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free-checking

Paying Checking Account Fees?

Are you paying fees for a checking account?

If your financial institution is charging you fees for a checking account, you’re not alone. Free checking accounts used to be easy to find just a few years ago; every bank and credit union offered them, and those that didn’t, lost their competitive edge. Nowadays, most either do not offer free checking or require you to meet multiple stringent qualifications to open a free checking. Economic conditions, combined with financial industry regulations, have caused this trend; especially among the big banks.

You will find there are still many credit unions that offer free checking, including American United. Don’t let the big banks, e.g., Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo, Chase, and Capital One, lead you to believe that free checking is a thing of the past. You can still have free access to your money through your local credit union.

Click Here to find a checking account option that is best for your individual needs, or the needs of your family.

FICO

What is a FICO Score?

Your FICO Score.

Your FICO score is one of the most important numbers of your life. It is a key factor in determining the interest rate on your next mortgage, auto loan or credit card. It may even determine whether or not you get an apartment or a job. For these reasons, it’s important to monitor your credit score, and understand how it works. This quick Q&A will walk you through some FICO score basics.

Is there a difference between a FICO score and a credit score?
No, they are the same. The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) issues credit scores based on a predetermined range. You will be assigned a number between 300 (worst) and 850 (best).

How is my FICO score calculated?
Fair Isaac takes a number of factors into consideration to calculate your credit score. These include your payment history, how long you have had lines of credit open, and your payment timeliness.

Here is a quick breakdown of what is factored in, by percentage:
•35%: Your payment history: all timely, tardy and missed payments. Recent history has the greatest impact.
•30%: How much you owe versus your overall credit limit (often called the debt utilization ratio). Debt hurts your score, but installment loans that create a regular (and timely) payment record can help your score.
•15%: The age of your accounts. Old accounts are trustworthy. New accounts are met with some suspicion.
•10%: New credit: inquiries into your account, new accounts, any effort put into turning around bad credit around. Too many new inquiries look bad.
•10%: Types of credit: credit card debt, student loan debt, etc. The best way to raise this part of the score is to diversify your credit sources.

How can I find out my credit score?
You are entitled to one free credit report each year from any (or all) of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You are entitled to another one if you are denied credit.

AnnualCreditReport.com is the only government-endorsed website for obtaining your credit report. Getting your actual credit score may cost a bit of money. Check out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s article here for more details.

What do the score ranges mean?
Here’s a quick breakdown of each score range and its significance.
Bad Credit: 300-579
Poor Credit: 580-629
If you have bad credit or poor credit, you will probably know it. You will have missed a lot of payments, declared bankruptcy, or perhaps you’re just new to the world of credit. You may have a hard time getting a card, or you’ll have to pay the highest interest fees if you do. If this is you, it is time to rebuild your credit by getting a secured card, or taking out a small loan, and establishing some sort of solid payment history.

Fair Credit: 630-689
If this is you, you will qualify for a number of cards, but you may not get the lowest interest rate or the best rewards. To keep raising your score, keep your debt utilization low. Borrow conservatively and make regular payments. Don’t close old accounts unless you are paying too many fees. Older accounts count more toward your score than younger ones.

Good Credit: 690-749
Excellent Credit: 750-850
With a good credit score, you will qualify for most credit cards. With excellent credit, you will get the lowest interest rates, the highest credit limits and the best rewards. Take full advantage of your benefits and keep making your payments on time to stay on top.

Above all else, be smart! Make your payments on time, and stay under your limit. It’s also good to avoid financial products with crazy-high interest rates, like cash advances. If you have bad credit and need to start from scratch, get a secured credit card and use it responsibly.

Courtesy of NerdWallet.com, an unbiased personal finance website dedicated to promoting financial literacy.