Break The Cycle Of Piling Up Debt

To say Americans spend beyond their means would be an understatement. A 2016 study of American household credit card debt by the website NerdwalletAs a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon! revealed that the average household with credit card debt had balances totaling $16,425. And households that carried debt averaged $1,300 in annual interest, according to the findings.

Woman in debt

Getting a handle on your debt isn’t always easy to do, but you don’t have to tackle it alone, especially if you find that you can’t stop digging a deeper financial hole. There are debt relief agencies out there who can help.

But you need to do your homework before choosing one. If an agency offers a deal that sounds too good to be true – such as clearing all your debit for a fairly significant fee – steer clear of it. Experts point out that reputable financial counseling agencies typically are nonprofit organizations, and offer either free services or only charge a nominal fee to create and oversee a debt management plan for you.

One resource that can provide guidance in this area is the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®). Founded in 1951, NFCC describes itself as the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization.

NFCC’s website ( a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon!)  offers an extensive amount of information, such as debt counseling tips and instructions on finding a financial counseling agency in your area.

Counseling agencies will usually work with your lenders to reduce the interest rates you’re paying on credit debt, and will consolidate your payments so that you’re only making a single payment to them every month. They then disperse the funds to your various lenders.

If you’re comfortable coming up with a debt management plan on your own, experts agree on a few things to get you headed in the right direction. For one, you need to figure out your total amount of debt as well as your monthly income.

Once you have these numbers in hand, it’s time to create a budget, one that’s realistic and will get the debt-reducing results you’re seeking. It’s good to be as specific as possible, to the point that you’re tracking how much you’re spending at the coffee shop each week.

Once you’re got a good handle on how much money is coming in, and how much is going out, it’s time to implement the budget and stick to it. This is going to require discipline and the need to give up some things in order to stay within your budget.

Another trick is to use cash instead of credit cards to make purchases. This makes you more aware of what things really cost because you’re actually handing over “real” money instead of relying on plastic. According to researchers, people are more likely to make impulse purchases when using credit cards because they feel like the money they’re spending isn’t really theirs.

A credit card balance transfer is another approach to consider for lowering credit card interest rates. Many credit card companies offer promotions of 0% interest for a year or more if you transfer your debt from an old card and pay a small fee.

You can also ask the issuer of your current card for a reduction in your annual interest rate. This has proven to be successful for many people, especially when they tell the lender that they’re looking into balance transfers.

Check Your Credit Reports Regularly and Thoroughly

Knowing what’s in your credit report is very important. It can help alert you to identity theft before it ruins your credit history, and it can have a significant impact on whether you will be extended credit for a major purchase or for a financial move such as refinancing your mortgage. The reports are used by creditors, insurers, and other businesses to evaluate applications for credit. In some cases, they’re even reviewed by potential employers before offering you a job. These credit reports are loaded with information such your bill payment history (including late and missed payments), how much debt you have, and how much credit you have available to you. A positive credit report can translate into better interest rates on loans and more favorable consideration from credit card companies.check-your-credit-history-regularly

There are three major credit reporting companies that compile and manage these reports – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Fortunately, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can order your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies for free once a year. The nation’s consumer protection agency, the Federal Trade Commission, enforces this law in an effort to promote the accuracy and privacy of the information in your credit reports.

When reviewing your credit reports, it’s important to look closely at all of the information provided to ensure it’s accurate. Incorrect information in your report could have a negative impact on your credit history. For example, if you’ve always paid your mortgage on time, but there are missed or late payments noted, you’ll want to contact the credit reporting agency to have the discrepancies remedied.

Checking your credit reports on a regular basis can also help you to spot identity theft. For example, if you notice addresses on your report that you’ve never lived at, or credit card accounts you’ve never opened, there’s a good chance someone could be fraudulently using your identity, and harming your credit in the process. If you notice anything suspicious in your report that makes you think your identity has been compromised, contact the credit reporting agency immediately.

It’s important to note that the credit reporting companies don’t share information with each other, so it’s possible for the information in one agency’s report to differ from your reports from the other two agencies. Some people prefer to order their free report from all three reporting agencies at the same time to help identify any inaccuracies across them. Other people choose to stagger their free reports, ordering a free report from one of the three reporting agencies once every four months. This strategy can help you to keep closer tabs on your credit throughout the year.

The only website that is authorized to provide you with your free annual credit reports under the Fair Credit Reporting Act is www.annualcreditreport.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon!. If you’d prefer to order your free reports by phone, you can do so by calling 1-877-322-8228. You can also mail a request form to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Click on this link — Annual Credit Report Request FormAs a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon!to access the document.

Once you’ve ordered all three of the free credit reports you’re entitled to annually, you can still order more, but you’ll have to pay for them through the individual credit reporting agencies. However, there are some special circumstances that could entitle you to more than one free credit report from each reporting agency. These situations include having your credit limit reduced, being denied credit, or becoming a victim of identity theft.

No matter what your situation, staying on top of your credit history is a sound and smart way to keep track of your financial health.

Don’t Regret Financial Mistakes – Avoid Them In Advance

“If I knew then what I know now, I would do things differently.”

Does that phrase sound all too familiar? Do you have financial missteps that you wish you could do over?avoid-financial-mistakes-in-advance

Making questionable financial decisions is a part of life. That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t some “warning signs” out there that could help you steer clear of some setbacks. Here are a few to think about:

  • Not paying off your entire credit card balance each month. Credit card debt has become the “American way” for many people. It’s just too easy to pull out the plastic and pay for something now, and consider the consequences later. And unfortunately, there will always be consequences, especially when the debt becomes unmanageable. That’s why financial experts recommend paying off card debt each month, and setting a maximum spending limit on each card that will prevent excessive use. By paying off your credit card in full each month, you’ll avoid paying interest on your purchases, and if your credit card has a rewards program, you’ll still get to keep any points earned from your spending!


  • Blindly investing. Putting your money in financial instruments you know little or nothing about could backfire on you down the road. Just like when you were in school, you need to do your homework if you want to get a “good grade” – that is, positive financial results

So do some research on the financial products you’re interested in, get second opinions, a meet with a financial advisor or investment planner to obtain a full understanding of how your investments will work for you.

  • Not having an emergency fund. As sure as there are going to be rainy days, there will be times when life will rain down on you with unfortunate circumstances. A leaky roof, a major car repair, an unanticipated hospital bill. Not having funds to deal with those events could create a financial nightmare. That’s why experts suggest setting aside at least three months of your salary so you’re prepared to deal with unexpected costs.


  • Failing to establish or follow a household budget. Having a reasonable spending plan in place can make it easier to manage your finances. It’s a matter of getting a firm grip of your income and expenses, and then working with those numbers to come up with a budget you can live with. The internet can be a great place to educate yourself about budgeting and help you find the tools and templates you need to make it as pain-free as possible.


  • Not saving enough – or anything at all – for retirement. Setting money aside in a 401(k) or similar retirement fund is something that you should consider as a necessary expense. And although you don’t need to go overboard with how much you put in the fund on a regular basis, you don’t want to shortchange it, either. After all, these are the funds you will be tapping into during your “golden years” so you’ll need enough to live comfortably. And the sooner you start saving the better, since you’ll be earning compound interest that can really add up over the years.


  • Paying too much for a new car. This is another one of those “doing your homework” situations. If you’re in the market for a new car, shop around before taking the plunge. The difference in prices could be significant from one dealer to the next. And don’t be inflexible when it comes to getting all the bells and whistles. If you’re willing to compromise on some features, that could help lower the cost, too. Keep in mind that it’s better to buy a new car toward the end of the month, when dealerships are focused on meeting their monthly quotas. One last thing – don’t settle for high interest rates. These days, it’s common to see zero or one percent interest on the life of a car loan.

Ways to Avoid Those Pesky ATM Fees

No one likes paying fees to access their own money, but if you use an out-of-network ATM, there’s a good chance that’s exactly what’s going to happen. And unfortunately, ATM fees continue to climb. According to a recent Bankrate surveyAs a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon!, ATMs on average charged $2.90 to let non-customers withdraw money in 2016, compared to $2.88 in 2015.ways-to-avoid-those-atm-fees

And the fees don’t stop there. Your own bank will likely also slap you with a fee for using an ATM outside of their network. The Bankrate survey revealed this charge to be an average of $1.67 in 2016, up 1.8% from the year before. So, with both fees, you’re looking at an average cost of $4.57 to withdraw your own money from an out-of-network ATM.

The good news, is that there are sure-fire ways to avoid these types of ATM fees. The first and most obvious method is to refrain from using an ATM outside of your bank’s network. If you’re planning a trip, be sure to take out enough cash from your regular ATM or bank beforehand. Or, prepare yourself by checking to see if there will be any in-network ATMs around your destination. In this day and age, it’s easier than ever before to locate an ATM within your bank’s network. Most banks have this information available on their website or mobile app.

Some banks are also part of a “shared” ATM network. In a shared network, customers of one bank can usually use the ATMs of the other participating banks without incurring any surcharges. Bank5 Connect is part of the SUM ATM network, which includes thousands of ATMs across the country. Bank5 Connect customers can withdraw money at any ATM within the SUM network, surcharge-free. Visit a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon! to see find a SUM ATM in your area.

Another way to avoid ATM fees is to open an account that offers reimbursements for ATM fees. Many online banks are able to offer these types of ATM fee rebates because “online-only” accounts cost them less money to operate. With Bank5 Connect’s High-Interest Checking account, customers are never charged by Bank5 Connect for using an ATM, and we reimburse other banks’ surcharges up to $15 per statement cycle.

If all else fails and you’re on-the-go and need fast access to cash, going the “cash back” route could also be a good alternative to using an out-of-network ATM. Many brick-and-mortar stores allow you to request cash back when you make a debit card purchase using your PIN number. So, rather than paying around $24.57 to take $20 out of an out-of-network ATM, you could buy a soda or a bag of chips for $1.50, and request $20 cash back. Your debit card gets charged $21.50, and you walk out with a snack and a crisp $20 bill.

So, stop giving your money away! If you do a little planning ahead, it’s easy to say no to ATM fees.

Preparation Tips for a More Enjoyable Vacation

We all have different ideas of a “perfect vacation.” Some like to relax at the beach, others like something a little more adventurous. But whatever your definition of a perfect vacation, it probably doesn’t involve extra stress, right? If you’re aiming for a stress-free getaway, a little preparation can help minimize potential financial worries and security concerns, so you can enjoy every second of your well-deserved vacation.preparation-tips-for-a-more-enjoyable-vacation

For starters, a major part of your vacation planning should be creating a budget. You should try to anticipate what your expenses will be while you’re away, such as the cost of transportation, lodging and food. Once you have a good idea how much the basics of your trip will cost, be sure to factor in expenses like souvenirs, entertainment, and other little splurges. By having money already set aside and budgeted for your trip, you can minimize the chance of going “spend crazy” and racking up unforeseen credit card expenses. After all, it’s not fun coming home to sky-high credit card bills.

After you’ve got your budget in order, be sure to alert your bank of your vacation plans, including your travel dates and destination. Doing so will let them know that they can expect purchases outside of your normal routine and area, helping to reduce the chance of them putting a fraud alert on your credit or debit card and freezing access to your funds.

What’s more, let your bank know if you plan to make any large or major purchases during your vacation. Many financial institutions have a daily spending limit on their accounts, so it’s a good idea to confirm any limit you may have, and request it be raised if necessary. A quick phone call to the bank is well worth it if it can save you the embarrassment of being declined at the sales register.

Once your finances are in order, it’s a good idea to be proactive about your security as well. Before you head off on your vacation, considering suspending delivery of your mail and newspaper, especially if you’ll be away for more than a few days. If you don’t, your mail and newspapers will start to pile up, which could put you at risk. Think about all of the bills and credit card offers you receive on a daily basis. You definitely don’t want the sensitive information in those mailings to fall into the wrong hands. And think about all the people who pass by your house on a daily basis. Do you really want your pile of newspapers and bulging mailbox to advertise that you’re not home? An empty house can be pretty inviting to a burglar.

Along those same lines, while it may be tempting to share your vacation escapades on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, think twice about doing it. Those beach photos and updates from the airport give crooks a clue that you’re away from home. It’s a much safer idea to save your photos and stories and share them online when you return.

With a little planning, you’ll be ready to have fun and leave the financial stress and security concerns behind, so you can enjoy your perfect vacation.

Do You Need to Switch Banks When You Move?

You finally landed that dream job, but it means moving across the country. There’s a lot to think about to make it a smooth transition. While you’re stressing about selling your old home, securing a new one, and dealing with the movers, it’s easy to overlook something as basic as your bank. But it’s important to consider whether you’ll have easy access to your funds after your move, or if a bank switch is in order.advantages-of-online-banks-when-you-move

If you’re banking with a nationwide or international bank, you’re probably good to go, but you should still check to ensure that there are branches or ATMs near your new home that you’ll have easy access to. However, if you’re currently banking with a local community bank or credit union, or a financial institution with a limited regional footprint, there’s a good chance you’ll have to open new accounts in your new location in order to access your money as conveniently as before.

One way to avoid having to uproot your funds every time you move is to bank with an online bank. With an online bank there are typically no branches, so you don’t need to worry about finding a new bank when you move. You can keep the same bank accounts wherever you go. At Bank5 Connect, our customers can access their money, free of charge, from any ATM within the SUM NetworkAs a courtesy, you will be leaving and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Come back soon!, and if they use an ATM outside of the SUM Network and are charged a fee, we reimburse them up to $15 per statement cycle.

Here are some other advantages of using an online bank:

  • You can bank anywhere there is an internet connection. On online bank is open 24 hours a day (unless of course, the bank’s website is undergoing maintenance, which typically doesn’t last very long and is done during off-hours). And, in the event that internet service isn’t available, most online banks can be contacted by phone.
  • You have access to real-time account information, such as balances, deposits, and withdrawals, with just a few keyboard clicks. This provides for ease of access and lets you stay on top of activity in your account.
  • Since online banks don’t have infrastructure such as physical branches and overhead costs tied to them, they can usually offer higher interest rates on savings and checking accounts. For online banks with lending capabilities, those lower overhead costs can translate into more attractive loan rates for customers as well.
  • It’s easier to spot and fix problems with your account. For instance, you don’t have to wait for a printed bank statement to review your account activity.
  • You can pay bills using online banking. No more envelopes and stamps and questioning yourself about whether you remembered to sign the check before sending off the bill. Everything is done electronically, with an online record you can refer back to if necessary.
  • Transferring money from one account to another is a breeze using online banking. You save yourself time by bypassing a trip to the bank or going through a complicated process by phone.
  • Mobile apps are available from virtually all online banks to give you even more flexibility. With most online banking mobile apps you can take photos of checks and deposit them into your account, you can pay bills, and you can check your account activity on the go. It’s important, however, to avoid using public Wi-Fi (such as the networks available in coffee shops, hotels, and restaurants) when conducting online banking transactions, as these networks are not secure.

To learn more about making the switch to an online bank like Bank5 Connect, visit our website today!

Send Money Fast With Person-to-Person Payments

There’s no question that online banking has transformed the way we handle money. And you don’t have to look any further than person-to-person payments for proof.send-funds-with-person-to-person-payments

Person-to-person payments, also commonly referred to as “peer-to-peer payments” or “peer-to-peer transactions”, have revolutionized the way people can send money to each other. It doesn’t matter if it’s a friend sitting next to you in a restaurant or a family member across the country – you can send and receive funds electronically in a matter of a few days, if not a few hours, depending on which person-to-person payment service you use.

If you have a bank account or credit card, you can use it to make a person-to-person payment using online technology that lets you transfer funds from your accounts via the internet, using a computer, smartphone, or tablet.

There are two basic approaches to person-to-person payments. With one approach, users establish secure online accounts with a trusted third-party vendor (such as PayPal or Venmo), designating which bank account or credit card they’d like to use to transfer and accept funds. The third party’s mobile application or website is then used to send or receive funds. Users typically are identified by their e-mail address and can conduct fund transfers with anyone who is also a member of that same third-party network.

With the second approach, customers use their financial institution’s online banking interface or mobile app to designate which account they’d like to transfer funds from, and the amount of funds they’d like to transfer. The recipient is identified by either their e-mail address or phone number, and they do not have to be a member of the same financial institution as the sender. Once the sender has initiated the transfer, the recipient will typically receive an email or text message with instructions on how to deposit the payment into their account. In some cases, the sender will have already designated exactly which account the money should be transferred to, and in that case the recipient will simply receive a notification alerting them that the transfer has taken place.

Before initiating a person-to-person payment, it’s a good idea to check into such things as fee structures, funds availability, and privacy practices.

  • Fee-related questions to consider before choosing a person-to-person payment service include whether there are charges to sign up, send money, or receive money. At Bank5 Connect, there is no fee for Standard Delivery of person-to-person payments, however fees may be incurred if Expedited Delivery is selected.
  • Check into the service’s policy regarding when funds will be deducted and when they will be available to a recipient once a transaction has been initiated. Some services are quicker than others in this respect.
  • Check out the service’s privacy settings and adjust them to your preferences if possible. And keep in mind that a service provider’s privacy policy may change, so it’s always a good idea to periodically recheck them after signing up. At Bank5 Connect, we take your privacy and security very seriously. You can view the privacy policy and terms of service associated with our person-to-person payment service here.

Bank5 Connect’s person-to-person payment service is called Pay People, and is available through 5Online, our online banking system. To learn more about Pay People, or to sign up for online banking and being taking advantage of person-to-person payments, visit us at