Category Archives: Guest Post

5 Credit Card Tips for Teens

New to credit? This should help!

If you just received your first credit card or your parents made you an authorized user on their account, you now have more spending power in your financial life. Although people with credit cards tend to spend more in general, developing good habits now will prepare you for more credit responsibility down the road. Check out these tips to ensure that you use credit the right way.

Check your card details
Since so many credit cards exist (all with their own perks, limits and fees), it’s smart to know your account well to avoid missing misunderstanding terms, overusing the card or neglecting a due date. A secured card, which is backed by a sum of money in a savings or checking account and has a credit limit equal to that amount, can help you avoid overspending. Secured cards, which issuers such as USAgencies Credit Union provide, can be good starting points for building credit. When you pay your bill consistently on time, you show that you can handle credit responsibly.

Check your credit report
A credit report gives a picture of your credit overall, from a summary of your loans or credit cards to any inquiries that lenders make when you apply for new credit. The three major credit reporting companies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) all provide one free credit report annually, so take advantage of that. Check for any errors or fraudulent accounts you see and notify the company in question if you spot anything.

Avoid overusing credit
Although you’ve probably heard the phrase “test your limits” used in a positive way, when it comes to credit cards this idea can do more harm than good. A good rule of thumb is to spend at most 30% of your credit limit each month, and keep the monthly balance below that level. Future lenders might consider you a high risk if you spend too much with your cards.

Pay bills on time
Like having an overdue library book, paying your credit card payment after the due date will mean an additional fee. Be over 30 days late and in addition to a late fee, it can drop your credit score, which is the 3-digit number that indicates how good you are with credit.

Pay more than the minimum
Your monthly credit card bill usually states the minimum amount you owe, but what it might not say is that you’ll have to pay interest on the remaining balance in future months. It’s better to pay the complete amount you owe so you can avoid extra costs and help raise your credit score.

As empowering and convenient as credit cards can be, they also can work as effective tools to help build your credit record over time. Keeping up good credit card habits can help you avoid debt while qualifying for loans and other products with favorable terms.

By Spencer Tierney, NerdWallet

How to Find the Right Car for You

Shopping for a new car?

Shopping for a new car? With so many options, the choice may seem overwhelming. Here are a couple of questions that can guide you to just the right car for your needs and lifestyle.

Is it affordable?

No matter how much you love a particular car, if paying for it is going to leave you short on cash each month, then you haven’t found your perfect match. Generally, what you shell out for transportation — including car payment, insurance and gas — shouldn’t come to more than 20% of your take-home pay each month after you’ve paid your other bills.

That said, you need to weigh your existing expenses before deciding how much is manageable. Financial institutions such as US Agencies Credit Union can pre-approve you for an auto loan and may reward you for setting up e-statements and automatic payments, for choosing a fuel-efficient model or even just for making your payments on time consistently. You’ll also have the advantage of knowing exactly what you can afford before you shop.

What are your lifestyle considerations?

Once you’ve set your budget, narrow the possibilities by examining your needs:

  • Will you be traveling in winter conditions and benefit from all-wheel drive?
  • Do you commute long distances, making fuel efficiency a priority?
  • Do you often drive passengers and need enough seating for everyone? Would having four doors make life easier? What about room for child seats?
  • How much cargo do you carry, and which vehicle types have enough room for your stuff?
  • Do you love to work on engines, or do you need something with top reliability ratings?

Credit unions like USAgencies often provide other helpful auto services like GAP and MRC coverage, and debt protection. Some credit unions also partner with organizations that provide car-shopping help.

Choosing a car can be a hassle, but knowing the right questions to ask will put you in the driver’s seat on the way to a new ride.

By Roberta Pescow, NerdWallet

7 Tips to Keep in Mind When Buying a Car

Buying a car, especially if it’s your first one, is an exciting experience!

By handing you those keys, the salesman will be opening up a whole new world of opportunity.

But don’t hit the gas too quickly. Before you sign any papers, or even before applying for an auto loan, take a look at these seven car-buying tips.

  1. Set a car-buying budget, which should include how much you can afford on a down payment and for monthly loan installments. Factor in insurance as well.
  2. If you want to finance your vehicle but haven’t established great credit, consider getting a relative to co-sign your application. This can improve the chances of your loan request getting approved.
  3. Consider prearranging that loan before stepping into the dealership. That way, you’ll know exactly what your interest rates are and can select a vehicle that’s appropriately priced.
  4. With your budget in mind, make a list of cars you can afford. Remember: Practicality should trump flair. For additional guidance, take a look at auto buying assistance services like those offered by lenders such as USAgencies Credit Union.
  5. Comparison websites can give you accurate quotes based on a car’s year and model, so you can get a feel for market prices.
  6. If you’re in the market for a used vehicle, take the time to inspect any car that has caught your attention, keeping an especially close eye out for any easy-to-overlook imperfections like scratches and worn tires.
  7. Simply say “no” to unnecessary add-ons your dealer offers you, like rustproofing. Rust problems are pretty much nonexistent among newer cars nowadays, according to Consumer Reports’ Annual Auto Surveys.

These suggestions should put you on the right path toward purchasing a car that’s best for you. With the right game plan, you’ll be on the open road in no time.

By Tony Armstrong, NerdWallet