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5 Ways to Celebrate a Debt-Free Holiday

By Brent Vullings |
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It’s Thanksgiving once again and you know what that means: the holidays are here! Cue the music, turn on the twinkle lights and deck the halls of your home with love and warmth. Many begin their holiday shopping on Black Friday to try to get all of the best deals of the year. The season of giving is here and it’s easy to get carried away buying gifts for everyone from your partner to your new next door neighbor. Fast forward to mid-January. Checking your mail you see an envelope containing your credit card bill. Taking a deep breath, you open it just enough to peek at the balance. A sudden nauseating feeling overtakes you when you realize you have maxed out your credit. There are ways to avoid heading down this path: 1. Plan a Holiday Budget Create a detailed list of the special people in your life and set a price limit for each. Christmas in July sounds crazy to many, but planning ahead and shopping throughout the year will help you catch sought after items on sale. Heading into December with your shopping complete will be well worth the effort. You may even be able to budget…

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6 Ways to Make Applying for a Mortgage Easy

By Brent Vullings |
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The most expensive purchase people make is a home. In our lifetimes, most people will only buy one or two. Finding out if you qualify for a mortgage can be a daunting process that many aren’t prepared for. After all, asking a bank for a loan isn’t something people favor doing. There are ways to make applying for a mortgage easier. 1. Pay your debts. This is something you should begin doing before you start applying. A lender will also look at your credit utilization ratio: what you use, versus how much you have to use. A general rule of thumb is that you should never use more than 30% of your credit limit at any point. 2. Don’t be shy. Look at your credit score. You have to do it. Your credit score WILL affect whether or not you get approved. Create an account with a free credit site like Credit Karma to see a breakdown of your credit report. They will show you your score, recommend who to consolidate with, which credit cards are best for you and more. 3. Take steps to improve your score. The best way to do this is to pay off a balance…

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Cash v. Credit

By Brent Vullings |
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You just finished shopping at your favorite store and have a basket full of items that you are excited to take home. At the cash register the clerk asks you the infamous question, “Will this be cash, or credit?” Fumbling your fingers through your wallet, you decide to use your credit card.  Both cash and credit have their share of pros and cons. Earning credit card rewards is great, but if you accumulate too much debt over time you will be penalized with interest charges. Don’t jump to conclusions and assume that carrying cash is the obvious choice. Sometimes just getting your hands on it can be tough due to banking hours.  Cash Pros Cash is excepted just about everywhere and is easy to budget. The simple reason on why it works is that once you are out of cash, you are not able to spend any more. It’s convenient to carry it in certain instances. For instance, if you are plan on traveling, or just keeping some aside for emergency purposes.  Cash Cons It’s risky to carry a lot of cash, because if it’s stolen it can’t be traced. Finding an ATM can be tricky and you are unable to…

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5 Ways to Become a Credit Superhero

By Brent Vullings |
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Many of us apply for our first credit card during college and begin to learn the fundamentals of how to properly utilize it. As years pass by, we learn how to manage multiple loan and credit accounts proficiently. There are some credit card users who strive to become credit superheroes! Below are five ways they are able to do so. Take advantage of rewards. Do not make exceptions. Pay your statement balances in full and on time, every month. As long as this is a habit, you can start seeking the most valuable rewards. Create a portfolio of different cards, each with elevated returns of your most frequent purchases. Always ask if a fee can be waived. Did you know that most card issuers will waive the occasional late and annual fees? Call the company and ask to speak to a representative who works in the member retention department and see if they will waive the fee to keep you from closing your account. Ask to be reconsidered if you are rejected for a new card. Smart cardholders seek the best cards with the most generous rewards. If you have opened several accounts recently, the card issuer may not approve you….

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Give Your Bad Financial Habits the Boot

By Brent Vullings |
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At one point or another we all do it: commit to breaking our bad habits. Every January people resolve to dropping a vice, losing weight, spending less, and so on. We always start out strong and progress inspires us to keep moving along. Three months goes by and the fire that keeps us going starts to dwindle. Unfortunately behavior changes are typically short-lived.  Let’s say you commit to paying down your credit card by the end of the year. You start strong with steady payments for the first few months and soon you start to notice the dent you’re making. Everything is going great, until the day you see marketing for the release of a fancy new gadget you’ve had your sights on. Silently telling yourself you will pay it off next month, you charge it to your credit card. Next month shows it’s weary head and you realize you have forgotten to make a payment and now you’re facing a heavy late fee.  Oops! What to do? First, it’s best to see the overall picture. A behavioral change is a process, not an event. It happens in a series of stages. Change begins with merely thinking about wanting to do so,…

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Earn a Strong Credit Score Early

By Brent Vullings |

It can be a scary thought sending a child off to college with fresh new plastic. Anyone with credit runs the risk of building debt. Credit cards can be a great learning tool for any college student, because it teaches responsibility and how to budget. Even better, it gives a parent an excuse to talk with their child once a month to discuss the bill. In 2009, The Credit Card Act was passed making it difficult for college students who do not have their own source of income to qualify for credit. At first, many students are only authorized on their parent’s card. This is a great way to monitor what the child is doing. Giving them a small credit limit, such as $500, will avoid overspending. Every month when the bill comes in, the parent will see all of the activity and will give them a chance to coach their child going forward to avoid damaging the credit score. For instance, if the college student does overspend, it gives the parent a chance to discuss what happened and how to avoid this mistake in the future, when the dollar amount becomes larger. Paying a credit card in full every month…

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Be Aware of Disputes When Seeking Dream Home

By Brent Vullings |
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A huge road block that gets in the way of purchasing your dream home is a dispute on your credit report. By law, credit bureaus are required to show you a correct report. Credit errors are very common. As a matter of fact, one in five Americans are dealing with some type of error. It could be as small as an incorrect address, or as large as stolen credit. When this happens it is vital that you report the inaccuracy and the credit agency will then mark it as “in dispute”, which temporarily inflates your score. When your credit score has become inflated due to a dispute, you may not be approved for a mortgage loan. The inflation is in essence, artificial and therefor creates an inaccurate representation of your credit. Lenders are able to require you to have the dispute resolved before you can be approved for a mortgage. Is There a Way Around This? An inaccuracy may take months to resolve and can dampen your chances when you are trying to buy or refinance a home. It heightens your interest rate and may delay your ability to close on a loan.  Some disputes can be ignored by lenders,…

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Erase Your Mistakes

By Brent Vullings |
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Credit mistakes happen and when they do, you should find out how long the negative mark will last and what moves you can take to get past the damage on your credit reports. It is important to not go crazy and check your score from multiple credit bureaus. Stick with one of the main three (Equifax, Experian, or TranUnion) and only check your report’s status twice a year. What “mistakes” are we talking about? Missing payments and not paying your bills on time will create a downward spiral. Negative marks will appear on your report if you are at least thirty days past due and may stay there up to seven years. The later the payments, the more damaging it gets. The best way to fix this problem is to pay as soon as possible. If you do not have a history of late fees, you can call the credit card company and ask if they can wave it. There is no harm in trying. As long as you stay on top of your payments, positive information will start to eliminate the late fees. High credit utilization, or using too much of your credit at once, is not a good…

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Get Back to Basics

By Brent Vullings |
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Many are afraid to take the leap to simply find out what their credit score is. Opening the door and learning whether you have a good score, or need to work on it is a very important first move. Let’s start with the basics. What do the number ranges mean? The most common credit score models have a range from 300 to 850. The higher your score is, the better! If your score is 300, that’s bad and if you have 720 and up, that’s excellent. Recent data from April 2017, courtesy of Fair Isaac Corp., showed that the average FICO score was 700. See below chart for the whole breakdown. Even if your credit score is below 500, you may still be approved for credit cards. Your interest rate will just be higher. Consequently, you may also pay more for insurance or have to put a deposit down for utilities. As your score increases, you will have improved credit options and pay less to use them. A person with a credit score 750 or higher are likely to get 0% on interest rates for credit and car financing. Don’t be afraid to find out your score. Who wants to…

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Medical Credit Might Cause Headache

By Brent Vullings |
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With a new healthcare bill in the works, this is as good of a time as ever to discuss medical credit cards. They work the same way as any credit card, except they come in handy when faced with an unexpected health expenses. They are offered at many doctors and veterinarian offices across the country and could be offered to you when you are unable to pay the whole bill at once. The approval rate for these are high and you could even be approved while standing at the doctor’s office. If approved, you may have anywhere from six months to two years to pay back the sum interest-free. What a lot of people do not realize is that these cards use financing called deferred interest. Let’s talk about this for a second. Interest free sounds great, right? Of course it does! However, if you are unable to pay off the bill in full by the end of the discussed timeline, your interest will sky rocket. This goes into effect immediately, even if you only owe a little more money. This all sounds like basic credit card lingo, but many people skip reading the bottom line, especially when they are…

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