What Do New FICO Changes Mean for Me?

Have you ever applied for a credit card, car loan or mortgage? If so, then one of the first things the lender looked at was your FICO score. It has a major impact not only on getting approved in the first place, but also on the interest rate you will receive after approval.

On August 7, FICO announced some pretty major changes in how they will be calculating that ever-important number. Before you can understand how the changes will or won’t impact you, you need to have a firm grasp of the basics.

What is my FICO score?

Your FICO score, or credit score, is a number ranging from 300-850 that shows lenders how reliable you will be in repaying your debts. A bad score is anything below 560, not very good is 560-659, good is 660-724, very good is 725-759, and anything above 760 is classified as great. While it is best to be in the great range, you can sometimes qualify for the best available interest rates with 720 or above.

In order to calculate your credit score, FICO pulls information from your credit reports from the three major reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. When banks and other lending institutions consider your application, they look at several factors. The first is usually your FICO score, which will either get you in the door or get it slammed in your face, but after that they consider other aspects of your finances, such as income and the detailed history on the credit report itself.

What are the changes, and how will they affect me?

There will be four notable changes to how FICO evaluates your credit score once the announced new model is released. Some of them will be very good for some people, some of them will be bad for others, and some of them may prove to show negligible changes.

The first, and biggest, is that medical debts will no longer be considered when calculating your score. This is a huge relief. Many otherwise fiscally responsible people go into massive debt when a medical emergency happens. Others don’t even know they owe money on medical bills in the first place, as they thought their insurance was going to cover their costs. When they realize they owe money, the responsible consumers pay it back, but it still leaves a scar on their credit report and, therefore, their FICO score.

With this new change, your FICO score will not be impacted. In fact, if you have no other negatives on your credit report (which would mean you most likely have a halfway decent score), you can expect to see your FICO score increase by up to 25 points.

Changes will also be made in considering debts that you have paid off. Currently, after you’ve paid off a debt, it stays on your credit report for seven years. That will continue to be the case after FICO’s updates go into effect, but FICO will no longer look at those debts, even though they show up on your credit report. If you have consumer debts that you have paid off, and they’re the only thing holding you back, you may see your score improve, as well.

There will also be an update to consider the creditworthiness of people who do not have an extensive report, taking into consideration things beyond just paying your month-to-month bills on time. (A lot of times, the people you are paying those bills to don’t even report that anyways.) Depending on how this is done, it could be a boon for those who are unable to get credit not because they are irresponsible, but simply because they have never chosen to borrow money before.

The final update is not good news for those who hold consumer debt. If you owe money and it isn’t paid in full, you can expect to see your credit score take a hit.

Hold your horses – and your enthusiasm.

While FICO has announced that it will make these changes, the new model has not gone into effect. It will not be ready to release to lenders until late 2014 or early 2015. Even then, banks have to choose to adopt it. Thismodel will be FICO 9. FICO 8 was introduced in 2009, and some lending institutions still have not updated since FICO 7. Just because they are releasing a new model doesn’t mean that your lending institution will apply it to their evaluation process.

Another thing to remember is that while your FICO score gets you in the door, banks will look at your credit report. All of those things FICO ignores will still show up. If your medical debts are deemed too oppressive for you to possibly be able to pay for a mortgage on top of them, you may still be denied. And while FICO will ignore debt that has been paid off and closed, it will still stay on that pesky credit report for seven years for all of your potential lenders to see.

While these changes could be a great way to get your foot in the door with lenders, they’re not a holy grail to your credit problems. The same tried and true wisdom will still apply: Spend responsibly, make sure the information on your credit report is accurate and pay off any debts as quickly as possible.

Femme Frugality is a personal finance blogger and freelance writer. You can find more of her writing on her blog, where she shares both factual articles and esoteric ruminations on money.

The post What Do New FICO Changes Mean for Me? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS)

What is the AAMS certification?New financial advisors need something to help them stand out. Consequently, the AAMS does just that. Designed for newcomers to the financial advice business, the AAMS trains advisors to identify investment opportunities as well as help clients with other financial goals. It also gives more experienced advisors a fast and simple way to learn more about asset management and improve their credentials. Here’s how it works.

AAMS Defined

An Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS) can advise clients on college savings, taxes, and retirement savings. The course and tests for this certification are designed to ensure advisors can assist clients with their complete financial needs. It emphasizes evaluating the client’s assets and making appropriate recommendations.

The AAMS certification is granted by the College for Financial Planning, a unit of the Kaplan Company. The college oversees a large number of financial certification programs, including the Certified Financial Planner designation, one of the most valued certifications in the field.

AAMS Certification Requirements

What is the AAMS certification?

To receive an AAMS, students first have to complete a 10-module education program provided by the College for Financial Planning. Then they have to pass an examination. Finally, they must agree to abide by a code of ethics and promise to continue their education.

The courses are online and can be delivered in self-study or instructor-led formats. Courses are open-enrollment, therefore students can begin at any time without waiting for the next session.  The 10 modules cover the following material:

1.:The Asset Management Process

2. Risk, Return & Investment Performance

3. Asset Allocation & Selection

4. Investment Strategies

5. Taxation of Investments

6. Investing for Retirement

7. Deferred Compensation and Other Benefit Plans

8. Insurance Products for Investment Clients

9. Estate Planning for Investment Clients

10. Fiduciary, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues for Advisors

The College of Financial Planning provides everything necessary to study for and complete the modules and take the test. Students have access to the study materials and tests through an online portal.

Streaming video lectures, audio files, and interactive quizzes also can be found through the college’s site. Meanwhile, students can access live classes online and contact professors with questions and issues.

The AAMS Test

To get the AAMS certification, students have to pass just one test. However, they have to make their first attempt at the test within six months of enrollment and pass it within a year.

The fee for the first attempt at taking the test is included in the course tuition. There are no prerequisites for signing up to take the AAMS course.

Time and Money Requirement

Tuition for the AAMS courses is $1,300. This includes the fee for the first attempt at passing the certification exam. It also includes all needed course materials. Each additional attempt costs $100.

Students employed with certain financial services firms may be able to get tuition discounts. The college may also provide scholarships.

The College for Financial Planning recommends students plan to spend 80 hours to 100 hours on the course. Since the course is self-study, this amount of time is flexible.

To maintain AAMS certification students have to commit to completing 16 continuing education credits every two years. Also, continuing education has to cover one or more of the topics covered in the AAMS coursework.

AAMS certificate holders also have to agree to follow a professional standard of conduct. As a result, they have to maintain integrity, objectivity, competency, confidentiality and professionalism in providing financial services.

AAMS Certificate Holder Jobs

AAMS certificates are generally earned by entry-level workers in the financial advice business. Consequently, AAMS holders are typically trainees. In some cases, they may provide support services to more experienced and highly credentialed advisors.

The AAMS designation does not confer any special powers or privileges. Instead, it’s an optional credential that students may obtain to advance their careers and enhance their knowledge of financial advice.

Comparable Certifications

What is the AAMS certification?

In addition to the AAMS, the College for Financial Planning offers an Accredited Wealth Manager Advisor (AWMA) certificate. This is a somewhat more advanced designation. As a result, it requires a course equivalent to three graduate level college credits and requires 90 hours to 135 hours to complete.

Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor (CMFC) is sponsored by the Investment Company Institute along with the College of Financial Planning. It is similar to the AAMS certificate except it focuses on mutual fund assets.

Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) is a general personal finance advice certificate from the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. First, it requires 1,000 hours of financial counseling experience. Secondly, it demands three letters of reference. Finally, applicants must both complete coursework and pass an exam.

Bottom Line

The AAMS designation is usually for newly minted financial advisors, but even experienced pros can use it to bulk up their credentials. The courses and tests associated with the AAMS teach advisors how to evaluate assets and make recommendations.

While this certification doesn’t give an advisor any real powers, it’s a sign that they can identify investment opportunities specific to their clients. Above all else, it can be a great relief to a client who has a child going to college or a retirement house on their wish list. As a result of obtaining an AAMS, and advisor can point them toward the right investments for their goals.

Investing Tips

  • If you’re looking to identify investment opportunities, consider using an AAMS as your advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • An AAMS can help you with college savings, taxes, and retirement savings if you know what your goals are. However, if you are unsure how much you want to invest, what your risk tolerance is, or how inflation and capital gains tax will affect your investment, SmartAsset’s investing guide can help you take the first steps.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/SARINYAPINNGAM, ©iStock.com/fizkes, ©iStock.com/Suwanmanee99

The post Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS) appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Average credit card interest rates: Week of January 20, 2021

The average credit card interest rate is 16.05%.

U.S. credit card lenders once again declined to revise APRs on some of the country best-known cards, according to the CreditCards.com Weekly Credit Card Rate Report. None of the 100 cards tracked weekly by CreditCards.com advertised new rates. As a result, the average starting APR for brand-new cards remained at 16.05% for the eighth consecutive week.

APRs have remained within rounding distance of 16% for nearly 10 consecutive months

APRs on brand-new credit cards have remained unusually stable for months now. For example, the average new card APR hasn’t wavered by more than a quarter of a percentage point since April and it has remained just above 16% since mid-November. Earlier in the year, the average card APR briefly dipped to 15.97%, which is the lowest APR average CreditCards.com has recorded since 2017. But for most of 2020, the average card APR remained above 16%.

Despite their current stability, average APRs are dramatically lower than they were a year ago when the average APR began 2020 at 17.30%.

At that time, even cardholders with excellent credit were likely to be assigned rates as high as 17% or more. Today, by contrast, few general market cards that are marketed to borrowers with the best credit charge such high rates.

Among the 100 cards tracked by CreditCards.com, for example, only one general market card for borrowers with excellent credit currently charges a minimum APR above 16.99%. The Capital One Venture Rewards Card starts APRs at 17.24% and caps them at 24.49%. But most comparable cards charge lower rates.

Among travel rewards cards, for example:

  • The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card both start APRs at 15.99%
  • The APRs on the high-end Chase Sapphire Reserve card and Citi Prestige® Card start at 16.99%.
  • The minimum APR on the Discover it® Miles card is 11.99% while the APRs on a number of popular airline cards, such as the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card and the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard from Barclays, start below 16%.

The average maximum card APR is also significantly lower. For example, the average maximum APR for all 100 cards included in the CreditCards.com rate report is currently 23.55%. The average median APR is 19.8%.

Capital One’s decision to leave rates alone last spring leaves it out of step with other issuers

When the Federal Reserve cut federal interest rates by more than a full percentage point last spring, Capital One was the only major, nationwide issuer not to match the central bank’s rate cut on new general market cards. As a result, cardholders with lower scores are less likely than other cardholders these days to secure a significantly lower APR than what they would have been able to get a year ago.

That’s because Capital One is one of the leading issuers of cards for borrowers with fair credit. Its line of subprime cards continues to charge the same 26.99% APR the cards advertised for much of last winter.

However, borrowers with lower scores do have more options than they had a year ago if they compare rates with other issuers. For example:

  • The Discover it® Secured card and the BankAmericard Secured Credit Card currently offer a 22.99% APR.
  • The Citi® Secured Mastercard® card starts APRs at 22.49%.

Not all lenders have given borrowers with bad credit a reprieve, though, amid the pandemic. For example, U.S. Bank dramatically hiked the APR on its flagship secured card, pushing the card’s only APR to 25.99%. As a result, the average APR for all subprime cards tracked by CreditCards.com is the same as it was a year ago: 25.3%.

The average APR for rewards cards, by contrast, has fallen from 17.11% to 15.76%, while the average low interest card APR has tumbled from 14.1% to 12.77%.

See related: How do credit card APRs work?

*All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. This offer is no longer available on our site.

CreditCards.com’s Weekly Rate Report

Avg. APR Last week 6 months ago
National average 16.05% 16.05% 16.03%
Low interest 12.77% 12.77% 12.83%
Cash back 15.85% 15.85% 16.09%
Balance transfer 13.85% 13.85% 13.93%
Business 13.91% 13.91% 13.91%
Student 16.12% 16.12% 16.12%
Airline 15.53% 15.53% 15.48%
Rewards 15.76% 15.76% 15.82%
Instant approval 18.38% 18.38% 18.65%
Bad credit 25.30% 25.30% 24.43%
Methodology: The national average credit card APR is comprised of 100 of the most popular credit cards in the country, including cards from dozens of leading U.S. issuers and representing every card category listed above. (Introductory, or teaser, rates are not included in the calculation.)
Source: CreditCards.com
Updated: January 20, 2021

Historic interest rates by card type

Some credit cards charge even higher rates, on average. The type of rate you get will depend in part on the category of credit card you own. For example, even the best travel credit cards often charge higher rates than basic, low interest credit cards.

CreditCards.com has been calculating average rates for a wide variety of credit card categories, including student cards, balance transfer cards, cash back cards and more, since 2007.

How to get a low credit card interest rate

Your odds of getting approved for a card’s lowest rate will increase the more you improve your credit score. Some factors that influence your credit card APR will be out of your control, such as the length of time you’ve been handling credit.

However, even if you’re new to credit or are rebuilding your score, there are steps you can take to ensure a lower APR. For example:

  1. Pay your bills on time. The single most important factor influencing your credit score – and your ability to win a lower rate – is your track record of making on-time payments. Lenders are more likely to trust you with a competitive APR – and other positive terms, such as a big credit limit – if you have a lengthy history of paying your bills on time.
  2. Keep your balances low. Lenders also want to see that you are responsible with your credit and don’t overcharge. As a result, credit scores take into account the amount of credit you’re using, compared to how much credit you’ve been given. This is known as your credit utilization ratio. Typically, the lower your ratio, the better. For example, personal finance experts often recommend that you keep your balances well below 30% of your total credit limit.
  3. Build a lengthy and diverse credit history. Lenders also like to see that you’ve been successfully using credit for a long time and have experience with different types of credit, including revolving credit and installment loans. As a result, credit scores, such as the FICO score and VantageScore, factor in the average length of your credit history and the types of loans you’ve handled (which is known as your credit mix). To keep your credit history as long as possible, continue to use your oldest credit card so your lender doesn’t close it.
  4. Call your lender. If you’ve successfully owned a credit card for a long time, you may be able to convince your lender to lower your interest rate – especially if you have excellent credit. Reach out to your lender and ask if they’d be willing to negotiate a lower APR.
  5. Monitor your credit report. Check your credit reports regularly to make sure you’re being accurately scored. The last thing you want is for a mistake or unauthorized account to drag down your credit score. You have the right to check your credit reports from each major credit bureau (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) once per year for free through AnnualCreditReport.com.

Source: creditcards.com

Is LendingTree Legit, Safe or Scams?

If you’re asking yourself whether LendingTree is legit, you have every right to do so. After all, you’re about to take on a big financial obligation (whether it is a mortgage loan or a personal loan).

Your objective is to save money, so you want to find a lender with the best mortgage rate. But if you aren’t familiar with LendingTree, how do you know if it’s legit?

There are resources available to check, such as reading LendingTree reviews, to make sure if they are trustworthy.

When you’re looking for a mortgage lender you can trust, LendingTree is the right place for you. Just enter your information and get multiple free and free mortgage rates within minutes.

What is LendingTree?

Before answering the question of “is LendingTree Legit?,” you need to have an understanding of what LendingTree is.

Launched in 1998, LendingTree has built a reputation by matching borrowers to lenders. (For more information about the company, visit its website.

Instead of filling out several applications and talk to several lenders, with LendingTree you can shop around for the best mortgage loans on one website. It’s an all-in-one platform.

It just connects you with multiple lenders all at one time so you can compare and choose the best mortgage rates.

So in case you were wondering if LendingTree is a legitimate and trustworthy company, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

LendingTree is legit.

Related: LendingTree Review: Get a Loan in 10 minutes

Five Ways You Know LendingTree is a Legit and Trustworthy Company.

1. Read LendingTree reviews by their customers to see if it’s legit.

Part of your search “is LendingTree legit” should include reading customer reviews about their experiences with the company. Performing a simple Google search for “LendingTree Reviews,” then you will find a lot sites like consumeraffairs.com or trustpilot.com.

These reviews can help you determine if LendingTree is indeed legit. These reviews can give you the inside story on everything about LendingTree from customer service to interest rates.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that happy customers are less likely to submit a review than unhappy ones.

So read these reviews with an open mind. Indeed, it’s important to look for reviews that are based on facts rather than opinions.

For example, a review that says “I like the lenders provided by LendingTree because their rates are low” is based on facts. A review that says “their service sucks” is based on opinion.

Shop and Compare Loan Offers in Rates in Minutes

2. Check LendingTree’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating.

Another way to know for sure if LendingTree is legit is to check its BBB rating. The BBB assigns business ratings from A+ to F.

A search for LendingTree’s BBB rating shows that not only it is an accredited company, but also has an A+ BBB rating. A BBB rating of A+ is the highest rating you can get. So if LendingTree has an A+ rating, you know it’s legit.

One thing to keep in mind is that BBB ratings and customer reviews can differ significantly. While a company like LendingTree may have negative reviews from customers (every company does), their BBB rating might be an A+.

3. Check LendingTree’s website.

Another way to know if LendingTree is legit is to thoroughly review its website. A company may seem genuine, but there are a few things that can throw up a red flag. Things to look for to see if LendingTree is a legit are:

  • How long have they been in business. According to both its website and the BBB website, LendingTree has been in business for 23 years.
  • Does it offer customer service? If there is no contact support, no address, no phone number to reach the company, this may be a red flag that the company is not legitimate. Fortunately, LendingTree’s homepage is full with that information. So there is no need to worry on that point.
  • See if LendingTree has a policy page: A legit company will have terms of use and conditions pages such as privacy policy pages. Again LendingTree does have this information, which can lead you to conclude it is legit.

Compare mortgage rates with LendingTree

4. Talk to family and friends about their experience with LendingTree.

Just like reading consumer reviews about LendingTree, friends, family members, colleagues are a great source to determine if LendingTree is legit. Ask them if their experience was satisfactory or not.

5. Visit a local office or a main office.

If you’re still not convincing that LendingTree is legit, visit a local office or their main office. Their main office is located at 11115 Rushmore Dr., Charlotte, NC 28277.

In conclusion, LendingTree is legit. But if you want to do your own research to determine if they are legitimate and trustworthy, do the following: check LendingTree’s reviews, their BBB rating, their website, and ask colleagues and friends about their experience with the platform.

All of these should lead you to believe that LendingTree is in fact a legit company.

Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage Today

Work with the Right Financial Advisor

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you save 100k (whether you need it to pay off debt, to invest, to buy a house, or plan for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

The post Is LendingTree Legit, Safe or Scams? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

The ABCs of Financial Empowerment

A quick Google search of ‘financial literacy’ will yield thousands of results, listing an infinite amount of do’s and don’ts that should (and shouldn’t) be followed to guide you along on your financial journey.

However, when you think of financial empowerment – what comes to mind? As defined by Merriam-Webster, empowerment is “the act or action of empowering someone or something: the granting of the power, right, or authority to perform various acts or duties.” No matter what your current sentiments are related to your finances, we will explore three key areas to not only embrace; but to help you prepare for a strong financial future.

Awareness

Now more than ever, we all have a laser-sharp focus on our money and where it’s being spent. The pandemic has generated a hypersensitivity to how we treat our finances while also determining what essential expenses look like and where they fit into our budget.

Before life as we knew it to be shifted, many of us don’t have to look too far back to remember a time where we didn’t check our accounts as often, our savings plan would fluctuate month-over-month or our emergency fund was used to bail us out of some impulsive spending.

To make sure those days are forever of the past, make it a habit to take inventory and audit all of your accounts. Take at least 15 – 30 minutes to review over any transactions and deposits across all active accounts. Not only does this help improve your self-accountability, but you are also able to make any disputes if anything appears incorrect and resolve quickly.

Another small but impactful tip is to acknowledge your financial health. What top three areas will be your main point of focus? If this is something you don’t know offhand, review your transactions from the last three months and categorize them. How much of your money went to impulsive buys or things that could have been purchased at a later date? Are you seeing an influx in overhead expenses or credit card payments? Are there any spending patterns you can explicitly see? Allow this exercise to serve as an eye-opening experience.

In order to determine where you want to be, you must first truthfully acknowledge where you are. This sets the blueprint and overall expectations with your personal finance journey. Knowing where you are may not feel pleasant but avoidance will lead to bigger consequences.

Betterment

Even though we don’t like to admit it, there’s always room for improvement and our finances are no exception. The first thing that guarantees mastery is actually following the budget that’s created. This serves as a guardrail – it’s used to keep us on track so we can greet our financial destination with open and inviting arms.

Once that’s in motion, explore ways to enhance your financial experience. Begin by automating recurring expenses, such as cellphone service or utility bills. That’s why it’s so important to be as honest and accurate as possible when setting a budget. Nothing should come to you as a surprise outside of any emergencies. When you trust yourself and the financial work you’ve put in, your finances have no choice but to follow suit.

If you haven’t already (or need to get back on track), work to beef up your emergency fund and savings account. Emergency expenses have a tendency to appear out of nowhere, so you want to dedicate a set dollar amount or a percentage every pay period. Setting up an automatic transfer to these accounts establish a routine while putting your mind at ease in the process.

Is there a hobby or skill you’d like to put to use and monetize? No matter how grandiose or small, this can definitely expedite achieving your financial goals. The money earned from a passion project can go toward savings, paying off debt or simply getting back to a place of comfort financially. Vacation funds or prepping for large purchases such as a car or home can also fall within this category. If you want to seek the assistance of a professional, search for financial advisors or coaches that could help you with reaching your goals. Preparation is key and your future depends on it!

Confidence

The foundation has been laid and you’ve been committed to crushing your financial goals. The budget and savings goals are in motion; so what’s next? It’s time to celebrate! Walk into your financial future with your best foot forward. When times seem bleak, remind yourself of your goals early and often.

Reinforcement such as daily reminders on your phone, having goals posted somewhere in your home you can see daily or reciting positive financial affirmations will serve as a second wind when you want to throw in the towel. Be sure to celebrate wins along the way such as debt payoff, reduction or hitting a new savings goal. Never been able to invest before and now you have the additional income to get in the game? Celebrate that!

The best way to generate excitement is to rally your family and get them involved. Create family challenges to get your children excited about saving funds and reallocating money. Come up with creative ways you all can commemorate knocking out a goal by ordering from your favorite restaurant or saving for a family staycation.

In order to walk in confidence, you have to build up the courage to begin no matter where you are or how many times you’ve had to start over. Each step counts – each successful budget, savings goal and consistent reduction of overall expenses. Be sure to keep in mind, financial freedom looks different for everyone and has the ability to pivot over time. While some may want to vacation throughout the year, save for their children’s college fund or wipe debt out completely, all are significant and take sacrifice. What is the key to achieving such a pinnacle level of confidence? Time.

 

Be kind to yourself and understand mistakes should never be equated to failures. Your commitment to this financial journey will always be rewarded.

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Source: mint.intuit.com