Get Smart About Credit

The American Bankers Association sponsors a program called Get Smart About Credit. We take this program into several local high schools throughout the school year, hoping to educate young people about how credit affects all aspects of their life.

Since October 18 is Get Smart About Credit Day we thought it would be a good idea to provide a crash course in credit for our readers by debunking some common myths.

MYTH #1 – I don’t use credit cards so I don’t need a credit score.
Your credit score is enormously important to your financial health and impacts more than just your ability to get a credit card. In fact, your credit rating affects many aspects of your life that you may not consider. Your ability to get a job, to insure a home, to borrow money and to get a cell phone contract are impacted by your credit score. With a mediocre or poor credit score, a consumer may be able to borrow money but may only qualify for a higher interest rate than a consumer with good credit.

MYTH #2 – Credit is tied to how much money I have.
Credit has nothing to do with how much money you have in the bank. A consumer who earns $35,000 a year has the same ability to earn an excellent credit rating as someone who earns $350,000. It’s not about how much wealth you have but it is about how you manage your credit usage.

MYTH #3 – Debit cards will help my credit
A debit card is attached to your checking account. That means you are simply accessing your own funds rather than borrowing money like you would with a credit card. Using a debit card will not improve your credit score.

MYTH #4 – Closing a credit card will help my score.
Closing an unused credit card will not help your score. In fact, it could actually hurt your credit score because closing a credit card lowers your total available credit. Since credit utilization and the debt-to-credit ratio are big factors in your credit score, lowering your available credit is detrimental to your credit health. In other words, it reflects more favorably on a credit report to use $500 worth of $3,000 in available credit than to use $500 of $1,000 in available credit.

MYTH #5 – Once a credit score is bad, it cannot be rebuilt
Fortunately, credit can be rebuilt over time. A credit report is really just credit history. It keeps a record of all credit opened in a consumer’s name and whether each item is closed, active or inactive. Rebuilding credit isn’t always easy but it can be done with easy tasks like paying bills on time and playing close attention to the amount of debt carried each month.

What questions do you have about credit? Tell us in the comments!

Protect Yourself From Fraud

How savvy are you when it comes to protecting yourself from fraud? Earlier this week we discussed what we do to keep your VCNB accounts safe. Today we want to talk about what you can do to protect yourself.

Protect Your Information
Sometimes you have to provide personal information for legitimate business reasons. For example, you are required to provide personal information when you open a bank account, apply for a credit card or enroll in college. However, you should avoid giving out this personal information unless absolutely necessary. Examples of personal information that should be kept personal include:

Address and Zip Code
Phone Number
Date of Birth
Social Security Number
Card or Account Number
Card Expiration Date

There is some information that you should NEVER share with anyone else. Passwords and Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) should absolutely never be shared and should always be kept private.

Using Your Card
Be attentive and vigilant when using your card at an ATM, in a store or a restaurant. Always cover your card and PIN and watch for anything out of place including:

  • Cameras, cell phones, mirrors or other instruments that might be used to view your card or PIN.
  • Individuals who are watching you.
  • Cashiers who take your card out of sight. Take it to the register yourself when possible.
  • Devices or items used to cover the card slots of an ATM, gas pump or other card machines. These devices can be used by criminals to capture your card information.
  • Any other unusual or suspicious activity.

Online Safety
Never respond to unsolicited emails that request personal information or that ask you to verify your card or account number. Legitimate businesses do not send these types of emails. Also beware of links to websites. A website may look legitimate but may collect data or even install spyware on your computer.
Plan Ahead
Are you traveling? If traveling abroad, contact VCNB before you leave. We can provide assistance and advice to help keep you safe on your journey. If traveling domestically, you do not need to contact us but it is wise to make some purchases along the way. Headed to the beach? Use your card to book the hotel and purchase gas along the way.

Also, make sure we can always reach you if we suspect fraud. Be sure to keep your current home, cell and work phone numbers on file with us. If we suspect fraudulent activity on your account, we need to reach you as soon as possible.

As we told you yesterday, we never solicit personal information via phone, email or text message. If someone contacts you requesting account information, your social security number, PIN, passwords or other personal information, do not provide this information. The bottom line is you should trust your instincts. If it feels suspicious it probably is. If you missed yesterday’s post, be sure to check it out.

Personalize Your Debit Card

Show off your personal style with a custom debit card from VCNB! With just a few mouse clicks or swipes on your mobile device, you can have a debit card that reflects your uniqueness.

Vanity Card sampleChoose from the VCNB gallery of pictures or upload your own to create a card that truly stands out in your wallet. Many customers upload family pictures, vacation shots and even pet photos to make them smile each time they swipe their debit card.

If security is your concern, reduce the risk of fraud by adding your photo to your card. Adding your picture to the front of your debit card helps safeguard your account and keep your money safer.

Both personal and business cards can be customized for a $5 annual fee.

It takes about two weeks for your new custom card to arrive. The first time you order a custom debit card, note that your card number and expiration date will change. You will need to update any recurring payments or credits with the new account number and expiration date after activating your new card.

We do offer some tips for choosing appropriate photographs. You can read those by visiting the Custom Debit Card section of our website and by clicking “Image Requirements.” There you will find tips for successful customization and a description of image types that may not be used.

Are you ready for a stylish new custom debit card from VCNB? Click here to learn more and to get started!