×

What’s a Credit Freeze?

What does buying a house, applying for a student loan, and getting a personal loan all have in common? They are all different forms of credit. Credit is provided to you by a financial lender.  That lender will utilize your credit report in order to evaluate your credit history to decide if you qualify for credit with them. While evaluating your credit history and credit score they will do an inquiry on your credit. This inquiry can affect your credit score and can be placed on a report depending on the type of inquiry that’s completed by the institution. It’s essential to know the two different types of credit inquiries, what a credit freeze is, how it relates to a credit inquiry, the benefits of a credit freeze, and how to put one in place and remove it.

 

What Is a Credit Inquiry?

 

According to myFICO.com, a credit inquiry is a “request by a ‘legitimate business’ to check your credit.” These checks are categorized as either “hard” or “soft” inquiries, which we’ll break down in more detail later. “Credit pulls” are often a casual term used to describe both types of inquiries which gives a person, lender, or company the ability to view your credit report and see your credit score. Both types of credit pulls are included on your credit report but, only you can see the soft inquiries.

 

For example, imagine you’re looking for a mortgage. Let’s say that a credit card company recently did multiple soft credit inquiries on your account to “pre-qualify” you for a new credit card promotion that they have. When the mortgage company you submitted an application too reviews your credit report, they will not see the soft credit inquiries completed by the credit card company.  Additionally, the soft inquiries that were completed by the credit card company will not affect your credit score.

 

Regardless, the type of credit you’re opening, obtaining credit takes time, careful consideration, and patience. Each time a lender accesses your credit score and credit report to make a decision, you run the risk of damaging your creditworthiness. So what types of credit inquiries will affect your credit report and credit score? What type of credit inquiry are they, soft credit pulls or hard credit pulls?

 

 

Student Loan Refinancing: How to Avoid Predatory Lending

 

 

 

Soft Credit Inquiries vs. Hard Credit Inquiries

 

There are many differences between soft credit inquiries and hard credit inquiries. For example, soft credit inquiries can be part of the employment process if you are applying to a financial institution. Soft credit inquiries won’t affect your credit score, and they won’t show up on a credit report. Soft credit inquiries can be done without your permission. You may be wondering, “who’s sitting around running my credit report on a Saturday night?” Involuntary checks on your credit report will typically come from financial lenders who want to market a “pre-qualified” offer to you. We’ve all seen these types of mailers that you get from unfamiliar companies that say “Hey, you’ve pre-qualified for an auto loan! Here’s your special code go sign up today!” Soft credit inquiries usually consist of employment verification checks, pre-qualified credit card offers, when you check your credit score, and pre-qualified insurance quotes. Now, we know what a soft credit inquiry or soft credit pull is, but what is a hard credit inquiry or hard credit pull?

 

 

Hard credit inquiries are usually completed for larger banking requests like submitting an application for a mortgage. For example, you’d submit an application if you were applying for a mortgage, personal loan, auto loan, or student loan, among other types of loans. After having a hard credit inquiry completed there is a chance that your credit score may be affected. Multiple hard credit inquiries can affect your credit score negatively and all the hard credit inquiries will be visible on your credit report. These inquiries can show up on your credit report for up to two years after the inquiry is completed.

 

Typically when you’re submitting an application or applying for new credit – it will affect your FICO score if you are applying for a loan with multiple lenders. You should still apply to multiple lenders to find yourself the best interest rates. Now, if you are applying for the same type of credit, it is likely that if the inquiries are done within a certain window, they may be counted as a single inquiry. Inquiries are important to understand because they are the building block to your credit score and credit report which illustrates for lenders your financial wellness. Be sure that you know what you are signing up for before you proceed to submit those application documents. Speaking of financial wellness, what is a credit freeze and how can you benefit from it?

 

What is a Credit Freeze?

A credit freeze is pretty self-explanatory, it’s a freeze or hold that is placed on your credit to stop lenders from completing any inquiries. You may have heard a credit freeze referred to as a security freeze. Having a credit freeze will not impact your day-to-day financial wellness routines. You’ll still have the ability to pull an annual credit report to review it for accuracy. If you want to open up new credit that will require a hard credit inquiry all you need to do is simply lift the credit freeze temporally until it is completed. It’s important to note that though you may have a credit freeze in place, creditors, debt collectors, who actively have an account that belongs to you and government agencies utilizing warrants, and subpoenas will have access to your credit report.  All these simple things to secure your financial wellness and guess what? It gets better, all credit freezes are free!

 

You’re protecting your identity from thieves who may be trying to open accounts in your name, but it doesn’t cost a dime – no brainer! As we learned above, when you’re applying for credit like a mortgage, a lender will need to do a hard credit inquiry. If you’re not expecting to have your credit reviewed, it’s recommended that you place a credit freeze on your account. It’s important to know how to put a credit freeze into action and get it onto your account ASAP to keep those thieves away! Also, if you are a parent of a child under the age of sixteen, you should consider freezing their account too as per the FTC.

 

How to Implement a Credit Freeze

Now it sounds like it’s a lot harder than it actually is to implement a credit freeze. It also sounds way expensive too, but we know thanks to government laws it is free! Here’s how to place a credit freeze with each of the major U.S. credit agencies.

 

Equifax:

Visit https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/ to setup an Equifax account.

 

Step 1 –

Provide Personal Information (Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number, Mobile Number, Address)

 

Step 2-

Create Account Details (Email Address, Password)

 

Step 3-

Verify your identity using a text message or answering financial questions about yourself. My phone was broken, so I got to take my very own financial quiz to confirm my identity.

 

Step 4-

Once the quiz questions are answered you’re queued to sign in.

 

Step 5-

Select “Place or Manage A Freeze”

 

Transunion:

Visit https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze to setup a Transunion Account.

 

Step 1- Select “Add Freeze”

 

Step 2- Provide Personal Information (Name, Date of Birth, Last 4 Digits of Social Security Number, Address)

 

Step 3- Create an Account

 

Step 4- Verify finance history via questions provided.

 

Step 5- Add Credit Freeze.

 

Experian:

Visithttps://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html and select “Add a Security Freeze”

 

Select Whose Credit You’d like to Freeze

 

Step 1- Provide Personal Information (Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number, Address, Email Address, Create a Pin)

 

If you are serious about freezing your credit you’re going to want to utilize all three U.S. major credit agencies Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. Most of them provide a pin once the freeze is placed, so be sure that you keep that pin for your records. When you are ready to lift the security freeze or credit freeze you should have it readily available to you.

 

How To Lift a Credit Freeze

 

You can lift a credit freeze or you can choose to remove it altogether. In order to do so, it’s similar to the credit freeze sign up process. You need to contact each credit agency and make a request to remove the credit freeze. As we discussed previously many of the three major agencies utilize a pin, almost like a password, that you’ll need to provide to lift or remove the credit freeze from that bureau.

 

Attaining good credit and working hard to keep your finances healthy, isn’t easy. With all the recent data breaches it is so important to take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family from those looking to complete identity theft. One incorrect credit inquiry could cause a much bigger problem for you then taking the time to prevent it now. Credit freezes aren’t the only way to protect your credit from thieves if you lifted your credit freeze or removed it fully you may want to look into utilizing fraud alerts.

 

 

Are Student Loans Impacting Your Credit Score?

 

 

Fraud Alerts for Credit Reports

If you don’t want to freeze your credit but want added security for your credit reports, try fraud alerts. There are three different types of fraud alerts: initial fraud alert, active duty fraud alert, and extended fraud alert. What’re the differences between each and what makes them different from a credit freeze?

 

Initial 90 Day Fraud Alert

 

The initial fraud alert is an alert that lasts usually around 90 days and is often used when financial information, credit card numbers, or your wallet have been stolen or even lost. The initial fraud alert gets placed on your credit report. Meaning, if someone is, in fact, trying to steal your identity they will have a difficult time because companies will be required to take additional steps to verify your identity before issuing additional forms of credit. You can place these alerts on your credit report by contacting a credit agency. Once one agency is contacted they must notify the other two U.S. credit agencies. Initial fraud alerts can be renewed after the 90 day period.

 

Active Duty Alerts

 

These alerts are designed for people who are on active military duty. They operate similarly to initial fraud alerts in that they require businesses to complete extra tasks to confirm the borrower’s identity before an additional form of credit can be issued. These types of alerts typically last about 12 months or a year but can be renewed to match the deployment period. When you contact a credit agency, it must notify the other two U.S. credit agencies. Also, according to the FTC, the credit agencies must remove your name from any marketing lists for prescreened credit card offers for two years unless you request otherwise.

 

Extended Fraud Alerts

 

Extended fraud alerts are commonly used if you have already fallen victim to identity theft. Extended fraud alerts last 7 years. In order to place this type of alert on your credit report, you’ll need to send proof of identity theft to one of the three major U.S. credit agencies. Here is a great government resource if you ever fall victim to identity theft.

 

Similarities and Differences between Credit Freezes and Fraud Alerts

 

Fraud alerts and credit freezes have some similarities and unique differences. For example, both alerts and freezes are free of charge according to U.S. federal law. Any current creditors will still have access to your credit report even if you have fraud alerts enabled or you have a credit freeze in place. If you choose to open any new forms of credit while these are enabled it could lengthen the process for the new creditor. These are the similarities but what makes fraud alerts and credit freezes different?

 

One main difference is for a credit freeze each U.S. agency will need to be contacted directly. Whereas, for fraud alerts, if you notify one credit agency, that credit agency is responsible for notifying the other two credit agencies. During a credit freeze, prospective lenders will not have any access to your credit report. With a fraud alert, prospective lenders do have access to your credit report but will need to take additional steps before issuing new lines of credit. The last and one of the most obvious differences between these two is that credit freezes don’t have an expiration date. A credit freeze can be placed on your credit report until the end of time unless you request that it is removed. A fraud alert typically will expire within a year, or seven years depending on the type of fraud alert you’ve selected.

 

 

5 Reasons to Refinance Your Student Loans

 

 

NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites
Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Responsibilities of Cosigning A Loan

It’s often thought about pretty commonly that people will attend college. What often isn’t discussed is how people will afford to pay for their college degree. When looking for available financial aid options many look to private student loans to pay for college. Once completing the application don’t be surprised if it is denied because of your financial history or lack thereof. Unless your parents opened up a credit card account for you as an authorized user when you born, you probably won’t have a long enough credit history. Don’t be overly heartbroken, since you aren’t the only one without a long credit history. A way around not having an established credit history is to talk with a parent or guardian about being a cosigner on your student loan. This isn’t an easy process, but it can be worthwhile if both parties understand the responsibilities that are associated with cosigned student loans. Additionally, adding a cosigner to a loan may not be the right answer.

 

Having a cosigner can help qualify you for a student loan because the right cosigner should have an established credit history. As a lending institution, it would be too difficult to lend to a borrower who hasn’t yet shown that they are financially responsible. Adding a cosigner who is financially responsible, for a loan assures the lender that the loan is less of a risk and is more likely to be paid back.

 

If you like sports, think of it like a basketball game. If you’re injured and can no longer play, a substitute or someone on the team plays the game in your place. A cosigner would be your financially responsible substitute in the game of loans. If you are unable to carry the financial burden of a loan at any time and take a knee, a cosigner is expected and legally responsible to repay the debt.  Though the concept of adding a cosigner can seem fairly simple, there is a lot that goes along with it. Here are a few things to understand, before you even consider asking someone to cosign your private student loan.

 

 

Why would you need to add a cosigner to a loan?

 

There are multiple different cases why you may need a cosigner. If you have never owned a credit card, had a loan before or held any type of credit, you may have no established credit history. Even if you have had credit for a short time, there may not be enough history for the private loan company to evaluate. If you have a large loan you’re interested in taking out, it’s highly unusual that the loan will be provided to someone with a year or less of credit history. Based on your credit history a student loan company can see how often a person is paying off debt and what their credit score is. Without a credit history, it can be hard for a student loan company to evaluate if you will be on time for loan payments.  With a cosigner, the student loan company can evaluate the financial history of the cosigner and see that they are a reliable applicant.

 

Another reason that you may need a cosigner is that you have a bad credit score. If your debt-to-income ratio is too high, you have an unsteady income, or you have previous defaults on your credit history, this could be a reason why you’d need to add a cosigner. A cosigner can help qualify you for a private student loan. When having a cosigner, it is the cosigner’s loan and they are fully responsible for that loan too. Though your cosigner is not using the loan, it is equally their responsibility to make sure the loan is paid off. If you choose to ask a family member or friend to be a cosigner, it is important they understand the financial responsibility that they are taking. For example, if you do not pay your loan, your cosigner will have to pay it off. A cosigner will need to have a good credit history and consistently have responsible financial habits. You may be thinking of multiple different people who could be your cosigner. Before diving in, be sure to understand who can cosign your loan.

 

Who can cosign a loan for college?

 

When evaluating the need for a cosigner, you will need to know who is eligible. Undergraduate and graduate private loans lenders have a list of criteria that a cosigner must meet. The criteria for a cosigner will be different based on each lending institutions policy and eligibility requirements. Here’s a breakdown of some of the general eligibility requirements needed.

 

  • A cosigner must be a United States citizen and of legal age.
  • Legal age will vary by state, so it is important to look up the legal age for your state of interest.
  • As for your preference, it needs to be someone you trust. Maybe start by asking a parent or close relative.
  • Needs to have a good credit score, and has to know all the financial responsibilities of a cosigner.
  • The cosigner will be required to have a consistent employer or a steady income. If a family member is not an option, consider a dependable, close friend.
  • Some private loan companies require that the cosigner have the same address as the applicant.

 

Cosigner Responsibilities

 

Make sure your cosigner fully understands what they are committing to and that you both discuss the responsibilities needed from a cosigner. Being a cosigner can be unpredictable. As a borrower, you may not be able to pay off a loan that you have taken on and your cosigner will be accountable for the remainder of the student loan payments. This could affect a cosigner and their future. Go over the cosigner paperwork and discuss all the options you have. You both will have equal responsibility throughout the life of the loan.

 

Cosigner responsibilities include payment on any late or missing payments as per the contract of the private loan. The cosigner’s credit report will show the student loan, therefore, any late payments will affect the cosigner’s credit score. A cosigner, by cosigning, is adding more credit to their credit history. Therefore, if the cosigner needs their own loan, they may find it difficult due to the additional credit added from the private loan.

 

A creditor may have different ways of collecting loan debt, but they can garnish wages depending on the state the loan is originated in. If the loan is not paid, you or the cosigner’s employer may be required to refuse a portion of your paycheck and send it to the creditor. In addition, a private loan may have clauses included in the document. Be aware that a clause may require the loan amount paid in full at the time of a cosigner’s death. Meaning if you ask someone to be a cosigner and they pass away the debt may have to be paid in full at that time. The same can go for the cosigner if the borrower passes away, the full debt balance could be expected at the time of the borrower’s death. Open communication between you and your cosigner is vital. Go over all clauses, liabilities, and possibilities to ensure you are both aware of the circumstances.

 

Factors to consider when selecting a cosigner

 

A cosigner needs to be someone who is completely able to pay off your loan. The private loan company will want to see that the cosigner has a steady income. A steady income means that they have reliable employment or a consistent form of payment. Without a steady income, the loan company will have no evidence that your cosigner has the funds to help pay off the loan.

 

Your cosigner will need to have a decently lengthy credit history. Along with the cosigner’s credit history, the lender will review their credit score. A credit score will illustrate to the loan company that the cosigner has borrowed money previously and was able to pay it back on time. A private loan company is always looking for a trustworthy candidate that will be capable of paying back their debt. While the loan company will decide if you and your cosigner are qualified, it is important that you have a dependable cosigner.

 

Cosigning will be a long term commitment and all clauses must be considered. Good health will be a factor when choosing a cosigner. Good health may seem like an odd qualification to have. If your cosigner dies, your loan could automatically be placed in default regardless of the payments you have made. Due to unfortunate circumstances, this could have a harmful effect on your credit score.

 

Whether it a relative or close friend, you and your cosigner must be on the same page. Once you have a loan you both will share the responsibility of getting it paid off. Talk about financial barriers together. If you are unsure you can pay off the loan, let your cosigner know ahead of time. This could help prevent any devastating effects on your credit scores in the future.

 

Benefits of using a Cosigner

 

While having a cosigner is a serious decision, it does include benefits. One of the biggest advantages to adding a cosigner is that it could help you to have a better interest rate. Adding a cosigner with a good credit history, and income, private loan companies may give you a lower interest rate. How can having a cosigner get you a lower interest rate? Since your cosigner should have an established credit history and income, it means that the loan is less risky for the lending institution. If the loan is more likely to be paid back based on previous borrower history, then the lending institution will provide a more attractive interest rate on the loan. Having a lower interest rate on your loan could mean thousands of dollars saved from debt repayment.

 

Secondly, having a cosigner could assist you with your own credit. Since a cosigner gives you a better chance at receiving the loan, you’re more likely to establish the credit to further build out your credit history. Assuming you’re able to make the monthly payments on your student loan, you will start to build a credit history. If you are paying on time, this will help you to improve credit for future needs and purchases for both you and cosigner. Without a cosigner, you may not be eligible for the loan and would not be able to get a jump start on your credit. Cosigning for a debt is not something that should be taken lightly by anyone. This could be the right answer for you or it could be the wrong answer. It’s important to review all your options as a borrower and discuss the liabilities and responsibilities of cosigning with your cosigner.

 

10 Facts About Student Loans That Can Save You Money

 

How to Build Credit While in College

As a child, it’s not uncommon to think that there are monsters hiding under your bed or maybe in your closet. You never actually think it through as to what really could be hiding but it’s something scary. Trust me, you didn’t want to ever have to come face-to-face with it. Thus, my reasoning for staying in bed every night and never moving. Oh, and of course hiding my arms under the blankets. You know you did it too! Well, at twenty-eight I think I’ve finally met those monsters.  It was my credit!

Throughout my life, I was terrified of credit. I, like many others, was taught credit cards lead to lifelong debt and it could ruin my life. Not only that but any minor change like closing a credit card account affected my credit score – SCARY! Credit, like most new things in life can be intimidating or maybe even scary, but we have to start somewhere.

What most people, myself included, don’t understand about credit is that it can be a great thing when used responsibly. A good credit score can help with getting a house or buying a car. I now understand that credit is not a scary thing. Credit is only something you need to be responsible with. If you are a college student looking to build credit purchase only things that you can pay for. If you cannot guarantee that you can stay on top of payments, you shouldn’t be making purchases.

While in college, if you decide to build credit it can help jump-start your life after college. Filling out applications with your credit score will be easy because you’ve already started building credit.  In college, credit can be built through everyday expenses and can benefit you in the long run. Here are some simple ways of building credit that will not break the bank or “ruin your life,” but help you in the future.

Find a Credit Card

While in college, you may see a credit card offer dropped in your mailbox every week. Actually reading through the information and what the card offers is KEY. Look at interest rates and cash back rewards. Some cards have cash back rewards on points earned by using the card on things such as gas and groceries. By using a credit card for necessities and paying it off, you are earning easy credit while still in college.

Some cards offer cash back opportunities on travel. If you’re going away to college, using a credit card could be a great way to earn points for a visit back home or a weekend getaway. Remember, use a credit card on things you will be able to pay back on time. This way you will be building credit while also gaining reward points to redeem on things you want to do.

If you’re attending college you may want to check out student credit cards. Student credit cards can be a really great way to start building credit while you are in school. Be warned that you will still need to demonstrate a decent salary to qualify for a student credit card, simply being a student is not enough. Most student credit cards will not charge an annual fee and many offer additional perks.

 

Learn How Completing College Early Can Save You Money

 

Secure Credit Cards

If you don’t qualify for a student credit card or any traditional credit card because you don’t have a credit history look into secure credit cards. They work just like other credit cards but require a cash deposit, first. This deposit is usually in the hundreds or low thousands. If you make every payment in full and on time you’ll receive back your down payment. If you do not make payments on time or in full the lender keeps your down payment.

Rent

While being in college you will likely be moving into your FIRST apartment. An apartment can be a great way to start earning credit. Putting the rent in your name and paying it on time can assist in building credit. In order for rent to go towards your credit history, your landlord must be reporting the rent payments to one of the credit agencies. If your landlord isn’t reporting your rental payments it will not help you to build a credit history. In today’s society, it is also pretty uncommon for landlords to report rent payments to a credit agency.

If your landlord isn’t reporting your rent payments to a credit agency it can’t hurt to ask if they could start! When sharing an apartment with roommates, it is vital for everyone living there to pay their share of rent on time. Finding roommates that share accountability is important when you are building a good credit score.

Get a Credit Builder Loan

A loan that is in place to IMPROVE CREDIT?! Sign me up! When you have a credit builder loan, you make payments into your savings account. After one year, you will get the amount you paid back and increase your credit score! A credit builder loan does not require good credit to begin, you just have to show proof of income. Start by applying for a credit builder loan, and begin to make payments on time. In order for you to be benefiting from a credit builder loan, you must be paying on time. The pros to a credit builder loan include getting the money you put in and having a better credit score at the end of the year!

Become an Authorized User

Becoming an authorized user is a smart and easy way to embark on creating credit while in college. Being an authorized user means that you can use another person’s credit card and your name will be included on the account. The process simply has the account user add your name to the credit card account. As an authorized user, you will not be responsible for paying back debts on the credit card. This responsibility will legally be in the original account holder’s name. The main goal for being an authorized user is to increase your credit score by having an account holder with an outstanding credit history. If you have an account holder who is known for paying their debt on time, this will increase your score, because you’re on the account. Keep in mind that you should ask someone who is trusted and reliable when becoming an authorized user.

Start on Student Loan Payments

As a former college student, I know that going to school full time while working enough to have money to start paying off student loans can seem impossible. Remember, you do not have to pay off large amounts right away. While in college, consider putting money aside to start paying off loans when you can.

If you start loan payments early you will start to see positive growth on your credit score. The benefits of having student loans include helping build your credit score. If you decide to start paying off loans while in school, it will be before your loan deadline and will create less to pay off later. Even if you are not able to pay off large sums, these small amounts can make for fewer payments later on and a better credit score when you graduate from college.

Credit Utilization

A top way to build credit is not to utilize all the credit that is available to you. For example, if you have a credit card with a credit limit of $2,500 and the balance is $2,500 that would be 100% credit utilization. Credit utilization is important because it impacts your credit score. The maximum recommended credit utilization is about 30%. Therefore, if your credit card had a maximum limit of $2,500 then 30% of that would be $750. In this example, to avoid negatively impacting your credit score you should not spend over $750 on your credit card.

It can be difficult to be disciplined as a college student, but it’s important to remember that this money is not free. It’s also likely that this is probably your first credit card ever! Exciting, but this is a really important rule of thumb! This is a credit that you will eventually need to pay back. In an effort to build credit you want to be sure you’re creating good financial habits for yourself too. Be sure to stay disciplined and not utilize over 30% of your credit card.

BONUS: Credit Reports

While we are on the topic of creating good financial habits, the number one habit you can create is looking at your credit report. If you talk with any financial expert, this will be their number one piece of advice! Yearly, check your credit score and your credit report. Think about it like an annual physical at the doctor, but for your finances. Review your credit report to make sure that there are no errors or fraud to your credit history. If you visit AnnualCreditReport.com you can receive a free credit report from all three major credit agencies in the U.S. and a free credit report can be requested every 12 months.

Having paid off debt or using credit in college will prepare you for future payments on cars, houses, and throughout your adult life. Knowing your responsibilities and taking care of payments on time is key to achieving a better credit score by the end of your college career. Consider these options when deciding how to build credit and choose one that will benefit you in the long run.

 

Are Student Loans Impacting Your Credit Score?

 

NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites
Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

What You Need to Know About College Scholarships: Part 2

Part 1 of this series covered the basics of searching for scholarship money to lessen the cost of college and the average cost of college. Part 2 looks at scholarships available through the federal government and gives you additional information about qualifying and applying for these opportunities to help you achieve your educational goals.

 

Federal Scholarships for College

 

It’s a big part of the American Dream: graduating from college to pursue a productive and rewarding career. In fact, Americans value a college education so much that our federal government awards over 120 billion dollars in annual aid to help students achieve this goal. Much federal financial aid is in the form of student loans, work-study programs, and tax credits for education. However, the government also awards “free money,” which often doesn’t have to be repaid. Instead of calling this type of award a scholarship, the government calls it a federal grant. Grants are awarded based on need, plus special conditions and circumstances. A federal scholarship or grant could be your ticket to a great education at a lower cost.

 

Federal Grants & Private Scholarships: What’s the Difference?

 

You may be eligible for both federal grants and scholarships from your college, state, service club, foundation or business. One of the main differences between the two types of aid is the application process. Each private scholarship has its own process, and you must carefully adhere to the instructions and meet all deadlines if you hope to qualify. Eligibility for a federal grant is determined using the comprehensive FAFSA® form, which students submit to apply for all federal student aid (grants, loans, work-study and other types of federal assistance). An exception to this is military ROTC scholarships and VA programs, which have varying application processes. ROTC and VA applicants must go through the appropriate service branch or agency to apply.

 

Private scholarships are frequently awarded on merit (scholastic or athletic achievement), specified condition (area of study, heritage, college or state) or financial need. Sometimes, more than one criterion is used to determine the award. Federal grants are based primarily on need, although some federal programs have been established for specific purposes like promoting teacher education or community service. Such grants may have additional requirements, like academic achievement and service commitment, in exchange for education benefits. Likewise, scholarships awarded through U.S. military ROTC programs come with a specific commitment to serve.

 

How Do You Apply for a Federal Grant or Scholarship?

 

Application for federal grants begins by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. To apply for scholarships through military ROTC programs, you must apply with the associated military branch. Application for VA benefits can be accessed through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs website. The Dept. of Defense also offers scholarships and graduate fellowships with their own application process. Links to these federal sites are listed here:

 

 

Resources for Grants & Scholarships Through the Federal Government

Check out these federal grant programs that could help you lower the amount of money you have to borrow to attend college.

 

Pell Grants:

These grants gave eligible students a maximum amount of $6,195 toward their education in 2019 – 2020. Students may receive this assistance for up to 12 semesters of college.

Available To: Undergraduate Students

Qualifications:

  1. Must show exceptional financial need.
  2. Have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree. May be eligible if enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program.
  3. Must not have been incarcerated in a federal or state correctional institution.

Amount Received Dependent On:

  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Defined by the Department of Education as “an index number that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school.” The FAFSA form information is used to calculate this. The formula takes into account your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, benefits, family size, and the number of family members who will attend college.

Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Financial Need

  • Cost of Attendance. Determined by your school for your program.
  • Attendance Schedule. Will you be a full-time or part-time student?
  • Are you attending school for the entire year or just a semester?

 

 

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants:

This is an additional grant program distributed by participating colleges and allocates anywhere from $100 to $4000 toward a recipient’s undergraduate education. Submitting your FAFSA early can have a direct impact on this type of grant. Each school sets its own deadline for campus-based funding. You should be able to see the deadline on the school’s website and if it’s not there be sure to speak with a member of your financial aid office.

Available To: Undergraduate Students

Qualifications:

  1. Must show exceptional financial need.
  2. Have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.

 

 

Teacher Education Assistance for College & Higher Education (TEACH) Grants:

You must also be pursuing a career in teaching. In order to qualify you will need to teach at the elementary or secondary level school in a high-need field in a low-income area after graduation.

Available To: Undergraduate Students, Post Baccalaureate Students, or Graduate Student (Attend a Participating School)

Qualifications:

  1. Enrolled in a TEACH-Grant-eligible program.
  2. Meet academic achievement requirements (scoring above the 75th percentile on one or more parts of a college admissions test or maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25)
  3. Receive TEACH counseling to explain the terms and conditions of the service obligation. Must complete counseling each year you receive a TEACH Grant.
  4. Sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve.

 

Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grants:

Eligible students who lost a parent in military service and do not meet the need-based threshold for a Pell Grant can apply for additional college funds through this program.

Available To Qualifications:

  1. Not eligible for the Federal Pell Grant due to Expected Family Contribution.
  2. Meet Federal Pell Grant requirements for eligibility.
  3. Parent or guardian was a member of the U.S armed forces, who died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11.
  4. Under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of the parent or guardian’s death.

 

 

SMART Scholarship Program:

The Dept. of Defense offers undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships to encourage participation in the STEM sciences and recruit future civilian employees for the DoD.

Available To Qualifications:

  1. Must be a U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or United Kingdom Citizen at the time of application
  2. As of August 1, 2019, must be 18 years of age or older.
  3. Ability to participate in summer internships at a DoD facility.
  4. Willingness to accept employment post graduate for DoD
  5. Minimum of 3.0 on a scale of 4.0 and in good standing.
  6. Pursuing one of these disciplines for undergraduate or graduate degrees.

 

Jobs to Reduce Student Loans

 

NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites
Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

 

What is a Prepayment Penalty? What’s the Catch?

Imagine finally paying off your loan just to find out you owe the lender more money!  All because you’ve paid your debt off early. Instead of your lender rewarding you for paying the loan off earlier than your contract states, they charge you extra. Here’s what that is, how to avoid it, and what you can do.

 

What is a prepayment penalty?

 

A prepayment penalty is a fee charged to a borrower. If you pay off your loan earlier before the date planned in the contract the lender could charge you a prepayment penalty.

 

A prepayment penalty is charged once you’ve completed paying your debt, if it was paid it off early, or it could be a fee for overpaying the scheduled amount set per year. A prepayment penalty can be a fixed amount or based on what the remaining balance of your loan was set to be. For example, certain loans may allow you to pay off 20% extra each year before facing a fee.

What are prepayment penalties for?

 

When you borrow from an institution, they assume that it will take you a certain amount of time to repay the debt back, with interest. If you pay back your debt sooner, that institution may lose out on the interest that they collect. For this reason, loans like a mortgage might have a prepayment penalty to discourage people from refinancing or selling within the first few years.

 

You can think of a prepayment penalty as a way for the institution to ensure that it makes an adequate return amount for the credit they lent. Additionally, lenders charge prepayment penalties because if they place the loan in security and sell it, they need verification that the loan will be outstanding for a particular period of time. Having the security outstanding for a period of time will provide the buyer of the security a yield.

 

Student Loans

There are so many benefits to paying extra on your student loans each month. One of the main benefits – you’ll pay less interest over the life of the student loan. When it comes to student loans, you may be surprised to find out that there are no prepayment penalties. That’s right no prepayment penalties for both federal and private student loans. According to the Higher Education Opportunity Act of August 2008: “It shall be unlawful for any private educational lender to impose a fee or penalty on a borrower for early repayment or prepayment of any private education loan.”

 

Before you begin making extra payments towards your student loans, you should contact your servicer. Verify that the additional payment is being applied to the principal balance of the loan and not to the interest. If the overpayment is directed to the principal you’ll be able to pay down the debt faster.

 

Mortgage Loans

Mortgages don’t always have prepayment penalties, but some do. If there is a prepayment fee on your mortgage you should be able to review the details in the mortgage contract. It’s vital when signing a contract that you pay attention to the fine print. If you don’t understand something or need further clarity, be sure to ask questions.

 

When dealing with Mortgages, if you chose to refinance your loan there could be a prepayment penalty. Typically if you choose to refinance within the first three or five years of having the loan there may be a prepayment penalty fee that applies.  If you ever have any questions about prepayment fees you should contact your mortgage lender for clarity.

 

Auto Loans

When taking out an auto loan there are two types of interest that may be used in your contract, simple interest or pre-computed interest. Simple interest works similarly to a student loan, it is calculated based on the balance of the loan. Therefore, if you have an auto loan with simple interest, the sooner you can pay your loan off, the less interest you’ll pay.

 

The other type of interest is pre-computed interest. This interest is included in your agreement. It is a fixed amount calculated and added on at the beginning of the contract. Using a pre-computed interest rate is typically when you encounter prepayment penalties. Similar to mortgage loans it isn’t guaranteed that these loans have a prepayment penalty, but if so, it should be in the contract. Be sure to contact your lender or institution that services the loan to find out if there are any prepayment penalties before paying extra towards your debt.

 

Personal Loans

Personal loans can be used for a number of different reasons, from medical expenses to travel or even wedding expenses. When it comes to the prepayment penalty for personal loans, most companies will charge a percentage of the remaining balance. Though it’s likely your personal loan won’t have a prepayment penalty, you could still have one. Check with your lending institution or be sure to closely review your contract to see if there are any penalty fees for paying your debt down earlier.

 

 

Soft Penalty vs. Hard Penalty

 

You may have heard of two different types of prepayment penalties: soft and hard. A soft prepayment penalty would charge you a fee for refinancing, but not for other situations. A hard prepayment penalty would charge you for refinancing, prepayment, or selling (in the case of a mortgage – selling your house).

 

How can prepayment penalties affect you?

 

First, assuming you have multiple bills and debts that you pay each month, knowing whether any of them have a prepayment penalty can change how you pay. Imagine you have a student loan and a mortgage loan, you know the student loan doesn’t have any prepayment penalties, but the mortgage loan does. Let’s say that you’ve received some additional income and you want to put it towards one of the loans, but you aren’t sure which one. You’ll want to pay additional money toward the student loan debt because you won’t get penalized for paying it off early. Knowing a loan you’ve applied for has a prepayment penalty might motivate you to find a different borrower and give you the freedom to pay off that debt sooner without a fee.

 

Does this mean you should never pay off debts early? No way! There are plenty of loans and other types of debts that won’t have a prepayment penalty. The important thing is to know what you’re getting into. Read the fine print and ask questions during the application process. Also, for loans like a mortgage, there is typically a page you sign toward the end of the process that includes disclosures on things like whether there is a prepayment penalty, balloon payment, and so on. Always be aware of those disclosures before you take on new debt.

 

What is lifestyle creep? Is it affecting you?

 

NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites
Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Why Completing FAFSA Early Is Critical

The process of completing the FAFSA application might be something you’ve complained about. If you haven’t complained about it yourself, it’s likely you’ve heard others mention as not their favorite thing to do on a Saturday night. Though difficult, it is a crucial step for college attendance each year. Sorry—it’s unavoidable! Doing your FAFSA early can be a huge benefit, it makes it a little easier to get motivated and start the process as soon as you can. Why is it so crucial to complete your FAFSA early each year? Here are the reasons why completing the FAFSA early each year are imperative to your financial future.

 

An early application means a better chance at more money.

If you do your FAFSA early, you’ll have a better chance at more federal financial aid or school financial aid. The FAFSA application can be submitted for the next year of college starting October 1. That sounds early, but the sooner you get it in the better your chances for getting financial aid. For example, some colleges award their aid on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you wait too long, the school’s available financial aid may have been awarded to other students that did the FAFSA sooner. The same applies for federal financial aid. Only so many funds are available, and the institutions can’t wait until the last minute to select who gets awarded the aid. They often dole out aid earlier in the window. Meaning the earlier your application is submitted the better chance you will have at receiving financial aid.

 

Get your Student Aid Report faster.

If you file closer to that October 1 deadline, your Student Aid Report will arrive sooner. This gives you a better idea of where you stand for aid awards faster. The faster you have that report, the sooner you can start planning for how you’ll pay for the rest of your upcoming academic year. Having more time to apply for loans or look for other forms of aid will take the weight off of your shoulders!

 

Skip the stress of procrastinating.

Get it out of the way! There are so many things that you have to do to prep each semester. From registering for classes to picking up housewares and finding a roommate to getting your parking permit. Preparing for the upcoming academic year can usually mean a long to-do list. Plus, you will be wrapping up the previous semester. Do you really want to be worrying about FAFSA when you’re trying to study for exams? Not a chance! You don’t want to be overwhelmed with the amount of work it takes to complete the FAFSA. Be wise and get it out of the way and clear yourself up for focusing on other tasks.

 

These deadlines are real.

There’s not a lot of leniency if you don’t get your FAFSA done in time. Those deadlines are serious, and even being a little late could mean that you’re not eligible at all. Yikes! You don’t want to miss out on aid that could have saved you money on student loans just because you flaked on the application process. Plan ahead and get it done.

 

Other FAFSA Tips

  • Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for aid, it’s still a good idea to complete the application. Some schools have increased their income levels for aid. The application may be required to qualify for other types of scholarships at some colleges.
  • You generally have until the end of June to file, but some states and schools have earlier deadlines. Know what those deadlines are so that you’re not kicking yourself later!
  • Does your school use the CSS Profile? That’s an additional application required by 400 major colleges and it’s just as important as FAFSA. Check with your financial aid office to verify.
  • When FAFSA changed a few years ago from the January 1 start date to October 1, this also changed the tax information you need to submit. You don’t have to wait until January 1 to file because you use the previous tax year’s information. For example, taxes from 2018 won’t be used until October 1, 2019, which will apply to the 2020-2021 school year.

 

If you have any questions about FAFSA or any other aspect of financial aid, don’t wait to talk to an advisor or someone in your school’s financial aid office. They specialize in these topics and are there to help make sure you get as much aid as you deserve. All you have to do is listen, be on the ball, and get all of your paperwork in order to make this happen!

 

What You Need to Know About Scholarships