U.S. Consumers Rack Up $11.9 Billion in Overdue Credit Card Debt

After an increase of 11.5% in the fourth quarter of 2017, credit card debt is now up to $11.9 billion.

According to LendEDU, The improving economy hasn’t seemed to help U.S. consumers from posting the highest amount of overdue credit card debt in seven years. The level of debt for people who are behind on credit cards or who are lumped in a distressed category increased by 11.5 percent during the fourth quarter of 2017, up to $11.9 billion, Financial Times reported.

That’s Not the Only Troubling Figure

Mortgages appear to be giving U.S. consumers trouble as well as their credit card debt. The number of U.S. homeowners struggling with their mortgage payments increased by 5.2 percent during that quarter as well. The troubled or distressed mortgage holders held a collective $56.7 billion in debt.

But there is one silver lining – the amount of distressed industrial and commercial loans decreased by 8.5 percent during that quarter, down to $18.1 billion.

These numbers were recently released by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. It underscores the concern some people are feeling that middle-class Americans are still suffering even as the economy improves. According to dedicated websites like doug constable, the credit card debt could be interpreted as a sign many Americans are using their credit cards to get by.

Credit cards are big business, but they aren’t the biggest piece of the pie for the banking sector. Credit cards comprise only 9 percent of the banking sector’s annual $17.4 trillion in business. But credit card debt made up 59 percent of all loans issuers considered uncollectable in that quarter.

Consumer Tips for Budgeting, Refinancing, and Paying Down Debt

Consumers who are struggling with their finances certainly aren’t alone, and they can improve their situation with hard work and some valuable tips.

First of all, everybody should take a hard look at their finances and come up with a budget that keeps them from spending more than they earn.

After the budget has been set, they should look at ways of either earning additional money or cutting back on expenses so they can send more money to their consumer debts, like credit cards or vehicle loans.

Knowing which loan to pay off first can set consumers up for success. They may want to tackle the payment with the highest interest rate, or they could opt for paying off the smallest balance first. They should use whichever method they find more motivating and easier to pursue. It’s especially important for borrowers to avoid taking on more credit card debt while they’re trying to pay off their other debts.

One way to handle out-of-control credit card payments may be to pursue refinancing. If consumers have home equity they can tap into, that might be a good way to go as long as they don’t overextend themselves and risk losing their home. Otherwise, they might consider applying for a personal loan if it has a lower interest rate than what their credit card carries.

According to recent reports from Credit Sesame, consumers can also try to work out a special payment plan with their credit card issuer, but they should be aware that it might have an impact on their credit scores.

Need Help?

If you still need help with controlling your debt and/or improving your credit, fill out the form below and get a free credit consultation from a credit expert at Better Qualified.


Avoid overspending this holiday season

Overspending during the holiday shopping season can lead to financial hardship come January.

Financial planner Paul Oster says that he is in favor of using gift cards to shop for loved ones for the holidays.

“Once you pick a budget for the people you’re going to shop for, buy a gift card to use and once that gift card is done, you’re done shopping for that person or group,” he says.

Oster says that other ways to avoid overspending during the season include putting money aside in advance and using cash or debit cards. Studies show that consumer spend less than using cash than with credit cards.

He also suggests considering a gift exchange instead of buying a gift for everyone.

“If you’re shopping for a group that’s more than two or three people, I would suggest doing some sort of Secret Santa model. You don’t have to buy gifts for everyone in the group, because everyone feels the same way you do.”

Oster also says that “regifting” is OK as long as it is a nice gift and you don’t give it back to the person who gave it to you.

Need Help?

If you still need help with controlling your debt and/or improving your credit, fill out the form below and get a free credit consultation from a credit expert at Better Qualified.


Paying off holiday shopping debts

With the holiday season over, many New Jersey residents are starting 2018 with more debt than they bargained for.

A survey finds that shoppers charged about 5 percent more this holiday season than previous years. More than half of those surveyed say that they will still be paying off the bills by the spring.

But consumer experts say that there are some ways to cut down the post-holiday financial troubles.

Certified financial planner Paul Oster says that consumers should come up with a debt consolidation plan to pay off their debts.

“You should focus on one credit card at a time, the one with the highest interest rate,” he says. “It’s called debt stacking. Mathematically proven.”

But what if you have a lot of credit cards, and just making the minimum payment is hard?

Experts recommend an approach called “pyramiding.” Consumers should pay off the card with the smallest balance first; this will free up some money, which can then bus used to pay off cards with a bigger balance. Consumers should keep doing this until all the debt is paid.

Oster cautions consumers against looking for a quick fix to pay off debts. He says that they should avoid using companies that offer to settle debt for less than is owed.

“You would actually have to let your cards go into default. They would settle with them for 4- to 50 cents on the dollar. But think about the effect that will have on your credit score.”

The average New Jersey family has more than $8,000 in credit card debt, according to the federal government. It would take 10 years to pay off that balance if only minimum payments are made.

Need Help?

If you still need help with controlling your debt and/or improving your credit, fill out the form below and get a free credit consultation from a credit expert at Better Qualified.


Plan Ahead, Pay Cash For Holiday Shopping, Expert Says

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Whether you’re doing your holiday shopping in stores or online, consumer experts stress caution.

For many Americans, those holiday deals add up to a mountain of debt come January.

“They don’t plan,” Eric Stuerken, a consumer credit expert and co-founder of Better Qualified, told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.

He said his office is always buzzing with clients after Christmas.

“One of the biggest mistakes is they don’t buy on cash. They’re going into their credit lines or their credit cards,” he said. “Thirty percent of our credit score is based on what we use. It’s called utilization. So if you’re using more than you’re used to and you max out your card near 100 percent, your score is going down 30 percent.”

Stuerken said in most cases, cash is king. It keeps people within their financial means.

What about those store credit cards that offer big percentages off when you open them? He says that depends on how good you are at paying off your purchases.

“In the end of the day, you’ll probably have an interest rate somewhere in the high 20s. And if you can’t pay it off and you’re making the minimum payment, that purchase you thought you were saving 50 percent on – it goes back to what you purchased and sometimes even more,” said Stuerken.

Beware of your personal shopping habits. Starting too early may mean you spend too much over the next month. Start too late, and you could splurge on something unnecessary.

Just as Santa Claus makes a list, you should write down exactly what you can afford and stick to it.

“The numbers sink in and you’re not waking up in January to a reaction where it’s, ‘Oh my god, I did this,’ and now the rest of your month is a panic mode of how you’re going to start to pay this stuff,” Stuerken said.

Bottom line: being generous does not mean over-spending.

Equifax hack: What to do now

Hackers breach Equifax’s data putting personal information of millions at risk

According to the Better Qualified President Paul Oster, someone could be walking around right now, pretending to be you.

He says that everyone should be changing passwords and pins to their accounts after the reporting agency Equifax announced that 143 million people could be affected by a recent data breach in which hackers stole information, including addresses and social security numbers.

“What happened now is that that information is going to get sold on the black market and the people who buy that information are going to create false identities under your social security number,” says Oster. “So this is the time to change all your pins and passwords and change your information access to all your accounts at this point in time.”

Oster says people should not blame Equifax for the hack.

“No one can protect all of their data 100 percent. A lot of people are mad and say if they knew about this in May, July why are they telling us now? And that’s actually under the discretion and guidance of the federal law and enforcement agencies,” says Oster.

He says hackers are so sophisticated that they can disguise links as legitimate work emails, invoices, and documents.

“People think they get a link and they click on it and try to go back that it won’t affect them but the second you click on that, it’s over,” says Oster.

He recommends everyone checks their credit score, accounts and change their passwords and pins immediately.

Equifax also has a link on their website for consumers to determine if their personal information was impacted.

Need Help?

If you still need help with controlling your debt and/or improving your credit, fill out the form below and get a free credit consultation from a credit expert at Better Qualified.


Taking a trip you can’t afford? Join the club

Taking a trip you can’t afford? Join the club

You may have earned a vacation this summer for all your hard work, but have you earned enough money to take one?
Family vacation, motorhome trip.

In a national survey from financial planning company LearnVest, 74 percent of respondents said they’ve gone into debt to pay for a vacation. On average, that debt topped $1,100.

While two-thirds of Americans said a week-long vacation would cost more than their monthly housing expenses, more than half have forgotten or failed to include a vacation as part of their annual budget.

Paul Oster, president of credit repair company Better Qualified in Eatontown, said folks who’ve spent beyond their means for a trip — or plan to do so this summer — should set up an “aggressive post-vacation payment plan” to avoid getting buried with fees and interest down the road.

“You should have a plan in place to pay off any of the expenses that you’ve incurred within a six-month period of time for sure,” Oster said. “One thousand dollars on a credit card can quickly become $1,200, $1,500, $1,700 and even $2,000.”

Oster said a repayment plan could mean cutting back on other, smaller expenses, such as the daily coffee run on the way to work, or buying lunch.

Read More at NJ1015.com: Read More

Need Help?

If you still need help with controlling your debt and/or improving your credit, fill out the form below and get a free credit consultation from a credit expert at Better Qualified.


What’s The Deal With Credit Inquires

As a certified FICO Pro, I get this question on a daily basis. There is so much confusion surrounding the topic of inquiries. It is very important that consumers understand how this process really affects your credit score.

credit inquiresWhat is an “inquiry”?

When you apply for credit, you authorize those lenders to ask or “inquire” for a copy of your credit report from a credit bureau. When you later check your Credit Report, you may notice that their credit inquiries are listed. You may also see the inquiries by businesses that you don’t know. But the only inquiries that count toward your FICO Scores are the ones that result from your applications for new credit.

How much will credit inquiries affect my score?

The impact from applying for credit will vary from person to person based on their unique credit histories. In general, credit inquiries have a small impact on one’s FICO Scores. For most people, one additional credit inquiry will take less than five points off their FICO Scores. For perspective, the full range for FICO Scores is 300-850. Inquiries can have a greater impact if you have few accounts or a short credit history.

Large numbers of inquiries also mean greater risk. Statistically, people with six inquiries or more on their credit reports can be up to eight times more likely to declare bankruptcy than people with no inquiries on their reports. While inquiries often can play a part in assessing risk, they play a minor part. Much more important factors for your scores are how timely you pay your bills and your overall debt burden as indicated on your credit report.

FICO Scores ignore inquiries made in the 30 days prior to scoring. So, if you find a loan within 30 days, the inquiries won’t affect your scores while you’re rate shopping. In addition, FICO Scores look on your credit report for rate-shopping inquiries older than 30 days. FICO Scores calculated from the newest versions of the scoring formula, this shopping period is any 45-day span.

Soft credit inquiry: When you look at your credit report, you may see inquiries from businesses with whom you didn’t apply for credit. While this may seem odd, it happens, for example, when creditors send you pre-approved credit card offers. To do these actions, they need to look at your report to determine your creditworthiness or as a background check for work. While they are listed on the version of the credit report that you (but not other businesses) can view, soft credit inquiries do not affect your credit score.

Hard credit inquiry: When businesses look at your credit report because of an application you made, these inquiries are known as hard, or voluntary, credit inquiries. These are the types of inquiries that can impact your credit score, and are the ones that potential creditors or lenders will see when they look at your credit report.

Inquiries are a core necessity in the lending world. The fact is that your it is worth your time and effort to shop around. The inquiry itself will have little or no effect on your credit score. Multiple inquiries can be explained to any lender, so the risk is nominal. The reality most scores drop because of missed payments, high revolving balances, and a lack of positive credit history.

About the author:

paulPaul Oster, FICO Pro is considered the “Nation’s Credit Repair Man”. A credit expert who has appeared on numerous network radio and TV shows (FOX BUSINESS NEWS, CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, PIX11). He has also written for Kiplinger’s, WSJ, and the Daily News. Mr. Oster is the founder and President of Better Qualified, LLC. Paul has over 20 years of experience in both the insurance and banking industries and, has dedicated his life as a consumer advocate. Paul is also proud to serve on the Board of Directors for the American Red Cross. His humor and intelligence is highly sought-after from executives in the C-Suite of major corporations, Realtors, and banks.

Need Help?

If you still need help with controlling your debt and/or improving your credit, fill out the form below and get a free credit consultation from a credit expert at Better Qualified.


 

How police identify dealers who use the ‘darknet’ to buy, distribute drugs

Did you know there’s a Craigslist-type of hidden network used to sell illegal substances?

If you think you know about the dangers lurking on the internet, you may think again after hearing about the ‘darknet.’

“It’s a series of numerous websites that were built kind of specifically for people to be able to browse anonymously,” cyber specialist Paul Oster of Better Qualified explained. “Anything that you want to buy is for sale on the darknet.”

According to Oster, the program’s anonymity makes it difficult for law enforcement to track criminals when they use it, forcing officials to rely on delivery companies to try and track the say of illicit products.

New Jersey police were able to track down 28-year-old Chukwuemeka “Emeka” Okparaeke from Kearny using this technique. Okparaeke was arrested earlier this week for allegedly obtaining large quantities of fentanyl on the darknet.

Fentanyl is one of the most powerful painkillers available.

“The alleged scheme combined one of the gravest current threats to public health—highly addictive and potentially lethal opioids—with a very modern criminal tool, the darknet,” the acting United States attorney of New York said in a statement

Oster says it is incredibly easy to get these illegal substances on the darknet.

“Whether it’s fentanyl, cocaine, any black market drug can be purchased through the darknet,” he said.

It’s time to pay those holiday credit card purchases: Here’s how to manage

This is the kind of hangover that can really cause some damage.

It’s a little over a month since Christmas Day, and New Jersey residents are facing the bill for all the holiday gifts and entertainment they may have purchased with the simple swipe of a credit card.
Known in the industry as the holiday debt hangover, credit experts say it’s important for consumers to address these charges quickly in order to avoid a hit to one’s credit score and overall financial security.

With the average rate on credit cards sitting in the 17 to 19 percent range, missed payments or even minimum payments come with financial consequences that can bury a consumer over time.

“There needs to be a sense of urgency here,” said Paul Oster, CEO and founder of credit repair firm Better Qualified in Eatontown. “I suggest three months; come up with a way to eliminate as much debt as you possibly can within three months.”

The game plan to cut credit card debt within 90 or so days means some sacrifices may have to be made, such as avoiding the daily coffee trip on the way to work, or cooking dinner instead of ordering take-out over the weekends.

“People are amazed at the amount of money they can save by just paying attention to the amount of money they spend,” Oster said.

One could also make a dent by applying their year-end bonus to the debt amount, or the money expected in a tax refund over the next few months.

According to Oster, it’s important to make at least the minimum payments on all bills. Beyond that, it’s best in most cases to identify the card with the highest interest rate and apply all extra money to that bill, he said.

“Carrying a debt service, especially a revolving debt, is the worst thing that you can do,” Oster said.

Need Help?

If you still need help with controlling your debt and/or improving your credit, fill out the form below and get a free credit consultation from a credit expert at Better Qualified.


 

Madison Square Garden Company Alerts Customers of Data Breach

Madison Square Garden Company says there has been a data breach affecting customers who may have used cards at merchandise and food and beverage locations at its properties in the last year.

Those include Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Beacon Theatre and The Chicago Theatre, from the time period between Nov. 9, 2015 and Oct. 24, 2016.

Data contained in the magnetic stripe of the cards — including credit card numbers, cardholder names, expiration dates and internal verification codes — may have been accessed without authorization, the company says.

Not all cards used during the time frame were affected, and the breach doesn’t involve cards used at the MSG websites, box offices or Ticketmaster.