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How Does Debt Consolidation Work and Other Facts About Consolidation

How Does Debt Consolidation Work and Other Facts About Debt Consolidation

When it comes to trying to pay of your debt it can be hard when you have multiple accounts open. Read on to learn how does debt consolidation work.

Did you know that Americans now have more debt than ever?

In fact, this debt amounts to a hefty $13 trillion–and this number is likely on the rise.

Debt can sneak up on all of us, especially given life’s range of expenses. Student loans, vehicle financing, and mortgages may grant education, mobility, and home ownership, but they still all equate to debt.

Luckily, if you are struggling with debt management, there are options. One of these is debt consolidation.

How does debt consolidation work, and is it right for you? In this post, we answer these questions and more.

Keep reading for insight!

What is Debt Consolidation?

Most people accrue debt from a variety of sources. You may, for example, have credit card debt in addition to an auto loan or home mortgage.

This is very common, and it’s not necessarily a problem. It is possible to have “healthy debt” if you are a responsible borrower and if you can comfortably make your monthly payments.

Yet healthy debt can be hard to come by. Plenty of loans have high-interest rates, which can quickly get burdensome and keep you from saving what you need to be saving!

A lot of people also juggle multiple monthly payments. It can be tough to meet these, especially if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. (In fact, most Americans do!)

Unexpected situations such as family emergencies or medical expenses can be an additional challenge. These can add more to your debt and stress levels.

If you find yourself missing payments on any of your loans, you may face late payment fees. Credit card balances are also subject to potentially high-interest rates.

Debt consolidation strives to alleviate the stress of these potential situations. When you consolidate your debt, you lump your debt into one, single loan. This results in just one monthly payment and–in most cases–less interest due.

How Does Debt Consolidation Work?

Debt consolidation sometimes sounds too good to be true. How does it work?

First, it’s important to note that there are, in general, two ways to consolidate debt: with a credit card balance transfer or a debt consolidation loan.

Both of these have the same goal, which is to get all of your debt into one monthly payment. Plus, they also strive to reduce interest and fees.

Credit Card Balance Transfer

For people with a lot of credit card debt, this is a great means of consolidating. Users simply transfer all of their debt to one credit card. They must then pay off this balance within a given time frame.

Most people will seek out new cards that offer a 0% balance transfer APR and/or a $0 balance transfer fee. Plenty of credit cards offer these terms!

These terms mean that balance transfers won’t be subject to any fees. Once you transfer a balance, you won’t have to pay interest on that balance for a given period of time (sometimes up to a year).

If you aren’t eligible for such offers for any reason, have no fear. You can always transfer your credit card balances. These, however, will be subject to APR and/or transfer fees according to your card’s terms.

For this reason, identify your card’s balance transfer terms before you make a decision.

Debt Consolidation Loan

Another way to consolidate your debt is to take out a debt consolidation loan.

With this, borrowers take out a loan valued at their total debt. Generally, this loan is fixed-rate, meaning that its balance will have the same interest rate for the entire repayment period.

With this debt consolidation loan, borrowers pay off all of their existing debt. They will then work on repaying that loan in a given amount of time, generally at a lower interest rate.

Debt consolidation loans are ideal only if they do offer lower interest rates and fees than a borrower is paying on other loans.

You can get debt consolidation loans from a variety of sources. What’s more, they don’t have to be called a “debt consolidation loan” to count. Low-interest personal loans can also suffice.

Is Debt Consolidation Right for You?

Debt consolidation can be a relief for most borrowers, especially when it comes to reducing payments, interest, and fees. But is it right for you?

In general, debt consolidation is ideal for people who could benefit from a single monthly payment (rather than several).

It’s also the right choice for individuals who aren’t 100% drowning in debt. In general, your debt shouldn’t be more than half of your current income. If it is, it will be really tough to pay off that debt, even after it is consolidated!

Credit score can also play a role. In general, people with good to excellent credit are more eligible for 0% balance transfer terms on credit cards and low-interest consolidation loans.

If you have a lower credit score, you may struggle to find a consolidation method that actually saves you money.

It’s also important to have a plan in place once you do consolidate your debt. This plan should incorporate income sources and repayment terms.

Remember: debt consolidation doesn’t get rid of your debt. It only reorganizes it, in an attempt to reduce interest paid.

Next Steps

If you’ve decided that debt consolidation is right for you, begin by choosing how you wish to consolidate your debt. Is credit card consolidation right for you, or is a debt consolidation loan the way to go?

Next, start researching. Take your time to identify the best balance transfer terms and/or low-interest consolidation loan.

If you do intend to take out a loan for debt consolidation, browse lenders wisely. There are a lot of scams out there when it comes to debt consolidation, so look only for reputable lenders.

We also recommend inspecting your credit score before you hunt for offers. Remember: the higher your score, the better for securing terms likely to make debt consolidation worth it.

Final Thoughts

How does debt consolidation work? Debt consolidation involves lumping all of your debt into one loan to reduce payments and interest.

In general, debt consolidation can be a useful tool for individuals with debt that doesn’t surpass half of their income.

Are you ready to consolidate your debt? Apply for a loan now!

7 Life-Saving Tips That’ll Raise Your Credit Score Quickly

Do you want to raise your credit score quickly? If you follow these tips, you'll see improvement in your score in no time.

7 Life-Saving Tips That’ll Raise Your Credit Score Quickly

16% of Americans have a credit score of below 579. This is the lowest level of the FICO score and is categorized as “very poor”.

A poor credit score can have a serious impact on your personal life and can affect your business negatively as well.

While no one can guarantee that you will hit an exceptional score, there are steps you can take to improve your credit score.

Here are seven tips to raise your credit score quickly.

1. Check Your Report for Errors and Omissions

The very first step to take is to get a copy of your credit card report. This is the only way to know where you stand before you figure out the specific actions to take to make things better.

This is, however, not all you will be doing with your report. Go through it carefully, checking for any error and omissions.

Look for things like a repaid debt that’s been listed as a default or a loan you repaid on time that is not listed.

If you identify any of these issues, move to have them corrected. This action in itself can add a few points to your rating.

2. Negotiate on Outstanding Balances

You will be surprised at how helpful your creditors can be. Unfortunately, if you never ask, you will never find out.

If you are having trouble making payments, make contact with your credit card issuer and communicate this with them.

Most providers have temporary hardship programs you can take advantage of. The benefit of this is that you can have your repayment amounts reduced until you get back on your feet.

Smaller, more manageable installments mean you can pay a lot more comfortably. This is better than skipping payments and having a creditor send a negative report that sheds a few points off your score.

3. Get Added as an Authorized User

This is a great way of giving your credit score an immediate boost. This works particularly well if you are just starting out and have little information on your credit rating.

You do this by getting someone with a high credit card limit and an even greater repayment history. Their card issuer sends them a card with your name on it.

Legally, you are not obligated to make payments on any debt accrued on the card. But its usage reflects positively on your credit score.

The key is finding someone with above board transactions. In a sense, you inherit the person’s positive credit history.

However, not all credit card companies report authorized users. Before you get on it, do your research and find out if it will be reported.

4. Ask Creditors to Delete Late Payments

It’s not uncommon to fall behind on payments from time to time. However, these small mistakes lower your credit score.

If you are in good standing with your creditors, it does not hurt to request them to delete some of the reported late payments. Financial institutions regularly communicate with Credit Referencing Bureaus, and all it would take is a quick phone call on your behalf.

If the request goes through, then you will have fewer negative reports, which will add some points to your credit rating. Nevertheless, try and restrict your late payments to 30 days. Creditors will not report late dues failing in this time frame.

If your issue is forgetfulness, rather than availability of funds, you can have your banker or employer make direct payments if this facility is available. If not, there are numerous software tools you can use to remind you when your payments are due.

5. Old Debts Can Raise Your Credit Score Quickly

You might be eager to forget about your car loan or student loan debts once you make the final payment.

However, as long as you completed your payments promptly, those records may help your scoring. The same is true for credit card debt.

All you need to do is keep these debts on your record. If they were entirely left out, then provide all the information to the credit Reference Bureau so they can use it to calculate your credit score.

Bad payment histories are deleted with time. However, bankruptcies stay on your report for 10 years and late payments for seven years. You don’t have much leeway with these.

6. Watch Your Credit Utilization Rate

Credit utilization is the amount of credit card balance you have compared to your credit limit.

This is the second largest factor affecting your credit score. The first is your credit repayment history.

The more credit you use on your credit card, the further down your credit rating drops. This trend indicates you are spending a significant portion of your income to repay debt, which makes you likelier to default on payments.

The best credit utilization is 0, which means your credit card limit is untouched. This defeats the purpose of applying for a credit card in the first place.

As a rule of thumb, keep your credit utilization ratio at 30%. This means using less than 30% of the credit limit availed to you. Anything above this can cause your rating to drop.

Under the FICO system, people with the highest scores have a utilization rate of 7%. The lower your utilization, the better.

7. Jump on Score Boosting programs

The average age and number of accounts you have held are an important consideration in evaluating how you handle debt.

This tends to disadvantage people with a limited credit history.

UltraFico and Experian Boost allow people with limited credit histories to puff it up using other information.

Experian requires access to your online banking data and allows Credit Referencing Bureaus to add utility payments to your history.

In the same way, UltraFico allows you to give permissions for savings and checking accounts to be used alongside your report when calculating your credit score.

Consistency Is Key

All in all, while it is possible to raise your credit score quickly, expect a few bumps along the way and allow yourself some time.

At First Financial, we understand that while you work on your credit rating you might still need help from time to time. No matter your credit score, we have a financing solution for you. Contact us today for more information.

New Programs Give You Control to Raise Your Credit Score

For too long, consumers had little control over the subtleties of their credit scores. One forgotten payment dings a score by 10 points. Signing up for a department store credit card can take it down by 20 points. Most Americans don’t learn how to build their credit until they learn their credit score is so low, they have to pay far more than others for a car or home loan.

Waiting to check your credit score until you’re in the mortgage broker’s office is like showing up at the marathon after sitting on the couch for the previous six months. Why not condition for optimal performance now?

The good news is that there are now two, brand new programs that give you extra control over the key number that reflects your financial responsibility. These programs come from credit bureau Experian and credit analyst FICO (FICO uses Experian, TransUnion and Equifax to calculate your score. The credit bureaus do not calculate the score.)

Experian Supports the Consumer, Finally!

The Experian Boost program lets consumers report their on-time utility, phone and cable payments. Demonstrating reliability in making these payments can help a borrower improve how a credit bureau perceives his or her trustworthiness. While this idea may seem new to you, alternative lenders have used information from monthly bills for a few years now with great success. It allows them to make more loans and broaden their businesses with little increased risk. It turns out that those who prove they pay these typical monthly bills are good credit risks, even if they’ve forgotten a payment or picked up a new credit card.

Experian claims that of those who have tried the program so far, 64 percent have raised their credit scores.

To get started, all you need to do is give Experian access to your bank account. They need to see your payment history. Once this connection is made, you can calculate your score right away. Experian predicts that eight million Americans could move from poor to fair or fair to good credit with this new program. With better credit, they are more easily able to qualify for apartments, insurance, credit, mortgages and loans. It should only take a few minutes to set up and will jump start your credit repair efforts!  

FICO Finds Its Heart, too

As with Experian Boost, FICO’s UltraFICO links with your checking, savings and money market accounts. It reads whether you:

  • keep healthy average checking and savings balances
  • have maintained a bank account over time
  • avoid overdrafts
  • pay your bills regularly

In other words, it monitors your banking habits. FICO estimates that 15 million Americans can raise their FICO scores by opting into UltraFICO.  This program will be available soon. You can sign up to be notified when they’re ready to take your bank information.

Safety in these Two Programs

Today, Americans are more concerned about safety and privacy than ever. Experian and FICO have the most secure systems in the world. Both new programs involve sign-in verification, during which consumers grant read-only permission to connect to their online bank accounts. All of this information is encrypted so that no individual at either entity can know bank details. The algorithms crunch numbers and data. Use the links above to advocate for your credit worthiness and finally have some sway over your credit score.

Take the Pain out of Monitoring Your Finance

Go from bad credit to good credit without beating yourself up

Can there be any joy in monitoring your finances? Your bank balance is disappointing more often than not. Trimming expenses doesn’t bring any joy. Reminders of irresponsibility can be a gut punch.

Still, a different mindset can help you make the changes to put you on the path to good credit.   

Begin by forgiving yourself for financial mistakes

The shame and blame we heap upon ourselves for not being where we want to be financially can make our situations worse. It leads us to avoid confronting credit spending, recurring debits from bank accounts, balances on personal loans or car loans, and important conversations with family members.

Shame springs from an idea that the individual has departed from social norms. Start dismissing your shame when you understand that one in three others you’ll meet today also have credit under 601. That’s right—one-third of Americans today have bad credit.

The individual experiencing bad credit has lots of company. And is this all their fault?  With aggressive companies relentlessly bombarding us with messages that we deserve their products and that we must keep up with our peers, it’s no wonder we overextend ourselves.

If you can grab your financial issues “by the horns” so to speak, you have made the first

 step on the path to success. Some psychologists tell us that, “a willingness to endure discomfort and capitalize on challenge is a trademark among successful, fulfilled individuals.” While it will require a little effort, put a budget in place, inform those who may impact it, stick to it. You’ll quickly find positive feelings about yourself and your financial situation multiplying. As Benjamin Franklin told the framers of our constitution, “Once begun, half done.” Those quill pens got to writing, despite their enormous task. 

Gamify Your Savings

Rather than tracking every $3 coffee, focus more on a positive indicator: your savings level. As that rises, set a reward after reaching certain amounts. The reward could be you get to buy a new piece of clothing or 10 shares of SnapChat stock. Set these levels up ahead of time and stick to these commitments. These rewards can offset the sense of loss from avoiding day-to-day overspending.

Take the pressure off when you avoid social media

First and foremost, understand that social media is simply carefully selected snippets of your friends’ and family members lives. What they choose to share is designed to elicit envy. Those of us here at First Financial are constantly surprised at friends’ life-is-so-great posts and how these compare to what we know are their real struggles.

What’s more, when you focus on others, you remove your attention from your own issues. If you have bad credit, all your attention needs paid to your spending and savings plans.

Let the social world turn without you when you use a religious tradition, mindfulness, meditation or good old smart reading to understand how pointless it is to compare yourself to friends, relatives.

Deepen Your Relationships when You Lay It All Out for Loved Ones

Serious conversations with loved ones can be intimidating, particularly when they’re about money. Strategize how to take the sting out of belt-tightening before you tackle it with those you love. In other words, have alternate plans to take the place of lavish habits so that your new financial regimen doesn’t translate as 100 percent loss.  

First, explain how it’s important now to join forces for common goals and how these efforts will unite you. Emphasize that working together for financial fitness by cooking meals together, going to resale and thrift shops and competing for better money saving strategies will get you talking and sharing more. Also, make sure you include your family members’ long- and short-term goals in your planning. Study after study reveals that children and spouses prefer experiences and time spent together over material goods anyway. Shared experiences just connect us better and for longer than shared material consumption. Use that research if you have to!

Your new financial fitness system may benefit from gratitude journals. Everyone should jot down at least one thing they’re grateful for every day. Sharing is optional, but when these grateful moments that include others are shared, it strengthens bonds. These journals, particularly effective when an individual is feeling particularly short-changed, have proven to increase happiness significantly.

How to Manage Employee Expenses with Prepaid Debit Cards

We’ve all seen movies depicting employees whipping out the corporate credit card to pay for extravagant meals and entertainment. Business owners shudder at these scenes, and they should. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners tells us that 15 percent of all employee expenses can be categorized as fraud. In another study, 66 percent of employees admit to abusing the company card with:

  • High-priced dinners
  • Office supplies for home use
  • Mobile phone and app purchases and upgrades
  • Airline upgrades

Another portion admit to inflating transportation expenses, getting a cash refund from an expensed item and even creating a fake expense. These last three are full-on fraud. Still, with every opportunity, some people will take advantage. The credit card with a limit of thousands of dollars just trips some kind of spending wire in some employees. When a card’s limit set at $5,000, a $75 dinner for one seems reasonable.

Business owners can reduce their exposure to “expense padding” and fraud when they give their employees secure prepaid debit cards as opposed to credit cards. Like a teen with a set spending amount, employees must budget within a the debit card’s finite amount.

When presented positively, the prepaid debit card can be just as appreciated by employees as the credit card. Simply explain that the debit card works best for your taxes and/or accounting structure. Make this expense tool a decision based on business goals, not something to keep employee spending in line. Avoid mentioning potential expense abuse or fraud all together.

Other benefits of the prepaid debit card for business includes:

  • Easy availability: get instant approval from the best online sources. With online banking now as secure as traditional, bricks-and-mortar banking, anyone can apply for and receive prepaid debit cards within days of ordering. Pay using your credit card or business bank account.
  • No credit card dings: prepaid debit cards do not intersect with your business’s credit rating in the least. From the moment you buy it until the moment the employee spends the last $5, the debit card involves only up-front cash transactions.
  • Convenience: Prepaid business cards are accepted everywhere the issuers’ cards are accepted. In-store, online and phone purchases all work with a prepaid debit card.
  • Better employee spending controlLoad the card with a set limit of money and task the employee to stay within that amount. As with a credit card, debit cards allow you to track exactly what the employee spends. Some companies even let you monitor business card transactions from your computer or mobile app. Business owners can even freeze and unfreeze the debit card as needed.

Prepaid Debit Cards Control Employee Spending So You Don’t Have to!

Some businesses choose company credit cards rather than debit cards because of the potential for rewards and the lower fees. Debit cards can also come with more fees than credit cards. Still, when compared to the financial losses due to abuse, these fees are negligible.

When a small business becomes a mid-sized business, expenses accounts follow quickly, especially for sales professionals. Then, additional office locations can mean travel expenses. Debit and credit cards empower employees to make their own decisions while keeping spend under control.


First Financial

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