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4 Common Credit Card Myths

March 5, 2017

Most people have mixed feelings about credit cards. For some, they are a great tool for building credit. For others, they are the first form of consumer debt that many people incur. Although the majority of Americans own at least one credit card, a surprising number of people struggle with basic information about the terms, requirements, and the multiple ways they impact personal credit profiles. According to a recent survey from NerdWallet, most credit card users are unaware of the effects that many common actions have on their credit scores. More than half of consumers do not know when they begin being charged interest on credit card purchases, and 54 percent do not know that carrying a credit card balance does not help a person’s credit score. These findings support the idea that, while credit cards are widely used, the majority of Americans are unfamiliar with all of the information necessary to use them correctly. Here are four common credit card myths and why you should know about them:

Credit Card Myth #1: Carrying a balance is good for your credit score.

As stated above, more than half of credit card users think that the simple act of carrying a balance from month to month helps build credit. This is simply untrue — at a minimum, carrying a credit card balance often costs you money, and higher balances can actually lower your score by counting against your available credit. Users who only pay the minimum payment each month end up being charged interest on the average daily balance on the card. Increases in credit scores are influenced by factors such as maintaining on-time payments and keeping balances low compared to available credit limits (credit utilization ratio), both of which can be accomplished while still paying off your entire bill each month. Responsible credit card usage can help your credit score, but spare yourself from unnecessary fees and snowballing debt by only charging what you can afford to pay in full on time every month.

Credit Card Myth #2: The amount you charge to your credit card each month is not relevant.

Most credit cards come with a monthly limit. Many credit card users, especially first-time users, see that limit as the maximum amount they are able to spend that month and simply spending less the maximum is acceptable. While staying within your limit is important, the amount you charge to your card each month actually matters. When determining your FICO credit score,  MyFico.com highlights how several factors are taken into consideration:

  • Payment History (35%)
  • Amounts Owed (30%)
  • Length of Credit History (15%)
  • New Credit (10%)
  • Types of Credit Used (10%)

Amounts owed, which accounts for 30 percent of your credit score, is also known as your credit utilization. Your credit utilization is essentially the amount of your credit limit you use — the percentage of the amount you owe relative to the amount you have available. The lower the utilization percentage, the better — the higher the percentage, the worse effect it has on your credit score. For example, say you own a credit card with a $1,000 limit. If you charge $300 a month to your card, and pay it off, you will have a 30 percent utilization ratio, which will be good for your credit score. For a general rule of thumb, you want to stay at 30 percent or less of your overall credit limit.

Credit Card Myth #3: You should not accept a credit limit increase.

This one goes hand-in-hand with Myth #2. Many people believe that a credit limit increase is a way to get them to spend more money. While this could be true, accepting the increase can be advantageous as long as you are disciplined enough to maintain responsible spending habits. Suppose your bank offers you a $500 limit increase from your original $1,000, giving you a new limit of $1,500. If you keep your card usage the same by continuing to charge $300 a month, your credit utilization percentage will decrease from 30 percent to 20 percent. Therefore, accepting the credit limit increase can work in your favor and may help your credit score. On the other hand, if you tend to overspend and think you may be tempted to charge more to your card, declining the increase might be a better idea.

Credit Card Myth #4: Applying for a new credit card will damage your credit score for a long time.

When you apply for a new card, the bank will pull a “hard inquiry” in order to check your credit score before making a decision. Typically, these hard inquiries will result in a temporary dip in your credit score; however, they will only stay on your credit report for around two years. As long as you use the credit card responsibly and stay on top of payments, your new card can actually increase your credit score over time by adding to your credit history. However, try to stay away from applying for new cards too often (or within a short period), as this can have a negative effect on your credit score.

The Bottom Line

People have differing opinions on credit cards, and the abundance of misinformation surrounding them makes finding the right balance challenging. If you know all the facts, and how to use your card correctly and responsibly, they can be an effective tool for building good credit and help you be more likely to get the best rates on home loans, auto loans, education loans, and more.

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2019-01-17
Marriage and Student Loan Debt

Ever been on a date where the other person doesn’t stop talking about their ex? If you’ve had this experience, you can likely relate it to discussing your student loan debt in your relationship. Talking about finances is a necessary evil in a marriage. It can be difficult to discuss finances in a marriage because many people handle finances different based on their personal experiences and how their parents handled them. You might be great at adulting, but if your parents were never open about managing money, you’re probably unsure of how to bring it up. You might even be unsure as to where to start when it comes to managing finances together. Student loans are a big part of many couples’ financial reality. Figuring out how marriage will affect your student loans is an important part of managing your money together.  Here are some main points that we think you should know about marriage and student loan debt.  

Honesty

The fastest way to create a rift and cause problems in your relationship is to hide information about your finances. According to CreditCards.com, 6% of Americans in a relationship have hidden credit cards or checking/savings accounts from their partner. That total adds up to about 7 million, for perspective, that’s the size of the state of Massachusetts.  It’s not uncommon especially in younger people ages 18-29 to withhold some financial information. It’s when a partner begins to lie about large purchases that a partner should become concerned.   People might think that love solves everything, but it’s better to be on the same page and realistic about the situation. If you are mature enough to get married and really want to work together to succeed, you need to face your finances.  As a couple, you need to get over any fears about assessing the financial situation and air everything out. It doesn’t have to be painful but it needs to be an honest outlook. For some couples, this can seem really overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be.  

Get Tips on How to Talk Finances With Your Partner

 

Get a Plan

Have a conversation about how to best review everything. Discuss each of your finances and then surmise a plan to tackle them. Now in some cases, it may not be this simple depending on your income level, occupation, and level of debt. You may want to meet with a financial counselor first and go over everything together, or sit down as a couple at home and discuss the basics before moving any further. It’s totally up to you both, as a team.   Don’t be shy or embarrassed by your financial situation as a couple. There are people who make a living on making sure couples are financially confident and ready to tackle financial goals together. Don’t overlook this benefit of consulting with an outside source about finances—especially if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. If you can’t afford an outside counselor check online, you may be surprised at the educational resources available for free. When it comes to self-learning about finances just be careful how you select your resources. As the old saying goes not everything you see online is true!  

Loan Responsibility

When the person you’ve chosen to marry has student loan debt you can face some challenges. If you haven’t co-signed for a spouse and it’s just their name on the loan, this won’t be something that shows up on your credit report. Beware that even if you did not co-sign your partner’s loan there are instances when you might be responsible for paying the loan. Student loans aren’t that different from other types of loans.   For example, if someone passes away, the rest of their loan will likely be forgiven and the spouse would not have to continue making those payments. There are some cases where death will not discharge the remaining debt and the loan company may contact the estate for payment. If your spouse ever lost their income and went into default, the loan companies will look for someone to pay. If your spouse doesn’t have an income, your wages could be garnished. It’s a pretty extreme scenario, but it also happens and is something you should be aware of.   If you are choosing to marry someone with student loan debt, it’s important to talk about this. You’ll want to have a plan set up for each of these scenarios. Though they are extreme if you have savings and you pay down your debt responsibly you shouldn’t have any problems.  

Repayment Plan Adjustments

IBR and other types of repayment plans are often used when paying back student loans. We would caution against using these programs. In some cases, your monthly student loan payment may not be covering the interest accrued that month and therefore your balance will continue to increase.   Repayment plans can be based on your household income and family size. When you get married your income and family size may change. If your spouse makes a considerable amount of money, your minimum payments could go up even with your family size going up. If your spouse makes less than you or is not working, your loan payment could go down. It all depends on the details of your financial situation and your loan servicer, but it’s worth noting that this is a possibility.  

Refinancing

Fairly often we receive request to refinance couple’s student debt together. Many see this as creating a lot less hassle for themselves by creating only one bill.  That’s not always possible, and many experts suggest keeping your loans separate in case your relationship status or financial situation changes in the future. You are not always able to refinance together, either.  Whether or not you can refinance your student loan with your spouse will depend on the loan type and servicer you have. If you’re looking into refinancing, talk to each other about goals. Do you want a lower payment so you can save for a house or do you want to pay loans off sooner so you can live abroad or go to grad school? Again, it’s up to the two of you, but you can’t be on the same page if you don’t talk about it.  

Don’t stress.

Take a deep breath and know that it’s normal for people to get stressed out talking about money, but it doesn’t have to be that way. No matter how much money you make, you will have to work together as a team to set priorities. This isn’t a blame game. Just talking about finances doesn’t mean that you’re secretly harboring any resentment or grudges. No one is being attacked and no questions are stupid. You both have to agree to create an open dialogue where you both feel good about discussing money and plans. Know that sometimes there are compromises, or one of you might change your personal plans to advance the other. That’s what it means to be a team.  

Tips for Finding the Perfect Lender to Refinance Your Student Loans

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2019-01-08
DIY Investing – Do you Need a Financial Advisor to Start Investing?

Are you thinking about investing to turn your dollars into even more wealth? If you are looking into ways to invest your funds, there are a few ways to do it. One way is to hire a financial advisor to provide financial services, but some people like to try investing on their own with some DIY investing strategies. Either way, here are some things you should know.  

Types of financial advisors

  There are several different options for financial advisors. Each type of financial advisor has strengths and various fees for service. You’ll want to pick the right financial advisor based on what you’re looking to do
with your money, may want to pick a specific type of financial advisor. Let’s review what each type of financial advisor does.   Accountant An accountant or CPA can help with several different situations and types of knowledge. For instance, an accountant could help you hire and pay a nanny or do your taxes. They might specialize in certain things like being an entrepreneur or freelancing. Make sure you meet and vet your potential accountant to ensure they can do the type of advising or planning you need.   Investment Adviser This type of financial adviser is someone who can advise you on various types of securities either as a single consultant or as part of a larger firm. They are registered professionals through the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or other applicable state agencies and have to have a securities license to actually sell securities products. This might require a licensed securities representative, like a stockbroker, to make the transaction happen.   Stockbroker A stockbroker is someone who is typically licensed by a state to sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other types of securities. These financial professionals usually earn a commission on their transactions, which is how they make money. There’s quite a bit of regulation for the profession including organizations like the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).   Financial Planner Financial Planners or Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) are often employed or certified through larger agencies or even global companies that offer their own types of accounts and services. They can help you work toward a number of different financial goals based on a large spectrum of products. They might advise you about retirement, short or long term investing, saving for education, or managing other financial assets. They make money either based on fees or on commissions from the products you buy through them.   There are other options like Estate Planners, Attorney, and Insurance Agents, but they tend to deal with more specific financial situations and less with broad investing knowledge.   A really important factor in picking a trusted financial advisor is looking at their expertise, reputation, and how well they fit with your personality and service needs. Don’t pick an advisor who is only available 9am-5pm if you work long hours and prefer to visit in person, for instance. For example, if you’d rather talk via email or use online tools, old-school professionals with a smaller operation might not have the digital infrastructure you’re looking for. Similarly, you want to work with someone you trust, so make sure their demeanor is a good fit for you.   If you decide that a financial advisor is not for you and instead you want to do your own investing, you also have several options for how you can approach investing.  

DIY Investment Strategies

  Brokerage Accounts Brokerage accounts are a way that people can try their hand at DIY investing.  You’ll need to set up an online brokerage account first. Once your online account is set up, you can do research and look into what experts are saying about different companies. Look for advice as to what to buy or avoid, keep or sell.   Apps There are lots of different types of investing apps. You can try something simple that rounds up your debit card purchases and automatically invests very small dollar amounts called micro-investing, for instance. You might want to try your hand at an app that allows you to trade stocks. Some apps have higher fees than others or are paid apps while a few offer free trades. A different type of investing app that you can try would be one that focuses on your retirement, allowing you to move money around for your retirement funds. There are lots of options! Just be sure you look at the fine print and read reviews to see what kinds of experiences other people are having and what the legal details are.   Other Online Tools Various websites and types of software exist to both help you research investing and to facilitate online transactions. Just like apps, there are lots of options based on the type of investing you want to do and how you want to do it. Just do your homework and look for reputable tools before you get signed up.   Pros and Cons With something like an app, you avoid the fees that come with some types of financial advisors. On the other hand, you don’t get the personalized attention that financial investor can offer you. If you invest for yourself, you have a lot of control and can potentially save money on fees again, but you also run the risk of making some expensive financial mistakes if you don’t know what you’re doing. Make sure you know the pros and cons of any of these DIY investing strategies before you start so you don’t end up between a rock and a financial hard place.   Tips for How to Invest Smart Investing successfully can be really challenging, which is why people should start small. Don’t invest a bunch of money in risky stocks hoping to make a quick fortune. Instead, set aside a small fund to use for investing and start watching and learning before you do anything. If you can’t afford to lose money, go with more stable investments that will earn less but also likely won’t lose much if anything. Logic is a far better guide than emotion when it comes to investing. Sure, a hunch might make someone rich, but plenty of people have lost fortunes to their hunches. The math works out in your favor if you look at logical options and stick to a smart plan.  

Avoid These 7 Money Mistakes

Using a rewards card at bakery
2018-12-29
Cards and Accounts That Pay You

Unless you’re hardcore off the grid and don’t need a credit score or credit history (not advised), you’re going to need bank accounts and at least one credit card. If you need them anyway, why not find the accounts that pay you back? There are tons of promotions for cards and accounts that will give you perks for signing up. It’s up to you to determine what account fits your needs, but these are the main types of offers we’ve seen.  

Cards with Cash Back

Some people swear by cards that give them cash back. Cashback rewards tend to work best for people who use their credit card for all or most purchases and then pay it off in full each month. A quick tip is to pay the balance off before the interest accrues each month. If you choose not to pay off the balance each month you could actually be spending that money. Basically, what you pay in interest is going to reduce or even negate your reward. The average individual will not pay off their card’s balance each month this is how it makes sense for the credit card company to offer the reward. If you’re smart about it and don’t charge more than you can pay off each month, you’ll reap the reward.   There are multiple options for receiving cash back rewards. How you cash back will be applied will be dependent on what your credit card provider allows. Some cards will allow you to redeem your cash back for gift cards, paper checks, direct deposits, or even putting the cash back you earned back to your credit card balance.   If you believe that this type of card is best for you, understand the redemption threshold. Cash back credit cards often have a minimum redemption threshold. A minimum redemption is the amount of rewards that you must achieve before cashing in your cash back rewards. These redemption minimums can often be associated with reward credit cards as well.  

Cards with Rewards

If rewards like frequent flier miles or points you can redeem for travel expenses are more your speed, check out cards with other types of rewards. Look at the conversion from dollars to points to what your points can be redeemed for. If you have to spend $10,000 for a $100 gift card, then that probably isn’t enough of a reward for you to care. But if you fly often for work or find a card that has good travel rewards and you can pay it off each month, this might be a nice way to add to your travel nest egg or get a good discount on a few trips each year.   How the rewards are calculated will be determined based on the credit card that you select and get approved for. Some reward cards will provide the same rewards rate per purchase regardless of balance. Another type is similar to a tiered cash-back credit card. Each purchase you make will fall into a category. Some categories offer a larger return than other categories.   A quick word of caution before signing up for a card like this is to know the type of borrower you are. If you typically do not pay your credit cards on time, have a balance, or budgeting is not your strong suit this is probably not the right credit card for you.    

Cash Rewards on Bank Accounts

Bank accounts often offer cash rewards for signing on or setting up an account. You may often times see at your local community bank a large sign in the window with an amount on it for new customers who open up an account. This sign-on bonus is by far the most common type of cash back for a bank account. When considering opening up an account to get the sign-on bonus there may be conditions you have to meet. The small print and terms are so important when opening up any type of account. When opening an account, you have to make a pretty substantial initial deposit, and you might have to maintain it for a period of time as well in order to keep the sign-on bonus. You don’t want to count on a reward and then find out that it requires you to deposit $20,000 if you don’t have that much money.   Conditions can include a number of direct deposits or purchases you have to make within a certain period to qualify. This type of offer is fairly common when looking into high-yield checking or savings accounts. You’ll typically be required to have a specified number of transactions per month and have to have a direct deposit. If you’ve read all the terms and small print and feel the account is the right choice you should move forward.  

Other Things to Consider

 

Know the Interest

If you are looking at a card for the rewards and it has a much higher interest rate than others, this should weigh into your decision. Even if you plan to pay the card off each month, you don’t want to end up using it in an emergency and struggle to make payments with interest later. If you already have other credit cards, have a plan for which card should be used where and how you’re going to pay them.  

Look at Annual Fees

Some reward and cash-back cards have a pretty hefty annual fee. Don’t sign up for a card until you know what the annual fee is. Make sure if there is a fee, that it makes sense for how you intend to use the card. If saving money is the name of the game for you, look for a card with no annual fee.  

Know the Requirements

Requirements for different types of accounts vary wildly. There could be a minimum deposit, amount, number of purchases, or balance. Many companies utilize different types of requirements that you may have to meet to get rewarded. Keep an eye out for those requirements and see if you qualify. If it doesn’t match your situation, don’t do it.  

Check the Terms and Conditions

Always read the fine print and make sure you understand it. This rule should be applied t anything and everything. Make sure you’re reading any documentation fully and that you understand. Reading the terms and conditions will help to prevent any surprises. If there’s something you’re not sure of, read further or talk to customer service for more information. You always want to be sure that you know what you’re getting into before you sign up so that you don’t end up in a bad situation.    

Check Out These Common Credit Card Myths