Don’t Be Drained By Holiday Financial Strain

The holidays are a joyful time of year, but unfortunately they can be very stressful for some people. The pressures of gift giving and keeping up with traditions can cause a lot of financial worry, but the good news is that there are steps you can take to minimize money woes this holiday.

Piggy bank with christmas hat isolated on white background

For starters, you should get a sense of how much money you can spend. This should be a realistic number based on your finances, not one that you pull out of thin air. And remember that just because you have a certain amount of money doesn’t mean you have to spend all of it. Sometimes, less is more. And don’t even think about spending money that you don’t have. Even though credit cards make it extremely easy to spend beyond your means, you’ll pay for it later if you do. No one wants to be facing a mountain of debt once the New Year rolls around.

Once you’ve determined how much money is in your holiday fund, you should identify all of your holiday-related expenses. You should include everything you plan to spend money on during the season – gifts, decorations, Christmas cards, you name it! Once you have your expenses accounted for, you can decide how much of your holiday money you’d like to spend on each.

So what happens if it looks like your holiday money will be stretched too thin? What if you won’t have enough to cover all of your holiday expenses? The answer is… get creative! You’d be surprised how a little resourceful thinking can help you save big. Here’s a list of some ideas to help you cut down your holiday costs this season:

In the end, it’s important to remember that the holiday season isn’t about money. Reflecting on what the holiday means to you can help you overcome the financial pressures that accompany it, and find more meaningful ways to experience it. Spending time with family and friends, listening to holiday music, going to a church service – these are all ways that you can enjoy the season without racking up debt and stress. Happy Holidays!

Making the Switch to a Mobile Wallet

There you are, impressed with yourself for getting the rest of your holiday shopping done in just a couple of hours. You make your way to the checkout aisle and hand over your items.AdobeStock_112895088

While the salesperson is ringing everything up, you dig into your purse or pocket for your wallet…but wait, where is it? Now you’re frantically rummaging while customers wait impatiently behind you. It’s then that you realize you pulled it out at the drive-thru to pay for a coffee and left it behind in your car. So much for being done with your holiday shopping.

In the event of a missing wallet, wouldn’t it be great if you could whip out your smartphone, or flash your smartwatch and somehow use it to pay for your goods? Well guess what – you can! Meet the “mobile wallet”.

A mobile wallet is a virtual wallet that stores credit and debit card information on a mobile device. And, it encrypts that information so it can’t be easily accessed if your device falls into the wrong hands.

The most widely used mobile wallets right now are Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. Some mobile devices come pre-loaded with a mobile wallet, and if your device doesn’t have one you can download a mobile wallet from your phone’s app store. First though, you’ll need to see whether your debit and credit cards are compatible with the mobile wallet. Bank5 Connect debit cards support Apple Pay, and a full list of Apple Pay-friendly banks can be found at https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204916As a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com 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 Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!. If you’re looking to see which banks support Samsung Pay, visit https://www.samsung.com/us/samsung-pay/compatible-cards/As a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com 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 Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!. A list of Android Pay participating banks can be found at https://www.android.com/pay/participating-banks/As a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com 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 Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!.

Retailers around the world are plugging into the mobile wallet culture. Millions of business now accept mobile wallet payments at their brick-and-mortar locations, and many of those retailers allow you to use your mobile wallet for online purchases as well.

Just don’t confuse the term “mobile wallet” with “digital wallet”. While they are both very similar, they do have some key differences. Think of a mobile wallet as a credit or debit card that lives on your mobile device. If you’re purchasing something in a store, you physically take out your phone and hold it near the terminal at the checkout counter. If you’re shopping online, you can activate your mobile wallet on participating websites and use it to make your purchase.

A digital wallet on the other hand, is typically only used for online shopping. Examples of digital wallets include PayPal and Visa Checkout. When you sign up for a digital wallet service, you link your account to a debit or credit card. Like a mobile wallet, your card information is encrypted for security purposes. A digital wallet can also house your shipping information, so you can make online purchases quickly and easily, without having to enter all of your personal details on the website.

If getting through the checkout aisle a little faster sounds good to you, consider a mobile wallet. Just don’t forget to keep your device charged. A dead battery at the checkout counter is no more helpful than leaving your wallet in the car!

How to Talk About Finances with Your Spouse

In a marriage, being on the same page with your spouse regarding your finances is extremely important. Not talking about money can lead to fights, overdrawn bank accounts, underfunded retirement savings, home foreclosure, bankruptcy, and even divorce. But many couples steer clear of financial conversations because they’re afraid of sparking disagreements and arguments. In fact, marital experts say finances are one of the top sources of anxiety in married relationships.how-to-talk-about-finances-with-your-spouse

So what’s a married couple to do? Sit down and talk, that’s what. Here are some tips to help you and your spouse get on the same page about your finances.

First and foremost, schedule a time to meet. Talking about money is serious, and you should treat it that way. Try to have your discussion in a place that’s free of distractions, whether that means heading to a local coffee shop, or waiting until the kids are in bed.

If you and your spouse don’t each have a good sense of where your finances stand, that’s where you should start. Go through your all of your bank accounts, investment accounts and retirement accounts, noting the balances of each. Then, discuss all of your debt such as credit card balances, the money you owe on your mortgage and any vehicles you have, plus any other payment obligations you’re facing such as student loans, alimony, or child support.

If while digging through the numbers you find that your current financial situation isn’t as rosy as you’d like, it’s important to stay calm. Don’t point fingers at one another and start playing the blame game. Doing so will only derail the conversation and make you both weary of future financial discussions. Look over the numbers together, but don’t judge.

Once you’re both on the same page regarding where your finances stand, you should start talking about your financial goals. Listening is key here. Each spouse should have a chance to voice their own goals – without interruption or judgement – and then you can hash out which goals are the highest priority to you both. Once you’ve each laid out your personal goals, you should evaluate together which ones could have the biggest positive impact on your lives, and consider which ones will be easy or difficult to achieve. Rank the goals based on these factors, and pick one that you’re both comfortable with – whether it be paying off your credit cards, saving for a family vacation, starting a college fund for your kids, or buying a second home.

After you’ve agreed on a goal, it’s time to create a budget that will allow you to work toward it. Together, you should determine exactly how much money is coming into the household each month, and how much money is going out. In other words, how much income are you bringing in, and how many bills are you paying every month, and how much money are you putting into savings? Make tweaks to your budget that align with the goals you’ve laid out. For example, if you’re trying to pay off your credit card debt, you need to determine where that money will come from. It may mean canceling cable and going with a lower-priced video streaming service, or it might mean shopping around for less-expensive car insurance.

Once your goals have been established and you’ve mapped out a budget for achieving them, it’s important to remember that that the conversation is far from over. Keep each other informed about any expenses that fall outside of the budget – ideally before they happen. For example, if your child is going to need braces, or you’re thinking about buying a membership to a golf club, sit down and talk with your spouse first about how it will impact your finances and goals. No one likes to be blindsided with a major purchase they had no say in. Without ongoing communication about financial affairs, confusion and mistrust can surface and wreak havoc on your marriage.

Earn Interest with a Checking Account

It pays to have a checking account with an online bank – literally.

While many traditional checking accounts at brick-and-mortar banks do not earn any interest, online banks are a different story. Because online-only banks don’t have physical branches, they have less overhead costs than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. This allows them to offer high-yield, interest-bearing checking accounts.
Man writing a check

Many interest checking accounts require you to maintain a minimum balance in order to earn interest, and some accounts have certain requirements that must be met – such as a minimum number of debit card transactions – in order for customers to qualify for the stated interest rate. It’s important to note that some banks also cap the balance you can earn interest on. At Bank5 Connect, we try to keep it simple by offering a high-interest checking account with a minimum balance of just $100 to earn interest. There are no balance caps, and no additional hoops to jump through. There are also no monthly maintenance fees associated with the account. Learn more about our High-Interest Checking account here: http://www.bank5connect.com/home/high-interest-checking.

It’s important to keep in mind that oftentimes, interest-bearing checking accounts require you to conduct all of your banking activities online. This will probably be expected if you’re opening an interest checking account at an online bank that doesn’t have any physical branches, but it may come as a surprise if you’re opening an interest checking account at a local bank down the street. Some brick-and-mortar banks do in fact offer interest checking accounts, but it’s not uncommon for them to charge those customers a fee for in-branch transactions. They typically do this as a trade-off to help the bank offset the interest the customer is earning.

So, before opening an interest-bearing checking account, be sure to read all of the fine print to understand how, where, and when you will have access to your money. With a Bank5 Connect High Interest Checking account, our customers have free access to thousands of ATMs nationwide through the SUM NetworkAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com 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 Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!. And, if they use an ATM outside of that network we still won’t charge them, and we will reimburse them for other banks’ surcharges up to $15 per statement cycle.

There are many high-yield, interest checking accounts out there to choose from, so be sure to review all of your options to find the account that’s right for you. Customer reviewsAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com 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 Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!, and websites like GoBankingRatesAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com 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 Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!, NerdwalletAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com 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 Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon! and The Simple DollarAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com 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 Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon! can help you compare what’s out there.

Prepare for Opening Your First Bank Account

Maybe you’re a high school or college student. Or maybe you just haven’t had the need to open a bank account until now. Whatever your age or motivation, it’s important to “do your homework” before opening your first bank account – to ensure you get what it is that you need, and to make the account opening process as smooth and painless as possible.Happy savings

Here are some things to consider:

What type of account do you need?

Do you need a checking account, a savings account, or both? If you’re looking to pay routine bills like rent or utilities, make purchases with a debit card, or withdraw cash on a regular basis from an ATM, a checking account is likely the way to go. If your intent is to save money or establish an emergency fund, you’re going to want a savings account.

What features do you need, and what fees are you looking to avoid?

One of the biggest considerations when opening a savings account is the interest rate. When you deposit money into a savings account, you typically earn interest on that money. And the higher the interest rate, the more money you’ll earn! You should also look to see if there is a minimum balance required in order to earn interest.

There are even some checking accounts that offer interest. Online banks like Bank5 Connect typically don’t have as many overhead costs as brick-and-mortar banks, so they’re able to offer high-interest checking accounts.

It’s also important to read all the fine print associated with an account and understand any fees you could be subject to. Some checking accounts charge a monthly maintenance fee, or charge you a fee if you don’t maintain a certain balance. Luckily, many banks offer checking accounts that are free of these types of monthly fees. Bank5 Connect’s High Interest Checking account doesn’t charge a monthly maintenance fee or a minimum balance fee (however, you do need to maintain a minimum balance of $100 in order to earn interest).

How do you plan to access and manage your money?

These days there are many ways for you to keep track of your bank account. Most banks offer online and mobile banking. Through the bank’s website or mobile app you can typically check balances, transfer money between accounts, pay bills, and view statements. In some cases you can even set up email and text message alerts to warn you about low balances or suspicious activity. If you’re looking to utilize these types of tools to manage your finances, it’s a good idea to ensure your bank offers them before you open an account.

And then there’s the matter of ATMs. Your ATM or debit card will give you access to your bank’s network of ATMs, but what happens if you use an ATM outside of the network? What fees will you face? Will your bank waive those fees? If having ATM flexibility is important to you, you should be sure to review the bank’s ATM policy thoroughly. At Bank5 Connect, in addition to offering our customers free access to thousands of ATMs nationwide through the SUM ATM networkAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com 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 Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!, we don’t charge our customers a fee for using an ATM outside of the network. What’s more, we will reimburse them for other banks’ surcharges up to $15 per statement cycle!

What information will I have to provide the bank with?

Whether you’re opening an account online, or in-person at a branch, you’re going to need to formally identify yourself. If you’re opening your account at the bank, they’ll typically require you to show them a valid, government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, state ID card, or a passport. Some banks require a second form of ID as well, such as a social security card or birth certificate.

If you apply online, you’ll have to enter your license number, passport number, or ID card number, and you’ll have to supply additional information such as your Social Security number, phone number, physical mailing address, and email address. You may also have to answer “ID verification” questions online to prove you are who claim to be.

And remember that if you’re under the age of 18, you’ll need a parent or legal guardian to apply with you as a joint account holder. They’ll need to be with you if you apply in-person, and if you apply online they’ll need to be present to enter all of their identifying information into the application.

Lastly, you’ll need to provide the bank with money to fund the account. Some banks allow you to fund your new account with a credit card, others will require the initial funds be deposited in cash, by check, or through a transfer from an existing account.

CD Investing Strategies: Things to Consider

Anyone interested in investing has heard of a certificate of deposit, or CD. It’s a financial product similar to a savings account. Where a CD differs, however, is that it has a specific, fixed term, and a fixed interest rate. It is intended for a CD to be held until maturity, at which time the money may be withdrawn together with the accrued interest, or rolled over into a new CD term.cd-investing-strategies

Most banks offer a variety of CD terms. Term lengths can range anywhere from six months to 5 years or more, depending on the financial institution.

At Bank5 Connect, we offer CDs with terms of 6, 12, 18, 24, and 36 months. And the minimum deposit to open a Bank5 Connect CD is only $500.

While CDs provide a safe, guaranteed return on your investment, getting the most out of them requires you to think strategically. Here are some tips to help make your CD work for you:

  • Give thought to the length of your CD term. When your money is tied up in a long-term, multi-year CD, you run the risk of missing out on higher-yielding opportunities. A lot can change over the course of several years, and rates are no exception. The Federal Reserve meets every six to seven weeks about whether or not to change interest rates. Think of how disappointing it would be to see rates rapidly increasing around you, and all of your investing dollars are locked up in an underperforming CD for 4 more years.
  • Don’t withdraw your money from a CD before it matures. It’s important to understand all of the penalties associated with taking your money out of a CD before it reaches maturity. Doing so can take a huge bite out of your earnings. For a CD with a term of a year or more, the average penalty for early withdrawing your funds early is six months’ worth of interest. In some cases, early withdrawal penalties can even dip into your principal if the CD hasn’t been opened long enough to cover the penalty fees through interest.
  • Know when your CD is nearing maturity. Most financial institutions will automatically roll the funds in your CD over to a new CD with similar terms once it matures, unless you instruct them otherwise. However, allowing a CD to automatically roll over to a new term could be a costly mistake if you haven’t evaluated all of your other options. It pays to assess other investment opportunities to ensure you’re putting your money in a place that makes sense for you given your current situation and financial goals.
  • Use CD laddering to help generate a stream of interest income. A CD ladder could be a great was to prevent your funds from being unnecessarily tied up. This type of investment strategy involves setting up a collection of CDs that will mature at different intervals so you regularly have funds becoming available. For example, if instead of putting all of your investment dollars into an 18-month CD, you split those dollars three ways and open a 6-month CD, a 12-month CD, and an 18-month CD, you will have funds becoming available every 6 months, and a third of your money will still be earning interest at an 18-month rate!

 
With a little strategic thought, investing in CDs could be a great opportunity to earn some extra cash. But remember that it’s always best to consult with a tax advisor before making any major financial decisions. To learn more about the CDs offered by Bank5 Connect, visit http://www.bank5connect.com/home/cds.

Ways To Improve Your Credit Score

Is your below-average credit score keeping you up at night? No one wants to be denied a mortgage or loan, or face higher interest rates because of a poor credit score. But if you do have a low credit score, the good news is that it doesn’t have to stay that way. Fortunately there are changes you can begin making to your financial lifestyle that can have a significant positive impact on your score.AdobeStock_93575617

To start, it’s good to know exactly which credit score tier you fall into. Generally speaking, “Excellent” credit is defined as any score at or above 750. A “Good” credit score is one that falls between 700 and 749. If your credit score falls between 650 and 699, you have a “Fair” credit rating. “Poor” credit would be a score that lies between 600 and 649. And “Bad” credit is any score below 600.

If you don’t know your credit score, there are few different ways you can find out. One potential way is to check your credit card or loan statement. Many major credit card and loan companies have started to provide credit scores to their customers on a monthly basis. If your credit card or loan provider offers this service, your score is typically listed on your monthly statement, or can be accessed by logging into your account online.

Your credit score can also be purchased directly from the three credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax, or Transunion – or you can obtain your FICO credit score through www.myfico.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com 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 Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!.

Another way is to utilize a free credit score service like Credit KarmaAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com 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 Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!. Before signing up for these types of services however, be sure to read any fine print associated with the offer. And be aware of “free” sites that require you to enter your credit card information. Many times, you’ll need to cancel the service within a specified period of time in order to avoid charges on your credit card.

Once you’ve determined your credit score, and your credit tier, it’s time to check your credit reports. The law allows you can obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the three agencies every year. You can order these free reports from a central website – www.annualreport.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com 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 Bank5Connect. Come back soon!. Or you can call 1-877-322-8228 for your report. There is also a request formAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com 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 Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon! that you can download, fill out, and mail to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

Once you have your reports, look for any errors such as incorrect records of what you owe on your accounts, or late payments that never occurred. When verifying information in your credit reports, keep in mind that each of the three major credit reporting agencies operate separately from one another. So, if you find an error on one agency’s report, you’ll need to check to see if that error also exists on the other reports. Any errors you find should be disputed directly with the credit reporting bureau that produced the report. If the same error appears on multiple reports, you’ll need to dispute each one individually with the different credit bureaus.

Once you have a handle on your credit reports, consider these tips for improving your credit score:

  • Pay down balances on your accounts. Eliminating or reducing your balances has the greatest impact on your credit score, according to financial experts. That’s because credit utilization – which is the amount you can borrow versus the amount of debt you’re carrying – accounts for 30 percent of your score. Paying down balances is also one of the fastest ways to improve your credit score. And if you have nuisance balances – small balances carried across several credit cards – get them out of the way as fast as you can, since one of the factors used in determining your credit score is the number of cards that have balances.
  • Pay your bills on time. Paying your bills on time shows that you can handle credit responsibly. If you repeatedly make late payments, you’ll be considered a greater risk by creditors. To ensure you’re making timely bill payments, take advantage of payment alerts, or bill pay services through your financial institution.
  • Have a good mix of accounts, such as loans and credit cards. It shows that you’re capable of handling different types of accounts.
  • Consider opening a new account. While it may seem strange to open a new credit card account while you’re paying off balances on existing ones, in some cases doing so can actually help your credit score. This is because a new credit card will increase your total outstanding credit line and thereby improve your credit utilization ratio. But don’t overdo it and try to open several accounts at one time. This will trigger multiple inquiries that will show up on your credit reports, which could drag down your score.
  • Don’t close out existing credit cards once you pay them off. Once you pay off the entire balance on your credit card, you may be tempted to close the account for good to avoid racking up additional balances. But doing so could have a negative impact on your credit score, since closing an account will decrease the amount of credit available to you. If you keep your card open instead, and either use it sparingly, or not at all, that available credit will help to reduce your credit utilization, and improve your credit score.

Starting the process of improving your credit score may seem daunting, but every little thing you do to help clean up your credit reports will go a long way toward brightening your financial future.