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

Test Your Knowledge: Take the Credit Score Quiz

Credit scores are important! A borrower with a low score could pay thousands more in interest over the life of a typical five-year car loan than a consumer with a high score. Past quiz results have indicated that many Americans could improve their credit score knowledge and ability to manage their scores.

How much do you really know about your credit score? How much is myth vs. fact?

To find out, click to take this anonymous 12-question quiz. It doesn’t take long, but the knowledge you gain could go a long way toward improving your own score.

About the Quiz

The Credit Score Quiz and accompanying website, creditscorequiz.org, are informational tools developed by the Consumer Federation of America and VantageScore. They developed the quiz and website to increase consumer knowledge about credit scores and how to improve them. Earlier this year, this quiz was administered to a representative sample of 1,000 adult Americans. The quiz results indicate that many Americans could improve their credit score knowledge and ability to manage their scores.

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Credit Score, Debt, Finance, Money Management

How Credit Score Can Affect Relationships

By NACCC

Personal finances are rarely discussed but often the biggest strain on a couple. Even in early courtships, a newly dating couple may fret over who will pay for dinner, or have different tastes in entertainment based on affordability. Topics such as careers, hobbies, and interests can easily spill into money talk. Money is just as important as other relationship issues such as family and personal interests.

Whether you’re spending your Valentine’s Day with a long-term partner or having a first date, a conversation about credit scores can provide valuable insight to be considered for relationship planning. Credit scores are always assigned to an individual, never a couple. But joint accounts can have an effect on those individual credit scores.

Credit Score Disparities Can Predict Future Relationship Problems

According to a report by the Federal Reserve, couples with similar credit scores are more likely to stay together, while those with a larger disparity are more likely to separate. Differing spending habits, opposing views on debt and other financial problems can cause stress on the relationship that those with similar credit scores are less likely to experience.

Examples of difficulties these couples may face could include:

  • Lingering debt from the past
  • Poor spending habits
  • Disparities in household financial contributions
  • Difficulty obtaining a mortgage or other important loan together
  • Hiding or avoiding spending, debt or other financial issues
  • Bills and expenses
  • General financial stress

Of course, we aren’t suggesting to dump your partner at the slightest score difference. But it’s important to communicate with each other about personal finance and plan appropriately. If a partner has a low credit score (or no credit), what steps can be taken to improve the score for the long-term? Relationships are about working together, and a partner with a higher score may be able to provide advice and suggestions to a partner with a lower score.

It Takes Trust, but a Low Score isn’t the End

If there is a large disparity in credit scores, both partners should evaluate whether they are prepared and willing to provide the support, communication, and shared responsibility required to fix the credit problem.

Committed couples can move forward with confidence by working together to build both of their credit scores. Two quick strategies for building credit include:

  • Having the partner with the higher credit score add the partner with the lower credit score as an authorized user on a credit card (this method requires a lot of trust!)
    • Remember, married couples do not share a credit score, but behavior in joint accounts can affect both partners’ scores.
  • Using a secured credit card to build credit

If one or both partners have debt, they should work together to develop a spending plan that leaves additional income to pay off the debt. For those in debt, paying off the debt is the best way to improve a credit score.

If one or both partners are struggling in their career, they can come up with a plan to support each other while working towards more prosperous career goals. Couples can turn a weak credit score into a strength by using it to incorporate accountability, good habits, and stronger trust in their relationship.

Conversation is Key

Overall, couples need to communicate about money to maintain a successful relationship. Just like with personal finance issues, avoiding the matter doesn’t solve problems or build wealth. Couples should discuss:

  • Existing debt
  • Joint accounts
  • Credit accounts
  • Spending habits (both good and bad)
  • Major purchases
  • Bills and household expenses

This leads couples towards better financial planning and spending habits as they move forward.

Couples can start with small discussions in the early stages, and then move on to larger discussions later. For example, a couple in the beginning stages of a relationship could discuss the cost of dinner, or compare the costs of phone, cable or utility bills. They may talk about debt or salary, but not go into the specifics or the numbers. Couples in more committed stages can begin more difficult conversations about existing debt, bank accounts, and long-term planning.

If a partner is unwilling to discuss finances or is quiet on the subject, the other partner can start small by mentioning their own personal finances and ask for thoughts and opinions.

At times, there will be misunderstandings and frustrations. Remember that no two people share the same financial education. Financial knowledge that may seem simple and obvious to one partner may be an entirely new concept to the other. Use money talk as a learning opportunity and a habit to build on stronger communication skills.

Everyone has different financial paths. When two paths join, they decide where to go next, together.

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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 Counseling
Budgeting, Credit Counseling, Credit Score, Debt, Finance, Holiday Tips

Debt Counseling and Holiday Credit Card Debt

Debt Counseling and Christmas

Most people love spending money on their family and friends, wrapping presents with shiny bows and watching their expressions as they open gifts. However, Christmas is a bittersweet holiday for people with excessive credit card debt. By seeking debt counseling before or after the holidays, you take control of your holiday credit card debt.

According to an article in the Huffington Post, many shoppers experience the shopping hangover after major shopping days such as Black Friday. Even if you shop on major sale days, you don’t get ahead by using credit cards if you can’t pay them back. Revolving credit card debt is at the highest level it has been in several years, according to the Federal Reserve. Debt counseling gives you an edge so you start the New Year on the right path.

Credit Card Debt Repayment

If you can only afford to pay the suggested amount due or minimum due, you will benefit from debt consolidation. By receiving debt counseling, you find out how to budget to pay back all of your credit debt as well as monthly bills and expenses. With a debt repayment plan, you figure out how to get out of credit card debt for good.

By consolidating debt you pay off credit card debt and satisfy your creditors. If you take a different approach such as using a balance transfer credit card, you could end up running up even more credit card debt. Debt counseling helps many consumers overcome the temptation to keep putting items on credit instead of setting the credit cards aside.

Credit Counseling and your Finances

If you just want a short-term fix, pay your minimum balance or transfer credit card balances to a new credit card. However, experts say most credit cards charge a 3 percent transfer fee. Also, paying the minimum amount doesn’t lower your interest rate. A credit counselor helps you actually lower the interest you pay on your credit card debt so you pay it all off in less time. A long-term fix is about examining your spending habits, learning how to boost a credit score and budgeting. Many consumers fall into traps. You can change your spending and savings habits with a few simple personal finance tricks.

Although the holidays are all about giving, it is a good time to treat yourself to debt counseling. With a proper budget, you can buy loved ones holiday gifts and avoid lingering debt.

 

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 Counseling
    Credit Counseling

    How Credit Counseling Can Help You Prepare for the Holidays

    As the holidays are approaching, you could be panicking and wondering how you are going to buy gifts, handle traveling expenses and otherwise cover the costs of the season.

    In the past, you might have always reached for your credit cards to handle such costs, but if you’re in over your head, it’s a good idea to do something about it now. These are a few ways that credit counseling can help you prepare for the holiday season.

    Lower Your Monthly Bills

    If you are feeling crippled by all of your credit card bills and loan payments, you could wonder how you can afford to eat, much less purchase holiday gifts. Working with a credit card counseling company can help you get your bills under control, such as through debt consolidation. Then, you can reduce your monthly bills drastically, which can help you breathe and help you prepare for the costly holidays.

    Learn About Proper Credit Management

    Talking to a credit counselor can help you understand a little more about what you can afford and how using credit can affect you during the holiday season. Learning how to handle your finances now can help prevent you from making costly mistakes this winter.

    Save Your Credit Score

    If you’re behind on your bills, your credit score could be suffering. Working with a credit counseling company can help you preserve your good credit score. Although it’s not recommended that you go into additional debt for the holiday season, it can be a relief to know that your credit score is preserved.

    Believe it or not, a good credit counseling service can help you prepare for a less stressful holiday season. If you contact us at Christian Credit Counselors today, we can help you get your finances under control for the holiday season and into the future.

    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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      Creditt Counseling
      Credit Counseling

      Safely Accelerate Debt Repayment with Credit Counseling

      Paying off your credit card debt quickly by falling prey to a debt settlement scam is often disastrous to your financial health. By receiving credit counseling, you learn about the best ways to accelerate the debt payoff process without jeopardizing your credit score. According to a recent article by thestreet.com, a new study out of Texas A&M shows people who take small steps and set reachable goals are more likely to become free of debt. When you talk to a trained credit counselor, you don’t get caught up with frustrating ways of handling debt or embarrassing solutions such as bankruptcy. Many people love the fact that their credit counseling sessions remain confidential. Because taking small steps lead to the best results, consider some of the ways to overcome a slow climb out of credit card debt.

      Setting Reachable Financial Goals

      Whether called reachable or realistic, your short-term goals provide the traction needed for the longer term goals. Some reachable financial goals include enrolling in a debt consolidation program. By meeting your small short-term goal of paying the monthly debt repayment plan amount, you get closer and closer to your loftier goal of a debt-free life. Experts say goals are measurable, realistic, specific, actionable and time-sensitive.

      Aligning Budget with Income

      Another small step you can take is to come up with a more reasonable budget that is not based on the income you wish you had but on actual income. Aligning your budget with your income is trickier if you receive commission checks, work on speculation or freelance. Independent contractors who receive variable income each week should wait until they receive their money and then revise a budget based on the actual income instead of projected income.

      Stopping the Urge to Spend

      While consolidating credit card debt is important, it’s only part of the solution. With credit counseling, you learn how to avoid the spending temptation as you pay down your debt. You can get out of debt 80 percent faster with some credit counseling services, but you need to create a stable financial foundation before using credit cards again. Once you are out of debt, the goal is to charge only what you can pay off in full each month.

      Once you decide to get out of debt, you don’t want it to take an eternity. At Christian Credit Counselors, we help people overcome the urge to backslide into credit card debt as they make small steps to pay off their credit card debt.

      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
        Christian Credit Counselors

        Credit Card Counseling When Debt is at Pre-Recession Levels

        Experts say credit card debt declined for years, but is back to pre-recession levels. Many individuals leaned how to save and practice frugality during the Great Recession. By receiving Christian credit counseling, you can get a refresher on budgeting and financial goal setting as well as learn how to consolidate debt and boost your credit score. According to a recent article by cnbc.com, credit card debt in the U.S. will likely hit $900 billion by the end of 2015. The average American household’s credit card debt will end the year at about $7,810, which is the highest in 7 years. Instead of reverting to poor financial habits of the past, consider Christian credit counseling.

        Working on your FICO Score

        Experts say the average FICO score in the U.S. is 695. When you receive credit counseling, you learn about your own credit score and how to improve it. With a bankruptcy, your credit score rapidly falls. However, many people who go through a debt consolidation program with a reputable non-profit agency notice their credit score greatly improve over time.

        Paying off Your Credit Card Debt

        The cnbc.com article points out many people think it is fine to have a high outstanding balance on their credit cards. A bankrate.com study discovered 77 percent of people didn’t know a high outstanding balance hurts their credit score. With Christian credit counseling, you overcome the misconceptions and myths regarding personal finance issues. When you sign up for a debt management plan, you pay off all of your credit card debt so you no longer have a high outstanding balance.

        Diving into your Spending Behavior

        Another benefit of credit counseling is you learn not only how to get out of debt but the risk factors you face as far as perpetual debt. When you understand how you got into debt, you can make changes to your behavior and attitudes. You will likely have more money to save for retirement and goals when you stop trying to impress friends or relatives with purchases you can’t truly afford.

        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 Counseling
          Christian Credit Counselors

          Cutting Credit Cards – The Credit-to-Cash Transition

          It’s one of the most exciting moments of your life. You’re tired of using one credit card to pay off another. You can no longer bear the intense pressure building within your chest each time the electric bill collides with a credit card bill in the mailbox. You’ll never again feel financially helpless because you’ve decided to stop the madness.

          This is the day you cancel your credit cards. You’re so proud of yourself, and you can’t wipe the smile off your face. Armed with a sense of empowerment gained from Christian credit counseling, you see a future of financial peace ahead of you.

          Taking a step like this is exciting, but there are always hard times to come when you make a drastic life change. If you’ve been living on credit for years, it’s difficult to suddenly start living within your means without the plastic in your wallet screaming, “I got your back! Go on and splurge!”

          A Moment of Panic

          It will likely happen when your teenager selects the most expensive pair of shoes in the mall or when your colleagues suggest dinner and drinks at the most exclusive club in town. You walk toward the register with those expensive shoes or get excited about a fun night out, and then reality smacks the smile right off your face.

          You don’t have that plastic card backing you up. The shoes are double the price you can really afford to pay. Your budget isn’t quite generous enough to accommodate the best after-work party in town.

          It’s as if someone just whacked you in the throat with a hockey stick. You feel sick. You can’t breathe. You want to cry. This is the death of a credit card, and you’re having your first credit-to-cash panic attack. You don’t want to turn your colleagues down or ask your teenager to find a more affordable pair of shoes, but you now understand: If you don’t sacrifice now, you will have to sacrifice your peace of mind in the future.

          You Will Get Through This!

          These experiences are normal for anyone transitioning from a lifestyle of debt to a lifestyle of financial responsibility. Now that you know it’s coming, here is one tip that will help you survive this transitional period: think in terms of substitutions rather than eliminations.

          You can’t afford routine after-work visits to that exclusive club, but can you make another suggestion to your group? Maybe you can take turns hosting the group at your homes once a week, or you can suggest a venue that’s more appropriate to your budget. You may find that others are relieved you made the suggestion. They may not admit it, but you’re not struggling alone.

          We’re on Your Side

          Another way to make this process easier is to invest your time in ongoing debt counseling. Just like a recovering alcoholic is more successful if they attend weekly AA meetings, your chance of enjoying financial success increases if you meet with your Credit Counselor and attend classes on financial topics.

          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 Counseling, Credit Score, Debit & Your Credit Score, Debt, Debt Consolidation, Debt Settlement, Uncategorized

            Credit Conscious Living Webinar

            Credit Conscious: The Ins and Outs of Credit

            Looking to build, maintain, or improve your credit? Christian Credit Counselors, a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) with a mission to provide free financial education to individuals and families both locally and nationwide, is now offering a free, online webinar entitled, Credit Conscious: The Ins and Outs of Credit. Christian Credit Counselors is committed not just to helping people get out of debt, but providing them with free resources and education to STAY out of debt and live a life of financial freedom.

            The Credit Conscious webinar will teach you the ins and outs of credit and give you the tools you need to obtain and build, improve, and wisely use credit. You will also learn to research credit reports and scores, as well as your rights and responsibilities as a consumer. Whether you are trying to climb out of mounting debt or you simply want to learn how to view your credit report online, this webinar is a great tool in understanding credit so you can make the best decisions to achieve your financial goals.

            Click on the video below to view the webinar.

            Click here to download the free handout:

            When you are done with the webinar video you can also take a quick survey using the button below:

            If you have questions or would like more information, email education@christiancreditcounselors.org or call 1-800-557-1985 ext. 131.

            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 card debt

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