Interest Rates Are Rising: 6 Actions You Should Take ASAP

rising interest rates

Those paying attention to the U.S. financial markets have probably seen plenty of news about rising interest rates.

Not only have mortgage rates jumped to more than four percent following the November election results, but the Federal Reserve recently opted to raise its rates for the second time in almost a decade.

That means the Federal Open Market Committee decided to raise its target rate range from 0.25-0.50% to 0.50-0.75%. The last time rates were raised was a year ago, in December 2015. Before that, rates were lowered to zero during the 2008 financial crisis.

The rates set by the FOMC are tied closely to banks’ prime rates. These are used to determine the interest rates they offer on a variety of lending products like credit cards and student loans.

So what does this mean for your money?

Interest rates rising will mean that borrowing will get more expensive in 2017. Especially since the FOMC announced it expected to implement three more rate hikes in 2017.

However, it also provides some opportunities to earn greater returns, as well. Here are some moves you should make in 2016 to capitalize on rising interest rates throughout 2017.

1. Refinance your student loans

If you have student loans with higher rates (think six to seven percent or higher), refinancing them could be a smart option for you.

Some of the best lenders to refinance student loans with, like LendKey, are offering rates as low as 2.56% APR. But with interest rates on the rise, these significantly lower student loan rates might be more and more scarce in 2017. Want to get a sense of whether you might qualify to refinance? Take our refinancing eligibility quiz!

Essentially, student loan rates today are the best you’ll get for a while. So if you’ve been considering a student loan refinance, it might be time to pull the trigger and lock in a lower interest rate.

Your chances to save will be much better now rather than later.

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2. Switch to a fixed rate from a variable

If you have a product with a variable rate, you can expect that rate — and your monthly payments — to go up in 2017.

Following the FOMC’s announcement of an interest rate raise, several major banks like JPMorgan Chase and Citi also bumped their prime rates up from 3.50% to 3.75%, according to CNBC.

Banks’ prime rates are also tied to variable rates on products like credit cards, adjustable-rate mortgages, or variable-rate student loans. When a bank’s prime rate goes up, these products’ variable interest rates go up the same amount.

If you have a loan with a variable rate, this might be another reason to consider refinancing it soon. With a refinance, you can pay off the variable-rate loan and replace it with a fixed rate loan, instead.

Of course, variable rates often start lower than fixed rates. So it’s possible that you might not see savings when refinancing to a fixed rate for a year or more.

But if you have better credit now than when you originated your variable rate loan and are willing to switch to a shorter term, you could be a good candidate for refinancing to a fixed rate. Especially if you don’t like taking the risk of a variable rate going up in the coming years.

3. Pay down debts with variable rates

For many borrowers, refinancing their variable rate loan might not make sense. As mentioned above, it’s possible that sticking with the variable rate could still be cheaper than a similar fixed-rate loan.

Or, perhaps you don’t have the credit to qualify for a refinance with a lower rate. Keep in mind refinancing may require you to pay origination and loan fees which would potentially cancel out any savings on your end.

However, there are other ways to pay less on your loan. Even if your variable rate adjusts upward.

If you pay down extra towards your debts, for example, you’ll lower your principal. And, you’ll have a smaller balance each month that you’re getting charged interest on.

Making extra payments can also help you pay your loan off ahead of time. Ultimately, this will give variable rates less time to go up and become unaffordable.

4. Shop around for a credit card

With variable rates set to rise, your credit card could suddenly be more expensive.

A 0.25% raise in prime rates will mean that your variable credit card rate can jump by one to two percent, according to The New York Times.

It doesn’t sound like much, right? But a raise from, say, 15 percent to 17 percent would add around $20 in interest costs for every $1,000 in credit card balance you carried throughout the year.

If your credit card rates are already pretty high, another bump will only make this kind of debt more expensive for you.

Therefore, finding a new credit card with a lower interest rate can save you money. Especially if you tend to carry a balance month-to-month. This will be especially true as rates continue to rise.

If you have a high credit card balance, the best move might be to consider opening a new card with a zero percent introductory rate. You can transfer your balance to the 0-rate credit card and work toward paying it off without accruing any interest.

5. Work on your credit

One of the most effective ways to get cheap credit is to maintain good credit. Although rising interest rates are outside of your control, your credit history is something you can directly improve and positively impact your finances.

So if you’re planning on making a big purchase in 2017 that you’ll need a loan for, focus on cleaning up your credit.

Remember, rising interest rates won’t affect the rates you’re offered on a car loan, for instance, as much as your creditworthiness will.

So if you work to improve your credit in 2017, you’ll put yourself in a position to get the best interest rates available. Whatever rate hikes might come.

What should you focus on to build credit?

First off, you’ll never have excellent credit if you’re not making on-time payments on your existing credit. So if this is a struggle, start there.

And if you don’t have any credit, consider getting a secured credit card and making payments responsibly on it. That can be a good place to start building credit.

If you have a credit card, keep up with your payments by making them on-time. This can help keep credit card balance low each month and give you a lower credit utilization ratio.

At the end of the day, paying down existing debts and avoiding taking out lots of new debt will help your credit score go up.

6. Shop for better deposit rates

The biggest effect rising interest rates will have on consumers will be that credit will become more expensive.

But, theoretically, if banks are charging higher interest rates, then they might have more margins to give borrowers better returns on deposits.

However, the last rate hike in December 2015 didn’t actually result in higher savings or deposit rates at most banks.

If banks do raise their deposit rates, it will likely be a very small bump. And it won’t come until around mid-2017, projects USA Today.

But just because most banks won’t be offering higher savings rates doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. Some financial institutions that make a point of offering competitive savings rates might offer even better deals.

And, savings rates over 1.00% might be easier to find. Check online banks, credit unions, and smaller, community banks for deposit products that offer higher returns.

How does rising interest rates affect you?

Overall, rising interest rates will have a relatively small impact on most consumers’ finances. The increases will be small, but they will be there.

If you keep an eye on your debts and make some of these smart financial moves, you’ll put yourself in a position to avoid the worst of rising interest rates. And you might even be able to take advantage of higher rates to grow your savings.

Do you have any thoughts on the Fed’s recent decision to raise interest rates? Share them in our comments section below!

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