Archive | February 2016

Shopping For A First Credit Card

images (1)Long before we are old enough to carry credit cards ourselves, advertisers make sure we know about the power of plastic: “It’s everywhere you want to be.” “It pays to Discover.” “What’s in your wallet?”

While using an ad campaign to choose a card is a terrible idea, the slogans have one thing right: A credit card can be a powerful thing. For teens and 20-somethings looking to pick a first card, taking the time to choose carefully can save money and offer a boost in establishing and building a credit history.

An excellent credit score will be helpful when you start to think about buying a car or getting a mortgage. Even if you do not plan to take out a large loan in the near future, your credit information can be a factor in renting an apartment, obtaining a membership at a club or getting hired for certain jobs.

Lenders use credit reports to determine how risky it is to give a borrower – that is, you – a loan. All in all, the lender just wants to know if the borrower will be able to pay back the loan. If the borrower has bad credit, then he or she probably made some major or ongoing financial mistakes and is more likely not to repay. On the other hand, if the borrower has good credit, then he or she has a history of paying back debt, and the lender will most likely grant the loan.

Credit cards are effectively short-term loans that need to be paid back within a short grace period. Getting the first credit card can be tricky. Credit card companies do not have any basis for your credit history since you have not borrowed any money in the past. So how are you supposed to establish and build your credit rating without a history?

One way is to apply for a secured credit card. Secured credit cards are backed by a deposit that you make upfront. Usually, the amount you deposit will be the same as the card’s credit limit. Everything else is like a regular unsecured credit card: You use the card to buy things; you make monthly payments; and you incur interest if you fail to pay off the full balance. A secured credit card should be only a temporary step to building credit. Try to pay off the total balance every month to show that you are financially responsible. After all, not only do you want to build a credit history, you want to build a good one.

Another effective way to start your credit history is to become an authorized user on someone else’s card. Many parents will designate their children as authorized users on their credit cards so that the children can build credit without the legal obligation to pay the balance every month. However, if the person whose account you are authorized to use does not handle the account properly, their mistakes could end up hurting rather than helping your credit.

Once you establish your credit history, you can shop for your first unsecured credit card. You will quickly discover that there are many to choose from. A number of factors can help narrow the search.

The most important of these is how you intend to use the card. Are you going to use it only for emergencies? If not, will you pay in full each month, or will you carry a balance on the card? Once you decide how you will use the card, follow your self-imposed rules. It is very easy, and dangerous, to continually swipe the card and tell yourself it is for a good reason. But it is crucial to be stubborn about establishing good spending habits, even – or maybe especially – early in life.

If you plan to carry a balance on your card, you must be aware of the interest rate of each card you are considering. The interest rate used by credit card companies is the annual percentage rate, or APR. There are cards with variable APRs, which are based on a certain index (such as the U.S. prime rate). There are also nonvariable APRs, which are usually fixed-rate credit cards. As a beginner, you will usually want a low-rate, nonvariable APR credit card, because knowing your interest rate will give you a sense of how much money you will need each month to pay at least the minimum amount due. A low-rate, nonvariable APR card will therefore help when you create a monthly budget.

In addition to interest rates, pay attention to penalties and fees. Reading the fine print in a contract can save you from owing avoidable charges. The most common fees include balance transfer fees, cash advance fees, fees for requesting a credit limit increase and online or mobile payment fees. Many cards also impose penalties for not paying your bill on time or going over your credit limit. You should hold out for a card with minimal fees and reasonable penalties. Even if other features of a particular card seem attractive, avoid the potential for exorbitant fees and penalties that could hurt your cash flow and your credit history.

Understanding your spending habits will help you determine which incentives will be important to you. Most cards offer rewards programs to their customers or offer cash back for certain purchases. Many cards offer 0 percent APR for the first six to 18 months that your credit card is open. These cards are great if you plan to carry a balance from month to month. Some cards even offer anywhere from 1 to 5 percent cash back on all or certain types of purchases. If you know how you plan to use your card, then certain cards’ rewards programs can save you a lot of money.

As a first-time cardholder, once you have chosen the card that is right for you, you may find it exciting to be able to swipe the piece of plastic and not have to pay in cash. But while credit cards can be useful tools, it is important to not fall into the black hole of credit card debt, which can be all too easy for an inexperienced user. Make sure to know how your credit score works and how to avoid penalties so that you will be able to make larger purchases and secure loans in the future.

Your payment history, the amount of credit you use and the number of negative marks on your credit history have the highest impact on your overall credit score. If you can, pay off your total balance on time each month, ensuring that you have a 100 percent payment history. Paying off your card every month comes with the added bonus of saving you from being charged any interest on a carried balance.

You will also want to use as low a percentage of your credit limit as you can. This ratio is called credit card utilization, and most experts recommend that you try not to go over 30 percent at any time. Credit card companies want to know that you are responsible with your spending and that you will be able to pay off your balance each month. You can either spend less each month or increase the credit limit on your card to lower the percentage used. You can also pay more than once per month.

Obviously, you should avoid any negative marks on your credit history. These can include collection accounts, bankruptcies, foreclosures, civil judgments or tax liens. Although someone applying for a first credit card typically will not have had time to worry about bankruptcies or foreclosures, keep in mind that such problems can severely damage your ability to secure credit in the future.

As a first-time applicant, you may find that the length of your credit history, the total number of accounts open or closed in your name and the number of credit inquiries also have an adverse rating on your credit score. Your credit history will be short. You will not have many open or closed accounts. Your first credit inquiry will most likely be from the company where you applied for your first credit card. Be patient. Building a credit history takes time, but as a young adult, staying on top of your finances, and especially your credit cards, will help you in the long run.

Credit cards can be both powerful and dangerous, but they are also a convenient part of everyday life for most of us. A first credit card offers a great opportunity to establish positive financial habits that will serve you well for a lifetime.

This entry was posted on February 23, 2016, in Finance and tagged .

Chip Cards Are Here

12As of October 1, 2015 consumers were to have their chip cards and retailers would have the machines that read them. Well, everybody is working towards this goal, but they are not quite there yet. Just this week I received a notice from one of our card companies saying they would start to issue the new cards starting in January of next year when your they renew.

The only consequence seems to be that if retailers are not capable of accepting them by October 1 they could be responsible for fraud. It seems like the United States is way behind all other countries in using the this technology.

So what is the big deal about chip cards. When using a chip card your credit card number is not transmitted instead a random number combination is used. The theory is that if your credit card information is intercepted your actual credit card number will not be obtained by the thief.

When using your chip card you do not swipe it like the old way. Instead you insert the card into a reader and leave it there until the transaction is complete. You might be also required to sign like before depending on the requirements and rules of your credit card company. There is no doubt that a chip card is more secure than the magnetic strip card. However, for a period of time credit cards in the United States will have both the chip and magnetic strip. The real security should start to come when we can eliminate the magnetic strips from all credit cards.

So does your new chip card provide any additional security for online purchases? The answer is currently no. However, I believe that credit card online purchases are going to change for the better. It could come in the way of card readers attached to our laptops or desktops. Or maybe payment companies such as PayPal® have the answer.

For mobile devices Apple® Pay and Android® Pay are two new options to pay for items using your smart phone. This is like your smart phone taking the place of your credit card. They are both used with pin numbers and fingerprints. Which offers protection in case your phone is lost or stolen. Time will tell if these two new technologies are successful or not.

I think it would add another needed level of security if we had to use a pin number with chip cards.

George Uliano is a security professional with years of law enforcement and security experience. He earned a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice and Business graduating with honors. George holds three U.S. patents on different locking principles. This combination gives George and His Company Locking Systems International Inc the unique ability to provide its customers with the correct security at an affordable price.

How To Remove Incorrect Credit Report Information After Bankruptcy

download (6)If you have recently declared bankruptcy and want to rebuild your credit, it is essential that you regularly check your credit report to make sure that all of the details are correct. In reality, everyone needs good credit. Even if you never intend on buying a home or a new car, your credit score will still impact your life. A bad credit score may require you to pay more for car insurance or cost you more for your monthly cell phone plan.

Likewise, a bad credit score could cost you a dream job. So, please keep this in mind when thinking about the time and effort it will take to clean up the credit report. If you have never attempted to clean up your score before, it’s not that hard, and we will make it much more manageable for you. It’s easy to become preoccupied with life and assume that all information reported is accurate, but this is not the case most of the time.

In addition to taking the time to view your credit reports regularly, you must also follow the correct steps to make sure that any false or wrongly stated information is rectified — otherwise, this incorrect information will still prevent you from rebuilding your credit and cost you more MONEY. This will really become important in the two years following a bankruptcy when you are trying to re-establish your credit.

Here are the correct steps to take.

1. Review your credit report thoroughly and regularly. To do this DO NOT use an online company like Equifax in order to view your credit report. Why? You might lose certain rights in order to comply with that company’s own rules (each company is different). Instead, write to annualcreditreport.com and use the MAIL IN form to request your credit report.

Note: you MUST ask for your report in writing. Sure, it may seem archaic, but it’s the only really good way to get all of your credit information and not be taken advantage of by the credit reporting agencies.

2. Once you have your report, take a good look at it. Since you have declared bankruptcy, all debts that can be cleared should be cleared. Next to any cleared debts the note ‘zero balance discharged in bankruptcy’ should appear. If there is anything else written — anything at all! — make sure to correct that detail. The above statement is the only one that should appear.

3. If there is any wrong information on your credit report, write directly to the credit agency that has reported the wrong information. One again, it is very important that you do not take the easy road on this and email or call the credit reporting agency, this dispute must be submitted in writing. You cannot submit this information online or through an email because you may not be able to prove your case if they fail or refuse to remove the negative information. Why am I telling you to take the hard way? Evidence, that’s why. When I sue the credit reporting agencies, I need evidence. Without evidence, you do not have a case.

A Long Process
Again, it’s a lot simpler to ask for a credit report online and to submit things online, but this is not what we recommend. Even though it takes a while to submit information or ask for a credit report in writing, this is the absolute best way to go about this process. It’s important that you consider what you might be giving up when you gain information through any kind of private company, so keep this in mind when tempted to ask for credit rating details electronically.

A Qualified Bankruptcy Attorney Can Help
It might not seem like there’s a lot involved in declaring bankruptcy, but a good legal team can do a lot more than plead your case. When you select a bankruptcy lawyer, it’s important that the lawyer you choose helps you decide whether or not bankruptcy is actually the right course for you. In some cases bankruptcy is ideal, but in other cases it’s not the best solution.

 

This entry was posted on February 14, 2016, in Finance and tagged .

The Real Pros & Cons of Merchant Accounts

indexLike any other business, there are advantages and disadvantages to accepting credit cards. We have included both so you can make an informed decision on if your business should sign up for merchant services. Regardless of the cost you incur, you will see that the benefits outweigh the negatives.

The various pros merchants services offer

1. Increased sales: Yes, this is right, as credit card orders are these days are larger in number than check & cash orders.

2. Faster checkout: It speeds up the checkout line because accepting credit card payment is instant and easy.

3. Cheaper than cash: It is cheaper to accept cards due to the huge order amounts.

4. Security: Dealing with cash needs more security, as the risk involved is high. Dealing with heavy amount can lead to troubles and there is also the possibility of employees giving out the wrong change amount.

5. More choices: The more payment options you offer to the customers, the more you decrease the probability of losing the sale.

The limited cons

1. Cost: Accepting credit cards involves cost similar to every other cost the business incurs. A good approach is taking it as a cost of doing business.

2. Fraud: Degree of internet fraud or risk is possible to some extent. However, such possibilities are extremely rare.

3. Charge backs: It is important to abide by the rules of credit card company’s rule. In this way, consumers are more safe when paying with card and win against the merchants while disputing a charge.

Which businesses are classified as high risk?

When the credit card industry realizes that a particular business is high risk, they conclude that the business model poses higher level of risk as compared to the traditional business. It is important to ensure that the payment processing account is well established and doing business will bring profits to the business as well as the merchant service providing company.

Here, the processing company has to manage the risk and reward, the merchant needs to be fully equipped to do business without going through over inflated charges. As understood, with any service, few companies charge unfair fees and provide incompatible services; hence, it is important to go for the best business company. High risk is involved in companies that are:

1. Involved in morally ambiguous industries
2. Process card-not present transactions
3. Sell products and services to international countries
4. Use risky sales methods
5. Transacts high average dollar amount

Keep this fruitful discussion in mind and plan carefully is your business worth these services or not.

Paycron has been recognized for leveraging top-notch merchant services for customers. Different payment solutions are provided ensuring that the business, whatever the size, remains well connected.

How to Ensure a Debt Collection Is Legitimate

download (5)Your phone rings. Someone on the other end is claiming to work for a collection agency of some kind. He tells you that the purpose of this call is to collect a debt. A debt which you either do not remember owing or is so old that you thought it was gone. How do you ensure this is legitimately collectible?

The caller must identify who he is and who he works for. A legitimate debt collector will supply a phone number, business name and mailing address. A scammer will fudge around this or claim he does not have to supply this information.

The majority of collection agencies will send you a letter prior to calling you. Federal law requires them to send you a letter about the debt no later than five days after their first contact with you. Sending the letter first ensures they are following the law and eliminates the surprise to you when they call.

You have the right to have the collection agency verify the debt. You must do this in writing and I recommend you send the letter via certified mail with return receipt so you have proof they received the letter. A sample letter from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can be found at consumerfinance.gov.

Though there is no federal definition of what constitutes a debt verification, the assumption is that if they can prove to a judge that you owe the debt, then that is acceptable verification. So you should receive one or more of these items:

  • A copy of the original, signed contract.
  • A copy of the charge-off statement from the original creditor.
  • A copy of at least one cancelled check paid from you to the original creditor.
  • Information from the creditor that ties you with the debt (the creditor’s name, an account number, the charged off amount, the current balance and the last four digits of your social security number).

The collection agency has thirty days to supply this verification to you. During this time period, the collection agency cannot attempt to collect this debt in any manner and they cannot report this debt to the credit bureaus (note the original creditor can still report it).

Some things you should do during this thirty day period:

  • Check your credit report to make sure the debt is truly yours. The original creditor will report this as “Charged Off” if it has been transferred or sold to a collection agency. You may also determine the debt is too old under your state’s statute of limitations for the collector to sue you.
  • Contact the original creditor to determine who they sold the debt to. They can tell you this information. If the debt has been sold numerous times, you will have to follow the “chain of title” to learn who the actual owner is. And if it has been sold numerous times, the chances of this collection agency being able to verify the debt drops dramatically.

If the verification cannot be supplied to you within the thirty days, then the debt is uncollectible. But if they do verify it, the debt is collectible and the collection agency will add this to your credit report.

According to Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions, only 51% of debts are verified by collection agencies ( FTC Data on Debt Verification ). So you have a 50-50 chance of this collection disappearing on its own!

If you have any questions about this debt not being yours, do not spend time on the phone with the debt collector. You do not want to give any hint of acknowledging the debt is yours. Just tell the collector that you will be sending a verification request, confirm the mailing address to send it to and politely end the call. Then get that letter sent out ASAP!