Post written by Tanna Yerger, Digital Media Coordinator
October is Get Smart about Credit month as well as Halloween! Even though these two events fall in the same month, it doesn’t mean that they both have to be scary.
Credit is an important part of your financial health. To learn more about credit and to remove the fear of the scary credit monster from everyone’s closet, I spoke with Jeff Weber, Customer Service Representative, at our Billings King Avenue bank!
“Nothing stresses people out more than money. If I can help resolve that stress, that’s a good feeling.” – Jeff Weber
T: How long have you been in banking?
J: Since January of 2016
T: What is the best part of your job?
J: When I have a cranky customer and they walk out of here happy. Nothing stresses people out more than money. If I can help resolve that stress, that’s a good feeling. They’re walking out of here in a better mood than when they came in, and that’s pretty cool.
T: Do you mentor your customers when they ask for help?
J: Definitely. We have people come in with questions like “I don’t have any credit and I’m trying to get an apartment. What do I do?”
T: What do you tell them?
J: It’s tricky because you’ve got to have credit to build credit. One thing I always recommend is to apply for a credit card. You can get credit cards with no credit. You might only have a $200 limit, but if you spend $100 on gas every month, just use that credit card and pay it off*. (For people with little to no credit, the American Bankers Association (ABA) also recommends applying for a loan with a co-signer who has a good credit history.)
T: Do you get questions about credit?
J: Yes. How do I build it? How do I get my credit back up to a good score?
T: Generally, how do you answer those tricky questions?
J: I know it sounds simple, but you’ve got to pay your bills on time. That’s really what it boils down to. You’ve got to go out and check your credit report, and if you have something outstanding, get it taken care of. Credit can be tricky. I compare it to a Jenga game because it’s so easy to destroy and it takes a lot of time to get it put back together.
“I compare credit to a Jenga game because it’s so easy to destroy and it takes a lot of time to get it put back together.” – Jeff Weber
T: Where do you recommend customers go to check their credit score?
J: The ABA recommends using annualcreditreport.com.
T: Do you have a credit success story that you can share with me?
J: A relative was looking to get a mortgage. He didn’t have any credit and asked me what he should do. His mom told him that he wasn’t responsible enough for a credit card. She might not have been wrong, but she wasn’t considering the bigger picture. He ended up getting a credit card with a $500 limit and did exactly what I told him to do. He used the card for fuel. After a couple of years of this, he was able to sign off on his first mortgage at age 25.
(There is a popular belief that leaving a small balance on a credit card each month will help to increase your credit. Per Experian, this is a myth. It is important to pay off your credit card balance each month to help foster a healthy credit score.)
T: How often do you get questions on credit?
J: Probably once per month I will have someone specifically sit at my desk and ask questions about credit.
T: So, credit is on their minds but not necessarily the main reason for coming in.
J: Yes. It’s definitely something that people care about. If they have specific credit needs, I refer them to a commercial, consumer or mortgage lending specialist.
T: Any final thoughts?
J: If you are concerned about identity theft and fraud, I always recommend freezing your credit report. (In an article shared on the ABA’s website, it explains how a security freeze can protect against identity theft and the opening of fraudulent accounts.) Most people know well in advance if they’re going to have their credit pulled. They can just lift the freeze. Keep in mind that there can be a time delay thawing your credit with all reporting agencies. When I’m done doing what I need to do, I get back online and freeze it again. The only way you can freeze your credit is by going to each credit bureau page.
In an Experian article, it’s mentioned that credit thawing can take a few days if it’s done via mail. Credit thawing via their website or phone generally takes anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.
Thank you, Jeff, for offering your expertise to our readers about credit. There are so many ways to “get smart about credit” and take control of your financial future. We have 34 banks across the state, with experts who are willing to talk and assist with financial questions and concerns. Stop by and let us help you understand that credit isn’t a scary monster in your closet.
*Credit card products may charge annual fees, cash advance, and various other miscellaneous fees. Prior to accepting a credit card offer, be sure to review on all fees, APY, and other fees associated with the credit product.