Tips for Building Your Credit

I’ve been doing some research lately on building my credit score. I know that within the next five years it will be time to search for and buy a house, so it seems like a good time to start preparing. Probably shortly after the house will come the children, so saving will be a big issue as well, but we’ll handle one thing at a time for now.

The thing I keep reading - when I search for credit information online - can be conveyed by a simple formula: checking + savings = stability. If you’re able to manage both accounts well it’s going to show creditors that you are stable in your decisions and responsible with your finances.

After that, everyone seems to offer a slight variation on these 3 simple guidelines:

  • Pay your bills ON TIME
  • How much available credit do you use? Experts suggest that you never max out all of your credit options. It is recommended that you never charge more than 30% of the credit limit offered to you.
  • Don’t charge more than you can pay off in a month. It’s a slippery slope. If you ever stop paying off your credit card balance at the end of every month then you will only get further behind each month after that. In fact, sometimes I make a payment each time I get paid – which means I make a credit card payment every two weeks – that way I have a better idea about how much money I can actually afford to spend.

I have also read a few tips for getting better credit, once you’ve had problems or for building credit if you don’t have any:

  • Piggyback on someone else’s credit – In other words, get added to another person’s credit card so you can build up your own. Just make certain that they are financially stable and have good credit themselves. It’s not going to be much help to piggyback off of someone owing $30,000 to various creditors.
  • Get a store credit card – It’s usually much easier to get credit from a store, however you also must realize that it will be a slow process to build credit this way. They don’t help as much as some of the other options. Also, they tend to have higher interest rates, so when you aren’t able to pay the balance off in one month’s time then you end up having more problems than before you got one.
  • Get a secured card from a bank – These usually require a security deposit or collateral of some kind. The only thing about this suggestion that is hard is most people who need credit usually don’t have anything to put up for collateral. So unless they have a stack of cash sitting around and can put up the cash, it would be hard to secure this type of card.

So, one last thing that might help you out if you’re looking to get a credit card is to have a list of things you should look for in a credit card. The top three I’ve heard about are:

  • No application fee
  • Low annual fee
  • Credit will be reported to Equifax, TransUnion, & Experian – the three major U.S. credit bureaus

Don’t know what your credit score looks like? Request a free report now via the Central National Bank website. Click the Credit Report button at the bottom, right of our home page.

Go Green in January!

All this talk about the environment and global warming has me thinking about my part in the play called life.  What do I do to “Go Green”? Am I really making that much of an impact? How can I do better?

The answer to the first question? I recycle – some.  Have you ever tried to sort recyclables in an apartment that doesn’t really have space for a trash can? This is my life. It also pains me to admit that I sometimes grab a new water bottle from the fridge instead of refilling my aluminum bottle that sits on my desk.  The coffee table is a good recycle bin for magazines. When the pile is tall enough that it starts to block my view of the TV I load up a sack and haul it all away. I try to do the same with cardboard boxes, but that is easier said than done. First, you flatten them, then struggle to keep them flat, and finally find somewhere to stack them. It all comes down to one BIG PAIN.

The answer to the second question isn’t easily found. I often ask myself how one person could alter the fate of the world by deciding to recycle. At first it seems impossible, but by doing lots of thinking I’ve come to this conclusion.  If I recycle and I make a big-ridiculous deal out of it, then 5 of my friends will feel guilty enough to start recycling in their homes. The goal in the end is for people everywhere to recycle, right?  If everyone tried to outdo a friend, then ultimately we would impact not only the environment, but the lives of everyone around us. Screwed up as it sounds, it works.

So… ideas for improvement? One super-easy option is to sign up for E-Statements. You might ask how one piece of mail will help in the grand scheme of things. Look at it like this: if you can eliminate at least two pieces of paper for each account (checking and savings) once a month, for a year, then you cut approximately 48 pieces of paper and 24 envelopes from your yearly usage. It may not seem like a lot, but for a pack-rat like me it makes a huge difference. With E-statements I simply file the statement away by date in an electronic folder on my computer. I can easily find them and if I ever truly need to print one out I can do so without a problem.*

Now… where did I put that aluminum water bottle – time to fill it up again…

*If you’re going to store your statements on your computer it’s a smart idea to back up your files on an external hard drive or other storage device. It’s devastating to lose everything when the computer crashes… trust me.

Banking Glossary

It’s hard for me to remember my first day that I started at the bank. I know I took a lot of tests to get familiar with regulations and procedures. I learned my responsibilities as a teller and where to direct people as they came in the building.
But one thing that took me weeks to figure out was all of the acronyms! People that work in banks talk in letters sometime. Sample sentence you could hear in any financial institution.
 
-“Excuse me sir did you want your APY or your APR on your CD?”
-“I would love to open your account; I just need to do an OFAC check.”
-“Just let me get you a form that can change your POD on your IRA.”
- “Here is your balance taking into account your ACH credit and the ATM withdrawal.”
 
See what I mean!!! So please by all means you do not hurt your bankers’ feelings at all if you ask what an acronym stands for. We try very hard to stop the technical bank talk when explaining things to customers, but every good banker slips now and then.
 
If you find yourself in an alphabet soup of a conversation at your local bank just smile and ask your representative for your copy of the banking glossary!

Are Podcasts the New Encyclopedia?

I have recently given in to the powerful machine that is Apple’s ITunes. I got an ITunes card for Christmas and thought what the heck I will go download that new Rhianna song I like. I’m really out of touch with music these days, I listen to talk radio, so it was almost hard to use the entire card and I ended up downloading a lot of songs that I liked from years ago. I was searching the store and I clicked on the podcasts link. I had heard of podcasts, I had just never downloaded one. I delighted when I found a plethora of information, entertainment, and news all for free! I barely remember how to use a card catalogue; I’m not sure where in the library where the encyclopedias are, but with this new resource my curiosity cup has been filled!! In about two minutes I can download opinions and resources on anything my little heart could desire. Last night I tried the business category. I listened to a couple of shows about money management and got a little more information about what our economy is going thru. I really like this method of delivery because it is more thought out than the evening news and there is not that implied drama to keep people tuned in. After that I decided to search for a subject that there couldn’t possibly be a blog on, knitting. Not only is there one blog about something that would be really hard to learn by listening but there are more than I could browse! I downloaded a few and am looking forward to listening to them tonight to see what talking heads could possibly have to say about my beloved hobby. Podcasts are much like websites; anyone can do them so it’s best not to take everything to heart. People can bestow expert titles on themselves and as far as I know there are no podcast police to stop them. So listen, enjoy, and if you want cold hard facts find the encyclopedia section at the library!!

Central Secret Agent Savers

Working in the banking industry I see the mistakes that the younger generation makes when dealing with their finances. As a parent I have also realized that I can directly influence my children on financial responsibility.  Here are some staggering statistics that should impact all of us.

  • American teens spend $175 billion annually
  • Young adults (ages 20-24) are the fastest growing group declaring bankruptcy
  • Today’s teens and young adults will inherit $12 trillion+ over the next 20 years
  • 85% of students graduate from high school without any instructions in personal finance

I believe these numbers should be eye openers to all parents. You might be asking yourself: “What can I do to instill good spending habits and financial education in a child’s life?”

Central National Bank recently addressed this question and found a great way for kids to learn about savings, and finances with it being fun.  Beginning January 1, 2009, the Central Secret Agent Savings account is a program where your child becomes a secret agent and helps rid the world of wasteful spenders. The account is only $5 to open and comes with a piggy bank, newsletter and a secret agent badge.  Your kids will continue receiving quarterly newsletters which will keep their finances at the top of their mind all year long. Each newsletter consists of missions, jokes and fun activities. When a child brings in their piggy bank full of money to a Central National Bank branch they can pick from a selection of cool secret agent gadgets.

I recently signed my four-year-old daughter up for the account and already she has embraced the concept. She picked her agent name, “Agent Diamond,” and is filling her piggy bank up so she can earn prizes.

If you are interested in teaching your child about the fun of saving money check out a Central National Bank near you and learn more about our Central Secret Agent Savings account.

Winning Ticket

 

I almost won the lottery last night. I’m not kidding.  I bought my very first lottery ticket ever, I was nice to people all day and in my head I promised to give the nice man who sold me the ticket 5K of the winnings. Karma was on my side, I was going to win!


I’ve never played the lottery before and I wasn’t quite sure of all the details. So I got on the Kansas Lottery website, found out when the winning numbers would be posted and how to claim my prize when I won.

When 9:10pm rolled around I was hitting refresh on my computer screen frantically waiting for my winning numbers. It was a rush I had spent all evening calculating all the money left over after paying off my bills. I was even taking out 40% for the taxes I would have to pay. I’m realistic I knew Uncle Sam would want his share, but I’m not greedy.  


I was going to be responsible with my lottery money. I was only going to give myself one good shopping day and after that putting the rest away for my son’s college and retirement. I wasn’t going to buy a new house or new car just pay off the ones I have and debt free I would get to DECIDE if I wanted to have a job!!


Sigh. Needless to say as I write this I didn’t win the lottery. I didn’t even get two numbers right that would have won me my dollar back that I spent. The numbers were posted at 9:16pm and they were not my numbers. I was a little disappointed that karma did not pull thru for me but I also hope that the winner somewhere out there would have been as responsible as me.


If this turbulent year in politics and finance has taught me anything it has been pay off the good times you already had so in the future you can have interest free good times. (I think those will feel better!)

 My short term goals have changed from leave the state of Kansas to live a fabulous life in Paris or Toronto to drive my car until it is paid off, then keep driving it until I can buy my next car with cash.


But one thing is for sure, someday I will buy another lottery ticket. All that dreaming was worth the dollar I paid for it!

August Already!!

As another page turns on the calendar it is time to make the most of the remaining weeks of the summer. Some out there are just trying to use the warm weekends while they have them, others need to go all out before it is time for school again!

 

So make your list and start checking off the things that make a summer complete!!

  • Baseball Game
  • Day at the pool or Water park
  • BBQ
  • Plant a flower or vegetable
  • Wash windows (not fun but easier now than with a foot of snow on the ground :-)
  • Have A Yard Sale
  • Go to A Yard Sale
  • Day trip to the lake or a night camping outside

These are just the things that make up my perfect summer but with limited time left I better get busy!!


Confessions of a Spender; Saving without Sacrificing

I admit it, I’m a shopper! I like browsing and if something catches my fancy browsing often turns to buying. I have clothes in my closet I will never wear and enough candles to light my house for the next year. I’m afraid to say Clothes, Purses, and Candles are my weaknesses!!

 

I have tried to tame my spending ways but trying to stop cold turkey just makes me want to spend even more! What’s a shopper to do?

 

So with the economy not looking so bright and the whole world telling me to save I had to come up with a plan of action. For the sake of getting to retire some day and my marriage! (How spenders end up marrying savers I’ll never know.)

 

First plan of attack was a budget. When I saw how much I was spending with help from the free website mint.com it shocked me into some reality. I exceeded my monthly shopping budget in the first week I used the site.

 

It helps to see it on paper and mint.com connects with my on-line banking and tells me right away were my cash is going. Then I try to stick to the budget so I save the same every month for my emergency fund.

My next little plan of action is what I am most excited to share. Second Hand shops! I am one of those shoppers that can’t resist a bargain and when I first discovered second hand shops I was in heaven! I like the ones that specialize in gently used name brand clothing. I have picked up shoes, tops, and dress pants, all with store tags still attached. And for some of those clothes I know I’m not wearing again I can sell them to the store or get store credit.

 

For furniture and home décor my new friend is craigslist.com and my old reliable friend is yard sales. A little imagination and a lot of determination you can change any space with limited funds. I also like the idea that I am saving things from the landfill and giving them a new home.

 

If you have more tips for shop-a-holics out there please leave them in the comment section. Times are tight and shoppers have to stick together!

New Opportunity Checking

If yourself or someone you know has opened a new checking account recently at a new bank they probably ran into a process called ChexSystems. ChexSystems is a service that became available to banks in 1971, letting financial institutions run reports on prospective customers to find out if they have had undesirable account history in the past.

The down side to this is if you have ever made an honest mistake with a bank account in the past you are marked by ChexSystems for five years. Most banks will not open a savings account for someone with a history on ChexSystems much less a checking account.

Since many people on ChexSystems did not open their accounts with that intention it can be like a 5 year punishment imposed by banks. If you do not have a bank account you are forced to pay to have your checks cashed, purchase money orders, and pay fees for prepaid Visa cards.

Central National Bank has a new account that can help the majority of people who have been turned down by ChexSystems in the past. New Opportunity Checking is a real checking account with a debit card, checks, and ability to have direct deposit to the account.

There are restrictions on the account like no overdraft protection and a monthly fee for the account. But the good news is that after 12 months of good account standing the customer is eligible for a regular Free Checking account with Central National Bank. There are other restrictions to the account that a Central National representative would be happy to discuss with a potential customer as well as see if they qualify for New Opportunity Checking.

Bad things happen to good people and Central National is recognizing the need to have products that can serve a wider population of customers. Please come in today and inquire about New Opportunity Checking at a branch near you or give us a call.

More Green Tips

In one of the first blogs I wrote for this site I talked about simple ways to be more green. One way was collecting junk mail and taking it to recycle. This is much better than letting this unsolicited paper mail fill our landfills. On the Today Show this morning on NBC they featured a Website that’s message is let’s stop the catalogs from ever getting to our Mailbox. This site http://www.catalogchoice.org/ takes your name and address and you can select what catalogs you would like to stop receiving. If you are like me you bought one thing, one time on the internet, and now you get catalogs from that store a couple times a month. I don’t want my one time bargain to be hurting the earth so I’ve already signed up and cancelled two catalogs!! You do have to register on the site but they do not share your information with spammers. It also helps to have the magazines or catalogs with you when you opt out of getting them. Please go take a look at the site and if you thinks its helpful use their invite link to send the website to all your friends. Let’s save some Trees!!