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MIP vs. PMI

MoneyTipsIf you are a first-time homebuyer, you may be aware of mortgage insurance but you may not know that there are two different types. Mortgage Insurance Premiums (MIP) and Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) both have the same general purpose: to offset the default risk to lenders when borrowers have purchased homes with low down payments (below 20%). Mortgage insurance does not protect buyers; it protects lenders from the potential default of buyers. There are some significant differences between PMI and MIP. PMI applies to conventional loans with more traditional down payments and protects the lender (or the investor who buys the debt as a mortgage-backed security). MIP applies to FHA government-backed loans. In both cases, the insurance costs are passed on to buyers, but in the case of PMI, the mortgage insurance is supplied by a third party. PMI offers more flexibility in terms. It can be paid as a lump sum at closing or financed along with the home and incorporated into monthly mortgage payments. PMI amounts vary based on the size of the loan and individual risk factors such as the loan-to-value ratio (LTV), a measure of how much initial equity the buyer holds. Rates for PMI can range anywhere from 0.5% to 2% of the loan amount. In most cases, PMI must be removed at 78% LTV and borrowers can request that PMI be removed after the LTV ratio reaches 80%. At closing, buyers should be informed of when PMI can be removed assuming regular scheduled payments are made. Some lenders may be willing to forgive PMI at a higher LTV ratio if they feel that the buyer no longer poses a significant default risk. MIP is associated with FHA loans that have low down payments, as low as 3.5% in some cases. As a result, the default risk is higher and the mortgage insurance premiums have less latitude in terms. MIP has two components: an upfront premium (UFMIP) and an annual premium. The current upfront premium rate is 1.75% of the loan amount and the current annual premium is 0.85% for the most common category of FHA loans (LTV's of 95% or above, loans of $625,000 or below, and payments for the term of the mortgage). Annual premiums can be lower for lower LTV values or mortgage terms of fifteen years or less. UFMIP is often financed and added to the mortgage amount because it does not count against the LTV value that is used to determine other thresholds. It is also likely that buyers acquiring an FHA loan at a low down payment do not have the cash on hand to pay UFMIP directly. Generally, the only way to remove MIP is through a full refinancing. By meeting improved down payment and credit requirements on the refinancing, risk to the lender is reduced and MIP is no longer necessary. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes using Credit Manager by MoneyTips. What type of mortgage insurance is best for you? That depends on your individual situation, but PMI is usually preferable to MIP because of the improved flexibility of terms, frequently lower rates, and potential to be removed over time. Online calculators are available to help you determine your MIP and/or PMI for whichever path you choose. However, if you can afford to put the standard 20% down payment toward a home, you can avoid mortgage insurance altogether — the best outcome of all. Be sure to consider insurance costs when determining the size of mortgage that you can afford. MoneyTips is happy to help you get free refinance quotes from top lenders. Photo ©iStockphoto.com/AlexRaths Originally Posted at: https://www.moneytips.com/mip-vs-pmiMortgage Insurance – What Is It?Private Mortgage Insurance 101Understanding Loan-to-Value Ratio

Alaska Airlines, Delta, Southwest make J.D. Power’s best airlines for 2017

Global marketing research company J.D. Power has released its list of the best airlines in the country for the J.D. Power 2017 North America Airline Satisfaction Study.

Alaska Airlines has ranked highest for 10 years in a row among traditional airline carriers. Delta Air Lines came in second place.

Among low-cost carriers, Southwest Airlines came in first, followed by JetBlue in second place. 

>> Read more trending news

“It’s impossible to think about airline customer satisfaction without replaying the recent images of a passenger being dragged from a seat,” Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power, said in a written statement in a Wednesday news release. But, he said, overall “the airline industry has been making marked improvements in customer satisfaction across a variety of metrics, from ticket cost to flight crew.” 

A decline in airfares in 2016 helped drive satisfaction with cost and fees, according to J.D. Power. 

Related: Brawl breaks out on Southwest flight, passenger arrested in latest violence

Taylor added, however, that “airlines have significant room for improvement” and the airline industry is in the bottom tier of most service industries. 

The J.D. Power study measures passenger satisfaction among business and leisure travelers based on a survey of about 11,000 passengers who flew between March 2016 and March 2017. In order of importance, it looks at costs and fees; in-flight services, aircraft, boarding/deplaning/baggage, flight crew, check-in and reservations. 

Related: Complaint: Woman denied restroom access on United Airlines flight, given cup to relieve self

In the traditional carrier segment, Alaska and Delta came in ahead of American in third place, United in fourth place and Air Canada in fifth place. 

But both Southwest and JetBlue scored higher than all of the “traditional carriers,” including Delta and Alaska. 

It’s the first time Southwest ranked highest in the 13 years J.D. Power has conducted the study, after JetBlue ended an 11-year run in the No. 1 spot.

Related: Hands Off Passengers Act would stop bumping of some airline passengers 

Ultra low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines came in last place in the airline satisfaction study. 

The study showed that some pain points for travelers stand out: Problems with overhead bin space have become more common, according to the study. Younger travelers are more likely to have a problem with overhead storage than older travelers, the study showed. 

Issues with airline crews, staff and “attitude” are not the most common problems, according to the J.D. Power study. 

Instead, the most widely reported issues are with seat comfort, followed by issues with aircraft lavatory cleanliness. With planes running fuller than they did 10 years ago, passengers are “more likely to find themselves in a middle seat and less likely to have an empty seat next to them,” according to J.D. Power. 

Instances of airlines bumping passengers and denying them boarding have declined, according to the study, but “they have the greatest negative influence on overall satisfaction.”

More Americans With Credit Card Debt

MoneyTipsSomewhere deep in the headquarters of your credit card issuer, is there a plaque with your smiling picture labeled "Big Spender of the Month?" Perhaps not, but if you are consistently carrying a balance on your credit card, your spending is too big for your income. You are likely to be racking up interest charges and assuming greater credit card debt — and a recent survey suggests that you have an increasing amount of company. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC) recently released their annual Financial Literacy Survey, which shows a disturbing trend with respect to credit card debt. More families are carrying credit card debt over from a previous month (39% in 2017 compared to 35% in 2016) and 16% of households are rolling over at least $2,500 in debt each month (compared to 14% in 2016). The NFCC findings are in line with the New York Fed's last Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit. According to the Fed, credit card balances increased by $32 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016, a 4.3% increase over the previous quarter. Given that credit card interest rates can be 20% or higher, households can easily incur annual interest charges in the hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars. Credit card interest rates are expected to rise even further, thanks to the Federal Reserve's stated plans to raise baseline rates to guard against inflation. If your credit card balance is consistently increasing, there's a pretty fundamental reason why, according to Adam Carroll, Founder and Chief Education Officer of National Financial Educators: "Someone who has massive amounts of credit card debt, they're just an over-spender." It's simple math; on a regular basis, you spend more than you make. Budgeting is the first step to redemption. Carroll suggests using the strategies of "offense" and "defense" to address both sides of the budget battle. According to Carroll, "Great offense is, 'How do I make more money?'...Defense is, 'How do I decrease my monthly expenses to the absolute ridiculous?'" Since you are starting out with a deficit, it's important to cut expenses to the bone and consider all sources for making money, even one-offs such as selling items that you don't need. The free Debt Optimizer by MoneyTips can help you to consolidate your debt. If you qualify, you may be able to take advantage of a balance transfer card to buy some time and help you pay down your debts. Sean McQuay, Credit and Banking Expert at NerdWallet, explains: "These [cards] enable you to move your debt from the card where you have the debt to this new balance transfer card. That new card waives interest fees for the first 12 to 21 months." You still have to pay off the debt, but during the introductory period, you do not incur any interest charges on the balance that you carry over. That allows you to apply the surplus you get from superior budgeting directly toward paying the principal debt. However, it is important for you to pay down the debt promptly, because once the introductory period ends, the interest rate will increase sharply — and failing to control your spending will put you in an even worse situation. With effort, you can become what credit card companies call "deadbeats" — not because you don't pay your bills, but because you do pay them in full. As Carroll explains, people who pay off their bill every month are known within the industry as deadbeats "because the credit card companies make no money on them at all." How often do you get financial advice that encourages you to become a deadbeat? Eliminate your credit card debt, and you can join the debt-free deadbeats and enjoy the irony of that status. If you want to reduce your interest payments and lower your debt, try the free Debt Optimizer by MoneyTips. Photo ©iStockphoto.com/NoDerog Originally Posted at: https://www.moneytips.com/more-americans-with-credit-card-debt/1613 Ways To Lower Credit Card InterestCredit Card Interest 101Video: How to Get A Low Credit Card Interest Rate

5 Ways to Get Credit for Your Business

Did you know business credit can be just as important as having personal credit?

It’s essential for small businesses to get credit so they can have access to the financing needed to cover...

Common Mistakes In 529 Plans

MoneyTipsCongratulations! You have saved for your child's education using a state 529 plan and built up a decent nest egg to send him or her off to college with minimal financial worries. Once a choice of college is made, you can apply the 529 funds toward the educational costs — but beware of these mistakes that parents make when first withdrawing from 529 plans. Assuming the Process is Automatic – People are so used to the automated aspects of financial services that they expect 529 accounts to work in the same way. In the case of a 529 plan, you must request that the funds be withdrawn and direct them accordingly. Check with your 529 plan to verify the options. Typically, you can direct the funds to the school, beneficiary (student), or to the owner (parents). In all cases, you must initiate the withdrawal. Not Correctly Assessing/Specifying the Amount – Make sure you have the total bill from the school and know the amount that you need to withdraw. The money must be used for educational purposes, and if you forget to take into account a scholarship or other financial aid, you may draw out too much without a corresponding educational charge to absorb the money. Clarify the best payment method with the school, as not all institutions treat 529 payments the same way. Direct payments to the school may be incorrectly viewed as a scholarship and affect financial aid. The school may also consider it an adjustment for any school-based financial assistance. The cleanest way, if you can afford it in cash flow terms, is for you to pay the bills and reimburse yourself using 529 funds. If you choose that path, make sure you keep records so that the withdrawal can be traced to an educational payment. Beware of pushing your bank account into overdraft by not factoring in any automated payments or debit orders when you pay the college bills, as that could hurt your credit. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes using Credit Manager by MoneyTips. Triggering Tax Problems – If you or your student is claiming an educational tax credit, you may have to adjust the total costs covered by the 529 plan downward to account for the difference. You can either withdraw only the adjusted amount ("net" qualifying costs) or include a portion of the 529 funds on your student's tax return. Another tax problem can arise when the funds are withdrawn in a different year than when the bill was paid. Bills that arrive toward the end of the year can cause a mismatch in funds for tax purposes. If you withdraw funds in December but do not pay the bill until January, it will be considered a withdrawal with no corresponding educational expenses, and is therefore subject to taxes. You can avoid this by having the funds sent directly to the school if that option is available. Otherwise, coordinate your payment timing and 529 withdrawal to match the school's requirements, whether before or after the first of the year. Waiting Too Late to Withdraw ­– 529 withdrawals take time to process, often around two weeks. If you wait too late to withdraw, you may not have the cash in hand to meet a deadline and be forced to pay out of pocket and reimburse yourself later. That's okay, as long as you have the cash to do so and do not run afoul of the mismatch problem for any year-end bills. Multiple Withdrawals – If your child has more than one 529 account to draw from, thanks to grandparents or other family members, they are lucky, indeed. However, the accounts need to be coordinated to make sure that two withdrawals are not taken to account for the same expenses. Take care to avoid letting a simple 529 mistake cause you a series of problems with your child's school, the IRS, other family members, your 529 plan administrators — and most importantly, your new college student. Photo ©iStockphoto.com/zimmytws Originally Posted at: https://www.moneytips.com/common-mistakes-in-529-plansSaving for Your Child's College ExpensesToday's Headlines: College Choices Limited By AffordabilitySuperfunding your 529 Plan

FIRST LOOK: Tesla's solar roofs are here

Tesla is officially taking orders for its solar glass roof, which is said to be cheaper than a regular roof with an "infinity warranty."

>> Read more trending news

Elon Musk tweeted on Wednesday that the solar roof can be ordered in "almost any country." The roofs will be deployed this year in the U.S. and overseas in 2018. 

The roofs will come in textured, smooth, Tuscan and slate. 

The roofs are made with tempered glass and are more than three times stronger than standard roofing tiles, according to Tesla's website.

Learn more here.

Publix, Wegmans tie for title of America's favorite grocery store

Publix has tied with Wegmans Food Market for the title of America’s favorite grocer, beating out other national supermarkets, including Trader Joe’s, Aldi and Whole Foods.

Lakeland, Florida-based Publix tied with Wegmans, which is headquartered in Rochester, New York, for the top spot on Market Force’s annual list of the country’s most beloved supermarkets.

>> Read more trending news

Market Force’s study surveyed more than 12,700 consumers and scored their satisfaction in five grocery categories, including the ability to find desired items, cleanliness and specialty department service.

Publix took the second-place spot in 2016, while Wegmans ranked first.

Video: Should You Cancel Your Old Credit Card?

MoneyTipsHow does canceling an old credit card affect your credit score? If you've received conflicting advice, watch CreditCards.com Senior Industry Analyst Matt Schulz clarify how different variables play a role in such situations. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes using Credit Manager by MoneyTips. Originally Posted at: https://www.moneytips.com/video-should-you-cancel-your-old-credit-card5 Things Not To Do When You Want To Rebuild Your Credit6 Top Credit MythsHow To Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Balance Transfers 101

MoneyTipsIf you have a series of credit cards and other high-interest rate debts that are difficult to keep track of and cause you difficulties in making payments, would you believe the answer to your problems could be yet another credit card? It is possible, if you consolidate all your debts through a balance transfer credit card. Balance transfer credit cards still work like ordinary credit cards, but the rate and fee structure are set up to accommodate the moving of debt from one card to another. There will be an introductory low-interest period (often 0%) that gives you a cushion to pay off more of the principal on your collective debt. Nerdwallet Credit and Banking Expert Sean McQuay advises, "If consumers want to lower their interest rate for cards they already have, the best option by far is this balance transfer where they basically are taking it from whatever the rate is today to zero." That sounds great for you, the consumer, but what is in it for the banks? Consider these aspects of balance transfer cards for the answer. Balance Transfer Fees – The first bank incentive is balance transfer fees associated with each transaction. A typical balance transfer fee is 3% of the transferred amount. Cards try to strike a balance – some offer no fees but higher introductory interest rates, while others stick with a 0% interest rate and scale their fees accordingly. Online balance transfer calculators are available to help you determine the best deal available to you. Post-Introductory Rate – Introductory periods may be anywhere from a few months to a few years, but then the true rate will kick in – and that rate will be typical of all credit cards, if not higher. Check these rates carefully, and consider the effect if you cannot pay off very much of your transferred balance within the introductory period. You may end up owing more in the long run. Keep in mind that your credit score determines the combination of interest rate and transfer fees that will be offered to you. Check directly with the banks and do not fall for teaser rates in ads. They are directed at those with the highest credit scores. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes using Credit Manager by MoneyTips. New Purchases – This is the bank incentive that trips up most people. Generally, new purchases or cash advances are charged at the higher post-introductory rate while the transferred balances are subject to the low introductory rate. The Credit Card Act of 2009 states that your payments are to be applied to the highest interest-rate balance – except that the minimum required payment may be applied in any way the bank wants. Thus, minimum amounts are always applied to the balance transfer, while any extra is applied to purchases at the higher interest rate. It is best to use the balance transfer card only for the balance transfer and not for new purchases. Instead, use the best of the cards that you consolidated for new purchases – and minimize those purchases. Don't close all the consolidated accounts, because then your available credit will drop and your credit score will suffer. Just use the cards sparingly, if at all. No Grace Periods – You have no room for slop or error with a balance transfer card. Miss a payment and your introductory rate is gone, probably leaving you in worse shape than you were beforehand. Typically, there is an even higher penalty rate charged when payments are missed during the introductory period. Transfer Limits – Cards have varying limits on the total amount to be transferred. You can make transfers to multiple balance transfer cards, but then you risk damage to your credit score – and that option may only be available for high credit scores in the first place. Watch out for the classic trick of being "pre-approved" for one balance transfer limit or interest rate, then being stuck with a lower limit/higher rate once you actually apply for the card. Any "pre-approval" that has not taken into account your debts and credit score is useless. You can apply for balance transfer cards on MoneyTips. Check into any other fees that may be associated with the balance transfer card, and pay close attention to any rewards offers. For example, do the rewards apply only to new purchases, which will be primarily charged at the higher interest rate? Balance transfer cards may be for you if you have a substantial amount of collective high-interest rate debt and can afford to pay a significant amount of it off during the low introductory-rate period. However, it is also important to analyze how you got into debt in the first place and make changes in your spending habits if needed. Balance transfers can only help to a certain degree, and you can only make so many of them before a poor credit score removes that device from your financial toolkit. McQuay cautions that using balance transfer cards is like "…kicking the can down the road, so you are still going to owe the money for that debt. But it gives you some room, helps you get your feet underneath you, figure out how you are going to budget, how you are going to pay off that debt."If you want to consolidate your debt, try the free Debt Optimizer by MoneyTips. Photo ©iStockphoto.com/flyfoor Originally Posted at: https://www.moneytips.com/balance-transfers-101The 3 Easiest Credit Cards You Could HaveThe True Cost of Your Credit CardsNew Credit Card Data

Amazon Echo Show: 5 things to know about the 'stupendously powerful' device

Amazon officially unveiled the Amazon Echo Show, its first smart speaker with a built-in touchscreen, Tuesday.

Here are five things to know about the new device:

>> Creepy or useful? Amazon’s new Echo Look selfie camera wants to help you get dressed

Tech specs 
  • 7-inch display
  • Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Dual 2-inch stereo speakers powered by Dolby
  • 5-megapixel front-facing camera

>> Read more trending news

Features
  • Built-in camera
  • Voice-assistance from Alexa; includes at least 12,000 skills or tasks
  • Bluetooth
  • Touchscreen display offers more on-screen information (step-by-step recipe instructions, 10-day weather reports) and can be used to play videos.
  • Music display features: Connects to Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and offers real-time song lyrics, custom stations, curated playlists, album art
  • Organization features: Ask Alexa to start timers, manage calendars, create to-do lists and sync all the information with the Alexa app.
  • Drop In feature: Free voice-call feature (similar to Apple’s FaceTime) for those with the Alexa app, Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Show to message or call each other.
  • Compatible with smart home devices such as cameras, lights, fans, garages, sprinklers and more, so you can potentially ask Alexa to turn off the lights without getting off the couch

>> On AJC.com: Someone asked Amazon’s Alexa about the CIA and the answers are hilarious

What are critics saying?

Wired Magazine called the device and its abilities “stupendously powerful” and lauded the touchscreen feature that now complements Alexa’s voice control. 

“A screen in the Echo universe means there’s almost nothing you and Alexa can’t do,” Wired’s David Pierce wrote.

But The Verge noted some of the device’s limitations, including a “slightly unsettling” feature in Drop In, the voice-call feature. Drop In allows users to white-list individual contacts who will be able to pop up and start a video chat on your Echo Show unannounced.

“I personally cannot imagine ever letting my friends have this power, but maybe that’s just me.” tech critic The Verge’s Chaim Gartenberg said.

Other limitations include Amazon’s single-user system, which would give anyone in the house access to things like to-do lists and would set off all your devices if someone calls you via Drop In.

In addition, because the device is built to run Echo skills and not apps, users won’t be able to run Amazon’s own Fire OS apps, or anything from the Google Play Store, Gartenberg said.

>> On AJC.com: 7 hidden perks of Amazon Prime you probably never knew about

How to buy

The Amazon Echo Show is currently available to pre-order on Amazon for $229.99 in black or white. The device will be released June 28. 

Amazon is also offering a buy two, save $100 deal with promo code SHOW2PACK.

How to use

Plug the Echo Show into a power outlet, connect to the internet and ask Alexa.

More at Amazon.com.

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