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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

 

Warm Up to Responsible Spending

With warm, sunny days upon us, it’s time to plan for more than just your tan: summer spending. Vacations, airline tickets, dining out, and entertainment—it adds up. If you haven’t budgeted for these expenses in advance, a quick swipe of your credit card takes care of it. But if responsible credit card use isn’t your strength (or you just need a refresher), these tips could help curb the temptation to overspend this summer.

Be selective. There are several factors to look at when picking a credit card. First, you’ll want to see what your limit is. If you don’t think you can handle the freedom of a credit card, start with one that has a lower limit, like $1,000. Additionally, look at the credit card’s annual percentage rate or APR. That interest will add up if you’re not planning on paying off the total each month, so shop around for a low APR. Finally, look out for cards that charge annual fees just for keeping them open.

Monitor your balance. You should keep credit card payments to 10 percent of your monthly take-home income. For example, if your monthly income is $2,000, your monthly credit card payment should not be more than $200. This doesn’t mean your balance should not exceed $200, but make sure your minimum payment is no more than that. Keep in mind, however, that paying off the entire balance each month is in your best interest financially.

Know the benefits. By making purchases with your credit card and paying the balance off each month, you’re proving to lenders that you’re a responsible, creditworthy consumer. It boosts your credit score and will help you in the future if you ever want to get a loan—or another credit card.

Stick to a budget. It’s important to set parameters for yourself when using a credit card. One simple way to do this is to use the credit card for one specific purpose, like gas or groceries, so it’s easier to keep your spending in check. Another way is to get a card with a low limit. This forces you to keep your spending under a certain amount.

Smart credit card use doesn’t have to be a mystery or limit your fun this summer. Follow these simple tips and your poolside lounge session (while possibly chasing the kids) will be that much more relaxing.

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

Home Buying and Renovation Budget Prep

So, you want to buy a house. Or, you’re considering a renovation. Looking at homes and upgrades is exciting, but don’t get ahead of yourself. While HGTV makes it look easy, purchasing a home or getting a second mortgage actually takes a lot of planning and preparation. Here are a few ways to get yourself ready:

Know your budget. You should spend no more than 25-28 percent of your monthly take-home income on a mortgage. Look at your monthly paychecks (after taxes) to see what that percentage would be so you aren’t looking at homes out of your price range. If you’re considering a home equity product (also know as a second mortgage), make sure the extra monthly expense keeps you in that 25-28 percent range.

Save the right amount. Traditionally, your down payment should be 20 percent of the purchase price to avoid paying more in interest and private mortgage insurance (PMI). If the home you want is $200,000, you should have $40,000 saved. Additionally, be prepared to pay closing costs, an inspection fee, appraisal fee, and a lender’s fee. There are loans that don’t require 20 percent down, but you’ll pay more in interest over time and PMI could be required.

Plan for future costs. If you have enough money to comfortably buy a home now, don’t forget about future expenses. Are you planning on starting a family soon? According to the USDA, a middle-income married couple spends an average of $727 a month on a child. Can your budget handle that with a mortgage? What if something breaks? You’re now responsible for home repairs and must plan for those unexpected expenses.

Home Equity Loans or Line of Credit. These options are for people who already own a home; they can be used for renovations, college costs, or even a vacation. When choosing a lender, you’ll want to look at their closing costs, interest rates, and fees. You should also consider if you want a lump sum up front (home equity loan) or a revolving loan that works like a credit card (home equity line of credit). And keep in mind that you’re essentially adding to your mortgage payment, so make sure you’re financially prepared.

Buying or making upgrades to a home should be exciting, but don’t let the thrill of the hunt overshadow the financial preparation. Do your homework and get your ducks in a row; when you’re ready, your dream house will be there.

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

The Art of Avoiding the Scam

As technology evolves to secure our identities, so has scammers’ creativity and resourcefulness to steal it. While we may think we’re savvy enough to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud, the reality is that we’re all susceptible to the threat. Secure yourself with these helpful tips.

Don’t give out personal information unless you’ve initiated contact. Scammers will contact you by phone, mail, and even email requesting personal information. Never give out that information unless you’ve initiated contact or know exactly whom you’re dealing with.

Avoid logging on to personal accounts on public computers. This can make your information accessible to the next person who uses it. Additionally, accessing your checking account via public Wi-Fi puts your information at risk. Only use your personal computer on a private, trusted Wi-Fi signal to access any information that people could use to do you harm.

Create strong passwords. Make it something challenging for others to guess by interchanging E with 3, switching between upper and lowercase, and adding special characters. For example, if you wanted to make your password “animal”, a better alternative might be @N!mA1. That’s much harder to guess and still easy to remember.

Check your credit report annually to look for any discrepancies. 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. To request a free copy, visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll-free 1-877-322-8228. Be cautious of websites that advertise a “free” credit report. They often require you to sign up for a monthly subscription fee in order to receive your report.

Secure your debit and credit cards. You can sign up for digital wallets, which help add a layer of security to your debit and credit cards by encrypting the card information. You can also sign up for purchase alerts where you’re notified via phone and/or email if a certain parameter, such as a dollar amount on a transaction, is hit. It’s also a good idea to let your financial institution know if you’ll be traveling to prevent your card from becoming locked due to unfamiliar transactions.

Being proactive and staying on top of your credit and finances goes a long way toward protecting yourself from scammers; however, if you find you’re already a victim, visit https://www.ready.gov/cyber-attack to learn what your next steps should be.

 

Article provided by Member One

Warm Up Your Heart on December 13

This week, Alex from Member One Federal Credit Union helped kids from the Community Youth Program make hot cocoa to sell at their their craft sale on December 13 from 6-8 pm. The event will take place at St. John’s Episcopal Church, and all of the proceeds will benefit the church.

fullsizerender-3The Community Youth Program began 17 years ago through the efforts of parishioners at the church. Today, it continues to encourage learning and the development of a positive self-image and to provide a network of support for 4th-8th grade students and their families. This upcoming sale is part of their financial literacy programming and will tie into their family night event. These events are designed to support community bonding and conversations by hosting a sit down dinner with families from the program.

For more information on The Community Youth Program, visit www.cyproanoke.org or www.memberonefcu.com.

Holiday Sweet Treats

Ok, I have to be honest. The holidays snuck up on me this year, and I haven’t done my baking yet.

The good news (for me, and any other procrastinator out there) is that Member One has some amazing holiday cookie recipes in our current issue. One of which is this simple and easy Classic Sugar Cookie recipe.

MemberOneYou will need:
3 cups flour
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 egg
powdered sugar

Sift salt, baking soda, and flour. Combine butter, sugar, and egg. Beat with an electric mixer. Gradually add flour until dough mixture pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Split the dough in half and refrigerate for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Before rolling out dough, sprinkle surface with powdered sugar. Roll dough into 1/4″ thickness. Cut into desired shapes and place 1″ apart on greased baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes or until golden brown. Remove cookies.

 

It is a time honored tradition in our family to add sprinkles to the top, but you can add whatever you want to make your cookies festive! We won’t judge you if you eat them all before you get to your party!

Now, please excuse me while I go start my oven and finally get ready for the holidays!

Written by Hayleigh Worgan (with a little help from Member One).

 

Save This Buy That: Saving Money This Holiday Season

The holiday season has officially kicked off – cue our favorite time of the year! Despite it being one of our favorites, spending is at an all-time high. These next few months can potentially take a major toll on your bank account, but with these quick tips – we’ve got your wallet’s back!

Thanksgiving Leftovers
This Thanksgiving, it’s all about taking advantage of those inevitable leftovers. Give those boring turkey sandwiches an upgrade with these budget-friendly and yummy recipes:

Cranberry Turkey Quesadilla
45¢ per serving

1 wheat tortilla wrap
2 tbsp. cranberry sauce
Leftover turkey
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 tsp. balsamic dressing
Ground pepper

Lay wrap out flat. Spread the cranberry sauce over half the wrap and sprinkle ground pepper to taste. Add cheese on top of cranberry sauce.
Top with turkey. Drizzle the balsamic dressing over the turkey and fold the bare end of wrap over filling.
Bring a skillet to medium high. Add cooking spray or olive oil. Gently add the quesadilla to the skillet and let cook on each side for 2 minutes.

LeftoverPieThanksgiving Dinner Pies
59¢ per pie

2 refrigerated pie crusts
Create a fun combination from your leftovers: turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, etc.
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Use a cup to cut small circles from the pie crusts.
Layer a small amount of the ingredients on the crust (leave room on sides to seal crust). Top with second crust and seal edges with fork.
Poke top twice with fork and brush with egg.

Mashed Potatoes Puffs
13¢ per puff

2 cups mashed potatoes
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup minced chives
1/4 cup cooked bacon
Salt & pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 400°F and lightly grease a mini muffin pan.
Mix together potatoes, eggs, 3/4-cup cheese, chives, bacon, salt & pepper.
Place a spoonful of mixture in each muffin cup. Sprinkle tops with remaining cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Want more holiday money-saving tips? Head to SaveThisBuyThat.com!