I need to write a check. How do I do it?
If you need to write a check, here’s how to do it:

  1. Date the check.
  2. Write the name of the person or firm that the check will be payable to.
  3. Enter the amount of the check (in figures) opposite the dollar sign.
  4. Write the amount of the check (in words) under the PAY TO THE ORDER OF line. Start at the left margin.
  5. Sign your name on the bottom line exactly as it appears on the bank signature card.
  6. Use the memo line to record what the payment is for if needed.

How do I balance my checking account?
To get started, use the Balance Your Account form.

Why do I need a government issued ID?
Banks are required to review an unexpired government-issued form of identification from most customers. This identification must provide evidence of your nationality or residence and bear a photograph or similar safeguard, examples include a driver’s license or passport. Before opening an account, at a minimum, the bank is required to obtain the following identifying information:

  1. Name
  2. Date of birth, for individuals
  3. Address
  4. Identification number

An identification number for a U.S. person is a taxpayer identification number (TIN) (or evidence of an application for one), and an identification number for a non-U.S. person is one or more of the following: a TIN; a passport number and country of issuance; an alien identification card number; or a number and country of issuance of any other unexpired government-issued document evidencing nationality or residence and bearing a photograph or similar safeguard.

Why is my ATM balance different than my actual balance?
It may not reflect deposits or checks that may not have cleared. To see an accurate balance, be sure to keep a check register, go to the branch or visit online banking.

Can I open a credit card?
You must be 21 years old and have an income to open a credit card. This is based on the new Credit Card Act.

My friend was recently the victim of identity theft. Now she is faced with the overwhelming task of cleaning up her damaged credit. How can I prevent the same from happening to me?
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that the average victim of identity theft is unaware of the problem for 12 months. A lot of damage can be done in 12 months, costing a substantial amount of time and money to reconcile. The following tips will help reduce your risk of identity theft:

Protect your Social Security Number (SSN): When applying for a loan, credit card or anything requiring a credit report, request that your SSN on the application be truncated or destroyed and that your report be returned to you once a decision has been made. Be cautious about giving out your SSN, as it is the key to your credit report and other financial or personal information. If your school uses your SSN as your student ID number, request a different number.

Monitor your Credit Report: Periodically review your credit report to ensure accuracy of information and address discrepancies immediately. Make sure to monitor your credit report with all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) to ensure no one applies for credit using your name. The official site for free reports is www.Annualcreditreport.com.

Credit Card & Personal Information Precautions: Don’t carry extra credit cards or other ID documents unless needed. Once that purse or wallet gets lifted, you’ll be in a world of hurt – if you carry it all with you. Make copies of your credit card account numbers, expiration dates and phone numbers and keep them in a secure place. Examine all charges on your statements before making a payment. Shred all credit card offers, receipts and statements at home. Never toss without masking private info. Never give out personal information over the phone unless you have initiated the call and can verify the business is legitimate and trustworthy. Cancel unused credit card accounts. Pronto. Source: BrassMagazine.com

What does the “variable interest rate” on my credit card bill mean? Why can they raise my interest rate?
Credit cards have an annual percentage rate (APR), which can be fixed or variable. Know the difference. Variable rate: Allows the lender to change your APR based on external influences such as the Prime Rate (the rate banks give to their best members). Variable rates can change without prior notification. Fixed rate: This is deceptive because the rate actually can change. Missing a payment or going over your credit limit could give your issuer license to raise your rate. You must get at least a 15-day notice before your rate changes. Teaser rate: The initial interest rate lenders advertise to entice you to sign up. Special promotions that offer “0% APR” are for a limited time – after that, the rate will likely increase. Get irate: If your bill doesn’t look correct, check your credit agreement. Then contact your issuer. Try consumerreports.org for more help or contact the Comptroller of the Currency to investigate unjust interest rate raises at 1.800.613.6743.Source: BrassMagazine.com

I’m graduating from college in June and have been hearing a lot about loan consolidation. What is student loan consolidation and how does it work? Do you recommend this method of repayment for student loans?
Essentially, you can consolidate multiple federal student loans with variable interest rates into one fixed-rate loan and extend your repayment period from 10 years up to 30 years, depending on where you go. The interest rate for your consolidated loan is based on a weighted average of the underlying loans, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth percentage point or 8.25%, whichever is less. The determined interest rate is locked in for the life of the loan.

Consolidation is not the best option for everyone, so do some research before making a decision. Not all institutions offer student loan consolidation. Talk to various lenders, starting with your local bank. If they do not offer student loan consolidation, search online for lenders and be assured that once you graduate they will find you. Always make sure that you clearly understand the terms of the loan.

The federal government allows a six-month grace period from the day you graduate before loan payments must begin. If you choose to consolidate during this time, your grace period will be waived and you will have to start making payments immediately. However, some of the lowest rates are offered during this grace period. Once you consolidate, the interest rate is locked in for the life of the loan. Consolidate federal and private loans separately. Unlike private loans, interest on federal loans may be tax deductible, and you might be able to defer payments if you go back to school. Source: BrassMagazine.com

What should I do if my wallet gets stolen?
Taking these steps should minimize your chances of losing more than just cash if someone picks your pocket.

  • This may seem like overkill, but make an itemized list of everything that you carry in your wallet – credit cards, licenses, etc. Keep copies of important account numbers and customer service phone numbers in a safe place for easy reference.
  • File a police report, including the list of items in your wallet. Request a copy of the report for your records.
  • Contact the three major credit reporting companies (Experian 800.397.3742, TransUnion 800.680.7289 and Equifax 888.766.0008) and have a fraud alert put on your credit report.
  • Contact your bank and change the account numbers on any compromised accounts and change your PINs.
  • Keep an eagle eye on your accounts for three months to look for any fraudulent charges or unauthorized activity. For more information on identity theft, check out idtheftcenter.org or ftc.gov.