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Five things you’ve got to do if you have a credit card
Establishing and managing good credit is an important responsibility in today’s world. Especially since your credit rating—that 3-digit number that defines your credit worthiness- depends on it. There are several factors that impact your credit rating, one of which is your credit card activity. We’ve come up with five best practices when tempted by the love of plastic money:
1. Watch your credit limit
Did you know that credit card companies start to monitor any account with a balance that’s more than 40% of the credit limit? Experts recommend keeping credit card utilization below 30 percent on each card and collectively. This shows lenders that you know how to spend responsibly and this can help raise your credit score. Anything more than that and it could indicate that you’re struggling financially and lenders might worry that you’ll have trouble paying it back.
2. Make your payments on time
If you’re late just one time, call the customer service representative and kindly ask if they’ll waive the late fee. If you’ve historically paid on time, they may do it as a courtesy. If you’re habitually late, it will cost you. Making your monthly payment on time impacts your credit rating, your interest rate, any promotions the company offers, and more.
We all slip up now and again, though. If you miss a payment, make it as quickly as possible because the amount of time really does matter. Paying five days late is better than paying 30 days late so act quickly—and then maybe think about signing up for auto pay.
3. Pay off your monthly balances in full
Paying off your monthly balance in full each month builds a practice of excellent credit habits. It will help to avoid late payments, unnecessary finance charges, and the accumulation of unnecessary debt. It will also benefit your credit score and keep your credit utilization ratio in check, which is an important factor in the calculation of your credit rating.
4. Open your statements!
Even if you pay your bills online, it’s important to view the activity on your monthly statements. Is there a random charge you didn’t authorize? Maybe a monthly subscription that you didn’t realize you agreed to? Has your payment due date changed? Is a promotional date ending or has there been a change in your interest rate or fees? Your statement includes lots of valuable information, much of which impacts your finances, so take a few minutes and read it carefully. We’re hoping not, but you may be surprised at what you find.
5. Store the customer service number, just in case
If your card is ever missing or stolen, the first thing you’ll need to do is report it to the credit card company so a hold can be put on the account. Without the physical card, however, you won’t have the customer service number. Write down the credit card name and customer service phone number now and keep it handy. If you choose to copy the credit card number, plan to put it in a safe place where it’s not easily accessible to just anyone.
Buying your first car – how the process works
Purchasing a car can be an intimidating process, especially if you buy into the over-dramatized, stereotypical depiction of car salespeople and dealerships. Here’s the catch, though–it doesn’t have to be. When you’ve done your research, you know what you want, and you’re ready to buy, YOU’RE in the driver’s seat. Here are some steps that will help you effectively manage the car buying process with confidence.
Check your credit score
Before your visit any dealership, be sure to check your credit score. Your credit score is a three-digit number that reflects your individual creditworthiness. It quantifies the likeliness that you will repay your credit obligations and is the best prediction of risk a lender can assume when extending credit to you. Consumers have the right to one free credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies. If you haven’t yet requested your copy, click here.
Once you know your credit rating, visit your credit union to meet with a lending officer. They’ll review the loan options best suited to help you manage your purchase and the subsequent payments. By planning in advance of your trip to the dealership, you’ll be able to get pre-approval for a dollar amount that fits within your budget and comes with a competitive interest rate. This will alleviate the pressure to accept the dealer’s convenient, but often unfavorable financing.
Narrow down your car choices
Before you start looking for a car, decide on the features you need and want in a vehicle. Do you want a sedan or an SUV? Are leather seats a necessity? How about an entertainment system? What safety features are a must? Make a list of features and prioritize them in terms of importance. This list will help you start to narrow down your vehicle choices.
Do some research online. There are many websites that can help you decide which cars might be a good choice. KBB.com reports information from Kelly Blue Book, JDPower.com/cars is an especially good resource if you’re looking to research reliability, and ConsumerReports.org’s annual car issue is an excellent source of independent rating by an unbiased third-party.
Once you narrow down your choices, spend some time visiting dealerships and test driving the vehicles at the top of your list.
Avoiding the lemon
Today, people frequently trade in their cars after a year or two or after their lease expires. No longer is the used car lot full of old clunkers. In fact, pre-owned cars can often be a better deal than buying new. To make sure you’re not inheriting someone else’s headache, be sure to make your purchase through a reputable dealer who has to answer to manufacturers. Look for cars with low odometer mileage, which typically means less wear and tear, and those with warranties still in effect.
Also, be sure to request a copy of the vehicle’s history report, like Carfax, to see accident, repair and title information.
Finalizing the deal
When you’re satisfied that you’ve found the right car, one that meets your needs and fits within your budget, meet with a salesperson to negotiate the price. You’ll need to contact your credit union, provide them with some information, and coordinate payment before the deal is officially finalized and the car is delivered.
Any car, whether new or pre-owned, is an expensive purchase that warrants the appropriate time and attention. It’s not a quick and simple process. In the end, though, you’ll feel confident in the fact that you did everything you could to secure the best deal and execute the smoothest transaction possible.
#MemberAppreciationMonday – Snow Mountain!
As part of #MemberAppreciationMonday, we are giving our members special perks, simply for being one of Georgia’s Own. As part of our next offer, enjoy discounted tickets to Snow Mountain* at Stone Mountain Park in January and February.
As member of Georgia’s Own, get a Snow Pass for a special rate of $22 on the Sundays listed. From snowman building to snowball shooting, tubing to togetherness, enjoy all the moments that will make for the perfect snow day. Each pass includes a two-hour tubing session and all-day access to Snowzone and Little Angels.
- January 22nd
- January 29th
- February 5th
- February 12th
- February 26th
To take advantage of this offer, click here. Capacity is limited. Advance reservations required to guarantee your space.
#MemberAppreciationMonday is one way that Georgia’s Own is working to surprise and delight our members. Please check back the first Monday of each month for a new offer or discount.
Best Resale Value Vehicles
Most experts agree that the best time of year to purchase a new model car is in January and February – plus, if you finance with us by January 31 this year, you can enjoy 60 days of no payments*! Sales at the beginning of the year are usually slow and dealers start to raise prices as the year progresses. One thing to keep in mind when buying a new ride is the best resale value vehicles. As you probably know, cars start losing value the second you drive off the lot which is a bad thing if you think you’ll resell or trade it down the road. Resale value begins when you buy the “right” car in the first place. Here are a couple of things to look for that affect resale value.
Color — Standard colors are much easier to sell than trendy colors.
Upgrades and options — Options like leather seats and sunroofs add to a car’s value, but a navigation system or upgraded stereo won’t bring any extra money when selling. Also, automatic transmission is much more popular than manual transmission.
Geography — Demand for vehicles varies in different parts of the country and even in different communities. Convertibles may be good for warmer weather states, but it’s not as valuable in the colder northern states. Likewise, a pickup truck holds less value in bigger cities as opposed to rural towns.
These are just a couple of tips to consider when purchasing a car. Though resale value is important to many who purchase a new vehicle, if you plan to keep it until it dies, then you won’t need to worry about the resale value.
*Restrictions apply. Offer valid December 1, 2016 through January 31, 2017. No payment period only applicable to first 60 days of the loan. Interest will begin to accrue as of the loan date.