A credit score is the crux of your financial life, and if it’s not up to par, it can be a scarlet letter to lenders.  When you apply for a mortgage or a car loan, your lender determines how much of a risk you are — and how much interest to charge you — based partly on your credit history and score. If you have an excellent history, you’ll get approved much more easily than someone whose credit is so-so. With the lower interest rate that can come with strong credit, you may also pay less — often hundreds of dollars less each month, in the case of a home mortgage.

Before jumping into a major purchase, then, it’s important to have a healthy credit score. Here are five simple steps to give your credit a boost.

  1. Pay on time. Whether utilities, a car payment or a credit card, make sure you’re paying your bills on time, every time. Payment history accounts for 35% of a credit score, so this can be a surefire way of boosting your credit.

 

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  1. Charge Less. Try not to use more than 30% of your borrowing limit on any credit cards. Paying your bill down multiple times each payment cycle can help keep you below that amount. If you really want to boost the score, try and keep credit utilization under 10%.

 

  1. Do regular check-ups. Obtain a copy of your credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com. Each of the three major report providers is legally bound to give you one free copy per year, so plan on checking one of them every four months. If you spot any errors, make sure to dispute them, because they can drive your credit score down.

 

  1. Be careful about opening retail accounts. Credit cards can be an ally in building credit as long as you stay well below the spending limit and pay the bill frequently. Avoid the temptation to open a retail card just to get a percentage off of a purchase. Applying for too many new lines of credit in quick succession can hurt your score, too, particularly if one or more are denied.  Instead, consider talking with advisors at a lender such as BankFive to obtain a credit card.

 

  1. Become an authorized user. If you can’t get a card on your own, consider asking a family member or significant other if you can become an authorized user on their account. You should ask someone who’s trustworthy and routinely pays their bills on time, because when they do that, it will strengthen your credit score as well as theirs. At the same time, any future late payments the primary account holder has will be reflected on your credit score, too. And avoid running up the tab: If the main account holder’s credit use tops 30%, that will show up on your credit report.

 

Delinquencies and collections remain on your record for seven years, but good behavior in the last two years — especially in the most recent months — can help to boost your credit. Follow the steps above and as your credit score climbs, you should find it easier to get approved for loans at lower interest rates. That will make it less painful to make the payment each month.

 

Cait Klein, NerdWallet

If you’re like most Americans, you’re online every day. And some of that online activity might include checking bank accounts, paying bills and purchasing items.

Unfortunately, this leaves you susceptible to cyber intruders and thieves, who are always looking for ways to steal sensitive financial and personal information, such as Social Security numbers, bank account and credit card information. Once they get it, they use it to assume their victims’ identities and make illegal transactions. Known as identity theft, this crime ensnares thousands of people daily and creates major havoc in their lives.

But there are ways to protect yourself when online. One of the best ways is to monitor your financial activity frequently. Experts recommend checking your bank account online at least once a week, and preferably more often. The same goes for credit card and debit card activity, especially if you use your cards on a regular basis.

Be on the lookout for suspicious or unauthorized charges, no matter how small. In fact, cyber thieves who have access to accounts will try to “sneak” small transactions by victims to see if they’re paying attention to their account activity. If they aren’t, the crooks will pursue more big-ticket purchases that could amount to hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Here are some other ways to arm yourself in the cyber world:

  • Change passwords at least once a month. And use strong passwords that include a combination of numbers, letters and symbols.
  • Avoid saving passwords on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Do not use personal information when choosing usernames, passwords or answers to security questions, especially if this information can be easily found by others online, such as on a Facebook page.
  • Never share passwords or PINs with others.
  • Don’t use a public computer or public Wi-Fi to access your financial institution’s website for online banking, review credit card activity, or make credit card or other bill payments.
  • Install and/or update anti-virus software on your computer.
  • Secure your desktop computer, laptop, tablet and mobile phone with passwords.
  • Log off of your computer when not in use and close your browser and sensitive apps before going offline.
  • Password-protect your Wi-Fi service at home.
  • Don’t open e-mails or attachments from unknown sources, since these are ways cyber thieves use to access information on your computer.

You can find additional information about identity theft and ways to avoid it on the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team website (an official site of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) by clicking here.

Fall River, Mass. (May 6, 2015) – The Fall River Housing Corporation, together with BankFive, will present two seminars to provide first-time homebuyers with information about what they need to know when purchasing a home. Topics to be discussed include budgeting and credit, the housing search process, lead paint issues, home inspections, obtaining a mortgage, legal issues and successful home ownership. Guest speakers will be on hand to discuss city and state first-time homebuyer programs and multi-family home ownership. Certificates will be awarded to those who attend the sessions, allowing them to participate in specialized first-time homebuyer programs.

The seminars will be held at the Fall River Affordable Housing Corporation, at 111 Durfee Street in Fall River, MA on Monday, May 18th and Wednesday, May 20th from 5 to 9 pm on both evenings. The cost of the seminar is $35 per person or $50 per couple. Contact Bob Landry or Alice at the Fall River Affordable Housing Corporation at 508-677-2220 to register.

 

About BankFive

Since 1855, BankFive has been an independent community bank dedicated to meeting the needs of the communities we serve through expertise, accountability and integrity as a trusted resource for our customers. With fifteen offices conveniently located in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, BankFive is one of the top regional banks. For more information, visit us online at bankfive.com.

Fall River, Mass. (May 4, 2015) – In celebration of its 160th anniversary, BankFive (bankfive.com), one of the region’s top community banks, is launching a new brand and holding numerous celebratory activities on Tuesday, May 5.

“Let’s Thrive Together” is the cornerstone of the new branding campaign, according to BankFive President & CEO William (Bill) Eccles. Jr.

“For 160 years, BankFive has served customers in our community, helping them reach their financial goals like savings, home ownership, and running a successful business,” Eccles said. “Banking has certainly changed drastically in those 160 years, but our commitment to our customers and community remains. We think this is a great time to refresh our brand and connect with the needs of today’s consumers. ‘Let’s Thrive Together’ captures the spirit of our organization – focused on solving the needs of our customers, entrenched in service to our communities, and firmly rooted in our founding principles as an institution that makes banking accessible to our community.”

BankFive will celebrate its anniversary and the rollout of the new brand with a variety of activities on Tuesday, including:

  • $5 Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards to the first 25 customers at each branch
  • 50 new logo cookies to be handed out at each branch
  • Free gas at five gas stations throughout our footprint
  • Thank you baskets to first responders at fire stations and police departments

BankFive continues to grow as a strong financial intuition and at the end of last year successfully entered into the Rhode Island market. The Bristol Branch and Cranston Lending Office were in response to a large number of Rhode Island residents and companies who have chosen BankFive as their preferred bank.  We continue to evolve and grow and make note to progress with technology to meet our consumers’ needs for their busy lives. We remain true to our beginnings as a bank which started to serve the community by making banking services accessible to everyone in it. BankFive welcomes the future which we know to be filled with opportunity to go above and beyond customers’ expectations.

About BankFive

Since 1855, BankFive has been an independent community bank dedicated to meeting the needs of the communities we serve through expertise, accountability and integrity as a trusted resource for our customers. With fifteen offices conveniently located in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, BankFive is one of the top regional banks. For more information, visit us online at bankfive.com.

Spring is finally in the air, and that’s a sure sign that first-time homebuyers are out and about, looking for their perfect new home.

If you’re one of them, you’re probably having a hard time containing your excitement. It’s a natural impulse to want to hit the ground running today, if not yesterday, to nab your dream home at that dream price! But don’t let emotions take over your hunt for a new house.

Before you even head out the door to start your search, do your homework first. There are a multitude of things to consider. Here are some pointers to help prepare you for your quest:

Figure out what you can afford – Knowing what you can realistically handle for a monthly mortgage payment is crucial. The last thing you want to do is get in over your head. Sit down and figure out in detail your current monthly income and expenses. Remember to avoid overlooking all the expenses that will come with home ownership. In addition to principal, interest, taxes and insurance, you’ll have utility costs such as heating, electric, cable, water and sewer. Contact utility companies that will service your house and ask for cost estimates and whether budget plans are available. Your overall budget should also include a “rainy day fund” for unexpected expenses, such as an appliance replacement or roof repairs. Home equity calculators are also a great tool to use as you begin to explore your home equity credit options.

By determining your debt-to-income ratio and factoring in a down payment, you’ll get a good idea of what you can afford. Generally speaking, no more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income should be devoted to housing costs. This is referred to as the front-end ratio. The portion of income that covers all monthly debt obligations is called the back-end ratio. Lenders typically prefer this to be 36 percent or less.

Also keep in mind that you’ll need money for closing costs. They typically amount to 1-1/2 to 2 percent of the purchase price.

And don’t forget to check your credit score. It goes without saying that the higher the score, the better your chances of securing a mortgage loan. To get an idea of where your credit stands, go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get your free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus.

Look for classes tailored to first-time homebuyers – Many Realtors and financial institutions offer free classes for first-time buyers so they know what to expect in advance of making a purchase. These classes are usually presented by lenders, attorneys and Realtors who can offer their specific insights and advice.

Pick the right real estate agent – Not all Realtors are created equal. Knowing which one is right for you takes some research. Ask agents for a list of previous clients and their contact information, then get in touch with at least some of those individuals to see what their experiences were with their lender. Ask friends, family members and neighbors who they would recommend. Check with licensing boards to determine if agents you’re interested in are properly licensed and whether they’ve had any disciplinary actions or complaints. See how long agents have been in business and what properties they have listed.

And choose the right lender – Finding the right lender is just as important as tracking down the right Realtor. Again, ask friends and family for recommendations and also check with your financial institution to see what it can offer. Look for lenders who are local, since they’re familiar with the region’s real estate market and the distinct features that come with it. Local lenders will know what lending programs are available and which ones will be a good fit for you. And they should be willing to take the time to explain in detail what’s involved with taking out a mortgage loan or a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit).

If you can arrange to have your financing in place before you go looking for a home, you’ll be better positioned to make an offer should you come across a property you really want.

Create a list of your must-haves/essentials/extra perks – It’s highly unlikely you’re going to find the perfect home that has every element you want. But by creating a list, you’ll get a handle on things you absolutely need and want, as well as things that would be nice to have. Take the checklist with you on each house visit you make so you can keep track of which homes have which of the features you are looking for.

Go online – A wealth of information on buying a home is also available on the web. Be sure to use search terms that will help you find exactly what you need. Finding Information on everything from loan planning tips to a home equity line of credit that suits you best is just a few keystrokes away.
Happy house hunting!

Plan Ahead For That Home Improvement Project

April 9, 2015

So the spring fever bug has bitten you and you’re going to tackle that big home improvement project. But do you know how to pick the right contractor to handle the job? No doubt there are a lot of things to consider when lining up prospects. But before you even begin your search, you should […]

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A Tax Refund – To Save or to Splurge?

April 7, 2015

Getting a sizeable tax refund this year? If you are, it’s likely you’ll be faced with a familiar predicament – do I save or do I splurge? There’s nothing to prevent you from doing both. If you’re looking for specific ideas on what to do with your refund money, here are some to consider: Use […]

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America Saves Week – Saving for Emergencies

February 28, 2015

If you’ve been thinking about ways to save, but haven’t really started, now’s the time to do it because it’s America Saves Week! In conjunction with this nationwide event, we’ve been offering tips and insights on saving each day this week. The goal of America Saves Week is to encourage individuals and families to save […]

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America Saves Week – Saving for Retirement

February 27, 2015

If you’ve been thinking about ways to save, but haven’t really started, now’s the time to do it because it’s America Saves Week! In conjunction with this nationwide event, we’ll be offering tips and insights on ways to save each day between now and Saturday, February 28. The goal of America Saves Week is to […]

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America Saves Week – Seven Ways to Establish Money-Saving Habits

February 26, 2015

America Saves Week is here! This is your opportunity to take advantage of all the savings insights that are tied into this nationwide event, which runs until Saturday, February 28. During America Saves Week, individuals and families are encouraged to save money and build personal wealth as well as improve financial literacy. Here’s some help […]

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