Reuters Money

New credit score tool offers insight into getting the best credit card


There’s a certain mystery about applying for a credit card: Is your credit score good enough for the best card and rate? Just how much credit might you get  if you are approved? What does everyone else get?

Now there are answers to these questions. With a new tool from, you can use information from a long list of credit card companies to find the best card for you, and figure out the one that you’re most likely to get approved for.

CreditKarma, which has been providing users with their credit scores for free for the past few years, is now offering anyone the opportunity to look at real-world data to see what credit scores it takes to get approved for hundreds of different credit cards. And there’s a whole lot more you can do, including sort cards by average household income of those approved, sort by the amount of credit extended and even a cardholder’s age. It’s a handy tool for anyone who might want to see where the lines are drawn before applying for a credit card.

“Credit card companies generally know everything about you before you apply and you don’t know much about them,” CreditKarma CEO and founder Ken Lin says.

Time to refinance? How low can mortgage rates go?


Mark Sass and his wife Jan decided to refinance the mortgage on their Cincinnati, Ohio, home on Friday, just days before the Federal Reserve pledged to keep rates near historic lows through the first half of 2013.

“I knew the Fed statement was coming out and rates had dropped to historically low levels, and it just seemed like an opportune time. I hadn’t even thought about it until then,” says Sass, who owns his own marketing research company.

Stock loans can put your securities to work as collateral


A few years ago, homes provided a deep and seemingly endless pool of loan collateral. Now, depressed real estate values and tight lending standards are prompting some brokers to float the idea of using stocks and other securities as collateral for people with healthy portfolios but limited borrowing options.

As the name implies, securities-based loans rely on the value of stocks, bonds or mutual funds as collateral. The most common form of a securities-based loan is a margin loan, which typically allows you to borrow up to 50 percent of the value of stocks in your account, and a higher percentage for less volatile assets such as Treasury or municipal bonds.

It’s time for banks to pay back their debt to the rest of us


The devilish deficit dance going on in Congress right now has been a convenient distraction for big U.S. banks. They’ve not only escaped new taxes for now, but they also are relishing their taxpayer bailout by earning robust profits.

Except for Bank of America, the major U.S. banks are doing just fine, thank you. Yet for all of the abundant generosity and forgiveness of the American people, have banks lent out enough money to Americans to make a difference to the economy at large?

Consumers buy the wrong credit scores, new agency warns


At least some of the millions and millions of dollars that consumers shell out to buy their credit scores could be misspent, and possibly even damaging, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggested in a report released today.

Consumers spend more than $1 billion a year buying credit reports and credit scores from credit rating agencies or other online scoring sites, the study said.

5 reasons why banks hate Elizabeth Warren


Elizabeth Warren, it’s not you they hate. It’s what you represent. You want to be an honest cop when so many before you in Washington have looked the other way and pretended that the banking industry could police itself.

I can’t think of a better reason why this presidential adviser shouldn’t be the new chief of an unfettered Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Affluent plastic: Are high-end credit cards worth it?


Competition is heating up in the lucrative high-end credit card market, where annual fees can run into the hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. Issuers are offering luxury benefits and exclusive rewards programs in an attempt to win the loyalty of affluent consumers.

“Many of the larger card issuers covet high-net worth clients because of their huge charge volume, rather than the typical finance charge revenue they might earn from the masses,” says Ben Woolsey of That charge volume can top $20,000 a month, by some estimates. “People with large charge volume generate significant amounts of interchange revenue for the issuer,” he said.

Why are credit scores such a mystery?


Do you know how your credit score is calculated?

Most people don’t because it’s a trade secret, and the private firms that collect credit data are poorly regulated. You have better chance of reading classified U.S. State Department cables on Wikileaks.

It’s troubling that your so-called “FICO” score, which measures your ability to pay back loans and maintain credit, is such a black box. This one number can determine not only your ability to get a mortgage or installment loan, but how much interest you’ll pay over time.

The best credit cards for college grads


The din of hallowed halls is quieting and as college students reach for their diplomas, they may also be reaching for some new plastic. Grads who have reached the ripe-old-age of 21 are now unencumbered by credit card regulation and free to start building a credit history — and choosing the right card can mean extra rewards. has compiled a list of the top credit cards for graduates, depending on your goals after college and the state of your credit history.

Need a loan? 4 tips to improve your debt health


USA-HOUSING/SPRINGYou’re young, ready to start a family and make the most significant investment of your life — the purchase of your first home. You’ve saved for a sizable down payment, but have you assessed your debt health?

The Great Recession has driven home the perils of plastic dependency, yet the average credit card debt per household in the U.S. is $14,750, according to And, in March alone, there were 144,657 consumer bankruptcy filings, up 41 percent from February’s total of 102,686.