Category: Financial Education

The DO’s and DON’TS of Using Credit Cards

creditcard

Using a credit card is a great stepping stone to help boost your personal credit history. By proactively managing your ongoing finances, you can showcase to potential lenders that you know how to fulfill your repayment promises. What many people don’t know, is that simply having a credit card does not automatically indicate an increase in your credit score. To help you succeed with your credit, First Security State Bank has put together our most commonly asked do’s and don’ts when using credit cards.

DO: Pay your balance in FULL every month or every two weeks.

DON’T: Keep a balance even if the interest rate is low

While keeping a balance less than 30 percent won’t drastically harm your credit score, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. We recommend never spending more than you can pay off each and every month. By keeping yourself to this standard you can make certain to never become a victim of expensive credit card debt.

DO: Choose a card that will compliment your lifestyle.

DON’T: Pick your credit card based on mail or TV offers.

There are countless websites and apps centered on helping you find the ideal credit card. Instead of signing up for a credit card through the mail, start perusing sites like NerdWallet to discover which card fits not only your spending but your rewards preferences too! Before you start applying, remember to only apply for a credit card if you need one. If you plan on using more than one, wait six months or more before applying for a new line of credit. This will help to keep your credit score on track and assist in preventing any unwanted dips.

DO: Use reward points to save money.

DON’T: Spend more just to get additional points.

While some credit card options certainly do offer some great sign-on rewards, remember that added debt and expenses are never worth the hike in points. The money you manage is yours, and it’s real! While the points are truly a great perk, never let them outweigh the tangible money you currently have in your individual accounts. If you allow this to happen you may find yourself with a mountain of debt, equivalent to half the vacation you can no longer afford to take.

DO: Have more than one card when you can pay them all off on time.

DON’T: Cancel a credit card without researching its history.

There are certain cards that boast the best rewards when utilized for specific industries, and others that can add extra perks for those all-encompassing purchases. To make the most of these various benefits, we recommend using multiple credit cards for your household’s purchases, only once you’ve maintained a zero balance on one for more than six months. If you feel confident in managing multiple credit cards, you’ll find great advantages of using the rewards behind the various programs and their associated bonus structures.  However, if you close a card, always check and see if that card hold your longest history of a credit line. Should that be the case, you may not want to cancel it, as it could create a slight dip in your credit score.

Why Checking Your Credit Score Matters

Credit Score

Across television ads, online banners, and even chit-chat among relatives, the phrase, “Check your credit score,” seems to be popping up everywhere. If something so important needs constant reminders, why does it have such a key importance in your personal finances? Well, the truth is that it doesn’t, your financial actions do.

A credit score is comprised of five different measures which indicate how you as an individual are perceived in terms of repayment and risk. Individuals who pay their bills on time, have been utilizing loans and credit cards, and don’t maintain too much debt, typically have a higher score. While the score itself is seen by potential lenders as a positive or a negative, the true meaning it portrays is to showcase whether you as an individual are a promising person to repay any funds you are lent. This score can be changed for the better or the worse depending on the actions you take.

This is why checking the report itself can be beneficial for your personal financial reputation. By reviewing your history on a recurring basis you can quickly identify any mistakes or missed payments that need correcting and do so in a timely manner.

For those who do not check their score, scenarios such as the following could occur:

Say you accept a job in another town, and after moving, you realize you still need to forward your mail. After a week or two in the new place, you go online and make the switch. However, unknownst to you, there was one last utility bill that was mailed to your prior address after you moved away. Weeks go by, even months, only now you’re connected with a new utility company, and you have new bills to pay. Behind the scenes, however, your credit score could be declining, because that one last bill has now been reported to collections. Your credit history will now note that a payment has been missed, and the longer it is missed the more it could damage your credit score.

Situations like this happen to many Americans, and while sometimes they can’t be prevented, the damage they cause can be minimized by checking your credit score on a monthly basis. Instead of allowing a payment like this to retain a balance for over 120 days, you can catch it in under 90 and minimize any potential negative effect on your score.

This is just one example of how checking your credit score can impact your financial health for the better. Other benefits include fraud prevention, better financial negotiation, and more accurate personal financial records.

If you’re ready to get started checking your credit score, we recommend Capital One’s FREE Credit Wise service, available for current and noncurrent Capital One customers. Our team at First Security State Bank would be happy to walk you through the information from this service and we are always available to answer any questions you may have.

 

The Latte Factor 101

Financial Education

Making your way through the drive through every morning before 7:30 may give you a refreshing start to your day, but at what cost? The ideology that coffee shops and other retailers capitalize on is the notion that these small expenditures add a little excitement to your day without a hefty bill. However, when you enjoy perks like these on a daily basis, they add up, and quick!

Financial author, David Bach, is the mastermind behind the Latte Factor. This helpful calculator enables shoppers to see not only the cost of an individual purchase but the lost value it could cause for further investment as well.

For example:

If you purchase a $4.45 grande latte from Starbucks every weekday for the next thirty years, the total cost of your daily coffee is $34,786.29. However, if you had put that weekly $22.25 expenditure into an investment with an average earnings rate of eight percent or more, you could have made $109,225.02 in earned interest during that time. This showcases the true cost of a daily latte as the overall product expense ($34,786.29) + the lost interest ($109,225.02) = ($144,011.30)

While less than $5.00 a day may seem like chump change, compounding these expenses on a long-term level can showcase helpful savings opportunities to maximize your retirement savings efforts and limit unnecessary spending.

This equation doesn’t work just for coffee either! If you find yourself splurging for a fast-food lunch break, buying extra sodas at work, or even paying for a magazine you hardly read, you’ll soon find that all of those little expenses can make a big impact.

To help break some common splurging habits First Security State Bank recommends the following:

  • Before making a purchase, ask yourself, “Should I spend these funds or should I invest them?”
  • Use free services like our Online Banking or Mint to visualize your spending and see areas where you can cut excess.
  • Remember the rule of 7. On average, invested funds will double every seven years, without any added contributions.
  • Utilize accounts like IRA, HSA, and 401(k) to maximize the dollars you invest and save.

If you have any questions on how to get started, or want to learn more about how to make your money work for you, our trusted personal lenders are here to help. Just stop by or drop us a line to set-up an appointment today.

Red Flags to Look for on Your Credit Score

Personal Finance

Everyone and their brother seems to be sharing the importance of checking your credit score, but once you have the information, how do you actually know what it means? At First Security State Bank, we want you to not only have the information about your personal finances but be able to understand and act upon it as well. If you see any of the following red flags while viewing your report, you may want to look into the appropriate remedies as quickly as possible.

Missed or Late Payments

Your credit report should accurately showcase your current repayment history, which accounts for approximately 35 percent of your credit score. This area of the report should indicate if any payments have been missed and have been reported to the bureau as late. If you see a payment that you were unaware of, be sure to reach out to the company listed and contact them to pay off the bill in question.

Fraudulent Activity

It is possible to view your credit report and find bills or inquiries that you did not initiate. In this instance, it is important to take the appropriate steps to report identity theft and begin recovering your financial reputation. The sooner you alert the authorities and lending organizations to this unfortunate dilemma, the less likely you are to suffer any long-term side effects.

Excessive New Accounts

While having more than one account open can positively affect your credit score, attempting to open too many in a short time period can cause a negative reaction. If you see more than two accounts opened in the last three months, you may want to wait before attempting to apply for a credit card or other lending option.

Active Collections Accounts

If you haven’t checked your credit score in a few years, any potential missed or late payments may now have spiraled into active collection attempts. In this instance, the best practice is to contact the companies listed and discuss repayment options. Many times if you are actively working to pay down an account receivable, the company will work with you to structure monthly installments that fit within your personal budget.

At First Security State Bank, we recommend checking your credit score each month. Tools such as Capital One’s CreditWise make it affordable to see your score without having to pay any associated fees. If you’d like more information on how to increase your credit score, stop in today. One of our trusted personal bankers would be happy to answer any questions or curiosities that you have.