What Is The Prime Rate And Why Does It Matter?

Q: What exactly is the “prime rate?” How does it affect me as an individual?Symbols of percent on falling red cubes

A: The prime rate is the current interest rate that financial institutions in the U.S. charge their best customers. These customers have excellent credit, and are eligible for this optimal rate because their loans carry the lowest risk for their financial institutions.

The prime rate is also referred to as the prime interest rate, prime lending rate or simply prime. You may hear this term thrown around a lot in the financial news or when reading up on loans and mortgages. That’s because the prime rate affects every level of the economy.

We have answers to all your questions on the prime rate.

How is the prime rate determined?

The prime rate is based on another rate, which is set by the Federal Reserve Board. It’s an interconnected system starting with the government and ultimately impacting each of us on some level.

The prime rate is determined in three steps:

  1. The Federal Reserve System, which is the central bank of the United States, sets the federal funds target rate, or the interest rate, it thinks is best for financial institutions to use when lending each other money.
  2. When financial institutions lend each other money to maintain their reserve requirements, they base the interest rates they charge each other on the federal funds target rate.
  3. The Wall Street Journal surveys the largest financial institutions in the country to determine the rate they are using and then publishes this rate as the prime rate. This number is generally 3 percent higher than the federal funds target rate.

The fed’s target rate, and consequently the prime rate, changes often. In fact, the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets the federal funds target rate, meets a minimum of eight times a year to discuss possibly changing the target rate.

The prime rate reached its peak of 8.25% in the second half of 2006 and then steadily decreased to a low of 3.25% at the start of 2009. It has increased over the past few years. You can check out the changes in the prime rate at Federalreserve.gov.

How does the prime rate affect the average individual?

There are two ways the prime rate affects you.

First, the interest rate on nearly every loan, including mortgages and credit cards, is affected by the prime rate. Financial institutions and large lenders will base their interest rates on the prime rate, generally establishing their current rates at an amount that is higher than prime to cover their larger risk of default. If the prime rate rises, the interest rates on your loans and adjustable-rate credit cards will rise as well.

Second, the prime rate affects liquidity in the financial markets. When the rate is low, liquidity increases. This means funds are more readily available because loans are less expensive and easier to qualify for. This, in turn, generates a growing economy as businesses expand.

Conversely, when the prime rate is high, liquidity is low and loans are hard to come by, thus slowing the economy down.

Is the prime rate the only factor used to determine individual interest rates?

While the prime rate is the starting point that financial institutions and large lenders use in determining an interest rate for a loan, it is by no means the only factor they’ll consider.

Your credit score plays a vital role in the interest rate you’ll be granted for a large loan. The higher your score, the lower interest rate you’ll earn. Keep your score high by using your cards responsibly and paying your credit card bills on time.

Here at Destinations Credit Union, we also consider your credit history and the general state of your finances when determining your interest rate on a loan. If we see that you’re moving on an upward trajectory and working toward paying down your debts, we’ll be more likely to grant you a favorable interest rate on any loan we offer.

Also, keep in mind that as an institution devoted to your success, we are always striving to help you achieve and maintain financial wellness. To that end, we offer our members a starting interest rate on all loan products that is currently lower than the interest rate offered by most banks in the U.S. While your specific interest rate may vary due to personal circumstances, you’ll know you’re always getting the best possible terms here at Destinations Credit Union.

The prime rate is an important element in the overall state of the U.S. economy and in your personal finances as well. While you have no control over the rate’s rise and fall, you can do your part in keeping your interest rates low by maintaining a high credit score, living with financial responsibility and taking advantage of the excellent rates on products offered at Destinations Credit Union.

Your Turn: How do you keep your credit score high and your interest rates low? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/primerate.asp

https://www.thebalance.com/prime-interest-rate-3305956
https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-cards/i/prime-rate/
https://www.federalreserve.gov/

Mortgage Rates Are Dropping; Should I Refinance?

Q:  I’ve heard that mortgage rates have dropped dramatically since the start of 2019. three people going over paperworkShould I refinance my mortgage loan to take advantage of these lower rates?

A:  Refinancing a mortgage is essentially paying off the remaining balance on an existing home loan and then taking out a new mortgage loan, often at a lower interest rate. It may sound like a no-brainer, but there are many factors to consider before moving forward with a refinance.

Is it a good time to refinance?

Mortgage rates have been falling steadily over the last few months. During the last week of March this year, rates took their biggest one-week nosedive in more than a decade, and mortgage applications rose 39%, as thousands of homeowners sought out their lenders for a refinance.

However, the downward trend has already reversed as of the beginning of April, when rates hit 4.29 percent. That’s up from 4.17 percent just one week prior. If you’re thinking of refinancing in the near future, it’s best to do move quickly so you can lock in the lowest possible rate. You may be able to save hundreds of dollars a month if you refinance a loan that currently has a relatively high interest rate.

Is a refinance right for you?

While this is definitely an excellent time to take out a new mortgage, that doesn’t mean a refinance is the right fit for everyone.

Here are two reasons a refinance might be a good fit for you:

  1. Your credit is strong and you’d like to lower your monthly payments

The first, and most obvious, reason homeowners refinance their mortgage is to take advantage of a lower interest rate. The drive behind this reason might be a change in finances, personal life or simply the desire to save money. As mentioned, the current mortgage rates make this an excellent time to refinance into a lower interest rate.

Don’t try a refinance unless your credit is in good shape, though. Taking out another mortgage with a less-than-desirable credit score can mean getting hit with a high interest rate, even if national rates are dropping.

Aside from reducing your monthly payments, a lower interest rate can also help you build more equity in your home sooner.

  1. You’d like to shorten the life of your loan

People sometimes choose to refinance their mortgage because they want to finish paying off their loan sooner. If you have a mortgage that has a really high interest rate but you can easily meet these payments, consider refinancing into a shorter-term option. You may be able to pay off your loan in half the time without changing your monthly payment much at all.

When refinancing your mortgage is a bad idea

In the following three circumstances, refinancing your mortgage may not make sense.

  1. You’re in debt.

If you’re looking for the extra stash of cash each month to pull you out of debt, you probably shouldn’t be refinancing. Most people who refinance for this reason end up spending all the money they save, and then some. Without making any real changes to your spending habits, giving yourself extra money is only enabling more debt. While the intention is rooted in sound logic, unless you make an equally sound change in your spending habits, you’ll be right back to your present situation in very little time.

  1. A refinance will greatly lengthen the loan’s terms.

If you’ve only got 10 years left on your mortgage and you want to refinance to stretch out those payments over 30 years, you won’t come out ahead. Any money you save on lower payments will be lost in the cost of the refinance and the extra 20 years of interest you’ll be paying on your mortgage.

  1. You don’t plan on living in your home much longer.

If you plan on moving within the next few years, the money you save might not even come close to the costs of a refinance.

How much will it cost?

Homeowners are often eager to get started on a refinance until they see what it will cost them.

Remember all those fees and closing costs you paid when you first bought your house? Prepare to pay most of them again. Broker fees will vary, but a typical refinance will cost anywhere between 3-6% of the loan’s principal.

Before proceeding with your refinance, make sure you’ll actually be saving money. You can do this by procuring a good faith estimate from several lenders. This will get you your projected interest rate and the anticipated loan price. Next, divide this price by the amount you’ll save each month with your anticipated new rate. This will give you the number of months that will have to pass before you break even on the new loan. If you don’t plan on staying in your home for that long, or you can’t afford to wait until then to recoup your losses, refinancing may not make sense for you.

Rates are still low, and if your finances are in good shape, a refinance can be a great way to put an extra few hundred dollars into your pocket each month. [If you’re ready to talk to a home loan expert about refinancing, call, click or stop by Destinations Credit Union today to ask about getting started on your refinance. We’re always happy to help you save money!

Your Turn: Have you refinanced? What drove your decision? Was it the right decision for you? Let us know in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.myfinance.com/5-reasons-to-refinance/?utm_source=Millennial+Money&utm_campaign=millennialmoneycru&utm_medium=mfCRU

https://www.consumersadvocate.org/mortgage-refinance/a/best-mortgage-refinance?matchtype=e&keyword=should%20i%20refinance&adpos=1t2&gclid=CjwKCAjww6XXBRByEiwAM-ZUILOeJrx3aTigcckJXeQcxYZ5KC-gPj1HDcbQYQlprrg3zX08LqGaohoCL14QAvD_BwE
https://www.investopedia.com/mortgage/refinance/when-and-when-not-to-refinance-mortgage/
https://www.investopedia.com/mortgage/refinance/7-bad-reasons-to-refinance-mortgage/
https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/analysis/
https://www.wkbn.com/news/local-news/with-mortgage-rate-drop-many-buyers-consider-refinancing/1897961701

Should I Be Concerned About Rising Mortgage Rates?

On June 13th, the Federal Funds Target rate was officially raised by .25%. This increase Two women reviewing loan documentsmarks the second time interest rates were raised in 2018 and experts expect another two increases this year.

The rate increase was prompted by optimistic feelings about the general state of the economy. The Fed pronounced the economy to be rising at a “solid rate” and claimed that inflation rates are close to their target goal of 2%. Most notably, unemployment rates have dropped to just 3.8% in May, 2018, tying with April 2000 for the lowest rate since 1969.

While this might be good news for the economy, all these indicators point to rising interest rates-and that might not be the best news for current and hopeful homeowners.

Is it a good time to buy a house? Should you choose an ARM or a fixed-rate mortgage? If you’re a homeowner, should you be taking any action now?

So many questions-and we’ve got answers! Read on for what you need to know about the rising interest rates and what it all means for you.

What you can expect for the rest of the year

Here’s what experts anticipate for the remainder of 2018:

  • More market increases. The fed is expected to raise interest rates again at their meetings in September and December.
  • A healthy economy that keeps growing. With unemployment rates at record lows and the recent tax cuts keeping the economy strong, business is booming across the country. Hiring is up and firing is down. If you’re an employee, you can anticipate a raise in 2018 and the security of a job you can hold onto for years.
  • More homeowners choosing to stay put. In 2017, U.S. homeowners gained $1 trillion in equity. This means most homeowners are now sitting on newfound wealth. It now makes more sense for them to tap into their home’s equity to fund renovations on their homes instead of going through the hassle and paying the costs of a move. Cash-out refinances, in which the homeowner takes out a bigger mortgage and pockets the difference in cash, will be especially popular. When homeowners stay put, it can create a tighter housing market which can make prices rise.

Why a healthy economy means higher mortgage rates

When the economy is thriving, inflation increases. This causes investors to seek higher returns for their investments. The only way to keep investors interested in mortgage bonds when the economy is booming is to raise interest rates on mortgages.

It’s more that, though. The Feds want to keep inflation stable so that it doesn’t spikesuddenly and trigger a market panic which can lead to a crash or a recession. By gradually increasing interest rates, they can keep the economy growing at a steady, stable pace.

What do mortgage rates look like now?

Mortgage rates have already surpassed predictions set by major housing agencies at the end of 2017. As of August 1st, 2018, mortgage rates are hovering between 4.5% and 5% and are not expected to drop anytime soon. If anything, they’ll only continue rising throughout the rest of the year.

If you’re a homeowner

If you own a home and haven’t yet locked in your interest rate, now is the time to do so. Rates are only going to continue climbing and you want to get the best interest rate for your mortgage before it gets too expensive to handle.

If you haven’t already, consider refinancing your existing mortgage to one with a lower interest rate.

If you’re in the market for a home

House prices have soared over the last seven years. According to the National Association of Realtors, the average price tag for a home is now $264,800, up by almost 100K from 2011. When you adjust these numbers for inflation, house prices have seen a 33% increase in seven years.

If you’re house-hunting now, don’t pay more for your mortgage than you absolutely have to.

Housing agency Freddie Mac urges new-homeowners to shop around before choosing a mortgage. Get as many quotes as you can, do your research, and make some more phone calls. You do it before every other major purchase; why not shop around when it comes to a decision that will affect your monthly mortgage payments for years?

“One additional mortgage quote could save you $1,500 over the life of your loan,” Freddie Mac shares. “Five quotes could save $3,000.”

It’s also a good idea to consider an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). ARMS are 30-year loans that have fixed rates for a specified amount of time, usually 3-7 years. Rates will then change according to national rates. When mortgage rates are rising, ARMs are usually priced more reasonably than fixed-rate loans. 30-year fixed rates, now priced up to 5%, hovered in the high 3s throughout 2017. ARMs are now in the same range.

ARMs can give you a fixed, stable payment for up to 7 years. After the initial period, they can be adjusted just once a year-and there are limits to how much the rate can be increased.

Considering a refinance? Shopping for a mortgage? Don’t forget to call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union today to learn about the mortgage products we have available for you.

Your Turn: Have you taken any action in response to the Fed’s interest rate increase? Share it with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://themortgagereports.com/32667/mortgage-rates-forecast-fha-va-usda-conventional

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-20/fed-s-powell-says-case-for-gradual-rate-hikes-remains-strong
https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/housing-statistics
https://www.forbes.com/sites/advisor/2018/06/19/fed-now-hinting-at-four-potential-rate-hikes-in-2018/#20c2283f2d6a
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/mortgages/adjustable-rate-mortgage-good-bad-idea-rates-rise/

Rising Interest Rates

If you follow the national business news, you are likely getting mixed messages about thenewspaper with interest rate headline state of the economy. While never very reassuring, pundits’ opinions on the stock market and the country’s economic state are changing as frequently as the weather.

But there’s one area that’s been constant for some time now: rising interest rates. If you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage, or any other large loan, in the near future, you might be waiting until those rates start going down again.

Here’s why that might not be the best idea.

Interest rates will continue to rise throughout 2018.

Experts predict that interest rates on financial products will continue to increase throughout the year. There are several factors triggering this rise, none of which are likely to be resolved anytime soon. Whether you’re interested in taking out a personal loan or a second mortgage, 2018 may not be a very good year for borrowers.

It’s not looking too great for those who are looking to take out short-term loans either. The U.S. central bank raised short-term interest rates a total of three times in 2017, and that trend is expected to continue. Experts claim 2018 will see an additional three interest rate hikes, each being 0.25%. If you need to borrow money from Destinations Credit Union, it’s best to consider your plans sooner rather than later to ensure you can lock in before rates get higher.

The inflation factor

Unemployment rates may be down across the country, but wage growth continues to crawl at an almost nonexistent pace. This, in turn, leads to limited price growth, which keeps the inflation rate stagnant. However, the feds are expecting all of this to change in the coming year. They expect wage growth to finally kick off and then set in motion an uptick in inflation and price growth.

The government wants to stay ahead of any surge in inflation. It does so by increasing interest rates even before there is clear evidence of an inflation peak. In fact, just last month, the feds raised interest rates on short-term loans yet again, citing an inflation scare at the beginning of February as the primary factor behind their decision.

Financial institutions and credit card companies pattern their own interest rates after the government’s rate. For this reason, it’s best to work on aggressively paying down outstanding debt you have before you’re hit with increased interest rates.

Government deficits and tax cuts

Long-term interest rates have been rising since December. This is largely due to the growing government deficit linked to recent tax cuts. The pending two-year budget plan will put the government even deeper into the red and likely cause those rates to climb even higher.

In short, this trend of rising rates will not become history for a long while.

Mortgages

Mortgage interest rates are now at an all-time high; they are currently close to 4.6% and are up more than 20% from a year ago.

There are multiple factors driving this increase, including the administration’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum and the associated concerns over the U.S. trade market.

For the most part, though, mortgage interest rates are based on the 10-year Treasury yield. When bond yields rise, so do mortgage rates. The recent tax overhaul caused investors to favor stocks over bonds, and consequently mortgage rates have been climbing since the tax plan was first introduced in September.

Some experts are actually predicting a turnaround for mortgages in 2018. They are hopeful that the expected volatility in the yield curve will trigger a similar curve for mortgages, possibly even causing them to dip below 4% sometime this year. However, all agree that by year’s end, the mortgage rate will settle at a stable 4.5%.

No one can be certain of anything, though. And waiting until the rates drop might prove to be pointless. In fact, you might even end up paying a higher rate because of that delay.

The good news

Take heart; it’s not all doomsday forecasts on the economic front!

Greg McBride, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst, predicts a great year for returns on savings. He claims that 2018 will be beneficial for all savings accounts, and especially for CD holders, with an average one-year CD yielding a 0.7% return by the end of 2018.

If you’ve been thinking about opening a share certificate or other ways to grow your savings, talk with Destinations Credit Union, and start putting your plan into action!

What it means for you

Let’s review the practical steps you can take in this economic environment:

1.)   If you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage or another long-term loan, don’t wait for rates to decrease; it isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

2.)   Try to pay off your debt at a quicker pace than you’ve been doing until now to avoid getting hit with rising interest rates.

3.)   2018 is a great time to increase your savings and to open a share certificate.

Volatile economy got you stressed? No worries! At Destinations Credit Union, we’re always here to help you through any financial turn. Call, click, or stop by today!

Your Turn: What steps are you taking in the current financial climate? Paying down debt? Increasing your savings? Tell us all about it in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.kiplinger.com/article/business/T019-C000-S010-interest-rate-forecast.html  

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/interest-rates-forecast.aspx/amp/  
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bankrate.com/mortgages/analysis/amp/ 

Choosing An Equity Loan In A Rising Rates Environment

Interest rates are expected to climb soon. What are the differences between a home5b368-house2bmoney equity line of credit (HELOC) and a typical home equity loan? How does an environment of rising interest rates impact each choice?

It’s true that most financial experts are predicting an interest rate hike (or multiple hikes) this year. With rising rates, borrowing against the equity of one’s home will likely become a more popular choice. That’s because people will choose to fund home renovations and other high-priced needs with their equity instead of moving to a new home with a mortgage that has higher interest rates. Refinancing their existing mortgage for a lower payment will no longer be a viable option either, since they probably already have a great rate they won’t want to give up.

With that said, here are some basics you’ll want to know about each kind of loan:

HELOCs

1.) How they work

A home equity line of credit is a revolving credit line that allows you to borrow money as needed to a limit, with your home serving as collateral for the loan. Lenders approve applicants for a specific amount of credit by taking a percentage of their home’s appraised value and subtracting the balance owed on the mortgage. They may also consider any outstanding debt you have, your income and your credit history.

If you’re approved for a HELOC, you can spend the funds however you choose. Some plans do have restrictions, though, and may require you to borrow a minimum amount each time, keep a specific amount outstanding or withdraw an initial advance when the line of credit is first established.

2.) Pros

HELOCs allow for more freedom than fixed home equity loans. Since you’re opening a line of credit and not borrowing a set amount, you can withdraw money as needed from the HELOC over the course of a set amount of time known as the “draw period.” This is especially beneficial if you’re renovating your home or using the money to start a new business and don’t know exactly how much money you’ll need to fund your venture.

Repayment options on HELOCs vary, but are usually very flexible. When the draw period ends, some lenders will allow you to renew the credit line and continue withdrawing money. Other lenders will require borrowers to pay back the entire loan amount at the end of the draw period. Others allow you to make payments over another time period known as the “repayment period.”

Monthly payments also vary. Some require a monthly payment of both principal and interest, while others only require an interest payment each month with the entire loan amount due at the end of the draw period. This can be beneficial when borrowing for an investment or business, as you may not have the funds for repayment on a monthly basis but anticipate earning enough to pay back the entire loan.

3.) Cons

HELOCs have variable interest rates. This means the interest you’re paying on the loan can fluctuate over the life of the loan, sometimes dramatically. This variable is based on a publicly available index, such as the Wall Street Journal Prime Rate, and will rise or fall along with this index. Lenders may also add or subtract (Destinations Credit Union’s rate is Prime Minus 1%*) a few percentage points, called margin, of their own.

Obviously, taking out a HELOC in an environment of rising interest rates means your rates are likely to increase over the life of the loan. In addition, HELOCs that only require repayment of principal at the end of the term can also prove to be difficult for some borrowers. If you have trouble managing your monthly budget, you may not be able to pay back the full amount on time. In that case, you will be forced to refinance with another lender, possibly at an unfavorable interest rate.

Home Equity Loans

1.) How they work

A home equity loan, also secured by your home’s equity, allows you to borrow a fixed amount that you receive in one lump sum. The amount you will qualify for is calculated based on your home’s loan-to-value ratio, payment term, your income and your credit history. Most home equity loans have a fixed interest rate, a fixed term and a fixed monthly payment.

2.) Pros

The primary benefit a fixed home equity loan has over a HELOC is its fixed interest rate. This means the borrower knows exactly how much their monthly payment will be for the entire life of the loan. In an environment of rising rates, this is especially beneficial for the borrower, as their loan will not be subject to the increasing rates of other loans. Also, the interest paid on a home equity loan is often 100% tax deductible (consult your tax advisor for details).

Unlike the repayment policy of HELOCs, every payment on a home equity loan includes both principal and interest. Some loans allow borrowers to pay back larger sums if they choose, but many will charge a penalty for early payments. Regardless of policy, at the end of the loan term, the entire amount is paid up and you can forget about the loan.

3.) Cons

Generally, fixed rate Home Equity Loans start out at a higher rate than HELOCs, so rates must rise a lot to make this the better deal for interest rates.  Taking out a fixed home equity loan means paying several fees. Receiving all the funds in one shot can also be problematic if you find that you need more than the amount you borrowed. Also, the set amount is due every month, regardless of your financial standing at the time. And, of course, if you default on the loan, you may lose your house.

Carefully weigh the pros and cons of each kind of loan before tapping into your home equity. Shop around for the best rates and terms, and be sure to calculate whether you can really afford the monthly payments of your chosen loan.

Don’t forget to call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union to find out about the loans we have available for you.

Your Turn: Have you ever borrowed against your home’s equity? Share your experience with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.franklintempleton.com/investor/campaigns/templeton-global-bond-rising-rates?gclid=CjwKEAjw5_vHBRCBtt2NqqCDjiESJABD5rCJP3FZKzsQc7EeIo3T0s4DMxIgvNCsL4At-X8K8nzR7BoC5-fw_wcB
https://www.google.com/amp/www.csmonitor.com/layout/set/amphtml/Business/Saving-Money/2017/0219/Why-a-home-equity-loan-is-a-smart-choice-as-rates-rise
http://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/active_trader/trading_insights/trading_strategies/6_strategies_for_dealing_with_rising_interest_rates.html
http://homeguides.sfgate.com/choose-home-equity-loan-2651.html
http://online.wsj.com/news/
http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/brochure.pdf
http://www.realtor.com/home-finance/homebuyer-information/what-are-liens-on-a-home.aspx