What’s Behind Credit Union Rate Decisions

Hopewell Federal Credit Union exists to serve member-owners like you. That’s why our rates and fees tend to be better than those at for-profit financial institutions. One recent study showed that the average credit union member household saves over $154 a year by using credit unions rather than commercial banks.

We take many things into account when setting rates and fees.

First, the credit union must earn enough money to pay its employees, utility bills, rent, data processing, and other expenses. Then, the credit union must build and maintain a financial cushion.

Of course, any business has to keep an eye on the competition. At minimum, Hopewell Federal Credit Union tries to offer rates that are attractive relative to local competitors.

When pricing products and services, we also must gauge how decisions will influence the credit union’s risk profile. And, economic conditions heavily influence rates on loans and savings accounts.

Hopewell Federal Credit Union’s pricing decisions can be complicated. In the end, the credit union difference–member-ownership with a democratically elected volunteer board–helps ensure that members get a fair deal.

What’s Your Score?

Your credit score is a three-digit number that reflects how well or poorly you’ve been using credit. It matters—a lot—because it affects how much you’ll pay for credit. MSN Money columnist Liz Pulliam Weston did the math and concluded that bad credit habits can cost someone as much as $200,000 more for credit over a lifetime.

The calculation is simple: A good score pays off in lower rates for future borrowing; a poor score means you’ll pay more for the privilege of borrowing, if you can borrow at all.

So it literally pays off to keep your score bright and shiny, or to restore its luster if it’s become tarnished. You’re in charge of your money management habits.

Polish your score:

• Pay your bills on time—Use online bill payment or automated transfer to make sure you never miss a due date.

• Pay down balances on all your cards—Chip away at all of them, even if it you can’t pay one or more off entirely. The key is to show steady progress. Two schools of thought: Pay off cards with high balances first, because they cost you more, or pay off small balances first, to achieve small successes that keep you focused on your goal. The truth is, use whichever strategy you can stick with. Just always pay at least the minimum on all of your obligations.

• Pay down overdue balances first—Creditors will report late payments to credit bureaus, and that will surely ding your score. So if you are not up to date on one or more cards, catch up now.

Tarnish your score:

• Miss payments—As above, a missed payment results in a report to the credit bureau, which in turn will result in a diminished score.

• Max out your credit limits—When you charge up to the limit on one or more of your cards, you raise what’s called your utilization ratio; your credit score will punish you for this. Say you have four cards, each with a $5,000 limit or a combined credit line of $20,000. Your goal is to maintain a utilization ratio of less than about 25%. So, in this example, try not to bump up to more than $1,250 on any single card, or $5,000 on all cards combined.

If you’re concerned about your credit eligibility, talk to a Hopewell Member Services Associate at 522-8311. We can help you identify strategies that will keep your borrowing costs low for a lifetime.

Do you know where your birth certificate is?

Missing records can make it tough to obtain a passport or driver’s license, apply for Social Security or insurance benefits, or even get remarried. However, lost personal papers don’t have to be gone for good. Here’s how you can replace them:

* To replace vital records (birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates): Visit or write to the vital statistics office in the state or area where the event took place. Check the National Center for Health Statistics vital records directory online at cdc.gov/nchs/w2w.htm for state-specific addresses, costs, and record availability.

* To replace a Social Security card: Replace your card for free by filling out an application for a new card (Form SS-5, available online at ssa.gov). Then, use the Social Security Administration’s online tool at ssa.gov/ss5doc/ to find out which documents you’ll need to prove your identity and citizenship. Bring or mail your application and original documents or documents certified by the custodian of the original record to your local Social Security office. The Social Security office will return any documents submitted with your application.

* To replace military records: Military records for discharged service members are stored at the National Archives and Records Administration. Veterans and their next of kin can request free copies of their report of separation and other records in any of the following ways:

* Submit a request online at archives.gov through eVetRecs;
* Mail or fax a Standard Form SF-180, available online at archives.gov;
* Write a request letter (go to archives.gov and type “Write a Letter to Request Records” into the search box to find out what information you need to include);
* Check with your state or county veterans agency to see if copies of your records may be available there.

You can keep your personal documents safe and secure with a Hopewell Federal safe deposit box. Call 740-522-8311 or stop in today for more information.