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Map Credit Scores

Credit Scores Across America

Originally posted on CNBC on June 22, 2018 by

If they weren’t so nice, Minnesota residents could boast about having America’s highest average credit scores.

The state’s residents have an average credit score of 709, which falls into the “good” range of scores between 670 to 739, according to Experian. Vermont, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Massachusetts round out the top five states with the highest credit scores.

The pattern of states in the upper Midwest doing well by this measure and the South doing less well has remained “pretty consistent” over the past two decades, credit expert John Ulzheimer tells CNBC Make It.

“Credit scoring systems don’t consider geography when calculating a consumer’s credit score so the difference is going to be solely based on the composition of their credit reports,” he says. And Mississippi, with its score of 647, wins the award for the lowest average credit score seemingly every year for two main reasons, he says: a higher delinquency rate and a higher average credit card utilization ratio.

“Consumers with good credit scores tend to get cards with higher initial limits and larger limit increases. That allows them to have higher balances while also having higher scores,” Ulzheimer says. “Consumers with poor credit scores tend to have lower limits so even modest balances cause a higher utilization ratio and, thus, lower scores.”

Overall, over half of states have a “good” average credit score, according to Experian. The remaining 19 states, including Mississippi, fall into what Experian considers the “fair” range of between 580 and 669.

Nationwide, “average scores are very strong,” Ulzheimer says, noting that 22.3 percent of Americans have a credit score at or above a “very good” 781.


How I Took My Credit Score From A 540 To 730


For many people, personal debt, especially when they get in over their heads is overwhelming and often times suffer in silence. Lynn, one of our clients, was gracious enough to participate in an interview to give some insight to her journey. Hopefully from Lynn’s story you can find some tips to help you get your debt under control.

Q: What triggered you to address your unpaid debt and credit status?

A: I started to receive letters in the mail from Collection Agencies and credit card companies like Capitol One stating that I owed money and I would be sued and garnished if I did not make efforts to pay the debt

Q: What kind of debt did you have? What was your credit score?

A: When I first started, my Credit Score was a 540. I was piling on credit card debt, medical bills and old collection accounts I had been ignoring.

Q: What made you seek help from a credit counseling service?

A: The fear of being garnished. I already did not think it was in my budget for me to pay back any of my debts and the thought of losing more money was enough.

Q: What Actions did you take personally to prepare you for entering into a Consolidation with your debts? How did you find an agency to help you, and why did you feel that was a safer route?

A: A few friends of mine who were already enrolled into Debt Management Programs referred me to a Credit Counseling agency. After doing my own research online I was able to talk to an agent. We did a thorough budget analysis that showed me how I could afford to enroll into the program and pay back my debts. I looked through my credit report to find all of the debts I had. Once it was clear that I could afford to fit this into my budget I felt this was a safe route.

Q: Explain your experience in the Debt Management Plan. What did you learn while you were going through the program? How did your behavior change financially while you were enrolled in the Debt Management Plan? Were there any extra habits you broke to help build your credit while you were paying off your older Debts?

A: The budget analysis was very important in the beginning because it showed me where I was spending extra money when I did not need to. When I started out, money was always tight. The time I spent in the Debt Management Plan was the first time I ever had to stick to a budget. In order to save a lot more, going out to eat was immediately cut out. Initially, only the creditors who were threatening to come after me were added into a debt consolidation. I got a secured credit card with a $500 savings deposit. This would help me build new credit while I paid off my old debts. After time had passed and the balances became lower, my other accounts were added in until I had everything completely paid off.

Q: Now that you have gone through with a Debt Management Plan and successfully completed the program, what type of changes to your financial life do you see? What is your Credit Score like now and what actions are you currently taking to be able to maintain your positive score increase?

A: When I began working on my credit score it was a 540. Today, I am looking at a score of 730! By sticking to on-time payments and a budget, I was able to keep my $500 Secured Card at a low balance and after a year or so I received a pre-approved offer for a Discover Card at 18%.

Q: Would you recommend a Debt Management Plan to your friends and colleagues? What did you take away from the program that you did not expect initially when you enrolled into the program?

A: I currently do have friends who are enrolled in Debt Management Plan. My advice to them was to first make your budget so that you can see where your money goes. When I began Debt management I did not expect the impact on budgeting nor did I understand how your credit actually works. Now that my score has increased to a 730 I’m planning on buying myself a new car!


How Can I Start Building My Credit


How can I start building my Credit?

At a young age, one of the most overlooked topics is credit. Most people in their 20s do not understand credit, nor think it is of any importance. Regardless of age, right now is the best time to start establishing your credit.

People with little or no credit history, have a very hard time obtaining any type of loan, whether it be credit cards, auto loans, or even mortgages. Lenders will not give an unsecured loan to anyone without proof of a good history on payments.

Credit cards and Small loans are two great options to begin establishing your credit. Without a good history of credit, you will almost never be able to obtain a huge loan or a high credit limit unless you can prove you can repay the lender, usually done by income verification. Even with verified income, lenders usually charge high-interest rates to people without a good credit score.

Small loans and credit cards will help you establish credit quickly. Once you can show lenders that you can responsibly pay back debt, you will be more open to larger loans and higher limits on your cards.

Credit cards may be the best way to jump-start your credit history because they are revolving credit. When you have a credit limit of $300, you can use all or little of it at any time as long as it is available. There are many “starter” credit cards that are available for people with little to no credit. Another option if this is not in your range, are secured credit cards.

Secured cards are available to nearly anyone who can come up with a minimum amount for a deposit, which is used as collateral. Many cards are available for limits as little as $200! If you found yourself in a position where you cannot pay back the balance on your cards and you have reached your limit, banks will end up keeping the collateral to pay the debt. Although, if you can maintain a good record and pay the debt back, after a period of time (usually 1 year) banks will usually release the deposit back to you.

You want to make sure you are actively trying to build your credit. Once you receive that small loan or credit card, you need to make sure you are creating a trail of good payments so that future lenders can see how responsible and trustworthy you are. Also, be aware of not staying over 50% of the limit on your credit line. Credit reports do not show individual transactions, though they do show if you have used your credit during the month. So it is good to make sure you use your card at least once a month.

After significant months of making on-time payments to your small loan or
credit cards, you should have enough of a history to be able to improve your
creditworthiness. So other credit opportunities can become available to you.
As your score increases, you will be put into positions to receive credit cards
with perks such as Travel rewards, Cashback Savings, Lower Rates etc.

To recap it’s never too early or too late to improve your credit. Remember it is
a process that rewards you after time. During that time use your credit
wisely pay all bills on time and don’t open too many credit accounts. Your
conscious efforts will be rewarded with good credit.


What Is A Good Credit Score


What is a Credit Score ?

There once was a time where people went into a bank, applied for a mortgage, and had a banker go over their recent billing statements, checkbooks and financial income. This was to help prospective lenders evaluate what type of funding you would be qualified to receive.

In 1989 Fair, Isaac & Company (FICO) introduced the ” Credit Score “.  The model introduced by FICO is based on consumer credit files from the three national credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. FICO scores range between 300 and 850.

Although the exact formulas for calculating credit scores are secret, FICO has released the following information on the major factors in determining your credit score, which go as follows :

1) Payment Record 35% of score

Your payment record is the main discretion in determining your score. Creditors like to see a positive payment record, meaning very little or no late payments. This shows that your are not only responsible but, reliable. Lenders and Creditors giving out loans and unsecured debt will almost always likely turn down anyone with any negative payment history. An easy way to maintain a positive payment history is setting up automatic payment withdrawal. One of the best ways to improve or maintain a good score is to make consistent and on-time payments.

2) Amounts Owed 30% of Score

What most people don’t realize, is that their behavior is a complete reflection of their credit score. If you have a $4000 credit limit and keep a $3900 balance, your score will be lower than that of a person with a $2000 balance and the same limit even if you are both paying on time monthly. Creditors look at consumers who consistently keep a high credit limit as a potential risk. Which is the main reason as to why it’s a good idea for you to keep low credit card balances and not overextend your credit utilization ratio.

3) Length Of Credit History 15% of Score

Usually people with an older credit history have better scores than newer consumers for the fact that they have more history to judge. This factor in the discretion is based on the length of time all of the credit accounts have been open. Newer accounts hold less weight than older accounts, usually because of the main factor, payment history.

4) New Credit 10% of Score

Once a few new credit accounts have been opened in a short amount of time, creditors see that consumer as a potential risk. More towards those with very little or no credit history at all. New credit puts a dent in your score at first, so it may turn off new potential creditors until they can prove you can keep a consistent payment history. Being conscious of how many cards you are opening, and how far apart is another great way to make sure you are maintaining a good credit score.

5) Types Of Credit In Use 10% of Score

FICO® Scores consider the combination of credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts and mortgage loans. Credit mix is not a crucial factor in determining your FICO Score unless there’s very little other information from which to base a score.


Wait, your own number is calling?


Wait, your own number is calling? It’s happening here. It’s a scam.

By Charles Elmore

Palm Beach County residents are getting calls that seem to be from their own cell number. Received one of these? A reporter and his son did

A recorded message that purports to be from AT&T says an account has been compromised and asks people to punch in the last four digits of their social security number.

It’s just confusing and disconcerting enough to throw some folks off balance. They may wonder if only a phone company could call them from their own number, so there might be something to it.

Don’t respond. Hang up. It’s a scam to gather information that could be used to plunder accounts or steal your identity.

“These calls are not from AT&T,” said company spokeswoman Kelly Starling. “If any company calls you and asks for your personal information, that is a red flag. One of our tips on our new Cyber Aware website is never give such information to someone who calls you. Call the company at the number found on your bill. You can read more helpful tips for all consumers at www.att.com/cyberaware.”

The call appears to be from your own phone number through a technological trick called “spoofing.” This is how scammers appear to be calling from the IRS or from across town in other ploys. That is why, unfortunately, you can’t take the caller ID at face value 100 percent of the time.

Your own number on the caller ID is a relatively new twist, though reports started popping up in other states in recent months. It’s also a sure sign of trouble. Real phone companies don’t do this.


Charles Elmore writes for the state’s best blog, as recognized in 2016 Florida Press Club awards. He has written investigative, business, sports and government stories and columns with The Palm Beach Post and The Atlanta Constitution. National Headliner, Florida Press Club, Best of Cox and APSE awards have honored work ranging from covering the Olympics, French Open, and Wimbledon to serving as state bureau chief in Tallahassee. He won the 2014 and 2015 Sunshine State Award for consumer reporting and 2016 Florida Press Club awards for business writing and best affiliated blog. He and wife Jenifer have three children, Holly, Shelby, and Andrew.


Open Enrollment 2016 dates and how to shop for health insurance


healthInsThe dead line to get new health insurance or to change an existing plan for the year 2016 is fast approaching. With so many options to consider and a mountain of data to look through, don’t wait until the last minute.  It could take you a week just to look at all the plans available. This quick guide will help you get through the high level details. Here’s what to consider when looking for insurance for individual or family plans.

Employer Insurance

Employer insurance should be looked at carefully. Plans change all the time and not just the cost. Make sure you look at the out-of-pocket expenses like copay’s, deductibles and coinsurance. Also look at your provider list to see if you Doctors are still included. These factors can affect you decision on renewing your Employer Insurance.

Think about prescription coverage. Always look at your current needs and try and plan out what you will need for the year. Prescription coverage’s change too, so don’t be left without a covered drug.

Pay attention to wellness programs offered. Employers are caring more about their employees and making sure they are healthy and fit, as this affects their bottom line as well. Programs like stop smoking, weight loss and lifestyle changes can help you live a better and healthier lifestyle. So take advantage of these programs.


Important Dates and Deadlines

December 15, 2015 – Last day to enroll in or change coverage that will start on January 1st, 2016.

January 15, 2016 – Last day to enroll in or change coverage that will start February 1st 2016.

January 31,2016 – Open Enrollment Ends.


Marketplace Health insurance

Understand your tiers. There are four tiers to choose from and each offer different levels of out of pocket expense and percentage of coverage. As a rule of thumb, Bronze covers 60 percent of you care, Silver 70%, Gold 80% and Platinum 90%. All plans cover the 10 essential medical care requirements; Emergency Services, Hospitalization, Maternity and newborn care, Mental Health and substance-use services, Prescription drugs, physical and occupational therapy, lab tests, preventive care services and Pediatric services which include dental and vision.

Get Help if you need it. The government pays people to help consumers select the insurance they need. Trained assisters can be found in almost every city and town.

Understanding your options and subsidies can reduce your overall premiums. Make sure you fill out your application with as much accurate information as possible. People earning income between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level get help for paying for their insurance as long as it is an eligible plan purchased through the marketplace.

Understand the penalties of not having insurance. Depending on your income, you could be paying 2.5% of your income or $695 per adult not insured. There are options for young healthy individuals such as the catastrophic plan. These include very low premiums but very large out of pocket expenses for health care.

With the deadline just around the corner, don’t wait and risk not getting insurance. There are a lot of options to consider, research that needs to be done on your part and possibly arranging a sit down with an official assister.


Black Friday Starts Early for Some Retailers


bl1Sam’s Club is getting into the game earlier this Christmas season. Starting November 14th, you can get on the great deals that normally come on the Friday after Thanksgiving and more frequently on Thanksgiving day.

The leaked list posted to several BlackFirday news sites show the deep discounts being offered early. Sam’s Club has several large flat screen TV’s on sale including the A 65-inch Vizio D65u-D2 4K UHD Smart TV coming in under a thousand dollars.

Other discounts appear to mostly target popular electronics. Everything from speakers to the Playstation 4 is listed. Apple products including the iPad and iPhone are listed as well. bestblackfriday.com has the current Sam’s Club flyer for the November 14th event.

There are other small retailers putting on sales before Thanksgiving. So are we seeing a new trend? Retailers will always being thinking of ways to get you shopping for Christmas. We expect Black Friday to still be the busiest shopping day of the year. Either way, it’s a good time to get some good deals and start your Christmas shopping early this year.


Don’t fall for this chip credit card scam


chip-credit-card-scamRecently, the Credit Card industry went through a huge change as they switch to chip cards cards and scammers are taking advantage of the changes.

All major credit card companies were to ship out new chip credit cards to replace your old cards by October 1st. However only 60% of cards have been issued. This leaves room for scammers to come in.

The scam: Scammers will send you an email pretending to be a credit card company. They will claim that they need to verify personal information before issuing new chip cards. Scammers will then use this information to steal your identity.

The FTC has issued a warning and reminding people that credit card companies will never ask for personal information in an email. Only ever provide personal information through the actual company’s website or by directly calling them through the number found on the back of your current credit card.

You can read more about the scam from the FTC’s website.


Are You Ready for the New Computer Chip Credit Cards?


chip-credit-cardsOctober 1st is the deadline for merchants to have the technology to accept computer chip embedded credit and debit cards. But don’t worry if you don’t have a chip card yet, your current card will still be accepted.

Chip embedded card requires the user to place the card in the reader, the action is called “Dip The Card”. You wait for it to authorize and you sign as usual. In the coming years you will have to enter a 4 digit pin as well, like the rest of the world has been doing for years.

The new chip cards are supposed to offer more security and are harder to counterfeit. The chips generate a new transaction code every time it’s used, so even if a thief were to gain access to it, it cannot be used a second time. And just like your old swipe card, you are not liable for fraud.

Online shopping will be the same since it does not require a card to be present. So security still will be an issue that’s talked about.

Read more from the Original article at Today.com


20 Money Tips To Make This Year


With the year coming to an end, it’s time to look over your finances and goal that you had set at the beginning of the year. Listed below of 20 money moves that you should consider.

  1.  Add More to your Retirement Savings – Its not too late to start making those full contributions. You can contribute up to $18,000 this year.
  2. Check Your Accounts – Since your retirement accounts are usually housed with a separate institute than your bank, you may forget to login and check to see that you are getting the most from your account.
  3. Consider a Conversion – Do you hold a regular IRA? Look into converting it to a Roth IRA for extra benefits.
  4. Think Big – The middle of the year is the perfect time to step back and look at your financial goals for the year and your life financial goals.
  5. Give yourself Chores – Stay on track with your finances by doing a simple task once a week for the rest of the year. Could be something simple like adjusting your budget.
  6. Change Up Your goals – If you are not hitting your goals or life circumstances change, now is the perfect time to adjust those financial goals.
  7. Re-balance Accounts – Middle of the year is also time to loko at your investments and see what is not performing and selling them off for something better.
  8.  Go Back Through Spending – Go back through your spending to see where your money is going.
  9. Divert Funds to College Savings – Do you spend money on toys for kids fairly often? Try adjusting the amount you spend and divert it to a college fund for them.
  10. Watch Your Budget – It’s always a good idea to look at your budget regularly to make sure you are staying on track.
  11. Next Summers’ Vacation – Want to go on vacation next year? Now’s the time to start planning and saving money.
  12. Save Any Surplus – Got a winning lottery ticket or sold something out of your garage? Stash that money away.
  13. 529 College Account Contributions – Similar to a retirement account, you can pay into a college fund every month.
  14. Emergency Fund Check – Remember stashing that money away from number 12 on the list? This is where it should go until you reached your goal.
  15. Beneficiaries – Really only applies if you got married or divorced. Don’t overlook this important item.
  16. Get More Insurance – Got a better job this year? Take a look at insurance types that you do not have, renters insurance, life insurance etc.
  17. Are Your Ready for Taxes – It’s never too early to take a look at your taxes for the year. Especially if you are a business owner.
  18. Look at Your Tax Credits – Tax laws are always changing, and with the new Health Care program in place, you should double check what tax credits you can get back.
  19. Make Donations – Donations not only help others but helps your bottom line when it comes to taxes.
  20. Make Preventive Care Appointments – Staying healthy in priority number one. Got to the dentist, get your eyes checked and get your yearly checkup.

You can read the full original article here.

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