credit scores can be 90 to 130 points off the maximum and still result in your getting approved for the best deals from mainstream lenders.

To put it bluntly, 850 doesn’t buy you anything but bragging rights.

Case in point, according to Informa Research, which tracks interest rates by credit scores on a daily basis, the lowest rates offered on various mortgage related loans are being offered to people with scores at or higher than 760. And, the lowest rates offered on various auto loans are being offered to people with scores at or higher than 720.

The quest for a perfect 850 is often given different fictitious monikers like “Triple-A Credit” or “A+ Credit”, when in reality there is no such designation in the world of consumer credit scoring.  Your credit “rating” is the number, whether it’s an 850 or a 525.

Earning the ever-elusive 850 credit score requires that you have a statistically perfect credit report that indicates you are completely void of any sort of credit risk. But again, this is unnecessary and you will do just fine with 760 or better, which is a much easier target to hit.

How to get to 760

A score of 760 doesn’t require perfection. You can even have derogatory entries (like a missed payment) and still get there. It just requires that these negative marks are older and limited. You can even have a balance on your credit card and still score at or above 760. Your best bet is to use 10% or less of your card’s credit limits.  That means no more than a $1,000 balance for every $10,000 in credit limits across all of your cards.

The other targets are harder to hit because they’re not entirely in your control.  For example, the older your credit history is the better you’re going to score. Since you can’t exactly control time, this will be one of those areas where you’ll do better organically as time passes.

Account diversity is also a tough one to control. People will score better if they’ve got a record of managing different types of accounts, such as credit cards, student loans, auto loans, and mortgages. Nobody will (or should) go out and buy a car or a house just to benefit their credit scores. This is one of the metrics where you will improve as time passes and you build a history of auto loans and mortgages.

If all of this seems too complicated then let’s make it really simple. If you pay all of your bills on time all the time, apply for credit only when you actually need it and use credit cards sparingly then you’re going to earn and maintain great credit scores. It would be impossible for you not to do so.

Still obsessed with hitting 850?

If you are still obsessed with credit score perfection then there are some milestones that are going to need to be met and maintained.

A perfect payment history. Your credit report is going to have to be void of any negative information, and there are no exceptions. If you’ve got derogatory entries like late payments, liens, judgments, collections, defaults and the like then an 850 is not in the cards for you.

A low utilization rate. Utilization plays a big role in your score and it can be a little confusing. Essentially, credit scoring models look at your total statement balances across all your cards and compare it to your total available credit limit. They don’t even give you bonus points if you pay that balance off in full each month. They simply look at how much your balance comes out to with each billing cycle. The lower your total statement balances are, the better off you are score-wise. To get the perfect 850, don’t even think about carrying a balance on your cards. You need to be at or close to zero percent.

You’ve shown a long history of good behavior. If you apply for credit too often, have limited credit score information or have a young credit report then you’re not going to max out your score. You can’t open a bunch of accounts in a short period of time without hurting your scores. It reduces the average age of your credit and it also means a hard credit inquiry on your account, which can also ding your score. Again, this is no big deal if you’re shooting for the ideal credit score of 760 (or in the neighborhood of that) but it can certainly hurt you on your path to 850.

Have more questions about your credit score? Send us an e-mail at info@magnifymoney.com. 

John Ulzheimer
John Ulzheimer |

John Ulzheimer is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email John here

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Discover it: Cash Back Bonus Offer Launched

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.

Credit card companies continue to raise the stakes in the cash back war for your wallet. Discover today has launched a special bonus offer, doubling the cash back that you can earn. The standard program offers 1% unlimited cash back and 5% cash back in certain bonus categories (that rotate every quarter and require you to opt in). At the end of the year, all new cardholders can double the cash back that they earned.  This is one of the most lucrative cash back offers we have ever seen. In this post, we will explain how the bonus offer works, compare the card to other cash back credit cards, and help you avoid some of the tricks and traps. We will also review some of the other benefits that Discover regularly advertises, like the ability to freeze the account and receive your FICO score for free.

Discover it® - Cashback Match<sup>TM</sup>

You can learn more by reading our Discover it review.

How Does The Bonus Offer Work?

Discover it charges no annual fee. You can earn 1% cash back, unlimited, on all of your spend. Every quarter, Discover selects bonus categories where you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of spending.

During the first 12 months that you have the card, you will earn your cash back in the normal, standard way. After 12 consecutive billing cycles, Discover will double the cash back that you earned during the year. It will then credit that amount to your account in the next billing cycle, which would be month 13. This is an incredibly lucrative offer.

How Does Discover it Compare To Other Cash Back Credit Cards

With this new bonus offer, Discover it is now one of the best cash back cards on the market for the next 12 months.

With cash back credit cards, you can earn cash back in two ways. The first is the baseline cash back rate. The second is bonus offers. Discover is now leading the way in both.

Flat Rate Cash Back On Everyday Spend

Capital One Quicksilver started the battle a few years ago, by offering 1.5% unlimited cash back. However, Citi countered by offering unlimited 2% with Citi Double Cash, so long as you pay your balance in full and on time every month. At the end of the first year, Discover will double the 1% base rate, which makes this a great offer.

Bonus Offers

There are many category bonus offers out there. We have put together a list of the best bonus offers by category.  In general, the best you can do is 5%. Now, with special offer, Discover will match the 5% that you earn in bonus categories at the end of the year, making this the highest earn rate available.

Just remember that the bonus is capped to $1,500 of spending per calendar quarter.

What Is The Catch? 

Like all credit cards, you have to be careful. Here are the 5 things you need to know.

1. Make sure you pay your balance in full every month.

2. Make sure you opt in to the bonus category every category. If you don’t opt in, you will only earn the base earn rate of 1%.

3. Avoid cash advances.

4. Pay your balance on time every month. Discover has a nice feature. It has eliminated penalty interest rates, which means your rate will not increase if you are late. In addition, it waives a late fee the first time you are late. However, from the second time, you will have to pay $35 each time you are late. And, if you are more than 30 days late, your credit score will suffer. We applaud Discover for eliminating penalty APRs and waiving the first late fee. However, we encourage you not to take advantage of those benefits by automating on-time payments every month.

5. Discover acceptance is a lot less than Visa or MasterCard, especially overseas. You will likely have problems using your card at some point. As a result, we recommend that you always have a back-up card, especially for travel abroad. We recommend Capital One Quicksilver, because there is no foreign transaction fee and you earn 1.5% cash back. Citi Double Cash, on the other hand, still charges a foreign transaction fee.

Other Discover it Benefits

Discover has invested in some other good benefits. We think you should choose the card that offers the most value. However, these benefits are nice to have, and nice to know about.

  • On every statement, you will see your FICO score for free. You can also see your FICO online, and in the mobile app. The free score websites do not provide you with your FICO, so this is a great way to see your official FICO for free.
  • Discover has launched “Freeze it,” which allows you to put a temporary block on your account. We think this is a great feature. Although you are never liable for fraudulent charges, you want to avoid fraud completely. Putting a block on the card means that you can limit charges if you think you misplaced the card, or if you know you won’t be using the card. We think the best credit card companies will increasingly put more fraud protection tools into the hands of their customers, and MagnifyMoney really likes this tool
  • Free overnight shipping if you lose your card, or if you card was compromised.
  • Discover also offers on-shore call centers.

The Final Verdict

With this special cash back match offer, Discover has one of the most lucrative cash back cards in the market. Just make sure you pay your balance in full and on time. If you charge more than you can afford, the interest bill will end up higher than the cash back that you receive.

At the moment, this is one of the best cash back credit cards on the market, and it is worth exploring for the next 12 months.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

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Convert a Secured Card to an Unsecured 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.

Young couple calculating their domestic bills

A secured credit card is a great way to build your credit history. When no one else will give you a credit card, a secured card offers you the opportunity to improve your credit score in a controlled way. However, at some point the goal is to convert from a secured card to an unsecured card. We will help you decide when is the best time to make that conversion, and how to do it.

When to Make the Switch

The only reason to have a secured credit card is to get a better credit score. Once your score is good enough to get another credit card, you should consider making the switch. Some secured cards, like Capital One, actually show your credit score on your statement every month, which can help you plan.

Once your credit score is 650 or higher, you will have a number of options for a credit card. Once your score is 700, you can pretty much take your pick of any credit card out there.

So, we recommend keeping the secured card for at least a year. After 12 months of positive activity (never spending more than 20% of the available limit and paying on time), you should start looking closely at your score. If it is above 650, you have a very good chance. If your score is above 700, you should definitely switch.

How to Make the Switch

You have 2 options when switching from secured to unsecured:

  1. Your secured card is migrated to a new credit card, or
  2. You apply for a new credit card and close your secured credit card

For the first option, just call your bank directly and ask for a conversion. I helped my wife establish credit with a secured credit card, and I had to pro-actively speak with the bank in order to get the conversion completed. Just make sure you remember to do the following:

  • Ask to be converted to a credit card that does not have an annual fee
  • Ensure that you receive a refund of your original deposit. At Bank of America, I had to chase them a few times before we received our deposit refund
  • Ask to keep the same account number, so that your credit history continues to build

Banks like secured cards, because you are keeping money with them, and they earn interest on that money. They are not always eager to make the conversion for you. If that is the case, then you need to apply for a new card.

If your credit score is less than 700, you should consider a credit card issued by a department store. For example, WalMart issues a Discover credit card, that can be used like any other Discover card. However, there is no annual fee and they will approve very low credit scores. You can learn more about that card here.

If your credit score is above 700, just pick the best cash back credit card for your needs.

Do not close your secured card until you are approved for a new credit card. Once you are approved for your new credit card, call the bank that issued your secured card. Tell them that you are going to close the account unless they convert you to a secured card. It is always worthwhile trying to get the conversion, and here you will be making a threat that you will keep. Because, if they don’t convert your card, you will close it. That means you will likely end up in retention unit.

If you do close the card, make sure you receive a refund of the deposit. Closed accounts stay on your credit report for 7 years, so you should not worry about your credit score. The other credit card you opened will help to build your score, so long as you continue to use it responsibly.

If the retention office agrees to convert your card, follow the same advice we gave above: get your deposit refunded, switch to a fee-free credit card, and make sure you keep the same account number.

The purpose of a secured credit card is to establish your credit score. Once you have a good score, you shouldn’t continue to pay fees or keep you money tied up in a deposit with the credit card company.

Nick Clements
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Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

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Building Credit, Pay Down My Debt

Decoding How FICO Determines Your 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.

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Below is an excerpt from our Debt Free Forever Guide. Be sure to download the free guide to help dump debt for good. 

There are a lot of myths out there about credit scoring –hopefully we can help you understand FICO scoring, so you can take action to build your score. There are five major components FICO uses to determine a credit score. Fortunately, understanding the secret sauce can help you build a strong score and healthy credit report. Both a 700+ score and healthy credit report will help keep the rest of your financial life cheaper by enabling you to get lower interest rates on loans and approved for top-tier financial products.

35%: Payment History

This is the single most important part of your credit score. Quite simply, this looks at how many on-time payments that you make. You will:

  • Get rewarded for on-time payments
  • Be punished for missed payments: Not all late payments are created equally. If you are fewer than 30 days late, your missed payment will likely not be reported to the bureau (although you still will be subject to late fees and potential risk-based re-pricing, which can be very expensive). Once you are 30 days late, you will be reported to the credit bureau. The longer you go without paying, the bigger the impact on your score, ie: 60 days late is worse than 30 days late. A single missed payment (of 30 days or more) can still have a big impact on your score. It can take anywhere from 60 to 110 points off your score.

If you don’t pay a medical bill or a cell phone bill, your account may be referred to a collection agency. Once it is with an agency, they can register that debt with the credit bureau, which can have a big negative impact on your score. Most negative information will stay on your credit bureau for 7 years. Positive information will stay on your credit bureau forever, so long as you keep the account open. If you close an account with positive information, then it will typically stay on your report for about 10 years, until that account completely disappears from your credit bureau and score. If you don’t use your credit card (and therefore no payment is due), your score will not improve. You have to use credit in order to get a good score.

However, there is a big myth that you have to borrow money and pay interest to get a good score. That is completely false! So long as you use your credit card (it can even be a small $1 charge) and then pay that statement balance in full, your score will benefit. You do not need to pay interest on a credit card to improve your score. Remember: your goal is to have as much positive information as possible, with very little negative information. That means you should be as focused on adding positive information to your credit report as you are at avoiding negative information.

30%: Amount Owed

This part of your credit score will look at how much debt you have. Your credit report uses your statement balance. So, even if you pay your credit card statement in full every month (never pay any interest), it would still show as debt on your credit report, because it uses your statement balance. This part of your score will look at a few elements:

  • The total amount of debt that you owe across all of your accounts. On your credit cards, the utilization ?If you have a lot of credit card debt, your score can be hit.
  • In addition to the total amount of debt that you have, your utilization is very important.

To calculate utilization, divide your statement balance (across all of your credit cards) by your available credit (across all of your credit cards). For example, if you have credit limits of $40,000 across 4 credit cards, and you have a total balance of $20,000 – then you have a utilization of 50%.

To have a good score, you will want your total utilization to be below 20%.

Why is utilization such an important concept? If you use every bit of credit made available to you, then it looks like you do not have self-restraint. Maxing out all of your credit cards is a big warning sign to lenders.

If you are able to restrain yourself and have a lot of available credit (that you do not use), then you are showing self-discipline.

It may sound strange (and, in fact, it is): but the key to having a good credit score is having a lot of available credit and not using it.

promo-balancetransfer-wide

15%: Length of Credit History

This is the easiest part of the credit score to get right. So long as you don’t close accounts, every day this part of your score improves (because all of your accounts become one day older).

FICO will look at the age of your oldest account, as well as the average age of accounts.

10%: Types of Credit in Use

If you have experience with different types of credit (installment loans, revolving loans, credit cards, etc.) than you will get more points than if you don’t have a variety of experience.

The most important product is a credit card. If you have a credit card and manage it well, then you will be rewarded in this. Remember: there is no greater temptation than a credit card. If you are able to withstand the temptation of plastic, you get the most points.

10%: New Credit

If you open up a lot of new credit in a short period of time, you will be sending a warning signal to the credit bureau. But this part of the credit score has turned into a myth that scares a lot of people. They are afraid to shop for the best deals, because they are afraid of what shopping for credit would do to their credit scores.

The FICO score will look at credit inquiries from the last 12 months.

This factor is only 10% of your total score. And, there are a lot of myths. Lets break a few of them now:

  • Checking my own credit report will hurt my score: FALSE! If you check your own credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com, it will not hurt your score
  • If I shop around for a good mortgage or auto loan rate, my score will get crushed: FALSE! Multiple inquiries for a mortgage or auto loan are usually treated as a single inquiry.
  • If I shop around for a balance transfer credit card, my score will get crushed: FALSE! If your score does decline, it probably will not decline by much. You can expect 10-20 points per credit application. But, remember: you apply for a balance transfer to help reduce your balance faster. When you open a new credit card and transfer your balance, then you will be able to:
    • Have a lower overall utilization, because you have new credit available (and of course you will not use it!)
    • Pay off your debt faster, because the interest rate is lower. At the end of 12 months, your score should be even higher than when you applied for the balance transfer or personal loan.

Quick Steps to Building and Keeping a Good Credit Score

  • Use your credit card every month, but keep your utilization well below 20%. In other words, never charge more than 20% of your available credit. You can reduce your utilization by (a) paying down your debt and (b) increasing the credit that you have available
  • Make your payments on time every month If you repeat these two things over time, you will eventually have a score above 700. However, if your score is below 700 and you want to improve it, you need to focus on:
  • Putting more positive information into the credit bureau
  • Getting your utilization below 20%
  • Dealing with the negative information

Download our Debt Free Forever Guide! It’s FREE and will help get you back on track.

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Nick Clements
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Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

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Fine Print Alert

Fine Print Alert: $500 Bonus Offer from Ally, Free FICO Scores and Overdraft Caution

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.

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In our weekly Fine Print Alert we call out any good news from the financial community and shine a spotlight on any sneaky changes in the fine print. We also share our favorite reads from the week.

FINE PRINT ALERT

Thinking about rolling over an IRA…?

Ally is offering up to a $500 bonus for making a qualifying rollover or transfer from outside Ally Bank to a new or existing Ally IRA CD or IRA Online Savings Account. The bonus is a tiered structure ranging from $100 – $500 depending on the amount of qualifying deposits, which range from $25,000 to $200,000+.”

Deposits must be made before May 31, 2015 in order to be eligible for this offer.

For more details about how to take advantage of this bonus offer, read our full blog post here.

Get your free FICO (not FAKO) score…

Five more banks and a credit union will be offering customers access to a free FICO score this year. This is indeed different than the ‘FAKO’ score you get on free credit sites. These are the actual scores each bank uses when making credit decisions.

  • Citibank: You’ll get your Equifax version of your FICO score if you hold any Citibank branded card starting later this month. Non branded cards issued by Citibank like Sears and Best Buy cards won’t get the free score.
  • Chase: The score will be made available to Chase Slate card holders only sometime this year.
  • Bank of America: Sometime later this year. Bank of America pulls from all 3 bureaus so it’s not clear which version of the FICO score they will offer.
  • USAA: Starting in March all credit card holders will get the Experian Vantage version of their FICO score.
  • State Employees Credit Union of North Carolina: Sometime later this year all members with credit cards will get their FICO scores. They generally use the Equifax version of the score.
  • Ally: If you have an auto loan with Ally you’ll get your score by this summer. They generally use the Transunion version of the FICO score for decisions.

Read more on our blog post.

A word of caution to TD Bank customers…

Don’t go overdraft! Don’t get even close.

TD Bank loves overdraft fees so much it’s willing to pay fines.

Courthouse News Service reports New York resident John Kashgarian has filed a class action lawsuit against TD Bank claiming egregious overdraft fees.

Specifically, he’s claiming the fees TD and other banks charged since 2010 are unreasonable and manipulative, and reordering of those fees to make accounts that are in otherwise good standing go overdraft is the biggest problem.

TD’s ‘Simple Checking’ account fee schedule says you will be hit with a $35 fee for each item overdrawn, and will let up to 5 items be overdrawn each business day. That’s $175 in fees a day. The bank is also known to participate in transaction re-ordering.

Read more about TD Bank’s history with overdraft fees on our blog.

MAGNIFYMONEY IN THE NEWS

FAVORITE READS FROM AROUND THE WEB

What Your Bank Owes You: Clarity – For example, banks ought to be required to show through third-party random sample testing that when customers trigger overdraft protection, they know what it is and what fee they will be charged. Investment brokerages ought to produce data on what proportion of their retail clients know the fees they will incur on each investment, and brokerages with low numbers penalized. A great look into whether financial literacy is worth our efforts and focus in this LA Times op-ed by Lauren E. Willis and Theresa Amato.

Where are they now? The most inspiring personal finance stories of 2014Five years since the recession officially ended, more and more stories of families overcoming insurmountable financial obstacles have begun to emerge. We’ve taken a look back at 2014 and picked our top five most inspiring personal finance stories of the year. These personal finance heroes have tackled six-figure debt, redefined the idea of retirement and turned their lifestyles upside down. Mandi Woodruff shares these five stories of financial triumph on Yahoo! Finance.

Most Americans feel they are falling behind – Forget getting ahead. Most Americans say their income isn’t even keeping up with the cost of living. Some 55% say they are falling behind, according to a new Pew Research Center study. That’s the case even though most of those polled feel the economy is recovering. Tami Luhby shares the recent data on CNN Money.

My Darkest Financial Secret – I bought my first home in July 2013. I funded the renovation with a 203k loan, but went over and had to raid my savings account to finish the project. Having no savings cushion then led me to lean on my credit cards for “emergencies” in the Fall of 2013 and by NYE 2014, I was 8,432.16 in debt. L Bee shares her story of amassing debt while she was focusing on paying it down on her site, L Bee and The Money Tree.

Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erin@magnifymoney.com

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Comparing Mortgage Rates Just Got Easier

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.

ChexSystems Big

Today the CFPB has launched a mortgage price comparison tool on its website, alongside the shocking results of a survey. At MagnifyMoney, we applaud both.

The survey (of mortgages taken out during 2013) showed that 50% of borrowers only consider a single lender or broker before deciding where to apply for their mortgage. This is largely the result of an over-reliance upon their real estate agent, local bank branch or mortgage broker to make the decision for them. This can have expensive consequences for the borrowers, because CFPB data shows that shopping around could save up to 0.5%, on average. For a typical $200,000 conforming mortgage, that could be $3,500 over the first five years of the mortgage.

Why do real estate agents and brokers get it wrong? Their interests are not aligned. Real estate agents want to minimize the chance of the home being sold to someone else, and maximize the amount that their client can borrow. So they are solving primarily for speed. If a particular mortgage company is consistently the fastest, they will tend to send their business that way, even if it may be a bit more expensive. In addition, real estate agents who have spent their career working in a particular neighborhood form relationships with certain banks and lenders. Out of no ill will, they may “always” send their business to that particular bank, even if the rates are not always the best.

Brokers, on the other hand, still have an incentive system that conflicts with borrowers. They live on commission, and the mortgage bank or brokerage willing to pay the highest commission in the shortest period of time will likely get the business of the broker.

If a consumer wants to make sure they have the best deal, they need to take shopping into their own hands. And the deals can be excellent.

A New Tool

The CFPB has just launched a new tool. You just enter a few pieces of information (your credit score, your state, your house price and your down payment), and it will provide you with the typical mortgage rates in your market. It will also show you the highest rate you should be paying. Here is a screen shot of an example:

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 7.02.04 AM

Although they will not provide the names of the lenders where you can get the lowest rates, they will help you set your expectations. And the tool makes it very easy to see if you are being ripped off.

We recommend that everyone should take the 2 minutes to input data into this tool before deciding upon whether or not they are getting a good deal. And, if you see better interest rates than what you have been quoted, it is time to shop around.

If you have excellent credit and are making a good down payment, we still have yet to see much lower rates than Pentagon Federal Credit Union (https://www.penfed.org/) and encourage people to use both the CFPB tool and the visit the PenFed mortgage page to get a good indication of the rates available. And then, don’t be afraid to shop around for the best deals. The FICO score does not punish multiple mortgage applications, and the savings can be significant.

At MagnifyMoney, we believe that more transparency into pricing can only help consumers. For most people, their home is the biggest single purchase they will make, and their mortgage is the biggest debt they will take out. We should no longer rely upon the desire of a real estate agent or broker to make a commission, and this CFPB tool helps to make that a reality.

For regular updates, follow us on Twitter @Magnify_Money

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at nick@magnifymoney.com

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Fine Print Alert

Fine Print Alert: October 10, 2014

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.

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In our weekly Fine Print Alert newsletter we call out any good news from the financial community and shine a spotlight on any sneaky changes in the fine print. We also share our favorite reads from the week.

FINE PRINT ALERT

Citibank Increasing Fees, Eliminating Rewards

Effective January 1, 2015 Citibank is making some big changes to its checking accounts. For consumers who have a Basic Banking Package (the core checking account), the monthly fee will increase from $10 to $12. The requirement to have the monthly fee waived has not changed: you need one direct deposit and one bill-pay per billing cycle, or a minimum balance of $1,500. In addition, you can no longer earn ThankYou Rewards on the basic checking account.

Convenience fees might cost more than your cash back…

Every time you swipe plastic the merchant pays an interchange fee to the credit card company. Usually this fee is worth it because owners of stores like Target, Wal-Mart, GAP, and grocery stores know you’re inclined to spend more if you pay with credit instead of cash or debit. But when it comes to paying a bill – well they’d rather you pay the fee.

You aren’t going to overspend on your bill, so merchants often pass on the interchange fee (typically around two percent) to the customer. These are known as convenience fees.

Sometimes these convenience fees are so high they wipe out any benefit of getting cash back.

Con Edison, electricity supplier in New York City, charges a $4.75 service fee for residential bills paid with a credit card online. With a two percent cash back card, you’re not even making up for 50 percent of that convenience fee.

The IRS also charges convenience fees, which start with a range between $2.79 and $3.95.

So keep in mind, if you’re paying for the rewards benefit, that convenience fee is probably not only making it worthless, but also charging you more than you make in rewards.

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Erin Lowry
Erin Lowry |

Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erin@magnifymoney.com

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