Wait! That “Junk Mail” Could Be Your Stimulus Money!-June Entry
Every day we must sift through our mail- most of which seems to be junk these days. Between companies asking for you to sign up for their new credit card, to switching your insurance provider. But don’t be too quick to throw out that next letter!
Recently the IRS put out a statement reminding taxpayers that their stimulus checks may be arriving in the form of a prepaid debit card from “Money Network Cardholder Services”. While this may seem suspicious at first glance, it’s the real deal. The card will have the Visa logo on the front, with the issuing bank, MetaBank®, N.A. on the back. The letter included will explain that this is your Economic Impact Payment Card.
Some may ask, why the sudden change from paper checks to prepaid debit cards? While this may seem like an unusual thing for the government to do, the IRS states there are a few reasons for the abrupt change, like:
- The ability to make purchases only at any retail location
- The capability to get cash from in-network ATMs
- Transferring funds to their personal bank accounts
- Checking the card balance online, by mobile app or by phone
While the purpose is to avoid having to pay fees, there is one fee not mentioned in the list above. The cost for a replacement card $7.50 (extra for priority shipping). Therefore, we stress the importance of checking your mail before tossing it out.
Protecting Your Credit Score During A Crisis- May Entry
While taking care of your health during the current pandemic remains a top priority, it’s important to protect the health of your credit score as well. In fact, maintaining a good credit rating may be more important than ever. Here are five strategies to keep your credit score at a healthy state or increase it if it is in danger.
- Stay on Top of Your Credit Reports
Often it is recommended to review your credit reports from all three credit bureaus, but with coronavirus scams on the rise and many having an unstable income it is even more important. Every 12 months you can go to annualcreditreport.com and download a free copy of your three reports and this is a great place to get started.
- Dispute Inaccurate Credit Information
While combing through your reports, jot down any problems you see. If you find something you believe to be fraud or a mistake on your credit reports, it’s important to report it. The FCRA allows you to dispute anything you disagree with or find questionable. A credit freeze may be worth looking into as well to guard your credit from identity theft. After a dispute is submitted, the CFPB (Consumer Protection Financial Bureau) will notify you whether your claims have been deleted from your report or declared as accurate.
- Make at Least the Minimum Payment on All Credit Cards
During the best of times it is recommended to pay the full statement balance of your credit cards each month. This will save you money on interest fees in the long run. Your balance-to-limit ratio is a crucial component that makes up 30% of your FICO Score. If you find yourself unable to do this, try to at least make the minimum payments each month on your credit cards. This will help keep your score from falling.
- Revisit Your Budget
Maybe your income has taken a hit recently. If you find yourself in this situation it’s important to rework your current spending budget. Write down all financial commitments and variable spending areas you may have. Then decide what are some expenses you can eliminate or reduce, even for just a while. When in crisis you may find the money, you use to spend on wants rather than needs could be better put towards essential expenses.
- Keep the Lines of Communication Open with Your Lenders & Service Providers
Before you get to the point where you fall behind on any payments you may have, it’s encouraged to give your service provider a call. If you are finding yourself in this position, give your lender at Washington State Bank a call today.
These times are difficult for many Americans, but it’s important to remember there are things we can do to protect ourselves from falling farther in the hole in the future.
This article is a reflection from Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/advisor/2020/04/07/how-to-protect-your-credit-score-during-the-coronavirus-crisis/#685c30762214
Fighting the Virus & Fighting Scammers- April Entry
With the Coronavirus sweeping across the nation and our communities, many are being impacted in more ways than just their personal health; their financial health may also be suffering. Schools, many retail operations and factories are being shut down in the hopes the curve will be flattened and things can return to normal operation sooner rather than later. But with these layoffs comes unemployment for many. While these are most certainly uncharted waters, and we aren’t sure when the end will come, it is important to know how to best protect your finances.
Like many other financial institutions in Iowa (and the nation), Washington State Bank has been operating a little differently lately. Our lobby doors remain locked throughout the day, but our drive-thru locations are fully functioning during their normal business hours. Washington State Bank will continue to remain opened in some form throughout the pandemic. No matter your Bank’s branch availability, your money is safe and insured inside of it. As an FDIC insured bank, your deposits are protected up to at least $250,000. These deposits are backed by the U.S. government.. The FDIC has posted these and many other frequently asked questions on their website.
Unfortunately, when a new crisis hits scam artists are looking to capitalize on them. Consumer complaints to the FTC related to the Coronavirus has doubled in the last week with over 7,800. Many of these fraud complaints come from travel and vacation related calls and messages alerting people to possible refunds, mobile text scams, and government imposters. It is estimated that the average consumer has lost an average of $598 in Coronavirus related scams. So how can you avoid these scams? Here’s a few tips provided by the FTC:
- Hang up on robocalls. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch Coronavirus scams such as treatments and work-at-home schemes.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. These things are not proven to treat or prevent COVID-19.
- Fact-check any information you may come across. Things can be distorted in translation from one person to the next with well intentions of passing along information. It’s important to check the facts for what the federal, state and local government agencies are doing.
- Know who you’re buying from. Scammers are preying on people in search of high-demand products such as cleaning and medical supplies, when in fact they may not have said products to sell.
- Do not respond to texts and emails about checks from the government. Details from the CARES Act are still being worked out, so anyone who tells you that they can get you the money now is a scammer.
For more information on various scams and what the FTC is doing in response, click here.
#MortgageMonday - To Build or Buy?
With spring quickly approaching, many will be on the move this year. Are you deciding between buying or building your next home? This month’s blog title is #mortgagemonday and we are weighing in building vs. buying. Whether you're a first-time home buyer or you're looking for something that better fits your family's needs, this is a question you'll likely be facing. Whatever you decide to do, it's important to compare the pros and cons of each decision, so you can make the best decision for your needs.
3 Advantages to Building a Home
- The ability to customize -Building new gives you the freedom to start with a blank slate and create the home that features all your wants and needs without running into any structural issues that may come with an existing home.
- No need for immediate repairs or renovations- Once the build is complete, construction is done. There will be nothing that needs fixed and no walls that need torn down. You won't have to budget for renovations soon and your home will most likely come with a warranty, which should cover any repairs that may come up in the first year.
- No competition- In today's market there is a higher demand for existing homes than the number of homes available to purchase. This means homes are on the market for shorter periods of time and the buyers are likely to face competing bids. When you build a home, you eliminate that competition.
3 Advantages to Buying an Existing Home
- Less time consuming- Starting from scratch on a home can take months to complete. Buying and closing on an existing home can take far less time, and you're able to move in as soon as you've closed on the house.
- Convenience- Building a home means the need to consider every detail, including where to purchase land, the design of the home, and the fixtures and trims you want to include. When purchasing an existing home, those decisions have all been made for you which can make it a less stressful process.
- Can make upgrades over time- While an existing home may not have every feature you want, you are able to make upgrades when the time is right for you and as you are able to save for them.