Tag Archives: credit issues

Why 4 websites give you 4 different credit scores — and none is the number most lenders actually see

These three consumers looked up their credit score on four different websites and each got four different results. (Jonathan Stainton/CBC)

The most popular credit score that lenders use in Canada can’t be accessed directly by consumers

Whether through ads or our own experiences dealing with banks and other lenders, Canadians are frequently reminded of the power of a single number, a credit score, in determining their financial options.

That slightly mysterious number can determine whether you’re able to secure a loan and how much extra it will cost to pay it back.

It can be the difference between having a credit card with a manageable interest rate or one that keeps you drowning in debt.

Not surprisingly, many Canadians want to know their score, and there are several web-based services that offer to provide it.

But a Marketplace investigation has found that the same consumer is likely to get significantly different credit scores from different websites — and chances are none of those scores actually matches the one lenders consult when deciding your financial fate.

‘That’s so strange’

We had three Canadians check their credit scores using four different services: Credit Karma and Borrowell, which are both free; and Equifax and TransUnion, which charge about $20 a month for credit monitoring, a plan that includes access to your credit score.

One of the participants was Raman Agarwal, a 58-year-old small business owner from Ottawa, who says he pays his bills on time and has little debt.

Canadian company Borrowell’s site said he had a “below average” credit score of 637. On Credit Karma, his score of 762 was labelled “very good.”

As for the paid sites, Equifax provided a “good” score of 684, while TransUnion said his 686 score was “poor.”

Agarwal was surprised by the inconsistent results.

“That’s so strange, because the scoring should be based on the same principles,” he said. “I don’t know why there’s a confusion like that.”

The other two participants also each received four different scores from the four different services. The largest gap between two scores for the same participant was 125 points.

The results when three consumers checked their credit score using four different websites. (David Abrahams/ CBC)

 

The free websites, Borrowell and Credit Karma, purchase the scores they provide to consumers from Equifax and TransUnion, respectively, yet all four companies share a different score with a different proprietary name.

Credit scores are calculated based on many factors, including payment history; credit utilization, which is how much of a loan you owe versus how much you have available to you; money owing; how long you’ve been borrowing; and the types of credit you have. But these factors can be weighted differently depending on the credit bureau or lender, resulting in different scores.

So, which credit score is giving Agarwal the clearest picture of his credit standing?

Marketplace learned that none of the scores the four websites provide is necessarily the same as the one lenders are most likely to use when determining Agarwal’s creditworthiness.

We spoke with multiple lenders in the financial, automotive and mortgage sectors, who all said they would not accept any of the scores our participants received from the four websites.

“So, we don’t know what these scores represent,” said Vince Gaetano, principal broker at MonsterMortgage.ca. “They’re not necessarily reliable from my perspective.”

All consumer credit score platforms have small fine-print messages on their sites explaining that lenders might consult a different score from the one provided.

‘Soft’ vs. ‘hard’ credit check

The score that most Canadian lenders use is called a FICO score, previously known as the Beacon score. FICO, which is a U.S. company, sells its score to both Equifax and TransUnion. FICO says 90 per cent of Canadian lenders use it, including major banks.

But Canadian consumers cannot access their FICO score on their own.

To find out his FICO score, Agarwal had to agree to what’s known as a “hard” credit check. That’s where a business runs a credit check as though a customer is applying for a loan.

Lenders are contractually obligated not to share a copy of the report FICO provides with the customer. They can only discuss the information and provide insight.

A hard check comes with risk. Unlike the “soft” check Agarwal agreed to from the four websites, a hard check could negatively impact his credit score.

As Credit Karma’s website explains, “Multiple hard inquiries in a short period could lead lenders and credit card issuers to consider you a higher-risk customer, as it suggests you may be short on cash or getting ready to rack up a lot of debt.”

Mortgage broker Vince Gaetano offered to do a hard credit check for Agarwal, as if he was applying for a loan, so he could learn his FICO score.

Agarwal took him up on the offer and was stunned to learn his FICO score was 829 — nearly 200 points higher than the lowest score he received online.

Raman Agarwal of Ottawa was shocked to learn the disparity between his FICO score and the four other credit scores he received online. (CBC )

 

“Oh my god!” Agarwal said when he heard the news. “I am really happy, but totally surprised.”

Doug Hoyes, co-founder of Hoyes, Michalos and Associates Inc., one of the largest personal insolvency firms in Canada, was also surprised by the disparity between Agarwal’s FICO score and the other scores he’d received.

“How can you be poor somewhere and fantastic somewhere else?”

Marketplace asked all four credit score companies why Agarwal’s FICO score was so different from the ones provided on their sites.

No one could provide a detailed answer. Equifax and TransUnion did say their scores are used by lenders, but they wouldn’t name any, citing proprietary reasons.

Credit Karma declined to comment. However, on its customer service website, it says the credit score it provides to consumers is a “widely used scoring model by lenders.”

‘A complicated system’

The free services, Borrowell and Credit Karma, make money by arranging loan and credit card offers for customers who visit their sites. Borrowell told Marketplace the credit score it provides is used by the company itself to offer loans directly from Borrowell. The company could not confirm whether any of its lending partners also use the score.

“So there are many different types of credit scores in Canada … and they’re calculated very differently,” said Andrew Graham, CEO of Borrowell. “It’s a complicated system, and we’re the first to say that it’s frustrating for consumers. We’re trying to help add transparency to it and help consumers navigate it.”

From Agarwal’s perspective, the credit companies are simply using the scoring system as a marketing tool.

“There should be one score,” he said. “If they are running an algorithm, there should be one score, no matter what you do, how you do it, should not change that score.”

The FICO score is also the most popular score in the U.S. Unlike in Canada, Americans can access their score easily by purchasing it on FICO’s website, or through FICO’s Open Access Program, without any risk of it impacting their credit rating.

 

FICO told Marketplace it would like to bring the Open Access Program to Canada, but it’s up to Canadian lenders.

“We are open to working with any lender and their credit bureau partner of choice to enable FICO Score access to the lender’s customers,” FICO said in an email.

Hoyes, the insolvency expert, suggests instead of focusing on your credit score, a better approach to monitoring your financial status would be to shift attention to your credit report and ensuring its accuracy.

All four websites Marketplace looked at provide credit reports to consumers.

A credit report is the file that describes your financial situation. It lists bank accounts, credit cards, inquiries from lenders who have requested your report, bankruptcies, student loans, mortgages, whether you pay your credit card bill on time, and other debt.

Although the mathematical formulas used to calculate different credit scores are unknown, credit score companies say these are some of the factors that could influence your number. (David Abrahams/CBC)

 

Hoyes said consumers are trying too hard to have the perfect credit score. The fact is, some activities that could boost a credit score, such as getting a new credit card or taking on a loan, aren’t necessarily the best financial decisions.

“My advice is to focus on what is better for your financial health, not what is best for the lender’s financial health.”

He said paying off debt and increasing savings is a better idea than focusing solely on the factors that can increase your credit score.

You focusing on this one metric, that isn’t the same thing the lender is using anyways, is really pointless, and I think it leads to bad decisions.– Doug Hoyes, Hoyes, Michalos and Associates Inc.

He points to billionaire investor Warren Buffett, the third richest person in the world, as an example.

“Would you rather lend to Warren Buffett, who’s got … cash in the bank but has a lousy credit score because he’s never borrowed and hasn’t built up any history, or some guy who has five credit cards and he constantly … moves the balance from one to the other and keeps his utilization under 20 per cent?”

The real estate, mortgage and auto lenders Marketplace spoke with said they look at more than just your credit score before making a lending decision. They also consider things like your income, your history with their company, the size of a downpayment, and other factors not reflected in your score.

For Hoyes, those factors are much more important than a three-digit number.

“You focusing on this one metric, that isn’t the same thing the lender is using anyways, is really pointless, and I think it leads to bad decisions.”

 

The good news, according to Borrowell CEO Andrew Graham, is that if you’re doing things like paying your bills on time and not maxing out your credit cards, you will see improvement in whatever credit score you track.

“I think that’s the power here.”

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Keeping score

Keeping scoreBrokers must be willing to take on the role of educator when preparing the next generation of homebuyers to apply for a mortgage. A recent survey by Refresh Financial found that only 41% of Canadians know their credit score, and 20% are too scared to even find out their score.

Millennials (those born between the early ’80s and mid-’90s) and generation z (those born from the early ’90s to mid-2000s) are particularly anxious about their credit history and uninformed about how to build good credit. Thirty-nine per cent of millennial and gen z respondents said they were more stressed about their credit score than they were a year ago, and 25% admitted they’re not sure what makes up their credit score. In addition, a third of 18- to 34-year-olds said they believe their credit score is holding them back from making important life choices such as purchasing a home.

Click all images to enlarge.

Source: MortgageBrokerNews.ca –  08 Aug 2019

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Acceptable debt versus bad debt

Not all consumer debt is bad but it’s wise to be cautious: expert

Increasing the amount of consumer debt isn’t necessarily bad as long as it’s affordable, according to Matt Fabian, director, research and industry analysis, at credit research company TransUnion.

TransUnion studies Canadian debt and produces a report every quarter. Their latest report is for the second quarter, ending June 30. In an interview, Fabian said the study is providing an overview of debt in relation to how fast income rates are rising and household net worth is increasing.

“Our study this quarter suggests that Canadians are still increasing their debt, up 3.9 per cent in the second quarter, compared to the same quarter a year ago,” he said.

“A couple of things that we note are, although debt continued to go up, the rate with which it increased has started to slow for the past couple of quarters, when you compare it annually,” said Fabian.

“It might be too early to say we’re at … an inflection  point but the combination of interest rates increasing and some economic uncertainty in different regions of Canada are giving people pause and maybe they may not be accumulating as much debt as they were, at the rate they were,” he said.

There is some good news coming from the Atlantic region, Fabian said of the quarterly study.

Although the economy can be volatile in the Atlantic region, he said, TransUnion sees provinces like Nova Scotia performing much better than the national average.

The average non-mortgage consumer debt in Nova Scotia is about $28,400 and only went up about 1.24 per cent on a year-over-year basis, said Fabian. New Brunswick is similar, even slightly less, at $27,300 and it went up about 2.37 per cent. Prince Edward Island had average non-mortgage consumer debt of $28,426, which is up 2.16 per cent in the second quarter, compared to the same quarter in 2017.

Newfoundland and Labrador came in under the national average in the second quarter as well, he said, with average non-mortgage consumer debt landing at $30,169, up 2.16 per cent when compared to the second quarter of 2017.

Generally, the Atlantic provinces are well below the national average non-mortgage debt, which increased by 3.87 per cent in the second quarter, said Fabian.  From a delinquency perspective, however, the region scored “a little bit higher” than the second quarter national average of 5.33 per cent.

New Brunswick’s consumer delinquency rates on non-mortgage debt in the second quarter – 90 days past due – was 8.37 per cent, the highest in the region.

According to TransUnion, Newfoundland and Labrador’s consumer delinquency rate was 6.88 per cent, Nova Scotia’s delinquencies were 6.87 per cent and P.E.I. had a consumer delinquency rate in the second quarter of 5.74 per cent.

“Newfoundland (delinquency rate) trended up .32 per cent while Nova Scotia went down about 0.7 per cent,” Fabian said. “Halifax among the major cities has amongst the lowest consumer debt, about $26,000, and it was the only major city in Canada that had negative consumer debt growth (in the second quarter).”

When one takes into context growing household net worth consumer debt is not necessarily a bad thing, Fabian said. “I think the fact that delinquency rates are a little bit higher might be a little bit concerning from a risk perspective but they’re not way out of whack and delinquency rates tend to have a long tail. So, some of the Atlantic provinces for sure are coming out of a little bit of a slump economically and it takes, sometimes, 12 to 24 months to manifest itself in delinquency rates.”

Fabian said as the economy bounces back it leads to jobs and increased salaries, so it seems reasonable to be optimistic about the debt situation.

“We tell people, generally, there’s two things to keep in mind. Understand how much you can afford. So, from a delinquency perspective there’s the notion of stress testing and you should kind of stress test yourself.

“When you’re looking to take out debt or increasing your credit card payments, by putting something on your credit card or taking out a line of credit for a renovation, or whatever it might be, don’t just consider the position you’re in right now and say, ‘Yeah, I can afford that $300 monthly payment.’ But kind of consider your cash flow and maybe, take into account your circumstance to say: ‘Could I cover that payment in the event that I lose my job.’ Or, ‘Can I cover that payment for three months while I’m looking for another job.’ This is what we call … stress testing yourself to see if you can absorb that shock should there be some unforeseen event.”

By taking a realistic view of debt and one’s ability to manage it, Fabian says it will provide a little bit of comfort for an individual to realize they really are comfortable taking on some additional debt, he said.

“From a balance perspective, as long as you feel like you can take that on, I don’t know if taking on credit debt is necessarily a bad thing, it depends on what you’re doing it for. If it’s a mortgage or a line of credit to renovate your home or something like to improve the value of an asset or property for investing then that might be a good use of your debt. If it’s to buy new shoes or go on a vacation because you just want to, might not be the best use of your debt,” Fabian concluded.

Source: Cape Breton Post –  
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Canadians weighed down by lines of credit they don’t understand

3 million Canadians have home equity lines of credit, but half of us don’t know how they work

A survey suggests 35 per cent of Canadians have a home equity line of credit and 19 per cent said they’d borrowed more than they intended. (Canadian Press)

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Over the past 15 years, home equity lines of credit have emerged as the driver of mounting non-mortgage debt in Canada — yet many Canadians don’t understand what they’ve signed up for and are not moving to pay them off, a new survey suggests.

The more than three million Canadians holding a HELOC owed an average amount of $65,000, the study released Tuesday by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) found.  About one quarter of HELOC holders had a balance of more than $150,000.

Yet 25 per cent of respondents said they only made the interest payments month to month.

Ipsos conducted the online survey of 4,800 Canadians, most of them homeowners, from June 5-28, 2018, on behalf FCAC, a federal agency that promotes financial education.

 

HELOCs are revolving credit products secured against the equity in a home. Banks can lend up to 65 per cent of the value of a home. Such lines of credit have been easy to get and banks offer them as a default credit option to anyone with home equity.

Of the homeowners surveyed, 54 per cent had a mortgage and 35 per cent had a HELOC.

Cheap source of credit

“You can’t deny the fact that for the consumer it is a cheap source of credit. However, you have to use it well,” said Michael Toope, communications strategist for FCAC.

The problem is that people borrow more than they intended and end up struggling with the debt, he said.

The survey suggested there is a lack of understanding among consumers of how these lines of credit work.

Only half of respondents knew basic facts about the terms of HELOCs, such as:

  • Banks can raise the rate of a HELOC at any time.
  • The bank can demand the balance of a HELOC at any time.
  • There are fees to transfer a HELOC to another institution.
  • The bank can raise or lower the credit limit on a HELOC.

Interest rates began climbing in 2017 and 2018 and are likely to rise further this year. That affects the interest cost of these loans and the overall cost of paying them off. Your HELOC is more expensive than a mortgage as the interest rate is higher.

“Each bank sets its own prime rate based on the Bank of Canada rate and HELOCs are usually set at prime plus a premium, but the bank can change that premium at their discretion,” Toope said.

For some, HELOCs are risky

Almost two-thirds of respondents said they used their HELOC only or mostly as intended, as a revolving line of credit.

Yet for some, HELOCs are a risky product that eats away at their ability to build wealth, Toope said.

The equity they build in their home as they pay off a mortgage is a way for Canadians to build wealth over time, but that won’t happen if they have a debt secured by the house.

“In the end, you’re losing the long-term value of the mortgage you have in your home,” Toope said.

 

In a 2017 report, FCAC found home equity lines of credit may be putting some Canadians at risk of over-borrowing.

That report found most consumers do not repay their HELOC in full until they sell their home.

About 19 per cent of respondents to the new survey said they’d borrowed more than they intended.

How much do I owe?

And 18 per cent said they did not know the full balance on their HELOC.

Among those who paid only the interest on the debt, the majority were young Canadians, aged 25 to 34. That’s not unusual, as people at that stage of life tend to have lower incomes and may be burdened with student debt as well as a mortgage, but it still indicates a lack of understanding, Toope said.

About half of respondents said they used their HELOC for a renovation, but another 22 per cent consolidated other debt. (Elise Amendola/Associated Press)

The survey found 62 per cent of those who paid only the interest expected to repay their HELOC in full within five years, a plan Toope called a “mathematical impossibility.”

 

Half of Canadians borrowed against their HELOCs for renovations, but another 22 per cent dipped into it for debt consolidation, with vehicle purchases and daily expenses also common uses, according to the survey.

“People should know what they are going to use it for and how to pay it down, so it doesn’t become an eternal revolving debt,” Toope said.

Source: CBC.ca – Susan Noakes · CBC News · 

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Mark Cuban Says the Best Investment Is Paying Off Your Debt — Is He Right?

Mark Cuban Says the Best Investment Is Paying Off Your Debt -- Is He Right?

Image credit: Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock via GOBankingRates

Billionaire investor and Shark Tank star Mark Cuban said that the safest investment you can make right now is to pay off your debt, according to an interview with Kitco News earlier this year.

 

“The reason for that is whatever interest you have — it might be a student loan with a 7 percent interest rate — if you pay off that loan, you’re making 7 percent,” said Cuban. “And so that’s your immediate return, which is a lot safer than trying to pick a stock, or trying to pick real estate or whatever it may be.”

Cuban is mostly right: More often than not, paying down debt as fast as possible is going to provide the most value in the long run. And perhaps more importantly, it will do so without any real risk that comes with most investing. That said, each person’s financial situation is different, so it is worth a closer look at when it’s better to pay off debt or invest.

Debt is like investing but in reverse.

One important thing to note is that the same principals that make investing so important also make paying off your debt similarly crucial. As Cuban points out, the interest rate on your loan is essentially like the rate of return on your investments but backward. In fact, many investments are simply ways you’re letting your money get loaned out to others in exchange for them paying interest.

As such, it’s important to keep in mind that as satisfying as it might be to watch your money grow in investments, it’s doing just the opposite when you have debt.

Every loan is different.

Although debt chips away at your net worth through interest, it’s important to note that different types of borrowing do so in very different ways. Every loan is different, with some offering terms that are actually quite favorable and others that can be excessively costly.

An overdue payday loan can lay waste to your financial health in no time, but a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a competitive rate can be relatively easy to manage with good planning. Borrowers should be sure they understand what kind of debt they have and how it’s affecting their finances.

 

Focus on the interest rate.

The key factor to take note of when considering how to allocate funds is the interest rate — usually expressed as your APR. Debt with a high APR is almost always going to be better to pay down before you focus on any other financial priorities beyond the most basic necessities.

The average APR on credit cards as of August 2018 was 14.38 percent. That’s well in excess of what anyone can reasonably expect to sustain as a return on most investments, so it shouldn’t be hard to see that investing instead of paying down your credit card is almost always going to cost you money in the long run.

Does your interest compound?

Another crucial factor in understanding how your debts and your investments differ is whether or not your interest is compounding. Compounding interest — like that on most credit cards — means that the money you pay in interest is added to the amount due and you’ll then have to pay interest on it in the future. That can lead to debt snowballing and growing exponentially. So, not only do credit cards have high interest rates, but they also make for debt that’s growing faster and faster unless you take action to pay it down.

However, that same principle can work in reverse. Gains on something like stocks will also compound over time, so there’s a similar dynamic at work when comparing your investment returns to fixed interest costs.

Know your risk tolerance.

Another factor that plays a big part in the conversation is your level of risk tolerance. Note that the question Cuban was responding to earlier was about what the “safest” investment was. For most people, erring well on the side of caution when it comes to something like personal finance just makes sense, and in that case, focusing on paying off debt is pretty crucial.

However, others might decide that the long-term payoffs that are possible make it worth rolling the dice on their future. Borrowing money for investments is common despite the risks associated, with everyone from massive investment banks to investors with margin accounts opting to take a calculated risk that their returns will ultimately outpace the cost of borrowing.

 

Costs of debt are set, investment returns often are not.

One important aspect of understanding the risks involved is that the cost of your debt is usually set and predictable, but the returns on your investments are not. It might be easy to look at the historical returns of the S&P 500 at just under 10 percent a year and assume that it’s worth it to put off paying down debt for an S&P 500 ETF or index fund as long as your APR is under 10 percent.

However, that long-term average does not reflect just how chaotic the markets really are. Sure, it might average out to about 10 percent, but some years will be in the negative — sometimes over 30 percent into the red. Even with bonds — where your rate of return is fixed — there is always a chance that the borrower will default and leave you with nothing.

If you have a variable rate loan

Of course, if your loan has variable interest rates, the equation changes yet again. You could see your interest rate rise or fall depending on what the Federal Reserve does, adding another layer of uncertainty to the decision — especially when it’s impossible to say with certainty which direction interest rates are headed in for the long run.

So, although debt will typically have more certainty associated with its costs than investing, that’s not always the case and variable rate loans could change things for some borrowers.

Don’t forget taxes.

You should also remember that the tax code includes a number of provisions that promote investment, and those can boost the value of investing. In particular, contributions to a 401(k) or traditional IRA are made with before-tax income, meaning that you can invest much more of that money than you would have with your after-tax income that would be used to pay down debt.

That’s especially true when you have an employer who matches your 401(k) contributions. If your employer matches, you’re essentially getting a chance to not just avoid paying taxes on that income, but you’re doubling its value the moment you invest — before it’s even started to accrue returns.

 

Some opportunities are unique.

Another important factor to consider is what type of investments you can make. In some very specific cases, you might have access to an investment opportunity that brings with it huge potential returns that could tip the scale. Maybe a specific local real estate investment you’re particularly familiar with or a startup company run by a family member where you can get in on the ground floor.

Opportunities like this usually come with enormous risks, but they can also create transformational shifts in wealth when they pay off. Obviously, you have to gauge each opportunity very carefully and make some hard choices, but if you do feel like it’s a truly unique chance to get the sort of returns that just don’t exist with publicly-traded stocks or bonds, it might be worth putting off paying down debt — especially if those debts have fixed rates and a reasonable APR.

What really matters with debt and investments

At the end of the day, you certainly shouldn’t opt to invest money that could be used to pay down debt unless the expectation for your returns is greater than the interest rate on your debt. If your personal loan has an APR of 15 percent, investing in stocks is probably not going to return enough to make it worthwhile. If that rate is 5 percent, though, you could very well do better with certain investments, especially if that’s a fixed rate that doesn’t compound.

But, even in circumstances where you might have reasonable expectations for returns higher than your APR, you might still want to take the definite benefits of paying down debt instead of the uncertain benefits associated with investments. When a wrong move might mean having to delay retirement or delay buying a home, opting for the sure thing is hard to argue with.

Which decision is right for you?

Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet for knowing whether your specific circumstances call for you to prioritize paying down debt over everything else. Although paying down debt is typically going to be the smartest use for your money, that doesn’t mean you should do so blindly.

Putting off paying down your credit card balance to try your hand at picking some winning stocks is a (really) bad idea, but failing to make regular 401(k) contributions in an effort to pay off your fixed-rate mortgage a couple of years early is probably going to cost you in the long run — especially if you’re missing out on matching funds from your employer by doing so.

So, in a certain sense, Mark Cuban is right: Paying down debt is very rarely going to be a bad idea, and it’s almost always the safest choice. But that said, it’s still worth taking the time to examine the circumstances of your specific situation to be sure you’re not the exception that proves the rule.

Source: Entrepreneur – Joel Anderson , 

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3 things you probably didn’t know about your credit score

A photo illustration shows charts for credit scores on a computer in North Vancouver, B.C., Wednesday, June, 15, 2016.

A photo illustration shows charts for credit scores on a computer in North Vancouver, B.C., Wednesday, June, 15, 2016.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

Here’s what most Canadians likely know about their credit score: It’s a number somewhere on a scale from 300 to 900 — and the higher that number, the easier and cheaper it generally is to get credit.

If you want to take out a mortgage or auto loan, a good credit score improves your chances of being approved and getting a lower interest rate. A high score may also give you access to instant-approval credit cards and loans.

 

But here’s something you probably didn’t know:

No one really knows exactly how credit scores work

For obvious reasons, Canada’s two credit-reporting agencies, Equifax and TransUnion, do not reveal the exact formula through which they come up with credit scores. If they did, it would become easy for anyone to game the system.

READ MORE: Can’t afford to pay your tax bill? Here’s what you can do

The implication here is that most advice you get about how to improve, build or repair your credit score is really an educated guess. Based on anecdotal evidence and what they see dealing with clients, financial advisers have a pretty good idea of how different types of behaviour affect credit scores. But they can’t tell exactly how much of a difference each one really makes.

That’s why Douglas Hoyes, a licensed insolvency trustee at Kitchener, Ont.-based Hoyes, Michalos and Associates, is skeptical of strategies that entail taking out costly loans just so you can supposedly build or repair your credit score faster.

WATCH BELOW: Huge price to pay for payday loans

Borrowing at, say, 30 per cent interest is guaranteed to cost you a pretty penny. The gain, on the other hand, it quite uncertain. Taking out a loan will definitely improve you score if you make your payments on time, but how much of a difference will it really make? No one can say for sure.

Given the uncertainty, Hoyes advises borrowing through the lowest-cost debt you can access and trust that your credit score will gradually improve if you keep on top of your finances.

WATCH BELOW: Dollars and sense: Credit score basics

For those with no credit history or a poor credit score, a good first step is getting a secured credit card such as the Home Trust Visa, according to Hoyes. “Secured” credit means the lender will ask you to put down, say, a $1,000 security deposit for a $1,000 credit card limit. The point of such a credit card isn’t to borrow money to finance expenses for which you don’t have cash at hand but to show that you can make disciplined debt repayments.

Secured credit cards normally come with steep interest rates. The no-fee version of the Home Trust Visa charges interest of 19.99 per cent, but borrowers need not worry about it if they pay off their balance in full and on time, Hoyes noted.

 

Credit scores are designed with banks, not you, in mind

You might think that diligently paying off your credit card bills as soon as they come would get you the best possible score. You might be wrong.

Some financial advisers and debt management experts believe carrying a small balance of up to 30 per cent of your available credit on your card might actually boost your score more than having a balance of zero.

That’s because “credit scores are meant for the benefit of the banks, not you,” said Hoyes.

Banks are happy with customers who reliably repay their debt. But they also make money off charging interest. So they may be happiest with customers who will eventually repay their debt but keep carrying a balance, on which they’ll have to pay interest, explained Hoyes.

He advises doing what’s best for your pocketbook and skipping on financial behaviour that will ultimately cost you more — even if it means your credit score will be a bit lower.

 

Credit scores don’t matter as much as you think

A third thing to keep in mind about credit scores is that they aren’t necessarily the only metric a bank will use to assess your creditworthiness. “Banks may have their own formulas, too, which are different from whatever Equifax and TransUnion are using,” noted Hoyes.

Finally, he added, a bad credit score won’t shut you out of borrowing forever. Even bankruptcy is something you can recover from relatively quickly, if you have a good, stable job and show financial discipline, said Hoyes.

“I have plenty of clients who bought houses two years after being discharged from bankruptcy,” he told Global News.

READ MORE: Why it’s important to check your credit history

Source: Global TV –

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Tips to repairing bruised credit

Tips to repairing bruised creditThe importance of a high credit score is, unfortunately, lost on many borrowers, but with a little discipline and dedication, they can get back on track.

Everything from paying extra fees to larger down payments are some of the consequences borrowers with bruised credit contend with, and according to CanWise Financial’s President James Laird, it’s imperative that clients are taught the finer points of responsible payment.

“If it’s not a bankruptcy sheet and not a consumer proposal, we most commonly see borrowers who have balances over their limit, so while it’s somewhat counterintuitive, get a higher limit because it helps your credit score if your spending habits don’t change,” he said. “Someone who spends the exact same amount of money—let’s say $2,200 with a $10,000 limit—you have an excellent score, but if your limit is $2,000 your credit is being severely damaged.”

Speaking of counterintuitive, Laird advises clients trying to rehabilitate their credit not to make payments before the end of the month. If it’s paid too quickly, it’s like the money was never owed in the first place.

credit

“Sometimes we see the most organized people pay off their credit card right before the month turns over, and in that case, credit companies will stop reporting to the bureau,” continued Laird. “If you pay it off the same month you spend it, it’s like you’re not paying any money. Let the month turn over and make your payment during the interest-free period—like within 10 days or whatever you have—because you have to show that you owe a bit and that you’re diligent at making payments. If you pay it off before the end of the month, it’s like you never owed the money.”

In the case of bankrupts, their credit facilities will have been closed down, and Laird recommends getting two new ones that report to the credit bureau so that rehabilitation can begin.

creditscore

“It’s important to get new credit facilities up and going as soon as possible after you’ve had an issue,” said Laird. “We recommend that if someone has gone through bankruptcy or a consumer proposal, they can still get a prepaid VISA, and most of those report to the bureau, and that will start repairing your credit score.”

Daniel Johanis, a Rock Capital Investments broker, always reminds clients with bruised credit that their utilization must be 50-70%.

“If it hits 90% or higher, it’s showing the bank that your ability to repay outstanding debt is challenged because you’re at the point where you’re a higher risk for missing a payment or not meeting your monthly debt obligation.”

For borrowers well on their way to repairing bruised credit but who may have been hit with by an unforeseen, and expensive, circumstance, Johanis recommends making a call to the bank or credit holder.

“Making a simple call and saying ‘I’m behind and I need to get caught up, so can we figure out a repayment plan?’ is surprisingly effective,” he said. “They’ll often work with you because they don’t want you to default. It’s always worth giving the credit holder a call to see if they can do anything. It buys you time.”

Source: MortgageBrokerNews.ca – by Neil Sharma 09 Nov 2018

 

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