How to Manage Your Credit Card During Difficult Times

Life can get expensive, especially during times like these. While your credit card has likely provided you with some additional freedom and flexibility lately, it’s important to remember that your credit card is not free money. You will have to pay it back eventually (and with interest)!

With U.S. credit card debt hitting an all-time high of $930 billion earlier this year, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, we could all probably use a reminder on how to effectively use and manage our credit cards. Here’s some important advice:

Try to pay your credit card off ahead of time.

There are many reasons you should always try to pay your credit card off ahead of time, but the most important is to avoid paying interest. Accounts that don’t run a continuous balance are given an interest-free grace period, which usually lasts until the next due date. If you can’t pay in full, be sure to pay as much as you can – in order to reduce your interest payments.

In addition to avoiding interest payments, paying your credit card off ahead of time can also help to improve your credit score – since it reduces the amount of your credit limit used. This, along with payment history – can account for the majority of your credit score.

Don’t strain your wallet.

You should avoid maxing out or spending anywhere near your credit limit, as it could cause long-term financial issues – like fees, debt, and damage to your credit score. A good practice is to use less than 40% of your available credit. Treat your credit card similar to a debit card or checkbook. If you don’t have the money currently or can’t save to pay it off later, that should be a sign that you really can’t afford to make a purchase.

Monitor your balance daily.

If you’re using your credit card for everyday purchases, it can be easy to forget how fast those daily transactions can add up. That’s why it’s crucial to regularly monitor your balance. One of the best ways to do this is to download your card’s mobile app. Also, be sure to set up daily or weekly account balance updates/notifications that can be sent directly to your phone or email. You can often do this right from the mobile app, or through your online account. Typically you can also set up monthly payment reminders here too.

Take advantage of your credit card rewards. 

Take full advantage of any rewards or benefits programs offered through your credit card. This can mean anything from retailer gift cards, cash back, electronics and airline miles. These perks can save you money! If you’re contemplating a new credit card, make sure to choose the credit card that best suits your needs and lifestyle – along with a low APR.

First Financial has three great credit card options, lower APRs, no balance transfer fees, and no annual fee.* 

Let us help you find the right card for you! Check out our website or give us a call so we can answer any questions you may have. Or if you like what you see, you can apply online 24/7!

*APR varies up to 18% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. 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 Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: Jackson Bolstad for CUInsight.com

 

Should You Pay for Credit Repair Services?

Should You Pay for Credit Repair Services? Probably not.

Call it a coincidence. Call it savvy marketing. Whatever you call it, there always seems to be a spike in credit repair advertisements around the time the first holiday shopping bills arrive. Maybe you’re staring wide-eyed at a balance that’s higher than you expected, wondering how you’re even going to keep up with the minimum payments. This kind of uncertainty can the stage for bad decisions. So, before you scramble and sign up for credit repair services, take a deep breath and realize you have more control than you think.

Risk vs. Reward: Is credit repair worth the cost?

It’s important to remember that some credit repair services are legitimate businesses, able to follow through on their claims. Unfortunately, the reputable companies reside in a corporate landscape littered with scam artists and opportunists. If you’re willing to devote enough time and research, it’s possible to separate the upstanding services from the scams, but as NerdWallet columnist Liz Weston points out, “If you’re able to do that kind of research, then you can certainly figure out credit repair and do it yourself.”

While the trustworthy credit repair companies aren’t necessarily too good to be true, there’s a good chance they’re too costly to be worth it. When you consider that many of these services charge monthly fees ranging from $30-$100, the boost in your credit rating may not justify the ongoing expense.

Facing credit challenges? Your credit union can help.

Good credit isn’t the result of tricks and trade secrets. It’s established by applying solid financial habits over time. The same holds true for credit repair. While there may be some additional steps required to clean up your credit report, rebuilding good credit requires a consistent commitment to responsible money management.

Credit unions exist to ensure the financial success of their members. Educating people on proper credit management is part of that mission. If you’re drowning in debt and struggling to regain your financial footing, your credit union could be the lifeline you’re looking for. Discussing your current challenges with one of the credit union’s representatives can be the first step toward putting those struggles behind you.

Repairing damaged credit is no walk in the park. But with a little hard work and dedication and the guidance of your credit union’s financial professionals, you can be on the way to reclaiming the good credit you deserve.

Need a little help understanding your credit score or want to sit down with a First Financial representative to help with debt management strategies? Stop into your nearest branch location, email marketingbd@firstffcu.com, or call 732-312-1500 to schedule an appointment. We’ll help you get back on track!

Check out out guide for understanding your credit score.