4 Signs Refinancing Is The Wrong Move

4 Signs Refinancing Is the Wrong Move

Refinancing your mortgage can bring your interest rate down, lower your monthly payments and generally save you some money. With rates still low, you may be pondering whether now’s the right time to try for a better deal on your home loan. But you don’t want to pull the trigger too soon. If any of the following apply to you, you may want to think twice before jumping on the refinancing bandwagon.

Compare refinance mortgage rates. 

1. Your Credit’s Not in Great Shape

Refinancing when you’ve got a few blemishes on your credit report isn’t impossible, but it’s not necessarily going to work in your favor either. Even though lenders have relaxed certain restrictions on borrowing over the last year, qualifying for the best rates on a loan can still be tough if your score is stuck somewhere in the middle range.

If you took out an FHA loan the first time around, you might be able to get around your less-than-spotless credit with a streamline refinance, but approval isn’t guaranteed. Interest rates are expected to rise toward the end of the year, but that still gives you some time to work on improving your score.

Getting rid of debt, limiting the number of new accounts you apply for and paying your bills on time will go a long way toward improving your number so that when you do refinance, you’ll be eligible for the lowest interest rates.

Related Article: refinance closing costs.

3. A No-Closing Cost Loan Is Your Only Option

4 Signs Refinancing Is The Wrong Move

If you don’t have a few thousand dollars to spare to cover the closing costs, you can always look into a no-closing cost loan. With this type of refinance, the lender folds the costs into the loan itself so you don’t have to pay anything extra out of pocket. While that’s a plus if you’re short on cash, you may be really putting yourself at a disadvantage in the long run. Increasing your mortgage (even if it’s just by a few thousand dollars) means you’re going to pay more interest over the life of the loan.

For example, let’s say you refinance a $200,000 mortgage at 4 percent for 30 years. Altogether, you’d pay $143,000 in interest if you don’t pay anything extra. Your closing costs come to 3 percent but you roll them into the loan so you’re refinancing about $206,000 instead. That extra $6,000 would cost you another $11,000 in interest so you have to ask yourself whether the monthly savings from refinancing justify the overall added expense.

4. Compare Your Refinance Loan Options

Once you’re ready to refinance, it’s important to take the time to compare what’s available from different lenders carefully. Checking out the rates and fees each lender charges ensures that you won’t spend any more money on a refinance loan than you need to.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/goldyrocks, Â©iStock.com/SolisImages, Â©iStock.com/DOUGBERRY

The post 4 Signs Refinancing Is The Wrong Move appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Podcast #13: Commercial Lending and Real Estate

podcast 13 commercial lending and real estate
For this podcast about commercial lending I sat down with Angie Hoffman at U.S. Bank.  During the podcast we discussed investing in real estate, commercial lending, and how commerceial mortgages can help investors.  If you want to learn more about commercial loans this is a great pdocast for you.
I hope you enjoy the podcast and find it informative.  Please consider sharing with those who also may benefit. Listen via YouTube: You can connect with Angie on LinkedIn.  You can reach out to Angie for more information on their lending products by emailing her at angela.hoffman@usbank.com.
You can connect with me on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram.
About the author: The above article “Podcast #12:  Hard Money Lending” was provided by Luxury Real Estate Specialist Paul Sian. Paul can be reached at paul@CinciNKYRealEstate.com or by phone at 513-560-8002. If you’re thinking of selling or buying your investment or commercial business property I would love to share my marketing knowledge and expertise to help you.  Contact me today!
I work in the following Greater Cincinnati, OH and Northern KY areas: Alexandria, Amberly, Amelia, Anderson Township, Cincinnati, Batavia, Blue Ash, Covington, Edgewood, Florence, Fort Mitchell, Fort Thomas, Hebron, Hyde Park, Indian Hill, Kenwood, Madeira, Mariemont, Milford, Montgomery, Mt. Washington, Newport, Newtown, Norwood, Taylor Mill, Terrace Park, Union Township, and Villa Hills.
TRANSCRIPT
Commercial Lending Podcast
 
Paul Sian: Hello everybody. This is Paul Sian, Realtor with United Real Estate Home Connections, licensed in the State of Ohio and Kentucky. With me today is Angie Hoffman with US Bank. Angie how are you today?
Angie Hoffman: I’m doing great Paul. How are you?
Paul Sian:  Great. Thank you for being on my podcast. We’re gonna start off. Today’s topic is ‘Commercial Lending’. Angie is a commercial lender with US Bank, as I mentioned. Angie, why don’t you tell us a little bit by your background. What you do with the US bank, and how did you get started in that field?
Angie Hoffman: Sure. So, I am a Cincinnati resident, have been my entire life. Was previously with a company called the ‘Conner group’, which is located out of Dayton, Ohio. They’re a private investment real estate firm. I was with him for about five plus years, just learned a ton of information, really loved the financing portion of their group. So, that turned me to the banking portion, which I ended up going with US Bank just because of the knowledge and the breadth of what they can do as well. Just the culture within US Bank has been phenomenal. I’ve actually been with us Bank now for five years; in the last three years I’ve been within the commercial real estate side as well as the business banking side.
Paul Sian: Okay. Your primary focus is commercial loans.
Angie Hoffman: Correct. Yes, both investment real estate as well as owner-occupied and small to medium businesses. 
Paul Sian:  Okay. The investment side, I represent a lot of buyers of multifamily. I know with the form below we do, the conventional space generally, and then when you’re in the five units and above. You go into the commercial space, which is your space. I have also heard it being covered with mixed-use buildings, industrial properties, is there something else that commercial loans would cover?
Angie Hoffman: Correct. I mean it can really be quite an array of properties, office is one that we see pretty often, and can tend to be either hot in certain areas, whether it’s office Class B or Office Class A. Retail strip centers, we’ll look at Triple Net properties, and absolute not properties. We are very popular, if you’re looking at diversifying a multi-family portfolio and adding in some triple net properties. We also do, obviously owner-occupied properties too. When you have that small business or medium business owner who wants to own their own real estate. We do that as well, and that’s again part of what my position entails, and then we will also look at portfolios will do single-family homes. 
I’m actually working with somebody now who has a portfolio of several single-family homes, that were looking to kind of restructure and refinance for him. We can even utilize current equity and properties to purchase additional properties to help you grow your portfolio. We do try to have a full understanding of your portfolio or a full understanding of what your strategy is. How partner with you, as you continue to grow that portfolio short- and long-term goals.
Paul Sian: For our listeners, who don’t know. What Triple Net means, do you mind explaining that.
Angie Hoffman:  Sure. So, Triple Net is gonna tend to be your properties that have the tenant itself is paying the taxes, the insurance, you may have some pretty minimal depending upon the property, responsibilities that are usually restricted to the exterior of the building. It may be like a roof or a parking lot. Type of maintenance but generally speaking the great thing about the triple net is that for some clients, it’s a property that you can basically own, and you have to do pretty much nothing with. So, you’re gaining that income without having to do a very minimal type of responsibility or maintenance. 
The downfall of that is that typically they’re gonna be somebody, who is gonna be a longer-term lease, which is great. However, you still have the issue that it’s a bigger square footage generally. So, five, ten, twenty thousand plus square feet. If you lose a tenant obviously, that can be very impactful. It just depends upon your, again your focus of your portfolio, and if you want to add in that. But it can be great opportunity, but tends to again be a little bit less of a return. Because of the minimal responsibilities.
Paul Sian: Going back to single family. That is similar, I am using the same term your bank use but to ‘wrap mortgage’. Is that what you use for single families?
Angie Hoffman:  We do have the ability, from the perspective of what you say wrap mortgage.  We’re typically calling that like an umbrella, if you’re grouping all, let’s call it, if there’s ten single family homes. You’re grouping this all into one, it lies together. We have the ability to do that depending again on the structure that the client is looking for. 
We also have the ability to separate out those facilities, and do a simultaneous closing for each one of them to have them separated out from each other. Obviously, there’s some contingencies but that the properties itself have to be able to cash flow by themselves, things along those lines that we would underwrite to. But we do have ability to look at it from both perspectives.
Paul Sian: Okay. The biggest advantage of that if someone has reached the maximum ten convention mortgage loanlimit. They can step into your space there and you could cover them, and they can either restart that or. With something like that, let’s say somebody does get ten properties, and are they able to finance in additional properties into that same loan or is that has to re-finance each time?
Angie Hoffman: No. We would be able to add in. I mean, if you’re asking like if they want to refinance these properties, and they’re also looking to maybe either use some of the equity in them or they’re also buying at the same time. We can do all of that together, so that’s not an issue at all.
Paul Sian: Let’s say to somebody new coming to investment. What is the typical down payment on commercial loans? That are looking to buy in the mixed-use space or multifamily space?
Angie Hoffman: So, generally speaking. We’ll go up to 80% loan-to-value. The biggest factor within that is gonna be how much the capability of the property to hold that debt. We’re gonna have, we have a pretty. I don’t want to say complex but we do have  multiple factors that go within our cash flow, and net operating, income calculation, that we’re gonna want to see. It balanced to a certain point for it to be able to hold the debt at an 80% loan to value. Again, we tend to partner with our clients. I have several clients who will send me properties on a daily basis, that they’re interested in. We will let them know what the debt capacity would be on that property.
Paul Sian: Okay. Income from the rents per sale, let’s say, something’s got a ten-unit building. Then you’re looking at the rents that are coming in. You’re also considering the buyers income level, income to debt ratio, all that as well.
Angie Hoffman: Yes. When I talk about the capacity, the debt for the property is being the one of the first things we look at is. In order to get to that 80% LTV, if you’re looking at the actual depth, they’re wanting the property to take on. Compared to other rent they’re taking in and the expenses, as well as some vacancy factors, things like that. That’s what we’re looking at to have a certain ratio, then on top of that. When we get to the next step would be look at the client globally, and their personal debt to income, and that factor too.
Paul Sian: Looking at that commercial mortgages, can buyer use the mortgage to upgrade property, to build in some equity in the property. Does the building of the equity get taken into account, and do you have a loan that allows them to do that?
Angie Hoffman: That question is kind of twofold. If you have a property, let’s say, it’s multiple unit, and you’re continuing to kind of do some improvements and renovations. If the property has the equity, we can look at small lines of credit to help with that renovation cost. Then once everything’s complete to be able to wrap that together. If you’re looking at a property that’s completely distressed, and doesn’t have any type of income. Then that’s gonna be something that generally we’re gonna have a harder time with. Because it’s a speculative type of scenario, and we want to typically see the actual income.
Paul Sian: How about converting something, I am interested in buying warehouse, either in retail space or multifamily. Do you offer products for that, or is that a similar situation when you’re looking at the risk as being a little high?
Angie Hoffman: Yes. So, that is gonna be a similar situation. Once the actual project would be completed again from a speculative standpoint, it just it becomes a little bit more difficult from a risk perspective. However, we’ve been in scenarios where we’ve worked with clients and partnered clients, people we know who work in that space more than we do. We can look to, guide them to what we would look at if we wanted to refinance that once it was completed, and there were leases in place.
Paul Sian: Okay. So, that is one of the benefits working with a big bank like US bank, is you can reach across departments there, and tap other resources within your organization.
Angie Hoffman:  Even if it’s within the organization, we have other resources whether it’s our private wealth or wealth group, have some capabilities that are different than what we have as well as from a CUI or network basis. It may be somebody just within my network that I know works within that space to introduce that way and hopefully can get that client taken care of.
Paul Sian: Are you able to comment on the underwriting process of commercial loans compared to residential. Is there a big difference in that process? 
Angie Hoffman: So, yes and no. I know we touch on it already a little bit. One of the biggest differences is obviously we’re gonna look at the actual collateral in a very different way, especially on the investment real estate side. When you’re looking at investment real estate, the factors that the net operating income as well as the cash flow of the property become factors. Whereas, when you’re buying a home, obviously it’s a lot more about the loan to value of the property. However on the other side of that, if we are looking at a property that’s gonna be owner occupied by a small to medium business. It becomes a lot more about the loan-to-value as well. So, it can depend upon the situation.
Paul Sian: Okay. How important is the person’s experience when they come to loan, get a loan for you. If it’s a new first-time investor looking at multi families versus somebody who’s already got five to ten units and then either self-managing or running it for a couple years.
Angie Hoffman: I mean, generally speaking, if you have somebody brand new, one of the biggest things is if you’re not familiar in the scope. You don’t have experience, you gonna be partnering  potentially with a property management company or somebody else who is maybe a partnership within the LLC or the property that you’re buying that has the experience. Just being able to show you may not have previous experience in this but you are partnering with a property management company that has historical success in these properties. You’re partnering with somebody, for instance, who has historical success in the properties.
Paul Sian: So, yeah boils down to your team then. What you’re bringing to the team. What kind of document requirements are there to start a commercial loan process with US bank?
Angie Hoffman: Generally speaking, in every situation is different, every request is different, client is different. But it’s typically going to be two to three years of taxes, personal and business, personal financial statements pretty standard as well. If it’s a purchase, we’re gonna want to see a purchase agreement or understand the purchase agreement as well. As you’re gonna want to have financials whether it’s profit loss or the rent rolls preferably a Schedule E or 8852 from the client. Showing what the historical trends of that property of have been. That’s where we really try and partner with our clients of understanding their portfolios, understanding what purchase they’re trying to make. So, that, does it fit, and is there anything we see because we see them on a very regular basis that. Maybe we need to discuss or let the client know that we are suggesting maybe prying a little bit more information.
Paul Sian: How important is ones credit score when they come to apply for loan with you?
Angie Hoffman: It is a factor, I mean. In any type of just like the traditional mortgage, it is gonna be a factor. But there are so many different factors that, it’s only one of many.
Paul Sian: One of the important things when it comes to purchasing real estate is I always tell the buyers that have a pre-approval letter ready. Is there something similar in the commercial loans place? A pre-approval letter, pre-qualification letter. Just something that says, somebody sat down with you, they started the initial process. They’ve got access to certain amount that they can borrow to purchase this property. Do you have something like that?
Angie Hoffman: We do. So, on the commercial side it’s gonna be called a letter of interest, and it basically lays out that we are working with a client. We have a price range or up to a price range that we’re looking for with the client, and depending upon the collateral. We are looking to work with him on the financing, again depending upon what the collateral is, and then we also have once we’ve actually maybe gone through a more official process of underwriting and submitted an actual financial package. We do have, depending again on what the financing contingency is for that client. 
We do have a letter of commitment, which lays out that there is an approval but it goes through all of the conditions as well like your appraisal certain things like that, that we’re gonna have to clear.
Paul Sian: Okay. How long does that process take? If you are writing an offer today for a client, and then usually you have to write in how many days we’re gonna close in. 30 days, 40 to 45 days. I know conventional, it’s usually a little quicker, a little easier. So, we can do it in 30 days or so. I mean, what would you recommend for a commercial loan?
Angie Hoffman: I think 45 days is very practical. One of the biggest things that I always talk about with my clients is that 45 days really is incumbent of me having a full financial package, meaning those two years of tax returns. The financials, I spoke about from the client that you’re purchasing, and or if you’re refinancing. To me, having that full financial package is really the key and then, again from there it’s gonna be some of the factors of the appraisal as well as the title work that would go along with it. But generally speaking, 45 days to close is pretty.
Paul Sian: Reasonable.
Angie Hoffman: Yes.
Paul Sian: You mentioned the documents that was my blog article documents for the conventional mortgage process. You mentioned W2s, 1040, tax returns, that is pretty similar the document requirements for commercial loans that it is for residential space?
Angie Hoffman: Yes. It’s very similar. With the PFS is gonna be one of the biggest as well as the two years of tax returns. Potentially three years depending upon, again the request size. Like you said, I mean, if they’re a W2 income type of employee, then we may need additional pay stubs. like I said, for any client, it could be very different depending again on what their history is. If they’re a business owner, then we may mean some more details but generally speaking, again it would be two to three years of personal business has returns, personal financial statement, and potentially obviously purchase agreement or additional documentation from that side.
Paul Sian: Okay. When it comes to partnership, people coming together, those documents from everybody. Correct?
Angie Hoffman: Correct. So, depending on what the ownership structure is. Generally, if somebody’s over 20% ownership within the property, then we’re going to need that financial information from them as well.
Paul Sian: Okay. I know with the conventional space. Lending into an LLC is generally impossible. Most lenders will not allow conventional borrowers to use an LLC. How does that work on the commercial side?
Angie Hoffman: The vast majority of the lending that I do is going to be through an LLC in a holding company. The clients are still a personal guarantor but the lending itself in the title is all within the LLC.
Paul Sian: Is it a requirement in LLC or is it an option for the buyer?
Angie Hoffman: It’s an option. I mean, one that again depending from an attorney’s perspective, if you’re talking about liability. It may be a best-case scenario to have an LLC with that property. But we always reference stuff talk to your attorney about what makes sense for you.
Paul Sian: How much, do you have any minimum loan requirements and your maximum loan requirement?  
Angie Hoffman: Up to ten million on the investment real estate side, and then once it’s beyond that, we do have a commercial group that we would work with a real estate group as well as our middle marker group that would potentially be involved. As far as minimum typically, again if it’s under 2,50,000. It’s still something that we would do. It just, we pull in a different partner to work with us on that too, because it kind of goes into a little bit different of a space.
Paul Sian: Is there, under 250,000$ or is there a lower minimum. I know some conventional lenders won’t touch anything fifty thousand and under.
Angie Hoffman: It’s pretty common. Yes, under fifty thousand is gonna be a little bit more difficult. 
Paul Sian: 50,000 to 2,50,000, and above that.
Angie Hoffman: But keep in mind too. I mean, if you have properties itself. It may be again, you see this more with the single-family home portfolios. You may have multiple properties that are under fifty thousand. But we’re looking at the entirety of the portfolio, makes a little bit different of a scenario. I would caution that anything that somebody is looking at from the perspective of either total lending amount or even individual property. We’re happy to take a look at it, have an understanding of what you’re looking to do, and if for some reason it’s not something that is in our world necessarily. Again, from an internal and external standpoint. We typically have somebody who I can contact.
Paul Sian: Discussing interest rates from general perspective, everybody’s situation is different and unique. But in terms of paying more, having a lower LTV, 60% LTV rather than 80%. People get themselves a better interest rate or is it generally, can we same and more just depending on credit and history.
Angie Hoffman: So, from an interest rate standpoint, the commercial side is a little bit different. Then maybe the mortgage or lines of credit side, then you then you generally see. Ours is based off of what banks cost the funds are, and then there is a spread that is on top of that. That’s where you get the percent from. Right now, cost of funds are pretty minimal. So, interest rates are extremely competitive. But from that perspective, it doesn’t necessarily factor in the actual loan it saw or the guarantor itself or the property itself.
Paul Sian: So, there’s some risk-based consideration towards interest rates. I guess a little higher risk project is that something you would price a little higher in the interest rate or generally that it’s not considered as much?
Angie Hoffman: No. That’s not considered as much, generally.
Paul Sian: Okay. Great. That’s all the questions I have for you today Angie. Did you have any final thoughts to share with the group?
Angie Hoffman: Sure. One thing I would say is if anybody has any questions about property specific, cash flow, if this property may fit into their portfolio or something that we would look to land up to 80%.I’m happy to partner with anybody on that side as well, and be resource for them. On top of that, I did want to mention that obviously US Bank is across the country. That gives us the ability even, if I’m your contact in Cincinnati to lend out-of-state borrowers.
I’ve worked with quite a few clients obviously from California that are buying in Cincinnati as well Chicago. So, those are people that I’ve worked with quite frequently as well.
Paul Sian: That is perfect. I’ve got a number of out of state clients to. That is one of the biggest challenges that I’ve faced with some local lenders is that they don’t lend to out of state. That’s a great ability to have.
Angie Hoffman: So, the key with in that too is just as I want to mention too. I mean, anytime that scenario comes up. We are happy to discuss it. One of the biggest factors with out-of-state lenders is that we do look for them to be within US bank footprint. So, we are very much on the west coast and Portland, all of those areas. If they’re somewhere you’re not familiar, if we’re within that area, please reach out. Let me know, and I’m happy to take a look.
Paul Sian: Great. Thank you again. I will leave your contact information on my blog post once it gets published live. Thanks again for being on the podcast.
Angie Hoffman: Thanks for having me. 

Source: cincinkyrealestate.com

Chase Credit Journey: Check Your Credit Score For Free

Chase Credit Journey is one of the many credit monitoring services that gives you a credit score for free. Launched by Chase, Credit Journey also monitors your score and gives you advice on to improve it.

One of the best ways to get approved for a loan or a credit card is to have a good credit score. Think of this 3-digit number as a representation of your credit worthiness and credibility.

In fact, lenders use your credit score to see how risky it is for them to let you borrow.  The higher your score, the better.

So,  it is very important to use a free tool like Chase Credit Journey, to know your credit score before applying for a loan, a credit card, or an apartment.

Doing so will give you an idea whether or not you will be approved or denied.

One way to get a credit score for free and monitor it is through Chase Credit Journey. If your credit score is excellent, then you are all good.

All you have to do is maintaining it. If it’s bad, then you can take steps to raise your credit score.

In this article, we will address what Chase Credit Journey is, why you should use it, and some of its limitations.

What is Chase Credit Journey?

Chase Credit Journey is a free online service offered by Chase that gives consumers a credit score and credit report for free. You don’t have to be a Chase customer to use the service.

You’ll need to register by entering personal information, including your credit cards information, existing loans, etc.

Checking your credit on Chase Credit Journey does not hurt your credit score, because it counts as a soft credit inquiry. Soft inquiries, as opposed to hard inquiries, leave your credit score untouched.

In addition to getting a credit score from Chase Credit Journey, you can get one from the following credit monitoring services all for free:

  • Credit Karma
  • Credit Sesame
  • Credit.com
  • Lendingtree
  • NerdWallet
  • WalletHub
  • Creditcards.com

How Does Credit Journey Work?

Chase Credit Journey uses Experian, one of the three credit bureaus, to give you a credit score and report.

Chase Credit Journey uses the VantageScore 3.0 model, which is a collaboration from the three credit bureaus.

Your score is updated weekly but you can access it as much as you can and anytime you want.

Get Matched With 3 Fiduciary Financial Advisors
Answer a quick question to start your matching process with advisors in your area.
When would you like to retire?
Select an answer

Also, you can sign up for credit alerts through Credit Journey which can notify you if your score changes or if something suspicious is happening on your credit file.

If there are errors, Chase Credit Journey will guide you on how to file a dispute with the credit bureaus. You can’t get your FICO score via Chase Credit Journey.

In addition to getting a free credit score, you also get an analysis of your score and advice on how to raise it and other free resources. This way you can take steps to improve your credit score. 

If you’re ready to give Chase Credit Journey a shot, go online to the homepage to see how Credit Journey works.

You can also access the Chase Credit Journey through the Chase mobile app as well.  If you’re not convinced yet, keep reading.

Chase Credit Journey helps you understand the 6 factors to come up with your VantageScore credit score. They are:

1) Payment history (or late payments): payment history accounts for 35% of your total credit score. In fact, it is the most important factor in your total credit score. Late or missed payments can negatively affect your credit score.

2) Credit utilization ratio (or credit usage): Credit utilization is how much of your credit limit you’re using versus your balance. Credit card utilization accounts for 30% of your total credit score. So keeping it low is ideal. Keeping your credit card balance under 30% is the way to go. For example, let’s suppose your credit card has a credit limit of $5000. You have used $2500 of that credit. Then your credit utilization is 50%. To keep it below 30%, you should only use $1500 of that credit.

3) Credit age: The third most important factor of your total credit score is your credit age. That means how long you have had credit. Lenders like to see a longer credit age. In your credit report, you’ll be able to see your average credit age.

4) Hard Inquiry: The higher your credit inquiries, the lower your credit score can become. Anytime you apply for a loan or a credit card or when a landlord checks your credit, it can cause a small dip in your credit score. So multiple credit inquiries can hurt your credit score rather than improving it.

5) Total Balances: total balances refer to the amount owed over all of your credits, including your mortgage, student loans, credit cards, personal loans, etc.

6) Available credit: This factor represents the current amount of unused credit you have over your accounts.

Chase Credit Journey best feature: the score simulator

In addition to providing you a free credit score and report, a credit alert, and credit resources, Chase Credit Journey has an invaluable feature called the score simulator.

The score simulator gives you an estimate of how certain changes in your credit behavior can affect your credit score. Those changes include missing a payment, card balance transfer, and closing an old account, etc.

The importance of checking your score via a free credit service like Chase Credit Journey

Your credit score is perhaps the first thing lenders look at to decide whether to approve you for a loan or credit card. The better your score, the higher is your chance of getting that loan.

On the other hand, if you have a bad credit score, getting a loan or a credit card not only can prove very difficult, but applying for it puts a hard inquiry that can actually lower your already bad credit score.

So knowing your score before you actually apply will give you an idea whether lenders will approve you. It will also allows you to apply for credit with confidence. That’s why is important to use a free credit service.

Additionally, checking your credit score and credit report on a regular basis will help you identify what is on your credit report. Outstanding debts and a history of late payments can directly impact your credit score.

You can get your credit report for free by logging on AnnualCreditReport.com from each of the three credit bureaus. But these credit reports do not give you a credit score. Moreover, you get these reports only once every year.

While there are several options, Chase Credit Journey is just another option. It’s never a bad idea to have several options to choose from.

In other words, it’s better to get your score from more than one source. However, there are some limitations to using Chase Credit Journey.

Chase Credit Journey Limitations

One of the limitations Chase Credit Journey has is that it only uses one of the three major credit bureaus, which is Experian. When you get your score from only one credit bureau, you might not see the whole picture.

So, your credit score might not be entirely accurate.

For example, let’s say you transfer a credit card balance to a new credit card. If Transunion and Equifax are the only credit bureaus that recorded the card was closed during the transfer, you credit score might drop, because Experian recorded you opened a new card.

Another disadvantage of Chase Credit Journey is that the VantageScore’s scoring model is not the industry standard. Most companies use FICO scores to decide whether to approve or decline you for a loan or credit.

And while VantageScore and FICO scores range from 300 to 850, the two models use different criteria in coming up with your credit score. In other words, each model weighs the factors differently in calculating your credit score.

So your Chase Credit Journey credit score might be different than a FICO score. So, if you are ready to apply for a loan, find out which actual credit score your lender will use to improve your chance of approval.

The Bottom Line

Chase Credit Journey provides free credit scores and reports from Experian. The scores are updated weekly. The free credit score is based on the VantageScore 3.0 model.

However, while VantageScore’s system is accurate, it is not what most companies use. But one important thing about Chase Credit Journey is that it one other free tool that allows you stay proactive and monitor your credit on a regular basis. In turn, it allows you to know your score before applying for credit.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

The post Chase Credit Journey: Check Your Credit Score For Free appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

Can Debt Collectors Call on Holidays?

A woman sits on a couch with her laptop in her lap while talking on her cell phone.

When you’re in debt, getting calls from debt collectors is common. But can debt collectors call on holidays? Although there are no regulations that specifically make calling on holidays illegal, there are regulations that prohibit debt collectors from contacting consumers at unusual or known inconvenient times. 

Find out more about the answer to this common question, and learn what you can do to take care of your debt for good. 

Can Debt Collectors Call on Holidays?

You probably don’t want a debt collector to call when you’re at home, spending a holiday with friends and family. The good news is there are protections in place to eliminate abusive and unfair debt collection practices.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) notes that a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer “at any unusual time or place or a time or place known or which should be known to be inconvenient to the consumer.” With this regulation in mind, early mornings and late nights are not acceptable times of day for debt collectors to call.

Can creditors call on holidays? Because many holidays are public knowledge, you can generally expect that debt collectors won’t call at these times. With that being said, it’s important to note that not all localities, states or countries acknowledge the same holidays. 

Can bill collectors call on holidays? Technically, yes. But you can ask them to stop. 

Can a Debt Collector Contact You at Any Time?

No, they cannot. They can contact you, but they need to follow the regulations outlined in the FDCPA. If bill collectors are calling at unreasonable times of the day or continually call you, it may be considered harassment. It’s recommended that you document every date and time that a creditor calls so you have a record to use in case you seek legal counsel to deal with creditor harassment.

Can You Tell a Debt Collector to Stop Calling?

Yes, you can. If you don’t want a debt collector to call on holidays or you’re getting calls at unreasonable hours, you can send a letter requesting that they stop. Creditors must cease contacting you by phone once you make the request, but that doesn’t mean you don’t still owe the debt. They can continue to take other actions to collect it.

What Happens if You Ignore Debt Collectors?

You might be thinking of ignoring calls from debt collectors but worry about the consequences. When you ignore these calls, in some cases, nothing will happen. The creditor might stop reaching out.

But that’s not always the case. You might face negative consequences for ignoring these calls. 

If the debt is yours and you continue to ignore debt collections, you might face wage garnishment or a lawsuit. Your credit score and credit report can also take a hit. Though you shouldn’t have to take calls at unreasonable times or on holidays, if you owe a debt, you may want to work with the collection company and consider how you can pay it to avoid other negative consequences. 

How Can I Keep Debt Collectors From Interfering With Holidays?

If you’re getting calls from bill collectors and are worried about the possibility of them calling on holidays, you might be wondering what steps you can take. Here are some suggestions. 

Ask Them to Stop 

Consumers have rights, which are outlined by the FDCPA. One of them is that a debt collector must stop contacting you after you send a letter requesting them to do so. You’ll still be responsible for any debt you owe, but they must follow your request and stop reaching out. 

This needs to be done in writing, not by phone. Consider keeping a copy of the letter that you send for your records. You may also want to send the letter by certified mail so you know when the debt collector received it. 

Work Out a Payment Plan

If you want to lessen your financial stress and don’t want the collector to take further action, consider negotiating a repayment plan with your creditor. If you do this, make sure everything is outlined in writing. 

If the debt hasn’t gone to collections yet, the creditor may be willing to work with you. In some cases, creditors might waive fees, lower the total amount due or lower the interest rate if it means they can collect some of the debt from you. 

Consult an Attorney 

If a debt collector continues to call after you requested they stop or if you don’t owe the debt, consider contacting an attorney. One can advise you of your rights and any next steps you might want to take. 

Help Is Available 

No one wants to be harassed by creditors, and they shouldn’t be. Remember that regulations that are in place to protect consumers like you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to collectors to ask them to stop calling if it’s interfering with your happiness or day-to-day affairs. 

If you have unpaid debt and want to improve your credit situation, ExtraCredit can give you the tools to help you make positive changes. The service lets you track your credit score. It also offers a discount on credit repair services from one of the leaders in credit repair if that’s something you decide to pursue.

Sign up for ExtraCredit today!

The post Can Debt Collectors Call on Holidays? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Here’s What You Need To Know About Becoming A Cosigner

Are you thinking about becoming a cosigner for someone? Have you ever been asked to cosign on a loan before? 

becoming a cosignerMany people have been asked to cosign loans for family members and even friends. However, many people do not understand the full cosigner meaning, and becoming a cosigner is never something you should do unless you completely understand what it means.

If someone asks you to cosign a loan for them, you might be hesitant to say yes at first. You also might not want to offend the person or make them mad.

Whatever you may be thinking, I want you to fully understand what you are getting yourself into.

Becoming a cosigner can actually turn into a big financial mistake if you do it without really thinking it through.

Okay, now some of you may think that I’m a mean person for saying that, but I’ve heard many stories from people who’ve had their credit wrecked, have been stuck paying a loan for someone else, and even had their relationships ruined.

All of that from cosigning a loan.

Perhaps you have cosigned before and it went fine, or you know a friend of a friend who has done it. Perhaps you think that things won’t go bad for you or that you are hurting the person by not cosigning for them.

But, I want you to be careful before becoming a cosigner. I’m saying this to help you!

No matter how well you think you know someone, mixing money and relationships can change things. What you may have thought was a wonderful friendship or family relationship can turn into a nightmare.

It may seem very innocent – you’re just helping a good friend or relative get a loan. 

Really, if it was that simple, I’d tell everyone to do it. But, becoming a cosigner is a major financial decision that you need to seriously think about before agreeing to.

Before you cosign a mortgage or another type of loan for someone, it is always wise to be 100% positive of what cosigning a loan actually means and how it may affect your relationship with the person getting the loan.

Surprisingly, many people don’t know exactly what happens when they agree to being a cosigner. Many people just think that all you’re doing is helping a person get approved, but that’s not just it.

Sorry to break it to you, but the bank, landlord, etc., does not care if the applicant has a friend with a good credit history. 

There’s more that comes with being a cosigner.

As the cosigner, what’s actually happening is that you are taking on the full responsibility of the debt if the original applicant is unable to pay.

And, that happens more often than you might think.

Related content:

  • Check in on your finances with regular money talks
  • Are Wedding Loans A Crazy Idea? 10 Things To Think About For Your Big Day
  • The Danger Of Normalizing Your Debt – Stop Living Like Everyone Else
  • Wondering Why You Need Life Insurance? Here Are 4 Reasons Why
  • Parents Paying For College – Is This A Good Idea?

According to a survey I found on CreditCards.com, 38% of cosigners had to pay some or all of a loan that they cosigned for because the primary borrower failed to pay. This is a HUGE percentage of cosigners, so please keep that in mind.

Other statistics I found about becoming a cosigner include:

  • 28% of cosigners saw a drop in their credit score because the person that they cosigned on a loan for paid their loan late or skipped a payment.
  • 26% of cosigners said that cosigning damaged the relationship with the person that they cosigned a loan for.
  • 90% of private student loan borrowers who applied for cosigner release were rejected. So, if you think that you are going to cosign for a loan and then remove yourself from the loan later, that is much more difficult than you probably think. Stat from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)

So, who is finding cosigners for loans?

According to the survey mentioned above, 45% of cosigners are cosigning for their child or stepchild. And 21% of cosigners are cosigning for a friend.

The rest is a mixture of cosigning for spouses/partners and parents.

Today, I am going to answer common questions about becoming a cosigner for a loan.

What to know about becoming a cosigner.

 

What is a cosigner?

If you’ve been asked to become a cosigner on a loan, you may not know what that fully entails.

A cosigner is someone who agrees to be on a loan with another person so that they are more likely to be approved. 

A cosigner may be needed for different things such as a:

  • Car loan
  • Student loan
  • Mortgage
  • Apartment or other type of rental home

And more.

Here’s an example of when someone may want a cosigner: if your child wants to buy a car but doesn’t have a long enough credit history to be approved for the car loan. Your child may ask you to cosign their loan so the lender takes your credit score and financial information into account. This improves your child’s chances of being approved.

Other reasons you might be asked to be a cosigner is if the borrower doesn’t have a high enough credit score or doesn’t make enough money to pay the loan (that is a red flag right there).

However, as a cosigner, you are agreeing to pay off the debt if the original borrower is unable to pay it in the future. So, even if the original borrower doesn’t pay a penny, the cosigner would have to make all of the payments or risk being sued, having credit report damage, and more.

In that example I gave, the parent would be responsible for the car loan if their child could no longer make their payments. Not only that, if the child for some reason refused to make payments (I’ve heard of situations like this), the parent would be responsible.

Remember, like I stated above, 38% of cosigners had to pay some or all of a loan that they cosigned for because the primary borrower failed to pay. 

And in some circumstances, even if the borrower files bankruptcy, while their other loans might be discharged, the cosigner may still be responsible for paying the cosigned loan.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About How To Build Your Credit Score

 

How does a co signer work?

Here’s what happens when you agree to become a cosigner for a friend or family member. 

You will start by giving your personal information to the bank or lender. This is information like bank statements, tax returns, paycheck stubs, and so on.

You will also have to complete the loan application, and once you agree with all of the loan terms, then you sign it.

But, becoming a cosigner doesn’t mean that you will own or have partial ownership of the vehicle, house, or whatever else you are cosigning for. It does mean that you are taking full financial responsibility and promising to pay the loan yourself if the borrower does not pay.

Becoming a cosigner is nothing to take lightly.

 

Does cosigning hurt your credit? Is it bad to be a cosigner?

Becoming a cosigner can hurt your credit score and prevent you from future loans in some circumstances.

Here’s why:

  • If the person doesn’t pay the monthly payments on time, then you may be rejected for a loan in the future. Missed payments can damage your credit score and your credit report.
  • As a cosigner, you are increasing your debt-to-income ratio. So, even if your friend/family member pays every single bill on time, a lender will still see this as YOUR debt. Unfortunately, this may prevent them from approving your loan because they will think you have too much debt on your plate.

If you might be buying something soon that will need financing (house, car, etc.), you should think long and hard before you decide to be a cosigner on someone else’s loan.

 

Can cosigning a loan hurt a relationship?

Unfortunately, many cosigning relationships go sour. 

I have heard many stories where someone cosigned a loan for someone else and then didn’t talk to them for years or even decades because of a falling out of some sort.

I have always been a firm believer that money and relationships do not mix well. 

If you are going to cosign or lend money to someone, then you should consider it a gift because there is a chance that you will never see that money again.

 

Can you remove yourself from a loan as a cosigner?

Remember the statistic above – 90% of private student loan borrowers who applied for cosigner release were rejected. 

There’s not much you can do to remove yourself from a loan that you cosigned on. If the person isn’t making payments, you are stuck with it for the most part.

The loan would have to be refinanced to take yourself off the loan, and there are many horror stories out there where the original borrower refused to refinance because then they wouldn’t be able to force the cosigner to continue to pay the monthly bill.

Plus, there are instances in which refinancing is impossible because of the value decreasing, the economy changing, a person’s financial situation getting worse, and so on. 

So, while the original borrower may be okay with getting you off of the loan and refinancing, it’s still up to the lender whether or not they will refinance the loan.

 

How do I protect myself as a cosigner?

There is no guarantee that becoming a cosigner is going to work out, but if you’re determined to do it, you will want to know both of these two things for sure:

  1. That you can trust the person you are cosigning for.
  2. That YOU can make the payment.

Many people who are thinking about becoming a cosigner may not think about that last one, but it is just as important as the first one. Being stuck with the loan payment would be awful, but not being able to make the payment could cause you to go into serious debt and destroy your credit.

You may be certain you won’t be stuck making the payment, but you don’t want to be stuck in a bad financial situation.

 

Should I cosign a loan?

Even though those cosigning horror stories are real cautionary tales, most people don’t believe they would ever happen to them. 

However, don’t you think most (if not all) cosigners felt the same way in the beginning?

It’s up to each person to decide if they will cosign, and you should never feel forced to do it. However, I want you to remember that if you cosign, then you should make sure that you can afford to make the monthly payment.

You never know, one day those payments are being made and everything is going well. The original borrower may be a great person, but then they may lose their job, have an unexpected expense come up, or something else that prevents them from paying their bills.

Then, what if something happens to you and you can’t make those payments either? Unfortunately, being unprepared and not really knowing what you are getting into can turn into a disastrous situation.

Cosigning a loan may not always be bad. However, I believe it’s better to realize what the consequences are before going into something that can negatively impact your life. It’s always better to be prepared!

 

Is it a bad idea to cosign for someone?

Cosigning a loan doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.

However, I want you to remember that there is a chance that you will be on the hook for the loan.

So, if you cosign, whether that be for a car, mortgage, apartment, student loan, or something else, you should make sure that you can afford the payment as well. Because, there is a chance that you may have to pay it one day.

Everyone has a different situation, and ultimately, you have to do what’s right for you. 

What do you think of becoming a cosigner for a mortgage or other type of loan? Would you ever do it?

The post Here’s What You Need To Know About Becoming A Cosigner appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

What to Do With a Childhood Savings Bond

savings bond

A savings bond used to be a common gift, though not always a welcome one. Well-meaning relatives gifted savings bonds for your birthday or the holidays. The goal was often to help you pay for college in the future. But for us kids, all we knew was it wasn’t the Pound Puppy or Care Bear we really wanted!

Nowadays 529 plans and other higher-interest earning options have replaced the savings bond. But that doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared. In fact, they may be sitting at the back of your closet right now. But you are cleaning out your closet or your safe deposit box, and now this long-forgotten and unexpected savings bond can help you clean up your finances.

It’s Still Good

That savings bond is still worth something. That’s the good news. Savings bonds gain value over time by earning interest and keep earning interest for 30 years. They pay interest every six months until they mature. So depending on how long it’s been since you cleaned your closet, you may still be making money as you read this. Now there are some steps you have to take to get money in return.

What Type of Savings Bond

There are several kinds of savings bonds. So you much determine which kind you have in your possession. Savings bonds are a contract between you and the federal government. If it’s an old bond from your childhood it is probably either an EE or an I bond. It will be clearly specified in the title which one you have.

EE bonds are similar to savings accounts. Paper bonds used to be sold at half the face value (you paid $50 for a $100 bond) and the interest continued to increase even after the face value is reached, so your $100 savings bond is probably worth more than $100 now. Paper EE bonds are no longer available and digital EE bonds are purchased at face value.

I bonds are similar to EE bonds. The chief difference is that the interest earned on an I bond is determined by a combination of a fixed rate and an inflation rate.  So there is some cost-of-living protection for the bondholder.

Get It Now
Privacy Policy

Find Out What It’s Worth

Before you decide to cash in the savings bond, you’ll probably want to know what it’s worth. The interest rates and even the way interest rates are determined have changed over the years so it matters when you got yours. The best way to determine the current value of your savings bond is to use the Treasury Direct website. Whether you want to cash in the bond or continue to let it mature is then up to you.

There are some penalties for cashing in the savings bond early. If you redeem the bond early, you will lose three months’ worth of interest during the first five years. There are no penalties after five years. The earliest you can cash in the bond is after one year. If the bond is more than 30 years old, it has stopped earning interest and you should cash it in.

While you will have to pay federal taxes on your bonds, you do not have to pay state or local income taxes. There are some exemptions – most notably when bonds issued after 1989 are cashed in to pay qualified higher education expenses at an eligible institution.

Visit the Bank

Most banks should be able to help you cash your paper bonds. If they aren’t, they should be able to direct you to a financial institution that can. You will have to prove your identity to cash in your old bonds. You will have to fill out an tax form either when you redeem the bonds or at the end of the year. Your tax preparer should be able to help you with this part of the process.

More Money-Saving Reads:

  • What’s a Good Credit Score?
  • How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report
  • What’s a Bad Credit Score?
  • How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life

Image: iStock

The post What to Do With a Childhood Savings Bond appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Guide to Small Business Startup Loans

Man working on a puzzle

It takes money to make money and virtually any small business will require some startup capital to get up and running. While the personal savings of the founders is likely the most common source of startup funding, many startups also employ loans to provide seed capital. New enterprises with no established credit cannot get loans as easily from many sources, but startup loans are available for entrepreneurs who know where to look. Here are some of those places to look, plus ways to supplement loans. For help with loans and any other financial questions you have, consider working with a financial advisor.

Startup Loans: Preparing to Borrow

Before starting to look for a startup loan, the primary question for the entrepreneur is how much he or she needs to borrow. The size of the loan is a key factor in determining where funding is likely to be available. Some sources will only fund very small loans, for example, while others will only deal with borrowers seeking sizable amounts.

The founder’s personal credit history is another important element. Because the business has no previous history of operating, paying bills or borrowing money and paying it back, the likelihood of any loan is likely to hinge on the founder’s credit score. The founder is also likely to have to personally guarantee the loan, so the amount and size of personal financial resources is another factor.

Business documents that may be needed to apply include a business plan, financial projections and a description of how funds will be used.

Startup Loan Types

There are a number of ways to obtain startup loans. Here are several of them.

Personal loan – A personal loan is another way to get seed money. Using a personal loan to fund a startup could be a good idea for business owners who have good credit and don’t require a lot of money to bootstrap their operation. However, personal loans tend to carry a higher interest rate than business loans and the amount banks are willing to lend may not be enough.

Loans from friends and family – This can work for an entrepreneur who has access to well-heeled relatives and comrades. Friends and family are not likely to be as demanding as other sources of loans when it comes to credit scores. However, if a startup is unable to repay a loan from a friend or relative, the result can be a damaged relationship as well as a failed business.

Venture capitalists – While these people typically take equity positions in startups their investments are often structured as loans. Venture capitalists can provide more money than friends and family. However, they often take an active hand in managing their investments so founders may need to be ready to surrender considerable control.

SBA loan applicationGovernment-backed startup loans – These are available through programs administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Small Business Administration (SBA) as well as, to a lesser degree, the Interior, Agriculture and Treasury departments. Borrowers apply for these through affiliated private financial institutions, including banks. LenderMatch is a tool startup businesses use to find these affiliated private financial institutions. Government-guaranteed loans charge lower interest rates and are easier to qualify for than non-guaranteed bank loans.

Bank loans – These are the most popular form of business funding, and they offer attractive interest rates and bankers don’t try to take control as venture investors might. However, banks are reluctant to lend to new businesses without a track record. Using a bank to finance a startup generally means taking out a personal loan, which means the owner will need a good personal credit score and be ready to put up collateral to secure approval.

Credit cards – Using credit cards to fund a new business is easy, quick and requires little paperwork. However, interest rates and penalties are high and the amount of money that can be raised is limited.

Self-funding – Rather than simply putting money into the business that he or she owns, the founder can structure the cash infusion as a loan that the business will pay back. One potential benefit of this is that interest paid to the owner for the loan can be deducted from future profits, reducing the business’s tax burden.

Alternatives to Startup Loans

Crowdfunding – This lets entrepreneurs use social media to reach large numbers of private individuals, borrowing small amounts from each to reach the critical mass required to get a new business up and running. As with friends and family, credit history isn’t likely to be a big concern. However, crowdfunding works best with businesses that have a new product that requires funding to complete design and begin production.

Nonprofits and community organizations – These groups engage in microfinancing. Getting a grant from one of these groups an option for a startup that requires a small amount, from a few hundred to a few tens of thousands of dollars. If you need more, one of the other channels is likely to be a better bet.

The Bottom Line

Green plant growing out of a jar of coinsStartup businesses seeking financing have a number of options for getting a loan. While it is often difficult for a brand-new company to get a conventional business bank loan, friends and family, venture investors, government-backed loan programs, crowdfunding, microloans and credit cards may provide solutions. The size of the loan amount and the personal credit history and financial assets of the founder are likely to be important in determining which financing channel is most appropriate.

Tips on Funding a Startup

  • If you are searching for a way to fund a business startup, consider working with an experienced financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • One way to minimize the challenge of getting startup funding is to take a “lean startup” approach. That approach could be especially helpful to baby boomers, who are “aging out” of their careers and living longer than earlier generations but still need (or want) an income. Learn how many of them are turning their retirement into business opportunities.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Andrii Yalanskyi, ©iStock.com/teekid, ©iStock.com/Thithawat_s

The post Guide to Small Business Startup Loans appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

What Is a Stafford Loan and How Do You Qualify?

How do you qualify for a stafford loan?

If you’re in search of financial help for higher education, you may have explored different scholarships and grants to pay the way. Gifted money is a great way to pay for school without having to worry about paying it back after graduation. However, if you don’t have all your expenses covered through scholarships and grants, you might need to consider student loans to fill in the gaps. If you’re exploring federal aid, Stafford loans might be an option. Here’s what they are, how much they cost and how to know if you qualify.

What Is a Stafford Loan?

A Stafford loan is a federal student loan provided by the government to help pay for your education while you’re attending a university, community college, trade or technical school. 

Stafford loans are now referred to as direct subsidized loans or direct unsubsidized loans. The difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans is who pays for the accrued interest of the loan while you’re in school and how much you may be able to borrow.

A subsidized loan is only available to undergraduate students in financial need. The U.S. Department of Education pays the interest that adds up on your behalf while you’re in school at least half-time, as well as during the six-month grace period after graduation and during deferment or forbearance periods. The limit on how much you can borrow is $3,500 for the first year, $4,500 for the second and $5,500 for the third and fourth years. The aggregate loan amount is capped at $23,000, which is lower than unsubsidized loans.

An unsubsidized loan is available for both graduate and undergraduate students and isn’t based on financial need. The student is responsible for the interest that builds up while in school. Payments could be more costly than those for a subsidized loan because of that accrued interest.

If a subsidized loan doesn’t cover all your college costs, you can take out an unsubsidized loan, too. The aggregate loan amount for unsubsidized loans is capped at $31,000 for undergraduate students considered dependents and whose parents don’t qualify for direct PLUS loans. Undergraduate independent students may be allowed to borrow up to $57,500, while graduate students may be allowed to borrow up to $138,500.

These types loans have fixed interest rates determined by the government, come with a fee and allow the student to borrow for up to 150% of the length of the program they’re enrolled in. For example, if you’re attending a four-year college, you would be able to borrow these loans for up to six years.

How to Qualify for a Stafford Loan How do you qualify for a stafford loan?

What you need to get a Stafford loan depends on your financial standing.

Students or parents of the student must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Next, you’ll receive an award letter that details if you qualify for a Stafford loan. Your financial need determines if you’ll get a direct subsidized loan. If you don’t qualify, then you may receive a direct unsubsidized loan.

If you do qualify for one of these loans and you’re ready to accept the federal aid, you’ll need to submit a Mastery Promissory Note (MPN). This is a legal document which states that you promise to pay back your loans in full, including any fees and accrued interest, to the U.S. Department of Education. The school of your choice will determine how much money you’re eligible to receive and the funds go straight to your school – not to you. Since you can receive money based on your need or school enrollment – not your credit score – only your application is required.

Stafford Loan Alternatives

If you’ve exhausted all of your financial aid options, it might be time to explore other means to pay for school.

Direct PLUS Loans

Direct Plus loans are federal loans that are available to graduate or professional students, or parents of undergraduate students. They require a credit check and you might be required to make payments while you or your child is in school. However, you could request deferment and make payments after you or your child graduates or drops below half-time.

Private Student Loans

If you can’t get any further federal aid, you may consider private student loans. Instead of coming from the U.S. Department of Education, these types of loans are issued from private issuers, such as banks, credit unions or online lenders.

If you’re not sure where else to look, contact your school’s financial aid office. It may have scholarships, grants or other small loans available that you might qualify for.

The Bottom Line

How do you qualify for a stafford loan?

College is expensive and not everyone can afford to pay for it out of pocket. Tapping into financial resources, including Stafford loans like subsidized and unsubsidized loans, as well as direct Plus loans and private student loans, may help. Don’t be afraid to contact your school’s financial aid office for even more resources to pay for school.

Tips for Student Loan Borrowers

  • If you’re not sure of the best strategy for securing student loans, consider working with a financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Interest rates for private student loans are often higher than those for federal loans. If you or your child is struggling to pay private student loans, consider student loan refinance rates available now.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/William_Potter, ©iStock.com/utah778, ©iStock.com/BrianAJackson

The post What Is a Stafford Loan and How Do You Qualify? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com