(NEW YORK) — As fallout continues from the Silicon Valley Bank collapse — the second-biggest bank failure in U.S. history — people across the country are simultaneously feeling the impact of inflation in their pocketbooks.
The Federal Reserve will meet Wednesday to decide whether to raise or pause interest rates after continuously raising them over the past year in order to help curb inflation.
The Fed’s decision will have an impact on everything from individual credit card bills to the costs of everyday items to the banking crisis, experts say.
To help explain it all, ABC News chief economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis and Good Morning America consumer correspondent Becky Worley answered viewers’ questions on topics including credit card payments, home buying and more.
1. What would a change in interest rates mean for people’s credit card payments?
Jarvis said that if the Fed decides to pause interest rates, as some experts predict will happen, it would have a “significant impact” on credit card payments.
“This will mean that some of those rates that have been climbing won’t climb as much in the near future,” Jarvis said, citing mortgage rates and higher interest rates on credit cards.
Jarvis added that even if the Fed takes a pause on raising interest rates this week, the rates could “still climb going forward.” Because of that, she said the most important step people should take is to continue paying off their credit card debt.
“If you have that credit card bill, you want to keep making those payments,” she said.
2. Is housing sitting on a bubble, like in 2007?
Jarvis said that fortunately today, we are in a “very different world” than the housing crisis of 2007, when interest rates went up and people were unable to repay their mortgage, leading to foreclosures and bankruptcies.
“First of all, the jobs market is as strong, historically, as it’s ever been,” Jarvis said. “Second of all … 85% of people who own homes have mortgages below 5%. What that means is if you were going to go out and buy a new house right now, you’d have to take out a far more expensive mortgage, so people don’t want to sell because they already have the best deal sitting in their own home.”
Jarvis said because people aren’t selling their homes, there is less inventory, which is leading to higher home prices.
“We don’t see the foreclosure we saw last time [in 2007], which is what makes this a much more sound market and housing,” she explained.
3. If I’m looking to buy a home, should I expect mortgage rates to improve?
According to Jarvis, one upside to the current banking crisis, combined with the potential for the Fed to pause interest rates, is that mortgage rates have decreased slightly, going from 7.15% to 7% over the past week.
“It’s tiny but that incremental difference can make a difference in what you pay,” Jarvis said.
When it comes to deciding whether or not now is the right time to buy a home, Jarvis said people should consider whether they will stay in the home for at least five years and whether they are staying within their budget with the purchase.
“Those are the most important questions that anyone should be asking if they’re thinking about buying a home, not just ‘Can I time this market properly?"” Jarvis said, adding that “renting is always an option, and there are great calculators at Bankrate.com and Realtor.com [to] check the whole thing out.”
4. Is now a good time to buy a car?
According to Worley, many people are paying the equivalent of a monthly mortgage or rent payment for their car.
The average car payment at the end of 2022 was $716 for a new car and $526 for a used car, according to Experian, a financial data analysis company.
Worley said that unfortunately for people either in the market for a car or who are currently making high car payments, it is now a “waiting game.”
“We’re waiting for those interest rates to stabilize or for them to go down,” she said.
Worley said one step people can take in the meantime, is to work on improving their credit score.
“If you have a higher credit score, you’ll get a lower interest rate when you can finally, hopefully, get into a lower rate and refinance or renegotiate,” Worley said. “But that’s really all we can do right now if you’re already locked into a high payment.”
5. Are cars still in short supply?
Yes, according to Worley.
“The supply chain is still a little bit messy,” Worley said. “And then dealers are, on many high-demand cars, putting a markup on top of the sticker price, and then you have high interest rates, so it is painful out there.”
Worley said her advice is to keep driving your current car for as long as you can, saying, “If you can eat 5,000 or 10,000 miles out of the old car, you should do it until those rates come down, if those rates come down.”
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