75 Personal Finance Rules of Thumb

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A “rule of thumb” is a mental shortcut. It’s a heuristic. It’s not always true, but it’s usually true. It saves you time and brainpower. Rather than re-inventing the wheel for every money problem you face, personal finance rules of thumb let you apply wisdom from the past to reach quick solutions.

Table of Contents show

I’m going to do my best Buzzfeed impression today and give you a list of 75 personal finance rules of thumb. Some are efficient packets of advice while others are mathematical shortcuts to save brain space. Either way, I bet you’ll learn a thing or two—quickly—from this list.

The Basics

These basic personal finance rules of thumb apply to everybody. They’re simple and universal.

1. The Order of Operations (since this is one of the bedrocks of personal finance, I wrote a PDF explaining all the details. Since you’re a reader here, it’s free.)

2. Insurance protects wealth. It doesn’t build wealth.

3. Cash is good for current expenses and emergencies, but nothing more. Holding too much cash means you’re losing long-term value.

4. Time is money. Wealth is a measure of how much time your money can buy.

5. Set specific financial goals. Specific numbers, specific dates. Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.

6. Keep an eye on your credit score. Check-in at least once a year.

7. Converting wages to salary: $1/per hour = $2000 per year.

8. Don’t mess with City Hall. Don’t cheat on your taxes.

9. You can afford anything. You can’t afford everything.

10. Money saved is money earned. When you look at your bottom line, saving a dollar has the equivalent effect as earning a dollar. Saving and earning are equally important.

Budgeting

I love budgeting, but not everyone is as zealous as me. Still, if you’re looking to budget (or even if you’re not), I think these budgeting rules of thumb are worth following.

11. You need a budget. The key to getting your financial life under control is making a budget and sticking to it. That is the first step for every financial decision.

12. The 50-30-20 rule of budgeting. After taxes, 50% of your money should cover needs, 30% should cover wants, and 20% should repay debts or invest.

13. Use “sinking funds” to save for rainy days. You know it’ll rain eventually.

14. Don’t mix savings and checking. One saves, the other spends.

15. Children cost about $10,000 per kid, per year. Family planning = financial planning.

16. Spend less than you earn. You might say, “Duh!” But if you’re not measuring your spending (e.g. with a budget), are you sure you meet this rule?

Investing & Retirement

Basic investing, in my opinion, is a ‘must know’ for future financial success. The following rules of thumb will help you dip your toe in those waters.

17. Don’t handpick stocks. Choose index funds instead. Very simple, very effective.

18. People who invest full-time are smarter than you. You can’t beat them.

19. The Rule of 72 (it’s doctor-approved). An investment annual growth rate multiplied by its doubling time equals (roughly) 72. A 4% investment will double in 18 years (4*18 = 72). A 12% investment will double in 6 years (12*6 = 72).

20. “Don’t do something, just sit there.” -Jack Bogle, on how bad it is to worry about your investments and act on those emotions.

21. Get the employer match. If your employer has a retirement program (e.g. 401k, pension), make sure you get all the free money you can.

22. Balance pre-tax and post-tax investments. It’s hard to know what tax rates will be like when you retire, so balancing between pre-tax and post-tax investing now will also keep your tax bill balanced later.

23. Keep costs low. Investing fees and expense ratios can eat up your profits. So keep those fees as low as possible.

24. Don’t touch your retirement money. It can be tempting to dip into long-term savings for an important current need. But fight that urge. You’ll thank yourself later.

25. Rebalancing should be part of your investing plan. Portfolios that start diversified can become concentrated some one asset does well and others do poorly. Rebalancing helps you rest your diversification and low er your risk.

26. The 4% Rule for retirement. Save enough money for retirement so that your first year of expenses equals 4% (or less) of your total nest egg.

27. Save for your retirement first, your kids’ college second. Retirees don’t get scholarships.

28. $1 invested in stocks today = $10 in 30 years.

29. Inflation is about 3% per year. If you want to be conservative, use 3.5% in your money math.

30. Stocks earn 7% per year, after adjusting for inflation.

31. Own your age in bonds. Or, own 120 minus your age in bonds. The heuristic used to be that a 30-year old should have a portfolio that’s 30% bonds, 40-year old 40% bonds, etc. More recently, the “120 minus your age” rule has become more prevalent. 30-year old should own 10% bonds, 40-year old 20% bonds, etc.

32. Don’t invest in the unknown. Or as Warren Buffett suggests, “Invest in what you know.”

Home & Auto

For many of you, home and car ownership contribute to your everyday finances. The following personal finance rules of thumb will be especially helpful for you.

33. Your house’s sticker price should be less than 3x your family’s combined income. Being “house poor”—or having too expensive of a house compared to your income—is one of the most common financial pitfalls. Avoid it if you can.

34. Broken appliance? Replace it if 1) the appliance is 8+ years old or 2) the repair would cost more than half of a new appliance.

35. Used car or new car? The cost difference isn’t what it used to be. The choice is even.

36. A car’s total lifetime cost is about 3x its sticker price. Choose wisely!

37. 20-4-10 rule of buying a vehicle. Put 20% of the vehicle down in cash, with a loan of 4 years or less, with a monthly payment that is less than 10% of your monthly income.

38. Re-financing a mortgage makes sense once interest rates drop by 1% (or more) from your current rate.

39. Don’t pre-pay your mortgage (unless your other bases are fully covered). Mortgages interest is deductible, and current interest rates are low. While pre-paying your mortgage saves you that little bit of interest, there’s likely a better use for you extra cash.

40. Set aside 1% of your home’s value each year for future maintenance and repairs.

41. The average car costs about 50 cents per mile over the course of its life.

42. Paying interest on a depreciating asset (e.g. a car) is losing twice.

43. Your main home isn’t an investment. You shouldn’t plan on both living in your house forever and selling it for profit. The logic doesn’t work.

44. Pay cash for cars, if you can. Paying interest on a car is a losing move.

45. If you’re buying a fixer-upper, consider the 70% rule to sort out worthy properties.

46. If you’re buying a rental property, the 1% rule easily evaluates if you’ll get a positive cash flow.

Spending & Debt

Do you spend money? (“What kind of question is that?”) Then these personal finance rules of thumb will apply to you.

47. Pay off your credit card every month.

48. In debt? Use psychology to help yourself. Consider the debt snowball or debt avalanche.

49. When making a purchase, consider cost-per-use.

50. Make your spending tangible with a ‘cash diet.’

51. Never pay full price. Shop around and do your research to get the best deals. You can earn cash back when you shop online, score a discount with a coupon code, or a voucher for free shipping.

52. Buying experiences makes you happier than buying things.

53. Shop by yourself. Peer pressure increases spending.

54. Shop with a list, and stick to it. Stores are designed to pull you into purchases you weren’t expecting.

55. Spend on the person you are, not the person you want to be. I love cooking, but I can’t justify $1000 of professional-grade kitchenware.

56. The bigger the purchase, the more time it deserves. Organic vs. normal peanut butter? Don’t spend 10 minutes thinking about it. $100K on a timeshare? Don’t pull the trigger when you’re three margaritas deep.

57. Use less than 30% of your available credit. Credit usage plays a major role in your credit score. Consistently maxing out your credit hurts your credit score. Aim to keep your usage low (paying off every month, preferably).

58. Unexpected windfall? Use 5% or less to treat yourself, but use the rest wisely (e.g. invest for later).

59. Aim to keep your student loans less than one year’s salary in your field.

The Mental Side of Personal Finance

At the end of the day, you are what you do. Psychology and behavior play an essential role in personal finance. That’s why these behavioral rules of thumb are vital.

60. Consider peace of mind. Paying off your mortgage isn’t always the optimum use of extra money. But the peace of mind that comes with eliminating debt—it’s huge.

61. Small habits build up to big impacts. It feels like a baby step now, but give yourself time.

62. Give your brain some time. Humans might rule the animal kingdom, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t impulsive. Give your brain some time to think before making big financial decisions.

63. The 30 Day Rule. Wait 30 days before you make a purchase of a “want” above a certain dollar amount. If you still want it after waiting and you can afford it, then buy it.  

64. Pay yourself first. Put money away (into savings or investment accounts) before you ever have a chance to spend it.

65. As a family, don’t fall into the two-income trap. If you can, try to support your lifestyle off of only one income. Should one spouse lose their job, the family finances will still be stable.

66. Every dollar counts. Money is fungible. There are plenty of ways to supplement your income stream.

67. Savor what you have before buying new stuff. Consider the fulfillment curve.

68. Negotiating your salary can be one of the most important financial moves you make. Increasing your income might be more important than anything else on this list.

69. Direct deposit is the nudge you need. If you don’t see your paycheck, you’re less likely to spend it.

70. Don’t let comparison steal your joy. Instead, use comparisons to set goals. (net worth).

71. Learning is earning. Education is 5x more impactful to work-life earnings than other demographics.

72. If you wouldn’t pay in cash, then don’t pay in credit. Swiping a credit card feels so easy compared to handing over a stack of cash. Don’t let your brain fool itself.

73. Envision a leaky bucket. Water leaking from the bottom is just as consequential as water entering the top. We often ignore financial leaks (e.g. fees), since they’re not as glamorous—but we shouldn’t.

74. Forget the Joneses. Use comparisons to motivate healthier habits, not useless spending.

75. Talk about money! I know it’s sometimes frowned upon (like politics or religion), but you can learn a ton from talking to your peers about money. Unsure where to start? You can talk to me!

The Last Personal Finance Rule of Thumb

Last but not least, an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.

Boom! Got ’em again! Ben Franklin streaks in for another meta appearance. Thanks Ben!

If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, I’d suggest checking out my Archive or Subscribing to get future articles emailed to your inbox.

This article—just like every other—is supported by readers like you.

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Charged Off as Bad Debt: An Explainer

July 21, 2020 &• 5 min read by Lacey Langford Comments 73 Comments

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Disclaimer

Making payments late or missing payments completely spells bad news for your credit rating. When you miss too many payments, your creditor may charge off the debt. When your debt is charged off as a bad debt, don’t fool yourself into thinking it goes away.

A charged off debt can lead to harassing phone calls, garnished wages, and a major drop in your credit score. According to the Federal Reserve, consumer loans had a charge-off rate of around 2.3% in the final quarter of 2019. Credit card debt was more likely to be charged off than other forms of debt. But what is a charge-off, and how much does it impact your credit if your balance is charged off as bad debt? Find out more below, including what you can do about charge-offs on your credit report.

What Is a Charge-Off?

A charge-off occurs when you don’t pay the full minimum payment on a debt for several months and your creditor writes it off as a bad debt. Basically, it means the company has given up hope that you’ll pay back the money you borrowed and considers the debt a loss on their profit-and-loss statement. The creditor closes your account, which could be a personal loan, credit card, revolving charge account or another debt you’ve failed to pay as promised, and it’s charged off as a bad debt.

If you make payments that are less than the monthly minimum amount due, your account can still be charged off as bad debt. You must bring your account current to avoid it being charged off. Once your debt is charged off, your creditor will send a negative report to one or more of the credit reporting agencies. It may also attempt to collect on the debt through its own collection department, by sending your account to a third-party debt collector, or by selling the debt to a debt buyer.

When Will a Charge-Off Happen?

Charge-offs typically don’t happen until your payments are severely late. When you start missing payments, creditors will first send letters reminding you of your past-due bill. If that fails, they move on to the collections process. The standard time for creditors to perform a charge-off is after 120 to 180 days of nonpayment.

Does Charged Off Mean Your Debt Is Paid Off?

Charged off doesn’t mean your debt is forgiven. Don’t be misled into believing that because the creditor wrote off your balance that you no longer need to pay the debt.

Even when a company writes off your debt as a loss for its own accounting purposes, it still has the right to pursue collection. This could include suing you in court for what you owe and requesting a garnishment of your wages. Unless you settle or file for certain types of bankruptcy—or the statute of limitations in your state has been reached—you’re still responsible for paying back the debt.

How Does Charged Off Debt Affect Your Credit Score

Charge-offs affect your credit report because they’re caused by missed payments. FICO research indicates that a single late payment negatively impacts your credit score. Missing a payment by 90 days can drop your score over 100 points—but missing it by just 30 days can also have a significant negative affect on your score.

Because a charge-off results from missing payments, you have both the late payments and a charge-off listed on your credit report. Even with good credit, a single charge-off lowers your credit score substantially. Late and delinquent payments have the largest impact on your credit score because up to 35% of your score is determined by your payment history. A lower credit score can cause higher insurance rates, larger housing and utility deposits, increased interest rates and denials for new loans and credit cards.

How Long Does Charged-Off Debt Stay on Your Credit Report?

Just like late payments, a charged-off debt stays on your credit report for seven years. The seven-year clock starts on the date of the last scheduled payment you didn’t make and doesn’t restart if the debt is sold to a collection agency or debt buyer. Paying the charged-off amount won’t remove it from your credit report. The account’s status is simply changed to “charged-off paid” or “charged-off settled,” which remains on your credit report until the end of the seven-year period, when it automatically falls off your report.

How to Remove a Legitimate Charge-Off from Your Credit Report

The only way to have a legitimate charge-off removed from your credit report before the seven-year period expires is to convince the original reporting entity to do so. That’s typically the creditor that wrote the debt off.

While this tactic is hit or miss, success can mean a major positive for your credit report. And even if you’re not successful, you can still get a bit of a bump in your credit history by paying off charged-off debt. Here’s how it works.

  • You need to have enough money to negotiate with. Before you start negotiating, determine how much you can realistically pay and how soon you can pay it. If you can pay in full right away, you have more leverage to have the charge-off removed you’re your credit report, but you can also ask if they’re willing to make payment arrangements Consider saving up money or taking out a debt consolidation loan.
  • Once you have enough money to negotiate, contact the original creditor. Make sure you’re speaking to someone who has the authority to negotiate with you and make agreements about actions on your credit report.
  • Let the creditor know how much you can pay and that you’re able to make the payment today in exchange for calling the debt paid off and removing the charge-off from your credit report.
  • Get any agreement in writing from the creditor before you make a payment.

If the creditor won’t delete the charge-off from your credit report but does agree to settle your debt for less than you owe, consider the offer. Make sure they agree to mark the charge-off as paid-in-full on your credit report. That shows future creditors that you did make an effort to pay your debts and can be a critical requirement if you ever apply for a mortgage.

How to Dispute a Charge-Off on Your Credit Report

Sometimes, the charge-off on your credit report isn’t accurate. Perhaps you never owed the debt to begin with or you did pay it, and the profit-and-loss write off is a clerical error. You can work to get such items removed from your credit report by disputing them and asking the creditor to verify what they reported. Write a dispute letter yourself or work with a credit repair company to help clear up your report.

When you sign up for ExtraCredit, you get exclusive discounts to reputable credit repair services—plus access to 28 of your FICO scores from all three credit reports and additional features.

How to Avoid Balances Being Charged Off as Bad Debt

Even better than working to settle a debt and potentially get a charge-off removed is avoiding the issue in the first place. The ideal time to act is as soon as you see you’re struggling to make regular payments. Waiting until items are charged off as bad debt means your credit score will take numerous hits as you miss payments.

But if you can’t pay your debts, what choice do you have? Turns out you have many options, including some of the ones summarized below.

  • Consolidate your debt. Apply for a debt consolidation loan that lets you bring several debt items under a single account. You may be able to qualify for more favorable terms that reduce the amount you pay each month to make it easier to manage your debt. But this is more likely before your credit score drops due to missed payments and charge-offs.
  • Get a balance transfer card. If the debt you’re struggling with is credit card related, apply for a balance transfer card. If you can get approved for a card with a 0% APR offer, you may reduce how much you have to pay each month and make it easier to pay down your debts.

TD Cash Credit Card

Card Details
Intro Apr:
0% Introductory APR for 6 months on purchases

Ongoing Apr:
12.99%, 17.99% or 22.99% (Variable)

Balance Transfer:
0% Introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers

Annual Fee:

Credit Needed:
Excellent-Good

Snapshot of Card Features
  • Earn $150 Cash Back when you spend $500 within 90 days after account opening
  • Earn 3% Cash Back on dining
  • Earn 2% Cash Back at grocery stores
  • Earn 1% Cash Back on all other eligible purchases
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Visa Zero Liability
  • Instant credit card replacement
  • Digital Wallet
  • Contactless Payments

Card Details +

  • Reach out to the creditor for help. Most creditors have programs designed to help account holders who are experiencing emergency financial situations. As soon as you know you can’t pay your bills, call the customer service line for your account and ask if there are programs you can apply for to modify your loans or seek other assistance. Just make sure the new agreement you make is possible with your budget.

Take Charge of Your Debt

The worst thing you can do is ignore debt you owe. It won’t go away, and things get progressively worse for your credit history and score when you let them fester. So, check out your free Credit Report Card today to see where your credit is falling short and start looking for ways you can realistically handle debts that you owe to improve your credit in the future.


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Best Debt Consolidation Loans of 2021

Life can feel overwhelming when you’re saddled with loads of debt from different creditors. Maybe you carry multiple credit card balances on top of having a high-interest personal loan.

Or maybe you have a loan with an adjustable-rate and your payments are starting to rise each month, making your budget more and more uncomfortable.

In these situations, it may be wise to look at a debt consolidation loan. For some people, it’s a smart choice that gets your debts organized while potentially lowering your monthly payments. Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.

Best Debt Consolidation Loan Lenders of 2021

We’ve compiled a list of the best debt consolidation loans online, along with their basic eligibility requirements. Research each one carefully to see which one can help you with your debt consolidation.

Different lenders are ideal for different borrowers. Review these options and take a look at which ones best suit your needs as well as your credit profile. Once you have your own shortlist, you can get prequalified to compare loan options and find the best offer.

DebtConsolidation.com

Since 2012, DebtConsolidation.com has worked with borrowers to find the best debt consolidation service for their unique situation. If you are not really sure where to get started with your debt repayment process, then this is a good place to start.

The company offers many resources, tools, and relief programs on how to get out of debt quickly. Wherever you are at on your debt repayment journey, they may be able to help.

After you provide some information about your debts, the website will present the best way forward. You may be matched to debt consolidation loans, debt settlement companies, or credit counseling depending on your individual situation.

You can easily compare several different options through this service which is a great way to start your debt repayment journey off right!

It is completely free to use their services. However, when you are matched to a partner, the partner may charge fees for their services. Always make sure to understand the exact terms of your debt consolidation loan before moving forward with any company.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs

If you’re looking for an online-only lender, then Marcus by Goldman Sachs may be the right choice for you. Marcus offers personal loans that can be used for debt consolidation.

If you have a credit score of 660 or higher, you may qualify for a personal loan between $3,500 and $40,000. The APR range is between 6.99% and 28.99%.

One of the best things about taking out a loan through Marcus is how transparent the bank is. There are no hidden fees and that includes late fees, which is pretty rare among other lenders.

Plus, the bank gives you the option to choose your own payment due date. After making 12 months of consecutive payments, you can defer one monthly payment if you want.

The only real downside is that you’ll need good to excellent credit to qualify. And Marcus won’t let you apply with a co-signer.

Read our full review of Marcus

Avant

Avant is designed for borrowers with average credit or better and offers a number of perks for debt consolidation.

You can get help with your debt management by getting free access to resources, plus you receive regular updates on your VantageScore to track your credit repair process.

In fact, the average borrower using the funds for debt consolidation sees a 12-point increase within the first six months. So who can get a loan through Avant?

Most borrowers have a credit score between 600 and 700. While you don’t need to meet a minimum income threshold, most customers earn between $40,000 and $100,000 each year.

One of the great things about borrowing with them is that once you are approved and agree to your loan terms, you can get funding in as little as a day. This is a great benefit if you have a number of due dates coming up and want to get started paying off your current creditors as soon as possible.

Their loan terms range anywhere between two and five years, so you can choose to either pay off your debt aggressively or take the slow and steady route.

Read our full review of Avant

Payoff

If you have fair to good credit, you may be eligible for a debt consolidation loan from Payoff. The company offers debt consolidation loans with competitive rates and flexible repayment terms. Payoff focuses on helping borrowers pay down their high-interest credit card debt.

Payoff does this by providing debt consolidation loans between $5,000 and $35,000. The APR range is between 5.99% and 24.99%, depending on your credit score. The repayment terms will be between two and five years.

One of the advantages of taking out a debt consolidation loan through Payoff is the additional support they provide. Payoff doesn’t just want to help you repay your debt; they want to help you build a solid financial future.

The lender will provide financial recommendations, tools, and resources to help you stay on track. This will help you meet your short-term goals and build positive long-term financial habits.

Read our full review of PayOff

Upstart

Upstart’s target borrower is a younger person with less established credit. So maybe you don’t have a problem with bad credit, but you have a problem with no credit. When you apply for an Upstart loan, more emphasis is placed on your academic history than your credit history.

They’ll review your college, your major, your job, and even your grades to help make you a loan offer. The minimum credit score is 620. Most borrowers are between 22 and 35 years old, but there are no technical age restrictions.

However, one requirement is that you must be a college graduate, which obviously limits the applicant pool. And while loan amounts range up to $25,000, you only have one term option: three years.

They don’t offer the most flexibility, but it does have competitive rates and a unique approval model that may help some borrowers who want a loan.

Read our full review of Upstart

PersonalLoans.com

PersonalLoans.com directly helps individuals with low credit scores so this is a great place to come if you’re still in the credit repair process.

However, there are a few restrictions: you cannot have had a late payment of more than 60 days on your credit report, a recent bankruptcy, or a recent charge-off. But if you meet these basic guidelines, PersonalLoans.com may be a good option for you.

PersonalLoans.com is unique in that it’s a loan broker, not an actual lender. Through the application, you’ll get offers from traditional installment lenders, bank lenders, and even peer-to-peer lenders.

Your actual loan agreement that you choose is signed between you and the lender, not PersonalLoans.com. This provides a convenient way to compare rates and terms through just a single application process.

Read our full review of PersonalLoans.com

LendingClub

LendingClub is a peer-to-peer lender. That means rather than having your loan funded directly by the lender, your loan application is posted for individual investors to fund.

Additionally, your interest rate and terms are determined by your credit profile. The minimum credit score is just a 600, but the average borrowers is higher.

LendingClub boasts competitive rates; in fact, its website claims that the average debt consolidation borrower lowers their interest rate by 30%. You can use the website’s personal loan calculator to determine how much you could actually save by consolidating your debt.

There’s also a large-cap on loans, all the way up to $40,000. That’s on the higher end for many online lenders, especially those open to individuals with lower credit.

Read our full review of LendingClub

Upgrade

Upgrade appeals to all different types of borrowers. When assessing a new borrower, the lender considers various factors, including their credit score, free cash flow, and debt-to-income ratio.

The company offers personal loans that can be used for many different purposes, including debt consolidation. Upgrade will even make payments directly to your lender for added convenience.

If you have a minimum credit score of 600, you may qualify for a personal loan between $1,000 and $50,000. When you apply, the lender will do a soft pull on your credit so it won’t affect your credit score.

Upgrade is one of the best options for borrowers with poor credit and borrowers with a high debt-to-income ratio. And the lender offers a hardship program, so if you fall on difficult times financially, you may receive a temporary deduction on your monthly payments.

Read our full review of Upgrade

Discover

Discover offers personal loans for borrowers with good to excellent credit. You can use a personal loan from Discover to consolidate your existing high-interest credit card debt.

If you qualify, you’ll receive a personal loan between $2,500 and $35,000. The APR range is 6.99% to 24.99%. And the bank never charges any origination fees.

You must have a minimum credit score of 660 to qualify, so Discover isn’t a good option for borrowers with bad credit. And unfortunately, Discover doesn’t give borrowers the option to apply with a co-signer.

Read our full review of Discover

OneMain

With an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, OneMain is a lender committed to customer satisfaction. While they offer debt consolidation loans up to $25,000, you can also get a loan for as little as $1,500.

This is one of the lowest loan minimums we’ve seen, which is perfect if you have just a small amount of debt you’d like to consolidate because of exorbitant or adjustable interest rates.

In addition to applying online, you can also elect to meet with a financial adviser at a OneMain branch location.

In fact, part of the application process entails meeting with someone either at a branch or remote location to ensure you understand all of your loan options. This is a great step that most online lenders lack, allowing you to really take the time to weigh your options and decide which is best for you.

Read our full review of OneMain

Best Debt Settlement Companies of 2021

Taking out a debt consolidation loan is just one option when you want to lower your monthly payments. Another way to go is enrolling in a debt settlement program. Rather than paying off your lender in full, a debt settlement company can help negotiate an amount to repay so that the debt is considered settled.

In the meantime, you agree to freeze your credit cards and deposit cash each month into an account that will eventually be used to pay off the settlement.

However, the downside is that to make this strategy work, you must stop making payments on your owed amounts, which will cause them to go into default. That means your credit score will take a nosedive. But, the goal is to pay less than what you owe.

If you have enough debt that it seems impossible for you to ever repay, debt settlement might be a better option than filing for bankruptcy. Below are Crediful’s top two picks for debt settlement companies. You can find the full list here.

Accredited Debt Relief

Accredited regularly works with major banks and lenders to help clients negotiate settlements. These include Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, Capital One, Discover, and other financial institutions of all sizes, both large and small.

They’ll even work with retailers if you have store cards with major balances. While results vary from person to person, they offer examples of clients saving anywhere between 50% and 80% on their amounts owed.

Read our full review of Accredited Debt Relief

National Debt Relief

National Debt Relief has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and prides itself on trying to help those who truly have financial hardships in their lives.

One benefit of working with this company is that your funds are held in an FDIC-insured account that is opened in your name.

That means you have full control over the account and don’t run the risk of being scammed out of your money — you can rest assured that National is a reputable company.

Plus, the team is fully versed in consumer and financial law so you can trust that your interests are being served to the fullest legal extent possible.

Read our full review of National Debt Relief

What is debt consolidation?

Debt consolidation allows you to pull all of your smaller existing debts into one new debt that you pay each month. When you take out a debt consolidation loan, you receive funds to pay off all of your existing debt, like your credit card balances and high-interest loans.

You then make a single monthly payment to your lender, rather than making multiple payments each month. Keep in mind that this is different from debt settlement in that you’re not negotiating a new amount owed. Instead, you keep the same amount of debt but pay it off in a different way.

Depending on your personal situation, debt consolidation comes with both pros and cons. It’s important to weigh both sides carefully before deciding if a debt consolidation loan is right for you.

Let’s delve into the details so that you can get closer to making a decision.

credit cards

Advantages of Debt Consolidation

There are a number of advantages associated with debt consolidation loans.

Lower Your Monthly Payments

The biggest benefit is the ability to lower your combined monthly payments. Because interest rates on credit cards are so high, it’s possible that you can find a lower interest rate on a debt consolidation loan instead, which means lower payments.

However, your actual interest rate depends on several factors, especially your credit score. It’s important to compare interest rates and the total cost of the debt consolidation loan to your current payments to make sure you don’t end up paying more over time. The goal is to save you money.

Improve Your Credit Score

Another advantage of debt consolidation is that it can actually help increase your credit score. While your amount of debt stays the same, installment loans are viewed more favorably than credit card debt.

So if the majority of your debt comes from maxed-out credit cards, you could potentially see a rise in your credit score because your credit utilization on each individual card has gone down.

A debt consolidation loan streamlines your monthly payments. Rather than being inundated with multiple due dates each month, you simply have one to remember. This also contributes to building a healthy credit score because it lowers your chance of having a late payment.

Disadvantages of Debt Consolidation

In some cases, debt consolidation loans might not be a great idea. We talked about the total cost of the loan, which needs to be reviewed holistically, not just as a monthly payment. This is true for several reasons.

Origination Fees

First, most lenders charge some sort of fee when you take out a new loan. The most common is an origination fee, typically charged as a percentage of the total loan amount.

So if you need a $10,000 loan and there is a 4% origination fee, you’ll only actually receive $9,600. Next, compare interest rates and loan terms.

Even if the monthly payments look good on paper, you may be paying a lot more over an extended payment period. You can use the APR to compare interest rates and fees, but you also need to consider how much you’ll spend on interest over the entire loan term.

Changing Your Spending Habits

Finally, it doesn’t necessarily fix the root problem of your debt.

This isn’t something you need to worry about if your debt results from a one-time incident, such as an expensive medical procedure or temporary job loss. But if you habitually spend more than you earn and are still incurring new debt, then debt consolidation loans will not help you in the long run.

If this sounds like you, try to figure out how you can curb your spending to stop accruing more debt. You can even talk to a debt counselor to help create a sound management plan for your finances.

See also: Debt Consolidation Loans for Bad Credit

Source: crediful.com

What is a Payday Loan?

  • Personal Loans

A payday loan is a short-term loan with a high annual percentage rate. Also known as cash advance and check advance loans, payday loans are designed to cover you until payday and there are very few issues if you repay the loan in full before the payment date. Fail to do so, however, and you could be hit with severe penalties.

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Lenders may ask the borrower to write a postdated check for the date of their next paycheck, only to hit them with rollover fees if that check bounces or they request an extension. It’s this rollover that causes so many issues for borrowers and it’s the reason there have been some huge changes in this industry over the last decade or so. 

How Do Payday Loans Work?

Payday lending seems like a simple, easy, and problem free process, but that’s what the payday lender relies on. 

The idea is quite simple. Imagine, for instance, that your car suddenly breaks down, payday is 10 days away, and you don’t have a single cent to your name. The mechanic quotes you $300 for the fix, and because you’re already drowning in debt and have already sold everything valuable, your only option is payday lending.

The payday lender offers you the $300 for a small fee. They remind you that if you repay this small short-term cash sum on payday, you won’t incur many fees or any real issues. But a lot can happen in 10 days. 

More bills can land in your mailbox, more expenses can arrive out of nowhere, and before you know it, all of your paycheck has been allocated for other expenses. The payday lender offers to rollover your loan for another month (another “payday”) and because you don’t have much choice, you agree.

But in doing so, you’ve just been hit with more high fees, more compounding interest, and a sum that just seems to keep on growing. By the time your next payday arrives, you’re only able to afford a small repayment, and from that moment on you’re locked into a debt that doesn’t seem to go anywhere.

Predatory Practices

Payday loans have been criticized for being predatory and it’s easy to see why. Banks and credit unions profit more from high-income individuals as they borrow and invest more money. A single high-income consumer can be worth more than a dozen consumers straddling the poverty line.

Payday lenders, however, target their services at low-income individuals. They offer small-dollar loans and seem to profit the most when payment dates are missed and interest rates compound, something that is infinitely more probable with low-income consumers.

Low-income consumers are also more likely to need a small cash boost every now and then and less likely to have the collateral needed for a low-interest title loan. According to official statistics, during the heyday of payday loans, most lenders were divorced renters struggling to make ends meet.

Nearly a tenth of consumers earning less than $15.000 have used payday loans, compared to fewer than 1% for those earning more than $100,000. Close to 70% of all payday loans are used for recurring expenses, such as utility bills and other debts, while 16% are used for emergency purchases.

Pros and Cons of Taking Out a Payday Loan

Regardless of what the lender or the commercial tells you, all forms of credit carry risk, and payday loans are no exception. In fact, it is one of the riskiest forms of credit available, dragging you into a cycle of debt that you may struggle to escape from. Issues aside, however, there are some benefits to these loans, and we need to look at the cons as well as the pros.

Pros: You Don’t Need Good Credit

Payday loans don’t require impeccable credit scores and many lenders won’t even check an applicant’s credit report. They can afford to do this because they charge high interest and fees, and this allows them to offset many of the costs associated with the increased liability and risk.

If you’re struggling to cover your bills and have just been hit with an unexpected expense, this can be a godsend—it’s a last resort option that could buy you some time until payday.

Pros: It’s Quick

Payday loans give you money when you need it, something that many other loans and credit offers simply can’t provide. If you need money right now, a payday lender can help; whereas another lender may require a few days to transfer that money or provide you with a suitable line of credit.

Some lenders provide 24/7 access to money, with online applications offering instant decisions and promising a money transfer within 24 hours.

Pro: They Require Very Little

A payday loan lender has a very short list of criteria for its applicants to meet. A traditional lender may request your Social Security Number, proof of ID, and a credit check, but the average payday lender will ask for none of these things.

Generally, you will be asked to prove that you are in employment, have a bank account, and are at least 18 years old—that’s it. You may also be required to submit proof that you are a US citizen.

Cons: High Risk of Defaulting

A study by the Center for Responsible Lending found that nearly half of all payday loans go into default within just 2 years. That’s a staggering statistic when you consider that the average default rate for personal loans and credit cards is between 1% and 4%.

It proves the point that many payday lender critics have been making for years: Payday loans are predatory and high-risk. The average credit or loan account is only provided after the applicant has undergone a strict underwriting process. The lender takes its time to check that the applicant is suitable, looking at their credit history, credit score, and more, and only giving them the credit/loan when they are confident it will be repaid.

This may seem like an unnecessary and frustrating process, but as the above statistics prove, it’s not just for the benefit of the lender as it also protects the consumer from a disastrous default.

Con: High Fees

High interest rates aren’t the only reason payday lenders are considered predatory. Like all lenders, they charge fees for late payments. But unlike other lenders, these fees are astronomical and if you’re late by several weeks or months, those fees can be worth more than the initial balance.

A few years ago, a survey on payday lending discovered that the average borrower had accumulated $458 worth of fees, even though the median loan was nearly half that amount.

Cons: There are Better Options

If you have a respectable credit history or any kind of collateral, there are better options available. A bank or credit union can provide you with small short-term loans you can repay over many months without accumulating astronomical sums of interest. 

The interest rates are much lower, the fees are more manageable, and unless your credit score is really poor, you should be offered more favorable terms than what you can get from a payday lender.

Even a credit card can offer you better terms. Generally speaking, a credit card has some of the highest interest rates of any unsecured debt, but it can’t compare to a payday loan. It also has very little impact on your credit score and many credit card providers offer 0% on purchases for the first-few months.

What’s more, if things go wrong with a credit card, you have more options than you have with a payday loan, including a balance transfer credit card or a debt settlement program.

Why Do Payday Loans Charge So Much Interest?

If we were to take a cynical view, we could say that payday loans charge a lot simply because the lender can get away with charging a lot. After all, a payday loan lender targets the lowest-income individuals, the ones who need money the most and find themselves in desperate situations.

However, this doesn’t paint a complete picture. In actual fact, it all comes down to risk and reward. A lender increases its interest rate when an applicant is at a greater risk of default. 

The reason you can get low rates when you have a great credit score and high rates when you don’t, is because the former group is more likely to pay on time and in full, whereas the latter group is more likely to default.

Lending is all about balancing the probabilities, and because a short-term loan is at serious risk of defaulting, the costs are very high.

Payday Loans and Your Credit Score

Your credit will only be affected if the lender reports to the credit bureaus. This is something that many consumers overlook, incorrectly assuming that every payment will result in a positive report and every missed payment in a negative one. 

If the lender doesn’t report to the main credit bureaus, there will be no changes to your report and the account will not even show. This is how many payday lenders operate. They rarely run credit checks, so your report won’t be hit with an inquiry, and they tend not to report on-time payments.

However, it’s a different story if you miss those payments. A lender can report missed payments and defaults and may also sell your account to a debt collector, at which point your credit score will take a hit. 

If you’re concerned about how an application will impact your credit score, speak with the lender or read the terms and conditions before applying. And remember to always meet your payments on time to avoid any negative marks on your credit report and, more importantly, to ensure you’re not hit with additional fees.

Payday Loans vs Personal Loans

A personal loan is generally a much better option than a payday loan. These loans are designed to help you cover emergency expenses, pay for home improvements, launch businesses, and, in the case of debt consolidation loans, to clear your debt. 

The interest rates are around 6% to 10% for lenders with respectable credit scores, and while they often charge an origination fee and late fees, they are generally much cheaper options. You can repay the loan at a time that suits you and tailor the payments to fit your monthly expenses, ensuring that they don’t leave you short at the end of the month.

You can get a personal loan from a bank or a credit union; whenever you need the money, just compare, apply, and then wait for it to hit your account. The money paid by these loans is generally much higher than that offered by payday loans and you can stretch it out over a few years if needed.

What is an Unsecured Loan?

Personal and payday loans are both classed as unsecured loans, as the lender doesn’t secure them against money or assets. Secured loans are typically secured against your home (mortgage, home equity loan) or your car (auto loan, title loan). They can also be secured against a cash deposit, as is the case with secured credit cards.

Although this may seem like a negative, considering a lender can repossess your asset if you fail to meet the payment terms, it actually provides many positives. For instance, a secured loan gives the lender more recourse if anything goes wrong, which means the underwriters don’t need to account for a lot of risk. As a result, the lender is more likely to offer you a low interest rate. 

Where cash advance loans and other small loans are concerned, there is generally no option for securing the loan. The lender won’t be interested, and neither should you—what’s the point of securing a $30,000 car against a $1,000 loan!?

New Payday Loan Regulations

Payday lenders are subject to very strict rules and regulations and this industry has undergone some serious changes in recent years. In some states, limits are imposed to prevent high interest rates; in others, payday lenders are banned from operating altogether. 

The golden age of payday lending has passed, there’s no doubt about that. In fact, many lenders left the US markets and took their business to countries like the UK, only for the UK authorities to impose many of the same restrictions after a few years of pandemonium. In the US, the industry thrived during the end of the 2000s and the beginning of the 2010s, but it has since been losing ground and the practice is illegal or highly restricted in many states.

Are Payday Loans Still Legal?

Payday loans are legal in 27 states, but many states have imposed strict rules and regulations governing everything from loan amounts to fees. The states where payday lenders are not allowed to operate are:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia

It is still possible to apply for personal loans and title loans in these states, but high-interest, cash advance loans are out of the question, for the time being at least.

Debt Rollover Rules for Payday Lenders

One of the things that regulations cover is something known as Debt Rollover, whereby a consumer rolls their debt over into the next billing period, accruing fees and continuing to pay interest. The more rollovers there are, the greater the risk and the higher the detriment to the borrower.

Debt rollovers are at fault for many of the issues concerning payday loans. They create a cycle of persistent debt, as the borrower is forced to acquire additional debt to repay the payday loan debt. 

In the following states, payday loans are legal but restricted to between 0 and 1 rollovers:

  • Alabama
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington D.C.
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Other states tend to limit debt rollovers to 2, but there are some notable exceptions. In South Dakota and Delaware, as many as 4 are allowed, while the state of Missouri allows for 6. However, the borrower must reduce the principal of the loan by at least 5% during each successive rollover.

Are These Changes for the Best?

If you’re a payday lender, the aforementioned rules and regulations are definitely not a good thing. Payday lenders rely on persistent debt. They make money from the poorest percentage of the population as they are the ones most likely to get trapped in that cycle.

For responsible borrowers, however, they turn something potentially disastrous into something that could serve a purpose. Payday loans still carry a huge risk, especially if there is any chance that you won’t repay the loan in time, but the limits imposed on interest rates and rollovers reduces the astronomical costs.

In that sense, they are definitely for the best, but there are still risks and potential pitfalls, so be sure to keep these in mind before you apply for any short-term loans.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

When to Cancel a Credit Card? 10 Dos and Don’ts to Follow

If you’ve been thinking about canceling a credit card, it’s critical to understand how it will affect your entire financial life. Laura covers 10 dos and don’ts for when to cancel a credit card that will help you minimize credit damage and improve your finances.

By

Laura Adams, MBA
June 17, 2020

12 Credit Myths and Truths You Should Know

The Connection Between Credit Cards and Your Credit

The only way to build credit is to have active credit accounts in your name and to use them responsibly over time. That’s where credit cards come into play.

One of the biggest factors in how credit scores are calculated is called your credit utilization ratio. It only applies to revolving accounts, such as credit cards and lines of credit, which don’t have a fixed term. Credit utilization isn’t measured for installment loans, such as mortgages and car loans, because they do have a set ending or maturity date.Credit utilization is a simple formula that equals your total account balance divided by your total credit limit. For example, if you have a credit card with a balance of $1,000 and a credit limit of $2,000, your utilization ratio is 50% ($1,000 / $2,000 = 0.50).

Keeping a low utilization, such as below 20%, is optimal for good credit.

Keeping a low utilization, such as below 20%, is optimal for good credit. So, by paying down your balance on the card to $400, you could reduce your utilization ratio to 20% ($400 / $2,000 = 0.20) and boost your credit scores.

A low utilization ratio says that you’re using credit responsibly. A high ratio indicates that you may be maxed out and even getting close to missing a payment.

Many people mistakenly believe that getting rid of their credit cards will automatically improve their credit. The surprising truth is that canceling credit cards usually hurts it because your available credit on the card plunges to zero, which instantly increases your utilization and causes your credit scores to drop right away.

However, whether closing a card is right for you really depends on your current and future financial situation. Use the following do and don’ts to know when ditching a card is best and how to do it with minimal damage to your credit.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Get a Loan With Bad Credit

10 dos and don’ts for when to cancel a credit card

1. Do cancel credit cards that are a net loss

If you’re like Maria and have great credit with an unused card that’s costing you money, you may want to consider canceling it. Many rewards cards come with an annual fee, especially when they offer cashback, airline miles, or points for merchandise. In some cases, using the rewards easily offsets the annual fee.

If you won’t use the card or can’t afford the annual fee, common sense should be the deciding factor, not your credit score.

However, if you won’t use the card or can’t afford the annual fee, common sense should be the deciding factor, not your credit score. However, one option is to replace a card that charges an annual fee with another card that doesn’t, ideally before you cancel the first one. That allows you to swap out one credit limit for another one and avoid any damage to your credit.  

2. Do cancel credit cards that tempt you to overspend

I also don’t recommend keeping a credit card if it tempts you to overspend. Taking a temporary hit to your credit might be worth it to prevent bigger problems in your financial life.

3. Do cancel credit cards to simplify your financial life

If you’ve missed payments or can’t keep up with transactions because you have too many cards, it might be worth it to strategically cancel one or more credit cards. Keep reading for tips to minimize the potential damage to your credit.

4. Do cancel credit cards with low credit limits first

If you cancel a credit card, choosing one with a higher credit limit poses more of a threat than getting rid of one with a smaller limit. The lower your credit limit on a card, the less closing it could negatively affect your credit.

As I previously mentioned, for optimal credit, it’s best to never carry a balance that exceeds 20% of your available credit limit. If you’re not sure what your credit limits are, you can review them by getting a free copy of your credit report at annualcreditreport.com.

5. Do cancel credit cards you recently opened by mistake

A common credit dilemma is what to do after opening a new credit card that you felt pressured into at a retail store. Sales clerks make getting a huge discount with a new card signup sound too good to pass up. In some cases, you may not even realize that what you’re signing up for is a credit card.

If you’re loyal to a store and make frequent purchases there, having its branded credit card can give you nice savings and promotional benefits that make it worthwhile. While you can’t erase the card from your credit history, if you decide that you’d rather not have the account, closing it sooner rather than later is better for your credit.

Free Resource: Credit Score Survival Kit – a video tutorial, e-book, and audiobook to help build credit fast!

6. Don’t cancel your only credit card

In addition to maintaining low credit utilization, the health of your credit depends on having a mix of credit accounts. That shows you can handle different types of credit, such as installment loans and revolving accounts. But if you cancel your only credit card, that would leave you deficient in the revolving credit category.

It’s better to spread out your balances on multiple cards and maintain low utilization on each of them, rather than have one card that you charge to the limit.

Therefore, I don’t recommend canceling a credit card if it’s your only one. Having at least one card in the mix rounds out your credit file. Ideally, you would have a total of two or three cards that come from different issuers, such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover.

If you have more than one line of credit or credit card, most credit scoring models calculate your utilization ratio for each account and collectively on all your accounts. So, it’s better to spread out your balances on multiple cards and maintain low utilization on each of them, rather than have one card that you charge to the limit.  

Depending on the types of charges you make, you may need a low-rate card for times when you must carry a balance and a higher-rate rewards card for charges that you always pay off each month. No annual fee cards are best, but as I previously mentioned, rewards cards that come with a fee may be worth it.

 

7. Don’t cancel credit cards you’ve had for a long time

As if credit utilization and having a mix of credit accounts weren’t enough, a canceled credit card hurts your credit in other ways. Another factor that’s used in calculating credit scores is how long you’ve had credit accounts.

Having a long, rich credit history boosts your scores and makes you appear less risky to potential lenders and merchants. Canceling a long-standing credit card causes your average age of credit history to decrease, which hurts your credit. So, value credit cards that you’ve had for a long time more than those you’ve recently opened.

8. Don’t cancel multiple cards at the same time

If you have more than one credit card that you want to cancel, don’t shut them all down at the exact same time. It’s better to space out cancellations over time, such as one every six months, to minimize the damage to your credit health.

9. Don’t cancel credit cards if you’re planning to make a big purchase

If you’re planning to finance a big purchase, such as a home or vehicle, in the next three to six months, it’s not wise to cancel any credit cards. If your utilization rate increases and your credit scores suddenly take a dive during the application process, you may ruin your chances of getting a low-interest loan.

If you’re planning to finance a big purchase, such as a home or vehicle, in the next three to six months, it’s not wise to cancel any credit cards.

Maria didn’t mention if she’s looking to use her great credit to borrow money any time soon. But it’s an important issue that I recommend she consider.

10. Don’t cancel credit cards because you’ve made late payments

Never cancel a credit card with negative information, such as late payments or being in collections, thinking that it will disappear from your credit file. All credit accounts stay on your credit report for seven years from the date you became delinquent, even after you or a card issuer closes it. Accounts with only positive information remain in your credit file longer, for up to 10 years

What should you do with unused credit cards?

If you or Maria go through these dos and don’ts and decide that it’s better not to cancel a credit card, use it occasionally to make small purchases that you pay off in full. That keeps it active and allows you to continue adding positive information to your credit history.

However, I don’t recommend keeping a credit card that you’re not using responsibly or that tempts you to overspend. Taking a temporary hit to your credit might be worth it to prevent bigger problems in your financial life.