Protecting your identity while on vacation

It is summer and many of you plan on travelling either in the US or to foreign countries. You will also take cash, credit or debit cards, traveler’s checks with you. So, how will you keep your money or IDs safe?

Always be alert to your surroundings. Do an online research of the areas you plan to travel to.

Keep your IDs, smartphones, wallet and valuables close to you and safe.

Hotels offer safes in your room where you can store your valuables.

Don’t use public WiFi networks to access your bank or credit card accounts.

Don’t overpack.

In some cases, you could open a separate bank or credit card account for that specific trip.

Check your accounts after you get back home. Sometimes, thieves may use your information later.

So, check your credit reports, credit card and bank accounts for signs of identity theft and report it immediately if you notice any suspicious activities.

Positive Score Factors

Delinquencies on your accounts.
A delinquency is a payment that was made 30 or more days late. None or very few delinquencies on your account can cause your score to improve.

What You Can Do
Keep paying bills on time every month since it is important for maintaining a good credit score. If you remain behind with any payments, bring them current as soon as possible, and then make future payments on time. Over time, this will have a positive impact on your score. Continue reading Positive Score Factors

Can Credit Debt Affect Your GPA?

“Researchers have found that students who felt stressed financially had lower grades than those who did not.”

Credit card debt can add an extra financial stress on students. Normally, credit cards have a higher interest rate than other types of loans. A student with higher credit card debt may have to work extra hours in order to make the monthly payments, thus reducing the time for studying which may affect the performance in school. As credit cards are very useful at times, spending should be done responsibly, so it doesn’t accumulate debt that you cannot pay.

Getting Out of Debt: Step 2

Plan your strategy. As annoying as it seems to be analyzing all details of each credit card and loan you owe, you must do it and preferably write down the numbers.

  • Decide which debt you want to pay first: the high interest rate or the lowest balance
  • For those debts, decide how much above the required minimum you can afford to pay each month. This will determine how fast those debts will be paid off.
  • For other debts, setup automatic monthly payments

If you cannot afford to make the total monthly payments towards your debt, you may want to consider professional advise from a credit counseling company or a bankruptcy attorney

Getting Out Of Debt: Step 1

Determine how much you owe. Start with making a list with the following items:

  • all your debts, including mortgage, vehicle loans, student loans, other types of loans, accounts in collection, credit cards
  • for each loan, note the interest rate and the monthly payment
  • for each credit card, note the interest and the minimum monthly payment
  • Add the monthly loan payments and the minimum credit card payments to determine the minimum amount you owe every month.

Protecting Your Credit Identity While Shopping Online During the Holiday Season

Many Americans choose online shopping during the Holiday Season for convenience and because many retailers offer special offers and greater discounts to online shoppers. However, shopping online comes with a risk of your identity being stolen. As we’ve heard, almost every year lately, major retails such as Target, Home Depot, etc., have had customer data breaches resulting in millions of customers having their credit information stolen. While, as a shopper, you cannot prevent such large data breaches, you can try protecting your credit information while shopping online by following few advises:

  • Do not click on links included in emails you receive that look like they were sent by a retailer, bank or credit card company, and that are asking you to login to your account. Hackers send phishing emails that look like those from your bank or credit card company, or a retailer, in an attempt to make you click on links that will allow them to steal your identity. Instead, go directly to your bank, retailer, credit card company website and click on the links provided on their websites.
  • However, if the email contains a special offer or a discount that seems harmless and doesn’t ask you to login to your account after opening it, remember that, if it is a phishing email, clicking on it may open a web page with malicious content that can infect your computer. Most of the time, retailers will post special offers directly on their websites for everyone to see, or, if you’re a member, you can find them in your online account.
  • Before entering any login or credit card information on any website, make sure the website has a security certificate installed, i.e. the website address or the url in the browser address bar always starts with: https:// or there is a picture of a lock next to the website address, such as:  or . Additionally, if you click on the lock picture, you can view the security certificate information for the website.
  • Avoid, as much as possible, to enter your credit card information, if your computer or device is connected to a public network, i.e. airport networks, coffee shops, restaurants, etc…
  • Additionally, if you’re in a public place while making an online purchase or payment, make sure there is no one behind you that can view and steal the data you enter on the computer screen or mobile device.

Back to School

Knowing how you’re going to pay for college is one of the most powerful ways you can set yourself up for success – in college and beyond.

FAFSA: Submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid to get access to federal grants, loans and work-study funds available for college

Scholarships: Visit Tuition Funding Sources for access to over 7 million scholarships worth over $41 billion.

Use the Net Price Calculator (NPC) at each college’s website to estimate your total college costs at that school based on your personal situation. Then, compare the costs, options, and opportunities at different schools.

Additional financial options:

  • Tuition payment plans. These plans may be available by colleges to help you pay tuition in interest-free monthly installments instead of one lump sum at the start of the semester.
  • Federal Direct PLUS Loans. These student loans, offered by the federal government, are available to graduate or professional degree students and parents of dependent undergraduate students who do not have an adverse credit history.
  • Private or alternative student loans. These credit-based student loans may be available for undergraduates, graduates, professional degrees, or qualified certificate or licensure programs. There may also be financing options available for anyone (such as a parent or relative) who may be interested in borrowing to help you pay for college. These loans are provided by banks or other lenders.

Building Credit for High-school Graduates

If you graduated high-school recently and want to start building credit in your own name and gain financial independence, applying for a credit card could be a starting point.

What building credit can do for you
Building a credit history can help give you more financial freedom and choices down the road – and possibly lower your interest rates on future purchases, like a car or a home loan.

Use your credit card wisely
Your credit history reflects your ability to use credit responsibly. It’s important to charge only what you can afford, stay within your credit limit, pay more than the minimum monthly payment, and always pay on time.