Finances

improve your credit scoreIf you’re having a difficult time getting approved for credit because you have a low credit score, working to improve your credit score can seem like a task that can take years to solve.

There are few quick shortcuts to improving a credit score, but there are some big moves that can raise it dramatically.

Here are some of the biggest moves you can make to improve your credit score:

Know your credit score

Start by checking your credit score at AnnualCreditReport.com for free. The three credit reporting companies must give you a free report once a year, so you can either get all three at once or spread them out by getting one every four months.

The score you receive represents your credit risk at a point and is meant to measure your future credit risk. Scores from the Fair Isaac Corporation, or FICO, are most widely used, with scores ranging from a low of 300 to a high of 850.

The higher the score you have, the more likely you are to be approved for credit and get the best loan rates for auto loans, home loan and credit cards, among other things.

Here’s a breakdown of what the scores generally mean: ...continue reading

credit unionInterest rates remain low, though that’s no reason to stow your money under your mattress.

Hiding your money at home won’t earn you any interest on it, and that’s one of the benefits — no matter how small — that banks and credit unions can offer customers. But banks and credit unions have different benefits and drawbacks, and knowing how each work can make it easier to decide where to put your cash.

Here are some differences between credit unions and banks:

Profit vs no profit

The first thing to note when comparing banks to credit unions is that  banks are in business to make money and credit unions are not for profit. This can allow credit unions to offer better interest rates, as we’ll get to shortly.

Credit unions are cooperatively owned by all members and run democratically by members who volunteer as board members, who decide interest rates and other factors.

To join a credit union, you may have to be a member of an employee group, association or some other specific affiliation, and may have to live in a specific geographic area. ...continue reading

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bank feesThis post on avoiding bank fees is by Ryan Bonaparte, who has written for Add-Vodka before about common financial mistakes that young adults make. Ryan is a long-time writer and author, delving into topics including personal finance, technology, and career pursuits. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and fiercely independent cat.

In the financial journey to building wealth, there are many pitfalls to watch out for, but none as insidious as fees charged by banks for standard services.

Fees can erode any earnings that you may have accrued from investments, and in some cases faster than poor spending decisions. At least with a shopping spree, you get something in return. With bank fees, you might as well be setting your money ablaze.

Bank fees to avoid

Although by law in the United States, all fees are required to be shared with consumers when they sign up for an account, it’s still very easy to pay out lots of money before you realize how much bad habits can eat away at your hard-earned money.

Here are some types of common bank fees to look out for:

ATM Fees

Even though more and more transactions occur via credit cards or mobile payments, sometimes cash is necessary. There are stores that only take cash, and many people find using the envelope method of budgeting (stocking envelopes with cash at the beginning of the month) as a great way to manage their finances.

But taking out your own money should never cost you money. To avoid bank fees, either use an account at a bank in your area or an internet bank that reimburses bank fees. ...continue reading