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.

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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.

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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. You can also check out hot europe deals to ensure that you’re getting the best price on the market.

“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.

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

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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.

What 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 have a private investigator 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.

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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.

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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.

Trick or Treat: Free Credit Scores

Reasons Your Free Credit Scores and FICO Scores Are Different

Are Free Credit Scores Accurate

One of the main concerns that come with websites like Credit Karma or Credit.com, is that the free credit scores being provided are not your actual FICO (Fair Isaac Credit Organization) scores. This may lead you to seek for the new car you wanted or deter you from taking a look at getting a new home.

What you should do is go to AnnualCreditReport.com, the official website of Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. There you can get one free credit report from each entity per year. Be prepared because you may find that the number you see is a complete surprise. Your credit scores may be better than you expected, or may be worse than the free credit scores provided. Nonetheless, you may be confused on why the scores you see do not match the free credit scores you have obtained.

Here are some of the three main factors of why your free credit scores and FICO scores are not the same:

The Free Credit Scores Your Being Provided Are Educational or “FAKO” Scores

Educational or “FAKO” scores are popular phrases associated with free credit score sites or any site that provides you with a score that is not a FICO score. Educational or “FAKO” scores are not an actual credit scores used by lenders. When a lender pulls your credit report, they are going to be looking at your FICO score and not an educational or “FAKO” score.

FICO Scores Are Not All The Same

Different lenders can also have different FICO scores. This occurs simply because each lender is using a FICO model to account the risk factors that will matter most to their company. So the score provided by a loan originator from FICO, will differ from an auto dealership FICO score.

Your Scores Will Be Calculated at Different Times

Your credit scores are not sitting in a government computer database waiting for someone to request them. All credit scores and credit reports are compiled when they are requested. That means if a lender pulls your credit score on the 1st of the month and another lender pulls your credit on the 15th, the scores may differ. The scores can be different because of the information that was or was not available in the time frame the credit report was requested.

How Do You Get An Accurate FICO Credit Score and Credit Report?

Call Better Qualified today 888-533-8138, one of our Credit Analyst can help you get a FICO credit report.  We offer a free in-depth analysis of your credit to help you understand where your scores are currently and ways you can improve your credit scores. You can also visit AnnualCreditReport.com, the official website of Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Annual Credit Report will provide you with one free FICO credit report per year.

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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 to avoid falling into debt

Doug Constable is one of the best pre-insolvency advisors specializing in helping business with cash flow difficulties. He is a professional bankruptcy and insolvency expert and the author of “What to do When You Can’t Pay Your Debts”.

4 Steps to help avoid falling into debt

Avoid Falling into debt

Fast internet services and instant gratification has made it harder for people to avoid falling into debt today. All you need to do is make a few clicks on your mouse, and you can buy anything you want and have it delivered to your doorstop.

However this ease of buying things may leave you spending more than you can afford. Moreover, the unstable economy wherein businesses lay off employees or reduce their paycheck by half, and the rising cost of living has led to many people falling into massive amounts of debt. This is why you need to be very careful about your spending habits to avoid falling into debt. You also need to follow the following information to avoid falling into debt.

1. Creating a budget is the best thing you can do to avoid debt. With a budget, you know how much money you need, how many bills you need to pay, and how much you can afford to spend. After paying off your monthly expenses, you can place the rest of the money in a savings account for a rainy day. Avoid spending money on unnecessary things.

2. Make only cash payments. You tend to spend less paying in cash than by using your debit or credit card. Fix and spend only that money every day. With physical money in hand, you know how quickly money comes and goes, and this encourages you to spend less.

3. Making investments help you avoid falling into debt, especially in an economic turmoil. By starting an investment plan, you have a more secure financial future, also there are good options like doing day trading, using resources online for this you can see more here about this subject. While investing in precious metals is a wise decision, it’s better to invest in different items to protect your assets. Precious metals like gold and silver retain its value even when the value of paper currency drops as their value depends on supply and demand, where its demand is usually higher than its supply.

4. Another great way to avoid falling into debt is by opening a savings account for a rainy day. Open a savings account through your bank or online store; just make sure its interest rate gives you more bang for your buck.

It is very important that you know how to avoid debt, especially in tough economic times. If you learn how to create and stick to a budget, keep an eye on where you spend your money, make wise investments, make only cash payments and open a savings account, you will be able to avoid debt and have a secure financial future.

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7 reasons for a drop in your credit score

Find out what may have caused a drop in your credit score

Drop in your credit score

Are you surprised that your credit score has dropped since you last checked it? If yes, don’t worry because the credit score calculation is rather complex. It is not easy pinpointing the exact reason for a drop in your credit score. However, here are the common reasons for a drop in your credit score:

1. A 30 day late credit card or loan payment

Remember that your payment history has an important impact on your credit score. Payments made more than 30 days late are reported to the credit bureau. Once it shows up in your credit report, it is reflected in your credit score.

2. Unpaid account sent to collections

It’s important you not only pay your credit cards and loans to protect your credit score, but you also have to make non-credit payments in case they are sent to a collection agency and included in your credit report.

3. Expensive credit card purchases

The amount of available credit is also an important factor in your credit score. If you make a large purchase using your credit card in one month, your credit score drops even if you pay the full balance by the end of the month. This is because your balance is reported to the credit bureau before your payment.

4. Lowered credit limits

Your credit score is affected the same way by a lowered credit limit by charging an expensive item. If you have a balance on your credit card, and you use up you credit, it only leads to your credit score going down.

5. New credit application

10% of your credit score is affected by new credit report inquiries. Each time you apply for new credit, your credit score is at risk. However, as inquiries affect your credit score only for a year, if you had made only one inquiry, your credit score rebounds in 12 months.

6. Closing or cancelling a credit card

Your credit score will get greatly affected if you or your credit card issuer closes a credit card, especially if it has a balance.

7. Bankruptcy falling off your credit report

If bankruptcy falls off your credit report after a decade, you are most likely to move to a new credit scorecard. You find a drop in your credit score if your credit performance is compared with other people who have not filed for bankruptcy.

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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.