Credit, Credit Score

Protecting Your Credit During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

Your credit reports and scores play an important role in your future financial opportunities. You can use the steps below to manage and protect your credit during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

Get a copy of your credit report

If you haven’t requested your free annual credit reports, you can get copies at AnnualCreditReport.com. Each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (also known as credit reporting companies) – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian – allows you to get your report for free once every 12 months. You can request additional reports for a small fee if you’ve already received your free report. Be sure to check your reports for errors and dispute any inaccurate information.

In addition to your free annual credit reports, all U.S. consumers are entitled to six free credit reports every 12 months from Equifax through December 2026. All you have to do is get a “myEquifax” account at equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/free-credit-reports/ or call Equifax at 866-349-5191.

If you can’t make payments, contact your lenders

Many lenders have announced proactive measures to help borrowers impacted by COVID-19. As with other natural disasters and emergencies, they may be willing to provide forbearance, loan extensions, a reduction in interest rates, and/or other flexibilities for repayment. Some lenders are also saying they will not report late payments to credit reporting agencies or waiving late fees for borrowers in forbearance due to this pandemic. If you feel you cannot make payments, contact your lenders to explain your situation and be sure to get confirmation of any agreements in writing.

The CFPB has resources to help you discuss the impact of COVID-19 on your financial situation with your lenders.

Credit reporting under the CARES Act

The recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act places special requirements on companies that report your payment information to credit reporting companies. These requirements apply if you are affected by the coronavirus disease pandemic and if your creditor makes an agreement (called an “accommodation” in the Act) with you to defer a payment, make partial payments, forbear a delinquency, modify a loan, or other relief.

How your creditors report your account to credit reporting companies under the CARES Act depends on whether you are current or already delinquent when this agreement is made.

  • If your account is current and you make an agreement to make a partial payment, skip a payment, or other accommodation, then the creditor is to report to credit reporting companies that you are current on your loan or account. This applies only if you are meeting the terms of the agreement.
  • If your account is already delinquent and you make an agreement, then your account will maintain that status during the agreement until you bring the account current.
  • If your account is already delinquent and you make an agreement, and you bring your account current, the creditor must report that you are current on your loan or account.

This CARES Act requirement applies only to agreements made between January 31, 2020 and the later of either:

  • 120 days after March 27, 2020 or
  • 120 days after the national emergency concerning COVID–19 ends.

The CARES Act also applies to certain federal student loans and includes requirements relating to suspending payments and credit reporting. During the period that payments on federal student loans are suspended by the Department of Education, any payment that has been suspended is to be reported as if it were a regularly scheduled payment made by the borrower.

Routinely check your reports

If you’re working with lenders and other creditors on payment assistance programs or forbearance, routinely check your credit reports to make sure they are accurate and reflect your agreements. For example, if your lender agreed to let you skip one month’s payment, make sure they didn’t report it as delinquent or a missed payment.

There are other reports you may want to check too, such as reports that monitor your bank and checking account history, among others. The CFPB has a list of consumer reporting companies where you can learn more about which reports might be important to you, depending on your specific situation.

Report and dispute inaccurate information

If you find inaccurate information on your credit reports, use the CFPB’s step-by-step guide to dispute that information with the credit reporting agency and the company that provided that information to them, also known as a furnisher.

If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a brief statement of the dispute be included in your file and included or summarized in future reports. You can also submit a complaint to the CFPB at consumerfinance.gov/complaint.

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Credit, Credit Score, Money Management

A No-Cost Way to Prepare Your Credit for a Big Purchase

By: CFPB

Thinking about buying a house, car, or other big-ticket items, and know you’ll be using credit? Before making a big purchase, your first step should be to take a look at all of your finances. Check out these five steps to prepare your finances that won’t cost you a penny!

1. Take advantage of your free annual credit reports.

You can visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get a copy of your credit reports for free. The three nationwide credit reporting companies – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax — each have to provide your free credit reports every 12 months – but only if you request them. You can check the three reports periodically throughout the year or all at once. If you decide to request one report every four months, you can monitor your credit reports more frequently throughout the year.

2. Review your credit reports for inaccurate information.

Take a close look at your credit reports to make sure all the information on your report is correct. According to an FTC study, one in five people have errors on their credit report. Not sure what to look for? Here’s a list of common credit report errors to help you through the process. 

3. Dispute credit report errors with the credit reporting company that sent you the report.

Incorrect information on your credit report may hurt your ability to get new lines of credit or may make the terms of credit more expensive. You can dispute inaccurate information with the credit reporting company. You can use these instructions and template letter as a guide.

4. Dispute credit report errors to the company that provided the information.

The company that provided or “furnished” the information to the credit reporting company is known as the “furnisher.” Furnishers could be your bank, your landlord, or your credit card company. You can dispute inaccurate information directly with the furnisher. Use this template to send a letter to the company that provided the information you’re disputing.

5. Make a plan.

Even if you don’t have errors on your credit report, reviewing your report can help you make a plan for how to improve your credit. For more help putting your plan together, download this guide to Rebuilding Your Credit.

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Debt Consolidation
Debt Consolidation

Three Reasons To Go With Debt Consolidation

It does not take long to realize that debt is a real problem. When paying bills or trying to ignore a collector’s calls gets overwhelming you know that you need help. It seems as though the solutions are impossible. Money will not fall from the sky. Is bankruptcy your only choice? No! Debt consolidation is a real solution and here is why:

Debt Consolidation means Less Hassle and Less Fees

With so many bills due each month, it is easy to lose track. Different amounts, different companies, and different due dates make it very easy to miss a payment or send one in late. This means more fees and more calls. When you consolidate your debts, you have one payment to make. You are able to pay on time. You no longer have to worry about which one is due. You no longer have to juggle the bills depending on how much money you have. You make one simple payment.

Debt Consolidation Allows You to Pay Your Debt

You are not looking for a hand out. You want to pay what you owe. With debt consolidation, you are able to do just that. By simplifying how you pay, you can actually pay off what you owe. This not only gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you paid it off, but is much easier on your credit report than other methods.

Debt Consolidation makes the Goal Clear

In order to accomplish anything, you must have clear goals. This is true of your debt. With debt consolidation, you have one clear goal. Each month, you will see how that goal draws closer and closer. By making the goal clear, you are far more likely to achieve!

Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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    Christian Credit Counselors, Credit, Credit Cards, Credit Counseling, Debit & Your Credit Score, Debt, Debt Settlement, Finance, Goals, Investing, Money Management, Personal Goals, Saving

    Financial Planning: A Dose of Truth and Grace

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    Planning for a Financial Planner

    So you’re considering a financial plan! Perhaps your finances have told you that you need one. Planning with purpose for your financial future is a noble task. Sure many good things come to us in unexpected surprises, but planning for a good future, especially when it comes to finances, is a wise strategy indeed! You’re reading this article because financial planning interests or excites you, and just doing so is taking the first step.

     

    Financial planning is a well marked plan to thrive financially, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want a secure, successful financial portfolio. It’s never too late to start making changes and never too late to pursue financial freedom. The key is: start where you are. Don’t dwell on where you have been or the mistakes and poor choices that you may have made. Everyday is a fresh start to the life you want to live, to the best you yet!

    Your Dreams, Desires, and Goals

    You have dreams, desires and goals. Everyone does. But, not everyone lives in such a way as to see them come to pass. Why do some succeed where others fail? Why do some thrive while others seem to strive after the wind? Not all of life’s answers come sugarcoated and some pills are hard to swallow. But, taking in wisdom, advice and eating humble pie is good for us all. With humility comes honor, and sometimes taking a long, hard look at ourselves is truly a humbling endeavor.

    Finances are a major test and testimony of our maturity and level of personal responsibility. It’s important in the process of self-discovery to admit the truth about your behaviors and choices and the effects they have had on both your life and the lives of those you influence, whether for good or for bad. Be sure to give yourself a healthy measure of both truth and grace. As imperfect people, who make not so perfect choices, grace is something we all need.

    Consider Your Financial Peace

    Start today by considering who you are, who you want to be. Consider what your financial situation looks like and what you want it to look like. Consider what it will take to get you there. Look at the situation objectively. Keep negative thoughts and emotions at bay. You are strategizing, planning, preparing and leading. It takes a strong mind and a strong spirit to be a good leader. The first person you lead is always yourself. And the truth is, if you can’t lead yourself, you really can’t lead others, not well, anyway.Financial grace is not a credit card with no limits and no consequences. If you charge, you owe. Same goes in life.

    Your material choices have consequences, both positive and negative. Grace goes the extra mile, however. It says, “Yes, you are where you are, but…you don’t have to stay there, and you certainly don’t have to return.” Grace gives us the opportunity to make a change, to make the change we desire. It helps us to feel empowered to walk out the lifestyle we want for ourselves and to make the daily choices that both get us and keep us there. Mary Poppins should have said a spoonful of grace helps the medicine go down.

    Planning Short and Long Term Goals

    As you begin to plan, look at both short and long term goals. Write out the steps it will take to accomplish them. With your basic plan in hand, your road map, determine if further help is needed to bring clarity or to implement your newly devised strategy. Share your newfound view with others and invite them to partner with you where appropriate. Your close family and friends are key players in the game called “your life.” And, be proud of who you are because no matter where you’ve been, what you have or have not done, you are this day, an overcomer.

    Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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      Christian Credit Counselors, Debit & Your Credit Score, Money Management

      Credit Reports – The Knowledge You need to Know

      Improving Your Credit Score

      The best way to improve your credit score is to improve your knowledge on credit reports.  There are three major credit bureaus that put together your credit report: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.  Although the information they gather is yours, you do not own it, these agencies own your information.  They have collected the information and they give you the right to view it.  You can view your credit report for free on www.anualcreditreport.com.  You can view one or all three, depending what you need it for.  Your credit score will be between 500 and 840, anything over 700 is a good score.

      How your score is tabulated is unknown, but what makes up your credit score is no secret.  Some of the items that are calculated into your credit score are employment, department store credit card(s), credit card(s), installment loan(s), collection item(s), and inquiries.

      Department Store Credit Card Accounts

      For department store credit card accounts they look at highest credit allowed, balance, and date opened.  The rating scale on this account is R1 to R9 with R9 being the worst.  The R stands for revolving, and it tracks how well you pay.  A similar scale is used for installment loans, I1 to I9, where I9 means the account is in collection.  On this scale, I7 means they took back the collateral.  For example, on a car loan I7 means the car was repossessed.  All accounts, department store credit cards, credit cards, installment loans, etc., have a twenty four month window.  If you fall behind and make a late payment on any account, you must make twenty three on time payments to get the late payment to drop off.  Inquiries made on your account have a very small effect.  If you are shopping for a new car, the inquiries made by the dealerships have no significant effect on your score.  However, if you have fifteen inquiries in one month it will cause a big impact because it appears you are desperate for credit and this raises a big flag.

      This information is sold to banks by the credit bureaus; this is how they make money.  With this information banks look at who is a credit risk, will pay over a long period of time, and earn them the most money.  For example, banks look at bankruptcy filers to offer them a credit card with high interest.  Also, the bank is attracted to those who recently purchased a home because most of them will make big purchases like furniture, home improvements, etc.

      Managing Your Money

      There are some simple rules that will help you better manage your money and increase your credit score.  Prioritize your bills, and pay your bills immediately.  As stated by the President and CEO of Christian Credit Counselors, Greg McTaggart, “the longer you have that credit card, the more they make off of you.”  Think of your purchases.  Do not just focus on the present, focus on what you will need 4 to 8 years from now.  Poor planning leads to impulse buying, pre-schedule bills, balance check book, and have cushion for savings and emergencies.  To avoid fraudulent activity on your credit report, do not give out your information generously.  Check your report annually and dispute any irregularities with the credit bureau.

      Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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        Budgeting, Christian Credit Counselors, Credit, Money Management

        Financial Literacy: Money Lessons

        Financial Literacy Month

        We are back! I hope you had a Happy Easter with family and friends. And even though April is coming to an end, it is still Financial Literacy Month. Gregory Karp of the Chicago Tribune has put together a money quiz to help contribute to your understanding of money topics. Here is a chance to test your knowledge and hopefully learn a thing or two that will ultimately help you with your finances.

          • Do your credit scores rise when you get a higher paying job?

        Simply put, no. Your income in not shown on your credit report, so that isn’t a factor when determining your credit score. Using credit, and using it well, is what really matters.

          • Is a household budget meant to restrict your spending?

        Restrict is the wrong word. Budgeting allows you to tell your money what to do instead of wondering where it disappeared to. If you keep track of your spending and budget wisely you can set aside money to spend on fun things. Indulging once in a while will keep you on track so you don’t feel so restricted.

          • Should I pay off highest interest-rate debt first?

        Mathematically, using extra money to pay off high-rate debt, such as credit cards, makes sense. But if you have many different debts, you might get a psychological boost by wiping out smaller debts first.

          • What is the only official site for getting your credit report?

        You can request a free credit report annually from the three main credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. For the most part, they have the same information, so you could request one every four months to keep track of your score throughout the year.

          • If a thief steals your credit card and charges $1,000, you’re responsible for how much?

        Federal law says you’re responsible for $50, but most major credit-card issuers absolve you of all liability if it’s a clear case of a stolen card or number.

          • What is likely to provide the highest returns over time: stocks, bonds or CDs?

        Most financial advisers suggest a mix of stocks and relatively safer bonds, with the mix getting more bond-heavy as you approach the time you’ll need the money. Stocks have provided the highest returns over long periods, especially if you’re talking about decades.

          • Which is more expensive for a family of four: food or financing a new car?

        Food costs more, unless you’re talking about an especially pricey car. The American family of four spends about $8,700 on food in a year, or $725 per month, according to the most recent government Consumer Expenditure Survey. That’s far more than most monthly car payments. People will research for months to get a good deal on a car, but many won’t look at a sales flier or clip a few coupons.

          • How large should your emergency fund be?

        Three to six months of bare-bones living expenses, most money experts advise. But with the current state of the economy, six months should be the minimum.

         

        Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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          Christian Credit Counselors, Credit, Credit Cards, Credit Counseling, Debit & Your Credit Score, Finance

          Your Finances and Financial Spring Cleaning

          Financial Spring Cleaning

          With winter gone, and spring in full bloom spring cleaning is on probably on your mind. This is what you’ve been waiting for all winter, to clean your entire house from top to bottom. Wait, you don’t do annual spring cleaning? It’s okay, I don’t either, but the idea of going through your finances at least once a year seems a lot more beneficial then scrubbing the toilet.

          Know Your Financial Goals

          This may seem like a no brainer, but most people don’t have a defined plan concerning their financial future. Figure out exactly where you are now, and where you want to be in the next year, 5 years, 10 year, etc. Having a written document you are able to look at every so often will keep you on track toward securing your financial future.

          Get Rid of Unnecessary Documents

          While it is good that you are keeping a hold of valuable documents, some that have been in your pile for years may not be needed anymore. Visit bankrate.com to see what records you should have on hand and for how long.

          Review your Credit Report and Score

          The three credit agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion offer you one free credit report annually. This is something you should take full advantage of. For more information about credit reports and your score, check out our last blog!

          Analyze your Insurance Coverage

          To make sure you are getting the best plan at the best price, shop around and compare rates. Companies are competing for your business, so you may be able to get a better deal somewhere else. Visit sites such as insurance.com and insure.com to help you in your research.

          De-clutter your Home

          Go through your closet, old boxes, basement, attic, etc. and get rid of unnecessary items that are sitting there collecting dust. You can opt to make a little money by trying to sell some of your goods, or you can always donate/recycle them. Either way, after de-cluttering your home, you will be inclined to improve other areas of your life, such as your finances!

          Happy Financial Spring Cleaning!

           

          Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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            Credit, Credit Cards, Credit Counseling

            Credit Education Month and Tools You Need

            Credit Education Month

            We all have credit cards, but who really pays attention to see if they are helping or hurting us. This month is Credit Education Month, which should give you an incentive to learn a little more about your credit. I know it can be confusing at times, and not all that interesting, but it is important to know and understand for your financial well-being.

            Your Credit Score

            The first thing I would advise is for you to find out your credit score if you don’t already know what it is. You are able to get one free each year from the 3 consumer credit reporting companies: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. Take advantage of this! Once you receive the reports, go through each carefully to make sure there are no discrepancies. If there are, you will need to contact the credit reporting company to get it corrected.

            Once you know your credit score, you need to determine if it is good or not. Your credit score can range from 300-850, an the higher your score is the better. Go to MyFico for information on what is in your score and how you can improve it.

            Tracking Your Credit Report

            There are many tools available for you to track your credit report. Most offer a free 30 day trial, but if you opt for that, make sure you cancel before the 30 days so you don’t get charged for the next month. The monthly fee usually isn’t too outrageous, so if you do want to track your score, you can do so without paying much.

             

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              Credit Cards, Debit & Your Credit Score, Identity Theft

              Identity Theft Victims Must Do List

              A Must Do List for Identity Theft Victims

              If you’re a victim of identity theft, it’s essential to take certain steps as soon as possible, to start repairing the damage. At the same time, begin to keep a record of all conversations and copies of all correspondences. There are six things you should do right away:

              Fraud Alert

              Placing a fraud alert on your credit reports will prevent a thief from opening any additional accounts in your name. Although there are three credit reporting agencies, you only need to call one of them:

              Equifax 1-800-525-6285
              Experian 1-888-397-3742
              TransUnion 1-800-680-7289

              Review Your Credit Reports

              Request them from all three agencies and review them very carefully. Look for accounts you didn’t open, debt that isn’t yours, and inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted. Verify everything and begin the process of removing any fraudulent or inaccurate information.

              Close Tempered Accounts

              Call immediately and follow up with letters, including copies of your supporting documents. Also, send the letters by certified mail so you know they received it. Keep records of everything.

              Fraudulent Charges

              Dispute fraudulent charges on your credit card accounts or debit cards. Call the company to find out what their process is and where to send correspondence. Don’t send it to the billing address. Once it’s resolved, get it in writing.

              Federal Trade Commission

              File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Go online at ftc.gov or call their hotline at 1-877-438-4338. The information will be used to help law enforcement officials track the criminals and stop them.

              Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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                Credit Cards, Debit & Your Credit Score, Money Management

                Repairing your Credit – Five Trouble-free Guidelines

                Repairing Your Credit

                Repairing your credit is something we all have to do from time to time. It may appear like a hard task to do, but the fact is that it can be fairly easy when you follow these five simple guidelines to repairing your credit and getting back on track for a future with easy credit options.

                Pay your bills on time.

                A full 35 percent of your credit score is made up of your payment history, meaning it matters more than anything else. Hence, it is incredibly important that you pay back your bills on time and do not let them get late, or go to collections. One late bill can send your credit score spiraling down. This is why it is so important that if you are repairing your credit, to pay your bills. Even if it means minimum payments, you should pay your bills as soon as you can without letting them be late.

                Pay and Transfer

                Pay off your high interest credit cards and transfer balances to your low interest credit cards. Interest can sink you when you are trying to pay your credit cards, so transfer your high interest balances to low interest cards to save money. As well, if you have more than three credit cards, close out the high interest cards to get yourself down to two or three credit cards, no more.

                Credit Report

                Get a copy of your credit report. Understanding your credit report is key to fixing your credit. It will show you what to fix and what to not worry about. On top of that, it will help you see if you have any problems with errors on your credit report, something that affects 75 percent of all credit reports. Repairing a credit report error can drastically fix your credit, so make sure you get your credit report.

                Don’t spend.

                The smaller amount you spend on credit, the less you have to pay back and the easier it will be to start cutting down on your debt. You should try and limit all your everyday expenditured and create a budget so you can observe yourself and see accurately how much you need to allocate each month to pay off your debts in a year or so.

                Financial Accountability

                Talk to someone about your debt. A credit counseling company will take all your debts and put them into one loan that is easier for you to pay back. A credit counseling company will help you learn more about your credit and how to fix it. You won’t be so worried because you will have these companies on your side, helping you fix your credit. Just be careful of debt consolidation and debt counseling companies that are not legit and only want your money. Do your homework.

                These five tips can help you repair your credit and get yourself out of a debt spiral. Use these tips and before you know it, your credit will be back up above 650, and you will be living a much easier life again.

                Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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