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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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2019-06-12
Should You Pay Off Student Loans Immediately or Over Time?

When you start your post-college career, you may be tempted to breathe a sigh of relief. Before you do that, you have important decisions to make. You’ll have to stretch your paycheck to cover your new lifestyle and associated expenses: a furnished home or apartment, vehicle, insurance, and hopefully a 401K contribution. If you are like 70% of college graduates, you also have student loans that need to be repaid.   In most situations, it's going to be most beneficial to pay off your loans as quickly as possible so that you are paying less towards interest. The average college graduate's starting salary, however often cannot allow for enough additional income to cover more than the regularly scheduled student loan payments.  Most student loans have a six-month grace period so you can do some budgeting and planning first - if you need to. We don't suggest using the grace period unless you find it necessary to organize your finances. During a deferment such as a grace period, the interest could still be accruing depending on the type of loan that you have.   If you determine that you may be better off establishing sound financial footing and a workable monthly budget before you begin repaying those daunting loans. Keep these tips in mind as you formulate a strategy for debt payoff.  

Student Loans Have Advantages

Varying types of debt are governed by different laws and regulations. Banks often base interest rates for consumer credit loans on your established credit rating. Interest rates for auto loans or credit card debt tend to be higher than a mortgage or student loan interest. As you review your debt load and make a plan, remember: student loan debt comes with a few "advantages" that other types of debt don’t offer.  
  • Preferential tax treatment: With a new job, you will be paying taxes on your income. Student loan interest is deductible up to $2,500 and can be deducted from pre-tax income.
  • Lower interest rates & perks: Federal student loans have lower interest rates and are sometimes subsidized by the government.
  • Lender incentives: Private student loans may come with incentives from the lender that make them a better deal than other credit types. These include fee waivers, lower interest rates, and deferment options.
  • Flexible payment plans: Options for lower payments and longer terms are available for both federal and private student debt.
  • Build your credit score: You can build your credit score with student loan debt. Now, depending on whether you’re making on-time payments or not, you could negatively or positively affect your credit. If you chose to make small payments during deferments, or a grace period, and regular on-time payments you will be more likely to establish a favorable credit record and reduce the amount of interest you pay overall.
 

Programs to Help You With Student Loan Payments

There are few options for loan forgiveness with regular debt, but student loans offer opportunities to reduce or eliminate your debt. These may come with commitments and tax implications, so be sure you fully understand them if you decide to take advantage of these programs.  
  • Loan forgiveness: Federal student loans may be forgiven, but you'll want to be sure that you're following all of the requirements needed of the program. Be sure before choosing this option that the federal loans you have qualify for the program. Also, keep in mind there could be taxes due on the amount that is forgiven. Some student loan forgiveness programs include PAYE (Pay as You Earn) and REPAYE (Revised Pay as You Earn), Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and Teacher Loan Forgiveness.
  • Loan Consolidation: Multiple student loans can be consolidated into one payment with the interest rate determined by a weighted average of your current loans - interest rates. Combining multiple loans may be easier to manage on a modest starting salary. Consolidating federal loans usually doesn’t require a good credit score, either.
  • Refinance, and you could achieve a lower interest rate: Lenders like Education Loan Finance specialize in student loan refinancing, and have options like variable interest rates and flexible terms. Refinancing your debt could make student loan debt easier to manage than other types of credit.
 

Pay Off High-Interest Debt First

Before you decide to pay off your student loans, think about the financial obligations you’ll be taking on. Instead of carrying a credit card balance or making low payments for an auto loan, it makes sense to continue your low student loan payments and pay off more expensive debt first or debt with a higher interest rate. In the long run, you’ll save money and build your credit score.   If you still have doubts about not paying off student debt first, consult a professional financial advisor for help prioritizing your goals and setting up a budget that lets you achieve them.  

Click Here to Learn More About Student Loan Repayment

   
2019-06-07
How Do You Know When It’s Time to Get a Graduate Degree?

The most recent data from the Digest of Education Statistics show that over 54% of those completing graduate studies take on student loans, and the average loan amount for grad school is over $70,000. With so much at stake, isn’t it worth a serious analysis of the value?  

Develop a Decision Matrix to Help You Decide

A decision matrix is an analytical tool that helps you compare different factors when making a choice. If you are about to take on more student debt to continue your education, a personal decision matrix that weighs the following questions can help you clarify your values and decide what makes both personal and financial sense.  
  • Why do you want a graduate degree? Motivation is a complex process, and you may not know what is driving you to continue your education. A little self-analysis is in order. Do you think graduate work will elevate your prestige, make you an industry authority, or help you find a more challenging job? Or are you afraid of leaving your college comfort zone and entering the workforce?
 
  • Do the jobs in your field of study match your talents and disposition? Do you thrive in a fast-paced environment or enjoy working with the public? Perhaps a predictable or solitary workplace suits you more. If you’ve never been employed in your chosen field, it might be wise to work for a while after completing your bachelor’s degree. You’ll get a better understanding of employment opportunities and personal satisfaction levels before investing more time and money toward an advanced degree. Working before pursuing a graduate program has two other distinct advantages:
 
  1. You can make progress toward paying off undergrad student loans.
  2. You will have time to solidify your life and career goals.
 
  • Will a graduate degree improve your employment and earning potential? Before committing to graduate school, do your research. Monitor the job market on sites like Indeed, Monster or Study job requirements, salaries, and the number of job openings. Talk to individuals in your field—both those with graduate degrees and those with four-year degrees. Will an advanced degree make enough difference in job availability, career stability, and earning potential to offset the time and money required to obtain it?
 
  • Are there alternatives for enhancing your employment value? Explore professional or specialized certifications that could make you more valuable to an employer. Obtaining certificates is usually less expensive than continuing with graduate studies, and added training indicates to employers that you take the initiative and possess advanced skills.
 
  • How will you pay for your advanced degree? If you already have student loans, adding more debt for graduate school could further delay your ability to achieve many financial milestones: marriage, purchasing a home, traveling, or starting a family. Often, grad school loans come with a higher interest rate and greater accumulated balance than undergraduate loans. You’ll need to determine whether the added earning potential of an advanced degree justifies the payments and payback period. It may also be worthwhile to explore alternatives like part-time studies and employer educational benefits to lessen the student loan burden.
 

Refinance Student Debt in Three Easy Steps With ELFI

You’ve graduated with a college degree and increased your earning power. Now, get the most for your money by refinancing your student loans with Education Loan Finance. Our competitive interest rates, personalized service, and nationwide availability give you the power to manage your debt and achieve your goals. With ELFI, you could be just three steps away from a brighter future!  

Click Here to Learn More About Refinancing 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.
2019-06-03
How to Build Your Child’s Credit Score When They Don’t Have One Yet

From the 2007 Housing Crisis, 2008 Stock Market Crash, and now the student debt crisis there is no surprise parents nationwide are looking to educate and protect their children on finances. Many people during these national events lacked basic financial know-how and self-discipline. Gen-Xers and millennials, starting to have children of their own, worry that a new generation could be seduced by the allure of instant gratification and the digital disconnect between earning and spending money. What as a parent can you do for a young child to teach them finances and help them learn the basics? Here are some basic tips to help your children build healthy credit and learn to use it responsibly.  

Start With Basic Financial Life Lessons

Whether your child is 2 or 22, financial education is the key to building good credit and financial independence. Erin Lowry, business blogger and author of Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together, explained in a recent podcast that her parents taught her about delayed gratification early in life. “I was really encouraged from a very young age to start making money, especially if I wanted something," Lowry said.   Saving for discretionary purchases is a lesson many young children can miss. A growing number of young adults also don’t have realistic expectations of their future earning power. Lowry grew up in a different reality. She explains that her first successful enterprise was at age 7, selling doughnuts at a family garage sale. Before she could feel too excited about her earnings, her father adjusted the amount she made by taking out the cost of the doughnuts and wages for her sister. He explained that the money left was her profit. “He actually took the money," she remembers. "That is something that has stuck with me forever."   It’s never too late to teach lessons like these. Resources for financial education are abundant in print and online, and parents can refer adult children to Lowry’s book and her blog, brokemillennial.com. For younger children, check out this post by Dave Baldwin, “The Five Best Apps for Teaching Kids How to Manage Their Money.”  

Three Tips for Establishing Good Credit for Your Children

Parents with good credit and a clear vision of their children’s financial future can take these three actions to ensure a sound credit score for children reaching adulthood.  

TIP 1: Make your child an authorized credit card user.

There is no minimum age to most credit cards, so you can add your child as an authorized user as early as you like. The best part is you do not have to give the child access to the card, just keep it in a safe place. It’s imperative that you use the credit card wisely and are able to pay the minimum monthly balance on the card. If you are unable to make payments on the card that could negatively affect your child’s credit history too. Try to only use the card for reoccurring balances like gas or food shopping.   When your child comes of age to have their first credit card in adulthood, they will benefit from your history of timely payments and reasonable use of credit. It will also benefit them if they need a loan to attend college and you as a parent may not need to be a cosigner.  

TIP 2: Add a FREE credit freeze to your child’s credit report until they reach age 18.

Contact each of the three reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, to request a freeze in your child’s name. In some states, the freeze may need to be renewed every seven years. A credit freeze is fairly simple to implement and will protect your child from identity theft, which in turn will protect their credit history and credit score. You can also lift credit freezes when your child is ready to apply for credit.   It may seem like an extreme to put a credit freeze on your two months old credit but it will only protect them in the long run. Identity theft to children is an unfortunate reality in the United States. According to CNBC, more than 1 million minors were victims of identity theft or fraud in 2017. What may be even more surprising is that data breaches are just as much a problem for minors as for adults, if not more. According to CNBC, only 19% of adults were fraud victims compared to a staggering 39% of minors due to data breaches. This can happen to your child, but it can be prevented. You have the power to protect your children from falling victim to fraud. Not to mention a credit freeze is free thanks to recent laws passed by the federal government, so it won’t even cost you or your family a dime.   To learn more about protecting your child’s credit and preventing identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information site.  

TIP 3: Set up a secure credit card account for your child to use.

A secure credit card is similar to an unsecured or the “normal” type of credit card. The only major difference is that a deposit is used to open a secured credit card account. The amount of secured credit card deposit is usually the credit limit of that secured credit card. Now, as long as all payments are made on time and in full at the end of the designated period you’ll receive your deposit back. Additionally, that fact that all payments were made on time and in full means that you should see that reflected in your credit report and you may even see that reflected in your credit score. If your child fails to make on-time payments or fails to pay the full amount of the card this could hurt your child’s credit instead of helping it.   If you choose to give your teenager a secured credit card you should be certain that you discuss the responsibilities of card with them. Make sure your child is committed to paying on time, staying within the credit limit, and using the card for only appropriate expenses you have discussed in advance. This is a great responsibility to provide a teenager because it really gives them the ability to start developing good financial habits. Whether that is putting an alert in their cell phone when the payment is due or if that is handwriting it on a calendar. Additionally, your child will have the opportunity to really learn to budget and live within their means. These are fundamental finance lessons and habits that will help to lay the groundwork of what could be a very financially responsible young person.  

Financial Outlook

  Regardless of what ways you choose to teach your child about credit or build their credit, know that your outlook on finances can easily become your child’s. If you find yourself scared of money, it’s likely your child will too. So often children learn relationships based on what they see their parents doing, so be sure that you’re laying the right framework for them to be successful. It doesn’t have to be an overly complex and if you aren’t sure that what you are teaching them is correct try looking locally for classes or programs. You should be able to find some financial literacy courses either online or within your local community. These can really help your child to familiarize themselves with common financial terms and create good financial habits. Good financial habits include how to save money, charitable giving, and even what taxes are.  No one knows your child better than you and no one wants them to succeed more than you, so be sure to give them the right tools and resources to do so.  

Ask These 10 Questions When Hiring a Financial Advisor

    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.