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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Secured Credit Card Comparison Chart

I created a spreadsheet for comparison of the secured credit cards available and have uploaded the file to  It is a free download, is not able to be modified but you can sort it.

Please let me know what you think!

Secured Credit Card Comparison Chart.xls

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tales of the Short Sale

Lenders will often approve a short sale if the homeowners are behind on their payments or facing foreclosure. In tough economic times the term ‘short sale’ is thrown around and often people do not know the true meaning or impending consequences of offering their home up for a short sale until it is too late.

Read more at Suite101: The Short Sale Process: Does it Really Stop Foreclosure and Save Your Credit?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Job Applicant Credit Check Banned in Oregon

Oregon recently joined Washing and Hawaii banning the use of job applicant's credit reports during the hiring process. With the unemployment rate increase and more than a quarter of all Americans' credit score dipping below the 599 mark, this is a wise move on the state's part. 

According to  Angela Martin, the economic fairness director at Our Oregon seven other states are currently looking into similar legislation.  This is great news for  those who have been effected most by the currently state of our nations' economy.

Visit Martha C. White's article, Oregon bans job applicant credit checks  to read the entire article.

What are Bridge Loans and Hard Money Loans?

Bridge loans and hard money lending are becoming more popular as mortgage guidelines continue to tighten for borrowers and the stock market is no longer a safe place for investors. These forms of alternative financing seem to be a win-win for all.

Read more at Suite101: Alternative Financing: Bridge Loans and Hard Money Loans

Thursday, July 22, 2010

GM buys AmeriCredit

Thursday GM announced its plan to purchase sub-prime lender AmeriCredit for $3.5 billion (yes, billion) dollars cash.  The acquisition is expected to close by 4th quarter 2010.

Read the entire article by Melly Alazraki, GM to aquire AmeriCredit for $3.5 Billion.

I expect with all the economic changes we are seeing, this type of transaction will become more and more common over the next 2-3 years.  Tightening credit guidelines are going to make it harder for consumers to get standard loans and large car dealers are going to need the extra leverage they will get from the sub-prime market.

What sub-prime lenders do you see being bought out over next few years?

Pros and Cons of a Lease Purchase Contact

A lease purchase agreement is a contract between the buyer and seller in a real estate transaction. Lease purchase contracts are commonly known by terms like lease option, lease with option to buy, lease purchase, LP and lease and purchase agreements.

Read more at Suite101: What is a Lease Purchase Agreement?: An Alternative Financing Option to the Conventional Mortgage Loan

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What is a Contract for Deed?

Sometimes known as a contract for deed or installment sale agreement, but most commonly known throughout the industry as a land contract, is a transaction between buyer and seller for the sale and purchase of real estate.

Read more at Suite101: Contract for Deed: An Alternative Mortgage Financing option for Home Buying

Quick Tip #3

Low-limit unsecured credit cards are not only costly, they may actually hurt your credit score in the long run. Accounts issued by creditors who are "marked" as second chance lenders, are not given the same scoring weight as the big boys.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Debt Arrests

Don't think you can be arrested for owing money on your credit cards?  That's exactly what Joy Uhlmeyer thought until she was. 

Her story: 

As a sheriff's deputy dumped the contents of Joy Uhlmeyer's purse into a sealed bag, she begged to know why she had just been arrested while driving home to Richfield after an Easter visit with her elderly mother.  In jail for being in debt By CHRIS SERRES and GLENN HOWATT, Star Tribune staff writer.

Secured Credit Cards to Improve Your Credit Score

In this day and time, I am a big proponent of secured credit cards, this was not always the case.  But with large credit card companies trying to save their own tails, cutting peoples credit lines in half (or less) for little or no reason, closing accounts for one reason or another, secured credit cards seem to be the a way for consumers to have a little control over their credit. This is especially true for those who are trying to rebuild their credit.

The biggest benefits of a secured credit card over a standard unsecured bank credit card is:
  • You have control over the credit limit.
  • Some secured credit cards will turn into unsecured credit cards, with timely payment history. 
  • Secured cards, when compared to low-limit cards for rebuilding credit, have a relatively low APR.
  • Because you have control over the credit limit, larger credit lines are possible, resulting in a higher credit score.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Alternative Financing Options: The Wrap-Around Mortgage

For veteran real estate professionals the terms wrap-around mortgage, lease purchase and contract for deed are well known alternative finance options. Financing alternatives such as these became common place twenty and thirty years ago during the last down real estate markets when many people were trying to scramble to sell their real property or face foreclosure.

Read more at Suite101: Wrap-Around Mortgage: Seller Held Alternative Mortgage Financing

Credit Repair vs. Credit Rebuilding

I have been assisting hopeful homebuyers improve their credit score in the hopes of mortgage approval for over 20 years.  The term "credit repair" has long been used to refer to the process of improving a person's credit report and subsequently increasing their credit score.  But in the past few years, the term has been tarnished with credit repair companies that lead their clients to believe that they can get all negative items removed, regardless of their validity.  

The scams by these so called credit repair agencies became so ram-pet in the past few years, the government enacted the Credit Repair Organizations Act to govern the business and protect consumers from unscrupulous practices.

At the same time, creditors and the credit bureaus reacted swiftly to close the loop holes exploited by those trying to "repair their credit".  In this day and time, if anyone tries to tell you they can remove negative information from your credit report, regardless of the validity of that debt, beware!

The best approach to improving and maintaining your credit score is to become an informed consumer and focus on rebuilding your good credit name.  The Credit Rebuilding Process is a three step process where the consumer:
  • Ensures that the information in their credit report is accurate.
  • Disputes any incorrect or outdated negative items with the credit reporting agencies.  
  • Develops a plan to lower their debt, increase their available credit and raise their credit score.
This blog aims to arm consumers with the correct way maintain their credit score and rebuild their credit profile in a manner that overpowers any blemishes they may have.

I do not repair credit, I teach those looking to improve their credit rating the proper way to rebuild their credit reputation quickly and efficiently to reach their financial goals and long term credit success.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The First Step to Restoring your Good Credit Rating

The current economic state of our country has created a boom in the debt collection industry. Many banks and credit card companies are being taken over by larger companies, while others are merging in an attempt to regain strength. During this transition period a consumer’s debt may be bought and sold many times. This can make it extremely confusing to debtors who are making an effort to repay their loans.

Read more at Suite101: Proof of Debt and Debt Collectors: The First Step to Restore your Good Credit Rating

Vanity Cards

A loafter goal to reach for than a regular unsecured credit card, is to reach for a platinum or titanium type credit card (like American Express) called a vanity card. 

Vanity cards demand much higher credit scores and more time to lapse after a negative financial event before one can qualify.  Other items these types of card issurers look for is similar credit limits on your existing cards, proof they have been managed successfully and an excellent payment record.

Unsecured Credit Cards

Unsecured credit cards are credit cards issued to consumers with good credit (now at least 700 or above). 

If you are looking to improve your credit score after a negative financial life event these types are cards are usually out of your reach until you are able to raise your credit score to above 700 and all negative accounts have fallen off (or been removed) over time.  

Normal unsecured credit cards are usually the ultimate goal to reach for when rebuilding one's credit.

Secured Credit Cards

Secured credit cards issued by a variety of banking institutions.  Secured cards look and operate the the same as other major credit cards (only you know it is secured).  The only difference is that in order to be approved you have to open a savings account that is equal to the line of credit desired which acts as collateral for the line of credit. 

The required minimum initial deposit varies by bank, some require as little as $300 to open an account, others up to a $1,000 or more.  The amount of your credit card limit usually matches the amount in your savings account. 

Consumer's can initiate credit line increases with additional deposits made to the savings account tied to the credit line.  Some banks require credit line increases to be requested in $50-100 increments, but deposits can be made in any amount. 

The typical maximum credit line is $5,000.00.  But I have found maximum limits as low as $500 and as high as $17,500.00. 

Some banks will allow a secured card to "graduate" to unsecured status after a period of timely payments (usually between 12-24 months).  But this policy varies by bank and consumers will need to research this during the application process.

Low-Limit Unsecured Credit Cards

One of the most popular credit cards that people trying to re-establish credit are attracted to are the low-limit unsecured credit cards.  These cards do not required the consumer to put up any funds upfront.  Instead they offer a very low credit limit and charge the set-up and processing fees to this credit line.  Giving the opportunity to pay them over time with interest.  These fees can be up to and in excess of $250 reducing the initial amount of credit extended to less than $50, less than a tank of gas.

Other than timely payments consumers have no control over how quickly this credit limit is increased.  Credit line increase are usually limited to one or two in a 12 month period.  Interest rates on these types of cards are usually higher than other cards.

Consumers looking to increase their credit scores have to be very consciousness of their spending habits with these types of cards.  Due to the low limits it is very easy to go over the limit and incur additional fees and charges.

Pre-Paid Visa and Pre-Paid MasterCard

Pre-paid Visa debit cards and their distant cousins, the pre-paid MasterCard debit cards are very similar to debit cards.  Many people use pre-paid debit cards in lieu of a checking account. 

How they operate is simple, money is deposited or "loaded" onto the card and it is used just like a credit card to purchase goods and services.  When the money is gone, more can be loaded and the cycle is started all over again. 

For typical consumers, this type of card has very little value aside from maybe using as a gift card instead of check or cash.  This type of card is not a credit card and does not re-establish credit.  They can also carry hidden fees and charges.

What are Debit Cards and Check Cards?

Although most debit cards (aka check cards) carry either a MasterCard or Visa logo, they are not credit cards.  These types of cards are tied directly to your bank account and draw funds at the time of purchase.  Because there is not a credit line attached to debit cards, they do not report to your credit report and do not effect your credit score. 

Debit Card, Credit Card, Secured Cards - Oh My!

No doubt in your quest to improve your credit you have run across the many different types of credit cards available to consumers - prepaid debit cards, credit cards, secured cards, platinum cards, low interest rate cards and many more.

Most cards you will run into will fall into one of the following categories:

Before applying for new credit, arm yourself with knowledge about each type of card to ensure that your decision will be the best one for your long term credit success.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Who Regulates Banks, Creditors and Debt Collection Agencies?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices act clearly states what debt collectors and debt collection companies are allowed to do and what they can’t do. The Fair Credit Reporting Act clarifies what can be reported on a credit report, how long negative information can stay on a report and regulates the actions of creditors and credit reporting agencies. But what can a consumer do if they feel their rights have been violated?

Read more at Suite101: Consumer Rights Protection: Who Regulates Banks, Creditors and Debt Collection Agencies?

Do I Really Need Credit Cards?

Most peoples first reaction to a financial hardship is to cut up and cancel their credit cards, having the ultimate goal of paying cash for everything.  Although this extreme way of thinking and doing may work for some, for most of us this just won't cut it.

A lot of people wonders, "I have a VISA debit card, why do I need a credit card too?"  Actually, credit and debit cards are two totally different payment options.  There are many benefits a credit card offers that a debit card does not.  Some of these are: 

  1. Bank cards report to your credit report and if handled properly increase your credit scores.
  2. Convenience.  It is virtually impossible to rent a car, book a hotel room, or purchase airline tickets without one.
  3. Liability.  Credit cards offer consumers protection under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) for purchases over $50.00  Most debit cards, either pre-paid or tied to a checking account, and business credit cards do not.
  4. Fraud Protection.  Purchasing scams, especially on the internet, are ram-pet.  Using a credit card for telephone and online purchases reduces risk to your cash flow.
  5. Purchase Protection.  Some credit cards offer card holders Purchase Protection.  This added benefit guarantees the items you purchase from theft, accidental breakage, etc...Be sure to ask your card issuer about this valuable option.

Consumer Rights and Credit Collection Agencies

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was added to the Consumer Protection Act in 1978 and includes strict guidelines governing the practices of Debt Collectors.  In addition to the communication restrictions placed upon Debt Collection Agencies by The Fair Debt Collection Act, there are many more guidelines debt collectors must abide by.

Read more at Suite101: Unfair Debt Collection Practices: Consumer Rights and Credit Collection Agencies

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Top Secured Credit Card Programs

There are a number of Secured Credit Card Programs out there.  Policies and fees vary as well as the approval process for each bank card issuer.  Some cards offer unsecured status after a period of timely payments, other will never become unsecured credit cards.

Below is a list of over 20 Secured Card issurers and links to the appropriate application pages are located in the link section on the main page below.  Be sure to book mark this page and visit often as it will be updated as new information and offers are available.
  • Amalgamated Bank of Chicago
  • American Momentum Bank
  • Applied Bank
  • Banco Popular
  • Bank of America
  • Capital One
  • Fifth Third Bank
  • First Premier Bank
  • Flatbush Federal Bank
  • Hartland Bank
  • Merrick Bank
  • Navy Federal Credit Union
  • New Millennium Bank
  • Orchard Bank
  • Plains Commerce Bank
  • Public Savings Bank
  • Ranier Pacific
  • United Bank of Philadelphia
  • U.S. Bank
  • Wells Fargo
  • Zions Bank

Do you homework and research each card offer carefully to determine the best program for you.  I do my best to provide you with the most accurate and up to date information, but card issuers can change program offers and guidelines without notice.  Please verify ALL information before applying to any credit card offer listed here or elsewhere.

Quick Tip #1 - Number of Credit Cards

It is always better to have one credit card with a $5,000.00 credit limit than 10 credit cards with $500.00 limits.

How Many Credit Cards Should I have?

According to Fair Issac, the creators and keepers of the FICO score, the optimum number of cards is between two and four.  Having less than two or more than four puts you at higher risk and this risk is factored into your credit score.

Can you have more than four cards and still have a strong credit rating?  Of course! But since you are reading a blog on improving your credit score, chances are there are a few blemishes and areas that could stand improvement.  Until your history and credit management habits are strong enough to offset the additional liability of more debt, the optimal number of cards with the highest credit limits you can qualify for is the best way to go.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

It is important for consumers to know their rights when it comes to debt collection and credit reporting. Attempts to improve credit scores without clear understanding of these rules and regulations are extremely more challenging. For those who are struggling with paying their bills, knowing what debt collectors can and cannot do legally is of utmost importance.

Read more at Suite101: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: Communication with Collection Agencies

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Congratulations on your decision to gain control of your credit report.

Our credit score and credit report are becoming more important to every day life.  Not knowing what your credit is saying about you could keep you from getting that dream job you have been after, purchasing a home or much needed transportation. It is essential to know:
  • What is on your credit report.
  • How the information got there.
  • How it effects your credit score.  
The intention of this blog is to empower the reader with the knowledge of how to control their credit score instead of the other way around. 

Having over 20 years experience with potential home buyers trying to rebuild their credit, I'd like to share some of the most effective ways to rebuild your credit quickly and managing the newly found freedom of good (or even excellent) credit for long term credit success.

Edited to add:
Regular post are scheduled to begin August 1, 2010.  Be sure to subscribe to this feed or follow this blog for the wealth of information that is coming!
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FTC Required Disclosure

The Federal Trade Commission requires that I disclose any relationship I may have between a product manufacturer or service provider when I write about a product or service.

My intention for this blog is to provide consumers with the knowledge to improve their current personal credit situation. It is the readers responsibility to do additional research and to make responsible decisions based on their own personal financial situations.

My promise to my readers is as follows:

  • I am never paid to do a review of a product or service. I do not accept money to review credit cards, credit repair companies etc... When reviewing a product or service, I invest my own time and money to review and test credit products and credit services listed on this site.
  • No advertiser will ever influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. Just because there is an advertisement for a particular product or service on this site, it does not necessarily mean it has been endorsed by the author of this blog.
  • If I create a link to a product or service on this site, sometimes I may get paid a commission if you purchase the advertised product or service. These links are included after posts are written, and posts are never composed for the purpose of including advertising.

I feel the rules and practices listed above are just good business in today’s digital world. It is important for you the reader to understand the relationship between the person reviewing a product and the manufacturer or service provider.

If you don’t see a disclosure policy on a blog, that reviewer may be violating the law or at the very least the Code of Ethics.