Security Update:  BankNewport will never email or call you to verify or update sensitive information such as account numbers, PIN numbers, user ID, passwords, security questions, or social security numbers.

Improving your credit score is a wise use of your time and resources. Good credit makes it easier to qualify for low-interest loans, credit cards, and other financial products. Even if you don’t plan to apply for credit right away, having a high credit score may save you money in the future.

Below we’re sharing five proven suggestions to help you improve your credit score as quickly as possible.

1. Be strategic when paying off your card balances and be mindful of credit utilization.

Your credit usage is the percentage of your credit limits that you are using at any one time. A reasonable rule of thumb is to use no more than 30% of your credit limit on any card, with lower being ideal. Less than 7% is used by the highest achievers. When the card issuer reports your balance to the credit bureaus, you want to make sure it’s low, because that’s what’s used to calculate your credit score. Paying down the balance before the billing cycle wraps up, or paying numerous times throughout the month, is an easy approach to keep your balance low.

2. Always pay your bills on time.

Your payment history has a significant impact on both your FICO and VantageScore, which are the two major types of credit scores that typically quantify how creditworthy an individual is. To a lender, a track record of on-time payments is a strong indicator that you’ll handle future loans responsibly as well. You’ll want to prevent payments made late, account defaulting, collateral repossessions, home or property foreclosures, and dreaded third-party collections. Anything that suggests that you haven’t acted to pay a liability may affect your credit score.

3. Leave your older accounts open, rather than closing them out immediately.

When you finally pay off your student loans or car loan, you may be eager to have any traces of it removed from your credit report. However, if you paid on time and in full, those debt records may actually enhance your credit score. It’s the same with your credit card accounts. An account that has been paid in full is a good thing; nevertheless, canceling an account in the hopes of improving one’s credit score is not something that customers should do automatically. Lenders and creditors search for accounts with a long history and a reliable track record of paying bills on time, every time.

4. Only apply for credit you plan to use.

A hard inquiry is made on your credit report every time you apply for a new line of credit. This type of question briefly decreases your score. It is not wise to apply only to see whether you are approved or because you have gotten a pre-approved offer for a card. The decline will be minor if it’s just a single hard credit pull. A series of hard inquiries, on the other hand, may indicate to lenders that you are taking on too much debt. A hard credit pull might have a 12-month impact on your credit score.

5. Regularly monitor your credit accounts.

When you check your own credit, a soft inquiry is made, which does not have the same impact as a hard inquiry. Monitoring the changes in your credit score every few months will help you figure out how well you’re managing your credit and whether you need to make any adjustments. However, your credit score should not be the main factor in every financial decision you make.

How to Check Your Credit Reports

If you’re a BankNewport customer, checking your credit score is easy, and free! You can access your credit score at any time through our digital banking tools and receive personalized tips to boost your score and save you money.

Another option is to use Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax, who all provide you with one free report per year.

Examine your credit report for any inaccuracies that could be lowering your score. If you discover errors on your credit report, you can have them deleted by disputing the information directly with the credit bureau. They have a legal obligation to investigate every matter and settle it in a timely manner. However, keep in mind that only inaccurate data can be removed from your report.

You can seek professional assistance if you’re unsure whether your report contains errors or if you’re having trouble resolving concerns on your own. Credit repair agencies can not only help you locate and remove incorrect information on your credit report, but they may also assist you lessen the impact of true negative items.

Unfortunately, as technology evolves, so do internet scams! Online security has become even more essential these days, as hackers have become quite crafty, and scams have become more elaborate. Luckily, there are some simple steps that everyone can follow to safeguard personal information and protect yourself from potential online threats. Here are our top tips to protect your privacy online.

1. Limit what you share on social media

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: don’t overshare on social media! Providing too much information on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, such as family members’ full names, maiden names and birthdays for example, could make it easier for cybercriminals to obtain identifying information, allowing them to guess your passwords, steal your identity or access your financial information. And remember, you can always choose to make your social media accounts private to only friends and family for an added layer of security.

2. Browse in private mode

If you don’t want your computer to save your browsing history, temporary internet files, or cookies, then consider switching to private mode.

Each web browser offers their own version of private browsing. In Chrome, it’s called Incognito Mode. Firefox calls it Private Browsing, and Internet Explorer uses the name InPrivate Browsing for its privacy feature. When you search with these modes turned on, others won’t be able to trace your browsing history from your computer. This isn’t a be-all, end-all however, as Internet Service Provider (ISP) can still see your browsing activity, but it’s a good start.

3. Be careful where you click

One of the main ways hackers compromise your online privacy is through phishing attempts. In phishing, scammers try to trick you into providing valuable financial or personal information. They’ll often do this by sending fake emails that appear to be from banks, credit card providers, or other financial institutions. These emails may instruct you to click on a link and verify your financial information to keep your account from being frozen or closed.

Don’t fall for these scams. If you click on a phishing link, you could be taken to a spoofed webpage that looks like the homepage of a bank or financial institution. But when you enter in your account information, you’ll be sending it to the scammers behind the phishing attempt.

Before clicking on suspicious links, hover your cursor over the link to view the destination URL. If it doesn’t match your financial institution’s website, don’t click!

4. Don’t forget your mobile devices

Many of us spend more time surfing the web, answering emails, and watching videos on our smartphones than we do on our laptops, so we can’t forget to ensure our online privacy here too.

Using a passcode and facial recognition to lock your phone is a good start. This is particularly important if your phone is lost or stolen. And remember, when it comes to passwords, don’t use your birthday, anniversary, address, or any other code that thieves might be able to easily guess.

Apps are another cause for concern when it comes to mobile devices. Although they are meant for fun and ease of use, they could contain dangerous viruses. Only buy apps from legitimate sources and pay attention to the reviews.

One last reminder for mobile safety – don’t ignore those software updates! These updates often include important protections against the latest viruses, so make sure to update as needed.

5. Use quality antivirus software

Finally, always install antivirus software on all your devices. This software can keep hackers from remotely taking over your computer, accessing your personal and financial information, and tracking your location.

Manufacturers frequently update their virus protection software as a defense against the latest malware, spyware, and other viruses. Install updates as soon as they become available or set up automatic updates on all your devices.

To learn more about internet security, including current scams and alerts and more tips for prevention and reporting, visit our security hub here: https://www.banknewport.com/security/.

Source: National Cyber Security Alliance

Paying for college these days is no easy feat, especially if you have multiple children! Thankfully there is help available, such as grants, scholarships, savings, and federal student loans. If these don’t cover the full cost of college, another option to cover the gap is with private student loans. But what are they? And how do they work?

We’ve partnered with College Ave Student Loans to help you understand key facts about how private student loans work.

5 Facts About How Private Student Loans Work

  1. They provide gap funding for college. Before taking out private student loans, you should look into federal student loans in the student’s name first. They have a low fixed interest rate, but they also have a limit of how much money you can take out each year. If you’ve maxed out what you’re able to borrow in federal student loans, private student loans work for you by covering that financing gap.
  2. Private student loans usually require a cosigner for undergraduates. Private student loans are issued by private banks or financial institutions. and require a credit and income check to determine the borrower’s ability to pay back the loan. College students often have not established much of a credit history, so they need an eligible cosigner such as a parent or guardian to cosign on the loan for them.
  3. Interest rate is determined by the lender and your credit qualifications. Each private student loan provider sets their own interest rates. Private student loan interest rates are determined by each applicant’s creditworthiness and their ability to pay back debt. Applicants are also typically able to choose between fixed vs. variable interest rates.
  4. Repayment plans vary. Federal student loans have repayment plans set by the government and the standard repayment plan is to pay back those loans within 10 years of graduating. Private student loans may offer a variety of flexible repayment plans depending on the lender. College Ave, for example, has repayment plans ranging from 5 years to 15 years and whether to make payments while the student is in school or wait until after graduation.
  5. Loan forgiveness programs don’t exist. Private student loans don’t have forgiveness programs that help you eliminate your student debt after working for a certain time frame. Federal student loans do have some forgiveness programs, but you have to work in the public sector for several years before becoming eligible for those programs.

Choosing a Private Student Loan

Before securing a private student loan to help pay for college, here are a few tips:

After you complete the above, your loan provider will make sure your loan is certified by your school before sending the funds to the school. Then you’re all set and ready to start classes!

To learn more about student loans, visit: https://www.banknewport.com/personal-banking/borrow/student-loans/. Ready to apply? Visit College Ave today!

If you are putting your house on the market, you want to make sure it looks its absolute best to attract the highest sale value in the least amount of time. Proper home staging can help you achieve this.

serving tray stand with empty glasses and plant in staging model

Macro closeup of serving tray stand with empty glasses and plant in staging model house or apartment by brown leather couch

But don’t take our word for it! A report by the National Association of Realtors found that home staging increases a property’s value by up to 39% and reduces the time the property stays in the real estate market.

Staged homes make the property more appealing to interested buyers. It allows them to picture themselves in the living space. If you do it right, you will be able to sell your home quickly and especially in today’s market, you may likely receive offers higher than the asking price.

So, how do you stage your home to impress potential buyers? Below, are our top home staging tips that can make a huge impact.

  1. Stage The Rooms That Count

For successful home staging, you need to direct more of your efforts toward the rooms with the highest potential to impress buyers and influence their decision. The rooms that hold the most impact include the master bedroom, living room, and kitchen. Spend less time staging rooms that won’t make much difference, like the guest rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, and kid’s rooms.

  1. De-personalize the Space

Home staging allows buyers to visualize themselves as the owners of the property. The best way to achieve this is to empty the place of any personal touches that say the home is yours. Create a blank canvas by removing family photos, framed photos on the wall, and stickers on the fridge. Tuck away your family clothes and remove personal items from the bathroom. Also, it’s wise to remove objects that might lean towards a certain belief.

  1. De-clutter

Clutter distracts buyers from the outstanding features in your home. Also, it consumes space, making your home look small. It’s best to put away things you don’t use daily, such as games, toys, and papers. It’s also a great time to get rid of items that you might not need anymore, like old decor, expired foods, clothes your family has outgrown, and so on. The more you de-clutter, the bigger your house will look.

  1. Focus on Fresh

Make your home inviting and fresh by bringing in a few potted plants and a few pleasant scents. Start by eliminating odors, especially if you have kids or pets around. Other things that can introduce bad smells into your house include last night’s dinner and a damp kitchen or bathroom towel. Then crack a window, light a scented candle and voila!

  1. Clean, Clean, Clean

A clean home gives the impression of being cared for. Remember, no one wants to buy a neglected home because it will need a lot of maintenance. Make sure every inch of your house sparkles. Get rid of cobwebs, pet fur, dust in corners, and dirt from the desk, bookshelf, and other places.

  1. Rework Room Layouts

When it comes to home staging, it may make sense to rework your rooms layout. That’s especially true if some of your rooms serve two purposes. For example, an open-plan living room that also acts as a kitchen area.

Your preferred layout might not be so appealing to some buyers. Therefore, adopt an open layout that makes it easy to visualize a space being occupied and enjoyed by family members or friends.

  1. Refresh Rooms with Light Reflecting Colors

A fresh coat of paint can do wonders to your house. Besides brightening your rooms, your house will appear bigger and give the impression of being well-maintained. While you might love the bright or dark colors, it’s best to stick to neutral colors like light grays, beiges, and whites.

  1. Give Rooms a Purpose

Give each room in your house a purpose to help buyers see how they can maximize every space available to the fullest. Define each room clearly. Avoid saying that you use a spare room in your house as a gym, home office, or guest room altogether. Let a home office remain an office, a bedroom as a bedroom, and so on. Buyers want to see that every room has a purpose. If you have a basement, convert it into an entertainment room or an attic into a guest room.

  1. Move Furniture

If your living room is cluttered with furniture, consider removing a few of them. Furniture tends to take up too much space, making your house appear smaller. The goal of home staging is to make your house look bigger and more attractive. If you keep a few pieces of furniture, clean them up and fluff those pillow so they look their best. Alternatively, you can rent a few pieces to make your home more inviting.

  1. Dont Forget Your Front Yard

Don’t underestimate your front yard’s ability to influence a buyer’s decision. They call it “curb appeal” for a reason after all! Remove weeds and debris in your gardens, mow the lawn and sweep the walkway and front porch area. Paint the door and mailbox and add some flowers or a wreath to make things as inviting as possible.

Home staging is the best way to give your home added appeal. It also offers an opportunity to add value to your property. Most tasks involved in home staging can be tackled yourself, but you could also consider a professional home stager to make the process smoother and increase its success rate.