Showing posts with label Credit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Credit. Show all posts

Find Truly Free Checking and Savings Accounts - Think Credit Unions

Credit unions and certain other financial institutions are ten times better than national banks and credit card companies. Pay fewer, lesser, and no fees.


People often ask,
  • What is the best bank in a given location?
  • What is the best bank for a specific kind of customer?
Rephrasing the question to "What is the best financial institution?" is the way to find what's best.

It is positively amazing how many people put up with all the fees many banks and other financial institutions attach to their savings, checking, and credit card accounts. Those banks and financial institutions will keep on doing this as long as the consumer keeps letting them get away with it. There is no excuse for the consumer to tolerate these kinds of bank fees when there are so many better alternatives available.

Avoid National Banks and National Credit Card Companies

National and local credit unions and local banks are the way to go.

The average consumer should never do business with a national bank or national credit card company. Check out your locally owned banks; even better, check out your local or national credit unions. National debit card companies might be OK: read the fine print.


Customers who have followed the above principles:

  • Have not paid any monthly account fees in decades.
  • Have not paid any check fees in decades.
  • Have not paid any credit or debit card transaction fees in decades.
  • Have always been paid higher interest on their savings.
  • Have always paid lower interest on their loans.
  • Have always experienced the bliss of fewer and lesser fees all-around.

What Exactly Is a Credit Union?

A credit union in the United States is technically a co-op arrangement among members. Those members with money make deposits. Those members who need money take out loans.

The spread between the interest paid to members with savings and the interest collected from members with loans is supposed to be no larger than what will cover the co-op’s expenses.

The covered expenses also enable both savers and borrowers to have free checking accounts, no-annual-fee debit and credit cards, and many other free or lesser fee services. Many countries have these same co-op type institutions; they are just known by different names.

About Credit Union Membership

With banks, you are a customer. With credit unions, you are a member.

It used to be difficult to become a member of a credit union. The usual requirement being you were working for a specific employer. In fact, many times the credit union was actually named after the employer. Many of these credit unions are still in existence today.

Membership requirements these days are much more open. Every credit union has unique criteria.

 Credit unions did not come up with the idea of membership requirements. Federal regulations require members of credit unions to have something in common, usually being the mutual employer scenario.

However, other criteria can now be used; just being a member of a certain profession is a good example.

What opened the floodgates is the now current use of geographical location as to what determines eligibility. In other words, are you and the credit union in the same county? If so, congratulations; you are a member. The credit union website will clearly spell out the eligibility requirements to become a member.

f you do not qualify, it is neither their fault nor yours; federal regulations are federal regulations. The good news is your chances of success are fairly high. Worst case scenario is you merely proceed to your local bank instead.

Internet-based financial institutions are also worth checking out, but be very careful and check their reputations and fee schedules with a fine-toothed comb.

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.


About Your Local Banks and Credit Unions: The Good

Here is the normal fee structure at your good, locally owned banks and credit unions:

  • There are no membership fees. 
  • There are no annual or monthly credit card fees.
  • There are no annual or monthly debit card fees.
  • Savings accounts have no monthly or other fees. A minimum balance requirement of a couple hundred bucks or less is acceptable.
  • Checking accounts have no monthly fees and no minimum balance requirements. The requirement you have a savings or similar account with a reasonable minimum balance to qualify for the free checking account is an acceptable option. Using the direct deposit option to qualify for a free checking account is not always a good idea; getting slammed with a bunch of fees when you lose your job is not the way to go. On the other hand, qualifying based on direct deposit of your Social Security retirement check certainly isn't much of a risk.
  • No debit card point-of-sale fees of any kind.
  • No credit card point-of-sale fees of any kind.
  • Very minimal or no ATM fees on debit card transactions.
  • All other fees are less than what you are paying at your current financial institution.

About Your Local Banks: The Bad

It should be noted some local banks can be even more obnoxious than your national banks. Local banks are just like any other locally owned business. Employee attitude will directly reflect the personality and attitude of the owner(s) of the bank.

Fortunately, the bank’s fee structure is very often a clear indication of the bank’s attitude towards the general public. Ridiculous and excessive fees? Go elsewhere.

About Your Local Credit Unions: The Ugly

Credit unions are well-known for being the better deal. As such, there are bankers-to-be who come out of the woodwork to take advantage of the better reputation credit unions have.

The methodology to do this is not difficult. The banker-to-be simply opens his business via and under the credit union regulations and rules. Then, as far as interest rates and fee structuring goes, they run it like a bank. There is a credit union in San Francisco that is positively famous for this. So just because an institution calls itself a credit union doesn't mean you are home free. Do check out their fee schedule and interest rates relative to other institutions.

The Search

Needless to say, your location will vary.


How to Find Your Local Banks and Credit Unions

Finding them is not hard to do. The usual Yellow Pages perusal and/or an internet search will turn them right up. And it should be noted there are excellent national credit unions as well.

As to finding the good ones, you will need to check their website. Find their fee schedule and you will usually know what you need to know. If they do not have a fee schedule online, then that is a possible red flag. If your choices are limited, then you may have to make a personal visit to the financial institution and check out their brochures in the lobby.

Those financial institutions having the "glass cage" setup you must navigate to enter and exit the premises should be avoided like the plague. For some reason, there seems to be a strong correlation between "glass cage" usage and the treatment of customers as peasants in general.

You can also find a local credit union, plus all sorts of other worthy credit union information, at the federally run Nation Credit Union Administration (NCUA) website.

You can find all sorts of interesting information about your local banks at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) website. They even maintain a public list of failed banks.

Next is the opening of an account. A driver’s license, Social Security card, and a pleasant attitude are all that should be required. If the bank or credit union employee, or the procedures in general, are unusually obstructive; then forget it and move on. If they require you have an account with them for at least six months before allowing you to apply for a debit card, then you definitely want nothing to do with them.


Worthy Internet Institutions

There are worthy internet-based institutions out there. Just thoroughly check their fee schedule; particularly as relates to their savings and checking accounts, and their credit and debit cards. Also, plug their name and the word "scam" into your search engine and see what pops up. If there are pages of complaints, it would probably be wise to avoid that particular institution.


Only consider doing business with credit unions authorized to display this logo:

NCUA (has all sorts of worthy information)


Only consider doing business with local banks and internet-based financial institutions authorized to display this logo (or other equivalent government signage)


Comments - If you have an opinion regarding a particular financial institution, feel free to post it here.

A Credit Report Score Guide for Beginners – Includes List of Things Affecting Your Score

A Credit Score Guide for Beginners

Basically, it is not a pretty picture. Unfortunately, credit reports and scores don't just affect interest rates on loans and credit lines; not to mention being outright refused for credit altogether.
  • Insurance companies also use your credit score as one of the factors in determining the premium amounts for your life, home, and auto policies.
  • Landlords use your credit report to decide whether to rent to you or not.
  • Cell phone and cable companies use it to decide whether to accept you as a customer or not.
  •  Other utility companies use it to decide if an advance security deposit is required.
  • Many companies (sometimes illegally) will refuse to hire you, if you have a low credit score.
It's as if the whole system was designed to mimic nature's law of the jungle, i.e.; once you are down, it "conspires" to keep you that way or outright "kill" you altogether.

Table of Contents

  1. How Your Credit Score Is Calculated
  2. Things That Affect Your Credit Score and How to Protect and Raise Your Credit Rating
  3. About Credit Score Numbers and What Each Range Means
  4. Consumer Credit Bill of Rights and Other Federal Information Resources

How Your FICO Credit Score Is Calculated

FICO is the most commonly used credit reporting system used by lenders, insurance companies, landlords, employers, utility companies, etc.

Percentages and Components of the FICO  (formerly known as Fair Isaac) Credit Reporting System
  • 35% Payment History
  • 30% Amounts Owed
  • 15% Length of Credit History
  • 10% Types of Credit Used
  • 10% New Credit
These are the components and numbers Fair Isaac have publicly claimed. However, it is reasonable to suspect there are proprietary, additional factors behind the scenes; debt ratios, unused credit, employment history being primary examples.

List of What Affects Your Credit Report and Score and How to Protect and Improve Your Credit Rating

  • Pay your bills on time, this one is an absolute necessity. To do otherwise signifies financial problems or irresponsibility, both of which are major red flags.
  • Keep your debt as low as possible, relative to your credit-lines. Maxed-out credit-lines are death.
  • Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Having an excessively large, unused credit-line available will lower your score. Excessively large credit-lines tend to eventually be used and potential creditors are leery of that.
  • Don't suddenly close most of your credit lines and/or card accounts. This will mess up your debt-to-limit ratio and lower your score significantly.
  • Moderately used, active credit lines and accounts seem to be what lenders like to see.
  • Apply for credit as seldom as possible and avoid department store credit cards.
  • Co-signing loans is a very bad idea,"Top 10 reasons not to co-sign on a loan" from Bankrate.
  • Student loan debt can hurt your credit score.
  • The IRS reports delinquent taxes, unknown if that includes those under dispute.
  • Cities and counties report unpaid parking tickets and unpaid library fines. And it is a pretty good bet that includes any that are disputed.
  • Cities and counties also report what you owe when you are unable to retrieve your car from impound.
  • Reconcile your credit card statements every month. Inaccuracies, invalid charges, overlooked-no-longer-needed monthly charges, and outright ID theft happen much more often than you might think.
  • Check your credit report at least once a year. Fatal inaccuracies occur often in these reports. In fact, credit reporting agencies are famous for it. You are legally entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the credit reporting agencies.
  • Pretty much all of the reputable consumer-related-advice websites recommend annualcreditreport.com as the place to get your free credit reports. The site will subject you to a lot of advertising pitches along the way, but eventually you'll get the free reports unscathed. 
  • Credit card companies and banks generally rob their customers blind when it comes to cash advance fees; so don't do that. There is also the possibility that your willingness to pay those high fees might be interpreted as a sign of desperation by the lending institution.
  • Likewise, avoid those loan places you see in the mini-malls like the plague. Having one of those places showing up on your credit report would be 10 times more destructive than any mentions of department store credit cards could ever be.
  • An Update. Credit bureaus now report to prospective mortgage lenders as to whether an applicant pays their credit card bill(s) in full each month or only makes the minimum payment(s), etc.

About Credit Score Numbers and What Each Range Means

Depending on which credit bureau is dong the rating, credit scores range approximately from 300 to 850.

The credit score sub-ranges listed below are likewise approximations, but they will give you a good idea as to where you stand. There is a small overlap in the ranges. This has to do with the fact that some loan officers will look beyond just the number and actually read the report; but unfortunately, there are many lending institutions who don't.

Some aspects of this segment are of a "humorous" nature, but there is seriousness behind the "humor".

Credit Scores at 300 Something, or in the 400 Range, or at 500

If your credit score is at or below 500, you are basically dead in the water. If you are in this category, then as far as society is concerned, you are not worthy to live. Not only does society classify you as unworthy/poor/destitute; it will do everything in its power to keep you that way.

Want a job? Forget it. Employers don't hire people with credit scores at and under 500. As far as society is concerned, you have no right to be employed. [Update: Some states have changed their laws in order to fight this practice. In California, for example, it is now supposedly illegal for a prospective employer to use your credit score as a factor in their hiring decision.]

Want to rent an apartment? Forget it. Apartments aren't rented to people with credit scores at and under 500. As far as society is concerned, you deserve and should be homeless.

Want to buy a car, get a checking account, or get a debit or credit card? Forget it. Forget it. And forget it.

Do you think there just might be something wrong with this system? Many people will agree with you.

Credit Score Range Between 500 to 600 and up to 620 Inclusive

Attempting any kind of credit related or other business transaction when your credit score is in the 500 to low 600 range is extremely difficult. If you are able to get a credit related account or successfully initiate any other sort of business transaction, you will be subjected to the worst possible interest rates, fees, and security deposit amounts.

Credit Scores Ranging Between 600 to 700 and up to 719 or 720 Inclusive

In this range society doesn't consider you a credit risk, but entities you attempt to do business with will pretend they think you are. Negotiation is possible here. Sometimes, just say no. It might work. It might not. You have the option to walk away and try somewhere else.

Here is the classic story when someone is in the 600 to low 700 credit range and they attempt to buy a car...

You: “I love this car and think you are giving me a good deal. I'll take it.”

The Car Dealer: “With your credit rating, we will have to charge you 50% more than the usual interest rate.”

You: “Why?”

The Car Dealer: “Because we consider you a credit risk.”

You: “So you think I can handle the higher monthly payment, but that I can't handle the lower one?”

The Car Dealer: “Exactly.”

- end of story -

Although told in  a "humorous" light and different words would be used in the actual situation, the description of the results is dead on accurate. And on an even more serious note, one should never get an auto loan from a car dealership or used car lot anyway. If/When you are in the market for your next car, this How to Get a Car Loan article will save you much grief and money.

Credit Scores at and Above 720 - And in The Land of 850

When your credit score is in the 720 to 799 range, better interest rates on loans and credit lines start becoming available to you. Getting a house or car loan at favorable rates is usually a routine matter.

And if your credit score is actually in the 800 range,you are a Living God and can do no wrong. Creditors follow you around, scattering flower petals in front of you wherever you go. Little angels hover around and protect and nurture you. Rainbows are visible at every corner.

A Bookmarks Reference List of Consumers Credit Bill of Rights Resources

Here's a list of resources as to the rights consumers are legally supposed to have when dealing with credit and credit scores. All listed websites are government or other well-known, reputable sources. All links go directly to the website's consumer credit rights page. This list is just starting out and may be added to from time to time.

Beware the 801 Area Code Phone Number Scam

Includes information about other phone scams as well. Updated through 2018.

Is 801 a toll free number? No, it is not.
Area Code 801 Scams

Everyone knows the 800 number is a toll free call (there is a list of other legitimate toll free codes further down the page).

There are media reports companies are using the 801 number in place of the 800 number in their advertising. The apparent intent being to deceive people into thinking the 801 phone number is a derivation of the 800 phone number and would therefor also be a toll free call. It is not.

The 801 number is the area code for a part of Utah. Don't know if the companies are actually putting call centers there or just having the number forward to where the company's call center really is. Either way, your next phone bill will include full long distance charges for your call to Utah.

Any company unethical enough to pull this stunt is more than likely routinely doing other unethical things as well. If you see an 801 phone number and the company isn't already known to actually be located in Utah, it would probably be advisable to avoid that 801 number and company altogether.

Update, 2013

The 801 area code phone number is also being used in text message scams.

Update, 2014

Beware emails having the 801 number listed in their message.

Update, 2015

The 801 area code phone number is also being used as a fake caller ID number for phishing and outright fraud and other scams. If receiving a call from this number, simply do not answer. If you see an 801 area code in your voice mail list, do not activate the message; simply delete it. Malware can as easily be sent to a phone as to a computer.

[This sure is a heck of a note for the folks who live in the 801 area code part of Utah. Wouldn't be surprised if the State of Utah were to eventually have the number changed to one that couldn't be mistaken as toll free. Not to mention the fact the number's reputation has been completely ruined anyway. (An update regarding the affected areas of Utah... The 801 area code area now has an overlay area code of 385. In other words, residents can choose which area code to be associated with.)]

Updates, 2016

The scams continue. In fact, they are getting worse. And not just the scams involving the 801 number. There are media reports all other phone scams are being ramped up as well.

There Are Six Legitimate 800 Number Toll Free Codes

According to the FTC, the current toll free codes are:
  • 800
  • 888
  • 877
  • 866
  • 855
  • 844

Updates, 2017

I've noticed I haven't always been notified when comments have been made and need to be moderated for publication. So if your comment doesn't show up right away, that is the reason. Going forward, I will regularly check the unmoderated comments section whether notified or not.

Please do keep posting suspicious 801 numbers. The search engines eventually index those numbers and will continue to point future potential victims here to be warned.

Three Worthy Resources to Read and Share at Your Leisure


Update, 2017, October

Do you get phone calls that when you answer, it just disconnects? It is highly unlikely you are being stalked. It is just a robocall machine ascertaining at what days and times you usually answer calls. It then duly reports that information to the telephone solicitor boiler room. The telephone solicitors then know on what days and times to call.

Well, actually you are being stalked; but it's just by telephone solicitors.

Update, 2017, December

New scam. Got a robocall informing me my IP connection had been compromised and would be disconnected withing the next 24-48 hours. It then asked me to press "1" for help. I immediately hung up.

How did I know it was a scam? Simple, they did not identify themselves. Whether automated call or real human, a legitimate caller would have first identified themselves, e.g., "This is XYZ support", etc. Also, I highly doubt such a call that was legitimate would be a robocall. It would be a human who would first identify themselves and ISP  and would then ask for me by name. What a farce; it just never stops. In fact, it just keeps getting worse.

Be careful out there.

Updates for 2018

#1 An addition to the October 2017 update. Never call back an unknown number out of curiosity that called you and then hung up. Not just the 801 area code, but any area code. Turns out that the 900 number isn't the only premium code number where you are billed major fees for calling. There are other numbers that look like area codes that will do the same thing to you.

#2 Got the well-know, phony IRS robocall claiming to be from IRS collections or whatever. Instead of hanging up, I set the phone down so as to tie up their line as long as possible. Probably caused at least three fewer people from getting that call today. Depending on my mood, I do that with most of my landline robocalls.

#3 This is off topic, but still the perfect place to include it. From facebook.com/websitewithnoname:

[Quote]
Census Bureau - April 5, 2018 #CensusBureau
Someone is at your door and claiming to be from the census bureau. Legit or scam? Turns out it is probably legit. Here's how to tell:
- They will be wearing an identification badge.
- They will be able to provide you a verification phone number.
- They will not ask you for money, credit card numbers, or your social security number.
[Unquote]

If interested, here's a census bureau podcast about it.

And since am off-topic today; here's a short, non-census-bureau At Your Door Leaflet Scam Alert you might want to quickly scan.