Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Not Impressed With E-Trade

Ok, so I opened this blog talking about saving and determining which virtual bank that I was going to go with to start that savings plan. As you know, I choose E-Trade. And I made a fatal mistake. I focused on one singular aspect when I was making my decision...interest rate.

So what exactly has happened that has made me decide that I have made a mistake? Nothing major. My initial $25 deposit was taken from my funding account, just like E-Trade stated. I received a huge package in the mail detailing my account information, again, just as E-Trade stated. But when I log into my E-Trade account, it states that my account balance is $0.00.

Now, at first, I thought, "Oh, it will just take a few days before my initial deposit is reflected online." And then a few days turned into a week. A week turned into two and then, I finally lost my patience, after two weeks mind you, that I needed to really look and try to find out just where the heck my $25 was located at.

I realized after much searching, that my login to E-Trade took me to the investing page and since I did not have an investment account with E-Trade, of course my balance would be zero. But then I really looked around and found that I needed to allow access to my online account by entereing my social security number, account number, and zip code. So let me get this right, I opened the account online. I deposited money through an online transfer, but I need to sign up to access my account online? Didn't I kinda, sorta, I don't know, done that already? I mean all the entering of information and emails and stuff, doesn't that give you the level of security that you need.

Look, I am all for keeping my money safe. But extra steps to verify information that is basically already verified is not necessary.

And after careful review of the lack of usability of the site in general from opening the account to accessing the account online has been woefully un-user friendly. So, while I was buying because the rate HAD BEEN 4.40% and now stands at 4.10% because of the Fed rate cuts. I am now selling because, frankly, I don't need the headaches.

So, as of today. I am sacking E-Trade and moving my alliances to ING Direct. I had used ING years ago when virtual banking was just getting started and ING was basically the only "known" name at that time. I closed the account after a year because I wasn't really using it. Now it is time to give it another shot. I will take usability over an additional .70% in rate. At this time, I don't have the kind of money that will make the difference meaningful at this time. When or if, it does become a factor, well, we will have to cross that bridge when we get there.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Your Credit Part II

In Part I we discussed the anatomy of a credit score. In today’s installment I will be discussing how you can get a copy of your credit report and ways that you may be able to increase your credit score.

The federal government allows you to access your credit report annually for free. There are many websites and television commercials that tout free credit reports. Be aware most websites and television ads want you to sign up for some other service that does have fees associated with them.

The official site is www.annualcreditreport.com. I also have the toll free number and mailing address for those that are interested. This will get you access to review your credit report. This site will not give you credit scores for free. Why bother if no score is given?

1) First and most important, is the information listed on the credit report correct? Can you verify each account listed and agree with approximate payment and balance? Do you see anything that is outdated and should be removed? Are there errors on the report?

2) You can see your payment history. You can see how the companies have reported your payments. Have you had one 30 day late or three on that car loan since it has been opened?

3) Helps establish a game plan. By seeing your credit it can help you determine whether you are ready to buy a home or if you need to work on your credit before applying.

If you want to purchase your credit score at this time you can. Here is an interesting site that gives some insight on how the scores are considered. As you can see, different agencies consider scoring differently. In today’s mortgage environment, which is changing rapidly, having a score of 680 or better is preferred. If you have a score lower than 680, it does not mean that you will not be able to obtain a mortgage. Many factors are also considered besides credit score. They include your down payment amount, (see Saving Makes a Difference) and your debt to income ratios.

So you have seen your credit and score? How do you make it better.

  1. Make your payments on time. Get current if you are behind on any debt and stay current.
  2. Pay down credit card debt aggressively. Focus on credit cards that have balances of over 50% of the available line. Do not close cards that have zero balances Credit scoring also considers all balances vs available lines of credit. Closing an account lowers you available credit.
  3. Don’t apply for new credit. If your goal is to buy a home in the coming months, avoid getting additional debt. Not only will this not show additional inquiries on your report but also keep your debt to income ratio lower, allowing you to qualify for more home.
  4. Get errors corrected on your credit report.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Your Credit Part I

Note: This was originally posted at another blog (mortgagebullet.wordpress.com) but I no longer post at this blog. I am the original author of this post.

You hear so much about it and you know that credit can make the difference in getting a preferred rate or having to deal with a high rate of interest on anything from housing, cars, insurance, and credit cards. But do you know what makes up your credit score?

There are many different types of credit scores. We are going to focus on traditional credit scoring models that are used for mortgage transactions. Scores can range from 300-850. The average credit score in the United States is 677.

Anatomy of a Credit Score
35% - Past Payment Performance
30% - Credit Utilization
15% - Credit History
10% - Type of Credit in Use
10% - Inquiries

Past Payment Performance – is just as it sounds. How well you have you paid your debts? A creditor will report your loan as current as long as you pay your bills within 30 days. Any longer than 30 days and it will be reported late with the credit reporting agency. The last 12-24 months history weighs most prominently on your score.

Credit Utilization – is how you use your credit. If you have credit cards, what kind of balance do you have in relation to the amount available. If you are over 50% of available balance, it is considered high. Have you added new credit recently? That may also play a roll in your credit score.

Credit History – is how long you have had your credit. The longer you have had credit, the better to determine how you handle life’s ups and downs.

Types of Credit in Use – Do you have a mortgage loan, a car loan, credit cards, or finance companies listed on your credit report? Too many credit cards or use of finance companies (example of a finance company loan is if you take store financing for furniture) can negatively impact your credit.

Inquiries – How many times have you had your credit pulled. It can show that you are applying for credit in many places and may have loans or credit cards that are not yet showing up on your credit report. If you have your credit pulled a number of times within a short period (14-30 days) of time when shopping for a mortgage or car, the credit reporting agencies will only count it as one inquiry.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Slickdeals.net Review

So this week we focused on three separate deal websites...Woot, Bargain Jack, and DealsofAmerica.

Today we will focus on my favorite deal site of them all. Slickdeals.net

What makes it better than DealsofAmerica? Which is the most similar of the deal sites that I have gone over this week. Slickdeals goes over some of the same deals that are detailed elsewhere and has the same coupons that are listed on DealsofAmerica. The big difference to me, is the community.

That's right. The community on Slickdeals is robust and extremely helpful. They will rate the deals and give feedback such as was there another deal out there that may be better. I find the communities reviews to be very comprehensive and well thought out for the most part.

Check out the "forum" area of this site. These two areas are my favorite.

Slickdeals also lists freebies. It lists what sites are giving away free samples of their products. However, if you do get into this service, please realize a number of these companies listed are small companies trying to grow their business. Only sign up for a freebie if you think that you may invest some of your hard earned money if you like their product.

Also, something that is fun is games that companies offer and give away free stuff. These can be grand prize type giveaways including vacations, cars, and cash or just instant win type games where you may win free shipping, a small coupon, or a candy bar. These can be time consuming but it can be addicting. I have spent just a small amount of time since I found slickdeals a few years ago. The biggest thing I have won is something from Bacardi Sliver which included a t-shirt, an umbrella, a beach bag, and a couple of other miscellaneous things.

Because of the active community and extra features that Slickdeals features it rated a 5 out of 5 stars by Deals That Matter.

Next week I am going to focus on your credit including what makes up your score, how to improve your score, and recent changes that you need to know about regarding credit scoring.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Review of DealsofAmerica.com

We have visited both Woot and Bargain Jack this week. These two sites are focused almost exclusively on one deal a day sites and sales. But there are more to deal sites than just one sale, on one site, each day.

That is where DealsofAmerica comes in.

Deals has it all. Hot deals, coupons, credit card offers, free after rebates, and a compare prices area on it's site.

What makes Deals really special, is that it does not just give you that a product is on sale, but what coupons and codes that can help you save additional percentage, a flat dollar amount, or even get you free shipping.

Right now the site is featuring it's Valentines Day Gift Center. You see a lot of merchandise from ice.com. Anyone notice the $15 off $20 order with coupon code from 1-800-flowers.com? I'm not linking it. I hate to inform you, you have to do a little work too.

To my knowledge, they are one of the first sites that list Black Friday deals from any number of stores.

Take some time to really go through the coupon portion of the site. It is very in depth and you will fantastic deals that you would be very hard pressed to find on your own.

My take. DealsofAmerica is a 4.5 on a 5 star scale.

And yes, I have a 5 star review for you on deal sites. What could it be? You'll just have to come back now won't you?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Get to Know Bargain Jack

Earlier this week I introduced you and implored you to visit woot!

If you haven't, well that is just a shame. Today they are selling John Daly golf clubs. You just have to read the story and product description. Priceless.

But today we move on to Bargain Jack.

Want to know Jack?

Well, Jack does 2 things very well. 1) It gives you 21 deals everyday from anything from electronics to kitchen wares and t-shirts. 2) It gives a run down of a number woot knock-offs. Ok, other one day deals sites. These sell anything under the sun.

I have found some very good electronics deals and memory cards and digital cords from these sites. I like looking around at the different sites and see what they are offering.

It is great site to peruse when it comes time to buy gifts or look at the holidays. You can find great deals on great gifts.

Bargain Jack is definitely one of the deal sites that I visit everyday. And oh yeah, woot is listed on Bargain Jack too, right along with Wine Woot, which is exactly what it sounds like, except the deal lasts a week.

Monday, February 4, 2008

What is Woot?

This week I will be detailing some of my favorite deal websites that I visit everyday.

Today, it is the grand-daddy of one day deal websites WOOT!.

What? You haven't heard of Woot? Where have you been? Not real sure what a one day deal sites are?

Let me explain.

One day deal sites are just that. They sell one item only for one day only. If they sell out within the first hour of the sale...tough, you have to wait 23 hours to see a new deal.

There are a million of these sites out there, I will be detailing some of the other ones in the coming days but nobody, and I mean nobody does it better than Woot.

Even when I don't like their offering, or the deal has already sold out, I go to the site to be entertained. I read the product description. They are great. The writers are very funny. It is a serious site that has a serious sense of humor. Don't believe me. Go buy a leak frog. Watch Woot long enough you will see them. And then you will understand.

And once Woot has had enough of their daily deals, they do the Woot-Off. This is where it gets fun! They put a product up until it sells out and then the move onto the next deal. Products can sell out in minutes or if a Woot-Killer can take hours. But the crown jewel of the woot-off is the Bag of Crap. Normally you wouldn't clamor for a Bag of Crap but here you do. The people at Woot sell a mystery bag that is filled with pens, rubberbands, and possibly high end electronics. You don't know but it could be something really good.

So check it out. You can find great deals and wonderful entertainment.

Deals That Matter is not affiliated with Woot.