Why You Shouldn’t Panic Every Time Your Credit Score Changes

With the internet almost constantly at the tip of your fingers, keeping tracking of your credit score has never been easier. Banks, credit card issuers, and free online credit monitoring companies all offer their services to help you stay virtually right on top of your credit score. But if you find yourself panicking every time you get an email from Credit Karma, it might be time to reevaluate your relationship to credit monitoring. Small month-to-month changes in your credit score don’t really matter*, and here’s why.

The most important thing to understand is that you don’t have just one credit score—you actually have many, and they are all calculated using different formulas. The most well-known credit score is your FICO score, which is calculated and monitored by three different bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. All three institutions have different levels of access to your information at different times and are constantly updating your files with every piece of information they receive.

What’s more, each credit rating category covers a wide range of scores. “Good” credit falls in the 670 to 739 range. Unless you are teetering on the edge between categories, a couple of points difference isn’t going to impact your credit worthiness too greatly. There are a myriad of reasons why your score will go up or down in any given month, and none of them truly reflect your overall credit health. Delayed credit bureau reporting, hard inquiries, balance increases, or opening a new account can all cause temporary, insignificant shifts in your credit score.

Fixating on small credit fluctuations is stressful and unnecessary. As long as you are not currently in the process of applying for a new loan or a new line of credit, a less than stellar score will have little impact on your every day life. The good news is that even if your credit score has recently taken a small dip, most lenders will look at the big picture, taking your credit history into consideration, not just your current three-digit score. It’s the big swings that you need to watch out for.

A major change in your credit score can alert you to unauthorized activity on your accounts or tip you off to the long-term impact of carrying high balances and paying your bills late. It is important to pay attention to these changes to make sure they reflect your financial activity. If your monitoring service reports a change you don’t recognize or understand, look into it. Whether it is the result of fraudulent activity or just poor financial habits, it is important to investigate why your credit score is changing so dramatically.

If you are concerned about your credit score and it isn’t exactly where you want it to be, don’t panic. At Veitengruber Law, we can give you real facts about credit and debt. Our legal team can provide real life solutions to improving your credit and your overall financial health. With patience, time, and dedication, it is possible to repair your credit. Using credit monitoring services is a great first step in the right direction. Just remember not to take every small monthly fluctuation to heart and stay focused on your overall credit goals.

*If your score takes a significant plunge, drops into a lower category, or is on a consistently downward trend, reach out to us. If something is amiss, it IS better to address it sooner rather than later.

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FICO Score vs. VantageScore: What’s the Difference?

fico score

Your credit score is one of the most important aspects of your overall financial profile. Potential lenders and creditors will use your credit score to determine what kind of risk they are taking by giving you a loan or a line of credit. Essentially, your credit score is your entire credit and financial history all boiled down to one number. Consequently, you may be surprised to know that there are actually many different ways to calculate a credit score. The two most popular ways to estimate your credit score are using the FICO scale and the VantageScore scale. Below, we will discuss the differences between them and how they can impact your credit score.

Details of your debt and financial history are reported to three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. These institutions will compile your payment history, total debt, amount of unused credit, the diversity of your credit lines, and other financial data to create your credit report. That data is then run through an algorithm which will provide the three-digit number that is your credit score. These three bureaus compile data and store your information differently, which can mean your credit report—and therefore your credit score—will look different depending on the scoring system used.

The FICO Score credit scoring model ranges from 300 (very poor credit) to 850 (EXCELLENT credit). This is the most well-known scoring method, and over 90% of big lenders in the country use the FICO credit scoring method. While there are many different versions of the FICO method, FICO8 is used most often by lenders today. While FICO doesn’t like to give out a lot of information on how they compile data, the rough breakdown of your FICO8 credit score is: 35% payment history, 30% amounts owed, 15% length of credit history, 10% new credit, and 10% credit diversity.

In 2006, the credit bureaus created the VantageScore as an alternative to the FICO Score. Vantage is similar to FICO. It still ranges from 300 (poor credit) to 850 (incredible credit) and there are multiple versions of the VantageScore method. The current industry standard is VantageScore 3.0. The biggest difference between VantageScore and FICO is that VantageScore doesn’t value the length of your credit history. While FICO requires you to have 6 months of data, VantageScore has zero time requirements. The components of the VantageScore system are also different: 40% payment history, 21% depth of credit, 20% credit utilization, 11% balances, 5% recent credit, and 3% available credit.

There are several ways to access your FICO Score and your VantageScore. Some big banks and issuers will offer their customers their credit scores on their monthly statements. Chase Bank, Capital One, and OneMain Financial use VantageScore while Bank of America, Discover, and Citibank prefer FICO. Experian also offers free access to your FICO Score and VantageScore. Keep in mind, though, that your FICO Score and VantageScore can vary from credit bureau to credit bureau, so Experian may provide a different score than TransUnion or Equifax even if they are using the same scoring method.

If there is one big takeaway from comparing these two credit scoring models, it’s that payment history is the most important factor that goes into determining your credit score, regardless of the model used for calculation. Despite their similarities, however, the differences in methods can result in some deviations where your credit score is concerned. This is why it doesn’t hurt to know what your credit score is under both scoring methods. Regardless of differences, as long as you keep up with at least one model, you should have a good idea of your financial standing in the eyes of creditors.

NJ Landlords & Credit Checks: The Facts

credit check

As society shifts from the use of tangible papers to swiping a tiny piece of plastic to make purchases, credit is pushing closer to the forefront of the realm of finances. Despite the satisfaction of handling cash in the checkout line, credit cards, whether we like it or not, are becoming the norm. Along with owning credit cards comes the inevitability of your credit score. Good credit holds more significance today than it ever has before. Many people simply don’t realize how impacting a credit score can be, especially when it comes to real estate decisions – even renting. If you’re considering renting an apartment or house, know that the first thing a landlord will set eyes on is your credit score and report.

When you complete a tenant application form, you provide a variety of information about yourself, but typically it’s not enough for most landlords to make a solid decision. This drives the landlord, property manager, or rental agency to hike one step further into your personal information. The main reason to check an individual’s credit history is to review one’s capability or incapability of paying rent. A landlord doesn’t want a renter who will never pay rent on time.

Every time that a potential lender checks your credit, it will appear on your credit report. Too many checks will damage your credit score, decreasing your chance of acceptance to rent anywhere. Be careful not to apply to too many places at one time. Many inquiries in a short amount of time is looked down upon as it can imply repeated rejections and/or reckless financial behavior. It’s possible that some credit score models will combine multiple inquiries into one, which will prevent you from getting penalized for “shopping around,” but this cannot be guaranteed.

Landlords prefer to have renters who are clean: clean house and clean credit. Obviously, if you have good credit and an adequate history, there shouldn’t be any reason that your application wouldn’t be accepted by the landlord. On the other hand, if your credit score does not meet the landlord’s standards, they could outright reject your application. It’s also possible that they may require you to pay a larger down payment or find a cosigner. Our credit history defines who we are, therefore landlords may be hesitant to offer you residence if your score is less-than-stellar.

In the past, making credit payments on time didn’t boost your credit score (because they weren’t given to credit agencies), but thankfully that has changed. If your landlord reports your on-time payments, credit bureaus will include it in your credit report. Because more and more rental agencies are reporting positive rental history, renting responsibly can now have a positive effect on improving your credit score.

Keep in mind that missed and late payments will also show up on your credit history. A tenant-screening report will show an eviction if you’ve had one. This is different than a credit report, and typically shows up in the rental application process. In the likely chance that your landlord sends missed payment updates to a debt collector, it will show up and remain on your credit report for 7 years in addition to 180 days from when you began missing payments. Don’t put yourself in this position. Make payments on time. Having trouble making payments? Give us a call and let us give you a FREE holistic debt evaluation.

What else can credit score affect?

Cell Phones: The one item that seemingly everyone has today is a cellphone. Believe it or not, your credit score can influence whether or not a phone company offers a service plan to you. It is possible to acquire a plan that doesn’t necessitate a credit check, but be aware than a phone service application may initiate a hard inquiry. Remember, all hard inquiries show up on your credit report and could potentially lower your credit score.

Auto Loans: The majority of people need to take out a loan in order to purchase a car. Obtaining and acquiring a loan is affected by your credit score. Taking it one step further, the amount of the loan and the interest rate are dependent on how well you measure up. In this case, it’s best to shop around for the best auto loan rates. Though it’s true that several inquiries can damage your credit score, a majority of credit scoring models will regard multiple auto loan inquiries in a short period as a single inquiry.

Though this article discusses only three crucial parts of life that are influenced by credit scores, there are a myriad of others. It’s so important that we aim to make payments on time and not take part in other activities that will cause destruction of our credit score. Like anything else in life, your credit score needs consistency and some TLC for it to thrive.

How to Buy a Home With a Low Credit Score

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If you’ve made some mistakes in your financial past, you’ll see the effect of those mistakes displayed in your credit score. Many people with poor to fair credit scores wish to make a large purchase (like a vehicle or house) but are stymied when they realize that their credit history adds a degree of difficulty to the process.

There are many reasons that make buying “better” than renting. Some of them include:

  • No more landlords! You get to make all of the decisions about your property and your home, which naturally does add some responsibility into your life, but you’ll also feel a sense of freedom when you get out from under a landlord, especially if you’ve had a negative renting experience.
  • Homeowner tax deductions!
  • You can go “green.” Renters have no control over making home improvements that will lower utility costs, but as a homeowner you’ll be able to make changes like using solar panels and adding insulation.
  • You can make a home your own. Whether this means extensive renovations or simply changing the wall colors – it’s all up to you when you’re the owner.

If you are dealing with the roadblock of a low to fair credit score but are working with a NJ credit counseling professional to continually bring that number up – you are on the right track to becoming a homeowner.

Admittedly, a credit score that’s below about 580 is going to make it challenging for you to acquire a mortgage loan. Although it will be challenging, it isn’t impossible. Here are some tips that will make it more likely for you to be approved for a home loan in the near future:

  • Get a co-signer. If you’re determined to own a home NOW and your credit score falls into the “low” range (<580), ask a close family member or friend with good credit to sign the mortgage with you. Technically, the loan will then belong to both of you, but you will be the only one making the payments. When your credit score improves, you can have the co-signer removed from the loan.
  • Make a large down payment. The fact that you want to own rather than continue to rent, even with a low credit score, tells us that you have a reliable source of decent income or that you’ve had some kind of financial windfall recently. Either way, making a significant down payment often convinces lenders that sub-prime borrowers are on their way up and are not a lending risk.
  • Apply for an FHA loan. Because this type of loan is backed by the US government, you can (often) qualify for an FHA loan with a credit score in the 500s. You’ll be paying for your low score with required mortgage insurance, but if you can afford it, an FHA loan is a good option. After you pay down your loan a bit, you can petition your lender to remove the insurance.
  • Avoid making any more financial mistakes. For potential borrowers with bad credit, lenders look to see that your score is moving in the right direction. They also want to know whether you’ve missed any rent or utility payments in the last year or two. If your financial stability is super new, you may need to wait to apply for a mortgage until you are able to increase your credit score and/or generally improve your overall financial situation.

Image credit: Mark Moz

Will My Foreclosure Hurt My Spouse’s Credit After We Marry?

foreclosure sign

The time leading up to your wedding day can be filled with excitement, romance, and hopefully an overwhelming feeling of happiness knowing that you will be marrying the person you love. On the other side of the coin, sometimes there are a few ‘hiccups’ along the path to marriage that may put a slight damper on your excitement. Unfortunately, money can often be a major stressor for engaged couples and newlyweds alike.

These days, living with your intended is a much more common and accepted practice than it was several decades ago. Many people are of the opinion that living together before marriage is actually a wise decision, as it ensures that you are fully compatible with your mate before taking vows that last a lifetime.

Moving in together before marriage typically means that one person will give up a previous residence. Rental homes or apartments would not present much of a problem as long as the lease was up at a convenient time. However, let’s assume that both partners owned their own homes prior to getting engaged.

In this scenario, moving in together may prove slightly more difficult IF the moving partner is unable to sell his or her existing home before move-in day. Having attempted to sell the home, potentially by listing with several different real estate agents, what will happen if the home simply doesn’t sell and payments on the existing mortgage are ceased?

When the couple in this sequence of events moves in together, the abandoned home will go into foreclosure if no further payments are made on the mortgage loan. It is important to note that the foreclosure process usually takes quite a long time from beginning to end. It could realistically take years before all of the foreclosure proceedings are complete, and by that time, the engaged couple would be married.

The partner in foreclosure typically then begs the question: Would my own personal foreclosure that began before my wedding affect my spouse’s credit once we are married?

Naturally, this is a question that both spouses would like to have answered. One spouse with a foreclosure on his credit report is one thing, but to have two tanking credit scores could be disastrous for your future life together. Two low credit scores (albeit hopefully only temporarily) would mean difficulty getting new credit cards, car loans, life insurance, etc., which could greatly increase the stress already felt in the first few months and years of a marriage.

Luckily, this particular situation would not affect the other spouse’s credit score, even if the foreclosure dragged on well into the length of the marriage. The only credit report and score that will show evidence of the foreclosure will be that of the original owner of the home that foreclosed.

So – although you can rest assured if this particular situation lines up with your life – it’s always a good idea to attempt to work with your lender before your home goes into foreclosure. Negotiating a deed in lieu of foreclosure or consent judgement with waiver of any deficiency will look better on your credit report than having a defaulted mortgage and foreclosure. A foreclosure attorney near you can advise you regarding your best options.

 

Image credit: David S

Understanding Your Credit Report

Photo courtesy of Tax Credits

Your credit report is essentially your entire financial history all tied up neatly (ideally) into one document. The general purpose of a credit report is so that potential lenders and other institutions whom you may enter into a financial contract with, can have a relatively simple way to assess your ability to remain financially solvent and responsible. This helps lenders decide whether you are someone they’d trust to pay them back.

Due to The Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to receive a free yearly copy of your credit report from all three of the major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian. Getting a hold of your credit report is actually the easy part. Reading them with a decent level of comprehension may be a different story, especially if your credit information is lengthy or contains multiple adverse or potentially negative items. Regardless, it is important that you understand what you’ll be presented with when your credit report arrives in the mail. Taking a moment to learn about the parts of your credit report means that you’ll be better able to make improvements where possible and pick up on any reporting errors.

The information used to create your credit report and your overall credit score (different from your report, but very closely related), comes from any companies with whom you have done or are currently doing business, and from information in public records. The general information gathered includes your given name, any aliases, your current place of residence (plus all past addresses), birth date, and your Social Security number. Once your identity has been authenticated, the following information will be gathered: your bank/credit accounts, loans, mortgages, payments, delinquencies, bankruptcies, short sales, foreclosures, court cases, and any wage garnishments.

All of this information will be listed on your report, and each item’s importance differs. Your financial details are divided into the following five variably weighted categories to calculate your overall credit score:

  1. All accounts in use (10%): Included in this category are all of your credit cards, loans, mortgages, garnishments, etc.
  2. Recently acquired accounts and inquiries from creditors (10%): Accounts and loans that you have very recently opened or applied for fall into their own section because it tells creditors that you may be taking on debt that they don’t know about. When you apply for a credit card or another type of loan/financing, each potential lender will want to know your credit history, and their inquiries into your credit history will be noted on your report. For these reasons, applying for too many loans or credit cards sends up a red flag on your credit report.
  3. Your credit history length: (15%): How long have you been using credit cards and/or loans?
  4. Debt to credit ratio: (30%): This is the amount of money you owe as compared to your overall credit limit. High credit card balances on which you make minimum payments will lower your credit score. On the flip side, a high credit limit while maintaining relatively low balances means your debt to credit ratio will raise your credit score number.
  5. Your ability to make payments! (35%): Your success or failure at keeping all of your accounts current and making timely payments is obviously a crucial component when it comes to having a good credit report and; therefore, a high credit score number.

If you need further assistance interpreting all of parts of your credit report, or are interested in taking steps to improve your credit rating, drop us a line in the comment box. Visit our Facebook page and get a free consultation just for “liking” our firm!