DRIP - your finances in order

Applying for Credit A Regular Catch 22

Applying for Credit – A Regular Catch-22

It is a necessary evil. If and when you decide to buy a house, you will have to have a track record of good credit for a number of years. And with all the sub-prime mortgage loans going under, mortgage bankers are scrutinizing applications with a fine tooth comb.

If you have never had a credit card, get a secured card – meaning you have to deposit the money first and then you will be able to access it. Make some small purchases, pay on time, and add some more money to you account. Once you have done this for at least a year, apply for a ‘regular” credit card. Don’t worry about the size of the limit. It may only be for a few hundred dollars.

Continue to make small purchases and pay on time. You can even pay the minimum amount once in a while. Just don’t make any late payments. Doing this will establish a pattern of on-time payments. Once you have created this history of making your payments on-time, you will find it easier to apply for that home loan.

Applying for credit used to mean asking your neighborhood banker for a loan. Now, with national credit cards and computerized applications, the day of personal evaluations may be over. Instead, computer evaluations look at, among other things, your income, payment history, credit card accounts, and any outstanding balances. Paying in cash and in full may be sound financial advice, but they won’t give you a payment history that helps you get credit.

A major indicator of your ability to repay a loan is your current income. Those who consider income must include types of income that are likely to be received by older consumers. This includes salaries from part-time employment, Social Security, pensions, and other retirement benefits.

You also may want to tell creditors about assets or other sources of income, such as your home, additional real estate, savings and checking accounts, money market funds, certificates of deposit, and stocks and bonds.

If you’re age 62 or over, you have certain other protections. You can’t be denied credit because credit-related insurance is not available based on your age. Credit insurance pays off the creditor if you should die or become disabled.

On the other hand, a creditor can consider your age to:

• favor applicants who are age 62 or older.

• determine other elements of creditworthiness. For example, a creditor could consider whether you’re close to retirement age and a lower income.

While a creditor cannot take your age directly into account, a creditor may consider age as it relates to certain elements of creditworthiness. If, for example, at the age of 70, you apply for a 30-year mortgage, a lender might be concerned that you may not live to repay the loan. However, if you apply for a shorter loan term, increase your down payment, or do both, you might satisfy the creditor’s concerns.

Avoid Payment Holidays When Offered

Avoid Payment Holidays When Offered

Once you’ve been paying off a credit card for a while you might be offered a ‘payment holiday.' You’ll get a letter stating that since the company knows it’s difficult for some families around Christmas they’re offering you a month off from paying as a ‘special present.'

Why Would They Do That?

Offers of payment holidays typically have a very high acceptance rate. People think it’s great that they can take a month off from the stress of paying back debt. What they don’t usually realize is that these ‘holidays’ aren’t a present at all. They’re a great money-spinner for the credit card company. For the company it’s a win-win situation. They get to make big profits just by making their poorer customers happy.

How Can Letting Me Off Paying Earn Them Money?

That's the trick. If you read the small print you’ll find that the payment holiday isn’t interest free! You’re still being charged interest. And, since you’re not paying anything back that month the interest will be there next month for you to pay interest on - called compound interest.

This is interest paid on interest. That might feel a little hard to grasp, so here’s an example. Let’s say you were paying back $1000 of debt at 1.5% per month, about 19.5% per year. Your minimum payment each month is 2% or 26.82% per year.

If you pay the minimum for all 12 months of the year, then you will pay back $233.51 and owe $941.62 at the end of the year. Your debt has been reduced by $58.38 and you’ve lost $175.13 in interest.

With the payment holiday though, you pay 2% per month for only 11 months. So, you pay 24.3% back on the debt over the year. That’s $217.80, and you’d owe $960.55 at the end of the year. Overall, you’ve paid $37.86 for your payment holiday from a payment of about $20. In other words, your month off cost you almost two months of payments!

Don’t worry if you don’t understand all the math. It’s been deliberately designed by mathematicians and marketers to be as confusing as possible, to stop you working out what a bad deal you’re getting. Just remember, don’t fall for it. The more you owe the more that ‘holiday’ will cost you.

If It Sounds Too Good to Be True

Anytime they offer you anything, it’s because they’re going to make a profit on it. If you can’t see where their profit is coming from, be suspicious.