2020 Financial Crisis Auto Loan Relief

Car manufacturers have been feeling the strain during the financial crisis. There are fewer cars on the road, workers in the factories, and consumers willing to spend, and as a result, the automobile industry has been devastated. But manufacturers and showrooms are fighting back, finding ways to encourage consumers to buy and to make life […]

2020 Financial Crisis Auto Loan Relief is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

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Should You Transfer Balances to No-Interest Credit Cards Multiple Times?

Karen, our editor at Quick and Dirty Tips, has a friend named Heather who listens to the Money Girl podcast and has a money question. She thought it would be a great podcast topic and sent it to me. 

Heather says:

I had a financial crisis and ended up with a $2,500 balance on my new credit card, which had a no-interest promotion for 18 months when I got it. That promotional rate is going to expire in a couple of months. I have good credit, and I keep getting offers from other card companies for zero-interest balance transfer promotions. Would it be a good idea to apply for another card and transfer my balance so I don't have to pay any interest? Are there any downsides that I should watch out for?

Thanks, Karen and Heather! That's a terrific question. I'm sure many podcast listeners and readers also wonder if it's a good idea to transfer a balance multiple times. 

This article will explain balance transfer credit cards, how they make paying off high-interest debt easier, and tips to handle them the right way. You'll learn some pros and cons of doing multiple balance transfers and mistakes to avoid.

What is a balance transfer credit card or offer?

A balance transfer credit card is also known as a no-interest or zero-interest credit card. It's a card feature that includes an offer for you to transfer balances from other accounts and save money for a limited period.

You typically pay an annual percentage rate (APR) of 0% during a promotional period ranging from 6 to 18 months. In general, you'll need good credit to qualify for the best transfer deals.

Every transfer offer is different because it depends on the issuer and your financial situation; however, the longer the promotional period, the better. You don't accrue one penny of interest until the promotion expires.

However, you typically must pay a one-time transfer fee in the range of 2% to 5%. For example, if you transfer $1,000 to a card with a 2% transfer fee, you'll be charged $20, which increases your debt to $1,020. So, choose a transfer card with the lowest transfer fee and no annual fee, when possible.

When you get approved for a new balance transfer card, you get a credit limit, just like you do with other credit cards. You can only transfer amounts up to that limit. 

Missing a payment means your sweet 0% APR could end and that you could get charged a default APR as high as 29.99%!

You can use a transfer card for just about any type of debt, such as credit cards, auto loans, and personal loans. The issuer may give you the option to have funds deposited into your bank account so that you can send it to the creditor of your choice. Or you might be asked to complete an online form indicating who to pay, the account number, and the amount so that the transfer card company can pay it on your behalf.

Once the transfer is complete, the debt balance moves over to your transfer card account, and any transfer fee gets added. But even though no interest accrues to your account, you must still make monthly minimum payments throughout the promotional period.

Missing a payment means your sweet 0% APR could end and that you could get charged a default APR as high as 29.99%! That could easily wipe out any benefits you hoped to gain by doing a balance transfer in the first place.

How does a balance transfer affect your credit?

A common question about balance transfers is how they affect your credit. One of the most significant factors in your credit scores is your credit utilization ratio. It's the amount of debt you owe on revolving accounts (such as credit cards and lines of credit) compared to your available credit limits. 

For example, if you have $2,000 on a credit card and $8,000 in available credit, you're using one-quarter of your limit and have a 25% credit utilization ratio. This ratio gets calculated for each of your revolving accounts and as a total on all of them.  

Getting a new balance transfer credit card (or an additional limit on an existing card) instantly raises your available credit, while your debt level remains the same. That causes your credit utilization ratio to plummet, boosting your scores.

I recommend using no more than 20% of your available credit to build or maintain optimal credit scores. Having a low utilization shows that you can use credit responsibly without maxing out your accounts.

Getting a new balance transfer credit card (or an additional limit on an existing card) instantly raises your available credit, while your debt level remains the same. That causes your credit utilization ratio to plummet, boosting your scores.

Likewise, the opposite is true when you close a credit card or a line of credit. So, if you transfer a card balance and close the old account, it reduces your available credit, which spikes your utilization ratio and causes your credit scores to drop. 

Only cancel a paid-off card if you're prepared to see your credit scores take a dip.

So, only cancel a paid-off card if you're prepared to see your scores take a dip. A better decision may be to file away a card or use it sparingly for purchases you pay off in full each month.

Another factor that plays a small role in your credit scores is the number of recent inquiries for new credit. Applying for a new transfer card typically causes a slight, short-term dip in your credit. Having a temporary ding on your credit usually isn't a problem, unless you have plans to finance a big purchase, such as a house or car, within the next six months.

The takeaway is that if you don't close a credit card after transferring a balance to a new account, and you don't apply for other new credit accounts around the same time, the net effect should raise your credit scores, not hurt them.

RELATED: When to Cancel a Credit Card? 10 Dos and Don’ts to Follow

When is using a balance transfer credit card a good idea?

I've done many zero-interest balance transfers because they save money when used correctly. It's a good strategy if you can pay off the balance before the offer's expiration date. 

Let's say you're having a good year and expect to receive a bonus within a few months that you can use to pay off a credit card balance. Instead of waiting for the bonus to hit your bank account, you could use a no-interest transfer card. That will cut the amount of interest you must pay during the card's promotional period.

When should you do multiple balance transfers?

But what if you're like Heather and won't pay off a no-interest promotional offer before it ends? Carrying a balance after the promotion means your interest rate goes back up to the standard rate, which could be higher than what you paid before the transfer. So, doing another transfer to defer interest for an additional promotional period can make sense. 

If you make a second or third balance transfer but aren't making any progress toward paying down your debt, it can become a shell game.

However, it may only be possible if you're like Heather and have good credit to qualify. Balance transfer cards and promotions are typically only offered to consumers with good or excellent credit.

If you make a second or third balance transfer but aren't making any progress toward paying down your debt, it can become a shell game. And don't forget about the transfer fee you typically must pay that gets added to your outstanding balance. While avoiding interest is a good move, creating a solid plan to pay down your debt is even better.

If you have a goal to pay off your card balance and find reasonable transfer offers, there's no harm in using a balance transfer to cut interest while you regroup. 

Advantages of doing a balance transfer

Here are several advantages of using a balance transfer credit card.

  • Reducing your interest. That's the point of transferring debt, so you save money for a limited period, even after paying a transfer fee.
  • Paying off debt faster. If you put the extra savings from doing a transfer toward your balance, you can eliminate it more quickly.
  • Boosting your credit. This is a nice side effect if you open a new balance transfer card and instantly have more available credit in your name, which lowers your credit utilization ratio.

Disadvantages of doing a balance transfer

Here are some cons for doing a balance transfer. 

  • Paying a fee. It's standard with most cards, which charge in the range of 2% to 5% per transfer.
  • Paying higher interest. When the promotion ends, your rate will vary by issuer and your financial situation, but it could spike dramatically. 
  • Giving up student loan benefits. This is a downside if you're considering using a transfer card to pay off federal student loans that come with repayment or forgiveness options. Once the debt gets transferred to a credit card, the loan benefits, including a tax deduction on interest, no longer apply. 

Tips for using a balance transfer credit card wisely

The best way to use a balance transfer is to have a realistic plan to pay off the balance before the promotion expires.

The best way to use a balance transfer is to have a realistic plan to pay off the balance before the promotion expires. Or be sure that the interest rate will be reasonable after the promotion ends.

Shifting a high-interest debt to a no-interest transfer account is a smart way to save money. It doesn't make your debt disappear, but it does make it less expensive for a period.

If you can save money during the promotional period, despite any balance transfer fees, you'll come out ahead. And if you plow your savings back into your balance, instead of spending it, you'll get out of debt faster than you thought possible.

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7 Big Insurance Mistakes to Avoid During the COVID Crisis

The coronavirus has upset lives and livelihoods all over the globe. While insurance can’t keep you from getting COVIID-19, having the right types of insurance can reduce your financial risk as the virus spreads.

There’s never been a better time to protect your health, life, property, and business with the right insurance. Let's take a look at seven insurance mistakes you might be making during the pandemic. You’ll learn how to face new risks and challenges with the help of different types of affordable insurance.

Coronavirus insurance mistakes

Here’s the detail on each mistake you should avoid to make sure you and your family stay safe during the pandemic.

1. Skipping health insurance

The coronavirus has changed the health insurance landscape in drastic ways. If you’ve become unemployed or have your work hours cut and lost employer-sponsored health insurance, don’t go without coverage when you may need it most.

Here are several ways to get health insurance:

Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) may be options for free or low-cost coverage if you can’t afford health insurance. These programs allow you to get coverage at any time of year, depending on your income, family size, and where you live. You can learn more at the Medicaid website at Medicaid.gov.

Your parent’s health plan may be an option if they have coverage, you’re under age 26, and they’re willing to insure you. Even if you’re married, not living with a parent, and not financially dependent on them, they can cover you until your 26th birthday.

COBRA coverage is typically available when you leave a job with group health insurance. Whether you quit, are laid-off, or get fired, COBRA is a federal regulation that gives you the option to continue your employer-sponsored health, dental, and vision insurance for a certain period, such as 18 months. However, if you have funds in a health savings account or HSA, you can use them to pay your COBRA premiums.

Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage is available through federal or state health online marketplaces, insurance brokers, and insurance websites. If your income is below certain limits based on your family size, you qualify for a federal subsidy, which reduces your healthcare premiums. No matter where you live, you can begin shopping at the federal exchange at Healthcare.gov.

2. Not using telehealth services

If you have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), it typically only covers certain preventive care costs, such as an annual physical or vaccinations, before you meet the yearly deductible.

The CARES Act makes it easier to use telehealth services because your plan must cover it cost-free before your HDHP deductible is satisfied.

However, the CARES Act makes it easier to use telehealth services because your plan must also cover it cost-free before your deductible is satisfied. For other types of health plans, such as HMOs and PPOs, they must also waive any cost-sharing or co-pays for remote health services.

The telehealth relief is only temporary for 2020 and 2021. However, it can give you significant savings if you have a non-emergency or medical question that you want to address with a doctor online.

3. Only getting minimum car insurance coverage

During tough financial times, it can be tempting to cut your auto insurance coverage or drive uninsured. Remember that it’s against the law to drive without having the minimum liability coverage for your home state.

Since many drivers are uninsured, you should never go without uninsured motorist coverage.

However, since many drivers are uninsured, you should never go without uninsured motorist coverage. This insurance protects you from a driver who hits-and-runs or is uninsured or underinsured for the damage they cause you, your passengers, and your car.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), 13 percent of drivers are uninsured nationwide. My home state, Florida, has the highest number—almost 27 percent! This data from 2015 is the most recent. Due to coronavirus-related financial hardships, I’d bet those numbers are much higher now.

If you drop any auto insurance coverage, make it collision or comprehensive, which repair or replace your vehicle if it’s damaged or stolen (after paying your deductible). Reducing or eliminating these coverages could make sense if your car isn’t worth much, such as less than $1,000. A good rule of thumb is to drop these coverages if their annual cost is 10% or more of your car’s cash value.

Another way to save on auto insurance is to increase your deductibles or bundle it with other coverage, such as your home or renters policy.

4. Not purchasing a non-owners auto insurance policy

If you’ve sold your car or you tend to borrow or rent cars when needed, don’t forget that you still need the protection of a non-owner auto insurance policy. This coverage gives you liability protection when you drive a car you don’t own or are a passenger in someone else’s car.

Here are some situations when you need non-owner car insurance:

  • You rent a car and don’t already have insurance on a vehicle you own.
  • You use ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft.
  • You borrow cars from family, friends, or neighbors for short or long trips.

5. Overlooking a renters insurance policy

According to the III, a surprisingly low number of renters, 35 percent have renters insurance. Whether you mistakenly believe that your landlord is responsible for your personal belongings (they’re not) or that you don’t have enough to insure (you probably do), you should have a policy.

Landlords only have insurance to protect the structure of a home or apartment you rent, not for a tenant’s personal property. Nor do they protect your liability if someone gets injured accidentally injured in your rental place.

Landlords only have insurance to protect the structure of a home or apartment you rent, not for a tenant’s personal property. Nor do they protect your liability if someone gets injured accidentally injured in your rental place.

Standard renters insurance offers a lot more protection than many people think. It covers your possessions if they’re stolen or damaged from a covered event, such as a water leak, fire, or natural disaster. A renters policy also pays living expenses if you have to move out while repairs get made after an insured disaster, such as a tornado or fire.

Even more important is the liability protection I mentioned. If you get involved in a lawsuit related to property damage or medical injuries, you’ll be covered up to your policy limit.

Renters insurance gives you a lot of protection for the money. It’s probably more affordable than you might think, costing only an average of $188 per year across the nation. Bundling it with your auto insurance could even reduce the cost.

6. Working from home without commercial coverage

Due to stay-at-home mandates during the pandemic, most people who can work from home are doing so. If you’re self-employed as a solopreneur or operate a small business from home, be aware that your home or renters insurance excludes most home-based business activities.

For instance, if you keep inventory at home or have special business equipment, they aren’t covered under a standard homeowner or renter policy. Make sure your business assets and liability are protected by having a separate commercial policy or adding a home-business rider or endorsement to your existing insurance.

The type of business coverage you need varies depending on your industry, whether you drive for business purposes, if you see clients at your home, the value of your business assets, and how much potential risk you have. But it could cost as little as $150 per year. Check with your existing insurance company or a trade association for your industry about getting coverage.

RELATED: How to Qualify for the Coronavirus Economic Relief Package

7. Thinking you can’t get life insurance

It’s not fun to think about death or what would happen to your family if you weren’t alive. If your surviving spouse, partner, children, parents, other dependents, or business partners would be hurt financially after your death, you need life insurance to protect them.

Think about how your survivors would care for your children and meet financial obligations without additional income. Consider how your children would survive if you and your spouse or partner died at the same time. If you’re procrastinating getting life insurance or increasing your current coverage, think about the legacy you want to leave.

The good news is that term life insurance is affordable and still readily available during the pandemic. For example, a $500,000 payout for your family could cost about $200 a year if you’re middle-aged and reasonably good health. Bankrate.com is a good site to learn more and get free life insurance quotes.

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What Could a Second Wave of COVID-19 Mean for Housing Markets?

Will a second wave of COVID-19 mean “boom” or “bust” for the housing market? With the trends we’re seeing now, there are a couple of possibilities to expect.

The post What Could a Second Wave of COVID-19 Mean for Housing Markets? appeared first on Homes.com.

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