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3 Ways to Take Advantage of Your Rising Credit Scores

3 Ways to Take Advantage of Your Rising Credit Scores

There are many perks that come with having good credit. Not only do you get to live a life without fear of rejection from lenders and creditors, but you also get better interest rates that save you money. That’s why so many of us are consistently working to improve our credit and perhaps even atone for past mistakes

So what happens after you’ve managed to turn things around and bring your credit scores up to a respectable level? Great question! There are a few ways you can welcome yourself to the good life and take advantage of your newly-improved credit. Here are three such examples:

Apply for a rewards credit card and/or do a balance transfer

One of the biggest advantages to having good credit is that credit card companies actually offer you incentives to use their card. Depending on what appeals most to you, this could mean savings on airfare, hotel stays, or just straight-up cash back. When used wisely, and perhaps even a bit creatively, these rewards can save you money, while also helping to further improve your credit scores.

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Speaking of continuing to raise your scores, paying off your debt is a great way to do just that. Once again, as counterintuitive as it may sound, this is where getting approved for a new credit card can actually help. In some cases, credit cards will offer 0% interest for a set period of time. If that’s the case, you can transfer your existing balances from other cards over, allowing you to save on interest.

A word to the wise: just be sure to pay off the balance before the introductory offer expires. Without any new interest accruing, your entire monthly payment will go towards paying off the balance. This makes paying off the debt before the introductory period not only a wise goal but a realistic one as well.

Refinance your car loan

Seeing as cars and other personal vehicles are the preferred method of transportation for most Americans, there’s a good chance you own one. There’s also a strong likelihood that the interest rate you got stuck with when purchasing your car back in your poor credit days is costing you more than it should. While it’s not (yet?) possible to go back in time and get a better deal, it’s not too late to get a lower interest rate.

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Auto refinancing is a fairly straightforward process that in recent years has been growing in popularity. Part of the reason for that is auto loan terms have swelled over the years. In fact, while auto loans once averaged 60 months (5 years) in length, the availability of 6 and even 7 year financing terms have skewed that average upwards. As a result more lenders have stepped in to offer customers the opportunity to pay off their current loan and take out a new one with a better rate. Overall this is great news for first-time car buyers who may have been forced to overpay for a loan or anyone else who has recently turned their finances around.

A new twist on auto refinancing is peer to peer loans. Lending Club recently introduced a new auto refinancing program where borrowers get funds directly from individual investors instead of a bank. If the program proves popular, it’s likely other peer to peer lenders will enter the market. More competition will likely result in lower interest rates for consumers.

Reshuffle your debt by refinancing your mortgage

This one can get a little complicated, but stay with me. First, if you have a home, you’re aware that a mortgage can typically last for 30 years. That’s a long time to stay at the same interest rate you were given when your credit wasn’t so hot.

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Similar to your car loan, you can also refinance your mortgage in order to secure a better rate. However, this also gives the option of doing what’s called debt reshuffling, meaning you can take your other outstanding debts and bill them into your mortgage payment instead. One of the most common uses of this technique is to wipe out the dreaded student debt cloud that hangs over many Millennials.

Why would you bother doing this? Generally speaking, mortgage interest rates tend to be lower than those of other debt types, including student loans. Additionally, mortgage holders are entitled to tax deductions that other types of debt aren’t, making this a double win in some cases. All that being said, debt reshuffling might not be right for everyone, so you’ll want to do some extra research before pulling the trigger.

Get Your Finances in Order

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Getting your finances in order and raising your credit scores is not easy. Now is the time to take advantage of some of the perks that come with having good credit that you’ve missed out on over the past few years. In fact, by getting yourself a new rewards credit card and refinancing your current loans, you will save yourself some extra cash for some new adventures.

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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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