This year on October 15th, First Interstate will be participating in Get Smart About Credit. An annual event observed nationwide, bankers will visit local classrooms, youth groups, and campuses to share credit information in an effort to provide financial education to students. First Interstate bankers will reach out to communities across Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota.
Financial literacy is important for young people to gain a knowledge of how to use credit wisely. Many students begin their adult lives with significant student loan or credit card debt. Get Smart About Credit is an opportunity to educate students about responsible credit use and provide a resource to start young people on the path of financial security.
Here’s some quick and easy credit “dos and don’ts” to get students started:
- Know the power of credit. Banks look at your credit history as an indication of future financial behavior. Building good credit makes it easier to get low interest rate loans, rent an apartment, purchase a car or home, or even get a job.
- Read the application fine print. The application is essentially a contract, so read carefully before signing. Conditions may vary.
- Always pay at least the minimum amount. If you’re having trouble making payments, contact your creditor. Avoiding late fees may help keep your APR down. Sometimes creditors may be willing to work with you to create a more manageable payment plan.
- Be wary of anyone that claims they can “fix” your credit report. No one can legally remove negative accurate information from your credit history. There are no magic fixes, so the only things that can positively impact your credit report are time and punctual payments.
- Get a copy of your credit report annually. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the three major credit bureaus to provide you with a free copy of your credit report at your request each year.
- Don’t feel pressure to get a credit card. You can say no! Under the new CARD Act of 2009 consumers ages 18-21 cannot be solicited for credit.
- Don’t pay your bills late. Late payments can affect your credit rating and increase your balance. If you’re unable to make the minimum monthly payments, let your creditor know and they may be able to lower your payments.
- Don’t spend more than you can afford. This is common sense, but many people typically spend beyond their means. Avoid “maxing out” your cards.
- Don’t ignore warning signs of credit trouble. Paying only the minimum, paying late, or using cash-advances are signs of poor credit behavior. Talk to a financial counselor to regain control of your finances.
- Don’t share your card information. Never give out credit card or personal info if you have not initiated the transaction. Be aware of identity theft and phishing scams targeting credit card users.