April is Community Banking Month | by Jeanette Atkinson
The ICBA (Independent Community Bankers of America) has kicked off April as Community Banking Month by encouraging small business owners and consumers to bank locally with a community bank. I encourage you to do the same. Local community bank customers and shareholders are making a hometown investment they can be proud of because community banks put local deposits back to work right where it belongs — in the community.
Community Banking Month is a great time to encourage everyone around you to Go Local: Dine local. Shop local. Bank local. Local businesses employ, purchase from, and donate to the local economy. Let’s celebrate April and GO Local.
Protect Your Privacy | by Jeanette Atkinson
Banks take many safeguards to protect their customers’ data. Bank customers need to take an active role in protecting their own privacy. To ensure your personal information is safe you should:
- Create c0mplic@T3D passwords. The more complex the better. Change passwords frequently and don’t share with friends and family.
- Monitor your accounts. Check your account activity frequently. Use internet Banking or Telephone Banking so you can check between monthly statements. If there is suspicious activity, notify your bank immediately.
- Protect yourself online. Keep computers and other devices up-to-date on anti-virus and malware protection. never give out personal information in response to unsolicited email (or telephone calls). Only open links from trusted sources.
Your bank will never contact you by email asking for your password, PIN, or account information. If someone does — it may be an identity thief. These are steps recommended by the ABA (American Bankers Association) for all bank customers.
Telephone Banking | by Jeanette Atkinson
Banking via the telephone is an easy option for those who don’t have access to Internet Banking. It is a free, fast, and convenient way to check on your account balances, verify deposits, and get information on those checks or payments you forgot to record in your checkbook. Some also offer the ability to make transfers and loan payments. You can use it anytime or anywhere you have a telephone. It is a secure, safe way to keep track of your accounts. Listen carefully to your options and follow the instructions. You can learn ways to quickly access the options you need. Contact your financial institution for information on accessing your accounts via the telephone.
Your Credit Rating | by Jeanette Atkinson
It is extremely important to have a good credit rating. Credit ratings affect your ability to get any type of credit such as mortgages, car loans, or credit cards. They may even affect your ability to get utilities or rent an apartment.
How do you get a good credit rating? Always pay your payments and bills on time. If you do get behind, pay as soon as possible and contact your creditors for options on catching up on payments. Medical bills and other bills also affect your credit rating, so set up a payment plan and stick to it.
Most credit reporting agencies now give you a credit score, which may also impact the interest rate you pay on credit products.
Make sure your credit report is accurate. You credit report should be reviewed periodically. You have rights to ensure your credit report is correct. If it is wrong, you can get it corrected.
eStatements | by Jeanette Atkinson
Your regular monthly or quarterly statement is called an “eStatement” when it is delivered electronically. This means you must have Internet access to obtain your statement via your financial institutions internet banking site.
Advantages to eStatements include: faster delivery — no more waiting on the mail — you can get your statement as soon as it is processed; environmentally friendly — saves paper and ink; expanded storage options — you can save statements on your computer or on other devices; saves money — banks sometimes offer incentives because of their cost-savings; security — eliminates statements with confidential information in trash receptacles or other public places; ease of reconciliation — some sites offer options to help you reconcile your statement.
So sign up for eStatements today. They are a convenient, fast and secure way to store financial data.
Account Ownership | by Jeanette Atkinson
There are several different types of account ownership for personal accounts. The most common are Sole Owner (one person) and Co-Owners (two or more people), the most common of which is Joint Owners with Right of Survivorship. Accounts can also be set up as Payable on Death to a Beneficiary, one who has no ownership rights until death of the owner. A Power of Attorney for an account owner has no ownership rights, but has the right to sign for the owner. There are other legal signature authorities for accounts, such as Agent, Guardian, Custodian, Conservator and Executor.
Ownership types are governed by Uniform Commercial Code and by state law. The type of ownership not only affects who has access to the account, but may also affect how much FDIC insurance coverage each customer has.
Consult your financial institution for options when establishing new accounts or reviewing existing accounts. You may also need to consult your attorney, especially when updating your will or doing other financial planning to see if your accounts have the correct account ownership for your needs.
Individual Retirement Accounts | by Jeanette Atkinson
Should your savings plan include IRA’s? An Individual Retirement Plan is a personal savings plan that may give you tax advantages for setting aside money for retirement. There are various types of IRA’s including Traditional, Simple, Roth, and others. The IRS rules govern the tax consequences of each type — see IRS Publication 590. Currently, one of the most popular is the Roth which is not tax-deductible at the time of contribution but qualified distributions may be tax-free if you meet the requirements.
You can make IRA deposits for the current year until tax filing time — April 15th. Consult your tax professional to see which type of IRA best suits your situation. Substantial penalties are imposed for early withdrawals, including penalties by the IRS. There are also special rules for allowable and required withdrawals, as well as, limits on contributions.