FHA vs. Conventional Loans: Which Is Better?

When it comes to affording a new home, you have a few types of home loans to choose from. Prospective homebuyers often compare the FHA vs. the conventional loan when researching loans. Each loan type has certain stereotypes associated with them, but we are here to give you the facts about both FHA and conventional loans. This post will help you understand what each loan is, familiarize you with the differences between them, and provide some guidelines for how to pick which one is best for you.

What Is An FHA Loan?

An FHA loan is insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). These loans are issued by private lenders, but lenders are protected from losses by the FHA if the homeowner fails to repay. FHA loans are generally used to refinance or buy a home.

What Is A Conventional Loan?

A conventional loan is supplied by a private lender and isn’t federally insured. Requirements for obtaining a conventional loan vary depending on the lender. When used to buy property, conventional loans are typically known as mortgages.

What Is A Conventional Loan?

Differences Between FHA and Conventional Loans

The main difference between FHA and conventional loans is whether or not they are insured by the federal government. Conventional loans aren’t federally backed, so it’s riskier for the lender to loan money. On the other hand, FHA loans are protected by the government, and as a result of less risk, they can typically offer better deals.

This difference in federal insurance is the reason why FHA and conventional loans vary when it comes to the details of the loan. Keep reading to learn the differences regarding credit requirements, minimum down payments, debt-to-income ratios, loan limits, mortgage insurance, and closing costs.

FHA Loan Conventional Loan
Minimum Credit Score 500 620
Minimum Down Payment 3.5% 3%
Maximum Debt-to-Income Ratio Credit score of 500: 43%
Credit score of 580+: 43-50%
Credit score of 620: 33-36%
Credit score of 740+: 36-45%
Loan Limits Low-cost counties: $356,362
High-cost counties: $822,375
Contiguous US: $548,250
High-cost counties, AK, HI, and US territories: $822,375
Mortgage Insurance Mortgage insurance premiums required. Private mortgage insurance required with down payments less than 20%.
Property Standards Stricter standards, property purchased must be a primary residence. Flexible standards, property purchased doesn’t have to be a primary residence.

Sources: FHA Single Family Housing Policy Handbook | Fannie Mae 1 2 | Federal Housing Finance Agency | Freddie Mac | HUD 1 2 | Consumer Financial Protection Bureau 1 2

Credit Score

Your credit score is a determining factor in your loan eligibility. Your credit score is measured on a scale of 300 (poor credit) to 850 (excellent credit). Good credit helps you get approved for loans more easily and at better rates. FHA and conventional loans differ in their credit score requirements and represent financial options for individuals at either end of the credit spectrum.

Minimum Credit Score for FHA Loan: 500

  • Accepts a credit score as low as 500, but usually with a 10% down payment
  • These loans accept lower credit scores because they are insured
  • Note: Some lenders may only issue FHA loans with higher credit scores

Minimum Credit Score for Conventional Loan: 620

  • Accepted score may vary from lender to lender
  • These loans are usually offered to individuals with strong credit because they present less risk to lenders

Minimum Down Payment

A down payment is the sum of money that is paid as a percentage of your purchase up-front.

Minimum Down Payment on an FHA loan:

  • 10% of your purchase with 500 credit score
  • 3.5% of your purchase with 580+ credit score

Minimum Down Payment on a Conventional Loan:

  • 3% of your purchase can be put down with good credit
  • 5% to 20% of your purchase price is typical

Debt-to-Income Ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio is the amount of money paid toward debt each month divided by your total monthly income. To be eligible for a loan, you must be at or below the maximum debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.

Maximum DTI Ratio Guidelines for FHA loans:

  • 43% with a credit score of 500
  • 43–50% with a credit score of 580

Maximum DTI Ratio Guidelines For Conventional Loans:

  • 33-36% with a credit score lower than 740
  • 36-45% with a credit score of 740 or higher
  • 50% highest allowed through Fannie Mae

Loan Limits

Both FHA and conventional loans have limits on the amount that you can borrow. Loan limits vary based on your location and the year your loan is borrowed. Find 2021 loan limits specific to your county through the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

2021 FHA Loan Limits

  • High-cost counties: $822,375
  • Low-cost counties: $356,362

2021 Conventional Loan Limits

  • Contiguous US (excluding high-cost counties): $548,250
  • Alaska, Hawaii, US territories, and high-cost counties: $822,375

Mortgage Insurance

Mortgage insurance is taken out to protect the lender from losses in case you fail to repay your loan. Whether you will pay private mortgage insurance or mortgage insurance premiums is based on your loan type and down payment percentage.

FHA Loan

  • Mortgage insurance is required for all FHA loans.
  • It is paid to the FHA in the form of mortgage insurance premiums and includes an up-front and monthly premium.
  • MIP payments last the entire life of your FHA loan.
  • To get rid of MIPs after paying 20% of your loan, you can choose to refinance into a conventional loan.

Conventional Loan

  • Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is only required when a down payment below 20% is made.
  • PMI comes in different forms: monthly premium, up-front premium, and split premiums.
  • PMI requirements stop once you have met one of three requirements:
    1. Principal loan amount is reduced to 80% before the loan term ends.
    2. At least 78% of the principal balance is scheduled to be paid down.
    3. The halfway point of your loan term has passed.

Property Standards

There are different property standards that must be met to use each loan. FHA loans have stricter requirements, while conventional loans have more flexibility.

FHA Loan

  • Property purchased with FHA loans must be your principal residence, meaning the borrower has to occupy the residence
  • FHA loans can’t be used to invest in property (e.g., renting out or flipping)
  • Title must be in the borrower’s name or name of a living trust

Conventional Loan

  • Property purchased with a conventional loan doesn’t have to be a principal residence — second or third residences are allowed
  • Conventional loans can be used to purchase investment properties

Pros and Cons of FHA vs. Conventional Loans

As a result of the various differences between FHA and conventional loans, each type has its respective pros and cons.

FHA Loan

Conventional Loan

Pros

  • Qualify with low credit and high DTI
  • Smaller down payments overall
  • More affordable with low credit
  • Lowest option for down payments with good credit
  • PMI cancellable
  • More affordable with good credit
  • Property doesn’t have to be your main home

Cons

  • Mortgage insurance premiums required for life of loan
  • Property purchased must be your main home
  • Need higher credit and lower DTI to qualify
  • Typically has larger down payments
  • PMI required with a down payment less than 20%

Pros and Cons of FHA Loans

FHA loans are government-regulated and insured to extend flexible opportunities for homeownership. They’re flexible regarding credit and DTI, but stricter about insurance and property standards.

Pros

  • Flexible qualification with low credit and high DTI
  • Smaller down payments overall
  • More affordable with low credit

Cons

  • Mortgage insurance premiums required for life of loan
  • Property purchased must be your primary residence

Pros and Cons of Conventional Loans

Conventional loans can also offer flexibility, but generally only if you have good credit and demonstrate reduced risk to the lender. These loans have stricter qualifications, but flexibility in other areas.

Pros

  • Lowest option for down payments (3% with good credit)
  • Private mortgage insurance can be canceled (must meet requirements)
  • More affordable with good credit
  • Property purchased doesn’t have to be a primary residence

Cons

  • Strict qualifications require higher credit and lower DTI
  • Larger down payments are typical
  • Private mortgage insurance required with a down payment less than 20%

Which Loan Is Better For You?

Both FHA and conventional loans have their advantages and disadvantages. Here are some general guidelines for when to use an FHA loan or a conventional loan.

When To Use an FHA Loan

  • You have a low credit score (500–619)
  • Your DTI ratio is on the higher side (between 45–50%)
  • You can only afford a small down payment
  • You plan to use the property as your primary residence

When To Use an FHA Loan

When To Use a Conventional Loan

  • Your credit score is fairly good (620 or above)
  • Your DTI ratio is on the lower side (33–36%)
  • You can afford a larger down payment
  • You want flexibility with insurance and repaying your loan

When To Use a Conventional Loan

It’s important to thoroughly research your options before choosing a loan. A key takeaway when comparing FHA vs. conventional loans is that FHA loans are federally insured and conventional loans aren’t. This distinction results in different qualification and payment requirements for each loan.

Use the information in this post to carefully compare the differences in accepted credit scores, minimum down payments, loan limits, maximum debt-to-income ratios, mortgage insurance and property standards. In doing so, choose the loan that works for your circumstances and helps you best afford the home of your dreams.

Sources: FHA Single Family Housing Policy Handbook | US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development | Federal Housing Finance Agency | Freddie Mac

The post FHA vs. Conventional Loans: Which Is Better? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How Much Money Do You Need to Buy a House?

Understanding how much money you need to buy a house can give you an idea of how much you should expect to save.

You’re probably excited about the thought of buying your first home? If so, you have every right to be.

But how much money do you need to buy a house? A calculator can help you determine that. But the average cost of buying a $300,000 is typically around $17,000.

In this article, we’ll go over the main costs of buying a house including the down payment, inspection cost, appraisal cost, closing cost, etc.

Check Current Mortgage Rate

How much money do you need to buy a house?

Out of Pocket Cost of buying a house

The five main out of pocket costs of buying a house are 1) the down payment; 2) inspection cost; 3) the appraisal cost; 4) earnest money and 5) closing costs. These out of pocket costs or upfront costs are money yo need to pay before you become the owner of the property.

In addition, some lenders also require you have some cash reserves to cover 2 to 3 months of the mortgage repayments.

Determining how much cash needed to buy a house depends on the type of loan you’re using.

Let’s suppose you’re buying a $300,000 house with an FHA loan.

An FHA loan requires a 3.5% of the home purchase price as a down payment as long as you have a 580 credit score. So, for the down payment alone, you will need $10,500.

Here’s a quick breakdown for how much cash needed to buy a $300,000 house:

  • Down payment: $10,500
  • Inspection cost: $300
  • Appraisal cost: $300
  • Closing cost: $6000

So, $ 17,100 is how much money you need to buy a house.

Whether you’re buying a house with a 20% down payment or 3.5% down payment, you can certainly find a loan with both the price and features to suit your needs as a first time home buyer. You can compare First Time Home Buyer home loans on the LendingTree website.

The down payment

The biggest cost of buying a house is obviously your down payment. But that depends on the type of loan you are looking for.

For example, a conventional loan requires a 20% down payment. You can pay less than that, but you will have to pay for a private mortgage insurance – which covers the lender in case you default on your loan.

A 20% down payment however can also mean that you’ll get a better interest rate, which also means you’ll save money on interest.

For an FHA loan, you only need 3.5% down payment as long as your credit score is 580.

FHA loans are very popular these days. Not only it’s easier to get qualified (low down payment and low credit score), but also your down payment can come from a friend, a relative or your employer.

Using our example above, you only need $10,500 for a down payment for a $300,000 house.

If you’re using a VA loan then you pay $0 down payment.

Check to see if you’re eligible for an FHA loan or VA loan

How much money do you need to buy a house also depends on other factors, such as whether you are a first time home buyer or not. Your state may have a range of programs that may contribute toward your down payment.

So visit your local government office to find out if you are eligible for any down payment assistance for first time home buyers.

Inspection cost

Another upfront cost of buying a home is the inspection cost.

It is highly recommended to perform inspection for your home for any defects so there are no surprises later on.

Inspections typically cost between $300 to $500, but it depends on the property and your local rates.

Compare home loans for first time home buyers with LendingTree

Appraisal cost

Before a lender can give you a loan to finance a house, they will want to know how much the house is worth. So appraisal means an estimate of the home’s value. A home’s appraisal usually costs between $300 to $500. A home appraisal will also determine what your property tax will likely be.

If you’re pay the home appraisal, it will be deducted from the closing cost. (see below).

Earnest money

Earnest money is a deposit you will have to pay upfront as soon as an offer is accepted, while you working on other aspects such as getting the home inspected, etc…

This deposit is part of the down payment, and it is usually between 1% to 3% of the final sale price. It is held by an escrow firm or attorney until the closing process is completed.

So if the sale is successful, that money is applied to your down payment. If it’s not, you get 100% of your money back.

Closing costs

The closing costs are fees by the lenders. They typically cost 2% to 5% of the final price. The costs include fees for homeowner’s insurance, title insurance, title insurance, property tax, HOA dues, private mortgage insurance.

It’s possible to lower these costs by comparing mortgage options.

Other costs of buying a home:

In addition to upfront costs, there are other recurring costs associated with buying a home. They include moving fees, repair costs, furniture, remodeling, etc. So consider these costs when making your budget to buy a house.

So how much money do you need to buy a house? The answer is it depends on the type of loans you’ re using. But if you’re buying a $300,000 house with an FHA loan, which requires a 3.5% down payment, $ 17,100 is how much money you need.

For more information about upfront costs of buying a house, check out this guide.

Read more cost of buying a house:

  • How Much House Can I Afford?
  • How Long Does It Take to Buy a House?
  • Buying a House for the First Time? Avoid these Mistakes
  • 5 Signs You’re Not Ready to Buy a House

Work 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). So, 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 How Much Money Do You Need to Buy a House? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

10 Questions to Ask about Parking Before You Rent an Apartment

So, you think you’ve found the perfect apartment.

Did you remember to ask about the parking situation? If not, stop! Don’t sign that lease until you have at least considered how you and your guests can park hassle-free. Because no matter how fabulous the view or the living space, if you rely on a car and parking isn’t convenient, it’ll likely put a damper on your living experience.

If you’re planning to live downtown in a city with excellent public transportation and bike accommodations, including bike-sharing programs, you need to consider if you even need a car. Many people don’t want the hassle and are happy to rent a vehicle on the occasions when they want to get out of the city.

But if you plan to have a car or are considering having a car, we’ve compiled a list of 10 questions you need to ask about parking before you sign the lease.

1. What kind of parking does the building offer?

apartment parking

Depending on an apartment’s location, parking will vary. Perhaps there’s an indoor parking garage under the building (most likely in a downtown high-rise or mid-rise building).

If you’re looking at a garden-style apartment, parking may be right outside your front door. If it’s outdoors, and you live in a cold climate, you need to think about inclement weather. Come winter, will you be shoveling four inches of snow off your vehicle before you can head off to work?

And speaking of snow, do you need to observe special parking rules to accommodate the snowplow (such as moving your car from certain parking areas)? Know what’s expected of you.

2. Is parking on-site or is it all street parking?

For some of you, street parking will be a deal-breaker. Others will accept that as a necessary evil that goes with keeping a car in the city.

If there’s street parking, find out if you need a permit from the city or local government to park on the street. Keep in mind that it may be difficult to find a spot when you return if there’s only street parking.

3. How is parking managed?

Once you know that the building supports a parking plan, you need to inquire about the details. For example, are you able to self-park? In many city high-rises, you can’t self park and may have to rely on a parking valet.

Is the parking valet reliable? Are there designated spaces for compact and full-size vehicles? If you have special needs and would like to park closer to the elevator or front door, can you make this request?

4. Reserved or unreserved — that is the question!

reserved parking spot

If there’s plenty of parking, you may not need reserved space(s). But it can be nice to know that you have a dedicated spot to come home to, regardless of your schedule. Ask about this policy.

If there’s on-site parking, find out if the lot is usually full at peak times or if there are usually empty spaces. If spaces are reserved, can you get parking near your unit?

5. How many spaces are you allowed?

If you have a roommate or if you and your significant other have vehicles, will there be designated parking spots for both of you?

6. How much will parking cost?

This is an important question because if your space(s) is not part of your monthly payment, you have to factor parking costs into your budget. It becomes a line item just like internet service, cable and utilities.

If your building doesn’t have parking but has a formal arrangement with a parking garage nearby, ask about the cost. Perhaps your parking will be comped or discounted. Similarly, if parking is included in the rent, and you decide to forego having a car, do you receive a discount?

Be sure to inquire about cost differences for covered spots (also known as garage parking) vs. uncovered spaces (also known as surface parking).

7. Where do my guests park?

guest parking

If parking in and around your building is challenging and there are no spaces reserved for guests, it may put a damper on social activities. Not all rentals have the luxury of extra space for visitors, so you need to decide just how important that is or come up with creative alternatives, such as carpooling.

If your building can accommodate guest parking, do you need to reserve in advance? And how easy will it be for your visitors to come and go?

8. Is the parking lot well lit at night?

If the parking lot is indoors, is the garage only accessible via fob access or in a controlled manner. While there’s never a guarantee of safety, and much of it is based on the specific neighborhood, consider visiting the parking lot yourself to make your own determination.

9. How is designated parking enforced and disputes resolved?

It happens. Sometimes it’s a neighbor who decides to flout the rules and do as he or she wants. Most times, however, it’s a misunderstanding. In either case, situations do arise, and you need to know there is a system in place.

Remember, you also have to be a good neighbor and respect apartment parking etiquette.

10. Can you sublet your parking space?

tenant parking only sign

This question is more important than you might think as it could offer a source for a little extra income each month. If your lease includes a parking space, and you don’t have a car, but your neighbor has two vehicles and only one designated spot, you may be able to make a deal. But check your lease first to determine that you have the legal right to sublet.

Avoid parking problems

Go ahead and look for that perfect apartment with the view, amenities and conveniences you desire. But don’t overlook the parking accommodations or you could be driving into a headache that never goes away.

The post 10 Questions to Ask about Parking Before You Rent an Apartment appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

What is a Conventional Loan?

A woman sits on the floor with her laptop in her lap.,

This year you’re finally ready to buy your home. But where to start? Where it’s your first time or you’re an experience home buyer, all the mortgage options out there can be overwhelming. 

If you’re on the hunt for a mortgage, you might want to consider a conventional loan. But there are a ton of different types of conventional loans, so which is the right one for you? We’re here to break down conventional loans so you can decide if it’s the right choice for you.

What Is a Conventional Loan?

A conventional loan—also called a conventional mortgage—is one that’s not guaranteed in part or fully by the government. Conventional loans are offered by private lenders and may be secured by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mac. And while those might sound like government entities, they’re actually government-sponsored entities. We know it’s confusing—but stick with us. We’ll break it down for you.

Conventional Loan vs. FHA Loan

Now that you know what a conventional loan is, you might be wondering about FHA loans. And what’s the differencebetween the two? An FHA loan is backed by the government. So if you don’t make your payments, the lender can recoup some of its losses. Because of that, FHA loans come with less rigorous credit requirements than most conventional loans do.

Types of Conventional Loans

Conventional loans come in a wide range of types. Here are the more common ones:

  • Conforming mortgage loans. These are loans that meet the standards of Freddie Mac or Fannie May. One of the major requirements is that the loan isn’t more than a certain amount. The agencies announce conforming loan limits annually. In most locations, it’s $510,400 for 2020, with allowances for up to $765,600 in high-cost areas.
  • Jumbo mortgage loans. These are mortgages that exceed conforming loan limits. Typically, you need higher credit scores and income to be approved for these bigger loans.
  • Subprime conventional loans. These mortgages may be available for those who don’t quite meet credit and financial requirements for a conforming mortgage loan. To make up for the greater risk, lenders may charge higher interest or fees.

Within every category of loan there are options, including fixed or variable interest and terms. You will need to decide, for example, if you want to pay your mortgage off over 15 years or 30 years. The former comes with cost savings related to interest while the latter offers a lower monthly payment.

Advantages of Conventional Loans

If you have good credit, conventional loans may offer you the best deal depending on what current interest rates are. This is especially true if you can afford to put 20% down—then you can avoid paying for private mortgage insurance in many cases.

Conventional loans can be more flexible than FHA or other government-backed loans. Lenders who offer these loans don’t have to follow specific government guidelines, which means they may be able to work with borrowers who don’t fit those requirements. They can also provide mortgages for properties that are more expensive.

Disadvantages of Conventional Loans

Conventional loans generally come with a higher bar for approval. That’s because they’re not guaranteed, and the lender is taking on all of the risk. You may need a higher credit score and stronger debt-to-income ratio to qualify for these loans.

While you can get a conventional loan with a relatively low down payment, you usually won’t get the best interest rate and will have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). Conventional loans typically work better for those who can put a decent amount down.

Conventional Loan Requirements

Requirements for conventional loans vary by lender, but you typically need to demonstrate credit-worthiness and the ability to make your payment every month. Here are some things that conventional mortgage loan lenders might look at:

  • Your credit score. In many cases, the bottom cut-off for conventional loan approvals is a credit score of 620. Though depending on other factors, such as the amount of the mortgage and your income, you may need a higher score to qualify.
  • Your credit history. Mortgage lenders may look more in-depth at your credit than other lenders, and you may be asked to clear up old accounts or negative items before final approval.
  • Your income and debt. The lender wants to ensure that you’re able to pay the required monthly amount. They’ll look at how much you make, as well as how much debt you already have—the ratio of your debt to your income. If your debt is already taking up a large chunk of your income every month, you’re less likely to be able to pay a mortgage and less likely to get approved.
  • The value of the home. Typically, banks won’t approve a loan that’s for more than the value of the home in question. You usually have to get a property appraised before a mortgage can be finalized for this reason.

Shop for a Conventional Mortgage Loan Online

Start your mortgage journey by ensuring your credit is in order. You can get your credit report free at AnnualCreditReport.com. If you want to see some of the same credit scores mortgage companies are likely to check, consider signing up for ExtraCredit, which provides access to 28 of your FICO®Scores from different models.

Next, you may want to get pre-approved for a mortgage. This can help you understand what your buying power might be and what type of interest rate you might qualify for. It’ll also show sellers that you’re a serious buyer.

Finally, start searching for a mortgage that’s right for you online. Check out rates and potential mortgage options right here on Credit.com.

The post What is a Conventional Loan? appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

20 Money-Saving Auto Insurance Discounts

If you own a car or truck, you know it can be expensive. Your loan payment, ongoing maintenance, fuel, taxes, and auto insurance can take a big chunk of your budget. According to a 2019 AAA study, the average cost to own and operate a new vehicle was $9,282 per year.

When you consider just auto insurance, the most recent data from the Insurance Information Institute shows that the average cost is $936 per year nationwide. However, where you live significantly affects your rate. New Jersey drivers pay the most, $1,309, and Iowa drivers pay the least, $628 per year.

Many personal attributes get factored into your base car insurance rates that you can't change. They include where you live, if you’re a homeowner, your age, gender, marital status, and credit rating.

Insurance savings are available, but many policyholders don’t know what discounts exist or that they need to ask for them.

However, when it comes to getting auto insurance discounts, you have more control. Insurance savings are available, but many policyholders don’t know what discounts exist or that they need to ask for them.

In this post, we’ll review 20 auto insurance discounts that can easily save you money. What’s available depends on your insurer and the state where you live.

But even if you only qualify for a few insurance discounts, they can add up. Then you can put your savings toward something more rewarding, such as taking a vacation or boosting your emergency fund.

20 Money-Saving Auto Insurance Discounts

See how many of the following discounts you qualify for.

1. Safe Driver Discount

Your driving history plays a significant role in how much you pay for car insurance. It makes sense that auto insurers love safe drivers and are willing to reward them for being claim-free.

If you have a clean record with no moving violations or at-fault accidents over the past three to five years, most insurers typically give you a nice discount.

Potential savings: 10% to 20%.

2. Educated Driver Discount

But what if you don’t have a squeaky-clean driving record? You may be able to redeem yourself by passing an in person or online defensive driving course. Insurers know that boosting your education and skills can make you a better driver.

Potential savings: 5% to 15%.

3. Affiliation Discount

Did you know that belonging to a particular group can qualify you for a car insurance discount? Depending on your insurer, it’s likely that they have hundreds of different partner organizations that allow members to get a break on the cost of car insurance.

They may include alumni associations, education organizations, certain fraternities or sororities, honor organizations, and recreational groups.

Potential savings: 5% to 10%.

4. Occupation Discount

There are also auto insurance discounts if you work in specific industries or occupations, such as being in the military, a teacher, medical professional, or government employee. Also, members of professional associations, such as unions and state bar associations, often qualify for reduced rates.

Potential savings: 5% to 15%.

5. Good Student Discount

An often-overlooked car insurance discount is for students who make good grades. You typically qualify if you’re in high school, college, or graduate school (up to age 26) and have at least a “B” average.

Insurers consider good students less of a risk when they’re behind the wheel. So, parents shouldn’t miss the opportunity to make it more affordable to insure their young drivers.

Potential savings: 10% to 25%.

6. Distant Student Discount

Another way to cut the cost of insurance for students who live away from home, no matter their grades, is to request a distant student discount. It applies if a student lives at least 100 miles away from home and doesn’t have an insured vehicle with them on campus. They’ll be covered when they come home for breaks, but at a reduced rate.

Potential savings: 5% to 25%.

7. Low Mileage Discount

Maybe you’re driving less for a new job or keeping a car in the garage more often. If your driving patterns change, be sure to let your car insurance company know. Vehicles that are on the road less have fewer claims, and that earns you a substantial insurance discount.

Potential savings: 5% to 15%.

8. Usage-Based Discount

Many insurers offer usage-based insurance or UBI, which adjusts your rate based on how you drive. Data may be collected using a device that you keep in your vehicle or that gets reported from a smartphone app.

UBI programs evaluate different driving behaviors such as the time of day you drive, your average speed, how hard you brake and corner, and your mileage. If you’re considered a safe driver, your discount gets applied at renewal.

Potential savings: 5% to 40%.

9. Loyalty Discount

Every auto insurer wants to retain existing customers and give you every reason not to switch. Being loyal to one company for at least a few years often results in substantial savings.

Potential savings: 10% to 25%.

10. Multi-Car Discount

If you have more than one vehicle in your household, insuring all of them with the same company usually gives you a multi-car discount. Insurers offer incentives to make sure they get as much of your business as possible.

Potential savings: 10% to 25%.

11. Bundling Discount

In addition to insuring more than one vehicle, getting different types of coverage with the same insurer is known as bundling or a multi-line discount. Many insurers cover more than just cars. You could get auto and homeowner, renters, or life insurance with the same company and score savings.

Potential savings: 5% to 15%.

12. Paperless Discount

Some insurers offer a discount if they don’t have to mail paper documents, such as your policy description and bills. Merely electing to be a paperless customer can qualify you for a small discount. You can get your information by email or an online account.

Potential savings: 3% to 5%.

13. Full Payment Discount

Instead of making monthly or semi-annual auto insurance payments, paying your entire annual premium upfront may qualify for savings.

Potential savings: 5% to 10%.

14. Automatic Payment Discount

Also, signing up for automatic premium payments using automatic withdrawals from your bank account can help you save a small amount.

Potential savings: 3% to 5%.

15. Online Quote Discount

Some auto insurers offer a discount if you sign up for a policy after getting an online quote. You could shop directly on a carrier’s website or an aggregator site, such as Bankrate.com.

Potential savings: 5% to 10%.

16. Switching Discount

Just like your existing auto insurer wants to keep you, others want to entice you. A switch or transfer discount is a promotional offer that cuts your rate for a time after you sign up with a new carrier.

Potential savings: 5% to 15%.

17. New Car Discount

If you purchase a new vehicle or one that’s less than three years old, many auto insurers offer a discount. Newer cars typically have modern safety features that reduce the likelihood that you’ll make a claim.

Potential savings: 5% to 10%.

18. Anti-Theft Discount

Car insurance companies want to help you prevent car theft, so most offer discounts for having any device, feature, or system that helps keep criminals away from your car. They could be factory-installed or an after-market product that you install.

Examples of systems that may lower your insurance rate include a GPS-based location system, such as OnStar, or a theft recovery system, such as LoJack. VIN etching, which is a permanent engraving of your vehicle’s identification number on the windshield and windows, may also qualify you for a discount.

Potential savings: 5% to 20%.

19. Safety Features Discount

Cars with modern safety features, such as anti-lock brakes, airbags, and rear-view cameras, are less likely to get in an accident and cost an insurer. So be sure to let them know every on-board safety device in your vehicle.

Potential savings: 5% to 30%.

20. Mature Driver Discount

If you’re at least age 55 and pass an in-person or online defensive driving course, you can qualify for a discount. Insurers know that maintaining good driving skills reduces your risk and makes you less likely to file a claim. Most insurers offer a mature driver discount in many states.

Potential savings: 5% to 30%.

Understanding Auto Insurance Discounts

The savings you get from auto insurance discounts are typically capped. For example, an insurer may only allow a total discount of 40% off your base premium, even if you qualify for multiple discounts.

You don't have to wait until your auto insurance policy is up for renewal to compare quotes.

Also, it’s important to remember that not all discounts are applied to your rate automatically. You may have to ask for discounts that an insurer wouldn’t know you qualify for, such as getting a new job or having a driver in your family who qualifies for a good student discount. And not every insurer may offer all of the discounts we’ve covered.

Auto insurance prices vary from company to company, and they can even change from month to month. You don't have to wait until your auto insurance policy is up for renewal to compare quotes. So, if you haven’t reviewed your car insurance lately or it’s been a while since you’ve shopped policies, you may be leaving money on the table.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

How Much Credit Card Debt is too Much?

Most Americans have credit card debt and will die with credit card debt. It’s one of the most accessible types of credit there is, becoming available as soon as you’re financially independent. It’s also one of the most damaging, as too much credit card debt could hurt your credit report, reduce your credit score, and cost you thousands of dollars in interest payments.

But how much debt is too much? What is the average total debt for American consumers and households and when do you know if you have crossed a line?

How Much Credit Card Debt is too Much?

The average credit card debt in the United States is around $5,000 to $6,000 per consumer. However, this doesn’t paint a complete picture as these figures don’t differentiate rolling balances. In other words, even if you repay your balance in full every month, that balance will still be recorded as debt until it is repaid.

For many consumers, $6,000 is not “too much”. It’s a manageable sum that they can afford to clear. However, if you’re out of work, relying on government handouts and have no money to your name, that $6,000 can seem like an unscalable mountain. And that’s an important point to note, because everything is relative.

To the average American, unsecured debt of $50,000 is catastrophic. It’s the sort of debt that will cause you to lose sleep, stress every minute of the day, and panic every time your lender sends you a letter. To a multi-millionaire homeowner who runs several successful businesses, it’s nothing, an insignificant debt they could repay in full without a second thought.

One man’s pocket change is another man’s fortune, so we can’t place an actual figure on what constitutes “too much debt”. However, this is something that credit reporting agencies, creditors, and lenders already take into consideration and to get around this issue, they use something known as a debt-to-income ratio.

Your Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)

Your DTI can tell you whether you have too much debt, and this is true for credit card debt and all other forms of debt (student loans, car loans, personal loans, and even mortgages). 

DTI is not used to calculate your credit score and won’t appear on your credit report, but it is used by mortgage lenders and other big lenders to determine your creditworthiness and if you don’t past the test then you won’t get the money.

To calculate your DTI, simply calculate the amount of debt payments that you have and compare this to your gross monthly income. For instance, let’s imagine that you make $400 in credit card payments and $600 in auto loan payments, creating a total debt payment of $1,000. Your gross monthly income is $4,000 and you don’t have any investments.

In this scenario, your DTI would be 25%. as your monthly debt payments ($1,000) are 25% of your monthly income. If you have a $1,000 mortgage payment to make every month, your obligations increase and your DTI hits 50%, which is when you should start being concerned.

Many lenders will not accept you if you have a DTI greater than 50%, because they are not convinced you will make your payments. $2,000 may seem like a lot of money to have leftover at the end of the month, but not when you factor tax, insurance, food, bills, and everyday expenses into the equation.

If your DTI is below 50%, you may be safe, but it all depends on those additional expenses.

How to Tell If You’ve Borrowed Too Much

Your debt-to-income ratio is a good starting point to determine if you have borrowed too much, and if it’s higher than 50%, there’s a good chance you have borrowed more than you should or, at the very least, you are teetering on the edge. However, even if your DTI is above 30%, which many consider the ideal limit, you may have too much credit card debt.

In such cases, you need to look for the following warning signs:

You Can’t Pay More Than the Minimum

Minimum payments cover a substantial amount of interest and only a small amount of the actual principal. If you’re only paying the minimum, you’re barely scratching the surface and it could take years to repay the debt. If you genuinely don’t have the extra funds to pay more money, then you definitely have a debt problem.

Your Credit Card Balance Keeps Growing

The only thing worse than not being able to pay more than the balance is being forced to keep using that card, in which case the balance will keep growing and the interest charges will keep accumulating. This is a dire situation to be in and means you have far too much credit card debt.

Your Debt is Increasing as Your Take-Home Pay is Reducing

If your credit card bill seems to be going in the opposite direction as your paycheck, you could have a serious problem on your hands. You may be forced to take payday loans; in which case you’ll be stuck repaying these on top of your mounting credit card interest, reaching a point when your debt eventually exceeds your disposable income.

You Don’t Have Savings or an Emergency Fund

A savings account or emergency fund is your safety net. If you reach a point where you feel like you can no longer meet the monthly payments, you can tap into these accounts and use the funds to bail you out. If you don’t have that option, things are looking decidedly bleaker for you.

Dangers of Having Too Much Credit Card Debt

The biggest issue with excessive credit card debt is that it has a habit of sticking around for years. Many debtors only make the minimum monthly payment, either because they can’t look at the bigger picture or simply can’t afford to pay more. 

When this happens, a $1,000 debt could cost them over $2,000 to repay, which means they’ll have less money to their name. What’s more, that credit card debt could impact their credit score, thus reducing their chances of getting low-interest credit and of acquiring mortgages and auto loans.

It’s a cycle. You use a credit card to make big purchases and are hit with a high-interest rate. That interest takes your disposable income away, thus making it more likely you will need to use the card again for other big purchases. 

All the while, your credit utilization ratio (calculated by comparing available credit to total debt and used to calculate 30% of your credit score) is plummeting and your hopes of getting a lower interest rate diminish.

What to do if you Have too Much Credit Card Debt?

If you find yourself ticking off the boxes above and you have a sinking feeling as you realize that everything we’re describing perfectly represents your situation, then fear not, as there are a multitude of ways you can dig yourself out of this hole:

Seek Counseling

Credit counselors can help to find flaws in your budget and your planning and provide some much-needed insight into your situation. They are personal finance experts and have dealt with countless consumer debt issues over the years, so don’t assume they can only tell you what you already know and always look to credit counseling as a first step.

Avoid Fees

Credit card companies charge a higher annual percentage rate to consumers with poor credit scores as they are more likely to default, which means they need those extra funds to balance their accounts. Another way they do this is to charge penalty fees, penalty rates, and cash advance fees, the latter of which can be very damaging to an individual struggling with credit card debt.

Cash advance fees are charged every time you withdraw money from an ATM, and the rate is often fixed at 3% with a minimum charge of $10. This means that if you withdraw as little as $20, it’ll cost you $10 in charges, as well as additional interest fees.

If the cash flow isn’t there, this can seem like a good option, but it will only make your situation worse and should be avoided at all costs.

Use Debt Relief

Debt management, debt settlement, and debt consolidation can all help you to escape debt, creating a repayment plan and clearing everything from credit card debt to student loan debt in one fell swoop. You don’t even need an excellent credit score to do this, as many debt management and debt consolidation companies are aimed towards bad credit borrowers.

Balance Transfers

A balance transfer credit card moves all of your current credit card balances onto a new card, one with a large credit limit and a 0% introductory APR that allows you to swerve interest charges for the first 6, 12, 15 or 18 months. It’s one of the best options available, assuming you have a credit score high enough to get the limit you need.

Monitor Your Situation

Whatever method you choose, it’s important to keep a close eye on your finances to ensure this never happens again. You should never be hit with an unexpected car payment or mortgage payment, because you know those payments arrive every single month; you should never be surprised that you have interest to pay or that your credit score has taken a hit because of a new account or application. 

If you paid attention to your financial situation, you wouldn’t be surprised, you would understand where every penny goes, and as a result, you will be better equipped to deal with issues in the future.

How Much Credit Card Debt is too Much? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com