Archive for April, 2011
If you find inaccurate information in your credit report, you have the right to dispute the information. The Federal Trade Commission even provides you with a sample dispute letter to use to dispute incorrect information in your credit report.
Here are the steps you should take:
Find your documents supporting the actual correct information and make copies
Nobody is required to do anything simply because you claim their information is inaccurate. Just like frivolous law suits, frivolous claims of inaccurate information are simply discarded. Take the time to find any document you have to show that the information in the credit report is wrong or incomplete. You never want to send your originals, so make copies of the documents.
Write a letter to the credit reporting agency
The FTC provides a great letter on how to dispute your credit report. Follow their example and you can be sure your letter will include everything required to see action. Generally, credit reporting agencies are required to start an investigation within 30 days of receiving your letter.
Follow up on the investigation
You should receive written notice of the results of the investigation. If the information was found to be inaccurate the information provider is required to send the corrected information to all three credit reporting agencies. You should also receive a free copy of your updated credit report which does not count towards your annual free credit report allowance.
After receiving the notice of a change to your report, request that this change be sent out
Upon your request the credit reporting agency is required to send the corrected information to anyone who requested your report in the past six months. They are also required to provide you with the name and address of the information provider.
Keep checking your credit report annually
After a few months check your credit report from the other credit reporting agencies to make sure the information was changed with these agencies.
That is all there is on how to dispute your credit report. There is nothing difficult about it. The law provides protections for consumers, so the mechanisms for changing reports and time limits are already in place. You only need to follow through. Request the free annual credit report you are entitled to every year, so you know that the information is accurate when you apply for a loan, lease or insurance.
Disputing your credit report will not help you, if the information in the report is accurate. Only the passage of time will erase information you don’t want to see in there. Most negative information will remain on your report for seven years from the date of the occurrence, for bankruptcy that increases to ten years.
In the rare case that your dispute cannot be resolved, you are entitled to have the credit reporting agency include a statement in your report indicating that the information in question is under dispute. Try to avoid this. Keep records of your credit transactions, so you can prove your responsible financial management.
Many college students are bombarded by credit card companies with credit card offers. We constantly hear on the news that we should work on getting a great FICO score, so what exactly is the relationship between credit card activity and FICO score? The FICO score is affected by the following credit card activities:
Opening a credit card account
This one affects your FICO score in two ways. The first one is the age of the accounts you have. The older your credit history the better off you are. This is why college students are advised to get a credit card. If you get one while you are in college, you establish a credit history and thus a FICO score before you are likely to need it.
The other way opening a credit card account affects your FICO score is by changing the amount of credit available to you. You want to the amount of debt you have to be low in comparison to the amount of credit that is available to you.
Using a credit card
This is the activity most people think of. You go out and actually pay with your credit card. You do want to do this to keep your account active, but you are best off by paying off your bill every month. The lower your debt to credit ratio, the higher your FICO score will be.
Paying off the credit card bill
Late payments have a significant effect on your FICO score. You want to make sure you pay off all bills on time, if you want your FICO score to be high, and you certainly do, since that is what allows you to qualify for lower interest rates when you apply for a car or home loan.
Closing a credit card account
This activity affects your FICO score by potentially reducing the length of your credit history, if you close the account that you have had the longest. So when you apply for that first credit card, study the fees, rules and benefits carefully, so you can feel good about it for a long time to come. When you close a credit card account, you also change the credit available to you which shifts the debt to credit ratio.
Inquiries about your credit card accounts
Inquiries can affect your FICO score negatively since it could indicate that you are trying to increase your debt significantly. Unsolicited inquiries by credit institutions before you ever apply for a credit card do not affect your FICO score.
In summary, if you are planning to get a credit card to establish a FICO score, find one you can feel good about for many years, use it sparingly, always pay off your balance in its entirety every month and always pay your bills on time. You will look like a champion money manager to credit institutions and your FICO score will be high enough to get the lowest rates on loans and insurance policies.
Improving your credit score is not rocket science. What it takes is discipline. Most people don’t set out to ruin their credit score, they simply do not pay enough attention to their finances to make it into the upper levels of credit scores. Let’s change that. Here are the steps you need to take in order to improve your credit score:
Assess your income
If you are employed full-time and do not have other income, this one is easy, but if you are self-employed, you should take a good look at your current contracts. Is the income from last year’s tax return a good indicator for this year’s earnings? Have things changed? If your income varies in any way, for example from commissions, reevaluate your assessment every 3 months, so you can adjust your spending and savings. You cannot make a realistic budget without knowing your intake.
Figure out your expenses
We are trying to determine how to get a high credit score. Generally, if you can show that you are living within your means, your score will go up. Are you? Add up all of your monthly expenses and compare it to your income. If you are spending more than you are earning, you need to cut your spending now. You cannot improve your credit score by going further into debt.
Make a schedule
One of the data items credit institutions look at are any late payments. If you have trouble mailing your bill payments on time, make a schedule that lists all bills a week before they are generally due. Look at your schedule every day and mail whichever payment is listed on your schedule. Technology has provided us with another great tool for paying bills. Most utility companies and creditors now offer online bill paying which allows for automatic bill paying when the bill is due. All you have to do is make sure you have enough money in your account for the electronic check to clear.
Check your credit report for open accounts you no longer use
Credit institutions look at the amount of credit you have available and the amount you are currently using. If you have an excessive amount of credit already available to you, you may not be approved for additional credit.
You can request a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. By law you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies every year. Try to keep the amount of credit you use below 50% of the credit that is available to you. Generally, the lower the percentage, the higher the credit score.
If you discover accounts on your report that are still listed, but that you no longer use, write to the credit institution you have the account with to close it. Most credit institutions will only close accounts if they receive the request in writing. Inactive accounts don’t do you any good.
Look at the type of accounts you have
You are better off with unsecured credit cards than prepaid or secured credit cards. So if you have both and they are all in good standing, cancel the prepaid or secured ones before the unsecured ones. Unsecured credit cards are only offered to people that are considered an acceptable risk. Prove your worthiness.
Add up your outstanding debt and create a budget to reduce it
You have probably heard the statement that the people that can get the credit are the ones that don’t need it. Join them. Reduce your outstanding debt. Your credit score will go up, because you now have more ability to take on new debt and have shown responsible money management.
Check any past collection action in your credit report for accuracy and correct if necessary
You cannot eliminate past collection action from your credit report if it is accurate unless it fall under a time limit. Check your individual state for time limits on collection and bankruptcy actions. However, if you have outstanding debt that you are struggling to pay off, you can help maintain your credit score by working out a settlement agreement with the creditor that includes an agreement that the creditor will not add details to your credit report once the debt has been settled and you report it as settled. You don’t want your credit report to show that you settled your debt for a lower amount if it can be avoided, so you don’t scare away future creditors.
Life insurance is one of those products you purchase and then forget about. The time to really think about it is before you purchase it. Life insurance is a safety net for your family, so you want to make sure, you not only have the proper amount to take care of them, but that the company will still be around to pay out the insurance amount should it ever be needed.
In a nutshell, here are the eight things you should consider before you buy:
Is the insurance company financially stable?
This one is important. It does you no good to faithfully pay your premiums year after year, if the life insurance company declares bankruptcy or manages its money in such a way that you are not convinced that the funds will be there when you need them.
Is the insurance company state licensed?
States provide a security net in case an insurance company becomes insolvent. However, they only step in to help the consumer if the insurance company was licensed to do business in their state. If you did your homework in the first item, this should never be needed, but unforeseen disasters do occur. This is your backup plan. You can check your state’s licensing by going to your state website. In Idaho you can go to http://www.doi.idaho.gov/insurance/search.aspx, for example.
How high is the premium?
This tends to be the first thing everyone checks since it impacts their pocketbook, but comparison shop anyhow. Insurance products do have quite a range of costs. Some vary with your health, some are offered through membership organizations.
Do they offer the type of product best suited to your situation?
Not everyone needs the same length or type of life insurance. Consider why you are purchasing life insurance. Do you have young children or do you have businesses which would need to be sold if you should pass away? How much will it take to allow your family to carry on?
Who is that company?
The insurance industry has mastered the art of confusion. There are many insurance companies with similar names. Make sure the company you are dealing with is really the company you think you are dealing with. Check the corporate information, addresses, branch locations and websites, before you sign on the dotted line.
What are their reviews?
Not all companies adhere to ethical business standards. Check out their reputation. Check out the number of complaints filed against them with the Better Business Bureau.
What type of service do they provide?
Companies vary widely as to how they approach service. Some have 24 hour telephone support by real people, some only provide a website which is expected to handle all of your interactions with the company. Decide what level of service is important to you and make sure the company you choose provides it.
How do you file a claim?
Your loved ones will need to know this. Find out in the beginning how this is done, so you can leave your family with instructions. Also make sure to inform them that you have this coverage to begin with. You want them to know that they are provided for, not accidentally stumble across it when a bill arrives.
Only after you are satisfied with the answers to all of the above questions should you purchase a life insurance policy from that company. Remember life insurance is meant to provide for your family once you are no longer there. Do your homework now, so they will feel your love even after you are gone.
‘Credit Score’ is one of those buzz words you hear and read about everywhere. There is also an insurance score. While credit card issuers and banks have more or less standardized the score they look at into just a few variations on the FICO score, insurance companies have their own score. It is not the same as the FICO score, however, it is linked. Insurance companies have found that how you manage your finances is a good indicator of your risk as a customer, so they factor your credit score into the calculations for their insurance score.
The 3 most important steps you can take to ensure your insurance score is excellent are:
Pay Your Bills On Time
As far as insurance companies are concerned, they would like to see you pay off your credit card debt every month. That may not be what credit card companies want to see, since they will earn less money off you, but it shows fiscal responsibility and thus makes you a low risk to insurance companies.
Never Use All Of Your Available Credit
Just because you have been approved for a $10,000 line of credit does not mean that you should use it. It means that the credit card company feels that you are an acceptable risk for paying back that large of a balance. Actually, if you could keep the amount you charge to credit cards well below the 50% mark of credit available to you, you are much better off. It shows you aren’t prone to impulse spending. You are likely to pay attention to your finances and what you can afford. That makes you a responsible individual. Insurance companies have found that if you are responsible with your finances, you are also responsible in other areas of your life. You are more likely to maintain your car properly and less likely to file insurance claims.
Eliminate Credit Accounts You No Longer Use
You don’t want to have more open credit than necessary weighing against your creditworthiness. It is helpful to request your annual free credit report to determine which accounts are still considered open. Some credit card companies are not good about canceling accounts no longer in use. Make sure you actually send a written notification to any credit card company whose credit card you no longer use to officially close the account.
You can request your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. You are entitled to a free report every year and you should take advantage of this. It will also show you if anyone has fraudulently opened accounts in your name that you didn’t even know about. Anything on your credit report affects your score, whether your actions caused the item to appear on the report or not. You do have the right to protest any errors on the credit report.
If you take care of the above steps, your insurance score should be excellent and your insurance rates will be as low as they can be before adding extra discounts.
Myths about links between insurance rates and color persist, but they are exactly that. Myths. There are a number of persistent myths such as the one that says people driving red cars get more tickets. That may be true but is it because of the color of the car or because of their personality? Actually, statistical information about links of car color and tickets or insurance rates is difficult to find. Urban legends on the other hand are a dime a dozen.
Take a look at these sites for some myth busting information and the myths they debunk:
This site specializes in debunking urban legends. From the information you can find on this site the color of your car doesn’t matter. If anything, you may want to avoid gray cars, not the sporty red one everyone thinks will get you in trouble.
Take a look at the highway loss data published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This one also does not find a link between car color and insurance rates. It also gives you some insight into different types of insurance losses.
There is another myth this one debunks: If someone else drives your car, their insurance covers them. Not true. It depends on the insurance coverage and the state you bought your insurance in. In the majority of states, the insurance on the vehicle being driven takes precedence over the driver’s insurance. You better think twice about who you allow to drive your car. It is your insurance rates that will go up, if they cause an accident.
The Canadian Automobile Association took a look at car color versus personality. While the color car you purchase does say something about your personality, they also did not find any links between color and insurance rates. They did find that silver cars seemed to be involved in fewer crashes than vehicles of other colors. Car insurance companies, however, have consistently stated that color does not matter in their insurance rate decisions. What does matter is the type of vehicle, model, age, safety record and the cost of replacement parts.
This site will answer a number of basic questions about car insurance. If you have fallen prey to the myth that insurance costs more, the older you get, you will be happy to find out that this one is also not true. In fact, there are added discounts available from many insurance companies for drivers that have reached the mature age of 55. As you will discover on this site, the myth that credit has no effect on your insurance rate is also debunked on this site.
If you have heard that soldiers pay more for automobile insurance, you have heard another myth. There is nothing better to debunk a myth like this than a direct counter example, so this link will show you the discounts GEICO offers to military service personnel. However, this is only one example. Other insurance companies also show their gratitude for military service by offering discounts on their rates.
If you have heard that your car insurance will cover theft, floods, hail and anything Mother Nature conjures up, this site will help you figure out what it really will pay for. Insurance only covers what you pay for, so read the definitions on this site and know what you are paying for.
If you think that you only need a minimum amount of liability insurance, you may be right according to state law, but it may not be what you wish you had had if you are involved in an accident. This site will let you look up the requirements for your state and tell you why you may want to carry higher limits than the minimum.
The eighth myth you may have heard is that personal auto insurance covers both personal and business use of your car. This is not true. Read the article on this site to discover if you are truly covered and what you may have to do about it.
It all depends on what you are trying to achieve. Overall, 700 is a good credit score, not a great credit score. We all find ourselves in different circumstances at different times of our lives. Here is a basic guideline to what kind of credit score you need to get approved in different financial situations. All of these vary based on your specific circumstances and the rules the company you are dealing with has set internally.
- 550 to be approved for a checking account at a bank or credit union
- 600 to be approved for a car loan
- 700 to be approved for a home loan
- 750 to get the lowest interest rates on loans
The better your credit score, the easier your financial life will be. You no longer have to pay high interest rates for loans, because companies consider you a low risk. You can read more background information about FICO scores at here.
The good thing is if your credit score is 700 and that is enough for the loan you are looking for, then your score will go even higher as you faithfully pay off that loan.
All of the above is based on the assumption that we are talking about FICO credit scores. There are others out there. FICO scores max out at 850. There are others that go higher. For example there is a credit score called Vantage which goes up to 950. Make sure you know which credit score is being reported to you. For a Vantage score anything below a 900 starts being disadvantageous and 700 would be downright problematic. 700 would be a terrible score.
The three major credit reporting companies are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. They use credit scores with ranges equivalent to the FICO score. You can pay them to receive a report which includes your current credit score as calculated by them. You may have heard of your right to receive a free credit report every year. This is correct. You can request that report at www.annualcreditreport.com but don’t expect to see your credit score in that report.
However, it will include all the information the company uses to calculate your credit score, so you should definitely request that report and make sure the information included in it is accurate. It won’t do you any good to be the best behaved financial manager around, if it is not being reported accurately or even worse, if someone else has tapped into your financial record and opened accounts in your name that you don’t know about. Your record could be destroyed quickly without you knowing about it.
Identity theft is still on the rise and already one of the largest problems of internet crime. Don’t become a victim. Monitor your finances regularly and carefully. If you have worked hard enough to get your score to 700, you should protect that score, so you can coax it up to the 750 range where you will not only be offered the best interest rates on loans but also the cheapest insurance rates on insurance policies for your vehicles and home when you purchase one. People who have proven to be low risk as far as handling money is concerned are offered the best deals in any aspect of financial management. If you are wondering whether 700 is a good credit score, you are well on your way to a great credit score, so protect your accomplishments and keep working at it.
Every homeowner should have full replacement coverage on their home. Especially in these economic times, you may have purchased your home for less than you could possibly rebuild it for. Insurance will only pay for the coverage you purchase, so review you policy and make sure you end up with a complete replacement if a disaster should strike your home. There are plenty of other options for reducing your insurance cost:
Drop endorsements you no longer need
There are endorsements for electronic equipment beyond the standard covered amount, endorsements for extra jewelry and a wide range of others. Perhaps when you purchased your insurance coverage you were running a computer studio from your home, but in the decade since then you found you could replace most of your equipment with a laptop. Drop the extra coverage. It is not doing you any good anymore.
Install security devices your insurance gives discounts for
This varies by insurance company. It can range from smoke detectors to burglar alarms all the way to roofs that have an excellent fire rating.
Increase your deductible
This is a simple one, just be sure that you can cover the deductible from your emergency funds whenever there is a claim.
Buy your other insurance from the same company
Most insurance companies offer discounts if you purchase more than one insurance coverage from them. This could be car insurance, liability insurance or even renter’s insurance for your college aged kid.
Remove outdoor structures you no longer use
Outdoor structures add risk. If your children have outgrown the trampoline, take it down. You don’t want to pay insurance just so your neighbor’s kids can sneak into your yard and bounce around on the trampoline.
Reduce the fire risks
Insurance companies will look at the fire hazards surrounding your home. If you live in an area that is considered problematic in the case of wild fires, make sure your home has a wide open strip of low or no vegetation as a fire barrier. Choose building materials that reduce fire hazards.
Improve your neighborhood safety ratings
Get active in your neighborhood and reduce its overall risk rating. You could start a neighborhood watch group if crime is a problem or you could concentrate on wildfire prevention measures. This one is very specific to your area. Whatever could make it more risky to live in, try to counteract it.
Get a competitor’s quote
This one is easy, however, it does require you to switch insurance companies if you discover a cheaper one.
Maintain your home
A well maintained home preserves the value of the investment and shows that you know how to take care of your investments. It shows that you care about it and are not likely to fall asleep with a candle burning.
Show you have a vested interest in your home by reducing your debt on it
If you have significant equity in your home, you also are less of a risk factor and insurance companies will reflect that in the policy they offer you.
The above list is roughly in the order of ease of implementation of the suggestions. Most of us will have a tough time paying off our mortgage faster in order to show how dedicated we are to maintaining its value but if you are lucky enough to be in a position to do this, you will save on your insurance premium.
Car title loans are a tricky route to go down, no matter how you cut it, and are considered to be potentially dangerous in most cases.
Essentially, the way it works is this: you go in to a localized store (which may either be independently owned or serve as part of a larger whole, existing on either a state or national level) with your car title. Then, based on how much your car is worth, you’ll receive a loan from the company.
Standard loaning procedures then apply (and if they don’t, you’re certainly in trouble). You’re required to make monthly (at least) payments to pay off the loan. Furthermore, an APR or other form of interest rate is applied to the loan.
Typically speaking, these loans have higher interest rates, to entice you to pay it back faster and, in the event that you don’t, causing the company to profit even more greatly off of you.
On top of that there are several looming catches to watch out for. For example, these companies typically guarantee cash will be in your possession that very day. This makes them highly appealing, especially to someone who’s in a real pinch.
But remember that when you walk in, you’re potentially signing away your car. If you don’t meet the requirements of your agreement, the company has the right to repossess your vehicle, which could be devastating.
Of course, that means the ball is in your court—if you’re in a total bind and need a small to moderate amount of cash quickly (most frequently, these companies are going to offer you between 20-50% of what your car is worth—rarely will they go above about $2,000 but they may, depending on the situation) then this is an effective way of getting that cash, while avoiding the bank.
Let’s say that your credit is sub-par or poor, odds are you aren’t going to be able to even get a loan from the bank in the first place. Thus, it might be imperative to take advantage of a car title loan company.
But realize that several things come with that.
As mentioned, if you fail to make a payment, even just one, it’s entirely possible that they’ll try to (and succeed at) repossessing your vehicle. This means that if you still owe car payments, you’ll still have to pay them even though you no longer own your car.
There’s an advantage though—if you really only need money quickly but are going to have that money come back in the near future (in other words, having a cash flow problem) it might not be a bad approach. You’ll have the money that same day and (ideally) you’ll be able to pay the loan off right away, or (if you don’t mind the high interest rate) whatever pace you might need to.
However, before taking one of these loans, you should assess your situation—what is it that you need the loan for? How dire of a situation is it?
It might be worth weighing your options first. If you need money for something small or trivial, it might be a better situation to take a hit such as a late fee or a flat-rate fee than to take out such a risky loan.
For example, if you’re in good standing with, say, your electric bills, credit cards, and so on, one late payment isn’t going to ruin your life, whereas taking out a risky loan might.
If you need it for something bigger and more pressing, you need to evaluate whether or not it’s worth the risk. If you really know what you’re doing and are confident you can pay back the loan at least as quickly as they ask (if not much, much faster) then that eliminates most of the risk associated with car title loans.
Although they’re theoretically helpful, getting a car title loan can be a potentially difficult thing.
Access America is known country-wide for their travel insurance policies, not just by individuals but also by travel agents.
In today’s society, making travel arrangements has become increasingly easy thanks to the internet. Reviews of hotels, airports, airlines, and restaurants abound. It’s extremely easy to get a grasp on what your vacation is going to be like just through booking on the internet.
However, there’s obviously a long list of variable factors and unpredictable situations that can affect your trip, which is where the role of travel insurance comes into play.
Access America remains one of the frontrunners.
If you find yourself vacationing frequently, it might behoove you to take out a full policy that covers you year-round instead of ordering on a more a la carte basis each time you’re planning to go out of town (and some things might not even be covered if you take this approach).
Their set up allows you to pay a premium on a monthly basis that will cover non-refundable costs that you forfeit on your trip.
They offer three overall plans—a basic plan for smaller, budget-oriented trips, a “classic” plan which is for more elaborate vacations like cruises, tours, and so on, and a deluxe package.
The deluxe package goes so far as to add supplemental health and dental coverage in the event that your pre-existing coverage won’t cover you while you’re on your trip. This isn’t an uncommon approach, especially for those who frequently travel abroad where their insurance may not cover them in the first place.
In all cases, the Access America travel insurance caps out around the $150,000 mark, meaning you can never recoup more than that no matter what your losses are. Realistically speaking, it would be difficult, even with plane cancellations, hotel deposit forfeitures, and so on, to exceed such a mark.
Access American offers coverage on an enormously wide variety of mishappenings, ranging from simple theft to family emergencies like funerals or childbirth, illness of those on the trip or their immediate family members, hijacking, and so on.
Although their website talks a big game, it seems like many consumers have had their problems with Access America.
People report that Access America didn’t deliver their end of the bargain on multiple occasions, ranging from death in the family to cancelled connecting flights. In each situation, the consumer filed a claim in the manner they were instructed to, only to have it turned down by Access America.
According to some sources, Access American is best utilized for smaller trips that are more budget-oriented. If something smaller goes wrong, it’s reported that Access American is more responsive.
Most sources suggest purchasing the policy straight from Access America’s website. It outlines all that they offer and they let you custom tailor your own policy so you know what you’re getting into. They also provide customer service options directly through the website, so that you can actually connect to another person before agreeing to purchase anything.
Furthermore, Access America offers a ten day grace period. In other words, after you purchase a plan, you have up to ten days to cancel it. If you feel it’s not worth it, feel particularly confident in your trip, or find a better rate elsewhere, as long as you talk to Access America within those first ten days you can cancel at no additional cost.
Their website also allows you to track your claims, file a claim, and otherwise keep up on your coverage, which many consumers favor heavily.
Their coverage includes business trips, honeymoons, recreational travel, and a wide variety of other traveling needs, all outlined on their website.
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