Tag Archives: credit

College Talk

How to get your degree without all the debt.

Article courtesy of Member One Federal Credit Union

American college grads now collectively owe about $1.5 trillion in student loans—and nearly two-thirds of that debt is held by women. While it’s true that more women than men are now attending college, on a student-per-student basis, women are borrowing more than men—and may face a harder time paying that debt off, given the gender wage gap that continues to exist. College can still be a good investment in your future, but the less borrowed the better. Here’s what you, or the college-bound young woman in your life, can do to help minimize student debt. 

Stay open-minded when choosing a college. 

Many families go by “sticker price” when deciding on a school, but that can be a mistake because the published tuition may not be what you’re expected to pay. Some pricy private schools actually have more available aid to offer to qualified, less affluent students. On the other hand, don’t assume that a bigger tuition bill equals a better education. Many state schools today offer quality degree programs comparable to the big names. Apply to a mix of public and private colleges and favor the school that offers you the best financial aid package. And don’t overlook community colleges. Two years at one of the 23 schools in the Virginia community college system can save you tens of thousands in tuition. 

Appeal your financial aid. 

Many families don’t realize that a financial aid offer is potentially negotiable. We’ve all heard that women are less likely than men to negotiate, so here’s a chance to change that. If your preferred college offers you a financial aid package that’s insufficient, let them know that you’d love to enroll but need more help making it affordable. If another school has offered you a better aid package, mention that and ask your dream school whether they’d be able to match it. 

Keep hustling. 

Working through college doesn’t have to be detrimental to grades, and it can actually be an opportunity to gain career-relevant skills for the future. Work-study programs are convenient because they’re on campus and allow student employees to tackle homework during downtime. Co-operative education programs provide structured work experiences where students gain real-world knowledge while getting paid and earning college credit. And don’t forget, college is a great time to tap into your entrepreneurial spirit! Modcloth’s Susan Gregg Koger is one example of a female entrepreneur who got started in her dorm room. 

Make scholarship searching a priority. 

Yes, finding and applying to scholarships takes work—so treat it like a job because it can potentially pay very well. Every dollar you’re awarded in scholarships is potentially one less dollar you’ll have to borrow. Dedicate at least a few hours each week to scholarship applications, and look for opportunities in creative places where you might face less competition. Think community organizations you belong to, your parents’ employers, or even your local bank or credit union. 

Join Member One here each month for more money-saving tips and financial advice! Be sure to visit their website, www.memberonefcu.com, for more info on their products and services. Member One Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration. 

Save Smarter

Four Reasons to Buddy Up with a Credit Card

Combined with responsible spending, these tips could help improve your financial wellness.
Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

High-interest rates, nasty fees, or the inability to pay back debt—all can leave you feeling glum when it comes to credit cards. Cheer up! Credit cards don’t have to be your worst financial enemy. If you educate yourself, you’ll discover how befriending your credit card, while spending responsibly, could actually benefit your overall financial health. 

Build and/or improve your credit. Are you planning to get a loan for a car or a home? That loan will depend on your credit score. By using a credit card and making monthly payments (or better yet, paying off the entire balance each month), you’re helping to establish good credit. You’ll also want to consider your credit utilization ratio—the amount you owe compared to your credit limit. Keeping this ratio low, usually below 10 percent, will make you more appealing to lenders.

Maximize the value of your dollar. If you use your credit card wisely, rewards can be a good way to maximize the value of every dollar you spend by earning cash back, points, or miles that you can later redeem. Why not benefit from purchases you’re already making? Just be cautious—don’t charge more to your credit card just to earn a certain reward, such as an airfare ticket or hotel stay. This could lead to significant debt if it gets out of control. One way to keep track of spending is to use your credit card for specific things like groceries and gas.

Keep your budget in check. Credit cards can be a great way to consolidate your debt. You can save yourself some money over time by rolling all of your debt onto a single credit card; however, make sure the card you’re putting debt onto has a lower interest rate than your other cards. This could make your life simpler by paying one bill each month instead of several, and the lower interest rate could help you save money.

Protect your money. With credit and debit card fraud on the rise, using a credit card as opposed to a debit card could help protect you and your funds. Debit cards are linked to your checking account, so fraudsters could drain your account quickly if your card is compromised. With credit cards, you have the advantage of fraud protection. Review your credit card provider’s fraud protection policy to learn more. Another great feature of credit cards is purchase alerts that notify you when your card is used. 

Credit cards don’t have to be a foe. With a little willpower and a bit of know-how, they can help you achieve financial ease and security. 

Join Member One here each month for more money-saving tips and financial advice! Be sure to visit their website, www.memberonefcu.com, for more info on their products and services. Member One Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration.

Member One: Credit Score Quick Guide

It’s one of the most important numbers linked to your identity: your credit score. But are you fully aware of why it’s so significant, and what constitutes a good credit score? Read on for a brief explanation of what it is and tips for improving it.

What is it? Your credit score is a number that ranges from 300 to 850 and, along with repayment history, is an indication of your creditworthiness. Anything above 700 is generally viewed as good credit and signals to potential lenders that you’re more likely to pay back your debts on time.

Why should I care? A credit score helps determine whether you’re approved or denied for a credit card or loan and your interest rate. On-time payments have a big impact on your score, and just one or two late payments can significantly lower it. If you’ve ever had a bill go to collections, declared bankruptcy, or had a foreclosure, your score will go down. The number of loans in your name matter and the more accounts you have (in good standing), the better, because it shows that multiple lenders have approved you.

How do I find out my score? The three major credit-reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—are required by law to provide you with a free credit report every 12 months. Keep in mind that this is just the report and not the actual score. In order to receive your score, you typically have to purchase it. Visit MyFICO.com to buy your official FICO score. Also, check your monthly credit card statement as some lenders now include your credit score as an added service.

What are some quick ways to improve it? One of the best ways is to consistently pay your bills on time. Other ways include paying down a credit card balance to improve your utilization rate, and keeping lines of credit open with zero balances. Both of these strategies show lenders that you’re able to manage debt and aren’t biting off more than you can chew.

As a general rule of thumb, you should review your credit report along with your score at least once a year. Not only is it beneficial to keep yourself informed and aware, it could help protect against fraud or identity theft.

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union