Best Debt Settlement Companies

Tired of being harassed by debt collectors over a debt you can’t afford to pay? Debt settlement may be a viable option. But before you take this route, it’s important to understand how it works along with key benefits and drawbacks.

Read on to learn more about debt settlement and explore the top companies in the industry.

How Debt Settlement Works

When you settle your debts, you pay creditors a portion of what you owe and they agree to release you from your contractual obligation to pay the remaining balance. But in order for debt settlement to be legally binding, both parties must agree on the amount.

There are many perks to debt settlement, including a peace of mind because debt collectors are no longer hounding you or a financial burden removed from your plate. However, there are also some major drawbacks to consider. More on that shortly.

You should also know that debt settlement can only be used for unsecured and revolving debts, or credit cards, and unsecured loan products that are not backed by collateral (with the exception of federal student loans).

While you have the option to call up the creditors and settle your own debts, it’s more sensible to have a reputable company do the legwork for you.

If you choose the latter, the company will instruct you to forgo monthly payments and place the proceeds in a savings account. This routine will continue until you’ve managed to stack up enough cash to start the negotiation process with the creditors.

Top Debt Settlement Companies

A few of the best debt settlement companies in the industry:

Company Highlights
Accredited Debt Relief A+ Rating by the BBB

Free consultations

Accredited member of the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC)

12 to 48-month program term

Negotiations on your behalf commence 1 to 2 weeks following your enrollment in the program

CuraDebt Over 18 years of experience in the debt settlement industry

Licensed and bonded in multiple states through the US

Accredited member of the AFCC

Brick-and-mortar location in Hollywood, FL

Free face-to-face consultations

No upfront fees required to sign up the debt settlement program

Average fees are 20 percent of the total debt at enrollment

Freedom Debt Relief More than 15 years of experience in the debt settlement industry

Over $9 billion in debt settled

600,000+ clients currently enrolled in debt relief services

Around 43,891 accounts settled on a monthly basis

Client dashboard available to monitor the status of your case at any time directly from your computer, laptop, or mobile device

Founding member of the AFCC

Debts can be settled in as little as 24 to 48 months

No upfront fees to use their services

National Debt Relief One of the largest debt settlement companies in the US

BBB Accredited with an A+ rating

Member of the AFCC and IAPDA (International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators)

Provides financial education to customers

Most clients are able to have their debts settled within 24 to 48 months

Average client incurs cost savings of 50% (30% including debt settlement fees assessed by the National Debt Relief)

New Era Debt Solutions Accredited by the BBB with a rating of A+

Over 18 years of experience

Over $200,000 in debt settled on their client’s behalf

Debts can be settled in as little as 90 days

Benefits of Debt Settlement

Could help avoid legal proceedings.

While there’s no way to guarantee that the creditor won’t sure you in the court of law, having a debt relief company propose a settlement on your behalf could minimize the chances. Not only does it demonstrate that you’re not blowing them off, but it also shows that you’re taking responsibility for what you owe and are committed to finding a solution to at least take care of what you can actually afford to repay.

You can save a ton of money.

Credit cards and loan products with less than favorable terms usually cause loads of trouble for cash-strapped consumers because the amount of interest accrued is excessive. In some instances, this amount could exceed the amount you initially borrowed on credit. And when you tack on the late payment fees and penalties, the balance spirals out of control even more.

But if the creditor will agree on the settlement offer, you could save a slew of cash. In some instances, you may be able to cut the balance in half, if not lower. Even better, you’ll more than likely accomplish this task in a fraction of the time that it would have taken you to pay the debt in full to the creditor.

Streamlines repayment.

Instead of mulling over which creditors to pay and which to leave out each month, you’ll make one monthly payment to the debt settlement company. While the collections calls may not stop, this gives you a better chance of eventually getting out of the hole if the company is able to successfully settle the accounts on your half once enough funds have been accrued.

Drawbacks of Debt Settlement

The process could take awhile.

Creditors are interested in recouping the total amount you owe, plus any applicable interest, penalties, and fees. So, even if you are certain that you won’t be able to remit timely or any payments at all, the creditor will need proof before they will entertain your debt settlement offer.

This means that it’s not enough to call up your creditor and tell them you’re going through a rough financial patch that you’re anticipating will last for a while. Instead, you’ll need to provide tangible proof, like a series of missed payments or across the board. Charged off or collection accounts are another surefire way to get their attention as they indicate the likelihood of collecting what they owe is slim to none.

Your credit will take a hit during and after the negotiation phase.

Each month that goes by during the negotiation phase means more bad news for your credit score. Why so? Well, payment history accounts for 35 percent of your credit score, and just a single late payment could tank your score by up to 110 points.

And because debt settlement agreements aren’t usually reached right away, your credit score will continue to sustain more and more damage with each month that passes.

If the company is able to settle the debt on your behalf, the creditor will note the account as “Settled” on your credit report and this negative mark will remain for up to seven years (with the negative impact diminishing over time).

Your creditors may not budge.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), “debt settlement [companies may] be unable to settle all of your debts.” So by signing up for their services, you’re taking a huge risk without knowing if there’s any chance you’ll actually find the debt relief you’re desperately searching for.

You will have to pay for the service.

Success on the debt settlement companies behalf equals more out of pocket expenses for you. Simply put, they will deduct a fee from the account used to fund the settlement. The percentage varies by settlement, but it is usually determined by the original amount of debt owed or a percentage of the settlement agreement.

You may also be assessed setup and administration fees on a monthly basis. If the company is unable to reach an agreement with the creditor on your behalf, they will not be able to return the service fees to you.

You may have an outstanding tax liability.

Debt forgiveness could trigger a tax liability payable to Uncle Sam’s Headquarters since this amount is classified as taxable income. So before moving forward, it’s best to consult with a tax professional to determine how settling your debts could impact your tax liability.

How to Evaluate Debt Settlement Companies

Don’t settle for the first debt settlement company that piques your interest. Instead, explore at least three options and be on the lookout for the following:

  • Current status of their licensure. This information can be retrieved from the state Attorney General’s office.
  • Methodology. If they use deceptive tactics to bring customers on board and settlement debts, that’s your queue to move on.
  • Consumer reviews. You want to see more positive than negative, but if a bulk of what you see seems fishy, it probably is.
  • Status with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Are they accredited with the BBB? If so, what rating did they receive and are there any major complaints on file?
  • Excessive fees. Per federal law, debt settlement companies can’t charge to settle your debts until they seal the deal. However, they may assess administration fees. And if so, you want to avoid companies that charge fees that are higher than normal.
  • Consumer complaints filed with the state Attorney General or your local consumer protection agency.
  • Professional Associations. Are they members of any industry-wide professional organizations?
  • Free consultations. By giving the company a call and taking advantage of their free consultation, you’ll have a better idea of what types of fees you’ll be assessed and if the program is a good fit for your financial situation.

Debt Settlement vs. Debt Consolidation

If you’re not quite at the point where you can no longer pay your outstanding debts but are hanging on by a thread, debt consolidation may be a more viable option. Unlike debt settlement, it helps you to protect the credit you’ve worked so hard to build by securing more competitive interest rates designed to lower your monthly payments and help you pay off your debts faster.

The Bottom Line

Debt settlement may be the best option if you’re drowning in debt and have reached the point where it may be necessary to file for bankruptcy if you can’t find relief. But before moving forward, it may be best to speak with a credit counselor to determine if it’s the right decision for you.

Best Checking Accounts (The 2019 Edition)

When you’re searching for the perfect checking account, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the options that are available to you. Some banks offer stellar bonuses to new account holders while others allow you to earn generous rewards for every dollar spent. You also have to consider the fees that accompany select bank accounts, along with the location and if it’s convenient for you. And the list goes on.

So, to make your life easier, we’ve compiled a list of the best checking accounts on the market. Read on to explore these options that will hopefully help you narrow down your search.

Brick-and-Mortar Banks

Prefer to do banking the traditional way? If online banks just aren’t your cup of tea, these brick-and-mortar banks offer checking solutions that are a step above the rest.

Chase Total Checking

Account Overview:

With Chase Total Checking, you can enjoy a new account holder bonus of up to $350. You’ll earn $200 when you open your account and enroll in direct deposit, and $150 more if you choose to open a savings account and meet the qualification criteria.

Key Features:

  • Minimum Opening Deposit- $25
  • Monthly Service Fees- $12 (if you don’t meet the monthly balance or activity requirements)
  • ATM Network- Over 16,000 fee-free ATMs and 5,100 branches
  • Rewards- n/a

PNC Standard Checking

Account Overview:

The PNC Standard Checking account is a straightforward, low-fee solution to meet your checking needs. But it stands out above the rest because of its generous rewards program.

Key Features:

  • Minimum Opening Deposit- $25
  • Monthly Service Fees- $7 (waived if you meet the balance or direct deposit criteria, or are at least 62 years of age)
  • ATM Network- Over 9,000 fee-free ATMs
  • Rewards- PNC Purchase Payback allows you to earn cash back on everyday purchases at your favorite retailers or dining establishments.

Fifth Third Bank Essential Checking

Account Overview:

The Fifth Third Bank Essential Checking grants you the standard services you’d expect in an account of this type, and they make it easy to avoid monthly maintenance fees. They also offer a unique Roundup feature that helps you pay your student loans down faster.

Key Features:

  • Minimum Opening Deposit- $0 (but you have up to 45 days to make your first deposit)
  • Monthly Service Fee- $11 (can be avoided with qualifying account activity)
  • ATM Network- Over 50,000 fee-free ATMs
  • Rewards-n/a
  • Other Perks- Account holders have access to discounted Identity Theft Protection coverage, Roundup on purchases via Fifth Third Momentum app (funds are directly applied to student loans)

Credit Unions

There are many perks to having a checking account with a credit union. From reduced fees and more competitive interest rates on loan products to the ability to own a share of the institution, credit unions may be the perfect fit for you. Some checking account products from credit unions to consider:

Consumers Credit Union Simple Checking

Account Overview:

Consumers Credit Union Simple Checking is a fee-free product that is free of monthly service fees. They have a vast ATM network and allow you to earn cash back on everyday purchases made using your debit card.

Key Features:

  • Minimum Opening Deposit- $25
  • Monthly Service Fees- $10 (unless you maintain a daily balance of at least $1,000)
  • ATM Network- Over 30,000 fee-free ATMs
  • Rewards- Cashback rewards on purchases

Connexus Credit Union Checking Account

Account Overview:

As a Connexus Checking Account holder, you’ll earn a yield of up to 1.75 percent on your money. Even better, there are no minimum balance requirements and ATM fees for out of network transactions are reimbursable by up to $25.

Key Features:

  • Minimum Opening Deposit- $5.00
  • Monthly Service Fees- $0
  • ATM Network- Over 54,000 fee-free ATMs (monthly surcharges of up to $25 qualify for reimbursement)
  • Rewards- MyRewards allows you to earn up to $25 in rebates for ATM surcharges and up to 1.35 percent in yields
  • Other Perks- no minimum monthly balance requirements

Penfed Credit Union Access America Checking

Account Overview:

Penfed Credit Union Access America Checking also allows members to earn a return between 0.20 and 0.5 percent APY on their funds. This account is also accompanied by Apple and Samsung digital wallet capabilities.

Key Features:

  • Minimum Opening Deposit- $25
  • Monthly Service Fees- $0
  • ATM Network- Over 68,000 fee-free ATMs
  • Rewards- n/a
  • Other Perks- Interfaces with Apple and Samsung digital wallets

Online Checking Accounts

If you’re always on the go or are delighted at the thought of handling all your banking needs at the tip of your fingertips, a checking account from an online bank may best suit your needs. Here are some options to consider:

Capital One 360 Checking Account

Account Overview:

Touted as one of the best online checking account products on the market, the Capital One 360 Checking Account offers a generous APY of up to 1.00 percent. There are no minimum balance requirements or monthly service fees, and you’ll have access to over 39,000 fee-free ATMs. You should also know that you have the option to open an account online or at a Capital One branch.

Key Features:

  • Minimum Opening Deposit- $0
  • Monthly Service Fees- $0
  • ATM Network- Over 39,000 fee-free ATMs
  • Rewards- n/a
  • Other Perks- first order of checks available free of charge

Ally Bank Interest Checking Account

Account Overview:

As an Ally Bank Interest Checking Account holder, you’ll earn an APY between 0.1 and 0.60 percent. You’ll also enjoy a vast ATM network and fee-free checking as the account does not incur monthly service charges.

Key Features:

  • Minimum Opening Deposit-
  • Monthly Service Fees- $0
  • ATM Network- Free access to thousands of Allpoint ATMs nationwide
  • Rewards- n/a
  • Other Perks- ATM fees of up to $10 reversible per month

Radius Checking

Account Overview:

Although the Radius Checking account does require a somewhat hefty opening deposit of $100, you’ll be able to earn one percent in cash back for each purchase made with your debit cards. Even better, there are no monthly service fees, and the first box of checks ordered is on the bank.

Key Features:

Minimum Opening Deposit- $100

Monthly Service Fees- $0

ATM Network- a Vast network of fee-free ATMs worldwide

Rewards- one percent cash back for every dollar spent

Other Perks- Unlimited transfers, bill pay, and mobile wallet with Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay, the initial order of checks covered

USAA Cashback Rewards Checking

Account Overview:

Not only will you enjoy zero service charges with this account, but you will also earn 10 cents back each time you use your debit card. There are no earning maximums and cash back can be redeemed once you’ve earned a dollar or more. And you can do so at any time (as long as your account is current and in good standing).

Key Features:

  • Minimum Opening Deposit- $25
  • Monthly Service Fees- $0
  • ATM Network- Over 60,000 fee-free ATMs
  • Rewards- 10 cent cash back when you use your debit card

Best High-Interest Checking

Is earning top dollar on your money at the top of your list? These high-interest checking accounts will help you get the job done:

Alliant High-Rate Checking

Account Overview:

Alliant Credit Union offers a high-rate checking account that allows you to earn 0.65 percent APY, which is 7.2 times the national average for checking account yields. However, you must enroll in eStatements and make one monthly electronic deposit to earn interest. They also have a large fee-free ATM network and reimburse up to $20 on out-of-network fees.

Key Features:

  • Minimum Opening Deposit- $5 support payment made by Alliant on your behalf to a charity they are partnered with (you can bypass this by meeting another one of their eligibility requirements)
  • Monthly Service Fees- $0
  • ATM Network- Over 80,000 fee-free ATMs
  • Rewards- n/a
  • Other Perks- first order of checks covered, Up to $20 in ATM surcharges reimbursable each month, free unlimited transfers between in-house and outside accounts

Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking Account

Account Overview:

With a minimum opening deposit of only $10, you can become a Bank5 Connect High-Interest Checking Account holder and earn up to 0.76 APY on your money. What’s even more enticing is that you only have to maintain a minimum balance of $100 to take advantage of this perk.

This account also offers the UChoose Rewards program where you’ll earn 1 point for every $2 spent. Points can be exchanged for points for travel, electronics, gift cards, and so much more.

Key Features:

  • Minimum Opening Deposit- $10
  • Monthly Service Fees- $0
  • ATM Network- Bank5 Connect will reimburse up to $15 in surcharges per statement cycle incurred from using other banks’ ATMs
  • Rewards- Earn 1 point for every $2 spent on your debit card through the UChoose Rewards program
  • Other Perks- first box of checks free, up to $15 in out-of-network ATM fees reimbursable

Simple Checking Account

Account Overview:

Housed under the BBVA Compass Bank umbrella, the Simple Checking Account is designed to help you earn a large return on your money in record time. There are no minimum opening deposit or monthly balance requirements, and you’ll never pay account maintenance fees.

You can also earn as much as 2.02 percent APY on your money. However, the balance must be at least $2,000 to take advantage of this benefit. And once you’ve reached this amount, a Savings Goal account will be opened on your behalf that allows you to earn $100.93 in interest after a 12-month period.

(Making purchases by check is not an available option, but they do offer a free bill pay service and treasurer’s checks.)

Key Features:

  • Minimum Opening Deposit- $0
  • Monthly Service Fees- no fees ever! (includes account maintenance, overdraft, ACH transfers, and card replacement)
  • ATM Network- Over 40,000 fee-free ATMs
  • Rewards- n/a

The Bottom Line

Choosing the best checking account for your financial needs doesn’t have to be an arduous task. By figuring out what features are most important and prioritizing them before you start, you’ll save yourself a ton of overwhelm before you start your search.

Best Savings Accounts (The 2019 Edition)

Savings accounts are instrumental in helping you fund short-term purchases or meet long-term objectives. While most banks offer savings accounts to complement their checking products, some are more enticing than others. Read on to learn more about the best savings accounts on the market:


You can’t go wrong with a traditional brick-and-mortar bank when looking to open a savings account. But since not all savings accounts are created equal, you want to do your homework to ensure you’ll earn the hefty return you’re seeking. Some of the best options on the market include:

Chase Savings

While Chase Bank doesn’t boast an impressive APY like some of the other brick-and-mortar banks, they do offer a generous $150 bonus when you open a new savings account and meet the following criteria:

  • Make a minimum opening deposit of $10,000 within 20 days
  • Maintain a daily balance of $10,000 for 90 consecutive days

You can also earn $200 more with a new checking account, bringing your total in sign-up bonuses to a whopping $350. And all you have to do is set up direct deposit to your new checking account.

As an account holder, you’ll earn 0.01 percent APY, and there’s a minimum deposit requirement of $25 to get started. But the monthly service fee is only $5, which can be avoided with qualifying activities.


When you open a Direct Savings account with HSBC Bank USA, you can earn 2.01 percent APY on your money. All you need is $1 to open your account, and a monthly maintenance fee does not apply.

As an account holder, you’ll also have access to HSBC’s money management tools that help you get your finances in order. It includes goal setting, budgeting, and savings tools to ensure you hit the key benchmarks you set for yourself.

Credit Union

Credit unions offer consumers the best of both worlds by allowing them to be account holders while owning a share of the credit union. Some credit union savings accounts that will allow you to earn a generous return on your money:

Alliant Credit Union

You can earn up to 1.95 percent APY with a High-Rate Savings Account from Alliant Credit Union if you maintain an average daily balance of at least $100. There are no earnings maximums on interest, and the monthly fee can be waived if you enroll in eStatements.

To open a savings account, you’ll need to make a $5 deposit. And you must maintain a balance of this amount each month for your account to remain open.

Online Banks

Perhaps you’re searching for an online savings account because you’re always on the go. Or maybe you prefer an online option because it’ll prevent you from immediately accessing funds, which helps you become an even better saver. Either way, here are a few options to consider:

Ally Bank

Ally Bank offers an online savings account that will pay you a return of 2.00 percent APY on your money. This is a whopping 20 times higher than the national average.

There are no monthly maintenance fees, cashier’s checks, and ACH transfers are available free of charge. You can also deposit checks via the mobile app or by using a postage-paid envelope.

American Express Personal Savings

The Personal Savings High Yield Savings Account from American Express pays 2.00 percent APY on your earnings. But since these accounts are geared towards saving and not everyday spending, ATM cards and checks are not distributed. Instead, you’ll need to make telephone and online withdrawals. (Note that these are collectively limited to six per month).

Fund transfers from an outside bank account to your American Express High Yield Savings Account generally take one to three business days to appear. However, if the transfer is initiated from your Amex savings account expect to wait for three to five business days for the proceeds to be reflected in your account balance.

Barclays Online Savings Account

The Barclays Online Savings Account boasts one of the highest return on your money with an APY of 2.05 percent. They also offer a Savings Assistant tool directly from the online dashboard that allows you to set a savings goal and calculate how much you’ll need to get there within your desired timeframe.

There is no minimum opening deposit required. And as an account holder, you’ll never be assessed monthly maintenance fees. Furthermore, you don’t have to maintain a minimum daily balance to earn a return on your money.

Deposits to your Barclays Online Savings Account can be initiated via Remote Deposit using your computer or mobile device, direct deposit, ACH transfer or postal mail. Once the funds hit your account, they are subject to a five business day hold.

When you need to withdraw funds, you can initiate an outgoing transfer online or call the customer service outline and request that a check is mailed to you. (Quick note: online transfers take two to three business days to be reflected on the receiving in).

Capital One 360 Savings Account

Capital One 360 is a viable savings account option for consumers looking to earn a decent rate of return on any amount they have saved. It is accompanied by a 1.00 percent APY, and there are no monthly maintenance fees.

And unlike other savings account products on the market, there is no minimum opening deposit requirement. Even better, your account can remain open even if the balance reaches zero.

Account transfers are free between Capital One accounts or from outside financial institutions. There are also automatic savings plans to help you meet your financial goals quicker. And funds can be deposited directly from their state-of-the-art mobile app.


The Online Savings Account from Discover is another straightforward savings options devoid of monthly maintenance fees and monthly balance minimums. As an account holder, you’ll earn an APY of 2.00 percent and there’s no minimum opening deposit requirement.

In addition, all incoming transfers are free, and official bank checks are available free of charge. There’s also no fee for deposit items that are returned.

Another major perk is the ability to have your first fee forgiven. This could apply to excessive withdrawal fees (if the number of monthly withdrawals exceeds six), stop payment orders, NSF, and outgoing wire transfer fees.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs

Marcus by Goldman Sachs pays an APY of 2.05 percent to its account holders without assessing transaction fees. However, this online bank does not offer checking accounts, so you’ll have to initiate deposits elsewhere or you can enroll in direct deposit so funds are sent directly to your account. The good news is inbound and outbound wire transfers do not incur fees.

While it is not necessary to make a minimum deposit when opening an account, you must maintain a daily balance of $1 to earn a return on your money. Furthermore, it is not equipped with a built-in saving tool to help you strategize and execute a plan to help you meet your savings goals faster.

The Bottom Line

It may be overwhelming to sort out all the savings account options out there, so start by considering the options on this list. And should you decide to explore offers from other financial institutions, pay attention to their APY, monthly maintenance fees, and conduct a cost-benefit analysis to ensure the benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks.

Best Money Market Accounts (The 2019 Edition)

If you’ve recently searched for a checking or savings account, chances are you may have also spotted money market accounts on the list of offerings from the financial institution. But how do they work? And are they an option you should consider if you want to make your money work harder for you.

Keep reading for the answers to these questions, along with a comprehensive listing of the best money market accounts out there.

What is a money market account?

Simply put, a money market account is a savings account accompanied by checking account features. How so? Well, most are accompanied by a debit card and checks, unlike traditional savings accounts. The key difference is that they pay a higher rate of return than savings accounts, and you may find that the minimum opening deposit and daily balance requirements are substantially higher.

However, they are a great way to earn a return on your money if you happen to be sitting on a large stash and would look to rake in some interest without investing or parking it into a Certificate of Deposit. Even better, you’ll have access to your cash at any time without incurring any early withdrawal penalties or having to wait for the financial institution to cut you a check or wire the funds.

And as mentioned earlier, you’ll have debit card and check writing privileges without an actual checking account. Plus, you’ll earn a return that blows the interest rate on checking accounts out the water.

Top Money Market Accounts

With so many money market accounts to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when exploring your options. So, we’ve compiled a list of the top products to help you get started on your search.

Ally Bank Money Market Account

The APYs on the Ally Bank Money Market Account are as follows:

  • A minimum daily balance of $0 to $24,99- 0.90 percent
  • A minimum daily balance of over $25,000- 1.00 percent

Even better, you’ll never pay a monthly fee for the duration of the account. You’ll also have access to thousands of fee-free Allpoint ATMs across the US. And in the event you do incur surcharges from ATMs that are out of the Allpoint network, Ally Bank will reimburse you for up to $10 in fees for that particular statement cycle.

You should also know that there are no caps on the number of deposits or ATM withdrawals you can make per month. In addition, remote check deposit with Ally eCheck Deposit or you can elect to use their postage-paid envelopes to deposit funds.

BBVA Compass Clear Choice Money Market Account

The BBVA Compass Clear Choice Money Market Account pays an APY of 1.80 percent to account holders. All you need is a minimum opening deposit of $25 to open an account, and there are no balance requirements for you to meet before you can start earning a return on your money.

However, a monthly service charge of $15 does apply but can be waived if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • Schedule a recurring monthly transfer of at least $25 from your BBVA Compass checking account
  • Maintain a daily balance of at least $10,000

You can make up to six withdrawals per month without incurring any fees, and the account can also be used for overdraft protection if it is linked to your checking account.

Capital One 360 Money Market Account

Capital One is known for its fee-free checking and savings accounts, but the 360 Money Market account is even more impressive. Not only is it also free of monthly service charges, but this account allows you to earn an APY of 2.00 percent on balances of $10,000 or more. And if your balance is below this amount, you’ll still earn 0.85 percent APY without spending a dime to keep the account open.

Deposits can be made via the mobile app, by setting up a recurring transfer from another bank or your Capital One checking or savings account, or at a physical location. Incoming wire transfers are also permitted. And if you need to make a withdrawal, you can do so online, on the mobile app, or by phone. But only six withdrawals are permitted on a monthly basis.

Account holders can also use the digital savings tools to help them map out, execute, and reach their savings goals faster.

CIT Bank Money Market Account

With an opening deposit of $100 or more, you can be on your way to earning an APY of 1.85 percent with the CIT Bank Money Market Account. There are no monthly maintenance fees, but you will incur a fee of $10 per transaction (capped at $50) once you exceed six transactions in a month.

A unique feature of this account is the ability to not only transfer funds to external accounts but to also send funds to PayPal. Although this amount is limited to $50 per transaction and daily, you also have the option to transfer funds to an external account using the Bill Pay feature (up to the maximum balance in your account). And should you decide to wire funds elsewhere, you can do so free of charge if your daily average balance is less than $25,000. Otherwise, you’ll pay $10 per transaction.

Discover Bank Money Market Account

You’ll need to have a bit more skin in the game to take advantage of all this account has to offer as the minimum opening deposit is $2,500. And if your account balance falls below this amount, you’ll incur a monthly service charge of $0.

However, the Discover Bank Money Market Account pays a generous APY of:

  • 1.85 percent on balances less than $100,000
  • 1.90 percent on balances that exceed $100,000

Upon opening an account, you’ll be able to access your cash if needed in a jiffy from the network of over 60,000 fee-free ATMs. You’ll also be able to use the funds in your account by swiping your debit card or writing a check.

Another added benefit is the first fee forgiveness feature, which will let you off the hook for the first mishap on an annual basis.

Sallie Mae Bank Money Market Account

While Sallie Mae is thought to only specialize in servicing student loans, they also have a hidden gem in their arsenal. The money market account grants you the ability to make your money grow without incurring any monthly maintenance fees.

The Sallie Mae Money Market Account pays a whopping 2.20 percent APY, and there’s no minimum balance to start earning a return. You will also have check-writing capabilities, and select transfers can be initiated without paying an additional fee.

TIAA Bank Yield Pledge Money Market Account

The TIAA Bank Yield Pledge Money Market Account is another fee-free way to grow your money. Not only will you avoid monthly account fees, but there’s also no cost to use online bill pay or make mobile check deposits.

To open an account, you’ll need to make a deposit of $5,000 or more. While this may seem a bit hefty, you’ll earn an introductory APY of 2.15 percent in the first year. For subsequent years, their tiered earnings structure is as follows:

  • 1.10 percent APY on balances between $0.00 and $9,999.99
  • 1.15 percent APY on balances between $10,000 and $24,999.99
  • 1.60 percent APY on balances between$25,000 and $49,999.99
  • 1.70 percent APY on balances between $50,000 and $99,999.99
  • 1.90 percent APY on balances between $100,000 and $10,000,000

If your daily balance exceeds $4,999, you will not incur any ATM fees. But for accounts that do not meet this minimum threshold, TIAA Bank will reimburse up to $15 per month in ATM fees.

UFB High Yield Money Market Account

The UFB High Yield Money Market Account pays an APY of 1.60 percent on all balances. A monthly service fee of $10 applies if your balance is below $4,999.99. However, this fee can be avoided if you maintain a daily balance of $5,000 or more.

Mobile deposit is available free of charge, or you can use UFB’s free postage-paid envelopes to get funds to your account without spending a dime. You’ll also receive a debit card when you open an account to use for everyday purchases.

The Bottom Line

A money market account is a great way to take advantage of all the benefits savings accounts have to offer, but also have check writing and debit card privileges. But since not all accounts are accompanied by the same perks, you’ll want to do your homework before moving forward.

Best Prepaid Debit Cards

Prepaid debit cards are a hot commodity for unbanked consumers looking for alternatives to traditional debit cards. They’re also a safe option if you’d prefer not to carry cash, and can help even those who have checking accounts better manage their budgets. And there’s no credit check required, so you won’t have to worry about being denied for a card on the grounds on your less than perfect credit history.

As a prepaid debit card holder, you’ll also have many of the same privileges as you would with their debit cards without tying the card to their bank account. This includes consumer protections (in some instances), ATM withdrawal capabilities, and the ability to swipe your card to make purchases at the point of sale or use it to pay for products or services ordered online.

Keep reading for a list of the top prepaid debit card options on the market:

American Express Serve Cards

American Express Service cards can be obtained online free of charge but cost up to $3.95 when purchased in-store. These personalized prepaid debit cards afford you the same fraud, purchase, and travel protections that you’d receive if you were an American Express credit card holder. You should also know that funds on permanent Express Serve cards are covered under the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation by up to $100,000, which is the maximum balance allowed.

As a cardholder, you’ll be able to make free withdrawals from the extensive network of over 24,000 MoneyPass ATMs. However, there’s a fee of $2.50 plus surcharges if withdrawals are made at out-of-network ATMs.

Other key benefits include:

  • Free direct deposit with the ability to receive your paycheck up to two days early
  • Free online bill pay with participating merchants
  • The ability to send and receive money without incurring any additional fees
  • Access to exclusive offers on dining, entertainment, and shopping from Amex Offers and Amex Experience
  • Free card replacement
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Worldwide cash transfers through Ria ($9.49 for cash pickup and $16.99 for outgoing transfers limited to $2,500)

There are three Amex Serve options to choose from:

  • American Express Serve- $1 monthly fee (free with qualifying direct deposits of $500 or more), and cash reloads available for a fee of $3.95 or less
  • American Express Serve FREE Reloads- $4.95 monthly fee, and free cash reloads at over 45,000 participating 7-ELEVEN, CVS, Dollar General, Family Dollar, and Rite Aid, Walmart locations
  • American Express Serve Cash Back- $5.95 monthly fee and cash reloads at select retailers for a fee of up to $3.95. You can also earn 1 percent cash back on select online and in-store purchases made with your American Express Serve Cash Back card.

BBVA Compass ClearSpend Visa Card

BBVA Compass offers the Clear Spend Visa Card free of charge but you must load $25 in order to activate and start using it. There’s no monthly service charge if you meet the minimum monthly deposit requirement of $400. (Otherwise, you’ll be assessed a fee of $4).

What makes this card stand out from the masses is the ability to earn cash back on select purchases. It also extends FDIC coverage to the maximum balance of $6,500 allowed on the card.

Free cash withdrawals can be made from BBVA Compass ATMs or teller at physical locations, but $2.00 fee applies for ATM withdrawals made out of the BBVA Compass network (additional surcharges may apply from the ATM operator). And if you need to cut a check, bill pay is another service offered free of charge.

You will never incur overdraft or purchase transaction fees as long as you’re a cardholder. You’ll have access to the ClearSpend budgeting tool that helps you get your spending under control so you can meet your financial goals.

The card can be loaded free of charge at any BBVA Compass location. You can also load your card by initiating an ACH transfer from your financial institution or by withdrawing funds from your BBVA Compass debit card. You can also use an external funding source, including ClearSpend, PayPal, Popmoney, and Venmo to load your card. Outgoing transfers are allowed, but it takes two to three business days for the transaction to complete and for the funds to be available.


If you frequently shop at or reside in an area with Walmart stores, the Bluebird by American Express and Walmart prepaid debit card may be a good fit. You can retrieve one for free if ordered online but it’ll cost you $5 if you purchase the card from a retail location.

There are no activation, setup, or monthly maintenance fees and you can opt to have your paychecks or government benefits deposited on the card without spending a dime. Even better, you can make fee-free withdrawals from MoneyPass ATMs. Free bill pay is also available.

But what’s the reasoning for recommending this card to frequent patrons of Walmart? Well, it can be reloaded free of charge via cash or debit card at Walmart locations. You can also reload the card online when using a debit card from your financial institution.

If you prefer to use the mobile check deposit feature that’s available through Ingo Money, you’ll pay ranging between one and five percent of the check’s value if you want the money instantly Otherwise, the free standard option that gets you access to funds in 10 days)

Other perks include purchase and fraud protections, along with roadside assistance and global assist. You’ll also have access to deals on dining and shopping, just to name a few through Amex offers, along with exclusive entertainment deals through the Amex Experience.

Chase Liquid

Are you a Chase customer looking for a better way to manage your finances? The Chase Liquid prepaid debit card may be ideal to help you get the job done while protecting your money with zero liability coverage.

It is available free of charge and does not have a monthly maintenance fee if the card is linked to select Chase checking account ($4.95 if not). You can load funds for free at Chase locations or ATMs and make withdrawals at Chase ATMs. and there’s no fee for incoming transfers.

Fifth Third Access360° Reloadable Prepaid Card

Fifth Third Access360° Reloadable Prepaid Card is another option offered by a major financial institution that gives you all the benefits of a traditional debit card. There’s a $4 monthly fee unless you’re a Fifth Third Bank checking account holder or receive deposits of at least $500 per month onto your reloadable prepaid card.

Cardholders can make fee-free withdrawals at a network of over 50,000 ATMs around the US, but there’s a fee of $2.75 for out-of-network ATM withdrawals. You can also make free withdrawals at Fifth Third Bank Branches.

To reload the card, you will have to do so using a Fifth Third checking or savings account or by visiting a branch. But there’s no minimum load amount.

PayPal Prepaid MasterCard

While you don’t have to have a PayPal account to obtain this card, it helps to have one if you want to use the interactive mobile app. The PayPal Prepaid MasterCard is available to consumers free of charge.

You can load funds for free via direct deposit or PayPal transfers (from your account), or reload checks or cash for a fee at over 130,000 locations nationwide that are in the NetSpend Reload network.

There’s a $4.95 cardholder fee, but it’s a small price to pay to earn cash back rewards offered on select purchases (through exclusive cardholder promotions. Even better, you’ll have the option to open a Savings Account through The Bancorp Bank and earn up to 5.00 percent APY on balances of $1,000 or less. You can also participate in the Refer-a-friend program that gets you and them $5 if they sign up and load $10 or more on their card

Western Union NetSpend Prepaid MasterCard

When you retrieve a Western Union NetSpend Prepaid MasterCard, you’ll have three plans to choose from:

  • Pay-as-You-Go Plan- no monthly service charge, but signature and PIN purchase transaction fees of $1.00 and $2.00 apply, respectively
  • Monthly FeeAdvantage Plan- $9.95 per month
  • Premier FeeAdvantage Plan- $5.00 per month. This plan also includes the Purchase Cushion feature, which covers overdrawn balances by up to $10.

Regardless of which plan you choose, you’ll have access to the following benefits:

  • Direct deposit up to two days earlier than the scheduled posting date
  • Account alerts sent directly to your mobile phone to notify you of account activity
  • Cash back rewards can be earned on purchases from participating retailers
  • The Refer-a-Friend program gets you a $20 credit to your card if they get a car and load it with $40 or more
  • The ability to send or receive money via Western Union Money Transfer (incoming transfers fee but outgoing transfers cost)
  • If you reload at a retail location or by bank transfer, a fee will apply
  • Online bill pay (select merchants charge a fee)
  • Earn up to 5.00 percent APY if you opt-in to the attached savings account (only valid on balances up to $1,000)
  • Access to funds via ATM (subject to a $2.50 ATM withdrawal fee)

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a product that grants you access to the same benefits as you’d derive from a debit card tied to a checking account, a prepaid debit card may be worth considering. They are relatively easy to obtain, personalized to minimize the chance of fraud and can be used in all locations that the major branded-cards are accepted. Best of all, there’s no credit check so a less than perfect FICO score won’t keep you from getting your hands on one.

Best Mortgage Loans for Bad Credit

Are you in the market for a home loan but worried that your credit will keep you from getting approved? A less than perfect credit score is not the end of the world, and it surely isn’t enough to keep you from getting approved for a mortgage. Check out this list of the best mortgage loans for bad credit to help make your dreams of homeownership a reality.

Carrington Mortgage Services

Carrington Mortgage Services offers several mortgage products to prospective borrowers with credit scores as low as 500. Bad credit mortgage products include the following:

  • Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) Loan- minimum credit score of 500 and ideal for customers looking for a lower interest rate for the first few years of the loan term and plan to refinance later on down the line to secure a fixed rate. This loan grants you a lower interest rate and monthly mortgage payment for the first five years of the loa.
  • Carrington Flexible Advantage Loan- minimum credit score of 500 and Ideal for prospective borrowers with serious credit issues, including a recent bankruptcy, foreclosure, late payments, or short sale. You can borrow up to $2 million with this loan.
  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loan- minimum credit score of 500 and ideal for first-time homebuyers. FHA loans allow a low downpayment and have flexible qualification criteria.
  • US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Loan- minimum credit score of 500 and ideal for prospective low-income homebuyers looking to build or purchase in a rural area. The qualification criteria are flexible and 100 percent financing available. Furthermore, cash reserves not required to qualify and close the loan.
  • Veterans Affairs (VA) Loan- minimum credit score of 500 and ideal for active and retired members of the armed forces and their family members. VA loans are accompanied by low-interest rates and 100 percent financing is available.

To learn more about their loan products, use the “Find An Expert” tool on their website to search for loan officers by state. You can also find the physical address, phone number, and hours of operation of their offices around the U.S. They currently have offices in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, and Maryland.


CitiMortgage also offers mortgage products to help credit challenged borrowers fulfill their dreams of owning a new home. They include:

  • FHA loans- a good fit for first-time home buyers with less than perfect credit. This loan product is also ideal for those who have only been employed for a limited period of time or who are self-employed.
  • HomeRun mortgage- a good fit for individuals looking for high-valued (up to $453,100 and $679,650 in more expensive areas) loans that don’t have excellent credit. Borrowers can put down as little as 3 percent, and mortgage insurance is not required.
  • VA Home loans- a good fit for current and retired members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their family members. Qualified borrowers have access to competitive financing, lower closing costs, and affordable (if any) down payment options.

Homebridge Financial Services

With an FHA Loan from HomeBrdige Financial Services, you can purchase the home of your dreams even if you fall into the low-income bracket and your credit isn’t perfect. And if you’re a veteran, you may also qualify for a VA loan that is financing at 100 percent.

They also have mortgage loan originators standing by to help you find the best mortgage product for your financial situation. And by completing a brief online questionnaire that only takes a few minutes and does not impact your credit score, you’ll prompt their customer support team to connect you with a loan officer that will work with you to secure the funding you need.

Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union offers an array of mortgage loan products to servicemembers, veterans, and their family members even if they have bad credit. You must become a member to apply. And upon acceptance, you can explore several loan options that are ideal for borrowers with bad credit, including:

  • Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs)- grants you lower interest rates and monthly payments for the first few years of the loan term.
  • FHA Loans- caters to first-time homebuyers and doesn’t require a hefty down payment.
  • Military Choice Loans- 100 percent financing available, and the 1.75 percent funding fee can be rolled into the loan. Borrowers can also borrow up to $1 million through the Jumbo loan product.
  • VA Loans- caters to veterans and offers 100 percent financing.
  • 100% Financing HomeBuyers Choice- flexible loan option that can be tailored to fit a borrower’s needs.

New American Funding

Headquartered in Orange County, California, New American Funding is a direct mortgage lender that’s been around for over 15 years. They have over 185 branches around the U.S. and currently service over 108,000 loans worth $27 billion. Furthermore, they see each prospective borrower as more than just a piece of paper and go the extra mile to ensure their needs are met.

With their veteran experience in success in the mortgage lending marketplace, they have several options to help consumers with credit woes secure the funds they need to buy a home. Their offerings include:

  • ARMs- allows you to take advantage of lower interest rates and more affordable payments for a set period of time.
  • Conventional Loans- lower down payments and flexible terms.
  • FHA Loans- designed for first-time home buyers with limited income or less than perfect credit and offers lower down payments.
  • Home Improvement Loans- ideal if you’re planning to purchase a fixer-upper.
  • I CAN Morgage- allows borrowers to tailor their loan term (from 8 to 30 years) to best suit their financial needs.
  • USDA Loans- available to borrowers with less than perfect credit and doesn’t require a down payment.
  • VA Loans- designed for active duty service members and veterans, and 100 percent financing available for qualified applicants.

You can apply online or use the tool found on their website to speak with a mortgage professional to explore loan options and determine which one is the best fit for you.

Pacific Union Financial

Pacific Union Financial is another direct lender that sees their prospective customers as more than just a credit score. They firmly believe that securing a mortgage shouldn’t be yet another arduous process, and they offer tailored solutions even if your credit is less than perfect.

They even go the extra mile to provide online tools that will help you understand your loan options and select a product that is right for your financial situation. You can visit one of their locations in Arizona or Texas to speak with a loan officer or call 800-809-0421 to learn more about their loan offerings and determine if they can serve you.


Vylla has tailored loan solutions that cater to low credit buyers. In fact, you can get approved for a mortgage with a credit score of 500 and down payment of 10 percent if your employment and income checks out. And if your score is at least 580, that 10 percent drops to 3.5 percent.

With offices around the nation, they have loan officers standing by to assist you with your mortgage needs. Or you can call 888-278-9552, submit an inquiry online, or send an email to and a customer service representative will be in touch with you right away.

The Bottom Line

Even if your credit is blemished, it may be possible to get approved for a mortgage. And by starting your search far in advance before you need to move, you’ll give yourself the best possible chance of finding a lender that will work with you.

Best Student Loan Refinancing Companies

Whether you’re drowning in student loan debt or simply searching for a way to save money during the repayment period, refinancing may be your best option. However, there are several lenders to choose from, and some offer loan products that could lower your monthly payment but end up costing you more in the long-term. So, in an effort to take the guesswork out of finding the best student loan refinancing companies on the market, we’ve compiled a list of the top options.

Here are our top picks:

Citizens Bank

If you owe at least $10,000 in student loan debt, you may be able to refinance through Citizens Bank to get a lower rate. The borrowing thresholds for the Education Refinance Loan are as follows:

  • Bachelor’s degrees and lower: up to $90,000
  • Graduate and doctoral degrees: up to $225,000
  • Law degree: up to $300,000
  • Professional degree: up to $350,000

To qualify for refinancing, you must not be enrolled in school and the loans must be in repayment status. You should also know that federal loans under the income-driven repayment plan model are not eligible for inclusion in the Education Refinance Loan program.

You can use the “Get My Rate” tool found on the website to determine what refinancing terms you qualify for without impacting your credit score. And the online application can be completed relatively quickly, and you’ll have an offer in as little as two minutes.

When you’re ready to apply, be sure to have the following on hand:

  • A copy of your driver’s license and your Social Security Number
  • Your most recent pay stub or documentation that substantiates other forms of income
  • Recent billing statements for the loans you’re looking to refinance


CommonBond boasts rates as low as 2.5 percent APR on student loan refinancing. You can see what rate you qualify for in a matter of seconds by answering a few questions. There’s no impact on your credit score and you’ll only be asked to complete the entire application and upload any required supporting documentation should you decide to accept the loan offer.

They offer the following loan refinancing products:

  • Fixed rate loans with APRs between 3.67 and 7.07 percent, and terms of 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years
  • Variable rate loans with APRs between 2.47 and 6.74 percent APR, and terms of 5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 years
  • Hybrid rate loans with APRs between 4.35 and 6.30 percent APR, and terms of 10 years

Another major perk is loan forbearance, which allows you to delay repayment of up to 24 months if you hit a rough financial patch. Furthermore, you will not be assessed origination fees when taking out a loan, and there’s no penalty should you decide to pay off the loan early.

And if none of the loan products fit for your financial situation, you may be able to tailor a loan that best suits your needs.


Credible is an online loan marketplace comprised of 8 lenders that are committed to helping you land better rates on your student loans. With rates as low as 4.5 percent, they boast an average cost savings of $18,668 per customer and allow you to tailor a loan product that you can afford.

Both federal and private loans qualify for refinancing through the lenders in their network. And you can use the free rate-checker tool to gauge what you qualify for without dinging your credit score. With this feature, you can also view personalized offers from each lender directly from Credible’s dashboard.

Even better, they offer a built-in “Best Rate Guarantee” that will put $200 in your pocket if you qualify for a lower rate elsewhere.


You may be able to qualify for a rate as low as 2.57 percent (variable) if you refinance your federal or private student or ParentPLUS loans through Earnest. If you prefer a fixed rate, they start a 3.99 percent, but a 0.25 percent discount applies if you enroll in Auto Pay.

Borrowers are allowed to select a payment amount and due date that works best for them. And there are no prepayment penalties should you decide to pay the loan off early. Earnest also extends a skip-a-payment option that allows you to forgo making a payment and take care of it later if you encounter financial trouble.

When evaluating your loan application, Earnest looks beyond your credit score and also considers your savings account balance, education background, and earning potential to determine if you’re a good fit for their loan. You should also know that the checking your rate does not generate a hard inquiry or your credit report, so your credit score won’t be impacted.

If you’re considering applying, keep in mind that you’ll need to have at least $5,000 federal or private student loans (or a combination of both to qualify). Earnest also requires a minimum credit score of 650, and a steady source of income through employment (or a qualifying job offer). You can find the detailed list of qualification criteria here.

Education Loan Finance

Education Loan Finance is one of the leaders in the student loan refinancing industry with over 30 years of experience under their belt. Servicing customers throughout the US and Puerto Rico, they have personal loan advisors standing by to assist you with your refinancing needs.

On average, their customers save $309 monthly and $20,936 over the life of the loan through their refinance program. If you qualify, you can choose from a variety of repayment plans and complete the entire application process from start to finish on your smartphone.

Variable and fixed rates are as low as 2.55 and 3.09 percent, respectively. Furthermore, you can choose from a repayment period of 5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 years.

You can determine if you pre-qualify for a loan from Education Loan Finance by using the online tool. It only takes a few minutes to complete the online form, and there is no impact on your credit score.


LendKey is an online marketplace that can connect you with over 300 community banks or credit unions to help you find the best rates on your federal and private student loans. There are no origination fees, and you may be able to secure a loan that is interest-free for the first four years of the repayment period.

If you refinance your student loans through LendKey, you could qualify for APRs as low as 2.51 and 3.49 percent on variable and fixed-rate loans, respectively. And you’ll have anywhere between 5 and 20 years to repay what you owe.

Checking your rate won’t impact your credit score, and you will not incur origination fees should you choose to move forward with the application process and accept a loan offer.

Laurel Road

On average, Laurel Road customers have saved $20,000 on their student loans. Parent PLUS loans also qualify for refinancing. They offer fixed and variable rate loans with terms of 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years. Rates start at 3.05 and 3.50 percent for variable and fixed loans, respectively. Even better, you can save 0.25 percent by enrolling in AutoPay.

There’s also a special program for dental or medical residency customers that enables them to remit payment of $100 per month for the duration of their assignment. Another added perk is the referral program, which puts up to $400 in your pocket each time you refer a friend and they are approved for a Laurel Road loan product.

It only takes five minutes to complete the online form and explore your loan options, and checking your rate won’t affect your credit score.


Known as one of the top student loan refinancing companies on the market, SoFi has served over 250,000 customers and refinanced over $18 billion student loans. SoFi also allows you to explore multiple loan options and select the one that is more cost-efficient on a monthly basis or over the life of the loan.

To qualify, you must have a credit score of at least 650. But if you’re unsure about your credit score, you can always use the online pre-qualification tool to determine if you’re eligible, and if so, for what rates. And it only takes two minutes to get a response. Best of all, you can apply, upload any supporting documentation, and sign your loan documents directly from your mobile device.

Splash Financial

Splash Financial offers very competitive rates on their student loan refinancing products. If you’re a well-qualified borrower, you may be able to secure a rate as low as 2.96 or 3.75 percent on variable and fixed student loan refinancing, respectively.

They also offer a $250 referral bonus if you refer friends and family and they refinance their student loans through Splash Financial. The new loan recipient will also receive a bonus.

To get started, use the online tool found on the website to check your rate with no impact to your credit score. Upon completion of the questionnaire, you should receive a response in as 3 minutes or less.

Should You Refinance Your Student Loans?

While there are several perks to student loan refinancing, it’s not always the best solution for borrowers looking to find relief. It depends heavily on your credit score, the current rate on your loans, and if they are federal or private.

With regards to your credit score, student loan refinancing companies will take it into consideration when evaluating your loan application. And if your score isn’t up to par, they will either offer you a higher rate than you already have, request that you get a cosigner, or deny your loan application altogether. Therefore, it may not be in your best interest to refinance your student loan until you improve your credit score.

You should also consider the current rate you have on your loans and if the new offers on the table are substantially lower. Keep in mind that some lenders will offer you a slightly lower rate but extend the repayment term, which will cause you to pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

Another important consideration is if your loans are federal or private. The latter doesn’t offer nearly as many perks as what’s available through the federal government, like income-based repayment programs. So, a lower rate may very well be worth a shot. But if you refinance your federal loans through a private lender, you automatically lose all the benefits and protections that were once afforded to you.

The Bottom Line

It’s better to be proactive when dealing with your student loans so you can minimize the financial blow to your wallet. And by exploring the best student loan refinancing companies on the market, you could be on your way to paying off your debt in record time.

Best Auto Refinance Lenders (The 2019 Edition)

Whether you’re upside down on your auto loan or stuck with high payments due to unfavorable loan terms, refinancing may be the best option to help you find relief. But are you guaranteed to get the results you’re seeking if your refinance? Not necessarily, which is why it’s pertinent that you analyze all the offers presented to you to ensure you receive the best terms possible. Keep reading for a list of the best auto refinance lenders out there. You’ll also discover the five-step process that can be used to streamline the process.

Auto Credit Express

Struggling with past credit issues and afraid you won’t be able to refinance your vehicle? Auto Credit Express may be able to lend a helping hand. They’ve been around for over 18 years and have a track record of connecting consumers with less than perfect credit to lenders so they can access the credit they need.

Accredited and rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau, Auto Credit Express is a lending network with more than 1,000 partners standing by waiting to help you refinance your automobile.

While each lender has their own minimum thresholds for qualifying, borrowers should generally meet the following criteria:

  • Have a loan with equity that’s in good standing
  • Owe at least $5,000 on the loan
  • Possess a vehicle (that’s attached to the loan) that has no more than 100,000 miles and is not older than 10 years of age


If your current auto loan rate is 5.49 percent, AutoPay may be able to save you some dough and get you into a lower payment. But don’t worry if you don’t have perfect credit as they won’t necessarily turn you away auto refinancing. In fact, you can use their pre-qualification tool found on the website to gauge your approval odds.

Should you choose to do business with AutoPay, they offer the following forms of auto refinancing:

  • Cashback- this form of refinancing will allow you to wallet away with funds
  • Lease payoff- this form of refinancing will pay off your lease prematurely, but you still get to retain the vehicle and steer clear of any early-termination penalties from the dealer
  • Traditional- this form of refinancing will grant you a lower interest rate (assuming you qualify) which in turn reduces your monthly payment

Car Finance

Car Finance is a lender with flexible eligibility criteria, specifically with regards to credit.

When evaluating your auto refinance application, they pay close attention to how you’ve managed your current loan over time, along with any other outstanding debts you may have. They also look at the monthly payments on your other debts and how they stack up to your income to determine if you can comfortably afford the loan offer that they’re able to extend to you.

You’ll also want to meet the following criteria to strengthen your chances of being approved:

  • Have positive payment history with your current auto lender
  • Owe at least $7,500 on your current loan
  • Have a car that is 8 years of age or younger with fewer than 100,000 miles

Lending Club

Lending Club connects consumers from all financial backgrounds with lenders to help them find competitive auto refinance offers. To qualify, you must owe between $5,000 and $55,000 on your current loan. The loan must also be at least 30 days old and you need to have at least 24 months remaining on your loan term. (Keep in mind that some lenders have more stringent qualification criteria, but these are just a benchmark to get you through the first set of red tape).

To get started, all you have to do is complete a brief questionnaire to get loan offers from lenders in the network. If you choose to move forward, you’ll have to upload requested documents to the lender and work with them to finalize the loan.

Lending Tree

Lending Tree is another network of lenders that can help you navigate auto refinance offers across the board at the tap of a fingertip. Loan amounts and terms vary by lender, but you can use the online prequalification tool to narrow down prospective lenders by zip code and view loan offers with no impact to your credit score.


Operating under the SunTrust Bank umbrella, LightStream offers rates as low as 3.34 percent on auto refinancing. Loan amounts range from $5,000 to $100,000 and are geared towards those with good or excellent credit. And you can generally expect to receive a loan term that spans between 24 and 72 months.

Another major benefit of refinancing with LightStream is their Rate Beat Program. In a nutshell, it’s a guarantee to beat any rates you find on the market to demonstrate their commitment to earning you as a customer.

And you don’t have to worry about your car being too old or having too many miles since there aren’t any restrictions to qualify. Even better, the entire process can be completed from start to finish in as little as one business day.


As long as you have decent credit, you may be able to obtain auto refinancing through rateGenius. They have an extensive network of more than 150 lenders in all 50 states waiting to serve you. And what makes them unique is flexible refinance products that can also be tailored to meet your boat, motorcycle, or RV lending needs.

You will meet the minimum qualification criteria is your vehicle is 10 years or younger, has 150,000 miles or less on it, and has an outstanding loan balance between $10,001 and $89,999.

With regards to income, it should be at or above $2,000 on a monthly basis. And the minimum credit score requirement is 525 to qualify for consideration.

How to Refinance Your Auto Loan in 5 Simple Steps

Are you ready to move forward with the auto loan refinance process? This five-step process will steer you in the right direction.

Step 1: Assess your credit.

Your credit plays a major role in whether or not you’ll be approved for refinancing, and at what interest rate. Generally, the lowest rates go to the consumers with the highest credit scores because they pose less risk in the eyes of the lender.

So, you want to start by retrieving a free copy of your credit report. Why so? Well, this information is where your FICO score, which is used by 90 percent of lenders to make a decision, is derived from. And the more positive data in your credit report, the better your score will be.

But if your credit score is a bit low due to past financial missteps, the rate you qualify for may not the most competitive one offered by the lender. This could also mean that the cost of refinancing your ride outweighs the benefits. If you’re in this situation, it may be worthwhile to return to the drawing board and work on your credit rating before moving forward.

To get your credit report, visit and request a copy from each of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Examine the contents from top to bottom, paying close attention to specific account details and circling or highlighting any inaccuracies you notice. Once you’ve done so, file disputes as soon as possible to rectify any errors (if applicable) to ensure your report is updated and your FICO score is an accurate reflection of your credit history.

Step 2: Explore your options.

Considering walking into your financial institution and accepting the first refinancing offer they place on the table? That may not be such a good idea. With so many options, both brick-and-mortar and online to choose from, there’s a possibility that you may be able to score a better deal elsewhere.

You can also explore online lenders as many are licensed to work with consumers across the nation. Some lenders also have a pre-qualification tool on their website that allows you to see what rate you qualify for with no impact to your credit score.

And if you’re still not having much luck because of your credit rating, consider checking out loan offers from credit unions and local community banks. They tend to have more flexible terms than traditional financial institutions and may be able to set you up with a competitive loan offer that best suits your needs.

Step 3: Complete and submit applications with your top lenders.

At some point during the application process, the lender will request that you submit supporting documentation to substantiate the information you entered on the application. So, it’s best to compile the following items before applying:

  • A valid copy of your driver’s license
  • A copy of your last pay stub or federal tax returns for two years if you’re self-employed or an independent contractor
  • Documentation from the original purchase of the vehicle
  • Proof of insurance and registration on the vehicle

The next step is to submit applications to your top lenders, which can usually be done online whether you’re applying with a brick-and-mortar bank or online lender.

Quick note: it doesn’t hurt to shop around with multiple lenders during this step. In fact, you’ll increase the odds of saving more money on your auto refinance loan and your score will only be impacted by one credit inquiry by FICO because you’re rate shopping.

Step 4: Run the numbers.

Before moving forward, you want to run the numbers to determine if refinancing is ideal for your financial situation. You may find that refinancing will give you a lower monthly payment, but you’ll ultimately pay more over the life of the loan because an extended loan term allows the lender to collect more in interest from you.

Step 5: Sign on the dotted line.

At last. You’ve reached the finish line and are ready to choose the best offer and sign on the dotted line. But before you do so, read the entire agreement so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting into. Request that the lender answers any last minute questions that you may have and confirm when the first payment on the new loan will be due.

Once the new loan has been fully approved and executed, the new lender will pay off the existing lender and you’ll now be obligated to follow their terms and conditions.

How to Deal with Rejected Loan Applications

What if you apply with multiple lenders and can’t seem to find one that will work with you? As mentioned earlier, it may be worthwhile to take a step back and figure out what’s stopping you from getting approved. Look at your credit report, along with the notice of rejection from the lender, to determine what you can do to improve your chances the next time around. Also, feel free to take a look at this handy guide on credit repair to help you fast-track your efforts.

The Bottom Line

Refinancing your auto loan could save you a lot of money, but you have to shop around and run the numbers first to ensure you’re getting the best deal. Otherwise, you’ll save a few bucks now but end up paying way more than you should over time.

Best Credit Monitoring Services

Worried about the impact a data breach or case of identity theft could have on your credit report and score? Enrolling in a credit monitoring service is an option to stay on top of your credit profile. It can also help minimize your losses if your personal information is compromised.

But what exactly is a credit monitoring service, and how do you find a provider? And is it worth the investment, or can you perform the same services on your own?

Read on to learn the answers to these questions and explore what the top providers have to offer.

What is credit monitoring?

Credit monitoring services keep a close watch on your credit profile around the clock. And if any changes occur, you’re alerted right away. This could include any of the following:

  • Changes to your identifying information, like your address and employer
  • Credit score increases and decreases
  • New accounts
  • New authorized users
  • Payment activity
  • Changes to existing accounts, including balance and credit line increases or decreases
  • Account activity on dormant accounts
  • New hard inquiries resulting from applications for credit
  • New public record and collection accounts
  • Status updates for public record and collection accounts, along with bankruptcies
  • Dark web updates about your Social Security number

These services also monitor banking, credit card, and other personal information. Some credit monitoring packages also include identity theft monitoring and protection features.

How to choose a credit monitoring service provider

There are several service providers to choose from. When evaluating your options, here are some features you want to be on the lookout for:

  • Monitors credit data from all three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion)
  • Monitors the web to ensure banking credit card, and other personal information, including your Social Security number, isn’t compromised
  • Facilitates credit card account disputes resulting from theft
  • Provides assistance in the event your identity is compromised, including the filing of police reports, placing fraud alerts, notifying the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and working with the creditor to close fraudulent accounts.
  • Includes identity theft insurance to minimize your losses if you’re victimized by fraud
  • Offers free copies of credit reports and assists with the filing of disputes with credit bureaus.

Below is a list of reputable providers in the next section to help you get started with your search.

Best credit monitoring services

Equifax 3-in-1 Monitoring with 4 FICO Scores

For only $14.95 per month, you can have a peace of mind knowing your credit data from the three bureaus is being monitored 24/7. As a subscriber, you’ll receive updates on any changes to your credit profiles within 24 hours. And if you’ve been victimized by identity theft, you can take advantage of the Automatic Fraud Alerts feature. This feature automatically places a fraud alert on your credit file at Equifax, sends requests for fraud alerts to Experian and TransUnion, and renews alerts and resubmits requests quarterly.

This service also grants you access to four variations of your FICO score and corresponding reports on a monthly basis. There’s no monthly contract and your subscription can be canceled at any time.

Visit Equifax


Experian offers credit monitoring and identity theft insurance as a combo deal through their CreditWorks plan. As a member, you’ll receive instant alerts anytime activity occurs in your credit profiles at each of the three credit bureaus. Your membership also includes up to $1 million in identity theft insurance coverage in the event your identity is compromised.

Other member perks include monthly credit reports and score updates, along with the ability to lock your Experian profile at the tap of a fingertip to avoid unwanted access to your credit report.

One of the best features of the service is the ability to view a new credit report and FICO Score 8 from Experian daily on the dashboard. You’ll also be able to view your credit reports and scores from Equifax and TransUnion, but they are updated every 30 days. Experian also keeps historic credit reports and scores on file from Equifax and TransUnion, so you can go back and view data from prior months as long as you’re a member. This service also includes assistance with credit and fraud related issues.

The monthly subscription fee is $24.99, but Experian lets you try out the service for only $4.99 during the first month. And if you wish to unsubscribe, you can cancel without incurring a penalty.

Visit Experian


Similar to Experian, TransUnion’s credit monitoring service provides instant alerts and offers up to $1 million in identity theft insurance coverage. Your monthly subscription, which comes at a cost of $19.99, also includes tools to help you boost your score. Even better, there are representatives standing by to assist should your identity be compromised.

However, this service does not monitor your Equifax or Experian credit profiles. For this reason, you may want to forgo this service in favor of a more comprehensive option. But you can view your Equifax credit report on a monthly basis.

Visit TransUnion

Identity Force

Identity Force offers two membership plans, UltraSecure and UltraSecure+Credit, to choose from. Both plans help protect you against identity theft and come with a $1 million identity theft insurance policy. However, the UltraSecure+Credit also includes 3-bureau credit monitoring along with access to your credit reports and scores. You can also track your credit score over time from the dashboard or use the simulator to determine how certain actions could help or hurt your score.

This service is $23.95 per month, or you could pay in full for the year and get two months free ($239.50).

Visit Identity Force


myFICO allows you to access your FICO scores and receive ongoing credit reports through their credit monitoring services. Their offerings are as follows:

  • FICO Basics 1B ($19.95 per month or $219 for the year): includes Experian credit monitoring, monthly Experian score and report updates, lost wallet protection, and $1 million in identity theft insurance
  • FICO Ultimate 3B ($29.95 per month or $329 for the year): includes three bureau credit monitoring, quarterly score and report updates, identity theft monitoring, lost wallet protection, and $1 million in identity theft insurance

Visit myFICO


LifeLock is arguably one of the top identity theft protection providers in the industry. But they’ve also coupled credit monitoring services with their offerings and packaged them into three plans that are designed for every budget.

All plans include the Million Dollar Protection Package, identity theft alerts, and compensation for stolen funds, personal expenses, and lawyer fees. However, the credit monitoring services vary by plan, as detailed below:

  • Standard Plan ($9.99 per month): includes credit monitoring from Equifax
  • Advantage Plan ($19.99 per month): includes credit monitoring and a copy of your annual credit report and score from Equifax
  • Ultimate Plus ($29.99 per month): includes credit monitoring and a copy of your annual credit report and score from the three credit bureaus, along with monthly credit score tracking from Equifax

Visit LifeLock

Is credit monitoring worth it?

While you can monitor your own credit for free, credit monitoring may be a smart investment. Given the increasing number of large-scale system hacks and fraudulent activity occurring on the web, credit monitoring will keep watch over your credit profile when you can’t. That means you won’t have to wait several days or even months to realize that a scammer has hijacked your personal information, opened fraudulent credit cards in your name, and destroyed your credit.

If you’ve been victimized by fraud or identity theft, credit monitoring could also give you an added layer of protection and peace of mind. You’ll have the credit monitoring service as an extra set of eyes.

Another reason to invest in credit monitoring is if you don’t want to deal with security freezes. They’re a great way to protect your credit profile from being compromised, but require you to initiate a request for it to be lifted at each bureau each time you wish to apply for credit. But if you purchase credit monitoring, you won’t have to go through all the hassle because the service will alert you anytime there’s activity in your profile.

But keep in mind that credit monitoring doesn’t necessarily prevent fraud. It just gives you the heads up that your information has been accessed so you can act swiftly before too much damage is done.

The bottom line

Credit monitoring service is an ideal way to stay on top of the activity that occurs in your credit profiles at Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. And in the event issues arise, you’ll have assistance to find resolutions in the most timely manner possible.

Best Credit Repair Companies

You’ve attempted to repair your own credit and haven’t had much luck. Or maybe you’re looking to start cleaning up your credit report, but don’t quite understand how credit repair works or are strapped for time. Don’t fret. We’ve compiled a list of the best credit repair companies in the industry, along with a detailed description that includes their offerings and pricing.

Best credit repair companies

Credit Assistance Network

At a glance:

  • Established in 2004
  • National Association of Credit Services Organizations (NACSO) member
  • A+ Better Business Bureau Rating
  • Free credit analysis available
  • Flat-fee of $179 ($279 for couples), $50 per deletion, $75 per public record

Company Overview:

Rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau, the Credit Assistance Network offers unique credit improvement services to help you get your credit score back on track. They’ve been around since 2004 and are members of the National Association of Credit Services Organizations (NACSO).

Member services include:

  • Compilation and submission of debt validation and dispute letters for each of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion (limited to 45 items)
  • Identity theft and Chex Systems solutions
  • Assistance with settlement offers
  • Live phone support at a toll-free number
  • 24/7 access to your account via the online portal
  • One-on-one credit coaching to discuss ways you can boost your score sooner than later

You can get started with the Credit Assistance Network by requesting a free credit analysis online or calling 1-800-811-3078. And if you decide to enroll with your spouse, you will receive 20 percent of the associated fee, which is $179 ($279 for couples). A fee of $50 and $75 also applies for the deletion of negative items and public records, respectively.

Since services are offered on a monthly basis, you can cancel at any time without incurring penalties or fees.

Visit the Credit Assistance Network or call 1-800-811-3078 to get started.

At a glance:

  • Established in 2012
  • Free consultation
  • Customers see an average improvement of 40 points in four months on TransUnion score
  • $99.95 per month

Company Overview:

Established in 2012, offers credit repair and education services for only $99.95 per month. On average, members see improvements of 40 points on their TransUnion credit score within the initial four months of enrolling in the service.

When you enroll, you’ll have access to an online dashboard that can be accessed 24/7 from your desktop or mobile device along with a score tracker and analytical tool to help you identify key areas for improvement. Membership also includes TransUnion credit monitoring, text, and email alerts.

Visit or call 1-855-255-0263 to get started.

Credit Saint Credit Restoration

At a glance:

  • Established 2007
  • A+ Better Business Bureau Rating
  • Free consultation
  • 90-day results guarantee
  • Three plans: $59.99, $79.99, and $195 per month (first work fee applies)

Company Overview:

Credit Saint Credit Restoration is another key player in the industry. But what sets them apart is their 90-day money back guarantee if you don’t see results. They’re also BBB Accredited with an A+ rating and are the recipient of Consumers Advocate Best Credit Repair Company of 2017 award.

They also offer a free consultation to see if it’s a good fit. And should you decide to move forward, there are three plans to choose from:

  • Polish ($59.99 per month): excludes bankruptcies, repossessions, and judgments ($99.00 first work fee applies)
  • Remodel ($79.99 per month): excludes judgments ($99.00 first work fee applies)
  • Clean Slate ($195 per month): all-inclusive credit repair services ($195.00 first work fee applies)

Services are billed on a month-to-month basis and you can cancel your membership at any time.

Visit Credit Saint Credit Restoration or call 1-877-637-2673 to get started.

Lexington Law

At a glance:

  • Established 1991
  • Hundreds of thousands of clients served
  • Free credit consultation, TransUnion report summary, and credit report review
  • Three service levels: $89.95, $109.05, and $129.95 per month
  • 50 percent family and friends discount

Company Overview:

With over two decades of experience in the business, Lexington Law has served hundreds of thousands of consumers. In 2017 alone, they helped remove 10 million negative items from credit reports.

They offer three service levels:

  • Concord Standard ($89.95 per month): includes bureau challenges and creditor interventions.
  • Concord Premier ($109.95 per month): Concord Standard plus assistance with removing inquiries, monthly credit report coaching, and a detailed score improvement analysis, and TransUnion credit alerts.
  • PremierPlus ($129.95 per month): Concord Premier plus identity fraud alerts and your monthly TransUnion FICO score.

*A first work fee applies to all service levels.

Lexington Law also offers a Friends and Family Discount of 50 percent on the first month of service.

And should you decide that Lexington Law is not a good fit, you may cancel service at any time. However, you will be assessed a final bill for the services rendered since credit repair companies can only collect payment after services are rendered, per the Credit Repair Organizations Act.

Visit Lexington Law or call 1-844-259-3482 to get started

Ovation Credit Repair Services

At a glance:

  • Established 2004
  • A+ Better Business Bureau Rating
  • Free consultation and credit report summary
  • Two plans: $69.00 or $99.00 per month
  • Multiple discounts programs available

Company Overview:

Ovation, a subsidiary of Lending Tree, is another top-notch credit repair company. But what distinguishes them from others are their low price points and a multitude of discount programs, including:

  • Essentials ($69.00 per month): includes support from a professional credit analyst, unlimited bureau disputes, online dispute management, and financial management tools ($99 first work fee applies)
  • Essentials Plus ($99.00 per month): Essentials and unlimited validation and goodwill letters, recommendation or reference letters for future lenders and creditors, and TransUnion credit monitoring ($114 first work fee applies)

Visit Ovation Credit Repair Services or call 1-866-639-3426 to get started.

SkyBlue Credit

At a glance:

  • Established 1989
  • Offers free consultation
  • $69.00 per month
  • Special couples rate of $99 per month

Company Overview:

SkyBlue has been in the credit repair industry for quite some time. Established in 1989, they’ve helped thousands of customers get their credit back on track. And you can get started for a low rate of only $69.00 per month, or $99 if you’re signing up with your significant other.

They boast an unrivaled dispute pace of 15 items per cycle so you can see results quicker. Unlike many other credit repair companies, they also offer assistance with debt validation, debt settlement, and goodwill letters at no additional cost to you.

Other membership perks include:

  • Pro analysis to identify items that should be disputed
  • Credit report analysis and coaching to identify other effective ways to boost your credit score
  • Online portal so you can access your profile 24/7 at the tap of a fingertip

In the event you aren’t satisfied with their services, SkyBlue also offers a 90-day money back guarantee.

Visit SkyBlue Credit or call 1-800-790-0445 to get started.

The Credit Pros

At a glance:

  • Established
  • A+ Better Business Bureau Rating
  • Free consultation available
  • Two plans: $99 per month for individuals ($179 enrollment fee) and $159 per month for couples ($279 enrollment fee)
  • Discounts: couples receive 20 percent off the monthly fee

Company Overview:

The Credit Pros is one of the fastest growing credit repair companies in the industry. They were recently ranked by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing companies over a five-year span and boasts carries an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Their membership model is simple with a single plan to choose from that is priced at $99 per month ($159 per month for couples). A one-time enrollment fee of $179 ($279 for couples) applies.

Your monthly membership fee includes:

  • Private consultation with a FICO expert
  • Unlimited dispute letters
  • Debt validation letters
  • Goodwill letters
  • Cease and desist letters
  • Digital credit education tools
  • 24/7 access to an online portal that includes your credit score

You should also know that membership is on a month-to-month basis, and you can cancel your service at any time.

Visit The Credit Pros or call (888) 257-5110 to get started.

The Credit People

At a glance:

  • Established 2001
  • Offers free consultation
  • Flat-rate plan with no set-up fee
  • $19 trial for seven days
  • Couples discounts
  • 100 percent money-back guarantee

Company Overview:

With over 15 years of experience, The Credit People has helped more than 100,000 consumers get their credit back on track. And what sets them apart is their unique enrollment process.

Not only do they pull your initial credit reports and scores for free, but they allow you to test drive the service for only $19. If you wish to continue after the free 7-day window, you’ll pay $79 per month and have access to the following member benefits:

  • Unlimited dispute letters
  • Debt validation letter
  • Creditor interventions
  • Toll-free customer support
  • Access to customer dashboard 24/7

But if you’re not satisfied, you cancel without incurring any penalties or fees.

Visit The Credit People or call 1-866-382-3410 to get started.

What is credit repair?

In a nutshell, credit repair is a way to clean up your report and improve your credit score in a much shorter time span than it would take for the negative items to fall off. It’s also an effective remedy for untimely or inaccurate information that should not legally appear on your credit report.

There are two ways that you can go about repairing your credit: DIY credit repair and hiring a credit repair company. But before you select the method that works best for you, it’s wise to understand what’s in your credit report and how your score is calculated. That way, you’ll know how to maintain your credit rating once you’ve raised it from the trenches.

How is your credit score calculated?

Your FICO score, which is used by 90 percent of lenders and creditor to reach a lending decision, is comprised of the following:

Payment history (35 percent)

If you can’t repay your monthly debt obligations, lenders will be reluctant to extend funds to you. And if they do, expect a substantially higher interest rate to hedge against the risk of loss resulting from the default. This is why payment history has the greatest impact on your credit score, to the tune of 35 percent.

Paying a few days past the due date won’t kill your score, but once you reach the 30-day mark, your score could drop by up to 110 points, notes Equifax. In fact, the higher the score before the delinquency, the greater the impact, myFICO adds. And each subsequent month that the account remains in default has even greater negative implications for your account.

In fact, at the 120-day mark, the account is usually turned over to collections. And unfortunately, collection items linger on your credit report for seven years.

Amounts owed (30 percent)

Creditors are also interested in knowing more about how you use the amount of credit available to you, hence the credit utilization ratio. This figure is calculated by dividing the amount of revolving credit in use by the total credit line. So, if the sum of your credit limits is $10,000 and you’re currently using $4,500, your credit utilization is 45 percent.

Ideally, you want to keep this percentage at 30 percent or lower to derive the greatest impact to your credit score. You should also know that installment loans don’t have much bearing on the 30 percent; credit utilization is the most important.

Length of credit history (15 percent)

Your FICO score also considers how long you’ve been managing credit. If you’re a credit newbie, your score could take a slight hit. However, managing other areas of your credit profile, like making timely payments and keeping your outstanding balances low, could offset the negative impact.

Credit Mix (10 percent)

There are two types of credit: revolving (i.e. credit cards) and installment (i.e. mortgages, student loans, auto loans, personal loans). The more experience you have with both, the better, in the eyes of creditors and lenders.

New Accounts (10 percent)

If you thought you could apply for as much credit as you please with no impact to your credit score, think again. Excessive applications in a short window of time make you appear as a greater risk to creditors. Furthermore, it also hurts your score as each application generates a voluntary or hard inquiry, which decreases your credit score by two to five points per occurrence.

The exception to the rule is rate shopping, which allows you to apply with multiple lenders when seeking the best rate on a loan product. As long as you select a product within a set window of time, which varies by debt, your score will only be dinged once.

You should also know that involuntary credit checks done by creditors and lenders to determine if you qualify for pre-screened offers have no impact on your credit score.

Credit repair options

DIY credit repair

It may be tempting to hire a credit repair company. But according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “anything a credit repair company can do legally, you can do for yourself at little or no cost.” So, if you have time on your hands and are comfortable doing the legwork on your work, you could save your hard earned money with DIY credit repair.

Hire a credit repair company

On the other hand, may be best to hire a credit repair company to do the work for you if you’re strapped for time or prefer to let the pros do the work for you.

Credit repair tactics

There are several ways to go about repairing your credit, but you should start by:

  • Step 1: Requesting a free copy of your credit report via
  • Step 2: Analyzing the report and circling or highlighting any inaccuracies and negative items.
  • Step 3: Filing formal disputes with the credit bureaus to have errors rectified.
  • Step 4: Determining the most effective way to deal with negative items.
  • Step 5: Repeating steps three and four until you see results.

Filing disputes

By filing a dispute, you’re alerting the credit bureaus that an error or outdated information is on your report. They will then be tasked with contacting the information provider to affirm or refute your claim and must do so and respond to your letter in 30 days or the information will be removed. To get started, follow the guidance found here.

****I plan to link to the future post about credit report disputes here.***

Word of caution: only dispute information that may be unverifiable or is indeed inaccurate. Otherwise, you run the risk of your disputes been classified as frivolous and thrown out.

Also, refrain from filing disputes online if possible. It is a more convenient option, but if the credit bureaus don’t rule in your favor, you can’t redispute the item in question because filing online waives your right to do so.

Dealing with negative items

When dealing with negative items on your credit report, you can use the following tools to help get them removed:

  • Debt Validation Letter (for items under 30 days): request sent to the creditor or collection agency that reported the information asking that they provide proof that you actually owe the debt.
  • Goodwill Adjustments: a written request sent to the creditor or lender asking that they remove the late payment as a courtesy.
  • Pay-for-Delete Agreement: a written agreement entered into by both you and the collection agency that states the negative item account will be removed from your credit report in exchange for payment. This amount could be the total outstanding balance or a lower amount that the collection agency has agreed to accept to settle the account.

Does credit repair take a long time?

Unfortunately, it only takes seconds to ruin your credit. But bringing it back up to par is another story. So, while you may see quick results if you have a ton of unverifiable errors or outdated information on your credit report, negative, verifiable items could be much harder to remove.

It depends on how aggressive you are with your approach and if the creditors are willing to work with you. Asking the creditor to verify the item and not getting a response may be enough to yield the results you’re looking for, but keep in mind that it doesn’t always work that way and you may have to do a little more legwork to get those negative items removed.

Should you hire a credit repair company?

If you’re still on the fence about hiring a credit repair company, here are some key benefits to consider:

  • You’ll have a peace of mind when you apply for credit. As credit repair companies work diligently to remove negative items from your report and are successful, your score will start to improve. This means better approval odds for you. In other words, you won’t have to freak out or fight off sweaty palms each time you apply for credit because you fear rejection.
  • You’ll have access to more affordable debt and credit products. A higher credit score also means you can ditch payday and no credit check loans for more cost-efficient offerings.
  • Cost savings from lower interest rates. This can be attributed to better deals on financing.
  • Less legwork for you. The professionals handle everything from start to finish if you’re too busy or don’t understand how credit repair works. But you have to keep them updated or in the loop regarding changes to your credit profile and written correspondence.
  • Credit education. Most providers offer credit education services, like coaching and tools, to help you figure out the credit maze once and for all.

Cleaning up credit reports could help you qualify for lower insurance premiums or land that dream job or avoid hefty security deposits (because if it seems like credit follows you everywhere you go, you’re right. It does. In fact, it impacts almost every area of your life and not just your finances).

And if you’re worried about the monthly fee, it’s probably far less substantial than what you’d pay in interest. That alone is enough to justify the cost of credit repair.

Does credit repair really work?

The short answer: yes, particularly for inaccurate, questionable, or untimely information because the burden of proof is on the creditor or information servicer. However, services are not guaranteed to work and don’t expect accurate, timely, and verifiable information to vanish into thin air.

The bottom line

Depending on what’s in your credit report, credit repair may be more so of a marathon than a sprint. But if you’re willing to hire a company that is persistent and committed to getting your results or even take the DIY approach, your efforts will pay off in due time.