How Closing Accounts Can Kill Your Credit Score

One of the major factors of how your credit score is calculated is your capacity. This is the ratio of credit used to the amount of credit that is available. This accounts for 30 percent (almost a third!) of your credit score. For example if you have 5 credit cards with a $1000 limit and you have 3 of them maxed out and 2 of them inactive your capacity would be at 60 percent, $3000 of your $5000 total credit limit. This is not good in the eyes of the lenders and your credit score would suffer because its ideal to be at 10 percent of your capacity.

Remember a credit score is a formula measuring your ability to pay back your debts and obligations. If you have a high capacity and little room left for your maximum then your ability to pay back your obligations is viewed as more limited.

So in the example above, lets say you decide to close the 2 inactive cards for whatever reason. Nowadays, the credit card companies will charge a fee to inactive cards so a lot of people are now closing their inactive accounts. Well unfortunately, they are killing their credit score. If you are maxed out on three cards and you close the other 2, guess what, you are now at 100 percent capacity because your total credit limit is now $3000 instead of $5000. I know from personal experience this will cause your credit score to plummet.

My advice? Don’t close your inactive cards. Use them once a month, maybe for gas, or treat yourself to a latte from Starbucks. Then pay them off immediately so you don’t incur any interest. Do what you can to pay off the cards that are maxed out, or at least get them down to where your balance is under 10 percent of the limit. If you can, try to transfer the balance to a lower interest card, so it can save you a few bucks on the interest. This strategy is sure to improve your credit score because capacity is a major factor, and if your capacity improves, your score improves.

Asking your bank for a credit limit increase on some of your cards isn’t suggested nowadays, this is a strategy that old credit repair people recommended but in today’s economy with the credit crunch, it prompts an account review, which for some quirky reason, may cause the banks to LOWER your credit limit. This would damage your capacity as well.

You are already disciplined enough to not spend on two cards. You are unique in today’s credit crunch world, use your discipline to your advantage, don’t close your accounts. You will be doing more harm to your credit score than good.

Baby Clothes Overstock and Clearance Items – Why Donating Makes Sense

Retail clothing storeowners inevitably face the same situation year after year – a surplus of last season's styles in some form or another. This is good news for the consumer, as prices on these items are typically slashed well below retail in order to make room for new products. But what to do with the clearance items that remain on the shelves well into the next season? Or what if there simply is not enough room to hang on to these items any longer once new products arrive? Storeowners who find them facing these questions may want to consider donating overstock and / or clearance items to a worthy charitable organization.

In many cases, making a sizeable donation will not only benefit the many people touched by the organization receiving your donation, it may make a positive impact on your bottom line by allowing your business a tax write-off at the end of the year. If you are considering making a sizeable donation, you may first want to contact your tax advisor to discuss how the donation would affect your tax scenario.

It is advisable to spend some time researching potential organizations prior to donating. There are seemlessly countless organizations out there that are willing to take donations of clothing and accessory items. When choosing an organization, make sure first and foremost that the organization is not-for-profit, as this ensures the potential tax-benefit of donating. It may be easier to locate large national organizations, but it is worth to research smaller local organizations as well. These local organizations often do not receive the level of exposure necessary to meet their demands at the same level as larger organizations. As is the case in so many situations, the internet is generally the best source of information for researching charitable organizations. In addition, consult your local phone book, and ask around. Chances are you already know someone who has some sort of connection to a local charity – use those connections!

Once you have selected a non-profit organization to receive your donation, it is important to obtain a single point-of-contact within the organization. This person can organize the receipt of your donation, which in many cases can be arranged to take place at your business or warehouse. It is a good idea to provide an itemized list of the donation, including wholesale value, to your point-of-contact at the time of the donation. This list will not only help to document inventory in your records, it will also be a helpful tool for the charity to reference while incorporating the donation items into their existing product supply. In turn, ask that they provide you with a "letter of receipt", acknowledging and referencing the value of the donation. This letter will provide documentation that will be needed to validate the tax write-off. Be sure to discuss the significance of this letter with your point-of-contact prior to making the donation, and follow-up soon as the donation is made to be sure the letter is generated in a timely manner.

Some Things Your Car Insurance Company Won’t Tell You

1. How to determine the value of “total loss.”

Most companies will tell you that they use at least three methods or schemes to determine the actual a totaled vehicle’s value including value books, computer-generated quotes from dealers, and local market research. In this case, you will probably think that local area is your current neighborhood, but it is not specifically defined by the insurer. If, in any case, the company cannot find an auto replacement in your neighborhood, so they have to find it not from your “local area,” your totaled car’s value is certainly affected. For example, if you currently live in New York, replacing your totaled vehicle in suburbs will be cheaper than in the city. Insurance company will, of course, use quotes from suburbs area as the most-reasonably-priced estimates. The main purpose in totaling a vehicle is to allow the consumer (the insured person) to purchase the same car that is totaled in an accident within the local market. Since they use three different schemes to figure out real value of a totaled car, a consumer may end up with a cheaper car than the totaled one. It is impossible to be sure what value you will get when your company does not tell you how they determine it.

Fortunately, you can do some smart methods to help yourself and your company to do the value determination. First, you have to produce valid proof that your car was in good conditions when the accident occurred; car in good condition has better value than a wreck. Bring a copy of maintenance records including oil changes and inspection by an authorized mechanic. The records will tell your company that your auto was regularly maintained, meaning it was actually in great shape (in terms of appearance and performance) when the accident occurred. Moreover, you probably had special features installed such as multimedia system, anti-theft system, anti-lock brakes, rear view camera, or 5-harness seat belt. The car insurance company may charge you more because of some special upgrades, so make sure that your insurer includes that in the evaluation.

Another good thing is to find at least three dealers and get quotes on replacement from them; make sure all dealers in your local area or at least within short driving distance from your home. Present the quotes to your insurer and ask your insurer to provide a list of some car dealers who probably can provide a car for the price listed in the quotes. If you are not satisfied with the company’s value determination or you get less than you expect, you can choose to do mediation. So, meaning you present the case to third party (neutral) to get help to settle the dispute, or arbitration, or you can even request a formal inquiry to the court.

2. If you want to cancel your policy, do it officially

Most companies say that consumers can cancel their policies at any date, but you need to notify the insurer concerning the exact date you want to end the coverage. The statement is clear enough; in other words, it says consumers have to notify their companies when they want to cancel their policies. However, consumers often think that when they ignore the last bill before renewal, the company will automatically end the policy. Too bad, this is not how it is done. People can forget and deliberately miss a bill, and the company totally understands that. After this first missed bill, your insurer is going to send you one more bill for premium payment; if you don’t pay the bill, you will be cancelled for non-payment, and the record will hurt your credit score.

What you should do when you want to cancel auto insurance policy is to let the company know that you are canceling. Please make sure that you provide a specific date; it helps you avoid being totally uninsured for a certain period, time, term. The cancellation request will be sent to you, and all you have to do is to put your signature. It is recommended that you carefully check the document before signing it. Some companies may require you to provide valid proof that you indeed have another coverage before they can approve the cancellation. If you’ve financed your car, the dealer needs the updated policy information because valid proof of insurance is required in the purchase contracts.

Credit history still matters

The use of credit information to determine approval and premium rate is still common, despite the fact that some states already started to ban such practice. Some (if not most) companies use the credit history to generate risk score. They believe that it strongly linked or correlated to the likelihood of the consumer reporting a claim. More likelihood of filing a claim is exactly the same with high-risk driver that usually also pays more expensive premium fee compared to “safe-driver” or “the preferred class.” The preferred consumers are those with stable credit card history as it suggests financial stability, meaning they are not likely to miss a payment. People of this category are safer consumers to insure compared to people with shaky credit history. Auto insurance companies do not like consumer who pays sporadically or changes accounts quite frequently.

There are some credit card issuers who offer free credit score checking, but in most cases, you need to pay for the service. Unlike credit score, risk score for insurance-related matters will not be available for you, but both probably indicate the same thing which is financial stability. If you are currently in the market to purchase auto insurance, and it turns out that you have quite unusual activity on your credit history within only certain time frame, you can wait until one month to allow the credit activity to go back to its usual condition. If you cannot keep the credit score stable, prepare yourself to pay more expensive premium fee.

3. Budgeting by installments is not always efficient.

Installments can pay almost all items, and consumers think that it is indeed the best way to budget the expense. When it comes to auto insurance, you can ask the company to divide the annual premium into a monthly basis, quarterly, or on six month. Please put in mind that dividing the annual premium will cost you “fractional premium.” You can consider this additional service fee to arrange the installment. It can be as cheap as $10 per payment; the more you break it down, the most fractional premium to pay.

Most companies will probably offer you to pay in installments since it makes more money for them. When you apply for insurance, it is wise to ask whether there is any additional charge for installments option, and then you can compare the difference. If the fractional premium is not very expensive, then perhaps it is worth it. Another big difference between upfront payment and installments is that certain companies will immediately cancel your coverage if you miss one payment; even worse, they can do it without notification. It is best to pay up front if you can; the entire process will be easier, and you can indeed save few dollars.

Every vehicle model and type has certain premium rate

Of course, you all know that sport cars need more expensive insurance policies than a van, but insurance companies will not tell you the exact numbers. In general, it is true that attractive, sporty, luxurious car with turbocharged engine will go very quickly on the road, and it increases the risk of accidents, but this is not always true considering the discounts for safety features, security features, mileage (especially when you drive it less), etc. Auto insurance companies have a specific system to know the premium for all car models you can buy, based on the system rating by ISO (Insurance Service Office). Every type of car is rated from 3 to 27; higher number means a higher premium. Insurance Service Office says that it will not release the rating system for publication because its clients are insurance companies.

You will not get the rating system from your insurer; you may not even find it anywhere at all. The best thing you can do when you want to purchase a new auto is to ask the insurance how much insurance premium you need to pay for a new car that you want to purchase. If you keep a good relationship with an independent agent, he/she should be able at least to predict the price based on raw calculation.

4. Filing claim increases your premium.

People are always interested to see insurance companies reduce premium fee to attract potential customers. It is indeed one of the best things customers get from the competition in the market, but your insurer can increase the price right away after you file your first claim. The industry standard is to increase premium fee up to 40% of the base rate after first-at-fault accident. With the help of an online car insurance calculator you get a base rate of $500, your premium increases by $200. Some companies have different rules, but there is always a big chance your premium will go up after the first-at-fault claim. Some insurers offer “first-accident forgiveness,” meaning your first actual claim will not affect the premium at all, but the variable and requirement for eligibility can be different from company to company. You should ask your insurer if such discount is available and how to qualify for it.

Shopping for Gifts on a Budget

Holiday shopping is seldom easy. Whether you're just hopping around department stores or just surfing the net, the limitless choices made available by advertisers can actually be more of a detriment for someone who is in a real hurry. This can be quite problematic if you're on a budget and have such a long shopping list. Time constraints do not really provide you the benefit of thoroughly comparing every item in each store in an effort to find yourself the best bargain. One who has been shopping for hours can quite easily succumb to the pressure and end up buying gifts beyond a planned budget.

If you're in this very familiar predicament, all is not lost. When shopping for holiday gifts it sometimes makes more sense to look for items that are simple yet meaningful. While a sophisticated electronic gadget could certainly get a friend excited, simple inexpensive gifts like personalized mugs or engraved pens may just elicit the same amount of appreciation.

Nothing is perhaps more appropriate than a gift that actually captures the holiday spirit. As holidays bring sentimental moments, you'd want to give something you would be remembered for. Embroidered pillows and blankets would be good choices. Collectibles like cd's and personalized caps should also do the trick. Listed below are some gift items worth considering:

• shirt of a home team

• cross stitching kit

• bottle of a local wine

• personalized notepad

• stationary

• photo album

• memo holders

• tool kits

• Carpentry kits

• versatile pocket knife

While you'll certainly be shaved with praises by giving a fancy cellphone or notebook, it sometimes makes more sense to go for something more practical yet thoughtful. You do not really have to dent your budget to please a friend. People tend to get appreciated more for the amount of effort that they've performed in looking for that meaningful gift that touches the heart. Whether it's Christmas, Thanksgiving, or a major school reunion, there's really no reason to panic. All it takes is just a little imagination and a touch of creativity.

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