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Five Credit Moves to Make in 2014

Written by Mechel Glass on December 27, 2013 in Credit  |   9 comments

Interest rates are still low, and now may be the time to make some important moves that could positively impact your credit profile. From reviewing your investments to buying a car, the decisions you make in 2014 could influence your financial future.

checking your credit reportThere are plenty of signs that America’s credit crunch is easing. Auto sales have been on the rise for several months, and the total limit of new credit issued is at a five-year high.

If you need a new line of credit in order to make a major purchase or start a new business, now is a good time to borrow. Interest rates remain low, and lenders seem more willing to lend.

Before you apply for that loan, though, make certain you receive the best possible terms. Check your credit report so you know what information lenders will see, correct any errors, and do everything possible to improve your credit score before approaching a lender.

Remember that you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting agencies each year through www.annualcreditreport.com. Here are five credit moves you may want to consider while interest rates are still hovering near rock-bottom lows:

1. Consider buying a home. While low interest rates are not reason enough to take the plunge into homeownership, now may be the right time if you are already thinking about buying. Home prices have appreciated nicely in many markets, but there are still good values available in many parts of the nation, and rates on long-term, fixed-rate mortgages are at their lowest in decades.

Not sure how much house you can afford? Current FHA guidelines recommend that no more than 43 percent of your gross income be used for housing, debt, and other financial obligations.

2. Already own a home? Consider refinancing. If you are in an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) and plan to stay in your home, today’s low interest rates make now a great time to refinance into a fixed-rate loan.
It may also be a good time to refinance your long-term, fixed-rate mortgage. If you purchased a $225,000 home five years ago and had a rate of 7 percent, your payment is about $1,500 per month and you have already paid approximately $76,000 in interest.

Refinancing the balance of that loan now at 3.5 percent for 15 years will save you almost $175,000 over the life of the loan and will let you pay off your home almost 10 years sooner. In addition, your payments will only go up about $25 per month.

3. Consider buying a car. Many manufacturers are offering special financing options and other incentives to encourage prospective car buyers to take the plunge. Do your homework—know what you want to buy, and compare offers to ensure that you are getting the best deal.

4. Pay off debt. No matter what the economic environment, it’s always a good time to reduce your credit card debt. It may also be a good time to negotiate rates with your creditors, especially if you have maintained an on-time payment record and have continued to make at least minimum payments.

5. Review your investment options. Talk with your financial advisor about alternatives to savings and money market accounts. While the stock market is at an all-time high, a financial advisor can help you understand how to invest so that your portfolio has a balance of stocks, bonds, and cash that will perform well over the long term.

Mechel Glass is the Vice President of Education for ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions. She is responsible for developing the curriculum and financial education materials for online classes including webinars, podcasts, videos, and listen-on-demand classes. She provides support and training for the agency’s community outreach programs and staff, including financial education specialists in 15 states. Glass also manages the development and reporting of the agency’s online education, and she is the co-author of The Veteran’s Money Book to be published by Career Press in April 2014.

9 comments

  1. Amy L Alexander says:

    My biggest issue with the manner in which “credit card debt” is monitored is that someone who pays their full credit card balance every month is viewed the same as someone who carries a balance and only makes minimum payments.
    Although I do consistently maintain a credit score around 800, every time I get an analysis of my credit score from Equifax, it always says I could improve my score by paying off my credit card debt. Apparently, the way the system is set up, they cannot see that I REALLY DO NOT HAVE ANY CREDIT CARD DEBT.
    My credit cards are on automatic payment (except for those that do not offer that option) to be paid in full each month. I never pay a dime in interest because I DO NOT carry a balance. So why am I considered to have any credit card debt? Logically, you would think I would get extra points for paying my credit cards off each month.
    What would happen if I went a month without using my credit cards just to prove I really had no debt and then returned to my usual pattern? Would that hurt my score, too? Would I get dinged for “seeking new credit,” which has happened to me a few times when I have used a department store card that I had not used for a few months? It doesn’t seem to matter how small the amount or once again that it is paid off each month.
    Why don’t the credit bureaus look at the total picture instead of just assuming that no one ever pays their balance in full every month? Yes, those of us who do are in the minority–but so is everyone who falls into the top 1% to 2% score range.

    • Matthew says:

      I have studied this some myself so let me give you my opinion on what I believe to be fact. Let’s just say your billing cycle is from the first to the 30th so on the 30th they report every single dime you spent alll month to the agencies as your statement balance. Granted you pay it off every single month about six days after they tell you what your balance is but regardless they still send that amount over as your balance to the credit bureau. So what you need to do is on the 25th of the month or five days before the end of your cycle whenever that may be, stop using your card. So that on the last day of your cycle, all of your purchases from that month have caught up and you make the payment for exactly how much you’ve spent all month. So, when they report to the bureau it reports as a true zero balance. They never know if you are really going to pay it off in full every month so they have to report it as a balance whether it’s been 30 days or not. You can have a “Balance” on your file even if you pay it off all off every month, because the CC companies send off your statement balance to the Credit bureaus before they even send it to you, every.single.month.

    • Gary L. Lackey says:

      You’re exactly correct Amy. You do not get rewarded. A year credit cards call in full every month. This is a serious flaw in our credit reporting system and credit scoring system.
      I was a mortgage banker for 30 years. I saw the era of credit scoring beginning and I said to myself this is bad. They’re taking out the human equation which will not work as well.
      So guess what it does not work very well. There just as many defaults on credit cards and other things because they have taken the human equation out of making the decision.
      U go Amy stick to your guns. You’re absolutely right.

      • Tameica says:

        I believe what the creditors are interested in seeing is that you have stability in making monthly payments no matter what the payment is.

        Just because someone can pay off an entire balance every month, it doesn’t mean that person is any more credit worthy than the person making the minimum monthly payments. Only thing it shows is that you both can make the minimum monthly payment they require each month.

        There are several people out there with “money” who couldn’t make a monthly payment on time to save their lives. Creditors want to know that you can remember to pay them back each month.

  2. Pat Mathis says:

    Equifax is the worst company I have ever dealt with. I am the victim of idenity theft and I just got an email that the Company refused to put a Fraud Alert on my account. Also, I have been hold for more than 1 hour to cancel a free trial. I called two different people earlier today and they were no help and rude. The people at Experian and Transunion were much more helpful. Worst compnay ever.

    • Anonymous says:

      I totally agree, Equifax should not be allowed to be one of the National Credit Bureaus. It is a terrible company, I do not trust them with my personal information. Why does this company still exist?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m sorry but until you realize that most of the country is just coming back from this recession and many are experiencing bad credit rating for the first time your articles does not help them at all. My credit rating is 550.i need help not useless articles.
    Lost jobs, layoffs, situations beyond control.
    If you really want to help us tell us what we can do to not take 7yrs to get our lives back.

    • Michelle says:

      Pay your bills and credit cards on time, don’t carry a high balance on them….you know that will raise your 550 score….this article is merely a suggestion, not a self help to your particular situation.

  4. Jacqueline says:

    Equifax has helped repair my credit. I was a victim of fraud and I tried on my own to dispute some of the negative items on my credit but I did not succeed . This company investigated one item and within 2 weeks got deleted from my credit report. I am still fighting two other negative accounts. My score went from 520 to 568… It is a very slow process but I know I will get my credit to 800 like I had before.


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