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Credit Score Hit by Holiday Shopping? How to Rebuild with Credit Cards

The bill for the holiday fun comes due in January when the credit card statements arrive. You may even have used a quick cash advance to get all your gifts purchased during November and December. Prepare now to tackle those bills AND improve your credit score throughout the new year.

Step 1: A Few Clicks Gets Your Credit Report in Your Inbox

The first of the year inspires all kinds of resolutions. If you want this new year to be when you get your financial house in order, it’s time now to tackle that daunting document: your credit report.

You’re entitled to a free credit report every 12 months. is the only free site authorized by the U.S. government’s Federal Trade Commission. Don’t be intimidated. Just fill out a few fields, check some boxes and it comes right to you.

Step #2: Take a Look at Your Credit Utilization

Statement in front of you? Good. We’ll take it step by step.

The first element of your credit card examine is your credit utilization–basically, how much credit you have used compared to the total that banks are willing to lend you. Those using 50% of their available credit on any one account or 50% of credit offered across ALL accounts have lower scores than card holders using less than that halfway point. If you’ve spent $10,000 of a $15,000 limit, you’re using 67% of your available credit. Your annoying brother-in-law using only $5,000  of a $15,000 limit has a 33% credit utilization rate.

Credit utilization accounts for a whopping 30% of your score. It’s also rather simple to improve. How? Apply for new credit cards and ask for the highest limits. Then, assuming you start with the $15,000 credit limit we discussed above, an additional $10,000 in new credit available to you gets you to a new limit of $25,000.  $10,000 out of an available $25,000 credit line creates a 40% credit utilization, far lower than 67%. Keep working on it and you’ll be below 30% in no time.

Credit card limits are tricky. Even if a credit card issuer approves you for $10,000 or $20,000, it doesn’t mean they think you have the income to spend all of that. Approved for $20,000? Best to keep your debt to $10,000 and under.

Your new January approach will be to work your credit card balances down below 50% of your limits or the amount your bank permits you to borrow. Whether that’s through paying down balances or opening new credit lines depends on your financial situation.

Step 3: Look at Late and Missed Payments

Where credit utilization accounts for 30% of your credit score, late payments impact it even more. Even one payment that’s late 30 days starts shaving points, but 60 and 90 day late payments wreck real havoc. At 120 days, most card issuers hand the account over to a collections agency. Now you’re talking about having your credit score drop into the 500s.

If you see that you have late payments, don’t despair. These three options may get them removed:

  • Ask the creditor for a “goodwill adjustment,” based on the responsible payments you have made.
  • Tell the creditor you will sign up for automatic payments debited from your bank account if they remove the late payment.
  • Claim the late payment is inaccurate. This works only if you have documentation, however.
  • Employ a professional to negotiate with the creditor.

After you’ve addressed your credit utilization and payment history data, you can go forward knowing exactly how to put your best foot forward in rebuilding your credit.

Step 4: Rebuild with Secured Credit Cards

With a firm understanding of how credit scores are calculated and how your behavior contributes to them, you can be confident about finding credit cards that will stabilize your finances.   

Keep that positive in mind when you find out that you most like will need to start out by using “secured” credit cards that have fees, low limits and may even require a deposit. Banks and the U.S. government want you spending, so the secured credit card is the way they make it happen.

These credit cards work just like a regular credit card, except you deposit often the same amount of cash collateral that they permit you to spend. What’s the benefit, then? These secured credit cards report to the three credit bureaus ( Experian, TransUnion and Equifax ) that you’ve shown responsible use of your secured credit card. Every on-time payment gets documented.

Eventually, the secured credit card company should approach you about using an unsecured credit card, where you don’t have to put up the cash. If they don’t after six to nine months, by all means apply for a different unsecured credit card or approach your current company for the same opportunity. The credit card company will consider how you’ve managed –not only your secured card– but all of your credit cards and loans.

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Once you get the unsecured card, your collateral from the secured card comes back to you, given you’ve paid all charges.  

Come Back from Your Holiday Spend the Smart Way

Holidays are not ALL about the gifts, but they sure make these few days out of the year more fun. And the fun is not just in receiving, but giving. In fact, studies have shown that those who spend money on others feel happier  and have more of a sense of purpose than those who don’t. Gift exchange has promoted connection and well-being since prehistoric times. If your generosity is crushing your credit score, rest assured you can work your way out slowly but surely.

When the Personal Loan Works Better than the Credit Card

Most of us have emergency or other expenses that require quick funds. While many resort to credit cards for these expenses, a better option may exist: the personal loan.

The personal loan is a contract created between a bank, credit union or other lending entity and an individual. It states an amount to be lent to the individual and terms like interest rate and duration of the loan. Because establishing a personal loan requires discussion with a bank or credit union representative, however, many feel intimidated to embark on this kind of funding. This said, the personal loan may be the more financially savvy option in several situations.

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First we want to cover the biggest advantages of using personal loans over credit cards. These include:

1. the personal loan can be “unsecured,” requiring neither collateral (like a credit card) nor a credit card inquiry that can lower credit scores; this said, some personal loans DO require collateral and perform a credit inquiry. Get these items straightened out with a loan agent BEFORE signing the contract;
2. personal loan interest rates are typically lower than credit card rates and negotiation with the loan officer for even lower rates is possible;
3. unlike rates for credit cards, the interest rate stays fixed for the entire repayment period;
4. monthly payments stay even. Credit card payments change as charges accrue.

With the advantages clear, you can determine whether the money you need should be gained through a credit card or personal loan. The following includes the situations that we think make the most sense for a personal loan.

1. Unexpected Income Shortfall
People make errors. Sometimes these fallible people have jobs in payroll and forget to cut checks. The good news is that banks and credit unions issue small personal loans relatively easily, requiring a few pay stubs and the last few months of bank statements. While going to the bank to discuss the situation can be uncomfortable, people in this situation get money within 24 hours when they use convenient online personal loan solutions. Online banking solutions often have lower interest rates and better terms because these alternative lending institutions do not need to satisfy shareholders or spend exorbitant amounts on marketing. As Bill Gates said in the nineties, bricks and mortar banks “dinosaurs.”

People looking to finance an adoption, in vitro fertilization, a cross-country move or other big activity without traditional financing (like a car or RV loan) turn to the personal loan to move life forward at reasonable cost.

2. Consolidating Credit Card Debt to Increase Credit Score
Who wants to pay 19% when they can pay 11%? An 8% difference per year can save the borrower with a $10,000 credit card balance $800 each year or $67 monthly. Fill out our convenient personal loan application. First Financial lenders’ lower loan rates and better terms may surprise you! We have all the security of the big, bricks and mortar banks, namely 128-bit “banking level” security. We have to. The Security and Exchange Commission and other federal institutions demand it.

3. Borrower Prefers or Needs a Fixed Rate and Term
Borrowers (or their parents or spouses) often advocate for the personal loan because it involves making the same payments at the same schedule until the loan is paid off. Credit card rates are variable and could rise several percentage points yearly. Those who make a clear decision about one large purchase appreciate the clarity of paying for it consistently over a limited period of time.

First Financial Personal Loans Provide the Savings only Online Functionality Delivers
First Financial’s lending partners can provide low cost personal loans because of their cost-saving, online structure. Apply for an affordable personal loan here, even if your credit rating is “fair,” “poor” or even “bad.” Our comprehensive application was designed by financial professionals who understand that an applicant’s financial history can be complex, particularly in the post-recession era. Fill out the application in minutes and learn how much you qualify for within 48 hours. Follow First Financial on Facebook to get smart budgeting and saving tips, too!

Top 10 things to know when looking for a credit card

Whether you’re in a financial crunch or just lack a second Ferrari, credit  card offers landing in your mailbox might look like an answer to a prayer.

Don’t succumb to temptation, says Cate Williams, vice president of financial  literacy for Money Management International in Chicago.

“The first thing consumers need to do is walk from their mailbox to their  shredder,” says Williams. “A new credit card might give you that sparkling  feeling for about 24 hours, but as a way to clean up your finances, borrowing  money to pay back other money is not a solution.”

Experts’ advice can steer you away from the top 10 credit card mistakes.

1. Getting too many Bypass the shredder and you could make one of the most common  credit card blunders by collecting too many credit cards.

“Ask yourself,” says Williams, “ ‘Do I need another credit card?’ Probably 95  percent of us don’t need another one to keep in the sock drawer or in the little  metal box in the kitchen.”

Howard S. Dvorkin, founder and president of Consolidated Credit Counseling  Services, a nonprofit debt management company in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., agrees.  “The worst mistake is that people don’t know when to stop. Too many credit cards is not a good thing.”

Even if the cards have zero balances, multiple open accounts could cause a  lender to question what could happen if the account holder gives in to  temptation and maxes out on all that plastic.

2. Misunderstanding  introductory rates But, you argue, that new card will help you  manage your money better because you can transfer other balances to a  no-interest account. Welcome to credit card mistake No. 2: being misled by introductory rates.

“People don’t look at what the rate’s going to be once the teaser is over,”  says Daniel Wishnatsky, certified financial planner and owner of Special Kids  Financial in Phoenix. “The assumption is that it’s going to be a reasonable  rate. But with these particular loans, it’s not unusual for it to go up to 18 to  20 percent. They’re surprised six months later when it expires. But if they’d  done their homework, they wouldn’t be.”

3. Not reading the fine  print That homework is reading the offer’s fine print. Not doing so  is credit card blunder No. 3.

That tiny text insert is where you’ll discover when the zero-percent or very  l ow interest rate expires. It’s also how you can find out about any balance transfer fees, as  well as any offer limitations. In most cases, the introductory rate applies only  to balance transfer amounts or new purchases for a certain period of time, says  June A. Schroeder, a CFP with Liberty Financial Group Inc. in Elm Grove, Wis., a  private financial planning and advisory firm.

4.  Choosing a  card for the wrong reasons You might be tempted to ignore the fine  print because the card has other attractions, such as a rebate or rewards program. Don’t,  or you’ll make credit card mistake No. 4: choosing a card for the wrong reasons.

“Credit card granters are not a consumer’s friend. It is a business,” says  Dvorkin. “They don’t know what’s right for you. Their job is to extract as much  money from you as they can. Your job is to not let that happen. People need to  go through and find a card that’s right for them. There’s every sort of card out  there — points, cash back, donations to your college.”

5. Not rate  shopping Look for the best possible interest rate. Not shopping around is credit card mistake No.  5.

It’s especially important to note the rate on unsolicited offers. If you’re  struggling financially, you’re not likely to get the most favorable rates or  terms. You’ll be paying higher interest rates. So comparison shop for a credit card.

6. Making minimum  payments OK. You do need another card. You read the fine print, you  completely understand the terms and you got a competitive rate. But even after  choosing the perfect credit card, people still make mistakes, such as No. 6 on  our list, making minimum-only payments.

“Credit cards are not a form of supplemental income,” says Dvorkin. “They’re  for convenience, and should be paid off at the end of every month. Paying the  minimum is not going to get you anywhere. It’s going to get you in trouble,  that’s where it’s going to get you.”

And it’s going to get you into trouble for a long, long time. “People don’t  realize how difficult it is to pay off loans at a high rate,” says Wishnatsky.  “You’re going to be paying it for your next three lifetimes.”’s calculator  can show how long it will take to pay off a bill if you send only the minimum  each month.

7. Paying your bill  late Making late payments, blunder No. 7, is better than not paying  at all, but not by much. Not only will you face a late-payment charge, which  could be higher than your minimum payment, your tardiness will show up on your  credit report, damage your FICO score and make it harder to get better terms  for future loans and accounts.

Check your account statement for the due date and make sure you send your  check in plenty of time. But the date alone isn’t enough, says Liberty  Financial’s Schroeder. Some companies have cutoff times. If your check arrives  on the 22nd as required, but in the afternoon mail, your payment is counted as  late because your account terms called for payment by 9 a.m. that day.

If you’ve set up an automatic payment via your bank, make sure the time and  date are taken into account, says Schroeder. And find out your bank’s payment  policy when the due date falls on a weekend or holiday.

8. Ignoring your monthly  statement You can avoid late payments by checking your credit card  statement. Not doing so is mistake No. 8. Checking your statement will help you  pay your bill promptly, as well as allow you to make sure that the charges  on it are correct. “In these days of ID theft, you need to  check your bills religiously,” says Schroeder. And you need to do so as soon as  the statement arrives. If you wait too long to dispute a charge, says Schroeder,  “you’re essentially accepting it.”

9. Exceeding your credit  limit Checking your statements also can keep you from exceeding your credit limit,  mistake No. 9. “If you’re near the top of your credit limit, try really hard to  pay in cash for subsequent purchases or get an increased credit line,” says  Schroeder. “If you don’t, you’ll get over-the-limit charges, which are costly and look bad on your  credit report.”

10. Buying things you don’t  need Careful statement examination also could prevent the 10th  credit card blunder, using plastic to purchase things you don’t need.”Go over  your credit card bills every month and you’ll be amazed at the number of items  that, upon reflection, you could have done without,” says Wishnatsky. “It’s  surprising how many purchases we make that we think are needs, but are impulse  buys.”

The Phoenix financial planner tells his clients who are considering a  significant purchase to wait 48 hours, if at all possible. “If you still want  it, wait another 48 hours,” Wishnatsky says. “Then if you have to get it, then  get it.”

Also use your statements to help you create a budget. Wishnatsky realizes  many people cringe at the “B” word, but he says control of your spending and  your credit card usage doesn’t have to be a way to deprive yourself. Instead, it  can be a way to make things happen in financially positive ways.

“Once you get control, even to a degree, it frees you from this constant  money worry,” says Wishnatsky. “You might find there are things that you can  actually end up having if you just have a plan, if you get your financial  desires in tune with your financial resources.”

What do I do if I lost my First Financial credit card?

Follow these instructions to cancel a card and receive a replacement.

Report a lost or stolen card:

  • Call Visa Global Customer Assistance Services toll-free within the United States at 1-800-847-2911.
  • gravelling outside the U.S.? Select the name of the country you are in to find a local toll-free number.
  • Callers in certain countries dialing these numbers from mobile or hotel phones might be charged fees. If your country is not listed or if you experience difficulties using any of the toll-free numbers, call direct 1-303-967-1096. ♦Await second dial tone Please click here for a full listing of Visa Global Customer Assistance Services toll-free numbers.

What are current credit card rates?

Credit Cards

  • 13.81% (all fixed)
  • 14.52% (all variable)

Credit card rates remained unchanged this week, according to Bankrate’s latest survey of interest rates. The average annual percentage rate, or APR, for variable-rate credit cards stayed steady at 14.52 percent for the sixth week in a row. The fixed APR was 13.81 percent, where it has remained since the beginning of March.

AAA, the largest travel organization in the U.S., joined the chip card revolution this week. On Monday, the organization said it is offering its co-branded Bank of America credit cards with EMV chip technology — named for the developers of the technology standard Europay, MasterCard and Visa. It is widely used around the world and better defends against counterfeit fraud. Current cardholders simply need to request a new chip card to get one.

Fraud strikes about 1 percent of credit card transactions ans skimming threatens debit card users

There are two times as many credit card fraud cases involve phone or online transactions than retail sales, according to  new data from FICO. Researchers found that sophisticated counterfeit  rings have raised the stakes for merchants over the most recent 20 month period.

There have been reported an increase in “skimming,” a technique where criminals  tamper with ATMs and payment devices to capture both card details and (PIN) personal  identification numbers. Criminals can use magnetic stripe blanks or other stolen  cards as “clones,” passing details of a stolen account to a payment device  without the victim’s knowing. ATMs, grocery stores, and gas stations  topped the list of places where criminals use stolen or cloned debit cards.

Criminals test stolen credit cards online before shopping in public places

Fraud rings usually test the stolen  cards with smaller online transactions. The online tests as a “relatively safe” way for thieves to learn whether  victims notice extra purchases on their monthly statements.

Researchers at J.D. Power and Associates, where  the results of an annual customer satisfaction survey show that nearly a quarter  of credit card problems involve fraudulent transactions.

Debit card usage grows nationally

FICO’s numbers show American consumers rely on debit cards more than  ever, driving a fifteen percent increase in authorization compared to the  previous period studied. Federal rules leave consumers responsible for only $50 of  fraudulent debit card transactions if reported within 2 days, though Visa  and MasterCard  now require member banks to follow tougher “zero liability” rules. Debit card  fraud can leave consumers on the hook for bounced check charges or  failed bill payment fees while investigators to restore the funds.

The FICO monitored millions of credit card  transactions between January 2010 and September 2011. Researchers use the data  to develop complex algorithms that protect client issuers and their cardholders  from identity theft and fraud. Analysts found fraudulent transactions in only 1  percent of their sample.

Poor credit card use is an out of control problem:

Poor credit card use is an out of control problem with many consumers and the results have been devastating in some cases.  Poor Credit Card Offers In this section we’ve collected the top online deals from the major companies and banks such as Visa, MasterCard, and many others.  There are some definite consequences of poor credit card use.

Business Credit Cards

Business credit cards can offer benefits in the form of convenience, rewards, and cash infusion.  Business Credit Cards Credit cards designed for small business owners.  Business credit cards typically offer higher credit limits, low introductory interest rates and rewards programs designed for business needs.  Business credit cards come with many features that are exclusive to businesses only.  Business credit cards are designed specially to help those customers make any business prosperous and manage the expenses sagely.  business credit cards student credit cards Credit cards for small businesses are for good and excellent credit history only.  Business Credit Cards can help business owner like you to start, run, and grow their companies more effectively by providing them with special business related products and benefits.  Business Credit Card Site is here to provide complete reviews of credit card for business from the largest card company to easily compare and find the best small business credit cards for you.

Student Credit Cards

Student Credit Cards lists some popular bank accounts for young people.  Student Credit Cards Start building your credit history with these cards for college students.  Student credit cards can help build credit history, offer 0% APR or low introductory rates, cash back and rewards programs beneficial to students.  Student Credit Cards Student credit cards are designed specifically for college-aged students.  Student credit cards are specifically designed for you and have special terms, so be sure to read over the application before signing up for one.  Student credit cards have become popular with college students seeking to establish credit while enjoying the convenience of credit cards.  Student credit cards are especially created for college students who are trying to obtain credit for the first time.  student credit cards provide college students with a convenient way to pay expenses and establish a credit history.

Unique Credit Card offers.

At First Financial our credit cards are displayed side by side

Credit Card offers are displayed side by side so you can easily compare key factors such as interest rates, annual fees as well as other key features. See all credit card offers for bad credit Low APR Credit Cards Prepaid & Secured Cards Save money by using a credit card with a low-interest rate. See all rewards credit card offers Find a credit card designed especially for less-than-perfect credit.

Whether you are looking for a good secured card, a card for business use, a money-saving, low-interest card or a flexible student credit card, we’ve surveyed, sampled and summarized many of the best and most popular online credit card offers. Thanks to consumers, our site has become the most comprehensive source for comparing credit card offers.  Compare special Credit Card Offers featuring leading providers with online application.We are constantly watching the credit card market so we can provide you with the best reviews, recommendations and credit card offers available online or anywhere else.Some credit card offers are designed exclusively for first-time cardholders, usually college students, trying to build a good foundation of credit.

Credit Card Center Business & Personal

Credit Card Center Business & Personal

Credit cards with bad credit is ok. The following offers represent the top 10 credit cards for consumers with a bad credit rating.  Credit Cards Offers geared specifically toward you  Prepaid Compare Prepaid Card offers that are accept at millions of locations worldwide.  Credit cards for small business owners and corporate executives.  Credit card rewards include gas, entertainment, & retail.  Credit cards for consumers are great for saving on purchases.  Credit news section informs you of the latest events in the credit market.  Credit card companies want to make spending even easier: They are testing a new.  Credit Card Menu is a resource for consumers looking to apply for a credit card online.  Credit card ratings and online credit card applications help consumers choose the best credit card.

Business Services & Rewards

Reward points can be redeemed for merchandise, gift cards, or air rewards that can be used anytime, anywhere, on any airline.  Rewards Credit Cards Get more with a rewards card.  Rewards Credit Cards Earn points toward rewards of all kinds every time you shop with one of the credit cards from this category.  Reward credit cards have just recently been launched by credit card companies to make consumers enjoy rewards after making purchases or payments using their credit cards.  Rewards come in the form of frequent-flier miles, goods, and sometimes free services for the customer.  Rewards are typically earned by accruing points that can be redeemed for something of value.  Rewards Program: This is a student credit card with cash back rewards.  Rewards, $0 fraud liability, 0% APR for the first 12 months and online account servicing are only a few.  Reward points can also be used for travel or hotel stays.  Rewards Cash Back Travel Trade Terms Spending power built for business-sized needs.

Benefits of business rewards cards.

Businesses and professionals can benefit by earning unlimited cash back, rewards and frequent flyer miles. Business Rewards Credit Cards. Business can get cash-rebates of up to 5% on business related expenses like office supplies and computers. Business Best credit cards to earn rewards on every day business expenses. Business owners can get benefit from Business Credit Cards will help regulate their business expenditures and get rewards: Frequent Flyer bonuses, cash rebates on office equipment and many others. Business credit card merchant has details about this top card application. Business rewards program redeemable for travel, cash, gift certificates, and more; generous credit limit for all your business expenses More Info Intro APR Intro Period Intro Applied To Annual Fee Rewards n/a $0 Yes Capital One® Business Platinum card with Preferred No Hassle Miles(SM) Earn 3 miles per $1 on purchases in a category of your choice 0% on purchases and balance transfers until Jan 2010. Business Credit Card with WorldPoints® Rewards offers lower rates with WorldPoints® Rewards and is a great expense management tool for your business. Business Credit Card with WorldPoints® Rewards Promotional 0% APR (on balance transfers)†Earn 1 point for each dollar your spend on the card*Redeem your points for cash, travel or with popular merchants Combine points from your Business and Personal WorldPoints® Credit Cards Online access to account information. Business Credit Card Business credit card Payday loan on-line cash In advance loan can be an US resident of full age.

Credit Card Offers

Credit card offers & reviews are displayed side by side so you can easily compare key factors such as intro APR, interest rates, annual fees, ratings, credit needed as well as other key features.  With our wide selection of credit card offers and the most competitive rates and rewards, you are sure to find the right card for you.  Instant approval credit card offers are generally the fastest to reach your mailbox.  Choose from hundreds of credit card offers updated daily.  Get instant approval online with select credit card offers.

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