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Credit Score: understanding the number

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Cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose, credit score…all numbers that mean nothing unless someone explains what is good and what is scary. Just like a doctor breaks down why your cholesterol level should be below 200, we’re here to explain what an ideal credit score could be. And you don’t even have to cut cheese out of your diet.

Your credit score (the most popular being the FICO® Score named after the organization that created it — the Fair Isaac Corporation) can range from 300 to 850 because it’s an adjusted scale. (You get 300 points just for having a credit history…so most adults have a higher score than 300 just by being “on the grid.”) In case you’re afraid to get the pronunciation wrong, FICO is pronounced “f-eye-ko,” like “psycho.”

Why does it matter? If you’re ever going to purchase a house or car or apply for a job, lenders and potential employers will be checking your score to assess your reliability and financial history.

While there are some schools of thought that advise consumers not to obsess over credit scores, the most popular being financial author and radio host Dave Ramsey, the FICO Score is a factor in 90 percent of lending decisions in the United States. And many in those anti-credit score camps still encourage you to be aware of your credit reports to check for errors and work on problem areas.

Most important step: check your score and your reports! Even if you’re worried because of past mistakes with late payments or credit card debt, it’s better to know where you stand and start taking action. No ostrich-like behavior!

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Good news—unless you’re within the 7 percent of the nation with a score between 350 and 549 (and if you are, stop reading this post and call a credit counselor), there is no need to stress. At a score of 550 or more, you can sometimes qualify for a loan. Your motivation for raising it as high as possible will be to get the best interest rates.

Most creditors consider a score above 700 to be acceptable to give a consumer the best rates. If your score is below 700, here are some tips that can help you bring it up. You may be surprised how quickly you can make a change (1-3 years instead of the 7-10 years it takes to start fresh after declaring bankruptcy).

How to raise your score:

1)    Understand how the score is decided

Credit Score Formula

In order of greatest to least weight:

  • Payment history – Did you pay all your bills on time? This includes student loans, car payments, credit card bill, etc.
  • Amount owed – for example, you still owe $10,000 before you can pay off your car, $15,000 in student loans and $500 on one of your credit cards.
  • Credit history length – something positive about getting older! The longer you have a credit history, the higher your score rises.
  • New credit – did you recently open a slew of store credit cards in order to get a discount on a shopping spree? You may be paying for it in the form of a lower credit score.
  • Type of credit used – Credit bureaus look at mortgages vs. auto loans vs. student loans vs. credit cards. Some are better for your score than others.

2)    Stay on top of your bills
The best way to improve on your credit score is to pay your bills on time. Have a steady income and live within your means so your bills don’t pile up until you’re completely buried in credit card and loan debt.

3)    Ask about your custom credit score
Lenders might also look at your custom credit score in addition to your traditional credit score. A lender will use your custom credit score to get a closer look at the risk factors that are related to what you are trying to fund with the line of credit.

4)    Discuss internal credit scoring
Not every creditor is required to report your credit. Some major lenders use their own internal credit scoring systems to help them make a decision. Lenders use these internal scores to predict future behavior of their customers. When you answer questions on the loan application form, the responses will go in to creating a custom score for you.

5)    One size doesn’t fit all
What makes you appealing to one lender will not make you appealing to all. If your credit has been damaged, be sure that any new information is reported to credit agencies.

6)    Pay the minimum
If you can’t pay the entire balance of a credit payment, at least pay the minimum due. Paying the minimum will keep your credit score from dropping even lower than it would if you don’t pay the bill at all.

7)    Keep checking
You have rights as a consumer under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Check your report (not score) once a year for free at AnnualCreditReport.com‡.

This video from the Federal Trade Commission’s website does a great job at explaining why you need to check your report and how to do it.

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When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


Ms. Stokes is a senior vice president and director of Private Banking at UMB. She is responsible for driving sales and relationship management activities. She works closely with the Wealth Management leadership team and regional presidents to grow business and helps to develop roles in wealth management, relationship management and presentation skills. She joined UMB in 2009 and has more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Missouri- Kansas City and a Bachelor of Arts from the graduate school of retail banking.



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10 financial safety tips for vacation

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Most people think summer is the only time to take a vacation. But a lot of people take vacations in the fall and winter when flights and hotels are less expensive and tourist destinations aren’t as crowded.

A vacation is a great time for relaxation and spending time with family and friends. The last thing you want is to stress about fraud and have your vacation ruined because of a lost or stolen credit card. You can usually avoid this headache if you take a few extra steps when preparing for a trip or are more aware of your surroundings. Here are few tips to help prevent you from becoming a victim of fraud on vacation.

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  1. Protect cards as if they are cash. Do not leave them unattended anywhere, such as in a car, restaurant or even at the pool. If you are traveling, your cards should be with you at all times. Or you can put them in a secure location like a hotel safe.
  2. Never write down a personal identification number (PIN) – memorize it. Also, designate unique PINs for each card, and use random number, letter and symbol combinations when possible. Do not use easy to crack codes, such as a birth date, which could easily be found in your wallet.
  3. Don’t leave credit cards in your car’s glove compartment. An alarmingly high amount of all credit card thefts are from this area.
  4. Always check to make sure cards are returned when used at a store or restaurant. It’s easy to forget cards, especially when you’re on vacation. And it’s easy for servers or sales people to return the wrong card when they’re in a hurry.
  5. Don’t carelessly discard or leave documents that contain personal information in the open – including account numbers – such as car rental agreements or airline tickets.
  6. Do not give account numbers over the phone unless you have initiated the call. Most companies will only ask you to verify a portion of your personal information.
  7. Always take receipts and destroy any extra copies.
  8. If you travel overseas, let your card provider know about your plans to travel to a foreign country. There may be restrictions on using cards in some countries and a provider will be less likely to question the foreign transactions if prior notice is given.
  9. If you decide to shop online on vacation or need to update flight or hotel reservations online, be mindful of the websites you visit and what information you share. Always purchase from websites that start with https because this means it is a secure site. Also, be mindful when using public Wi-Fi networks. Internet connections that require a password are the safest. You don’t want that new eBook you ordered online costing you half your bank account.
  10. Most fraudulent use of cards takes place within a few days of their being lost or stolen. If your card is lost or stolen on vacation, immediately report it to the issuing bank or financial institution.

Mr. Rine serves as president of the Kansas City region and is responsible for managing the Kansas City commercial banking teams and partnering with other bank line of business leaders to implement the strategic plan for Kansas City. He is a member of the UMB Financial Services Board of Directors and the advisory director for UMB Bank, n.a. He joined UMB in 1994. Rine earned a Bachelor of Science from the Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo.



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We regret to inform you that your account has been compromised…now what?

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You can do everything right to secure your personal information, but your credit or debit card information can still be compromised. Unfortunately, retailers and restaurants can be victims of hackers just like individuals can. Except when an identity thief breaches a retailer’s point of sale (POS) system, more than one person is affected. The company’s system can hold hundreds, if not thousands, of card numbers and key card security details including card verification value (CVV) codes.

CVV Code

 

Exact location of the CVV number varies among the card brands. Consult your card’s instructions for the location of your card’s CVV code.

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Throughout a given year, you have a chance of having your information stolen in one of these security breaches. Reportedly 44.8 million records were breached in 2012. Companies continue to ramp up security measures and while they do a good job, the hackers find points of vulnerability and use malware to pull the credit/debit card information.

Fast food restaurants and small business systems are the most targeted. The high level of transactions makes fast food restaurants a prime target. Small businesses are usually targeted because they don’t always have the same robust security resources as bigger companies, but even large national retail chains can be a victim of these security issues.

When there is a security compromise at retailer or restaurant, it should not end up costing you any money. Your bank should take care of everything, from issuing you a new card and personal identification number (PIN) to recovering any lost funds.

Smart ChipThe current risk environment will not notably change until smart cards (also known as chip cards) are rolled out universally in the U.S. We should see this by the end of 2015. The chip card is different from the card with the magnetic stripe because there is a small microchip in the card with a dynamic security code continually changing, making it extremely difficult to counterfeit.

As a consumer, you have little control over these external events, but this shouldn’t stop you from using your credit/debit cards. You can help protect yourself, by regularly checking your online bank statements and taking advantage of any fraud alerts through SMS texting and emails offered by your bank. At the very least, check your paper statements each month for any suspicious activity. If you regularly monitor your accounts, you will be able to spot fraudulent activity and your bank can quickly fix the issue.

 

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


Mr. Hanson serves as vice president and fraud manager in Card Operations. He is responsible for providing fraud detections, prevention, and investigation services to UMB’s credit and debit card customers. He joined UMB in 2010 with more than 15 years of credit card fraud prevention experiences. He earned a Bachelor of Science in political science from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah and a Master of Arts in national security affairs from the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey, Calif.



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