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What Credit Score Do You Really Need for a Mortgage?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Young Couple Moving In To New Home Together

Love it or hate it, your credit score has a big influence over your financial life. Planning to apply for a mortgage in the near future? Your credit score can make or break your ability to qualify for a home loan.

Because your credit score is such an important part of the homebuying process, it pays to understand how lenders view it.

Credit score requirements by mortgage type

When you’re preparing to purchase a home, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is which type of mortgage is best for you. The condition of your credit score may come into play when you are making your decision.

Here are the minimum credit score requirements for conventional, FHA, VA and USDA mortgage programs:

Mortgage TypeCredit score
FHA500 (10% down payment required)
580 (3.5% down payment required)
VANo set minimum (entire loan profile reviewed instead)
USDA580 (if eligible for a credit exception)
640 (for automatic approval)

Do lenders abide by minimum credit score requirements?

Under most circumstances, lenders will not issue a mortgage if your credit score falls beneath the minimum thresholds listed above. Why not? The answer lies in the secondary mortgage market.

Because lenders are working with a finite budget, it’s common for them to sell the loans they make to another company. Lenders don’t have unlimited funds to keep granting new mortgages to new customers while they wait 30 years for you to pay back your loan. At some point, the lender would run out of money.

To avoid this issue, lenders routinely package up their loans and sell them on what is known as the secondary mortgage market. Larger companies, such as banks or government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, purchase the loans (and often resell them again to investors).

For a GSE or investor to be interested in buying a loan from a lender, the loan has to meet that entity’s minimum score requirements. If a lender issued you a conventional mortgage at a credit score under 620, Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac wouldn’t be interested in buying the loan later. Instead, the lender would likely have to keep your loan on its books until you paid it off, refinanced or until the lender could find another buyer for it.

Lenders don’t want to be stuck with loans on their books. It limits the future mortgages the company can write. As a result, lenders don’t typically write loans for people who don’t meet minimum score requirements.

When it comes to FHA, VA and USDA loans, minimum credit score requirements are firm. A lender couldn’t issue these loans to applicants with lower credit scores, even if they wanted to.

Lenders might require a higher-than-minimum score

If you’re a potential homebuyer with a credit score close to the cutoff point, here’s a bit of bad news: Some lenders may require even higher scores than those listed above in order to approve your mortgage application.

Many lenders have internal policies known as lender overlays. Such overlays often feature stricter credit score requirements. This means that even if your credit score satisfies a mortgage program’s minimum requirement, it might not be high enough to satisfy every lender.

But why would lenders ask for a higher minimum credit score than is required for your loan type? In the end, it comes down to risk management.

Casey Fleming, veteran mortgage adviser in Silicon Valley and the author of The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage, offers some insight.

“Each lender has to do its own risk management/profitability equation. Higher risk means a higher cost of servicing loans when a borrower goes into default, which is much more likely at lower credit scores. Typically, lenders will either offer very good pricing but require very high scores, or they will do the opposite.”

Rick Melville, a certified mortgage planner with 24 years of experience, explains that overlays exist because “many lenders desire a higher credit score threshold to provide safety for their portfolio.”

So, although the FHA minimum median credit score requirement may be 580 on loans with a 3.5% down payment, some lenders might choose not to approve loans unless the borrower’s median score is 640 or higher.

How your credit score can affect your home loan

Your credit score has the ability to affect more than whether your loan is approved or denied.

  • Your credit score affects how much interest you’ll be charged for your mortgage. Lower credit scores typically equal higher interest rates. Higher credit scores typically equal the opposite.
  • The size of your down payment may be affected by your credit score.
    Lower credit scores could also equal a bigger down payment requirement to qualify for a mortgage. With an FHA loan, for example, you may qualify for a low 3.5% down payment if your credit score is 580 or higher. Yet if your score falls between 500 and 579, you might have to put up 10% instead (if you can find a lender willing to approve your loan application).
  • Your monthly payment can be influenced by your credit score.
    Naturally, if a lower credit score results in a higher interest rate for your mortgage, you can expect to pay a higher monthly payment than you would have been charged otherwise. But that’s not the only way your credit score can influence the size of your monthly payment.If you finance more than 80% of a home’s value, your lender will likely require you to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI). For conventional loans in particular, the cost of your PMI premium is influenced by your credit score. In other words, borrowers with lower credit scores pay higher PMI premiums.

Good news: Your credit score is not the only factor that matters when you buy a home

You credit score matters a great deal when you want to buy a house. It is not, however, the be-all and end-all of qualifying for a mortgage. Your credit score is just one piece of the equation.

Lenders look at factors beyond credit score to decide whether to approve your mortgage application as well, including

  • Loan-to-value ratio
    Loan-to-value (LTV) ratio describes the relationship between a property’s value and the size of the loan against it. If the home you plan to purchase costs $240,000 but appraises at $300,000, for example, the LTV would be 80% (loan amount divided by appraised value).A larger down payment could also result in a lower LTV ratio. From a lender’s perspective, the lower the LTV, the better.
  • Down payment size
    Most loans will require that you bring a down payment of a certain size to the closing table. If you can put up a larger down payment, however, you might improve your odds of qualifying or secure a better interest rate for your loan.
  • Debt-to-income ratio
    Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio measures how much of your income is used to pay your debts each month. Lenders calculate DTI by adding up your monthly debt payments and dividing them by your total gross monthly income.The more money you pay out monthly to others, the more likely you are to default on a mortgage. As a result, the less you owe (i.e., the lower your DTI), the higher your odds of being approved for a new home loan.Having money in reserve can also make you a more attractive borrower. Reserves are liquid assets you could tap into to make your mortgage payment if needed, such as

    • Checking accounts
    • Savings accounts
    • Retirement accounts
    • Investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs, etc.)
  • Current income and employment history
    To qualify for a mortgage, you need to have a steady job and stable income, and you need to be able to prove that you do. When you apply for a mortgage, lenders will review your pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements and other information to assess your level of risk.Your income is also a key component you should consider personally when you’re figuring out how much house you can afford. Try LendingTree’s home affordability calculator to get a better idea of your ideal home price. LendingTree owns MagnifyMoney.

How to prepare your credit for a mortgage

It’s true that it can be incredibly difficult, often impossible, to qualify for a mortgage with a low credit score. But here’s the good news: With hard work and a little patience, credit scores can be improved.

Check out the following tips on how you can work to get your credit score where it needs to be.

Review your three credit reports. Your credit scores are based upon the information found in your credit reports from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Unfortunately, despite your creditors and the credit bureaus’ best efforts, credit reporting mistakes can sometimes happen.

If a mistake winds up on your credit reports, it can damage your credit scores whether the information is accurate or not. The only way you can be sure the information on your three credit reports is accurate is to review them yourself.

Federal law gives you the right to get a free copy of your three credit reports every 12 months via

Melville advised, “Pull the credit now if you’re planning to apply for a mortgage any time soon. It can help to know what you’re dealing with in advance.”

Correct errors on your credit reports.

Should you discover errors on your credit reports, federal law gives right to dispute those mistakes with the credit bureaus. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), when you dispute an item on your credit report you disagree with, it has to be investigated.

If a credit bureau can’t verify the disputed information as accurate, the item in question must be fixed or removed from your credit report entirely, usually within 30 days.

Pay down your credit cards

Reducing your credit card debt might be another effective way to give your credit score a boost. According to FICO, you should aim to keep your balances low on credit cards and other revolving debt.

High outstanding debt can affect your score in a negative way. With credit cards specifically, using a high percentage of your available credit can indicate that you’re overextended and more likely to make late payments. Your credit scores can suffer as a result.

On the flip side, if you pay those balances down, you could be doing your credit scores (and your wallet) a big favor.

What’s next?

If you think your credit may be strong enough to qualify for a mortgage, the next step is to shop around and find the best loan offer available.

Fleming recommends to start by “meeting with an experienced, competent, ethical mortgage adviser before you go shopping for a home.

Even if you’re unsure about your credit scores, speaking with a mortgage professional might be helpful.”

He added that “reasons for low credit scores vary dramatically. Many folks find they actually hurt their scores when they try to improve them. A good mortgage adviser should be able to tell you whether your score is an issue or not, how much of an issue it is, and what would help you the most in bringing your score up (assuming you need to).”

This article contains links to LendingTree, our parent company.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Michelle Black
Michelle Black |

Michelle Black is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Michelle here


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Review of OFX: A Money Transfer Provider

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

When you need to send a large amount of money internationally, OFX could be your most affordable option. The company offers web-based money transfer solutions for individuals and businesses alike. In our review, we found that this service has some features which put them ahead of the competition. However, it also lacks other features and capabilities that might be important to you.

Although OFX money transfers can sometimes take longer than some of the company’s speedier competitors, price is where it consistently shines — it charges no additional fees for transfers beyond the standard exchange rate markup, although it requires a minimum transfer for $1,000 to start with. That means people who have smaller amounts to transfer will need to look elsewhere.

OFX’s headquarters is based in San Francisco and the company has been in business since 1998. Currently, the company has offices located in six different countries. Yet it all started a little over two decades ago when it launched its first website from a garage in Sydney.

In the past 20 years, the company has grown to more than 200 employees. OFX has managed over 1 million money transfers for more than $119 billion, with the numbers still growing.

Here’s a full breakdown of OFX’s costs, fees and a look at how it compares with its competitors in the international money transfer space.

OFX key features

  • Low exchange rates: OFX claims to have better rates and fees than many banks. Per the company, you can save up to an average of 50% on global money transfer rates when compared with using a bank. Banks make money off international money transfers by charging a markup (aka a margin) on foreign exchange rates. The reason OFX fees are lower is because they say they charge margins which are “substantially less” for money exchanges than the rates many banks charge their customers. OFX exchange rate markups are often less than 1%, they claim.
  • $0 transfer fees: Once upon a time, it did charge a flat-rate fee for money transfers. However, now OFX doesn’t charge any additional transfer fees for international money transfers. (The company does point out that your recipient’s bank might deduct a fee for the incoming transfer, but it doesn’t receive any part of those funds.)
  • No hidden fees: OFX doesn’t charge setup fees, monthly account fees or any other hidden fees.
  • Compare fees before transfer: OFX lets you check the rate you will be charged for an international money transfer in advance. However, you’ll have to create an OFX account first. This process is a bit cumbersome compared with the easy-to-access fee estimators available from some other money transfer service providers. However, it also gives you a way to compare the rate it will charge you with the rate your bank would charge you for the same transaction, so you can make sure you’re getting the better deal. This is a nice touch (though you should still estimate fees from other online money transfer providers to make sure you’re getting the best deal available). To estimate fees you’ll have to create an account, log in or use the “Get Extra” widget to see how much you could save when you transfer money with OFX instead of your bank.
  • There’s an app for that: You can transfer money, track your transfers and get current exchange rates with the OFX app, available for Apple and Android devices.
  • Membership program: If you own a business, you may be able to enjoy preferred exchange rates from OFX. Preferred rates could make sending or receiving money cheaper by helping you save more on exchange rate margins. The OFX Member Benefits Program lets you share your preferred rate with your own customers, members or employees by granting them access to your OFX network as well.
  • Referral program: The OFX Referral Program allows you an opportunity to earn a revenue share when your customers or referrals use OFX for international money transfers. You can also add the company’s free rate and currency calculators to your website, giving your users access to the most recent currency information.

Sending a money transfer with OFX

Review of OFX: A Money Transfer Provider
Transfers generally take 1-4 business days. Times may vary based upon the country to where you are transferring funds.

You should allow:
  • 1-2 business days for OFX to receive your funds plus

  • 1-4 business days for the funds to reach your recipient

*OFX provides a currency converter tool inside your account, online or using the app, which can also provide approximate delivery times.
Where can you send money?
OFX can transfer your money to over 190 countries in 55 different currencies. See a list of locations here.

How much can you send? Transfer amounts start at $1,000(minimum).

*Maximum transfer amounts are determined based on your money transfer provider and type of currency. USD can generally be transferred without restrictions.

How to transfer money

Here’s a look at the process you’ll experience if you transfer funds internationally with OFX.

Step 1:
You can sign up for a personal account or business account online or via the OFX app. For a personal account, you will need to provide the following information:

  1. Your location
  2. Your email address
  3. Your currency pair (aka where you’ll be transferring money from and to)
  4. Your estimated transfer amount
  5. Your personal information (name, address, phone number, date of birth, nationality and occupation)
  6. Your driver’s license state and number (optional)

Step 2:
Create a password and set up a security question.

Step 3:
Verify your account by uploading one of the following:

  1. Copy of your driver’s license or passport (color)
  2. Proof of address (bank statement, utility bill or letter from a government agency)

Step 4:
Add the U.S. bank account you’ll be using to send funds.

Step 5:
Add new recipient details, including the person’s name and banking information.

Step 6:
Calculate transfer rate (if desired).

Step 7:
Transfer funds by setting up a direct debit or wiring the funds to OFX.

Step 8:
Funds are converted and delivered to your recipient.

Fees and fine print

Fees and penalties
Transfer rates
When you transfer money with OFX, the company takes a “small percentage” of the money you’re sending to cover costs.

Here’s how it works. Fees are based upon the market rate (also called interbank rate), which is a wholesale rate available to large financial institutions. Customers of OFX are charged a markup on the market rate, and that is how OFX makes money. You can check exchange rates here.

Transfer fees None

Compared with other money transfer options, OFX is often one of the most affordable ways to send money internationally. However, this isn’t the case 100% of the time. If you want to get the best value on your money transfer, it’s wise to compare costs among several money transfer providers.

Is OFX a good money transfer service to use?

Overall, OFX can often offer a more affordable way to send money internationally. You just have to be comfortable with the wait and minimum transfer requirements.

  • Low exchange rates mean OFX is often a cheaper way to send money.
  • Zero transfer fees keep the service affordable and simple to understand from a cost perspective.
  • 24/7 customer service support

  • No same-day delivery, (except from Australia to the U.S.)
  • Minimum transfer requirement of $1,000
  • Bank-to-bank transfers only with no cash payment or cash pick up options
  • No domestic transfers within the United States

Alternative money transfer options

MoneyGram and Western Union are international money transfer companies providing similar services to OFX.


  • Where can you send money? MoneyGram has a large network. You can send money to more than 200 countries and territories around the world online or in person at one of MoneyGram’s 350,000 (approximate) global agent locations. Unlike OFX, you can also transfer money within the United States.
  • How long does a transfer take? Once you send a transaction successfully, your recipient can usually pick up cash within minutes. Just keep in mind that transfer time also depends upon operating hours and regulatory requirements.
  • How much can you send? $6,000 per online transfer is typically the cap on MoneyGram transfers, but it also depends upon the country where your recipient lives. Also, there’s a $6,000 cap per every 30 calendar days for online transfers. If you need to send more, you can. You’ll just need to a MoneyGram agent location to send additional transfers.
  • Fee to send money: MoneyGram’s costs can be a little on the high side. When compared with other competitors, MoneyGram fees are often higher plus they may include additional transfer fees. The cost to send money via MoneyGram varies quite a bit based upon where you’re sending money, how much you’re sending and how you’re paying. On the plus side, MoneyGram has a tool which can easily allow you to estimate fees online, without the hassle of being required to create an account first.

One area where MoneyGram shines is its potential speed of delivery. If timing is your primary concern when you are sending money, MoneyGram may be a good option to consider.

Western Union

  • Where can you send money? Western Union lets you send money to more than 200 countries and territories. The company also has a sizable network of over 500,000 agent locations, this can make finding a place to send or receive money in person a lot more convenient.
  • How long does a transfer take? Western Union allows you to send money in minutes in 130 currencies. Many transactions take place within minutes. Just keep in mind that factors like the service you select, your destination country, any regulatory issues, etc. could slow things down.
  • How much can you send? The amount of money you’re allowed to transfer will vary. Limits are based upon your transaction history with Western Union, the country where you are sending money, your location and the type of transfer service you choose. Based upon these factors, limits may range from $300 per money transfer up to $10,000 per transaction.
  • Fee to send money: Western Union is known for having a large network, not for being the most affordable way to send money internationally. Compared with competitors, exchange rate fees may be higher and you may be charged transfer fees on top of that. You can estimate the cost of sending money using Western Union’s online fee calculator. It’s a helpful and convenient feature, partly because you aren’t required to set up an account to access it. Also, even though Western Union may be more expensive in many cases, you shouldn’t just assume that is always the case. If you’re sending an online money transfer, it’s worth your time to see if Western Union can beat the cost your receiving elsewhere.

Western Union stands out among competitors for its conveniently large network and speed. With more than 500,000 agent locations, finding a convenient spot to send or receive money may be easier than with other service providers.

Should you choose OFX?

OFX frequently beats competitor pricing for international online money transfers. Yet there are so many moving parts when it comes to money transfers that you shouldn’t take for granted that it is the cheapest option. If you want to save the most money possible on your international money transfers, you have to be willing to do a little homework (perhaps every time you prepare to transfer funds) and compare costs between several money transfer networks.

Of course, even if it is the least expensive option for your specific situation, the cheapest option may not be the right choice for you. OFX tends to be a bit on the slow side with regard to getting money into your recipient’s hands. Also, OFX doesn’t give you the option to pay with cash nor does it give recipients a cash pickup option. If you don’t have the capability to transfer funds directly into your recipient’s bank account, you’ll need to find a different company to handle your money transfer.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Michelle Black
Michelle Black |

Michelle Black is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Michelle here


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Auto Loan

Jet Ski Financing: How Does It Work?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

jet ski financing

Do you have your heart set on a new jet ski this summer? With prices stretching to nearly $15,000 apiece — and you may want more than one for families — you may be busy researching jet ski financing options to turn your daydreams into reality.

Getting jet ski financing isn’t difficult. In fact, it’s similar to financing most other recreational vehicles. But some methods are better than others, depending on your particular situation. We’ll walk you through some affordable ways to finance your purchase and some options you would probably be wise to avoid. Keep reading to compare your choices using our side-by-side chart.

How to finance your jet ski

As with any type of financing, the better your credit rating, the more attractive the options you may have available to you.

  • Manufacturer financing
    Vehicle manufacturers are known for offering attractive interest rates for well-qualified borrowers as an incentive to purchase certain products or models. Whether you’re buying a jet ski or another type of vehicle, financing through the manufacturer will often be the most affordable way to go — if you have good credit. In fact, with good credit scores you might even be able to score 0% APR financing through a manufacturer, albeit likely for a shorter loan term (e.g. 12 months) or introductory period. Keep in mind, that low initial APR could jump to a much higher rate if you need more time to pay off your loan.
  • Powersport loans
    Banks, credit unions and online lenders will offer loans for jet skis under different names including specialty vehicles, sport or leisure vehicles. These loans may have higher rates than manufacturer financing incentives but typically come with lower interest rates than personal loans, which we’ll talk about next. If you’re comparing rates on powersport loans with manufacturer loans, remember that your rate on a manufacturer loan may change over time. Calculate your total interest over the life of the loan to see which option may give you the lowest cost for financing. We recently found powersport loan rates as low as 4.29% APR with more offers around 5% and 6% APR though again, the best rates tend to go to those with the best credit and for the shortest terms.
  • Personal loans
    Many banks and online lenders offer personal loans which can be used to finance a jet ski purchase. If your credit scores are in less-than-perfect condition, you might have an easier time qualifying for a personal loan (depending upon each lender’s requirements) when compared with other borrowing alternatives. However, if your credit scores are in great shape, there’s a chance you might be able to find a more affordable way to finance your jet ski purchase.A personal loan also might be your best bet if you’re looking to buy a used jet ski that you can’t — or don’t want to — pay for with cash. Some banks may have minimum amounts for powersport loans but lower requirements for personal loans.
  • Credit cards
    Although it may technically be possible to use a credit card to finance your jet ski purchase, it’s usually not a good idea. Unless you have an attractive introductory rate offer, credit cards are a notoriously expensive way to finance big purchases. Also, if your debt-to-limit ratio climbs higher because of an expensive purchase, your credit scores could suffer until you’re able to pay down your card balance. “Putting a big, fun purchase on a credit card is tempting, but it may be a costly mistake,” said Eric Rosenberg, founder and editor at Personal Profitability. “Unlike a mortgage or a car loan, where you get a lower interest rate because the loan is secured by the vehicle, that isn’t true with a credit card. You could easily find yourself paying 20% or more to pay off that jet ski. No amount of fun is worth that cost.”

Which type of jet ski financing is right for you?

The best way to finance a jet ski is going to be different for different people. Here’s a side by side comparison to help you compare the features of the four jet ski financing options above.

 Average Interest RatesChanging Interest RatesCredit RequirementRisk of Credit Score Damage from High Utilization
Manufacturer LoanInterest rates may start as low as 0% for qualified borrowersRates sometimes start out low and increase over timeGood or better to qualify for the best offersNo
APRs usually lower than personal loansRates are typically fixed over the life of the loanVaries — the higher your score, the better your interest rateNo
APRs usually higher than powersport loansRates are typically fixed over the life of the loanSome lenders have options beginning at a minimum credit score of 525 (though you probably won’t get the best interest rates).No
Credit CardsAverage APR is 16.86%Rates may change over timeN/A if your account is already openYes

*Note: The chart above is a helpful guide, but you should always check with individual lenders to compare the specific rates and terms available when shopping for any type of financing.

What to look out for when financing a jet ski

It’s true that owning a jet ski can be a lot of fun. However, you shouldn’t finance any recreational vehicle unless there’s room in your budget to afford it.

Rosenberg recommends that you “never let this type of purchase put you under financial pressure. It isn’t worth the cost if you’ll miss other bills.”

Not sure how much jet ski you can afford? This helpful payment calculator from LendingTree can help you to figure out the answer. LendingTree is MagnifyMoney’s parent company.

The bottom line

Can you afford to purchase your jet ski in cash? If so, you might want to think twice about taking out a loan and paying interest to a lender. (Of course, if you qualify for a 0% or low introductory offer through a manufacturer, you could always take advantage of the low-intro rate and then pay the remaining balance in full when it expires.)

There’s also something to be said for saving your money in order to avoid high interest on a major purchase through your credit card. It might mean putting your purchase off until next year, but the money you could save on interest could be a great trade-off for your wait.

If you prefer to take out a loan so you can enjoy your jet ski now, focus on the interest rates and fees charged by different lenders. We found some of the lowest rates at credit unions and online lenders. Shop around and don’t forget to check with your own bank — many offer discounted rates to existing customers who use autopay. Also, don’t forget that you may be able to make extra payments to wipe out the debt more quickly and potentially lower the amount of interest you’ll have to pay in the long run.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Michelle Black
Michelle Black |

Michelle Black is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Michelle here