Sep 29, 2011

Deflecting Debt: Credit DOs and DON’Ts

When you need to make a purchase, do you automatically reach for your credit card? If so, you seem to be in good company.

According to credit card research firm, Americans added $18.4 billion to their debt load in the second quarter of 2011. That’s a 66% increase from the debt accumulated during the same time period last year and 368% more than was added in 2009.

But there is some encouraging news. As a recent CNN Money article points out, “the total amount of credit card debt consumers have accumulated is still significantly lower than in previous years. Total outstanding credit card debt as of July was $792 billion, down 18% from the September 2008 peak of $972 billion, according to data from the Federal Reserve.”

To avoid adding your debt to those massive national totals, take note of these credit tips:

DO know the power of credit. You’ll need to build a good credit history to be approved for loans, secure housing and make a large purchase, like a car or house.

DO read the fine print on the credit application. Interest rates, credit limits, grace periods, annual fees, terms and conditions will be different with each card.

DO pay at least the minimum payment, but feel free to add more to pay off your balance quicker! If you’re having trouble making the minimum payment, contact your creditor to assess your options.

DO order a copy of your credit report annually. You have the right to know what is in it. Click here to get a free copy of your credit report.

DON’T feel pressure to get a credit card. You can even opt out of receiving prescreened offers by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT or visiting

DON'T pay your bills late.  Late payments can affect your credit rating and increase your balance.

DON'T spend more than you can afford.  Credit is a loan and has to be repaid. Avoid reaching your credit limit or "maxing out" your cards.

DON'T ignore the warning signs of credit trouble.  Do you pay only the minimum balance, pay late, use cash-advances to fund daily living expenses or transfer a lot of balances? You might be in the "credit danger zone." Contact your local Bank of Luxemburg to get recommendations on area financial counseling organizations.

DON'T share your credit card number. Never give out personal information if you didn’t initiate the transaction. Be aware of identity theft and phishing scams that ask for credit card numbers. You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if you think your identity has been compromised.

Which credit card tip works best for you? Tell us in the comments or leave a tip of your own!

Source: American Bankers Association 

Sep 26, 2011

September is Financial Report Card Month

The kids are back in the classroom, and it won’t be long before they’re coming home with their first report cards of the new school year.

Before you look at their grades in English, Math and Science, Bank of Luxemburg wants you to “make the grade” when it comes to your finances.

We’ve coined September Financial Report Card Month. Here are three ways to get an A+ this year:

  1. Order a Free Credit Report: Seeing your credit score gives you a look at your financial standing with creditors and other decision-makers. Examining your credit report can also be a wake-up call if it becomes clear you need to make some changes. Visiting is a good way to get started.
  2. Review Your Family Budget: Are the kids joining some new after-school activities? Are your relatives descending on your house for the holidays this year? No matter what your family is planning, make sure you account for those related expenses in your budget. It’s also a good idea to save some money for unexpected costs that inevitably pop up throughout the year.
  3. Review Stocks and Insurance: Take a look at your investment portfolio and insurance needs regularly. Do you need to make some adjustments to your 401(k) plan? At the same time, remember that investment portfolios are meant for the long run; ups and downs are common in the stock market. Also, make sure the insurance you have is still appropriate for your family’s changing needs. 

Financial Report Card Month is designed to help you make an honest assessment of your finances. If you think you could use some “tutoring” to improve your financial grade, please contact or visit your local Bank of Luxemburg.

Extra Credit:
Chief Operating Officer Rebecca Edler has a video study guide for you (feel free to take notes!):

Sep 9, 2011

5 Tips to Stay Safe at the ATM

ATMs are certainly easy and convenient to use – many people visit them for nearly all of their banking needs! But Bank of Luxemburg wants you to remember some tips to make sure you’re safe when using the ATM:
  1. Be aware of your surroundings, especially at night. Keep an eye out for any suspicious people or vehicles.
  2. Have your card ready as you approach the ATM. This way, you won’t spend time fumbling through your wallet , which could allow someone to come up to you unnoticed.
  3. Use your body to “shield” the keyboard as you enter your PIN. No one else should be able to figure out your code.
  4. Take any receipts with you to verify your transactions, and also to ensure your account details won’t fall into the wrong hands.
  5. Don’t count or show the cash you’ve just received. It’s safer if other people don’t know how much cash you’re carrying.
It’s particularly important to keep your personal safety in mind when you stop by an ATM at night. Look for a well-lit area and park close to the machine. If you don’t feel comfortable with the lighting, or if there are lots of trees and shrubs around, you may want to keep moving and stop at another available ATM.

 Chief Operating Officer Rebecca Edler discusses ATM safety in this video:

Looking for an ATM that’s convenient for you? Visit our Bank of Luxemburg locations page or check out this ATM Finder from the Community Bankers of Wisconsin.