Paying for and using some credit products can be like buying extra car features. If you’re adding paint sealant or fabric protection to your new ride, then you’re probably getting a bad deal.
Or it could be a scam, like when a dealer knowingly sells you a lemon.
But not all credit products are a scam. In fact, many are perfectly legal. They just happen to be a bad deal for you, the consumer, and sometimes your credit score, too.
In the fine print of these bad deals, there could be a wide range of costs. For some of the services listed below, it might be a few bucks a month. But others can put you thousands of dollars in debt. And then there’s the damage to your credit score that you’ll have to restore.
Before you buy into any of the credit services below, beware of what you’re getting into.
1. Credit score monitoring
Many companies, including credit bureaus, offer credit monitoring services. It’s not so much that these companies offer a service that’s a scam. It’s more that it isn’t necessary to pay for this service.
A typical credit score monitoring service may cost about $20 per month. In addition to monitoring your credit report, the service typically includes access to FICO scores, credit alerts, and other updates.
But there’s little reason to pay for this service. You can often get similar credit reports and updates at no cost.
One option for tracking your credit score: Credit Karma. For the impossible-to-beat price of $0, you can track your credit score from one bureau (TransUnion). This free score isn’t a FICO score, but it’s based on the same information and should be similar.
Credit Karma sends you alerts when your score or report changes. And you’ll be able to generate a credit report card to see which areas of your credit need improvement.
When you need to access your credit report, you can get it totally free from AnnualCreditReport.com. This site doesn’t require a credit card, and you can access your report from each of the three bureaus once per 365-day period.
2. Credit repair
While some services aren’t worth it, others are downright scams. Such is the case with many credit repair services, which the Federal Trade Commission warns against.
The cost of these services varies, though losing money likely won’t be your only worry.
The FTC says that not only do some credit repair tactics not work, but they can also be illegal and land you in trouble. These questionable tactics include giving you a new credit identity, which is really just a way of saying illegally using another Social Security number.
Another tactic involves “jamming” credit bureaus with fake dispute reports. Jamming occurs when a credit repair company sends dispute letters to contest legitimate but negative information on your credit report. Jamming also isn’t legal, and even if consumers do get results, they’re likely only temporary.
As for the legitimate, correct information that’s on your credit report that’s hurting your credit score, it’ll simply have to remain there until the time limit expires—typically seven years.
So, how do you know if a service is a scam? On its list of warning signs, the FTC states that scams typically:
- Ask for money upfront before any work is done
- Instruct you to use false information on credit applications
- Tell you to dispute information on your credit report that you know is accurate
Instead of hiring someone to fix your credit, take steps on your own to figure it out. To get started, check out our post on how student loans affect your credit score, which suggests several steps that you can take to take control of your credit score.
3. Store credit cards
You’ve probably been tempted to sign up for credit cards at store registers. After all, you can save up to 25% off on that day’s purchase. But signing up likely isn’t a good idea.
While there are several reasons why signing up for these cards could be a bad idea, it’s rarely good to sign up for these offers on the spot. For one, if you’re looking for a rewards credit card, then the deal might not be good compared to what you can find elsewhere.
Some of these cards may offer free financing, but that’s dangerous. You often have to either pay off the entire balance or owe interest on the entire balance.
For example, if you finance $2,000 on your store credit card but have an outstanding balance of $200 at the end of the 12-month, no-interest promotional period, you’ll have to pay interest on your balance from the entire period, not just the $200 that’s left. This is a bad deal, especially if you’re already struggling to pay off credit card debt.
4. Anything with ‘advance’ or ‘loan’ in the name
Yes, from time to time, you will need loans such as a standard home mortgage and auto loan. But anything else with “loan” in the name should instantly make you skeptical. Why? Few products are worse and more expensive than some of these services.
One example is payday loans. While you might think that credit card interest rates with 24% APR are high, that’s nothing compared to payday loans, which can exceed 300% APR. It’s so bad that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says, “Payday and deposit advance loans can become debt traps for consumers.”
Payday loans can lead to a cycle of debt that’s nearly impossible to escape. The CFPB says that nearly half of payday loan borrowers have more than 10 transactions per year. This leads to payday borrowers being in debt for a median of 55 percent of the year.
In fact, payday loans are banned in Georgia, New York, New Jersey, and Arkansas, and eight other states plus the District of Columbia have effectively outlawed payday loans through rate caps.
Lastly, you might have been offered a cash advance on your credit card. Cash advances involve taking cash from an ATM with your credit card or cashing a convenience check. Unlike credit card balances, which are charged interest only if you don’t pay your balance in full, cash advances usually start charging interest as soon as you take them.
There simply aren’t many suitable substitutes to these expensive products that are marketed to consumers who need money fast. Instead of borrowing money, start an emergency fund. That way, if you do need cash fast, then you don’t have to take out a high-interest loan.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 17, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/17/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.49% effective March 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.50% – 7.27%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 7.12%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.53% – 8.79%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.55% – 7.12%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.00% – 9.74%6||Undergrad & Graduate|