Does Gender Impact Auto Insurance Rates?

A few facts you need to know

If you drive a vehicle, as most people do, auto insurance is a fact of life. And everyone is continuously looking for ways to cut their rates. But there are some interesting facts that you may not know when it comes to gender and its impact on those rates.

Car insurance rates are based on various factors, including your age; the make, model and year of your vehicle; and both your driving history and driving record. Location is also crucially important, with insurance rates varying greatly by state. But gender can also impact your rates, with women generally paying less than their male counterparts. While this may seem unfair on the surface, when you dig a bit deeper you’ll see there’s a rationale behind this decision as well.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that “Many more men than women die each year in motor vehicle crashes. Men typically drive more miles than women and more often engage in risky driving practices including not using safety belts, driving while impaired by alcohol, and speeding. Crashes involving male drivers often are more severe than those involving female drivers.”

A 2015 study from InsuranceQuotes found that a 20-year-old male will pay just over 20 percent more than a 20-year-old female. “At the end of the day, young men are less cautious, riskier, more distracted drivers,” the study notes.

According to a 2015 article in the Huffington Post, there are three states (Massachusetts, North Carolina and Hawaii) that don’t allow gender to play a role in the setting of insurance rates. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Montana apply the same set of rating factors to both men and women, so there’s no difference in rates in those states either.

There are a few things you can do to alleviate the insurance burden you’re facing; this is especially true for younger drivers who may feel the heaviest crunch of high insurance costs. There are good student discounts of around 20 percent for students who maintain at least a 3.0 GPA and take part in a Driver’s Ed course. If you don’t drive a lot, you can also consider a pay-as-you drive policy that factors in how far, how well and how often you drive. Making fewer small claims and shopping around to compare pricing can also keep your premiums low.

There are many things to consider when it comes to auto insurance rates, but the most important thing you can do is speak to your insurance representative and ask about the best ways for you to save. If you do your homework, you may be able to save big.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

How Gift Cards Can Help You Save Money

Strategies involving gift cards to save you cash

There are two main ways you can save money with gift cards: One has to do with buying them, and the other has to do with using them. Read on for more information.

Use only gift cards while shopping
Shopping with gift cards can be an extremely effective budgeting tool. Determine your monthly expenses (go beyond rent and utilities) and place them into categories such as groceries, pharmacy, household items, auto maintenance, clothing and more. Next to each, list the stores where you most frequently shop, starting or listing first your top-choice vendor. Buy a gift card and shop for your items at that store using only the gift card. It will save you from overspending on any given category.

Buy discounted gift cards
To take even better advantage of gift cards as a budgeting tool, you can buy those gift cards at a fraction of the normal cost. How? People often utilize online auction sites such as eBay to sell off cards that they know they won’t use. Peruse your options there or visit an online gift card exchange site such as CardHub, CardCash, Cardpool or GiftCards.com.

Herb Weisbaum of CNBC also recommends checking big-box, bulk retailers such as Costco to find gift cards being sold at less than face value. Additionally, don’t forget to check into your loyalty program or credit card reward points — they are also good sources for gift cards on the cheap, and some even offer them at a redeemed-point discount!

“This is a great untapped resource for savings,” said Bankrate.com’s Janna Herron in a CNBC article. “It’s an easy way to stretch your rewards and your…budget, and maybe use up points or miles that are about to expire.”

Finally, keep an eye out at the shops you frequent for any discounts or promotions they may be having — especially during the holiday season, when there is a big push to get people to come back into their stores once the holidays are wrapped.

Both buying discounted gift cards and using them to stay on budget are great ways to cut prices on purchases you are going to have to make anyway — so what are you waiting for?

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Do You Need a Co-signer for Your Auto Loan?

If you don’t have enough income or good enough credit, you may need a co-signer

As with any type of loan, your income and credit history will be major determinants of whether you are approved for an auto loan application. If you’ve been denied for an auto loan, you may want to consider using a co-signer.

Understanding how a lender determines loan approval
According to a January 2016 article in The Balance by author of “The Everything Improve Your Credit Book” Justin Pritchard, the lending company or financial institution must have reason to believe you will pay back the loan in order for you to be deemed worthy to receive the auto loan. A financial institution looks at two factors to determine whether you are credible: your credit score and your income.

Your credit history is a true indicator of how well you repay your loans; if you’ve borrowed money through loans previously and have successfully paid them off, or are making on-time payments, the lender will be more likely to believe you are a safe bet and will approve your loan application. On the other hand, if you have a poor credit score from defaulting on loan repayments, or don’t have any borrowing history, the financial institution may not want to approve you for a loan, explains Pritchard. To the financial institution, such a person is a bad investment, as the likelihood of the financial institution being repaid decreases.

Lenders also consider the income of the individual in deciding on a loan application, says Pritchard. In fact, the financial institution often calculates a debt to income ratio to determine if you make enough income to cover the expense of the loan payment each month.

Larger vehicles are generally more expensive than smaller ones, but smaller cars can also be more costly depending on the make and the engine build. The price of the vehicle and its calculated monthly payments under a loan in comparison to your monthly income will determine whether you have a low enough debt to income ratio to afford the monthly payments.

When to bring in a co-signer on your auto loan
If you have poor or no credit history, or your debt to income ratio is deemed too high by the lender, you will likely not be approved for a loan. In essence, the financial institution has determined you are too risky and will likely struggle to repay the loan, so it is unwilling to work with you.

A co-signer can help you meet the income and credit score requirements of the financial institution, as the financial institution considers the added income and credit history of the co-signer to the loan terms, explains Pritchard.

“Co-signing happens when somebody promises to pay a loan for somebody else. This happens when a [financial institution] won’t approve a loan (or it won’t approve the original application, but it’s willing to lend if a co-signer is involved),” says Pritchard in an October 2016 article in The Balance.

To the financial institution, the co-signer acts as a backup plan to collect payment if you default on the loan repayment. And if the co-signer has good credit history, the financial institution knows that at least one person on the loan has experience borrowing and repaying loans on time, adds Pritchard.

“The co-signer (who presumably has strong credit and income) promises to ensure that the loan gets repaid by signing the loan agreement with you. In other words, the cosigner takes full responsibility for the debt — if you don’t pay off the loan, your co-signer will have to do it.

“As a borrower,” Pritchard explains, “you need to have sufficient income and good credit to qualify for a loan. Using a co-signer therefore boosts your appeal as a borrower to the financial institution if you can’t meet the loan application requirements on your own.”

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Three Things You Need to Do to Your Student Loans Right Now

Stay ahead of this big expense

Recent college graduates already have enough on their plates worrying about getting a job and supporting themselves — the last thing they want to do is stress over student loan repayment. For most, paying off student loans takes a long time, so no matter where you are in that process, there are three things you should stop and do right now.

1. Get organized
Take an inventory of your student loans. You can get a list by signing up at http://www.nslds.ed.gov/. After a short enrollment process, you will have a handy list of all guaranteed loans that were issued to you by the government, as well as those made by private lenders through June 2010. If you have a private nonguaranteed loan, those should all be present and detailed on your credit report, which you can find for free online.

Create a spreadsheet chronicling the name of each lender, the web address, your username and password (ensure your device is locked or encrypted), the loan balance, and the interest rate. The latter will be helpful if you opt to consolidate or pay off any interest early down the road. But be sure to keep your list up to date, as interest rates on student loans can be fixed or variable.

2. Know your repayment options
“The standard repayment schedule extends your loan payments over ten years, or 120 payments,” explained Maggie McGrath of Forbes. “However, if the standard monthly payments aren’t manageable on your budget — or if you’re unemployed or otherwise unable to repay your loans — the federal government has some alternative repayment plans for you, as well as some deferral options.”

Income-based repayment (IBR) and income-contingent repayment (ICR) extend your payment period to 25 years, capping your monthly payments at a fixed percentage of your income. The income on which payments are based and the actual percentage differ between the two plans. Pay-as-you-earn is a 20-year repayment period, with yet another varying percentage of your discretionary income.

You can read about other repayment options from the government here: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/understand/plans. Be wary, as these types of programs can cause your interest costs to increase over time, so always pay as close to your original amount due as you can.

3. Be aware of loan forgiveness opportunities
There are three primary programs that forgive the balance of your loan: Public service loan forgiveness, teacher loan forgiveness and Perkins loan cancellation.

“To qualify for forgiveness, your loans can’t be in default, meaning they’ve gone unpaid for more than nine months,” noted higher education expert Brianna McGurran of Nerdwallet. “Also, private student loans don’t offer forgiveness, though some lenders will let you make interest-only payments or take a temporary interest rate reduction if you’re having trouble affording your bill.”

Public service loan forgiveness requires you to have been working for a nonprofit or the government for at least 10 years in roles including, but not limited to, firefighting, teaching, the military and nursing. In the teacher-specific program, you must work full time as an educator for five consecutive years. The Perkins loan forgiveness also cancels the balance of that loan if you’ve worked as a teacher, firefighter, nurse, police officer, school librarian or public defender for about five years or more. For a complete description of eligibility requirements, visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation.

If you take the time to do your homework and gather yourself before — or even while — you are repaying your student loans, the process will seem a lot less scary, and a lot more manageable.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Tips for Making Safe Credit Card Purchases Online

In today’s digital age, you need to be especially careful when making online purchases

With online shopping becoming the norm, people have also become more susceptible to identity theft. It’s imperative that you be careful and mindful of how you shop online.

A November 2016 article in The Balance by contributor LaToya Irby outlines seven tips for safe online shopping:

Conduct your online shopping only on websites you trust
It may sound obvious, but using your credit card to make online purchases only on those websites you know and trust could save you from becoming a victim of fraud. Never click on links provided via email; instead, type the entire URL of the website into your browser to open the site.

Never shop from a public place
Public computers are susceptible to hacker technology, such as software that captures your keystrokes and retains your personal and credit card information. Additionally, public Wi-Fi is unsecured and, as such, could redirect your device to a fake internet connection that an identity thief can monitor and use to intercept your personal information.

Keep your devices protected from viruses
Always stay up to date with virus and spyware protection software, and make sure you are using antivirus software that is reputable, not the type for which you receive an ad via email or in a pop-up window.

Check with the BBB first
The Better Business Bureau marks websites with poor customer service records, so make sure to check out the credibility of the site in question using the BBB before making a purchase.

Use credit cards, not debit cards
Credit cards have better protection services against fraud than debit cards, so you’re liable for fewer fraudulent charges if they occur. Additionally, you could lose access to your account and your funds while the financial institution sorts out a debit card that has been compromised, whereas with a credit card the only access that’s affected is that line of credit.

Make sure the website you use is secured
Always look for the green lock symbol at the start of your URL browser, and make sure you type in the website using “https” to ensure the site is secured to encrypt your information when making online purchases.

Keep track of your purchases with receipts
Just as with in-store purchases, printing a copy of the receipt of your online transaction will help you track your credit card activity. Use the printed copy to compare against your monthly credit card statement and watch for fraud.

In a November 2016 article in the Better Business Bureau by APR, CFEE Janet C. Hart recommends checking both your credit card activity and your bank account activity once a week, rather than waiting for the monthly statement. This ensures you catch fraudulent activity shortly after it’s occurred instead of finding out weeks later.

Hart also advises that we be wary of phishing scams—emails seemingly from a business claiming an error with your order or your account and asking you to confirm personal and identifying information. Legitimate businesses do not send these types of emails.

“Beware of ‘GREAT’ deals — if you find a website offering deals that seem too good to be true, they probably are. You may get a knock-off product, a product that is not the brand you ordered, or you may get nothing at all,” adds Hart.

Lastly, Hart recommends always checking the website’s privacy policy before making purchases online, so you know exactly how your personal information will be used.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.