Need A Credit Card? No Problem. And That’s The Problem

Need A Credit Card? No Problem. And That’s The Problem

Need a credit card? No problem! And that’s exactly the problem. In a nation where instant gratification is touted as a virtue, credit is available to anyone no matter what their credit history. This is causing personal and financial problems for many consumers who abuse the easy availability of credit and find themselves unable to pay back their loans.

There was a time in history when extensive credit was available only to the aristocracy, and debt carried a social stigma for anyone else. The poor and middle class were carefully scrutinized when they applied for loans, and debtor’s prison awaited those who did not repay their debts.

Americans are more indebted than ever in the nation’s history. The amount owed on loans for cars, homes and credit cards adds up to nearly 100% of annual after-tax income, according to a report in Business Week magazine. Yet, according to the Consumer Fedaration of America, this alarming level of indebtedness has not deterred the moneylenders: credit card companies have more tha $3 trillion of unused credit lines up for grabs, approximately $30,000 per
American family.

According to Fair, Isaac and Co. (FICO), the average consumer has access to $12,190 on all credit cards combined. Not everone is a spendthrift: more than half of cardholders use less than 30% of their total credit limit. However, one in eight is using 80% or more of their credit limit, and 1 in 10 have a total debt greater than $10,000. Cardweb.com estimates that 20% of American credit cards are maxed out.

There are specialized credit cards being offered to all kinds of borrowers, from students to small business owners. Each demographic group is targetted with a specific sales pitch.

People with good credit ratings can easily access lines of credit at an interest rate of 5% or less over the current prime rate, and such applicants are also qualified for Platinum credit cards. However, about half of cards in circulation are Gold cards, which require just $10,000 in annual income for qualification.

The credit industry uses credit scores to divide potential customers into “prime” and “subprime” markets, referring to the prime interest rate set by banks. Elite borrowers can obtain a line of credit on a Platinum card at an interest rate around 12%. A Gold card carries an average interest rate of 15%, while a standard credit card charges rates around 17%.
Then there’s the subprime market, which first emerged in the 1990s, dealing with consumers whose credit scores are 500 or less, little or no credit history, those emerging from bankruptcy and anyone with an inconsistent performance in managing credit. These people are often low income earners and/or poor money managers, but the credit card industry finds a way to profit from these most needy of borrowers.

Unlike “secured” credit cards, cards offered to subprime borrowers require no security deposit. Credit limits start out very low — initially in the $100 to $500 range. However, fees can be hundreds of dollars and interest rates can easily soar to usurous rates of 30% or more.

The industry also offers “secured” credit cards to offer high-risk customers. Borrowers are required to pay an up-front security deposit from $99 to $5,000 to serve as collateral in case of default.

Many social and business commentators have denounced the subprime lending business for exploiting the poor, comparing the industry’s problems to depression-era banking scandals. Lenders take on poor and desparate customers at their own risk, writing off losses in the 15% to 17% range, versus the average industry loss rate of 6.5%, according to CardWeb. The delinquency rate among subprime card issuers is 10%, twice as high as the industry average. Some credit card companies, such as NextCard, have been unable to recoup their losses and have closed up shop.

According to many pundits, the American economy has been thriving in the past 5 years, with a steady growth in the GDP. However, 90% of this growth has been due to the housing bubble; real wages have declined by 4% since 2000 while health costs have risen by 40%. Middle and lower class Americans are becoming increasingly financially squeezed and unable to pay their debts.

A record number of 1.3 million cardholders filed for bankruptcy in 2004. In response, the credit industry lobbied successfully for stricter bankruptcy laws. However, according to the Consumer Federation of America, the increasing incidence of loan defaults did not spur the card companies to become more discriminating in their choice of customers. In fact, they actually boosted their promotional campaigns to a record 5 billion solicitations ( approximately 50 per American household) compared to 3.5 billion the previous year, many of these ads targeting the sub-prime market.

Now consider the debit card: it is decorated with the Visa or Mastercard emblem, and has all the functions of a credit card in that can be used at a cash register and for internet and telephone purchases. However, it takes money directly out of the cardholder’s bank account and allows no more spending once the account is empty. A debit card has no monthly fees and no interest charges, and no chance of getting into debt. Perhaps this is the best consumer solution to a credit-mad economy.

The Perils of Plastic

Millions of credit card borrowers are about to face larger monthly payments, a change that represents both good news and bad for consumers.

Under new guidelines suggested by the federal government, starting in January minimum monthly payments for credit card debt will generally increase. Many mortgage lenders will no longer require payments equal to 2 percent of the debt, an amount that includes interest and fees. Instead most will now require a payment equal to 1 percent of the debt plus fees, interest and charges. Altogether, the new payment will be more than 2 percent of the borrower”s outstanding debt in many cases.

This is the good news. The higher monthly payments will reduce overall interest costs and force people to borrow less with credit cards.

The bad news? It will reduce the ability of many consumers to obtain a mortgage.

According to the most recent Federal Reserve report, we now have $799.1 billion dollars in outstanding credit card debt. That”s about $2,681.54 per person: For a household with four people, average credit card debt amounts to almost $10,750.

Such debt would not be a problem if it were offset by equally robust savings. Unfortunately, the Bureau of Economic Analysis says our saving percentage was -.2 percent in both October and November. Instead of putting money away, in those two months alone we spent $37.4 billion more than we earned.

Credit card financing is unsecured debt — a form of financing that”s especially risky for mortgage lenders. More risk means higher interest, and in the case of credit cards interest rates between 18 and 28 percent are well known.

Let”s imagine a household with $10,000 in credit card debt. Imagine also that the interest rate is a modest 18 percent and that a monthly repayment equal to 2 of the outstanding balance is required. If you borrowed no more this loan would take 7.8 years to repay and interest over time would amount to $8,622. Increase the required monthly payment to 4 percent, the same debt could be repaid in 2.7 years and interest would amount to $2,628 — a plump savings of almost $6,000.

The new repayment standards for credit cards will reduce credit card debt for millions — but the higher minimum payments will also impact mortgage applications.

When mortgage lenders look at mortgage applications they consider many financial issues. Of particular interest is what borrowers spend each month, spending divided into two general categories: Housing expenses and consumer expenses.

Housing expenses are typically seen as mortgage interest and principal plus property taxes and insurance — “PITI” in lender jargon. Consumer expenses include PITI plus such things as required monthly payments for credit card bills, auto payments, student loan pay, etc.

Expenses are described as a percentage of monthly income. If your household has a monthly income of $8,000 and monthly PITI is $2,240 then your “front” ratio is 28 percent. If overall required expenses are $2,880 then the “back” ratio is 36 percent. Overall, lenders would say the ratios are “28/36.”

As it happens, to qualify for given mortgage loan programs you must meet certain front and back ratios. The ratios for loan programs vary, so if you do not qualify for one program you may qualify for others. For instance, there are different ratios for conventional loans (28/36), FHA financing (29/41) and VA loans (effectively 41/41). Adjustable rate mortgages often use 33/38 ratios while other loans have even more liberal standards, some with a back ratio above 50.

Now go back to the new payment standards for credit cards. If your required monthly payment goes from $200 to $280, that”s good for reducing credit card debt — but your monthly required payment has increased. For instances, monthly expenses may go from $2,880 to $2,960. No a big deal in terms of cash or in the cost of a household with a monthly income of $8,000, but now the “back” ratio is 37 percent.

Whoops. That higher credit card payment means some borrowers will no longer qualify for certain mortgages. They monthly costs are above the guidelines.

What to do?

First, start with the realization that paying non-deductible, high-cost credit card charges is not a magical path to great wealth. To get the best possible mortgage, and to simply save more money, reduce credit card use.

* Look at your credit situation and get rid of credit cards you don”t use and don”t need. Keep one for emergencies.

* Speak with underwriters. Ask if it is possible to get an “exception” to the guidelines.

* Start saving. People save enormous sums of money with such basic steps as putting aside all singles found in their wallet at the end of the day or all coins in their pockets. Eat-in more often, bring lunch to work, keep safe cars longer and cut back on fashion and frills.

* If you have credit cards, always make full and timely payments and keep balances at zero.

* Instead of credit cards, use debit cards — with a debit card you”re simply using money already in your checking account. Using cash on hand instead of credit means you”re likely to buy less.

* Get over-draft protection (a line of credit) for your checking account or link savings to checking accounts. Both can help prevent over-drafts and excess fees.
So the next time you pull out that credit card think about your real goal — a new sweater or a new fireplace, a fancy dinner or a better kitchen, higher monthly payments or less. In no time it will be easy to keep the plastic out of sight and out of mind.

5 Ways to Increase Curb Appeal

If your home makes a great first impression, everyone – including potential homebuyers – will want to see what’s inside. These are a few simple ways to make your home’s exterior look more appealing and attractive.

Add Shutters to Your Windows

This is a simple DIY project that can be completed in just a matter of days. Adding shutters or window trim to an exterior window can make your windows look twice their size. It is also a great way to liven up a boring exterior wall. Choose a complementary color to accentuate the upgrade. For example, use black shutters on a white colored home to really draw attention to the window.

Give Your Front Door a Facelift

This is another easy weekend project you can do on your own. You can replace the old door with a new one, but a much cheaper and simpler way to get the update you’re looking for is to paint the existing door and perhaps add a little molding around it as well. Pick a color that matches your home’s exterior. The molding will make the entrance appear grander and can be an affordable project to complete.

Create a Walkway

If you don’t already have a concrete sidewalk in your front yard something as simple as placing a few stones from the street to the front door can make a noticeable difference in the overall look of your home.

Repair or Replace the Roof

Some people would argue that the roof is the most important structural aspect of a home. If a potential homebuyer sees your house and notices any missing or worn out shingles and debris covering the surface, you are running the risk of losing the interest of that buyer. Although hiring roofers and paying for roof repair or reconstruction can be expensive, a roofing renovation can be one of the greatest ways to add value to your home as well as increase the curb appeal.

Clean or Replace Gutters and Downspouts

Another way to increase curb appeal is to clean or replace your gutters and downspouts. Older gutter systems show signs of neglect through peeling paint, rust spots, and debris. If the budget allows, replace your existing system with new vinyl gutter systems. These are easy to put together, easy to clean, and easy to maintain. If that isn’t in the budget you can spend a weekend cleaning out your gutters and downspouts and repairing rusty spots and places where paint has peeled.
These five simple upgrades can not only increase your curb appeal but also the value of your home, enticing homebuyers to see what else the house has to offer.

A Few Tips For Day Trading the Stock Market

Day trading the stock market involves the rapid buying and selling of stocks on a day-to-day basis. This technique is used to secure quick profits from the constant changes in stock values, minute to minute, second to second. It is rare that a day trader will remain in a trade over the course of a night into the next day. These trades are entered and exited in a matter of minutes.

The main question that most people ask when it comes to day trading is simple: is it necessary to sit at a computer watching the markets ALL day long in order to be a successful day trader?

The answer is no. Its not necessary to sit at a computer all day long. There are a number of factors to consider, but generally the rule of day trading is to trade when everyone else is trading. In other words, trade in the morning.

As with all financial investments, day trading is risky in fact, its one of the riskiest forms of trading out there. The stock prices rise or fall according to the behaviour of the market, which is entirely unpredictable. Day traders buy and sell shares rapidly in the hopes of gaining profits within the minutes and seconds they own those particular stocks. Simple to do in theory, harder to do in practice.

If you are constrained by a small amount of capital, you may not be able to buy large amounts of a stock, but buying only a small amount can add to the risk of a loss. And, obviously, it is impossible to predict with certainty which stocks will result in profits and which in losses. Even the best of traders must learn to accept both outcomes.

Its also important to know that in day trading, it is the number of shares rather than the value of shares that should be the focus. If you day trade, you WILL face losses, but even for the more expensive stocks, the loss should be marginal, because prices do not usually fluctuate to an extreme degree over the course of just one day.

The day trading industry deals in a large variety of stocks and shares. Here are just a few:

Growth-Buying Shares shares made from profit, which continue to grow in value. Eventually, these shares will begin to decline in price, and an experienced trader can usually predict the future of this type of share.

Small Caps shares of companies which are on the rise and show no signs of stopping. Although these shares are generally cheap, they are a very risky investment for day traders. Youd be safer to go with large caps and/or mid-caps, which are much more secure and stable thanks to a premium.

Unloved Stocks company stock that has not performed well in the past. Traders buy these shares in the hopes of generating profits if and when the stock rises in value. As with small caps, unloved stocks can be a risky choice for day traders.

These examples are NOT your only options when it comes to day trading stocks. The best way to determine which type of stock is right for you is to invest some time for careful research, a knowledge of market patterns, a solid strategy, and a disciplined trading plan.

The key to successful day trading is to be prepared. Know as much as possible about the industry before you begin actually trading. You need to learn to trade ONLY when the market gives the right signals, and ONLY when the volume of activity in the market supports a successful Read More

Unsecured Personal Loans For Non-Homeowners

Unsecured personal loans are especially fashioned to provide for the financial demands of tenants or non-homeowners. Tenants commonly do not own property to use as collateral. Many lenders are willing to work with individuals who have no personal assets. Interest rates may be a little higher and the loan amount can be limited. This type of loan is considered one of the more flexible loans with no mandatory collateral required, which is why it is known as an unsecured personal loan.

A Favorable Form of Finance

At some time in an individuals life, they may find themselves in need of a personal loan. In need of funds, they look to borrow from friends or relatives only to find they too are experiencing financial difficulties. The demand or need for money shows no signs of subsiding, and unsecured loans are one of the more general forms of finance. These loans can be utilized for diverse purposes such as educational tuitions, weddings, holiday funding, debt consolidation and even plastic surgery. The simplified availability of unsecured personal loans makes it quite favorable among borrowers.

No Collateral

The risk is far greater for a lender when they approve unsecured loans. The apparent cause for this is the lack of collateral. An unsecured loan permits an individual with approved credit to borrow funds without placing any property or assets as collateral.

Approvals for unsecured personal loans are very prompt. There is no need for the evaluation of collateral, which in turn saves time and money. These loans are easily attainable to non-homeowners with a good credit history.

Although lenders do not require collateral for these loans, defaulting on loan repayments are not without consequences. Taking this into consideration, a borrower, who is unsure of his financial future, should only borrow the necessary amount needed.

Credit Scores and Unsecured Loans

With an unsecured loan, the credit rating of the applicant becomes significant. The absence of collateral in unsecured loans requires the lender to inspect the borrowers credit report. Many lenders considering these loans favor individuals with fewer flaws in their debt history. With a credit score of 620 and above borrowers are usually guaranteed a lower interest rate. With a credit score of below 600 your credit is rated as poor. If approved you may be charged a much higher interest rate.

For non-homeowners or those not wanting to risk their property as collateral, it becomes necessary to have their credit report assessed by an acknowledged agency. Your credit rating will show an impressive improvement if previous debts have been paid off on time and without default.

Unsecured Personal Loan Rates

The most ordinarily recognizable divergence in how much a loan will cost you is the rate of APR that a lender may charge. Unsecured loan rates are determined by the type of unsecured loan, amount of loan, pay off terms, credit history and income-to-debt ratio. The lowest interest rate acquirable on the market is not necessarily the most advantageous for all borrowers. Versatile situations such as pay off term length and the amount borrowed will affect the loan rate for each individual applicant.

Although some banks may not like to give out personal loans you can still find a great deal of online lenders that are willing to distribute them. Doing research and comparing rates before committing to a lender could save you money in the future.

Searching for a Lender

Different lenders will extend assorted services and/or bonuses when you apply for a personal loan with their company. Bonuses at the beginning of the re-payment term may be advertised and simple to compare between lenders.

Something that is plausibly less advertised are the penalties connected with unsecured personal loans. Premature payoff penalties are accompanied with some of the more expensive loan charges that penalize customers who show financial responsibility and absolve their debts promptly. The idea of premature payoff penalties may sound biased, be sure to debate your circumstances before eliminating a lender simply on these grounds. It may be unlikely that you will pay off your loan early therefore pre-payment penalties may not be an issue.

Even with the greatest preparation no one is assured they are covered for every contingency. With an illness or unfortunate loss of employment a borrower is still responsible for loan payments and it is with this understanding that so many borrowers may want to invest in loan payment protection insurance. Whether you choose to seek protection insurance through your chosen lender or a separate company, it is wise to analyze the insurance protection policy carefully.

Each potential borrower has distinct personal reasons to apply for a loan. Some may want to invest in a type of plastic surgery or fund their daughters college years. Applying for an unsecured personal loan can help you realize those desires without risking personal property or assets. With a good credit score or even a less than perfect credit history, non-homeowners and tenants alike have the opportunity to fund any such personal need.