Personal FinanceReliable sources to get your credit reports
There are companies that work on collecting and maintaining credit information of consumers. These are known as credit reporting agencies (CRAs). There are three such major CRAs in the country, namely Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Apart from these, there are other smaller-scale agencies too that specialize at the job. If you’re worried about “where to get my credit score?,” the larger CRAs are the most reliable bets.
These major CRAs obtain information from companies that you hold business and transactions with. People or companies that lend you money regularly report to these CRAs on your repaying status. There is also detailed information on the amount you are indebted and whether you have ever defaulted on your payments. Aside from the reports obtained from lenders, these companies also tally your general records based on certain other aspects. Some of these aspects are your public records from the local and state judiciary. These include your tax records and bankruptcy information. This information makes up an important chunk of your credit score and its report.
Present in 24 countries, Equifax is an agency that offers consumers protection against identity theft and credit fraudulence. They also sell credit reports and credit monitoring assistance to businesses.
Experian started off in London and is now a trusted agency in 39 different countries. It provides you with a credit score, credit report, and even credit tracker on subscription. The agency uses FICO 8 system of credit score calculation. Experian was a part of Forbes’ “World’s Most Innovative Companies” in 2018.
Based across 30 countries with a database of over 1 billion consumers, TransUnion is another CRA giant. The agency, like the other ones, will provide you with your credit score and your credit reports. In case you decide to freeze your TransUnion credit report, it will also go the extra mile to notify Equifax and Experian, which frankly is a big help especially in case of identity theft and credit fraud.
So, the next time you are sat wondering “where to get my credit score?,” think of these three giants that provide you with an annual credit score and credit report for free once each year. However, if you are looking for more frequent updates, you can subscribe to their services and receive your monthly updates.
Personal Finance4 tips to check credit score
Did you know that you have more than a single credit score? Agencies calculate your credit score based on the data in your credit reports. If you are wondering, “where to get my credit score?,” there are three main credit reporting agencies. These can have different credit scores for you if your information on each of their credit reports is different. Also, these agencies charge a fee to reveal your credit score.
Recently, it has become easier to track and get hold of your credit score without paying any fees. You can get it from your credit card company, your loan provider, and even from a non-profit counselor. Here are a few tips you can use to check your score.
- Contact a non-profit counselor
You can contact a HUD-approved housing counselor or a non-profit credit counselor. They often aid in getting hold of credit reports and scores for free. Also, counselors can help review your score and help you improve your credit score.
- Check loan statements or credit card statements
Several major auto loan and credit card companies provide their customers with credit scores. It is usually dispatched on a monthly basis. You will find your credit score on the monthly statement. You can also log in to your online account to check your credit score.
- Use the services of the credit score agency
A few websites and services often advertise about providing services for free credit scores. Most of these websites get funding through advertisements. So, they do not really need any fee to provide their services. However, there are some websites that may ask you to sign up by paying a subscription charge to provide you with your score. These websites may advertise free trials. Having said that, if you don’t cancel the services on time, you may end up paying for the “free” score.
- Purchase a score
You can also buy a score from any of the credit reporting companies. You can purchase your score directly from the website of the credit score agency. You can also get hold of an education credit score offered by a few credit score sources. There is not much difference between the credit scores used by lenders and educational credit scores. These are pretty much close and are helpful as well. However, for some people, the difference between these two types of credit scores can be quite significant. In such cases, educational credit scores are as useful.
- Contact a non-profit counselor
Home Loans4 first-time home buyers’ loan programs
Buying a home is a dream for most of us, and it is hard to get one. From the tedious paperwork to the people and fees involved, there are tons of important things that go into buying a home. Additionally, if you’re a first-time home buyer, there is a whole list of queries. But before you jump to conclusions, here are four of the loan programs that can benefit first-time home buyers. Read on!
First-time home buyers’ loan programs
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is one of the agencies within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is a good loan option for first-time home buyers. Moreover, the FHA program is also beneficial for those who have a shaky credit history.
The FHA assures a portion of home loans that broadens the acceptance standards of the lenders. By applying for FHA, borrowers can qualify with as low as 3.5% down payment.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a home buyers assistance program. To be eligible for this program, you don’t have to live on a farm. The USDA program for home buyers’ assistance specifically targets rural areas and provides for 100% financing. The program also offers lender mortgage guarantee.
Moreover, there are income limitations that vary as per the region.
The active-duty military members, veterans, and surviving spouses are offered home loans by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These loans offer viable interest rates, and you won’t even need down payment for buying the home. The VA loans guarantee part of the loan, which helps lenders provide special loan features.
In order to be eligible for the VA loan, one does not need a minimum credit score or is not required to pay for private mortgage insurance. If in any case there is difficulty in making mortgage payments, the VA negotiates with the lender on your behalf.
Native American Direct Loan
The Native American Direct Loan program has been helping the Native American veterans and their spouses buy homes on federal trust lands. Once an individual is eligible for the Native American Direct Loan, there is no need of a down payment or private mortgage insurance. In this case, the VA serves as the lender. If you choose the first-time home buyer loan, you get a fixed-rate mortgage for 30 years and low closing costs. So, if you’re eligible, this is one of the preferred first-time home buyer loan program options you can choose.
Personal Finance4 handy tips for first-time buyers
Buying a house is one of the most expensive deals of your life, and the first time is always a memorable experience. Moreover, the process of home buying can get stressful, but keeping a few tips handy can be great for first-time home buyers.
Read on to know four useful tips before buying your first home.
Plan out a budget and stick to it
First-time home buyers require a lot of research and planning. Budget, the most essential part of the entire process, makes planning even more important. Know what you can afford and how you want to go about with the financing.
Plan and calculate the entire payment, check out online calculators, research about various loans for first-time home buyers, and ensure that you do not miss out on any payment essentials.
Consult an experienced realtor
A realtor can either make or break your deal of buying your first home. An experienced realtor will have contacts of real estate attorneys and loan officers and can also guide you throughout the process of buying the property.
As per the statistics of the National Association of Realtors, nearly 50% buyers found their realtor from a personal referral. So, it is advisable to start asking for references from your family and friends, as recommendations always help.
Moreover, you can always check out real estate websites such as Zillow, Streeteasy, and Trulia, to name a few.
Compare the apartments in the area
Comparison will always help you get a better look at the choices you have. There are numerous real estate websites that can help you research various homes, depending on custom searches such as the location, budget, number of rooms, and property type, among others. By comparing the apartments, you can also read reviews of the location or area to get a better understanding of the neighborhood. Moreover, the comparing will help you sort the budget as well, giving you various alternatives.
List out the non-negotiables
Before you delve going ahead and buying your first home, it is advisable to list down the non-negotiables. One should know and figure out which things would enhance their well-being, and which won’t. So, making a list of things that you would want in your apartment would also help your realtor know about your specific preferences. From square footage to location and amenities, pen down the must-haves in your future home.
One of the best ways of gauging your options is to visit the apartments or houses in your preferred area and shortlist the ones that suit your preferences. Knowing what your preferences are can also help you settle on a budget.
You should also reevaluate your list of essentials and keep adding or subtracting what you would want and what you wouldn’t in your first home.
Personal FinanceUnderstanding the cost involved in a tax preparation service
Calculating the price of a tax preparation service can be daunting as there is no set price for the same. The tax professionals use a variety of methods and ways to set a price for their services. This makes it difficult to calculate and compare the costs of different tax preparation services. The price of the tax preparation service increases as the financial situation and tax return becomes more complex.
These tax preparation services often use different pricing methods for their services. Those who want to compare the prices of different tax preparation services can directly ask the companies the pricing method they use, or how the companies determine the prices. Companies generally tell the estimated price for tax preparation as well, however, it is generally difficult to get an estimate from any company unless the tax professional sees the tax issues of the client.
Some methods that the tax preparation service providers use are mentioned below.
- A fixed fee for every single tax form or schedule
- A fee that is based on the previous year’s fee along with an additional fee charged for any changes in the situation of the client’s tax
- A minimum fee for tax return along with an additional fee based on the complication in the client’s tax situation
- A value-based tax preparation service fee
- An hourly fee for the time spent while preparing the tax return
- A fixed fee for every item in data entry
A certified public accountant or a CPA advises that people should expect an average of around $273 for the current tax year. This amount generally includes the state and federal returns. The average fee usually drops to around $176 when the tax deductions are not itemized. This is because the itemizing of deductions is a time to consuming as well as a complicated process.
Those who don’t have a complicated tax situation can expect the tax preparation services to be less than normal. Those who have a very simple and basic tax situation can get their return files for free as well. However, this is subject to some income limits. The income limits can be learned from the IRS free file guide.
To calculate the cost of your tax preparation services, you can browse the internet and research about the inclusions in the tax preparation fee. Sometimes, there are extra charges for electronic filing, phone calls, or office visits included in the fee. Some firms charge an additional fee for the audit protection. To be more precise with the calculations, such details should be addressed.
Mortgage3 easy ways to help you find a good mortgage rate
A good mortgage rate really matters as it means less money to be paid every month and saving thousands of dollars in form of interest. Having said that, it is not easy to get a low mortgage rate as there are various factors that affect the mortgage rate, such as the credit score and from whom you take the loan. Read on to find 3 simple ways to get a great mortgage rate for your next loan.
Maintain an excellent credit score
Current mortgage rates are priced according to your credit score. Your credit score will determine whether you qualify the loan in the first place. Once you are eligible for the loan, your credit score will further determine how much money the lender is willing to give you, and the interest rate that you will be charged. Your credit score and the current mortgage rates always share an inverse relationship, which means that if you have an excellent score then you will easily get a loan at a lower mortgage rate. On the other hand, a bad credit score will increase your mortgage interest rate.
Today, if you have a credit score of around 620, then you will be charged a 5.022% interest, according to the current mortgage rate in the market. If you have a score of 760 or higher, then the current mortgage rate is approximately 3.433%.
Have a stable income source
Before you go to apply for a mortgage, make sure that you have a steady source of income and a stable job. The lenders often check your last two years’ job history and prefer candidates who have an income graph that is shooting up. If you have been unemployed for a long period, then it might negatively affect your mortgage rate.
If you are self-employed, then make sure that you have your income for the past two years well documented because the lenders carry out a stricter investigation when it comes to self-employed loan borrowers.
A common mistake that many home buyers make is that they settle for the first lender they come across. It i best to refrain from such a strategy; instead, narrow down the best lenders after personally getting a quote from each of them. After this, you should sit and do an in-depth comparison shopping.
Once you have all the above-listed things checked, you can go ahead and choose a lender who gives you the best mortgage rate.
Personal FinanceKnow about the various tax preparation software
Tax preparation services are in demand when people have to file their returns. The average cost of tax preparation service starts from about $275. The cost of tax preparation is not the lowest cost, which makes it important to get the most of your tax preparation services. However, there are ways to save money on tax preparation services and that can be done by identifying the tax-time priorities in advance. Using tax preparation software will help you understand taxes in detail.
Some software that helps you with tax preparation services are quite expensive, however, you will end up saving money on tax preparation in the long-run. The software is also cheaper than hiring a professional for the tax and investment income. Here are some software available for you to do your own tax preparation. There are some software that are also available for free.
This is one of the top personal tax preparation software. The software costs approximately $55, and you can buy it on Amazon as well. Some users and tax experts have given great reviews on TurboTax. Users can import many employer tax IDs, take pictures of the W-2s and 1099 forms instead of typing all the information. The software also has an ‘expense finder’ feature for the self-employed individuals. The software can bring up potentially tax-deductible expenditures directly from the user’s bank account to categorize them, add them and segregate them accordingly.
Everything users get from TurboTax software, can also benefit from H&R Block at a slightly lower rate. It can be a tough choice for the users to choose one among the two software. Though the features of H&R Block and TurboTax are similar, H&R Block is slightly more user-friendly and interactive. Users can ask questions in the software to get more precise solutions. This software has a free version called More Zero that users can try.
This one is another great software for all the tax preparation services one would need. Users have preferred TaxAct Premium as it is inexpensive. The price users pay for TaxAct will be the same irrespective of the tax deadlines coming closer. This is not the case with TurboTax and H&R Block, where the prices increase as the tax deadline comes closer. Some features are missing in TaxAct as compared to the previous two software mentioned, however, users will not find any difficulty in completing their tax filing.
There are many more tax preparation software that helps individuals and companies with various services. TaxSlayer, Liberty Tax, Credit Karma, and Jackson Hewitt Premium are some of the software that you could choose from.