How to Build Credit if You Have a Small Income

Building and maintaining a good credit score is one of the best moves you can make for piggy bankyour financial health. It might seem intimidating at first – the credit scoring system is definitely complex – but when it comes time to apply for a mortgage or other loan, you’ll be happy you made building a solid score a priority.

How does the picture change if you make a small income? As it turns out, not much. You don’t need to be a Rockefeller to achieve good credit. Take a look at the details below to learn how to build a great score, no matter how large or small your paycheck is!

First, know what makes a good score.

Before digging into specific recommendations, it’s important to understand the factors that affect your credit score. The FICO scoring model – which is the most widely used credit scoring system in the United States today, takes a lot of variables into account to create your score. These include:

• Payment history
• Amounts owed
• Length of credit history
• Mix of credit accounts
• Recent credit inquiries

You’ll notice that income is not one of the factors used to determine your credit score. This means that earning a big salary doesn’t equate to earning a high credit score. Even if you have a small income, you can succeed at scoring high, as long as you’re using the right strategies.

Need to get your credit score in check? Try First Financial’s First Score Program, a low cost, interactive session ($30) with a First Financial expert, which simulates your credit score with various “what if” scenarios. You can email us at firstscore@firstffcu.com or call 866.750.0100, Option 4 to get started.

Obtaining credit is an important first step.

It’s empowering to know that the steps to good credit are about financial behaviors, not the size of your bank account balance. But what exactly should you be doing to get there?

Above all, it’s important to start using a credit account responsibly as soon as you can. Proving to potential lenders that you can be trusted with borrowed money is the best way to start building your credit momentum.

One of the easiest ways to do this is with a credit card. If you’re not earning much money, you might be shying away from plastic to avoid the temptation to overspend. But this may in fact stall your efforts to build good credit.

If you’re not interested in getting a credit card, obtaining another type of loan to establish a credit history is a good idea. You might have trouble getting approved if your income falls below the lender’s requirements. In this case, offering a big down payment or securing a co-signer might help you qualify as well.

Did you know First Financial has a lower rate VISA Platinum Credit Card, great rewards, no annual fee, and no balance transfer fees? Apply today!*

Keep up with good habits.

Once you’ve gained access to credit, keeping up with good habits is essential to building your score further. Specifically, you should focus on a few important behaviors.

The two most important factors the FICO score looks at are:

  • Payment history – Are you making the minimum payment required on time every time? This accounts for 35% of the FICO Score.
  • Credit Utilization – Are you keeping the balances on revolving credit (typically credit cards) below 30 percent of your available credit? This accounts for 30% of the FICO Score.

In short, paying your bills on time and in full are the two most powerful things you can do to create and hold onto a good credit score.

And just to be clear: Neither requires a big income. Spend and borrow within your means, and it will be easy to manage your payments properly.

The takeaway: Those with small incomes have the same opportunity as their high-earning counterparts to build good credit.

Use the tips above to get started today!

*APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: Lindsay Konsko of NerdWallet

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/09/01/credit-score-financial-health/13628811/

Shoppers Beware: Retail Credit Card APRs Average 23%

Open WalletBefore you take the bait from the cashier and sign up for a new store credit card, be sure to read the fine print first.

Retail credit cards boast average annual percentage rates of 23.23%, according to a CreditCards.com analysis of cards from 36 of the nation’s biggest retailers.

That’s more than eight percentage points higher than the average credit card APR of 15.03%.

“Retailers dangle incentives like 15% off a purchase to encourage consumers to sign up for their credit cards,” said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com. “But the much higher interest rates far outweigh the one-time discount for anyone who carries a balance.”

If you’re confident you will never miss a payment and you think the retailer’s rewards program would provide you with savings, then it could be a fine deal. But if there’s even a small chance you’ll carry a balance, you could end up paying big money in interest as a result.

Customers with a 23.23% APR credit card, for example, would be hit with $840 in interest if they carry a $1,000 balance and only make minimum monthly payments — and it would take them 73 months to repay that balance. That compares to $396 in interest for the average credit card.

Jeweler Zales’ store card topped the list, with a rate of up to 28.99%, Office Depot and Staples both offer cards with rates as high as 27.99%, and Best Buy credit cards come with rates ranging between 25.24% and 27.99% depending on your credit.

Need to transfer a high rate credit card balance without any balance transfer fees, to a lower rate card? This is possible at First Financial, where our credit card rates are as low as 10.9% APR and we have no balance transfer fees!* And for a limited time – if you are approved for a balance transfer of $5,000 or more to our VISA Platinum Credit Card, you will receive 10,000 bonus CURewards Points! You can apply for the balance transfer by stopping into any branch or calling 866.750.0100 to be sent a balance transfer request form.**

If you have a great deal of debt, we also have a free, anonymous online debt management tool called Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

*APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

**Additional bonus points will be reflected within 30 days from the balance transfer approval and can be viewed when signed into your VISA Platinum Card Account online through Online Banking. In order to redeem bonus points, an offer reference must be made to a First Financial representative. Bonus points can only be redeemed one time per member, on an approved balance transfer of $5,000 or greater during the promotional period of 4/28/14 – 12/31/14.

Article Source: Blake Ellis for CNN Money, http://money.cnn.com/2014/08/07/pf/retail-credit-cards/index.html?iid=SF_PF_River

 

3 Ways Moving Can Hurt Your Credit Score and How to Combat Them

Stack of cardboard boxWhether you are moving because it’s an upgrade to go along with a higher salary, or simply a change of scenery, many of us love to hate moving – and do so frequently. But between asking around for free boxes and trying to comprehend how you’ve acquired so much stuff, watch out for your credit! Here are three ways moving could impact your credit score and how to deal with them.

1. A credit check will initiate a hard inquiry.

When you apply for a new apartment, your apartment management company will likely pull your credit to see whether you’re responsible with money. This will trigger a hard inquiry, which can pull down your credit score a few points. Hard inquiries remain on your credit report for two years and affect your credit score for one.

Because of the minor impact of a hard credit pull, it’s generally not a huge concern. However, if you’re initiating multiple hard inquiries each year, you could hurt your score more significantly. Hard inquiries may include: applying for credit — such as credit cards, mortgages, and loans, or applying for a service that requires financial responsibility, such as a cell phone.

Solution: To keep your credit score from suffering multiple inquiries, you should limit your annual credit applications and take advantage of rate shopping when possible. This will keep your inquiries low and your credit score high.

Need to get your credit score in check? Try First Financial’s First Score Program, a low cost, interactive session ($30) with a First Financial expert, which simulates your credit score with various “what if” scenarios. You can email us at firstscore@firstffcu.com or call 866.750.0100, Option 4 to get started.

2. Bills that go to your old address may go unpaid.

new study released by the Urban Institute states that over 1/3 of Americans have an account in collections. But what does this have to do with moving? An account can easily end up in collections because it isn’t forwarded correctly, instead being sent to an old address. There are two easy things you can do to prevent such a mix-up.

Solution: First, change your address with the U.S. Postal Service before you move. It will forward your mail to your new address for one year. By that time, you should have your address changed on all of your accounts. Remember to update your address on your accounts as soon as possible.

While you’re updating your address, you may also want to enroll in paperless statements and automatic bill pay. In an increasingly paperless world, it’s best to handle your financial dealings electronically. If you don’t want to use auto pay, have statements sent to your primary email so you can pay them before the due date.

First Financial members can take advantage of our free Online Banking and enroll in e-statements. Online Bill Pay is also free, if you pay at least 3 bills online per month – otherwise a $6 monthly fee applies. Learn more about how you can self-enroll in Online Banking today!

3. You’re putting too many moving expenses or new purchases on credit cards.

Moving can be expensive. Between paying for a moving truck and covering your security deposit and first month’s rent, it may be tempting to put moving-related expenses on credit cards. This is all well and good, but only if you have the funds to pay off your credit card in full before the due date to avoid accruing interest.

It’s also easy to fall into the trap of charging new items for your home. After all, new digs require new furniture, right? Wrong! Unless you can reasonably pay for your new purchases, resist the urge for now.

Solution: Save money well before your move-in date to cover all moving-related expenses. And in the case of buying new things for your new place, purchase the decor of your dreams slowly as you have the money. Your home shouldn’t be a source of stress, so make sure it isn’t filled with things that are hurting your finances.

If you do need to put some moving expenses on a credit card – be sure you are using a low-rate card like First Financial’s Visa Platinum Card, which also has no balance transfer fees and no annual fee.*

Bottom line: Moving can hurt your credit score, but only indirectly. To keep your credit from being damaged by your upcoming move, avoid getting too many hard inquiries in any given year, change your address with the USPS and switch to paperless billing, and try not to buy anything moving-related or otherwise that you can’t pay for before your credit card due date.

*APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: Nerdwallet.com

3 Totally Common Financial Tips You Should Probably Ignore

Mature man taking data off the computer for doing income taxesWhether you get your financial tips by asking friends and family, checking out library books, attending seminars or searching online, impractical pieces of advice sometimes abound.

Too many personal finance experts tend to populate their cable appearances, books, columns and blogs with the same simple tidbits. But some of that common advice is also not applicable to everyone. For each of these three clichéd tips, let’s look at some other alternatives:

1. In Debt? Cut Up Your Credit Cards

Certain financial gurus advise people in debt to cut up all their plastic and consider using credit cards as the eighth deadly sin.  Here’s some advice: don’t cut up your cards.

People land in debt for various reasons, and some – like student loans, don’t have anything to do with credit cards.

If being unable to pass up a sale or discount clothing bin is your trigger for getting into massive amounts of debt, then put your cards in a lock box and back away. If you fell into some bad luck and used your credit card for an emergency, consider a balance transfer.

Need to transfer a high rate credit card balance without any balance transfer fees, to a lower rate card? This is possible at First Financial, where our credit card rates are as low as 10.9% APR and we have no balance transfer fees!* And for a limited time – if you are approved for a balance transfer of $5,000 or more to our VISA Platinum Credit Card, you will receive 10,000 bonus CURewards Points! You can apply for the balance transfer by stopping into any branch or calling 866.750.0100 to be sent a balance transfer request form.*

But just because someone is in debt and wants to get out of it doesn’t mean they’re going to stop spending money entirely. People still need to eat, fill the car with gas, and deal with the occasional unexpected expense.

Some may counter that it’s best to use a debit card, but consider the ramifications of debit card fraud.  A compromised debit card gives thieves direct access to your checking account. While most financial institutions will cover the majority of money taken from your account, it can be an extreme hassle to deal with. When a credit card is compromised, the issuer typically reacts quickly – possibly even before the customer notices, and usually offers fraud protection.

It also helps to have a low-interest rate credit card for emergencies. Think of it as a fire extinguisher housed in a glass case. You don’t want to break that glass unless you really, really need it. But you do want the fire extinguisher to be there.

If you have a great deal of debt, First Financial has a free, anonymous online debt management tool called Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

2. Have a 20% Buffer in Checking

Undoubtedly, it’s preferable to have a buffer in your checking account to avoid overdraft fees, but two types of situations typically cause overdraft fees.

  • Person A is forgetful, forgets a recurring charge or neglects to check his or her balance before making a purchase.
  • Person B uses overdrafts as a form of short-term borrowing because he or she does not have enough money to get by without going into overdraft.

About 38 million American households spend all of their paycheck, with more than 2/3 being part of the middle class, according to a study by Brookings Institution.

It’s simple for personal finance experts to recommend tightening up the purse strings, doubling down on paying off debt, and moving out of the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle – but those who don’t have assets and who struggle each month to make ends meet don’t need to hear people harping about avoiding overdraft fees by “just saving a little bit.” Every little bit counts for them.

Instead, let’s offer some practical advice: Those looking to avoid overdraft fees should evaluate their banking products.

Americans who use overdraft fees as a form of short-term lending may want to set up a line of credit with a credit union or have a low-interest credit card for emergencies.

First Financial Federal Credit Union has both options available – give us a call at 866.750.0100, Option 4 or learn more about our lines of credit and low-rate Visa Platinum Card on our website.***

3. Skip That Latte!

Many years ago, David Bach created a unifying mantra for personal finance enthusiasts. The “latte factor” was that you could save big by cutting back on small things.

Bach’s deeper concept – that each individual needs to identify his or her latte factor – got lost in the battle cries, with many people crusading specifically against your daily cup of coffee.

Yes, people should be aware of leaks in their budget. But everyone’s budget looks different. If “Person A” buys a coffee each day, but rarely buys new clothing, and trims the budget by cutting cable and brown-bagging it to work, then leave them alone about their caffeine habit.

People are allowed to live a little when it comes to their personal finances. It’s important to save for the future, but it’s also important to enjoy life in the present. Personal finance shouldn’t be a culture of constant denial either. Create a budget, figure out if you can work in an indulgence or two, and don’t live in complete deprivation. For those working to dig out of seemingly insurmountable debt, then yes, it may be time to identify and limit your latte factor or make an appointment with a financial counselor.

Decide What’s Right for You

Keep in mind, personal finance is indeed personal.  A generic piece of advice, like keep a 20% buffer in your checking account to avoid overdrafts, may not be helpful in your personal situation.  You need to figure out what works for you, and ask for help along the way if you need it.

*APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

**Additional bonus points will be reflected within 30 days from the balance transfer approval and can be viewed when signed into your VISA Platinum Card Account online through Online Banking. In order to redeem bonus points, an offer reference must be made to a First Financial representative. Bonus points can only be redeemed one time per member, on an approved balance transfer of $5,000 or greater during the promotional period of 4/28/14 – 12/31/14.

*** Subject to credit approval. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Line of Credit or VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2014/07/28/common-financial-tips-you-should-ignore/ by Erin Lowry.

What’s New? EMV Chip Card Technology FAQs

emv_chip_2The days of the credit card’s magnetic stripe appear numbered, with special-chip, or EMV, credit cards poised to immigrate onto America’s payments landscape. EMV-enabled cards, named for developers Europay, MasterCard and Visa, have an embedded microprocessor chip that encrypts transaction data differently for each purchase. Some chip cards require a personal identification number to complete a transaction, while others only require a signature. EMV is widely used in Europe and Asia and is steadily being adopted as the standard type of credit card worldwide. Everywhere, that is, except the U.S. – but maybe not for long.

What is EMV?
EMV chip technology is becoming the global standard for credit card and debit card payments. Named after its original developers (Europay, MasterCard® and Visa®), this smart chip technology features payment instruments (cards, mobile phones, etc.) with embedded microprocessor chips that store and protect cardholder data. This standard has many names worldwide and may also be referred to as: “chip and PIN” or “chip and signature.”

What is chip technology?
Chip technology is an evolution in our payment system that will help increase security, reduce identity theft and fraud and enable the use of future value-added applications. Chip cards are standard bank cards that are embedded with a micro computer chip. Some may require a PIN instead of a signature to complete the transaction process.

How does EMV chip technology work?
The EMV-enabled device will communicate with the chip inside the smart card to determine whether or not the card is authentic. Generally, the terminal will prompt the cardholder to sign or enter a PIN to validate their identity. This process enhances the authentication of both the card and cardholder, effectively reducing the possibility that a business will accept a counterfeit card or be held liable for a fraud-related chargeback.

What makes EMV different than the traditional magnetic stripe card payment?Simply put, EMV (also referred to as chip-and-PIN, chip-and-signature, chip-and-choice, or generally as chip technology) is the most recent advancement in a global initiative to combat fraud and protect sensitive payment data in the card-present environment. A cardholder’s confidential data is more secure on a chip-enabled payment card than on a magnetic stripe (magstripe) card, as the former supports dynamic authentication, while the latter does not (the data is static). Consequently, data from a traditional magstripe card can be copied (skimmed) with a simple and inexpensive card reading device – enabling criminals to reproduce counterfeit cards for use in both the retail and the CNP environment. Chip (EMV) technology is effective in combating counterfeit fraud with its dynamic authentication capabilities (dynamic values existing within the chip itself that, when verified by the point-of-sale device, ensure the authenticity of the card).

What other incentives are there to accept chip cards?
In addition to the reduction of fraud and related chargebacks, there are other cost savings associated with EMV acceptance. The payment brands are doing their part to ensure that chip-bearing customers can pay at chip-enabled businesses. For example, Visa and MasterCard have issued upcoming rules and guidelines for processors and merchants to support EMV chip technology. Another Visa and MasterCard ruling is the liability shift. Once this goes into effect, merchants who have not made the investment in chip-enabled technology may be held financially liable for card-present fraud that could have been prevented with the use of a chip-enabled POS system.

Is this technology unique to the United States?
No. The chip technology standard for payment was first used in France in 1992. Today, there are more than 1 billion chip cards used around the world. The U.S. is one of the few industrialized nations that have not fully transitioned to this technology standard.

Why invest in chip card acceptance now?
Preventing the growth of fraudulent activity is one of the main reasons the industry is moving toward EMV technology. Chip cards make it difficult for fraud organizations to target cardholders and businesses alike. As a result, more and more chip cards are being introduced by U.S. financial institutions in order to support and switch over to this technology.

To cover all your financial bases, enroll in one of our First Financial’s ID Theft Protection product plans – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored.

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit.* To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and find out how you can enroll today – as well as get started with your first 90 days free!**

*Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

**Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program.

*Click here view the original article sources by Chase Paymentech and Bankrate.

How to Pay Down Credit Cards to Boost Your Credit Score

Dartboard with discountsIf you know anything about credit scores, you know carrying high credit card balances is a problem. In fact, your debt-to-credit ratio (how much you owe vs. your total available credit) makes up about 30% of your overall credit score. And revolving debt, like credit cards, weigh heavier than other outstanding debt – like your mortgage or a car loan. So if you’re carrying a bunch of maxed-out credit cards, your credit score is likely not great.

The most straightforward way to improve your debt-to-credit ratio is to simply pay down those balances. But chances are if you’re in a lot of debt, you can’t pay off all the balances right away.

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to pay your credit cards off to boost your credit score. But to get the most credit score traction out of every extra payment, you do need to come up with a plan for paying down your credit cards in a certain way.

The Snowball Method

The snowball method is excellent for paying off debt quickly and efficiently. Basically, you throw extra money at one debt, and when it’s paid off, put the extra plus the old debt’s minimum payment toward the next debt. Repeat this until you’re debt-free.

This is an excellent way to get out of debt, if just getting out of debt is your goal. But what if your goal is to get out of debt while also boosting your credit score as quickly as possible? Maybe you’re hoping to apply for a mortgage soon, or a car loan?

In this case, the snowball method probably isn’t how you want to start. Eventually, you might switch to that, but you may want to begin by evening out your credit card balances instead.

Lowering Your Debt-to-Credit Ratio

When your credit score is calculated, your overall debt-to-credit ratio is reviewed, but also the individual debt-to-credit ratios of your various credit cards and other revolving debt accounts.

Here’s an example:

•Card 1: $5,000 balance/$10,000 limit = 50% debt-to-credit ratio.

•Card 2: $4,500 balance/$5,000 limit = 90% debt-to-credit ratio.

•Card 3: $500 balance/$1,500 limit = 33% debt-to-credit ratio.

•Overall: $10,000 balance/$16,500 = 60% debt-to-credit ratio.

In this case, your overall 60% debt-to-credit ratio will ding your credit score pretty severely. A “good” debt-to-credit ratio is around 30%, and you’re nearly doubling that.

But since your score also accounts for individual credit cards, you can see that Card 2 is hurting you the most — it’s nearly maxed out, which is not good. Card 3 is posing the smallest problem, since it is nearly in that “good” range.

In a situation like this, you’ll boost your credit score if you focus on paying down Card 2 first. Depending on the interest rates of each of these cards, you might choose to pay that card down all the way.

Or if it’s a card with a lower APR, consider putting money toward the balance until it’s at or near $1,500 to reach the 30% debt-to-credit ratio. Then move on to Card 1 or whichever card has the highest interest rate.

Now, this strategy isn’t guaranteed to add hundreds of points to your credit score. But because you’re improving individual debt-to-credit ratios for each of your credit cards, you will make progress more quickly than if you just snowballed your debt in this situation.

Still, you need to combine this with some aspects of the debt snowball, including the intensity with which you pay down your debt. After all, the only way to try to achieve credit score perfection is to pay your credit cards off completely, and refuse to carry a balance again.

Why Not Just Spread It Around?

Why not just transfer some of the balance from Card 2 to Card 3? Or get another credit card to transfer some of that balance?

You could. In fact, moving balances to lower rate cards can be a good strategy for both boosting your credit score and getting out of debt. But just shifting your balances around isn’t going to help much here, partially because the credit limit on Card 3 is so low to begin with.

What if you do have a $0 balance card in the mix? In this case, you still don’t want to transfer another card’s balance. This is because one part of your credit utilization mix is the number of accounts that carry a balance. So having three accounts carrying a balance and one with no balance is better than having four accounts carrying a balance, even if that move improves one card’s debt-to-credit ratio.

Need to transfer a high rate credit card balance without any balance transfer fees, to a lower rate card? This is possible at First Financial, where our credit card rates are as low as 10.9% APR and we have no balance transfer fees!* And for a limited time – if you are approved for a balance transfer of $5,000 or more to our VISA Platinum Credit Card, you will receive 10,000 bonus CURewards Points! You can apply for the balance transfer by stopping into any branch or calling 866.750.0100 to be sent a balance transfer request form.**

You Can’t Game the System

In the long run, you need to focus on getting your credit card balances paid off. In the meantime, bringing cards below a 30% (or even 50%) debt-to-credit ratio may boost your credit score more quickly than simply snowballing your debt. This is especially true if your debt snowball would leave a maxed-out credit card in the mix for months to come.

Need to get your credit score in check? Try First Financial’s First Score Program, a low cost, interactive session ($30) with a First Financial expert, which simulates your credit score with various “what if” scenarios. You can email us at firstscore@firstffcu.com or call 866.750.0100, Option 4 to get started.

If you have a great deal of debt, we also have a free, anonymous online debt management tool called Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

*APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

**Additional bonus points will be reflected within 30 days from the balance transfer approval and can be viewed when signed into your VISA Platinum Card Account online through Online Banking. In order to redeem bonus points, an offer reference must be made to a First Financial representative. Bonus points can only be redeemed one time per member, on an approved balance transfer of $5,000 or greater during the promotional period of 4/28/14 – 12/31/14.

Article Source: Abby Hayes for Dailyfinance.com, http://www.dailyfinance.com/2014/05/13/how-to-pay-down-credit-cards-boost-your-credit-score/#!slide=2594951