5 Ways to Raise Your Credit Score

credit-report1.jpgCredit Score – even reading it might make you nervous. So many people have come into our branches asking about this mystery. What does it mean? How do I start it? How do I fix it? Before we give you some tips on how to boost your credit score, let’s explain what we are talking about.

  1. What is a credit report? It’s a report card of your history of paying bills and credit habits over a period of time. We like to compare it to homework.
  2. What is a credit score? It’s a “grade” given to you based on your history of paying bills and credit habits. It interprets how well you have done on “homework.” The higher the credit score, the better.
  3. What does it say about me? Lenders, insurance companies, employers, etc., look at your credit as a way to determine your trustworthiness. If your credit is high, you are more likely to get approved for a loan at a great rate, or maybe you won’t have to put a down payment on your new cell phone plan.

Now that you have a general idea of what we are talking about, here are some tips on how to boost that “grade” you are given based on your credit report.

  1. Pay your bills on time! – This accounts for approximately 35% of your score.
  2. Try to pay off your debt quickly, and keep your revolving debt below 30% of the available loan. Approximately 30% of your score is based on how much you owe to creditors.
  3. Get in the game – The length of your credit history contributes 15% of your score. If you decide you want to build credit, starting the process sooner is better.
  4. Have a healthy mix – The types of credit you have contribute to 10% of your score. Do you only have credit cards on your report? That appears as a red flag to lenders.
  5. Pay more than the minimum balance and do it early – This helps you pay down debt faster and reduces the amount of interest you will pay later.

What other tips and tricks do you know of to keep your credit score up? Share them in the comments below.

PS – Click here to check your credit report and learn more about credit reports and scores.

10 Easy Ways to Save on Groceries

ShopMedium.jpgWhether you’re cooking just for one or a whole family, you probably find that you fork over a decent amount of your paycheck for groceries. Well, that stops now! Gone are the days of spending a fortune on groceries. Cook delicious meals at home and trim down your grocery bill with these great tips!

  1. Inventory your pantry and fridge before you head to the store. Make a note of what you have so you don’t accidentally buy something that you already have at home.
  2. Shop around for the best prices. Compare prices of the items you most commonly buy at a few stores in your area, such as Walmart, Target, Costco, Publix, etc. Find out if you’re actually shopping at the store with the lowest overall prices for your needs.
  3. Plan meals from the weekly ads. Check out the weekly deals for your grocery store online and build your meals around the items on sale.
  4. Buy dried herbs instead of fresh. Dried herbs are generally more concentrated and last longer than fresh herbs so you’ll use less and they’ll last longer.
  5. Take advantage of BOGOs for non-perishable items. Take advantage of BOGO deals for non-perishable items that you know you’ll always use.
  6. Earn cash back on groceries. Apps like Ibotta, SavingStar and Checkout51 offer weekly cash back deals on a variety of items. All you have to do is submit a photo of your receipt verifying that you bought the items.
  7. Compare unit prices, not just sticker prices. The unit price is the price for one unit (pound, ounce, liter, etc.) of the item you’re buying. Knowing the unit price can help determine if an item is a good deal or not.
  8. Print online coupons and use them wisely. Get printable coupons for a variety of items from sites like, coupons.com, smartsource.com, redplum.com and coolsavings.com. Use coupons when the items are on sale to save even more!
  9. Buy in season produce. You can save 30-50% on produce by buying what’s in season. Click here to see what fruits and vegetables are currently in season.
  10. Ask for a rain check for out of stock sale items. A rain check is a slip of paper that honors the sale price once the item is back in stock, even if the promotion is no longer running.

Do you have any other great money saving tricks? Comment and share them with us!

7 Easy Ways to Pay off Debt

DebtFree.jpgThere are several different approaches to pay off debt, and to say one is the best isn’t really fair or accurate. You need to choose a method that works best for you. The difficult part is designing your plan and sticking to it. That’s why we want to showcase an easy method that seems to work well for most people. Have you heard of the Snowball Method to pay down debt? Click here to read all about it. This method is a great way to pay down your debt because: 1. The process is laid out – you just need to fill in the blanks. 2. It is designed to help you see progress quickly, which keeps you motivated to keep going!

Here are some other great ways to pay down debt:

  1. STOP spending money on your credit card. Some people will go as far as to freeze their cards in a container of water. This forces them to wait out their impulsive decision, which often changes by the time the water thaws.
  2. If you have credit card debt with interest, start looking for lower or 0% APR balance transfer deals.
  3. Put all money from work raises or bonuses towards paying down your debt.
  4. Sell unwanted or unused items in your home. From clothing to furniture, there is likely something you have that someone else wants. Alternatively, sell items you receive for birthdays or holidays that you know you won’t use.
  5. “Fast” one of your more expensive luxury items for a period of time (a week or a month) and use the money you would have spent to pay down debt. For example: $5 McDonald’s breakfast x 5 days per week = $25 a week or $100 for the month.
  6. Change your expensive habits and reroute the money to pay down debt. For example: Smoking a pack of cigarettes at $6 per day is $2,190 per year.

Paying off debt isn’t easy. If it was, most of America wouldn’t be in debt. However, it isn’t the act of paying off debt that is hard, it’s changing our habits and committing to those changes. Are you willing to commit? Tell us about your journey to become debt-free below in the comment section. What is working for you? What are your challenges?

10 Ways to Avoid Fraud

PiggyBankShield-small.jpgFraudsters use clever schemes to defraud millions of people every year. From skimmers to phishing emails, they will stop at nothing to steal your personal and financial information. Protect yourself and keep your hard earned money in sight with these helpful tips!

  1. Only open emails from people you know. Fraudsters often send emails that ask you to click on a hyperlink or open an attachment and enter your personal or financial information. Ignore any emails that make these requests.
  2. Don’t pay upfront. Fraudsters may ask you to pay in advance for debt relief, credit and loan offers, mortgage assistance or a job. They may even say that you’ve won a prize, but need to pay taxes or fees first. Don’t do it! Chances are they will take your money and disappear.
  3. Avoid sharing your personal or financial information in an email, text or over the phone. You never know whose hands that information could fall into.
  4. Shred everything. Shred all documents that contain personal information, including your address, telephone numbers, account statements and other sensitive data.
  5. Create strong passwords and change them at least every six months. Use a unique password with a mix of letters, numbers and symbols for each of your important accounts. Don’t use names, birthdays, common words or sequential patterns.
  6. Monitor your accounts weekly. Keep an eye on your accounts to catch any fraudulent charges as soon as they happen. It’s also a good idea to save your receipts and check them against your statements.
  7. At the gas pump, inspect the card reader and PIN pad. Before you swipe your card, study the card reader and give it a good tug or shake. If it moves, it probably has a skimming device on it. Check the PIN pad as well to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with.
  8. Consider the payment method. Not all forms of payment are alike. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, while other payment methods don’t. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. You should also avoid using mobile payment apps, such as Venmo, with people you don’t personally know.
  9. Check your credit history and score regularly. There are a variety of ways you can access your credit report for free. With Credit Karma, you can view your scores and reports anytime, get useful tools and tips to help you understand and improve your score, and get credit alerts to help you spot fraud.  Many credit card companies, like Discover and Capital One, offer free credit tracking tools and send you monthly/weekly updates of your score.  You can also order a free credit report once a year from the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
  10. Talk to someone you trust. Fraudsters want you to make decisions in a hurry and they may swear you to secrecy. Before you do anything, check out the story, do an online search, or consult a friend or expert – like a Financial Services Representative at Insight!

We hope these tips help you stay one step ahead of fraudsters! Click here for more fraud prevention information.