• Advice for Choosing the Right Credit Card

    A credit card can be an important part of your financial picture. It can help you build a history of smart financial management as you leverage the purchasing power than comes with the ability to charge purchases. However, not all credit cards are created equal, and choosing the right one for your needs is not always easy. Your credit union can offer plenty of advice when it comes to selecting the best card for your needs. These tips will also help.

    Skip the Mailbox Advertisements

    There is a good chance that you are bombarded with credit card offers in your mailbox, email inbox, and even when you’re out shopping. However, choosing a card simply because you have seen it advertised many times isn’t a good strategy. Cards that promise low introductory rates, great rates on balance transfers, and more great introductory features often have a lot of fine print that makes the deals less attractive. Pay attention to all of the details, and look especially closely at what the interest rate on the card after the introductory period has expired.

    Be Realistic About Your Spending Habits

    How you spend can have a big impact on the kind of card that is right for you. For example, if you plan to pay off the balance of your card in full each month, you can use a different set of criteria than if you plan to carry a balance. It’s important for your credit card to help manage your finances as effectively as possible.

    Know Your Credit Score Before You Apply

    Knowing where you stand with your credit can help you narrow down the selection of cards you can consider. Apply for the very best one you can get with your credit, but avoid applying blindly to multiple cards. The multiple credit queries on your account can drive down your score.

    The Visa Rewards credit card from GCS Credit Union was designed for the needs of our customers in mind. Talk to a representative at our credit union in O’Fallon today by calling (618) 797-7993.

  • Upgrading Your Car? Here’s How to Pick a Manageable Payment

    When you’re seeking an auto loan, there are many factors to consider. However, one of the things many people focus on, and for good reason, is the monthly car payment. You should never choose an auto loan based on the payment alone, but if you can’t make the monthly payment, then you risk having the car repossessed and destroying your credit. If you’re upgrading your car, here are some of the strategies you can use to make sure your monthly payment is manageable.

    Consider All of the Costs of Car Ownership

    Your monthly payment isn’t the only thing you have to pay on your car. You have insurance to consider, whether you pay it monthly, every six months, or once per year. You also have to consider gas, parking, maintenance, and repairs. In other words, you can’t be so over-leveraged on your car payment that you can’t get the oil changed or come up with a few hundred dollars when it needs a repair. Add up what these costs usually look like for you, so you can factor them in when considering your overall car budget.

    Base Your Payment on a Percentage of Your Income

    As a general rule of thumb, your car payment should not be more than 20% of your pay, and ideally, it should be below 15%. Aim for about 10% as a good figure for your monthly payment, as it allows you to set aside another 5% or 10% for repairs, maintenance, and those other ownership expenses.

    Avoid Lowering Your Payment with a Long Loan Term

    One way to get a lower monthly payment for a car you want is to agree to extend the loan term. However, the longer you pay on the loan, the more interest you will end up paying. This could cause you to pay thousands more for a car in the long run than if you had kept the loan shorter.

    Close-up view of car keys with red bow as present and calendar on wooden background on wooden background.

  • A Look at Our Payment Protection Plan

    Being able to pay your bills is on time isn’t just about being responsible. Unexpected illness, injuries, or a death can all cause late payments that are out of your control. Unfortunately, these late payments will still affect your credit score and can lead to years of credit struggles. Late payments on your auto loan or mortgage loan could even lead to repossession.

    GCS Credit Union is pleased to offer our Payment Protection plan for this purpose. If a qualifying event happens, your Payment Protection plan can kick in and minimize the effects of the unexpected on your financial wellbeing. The plan prevents late fees, protects your credit, and can even eliminate your loan balance.

    Talk to a GCS Credit Union representative today to learn how to add Payment Protection to your accounts. To speak to a representative from our credit union in O’Fallon, call (618) 797-7993.

  • Saving Money on Your Food Budget

    If you are tired of seeing grocery stores draining money from your checking account but you don’t want to cut back on buying healthy items, which often cost more, you may be excited to learn that there is a middle ground. This video shows you how to save money on your food budget.

    You don’t have to clip coupons to cut costs, though that could help. The best way to save money on food is to plan your meals, make a list, and invest the time in finding the best prices for the food you need.

    GCS Credit Union gives you all the tools you need to stay on top of your finances, from checking accounts and our Visa Rewards credit card to online banking in O’Fallon. For more information, please call us at (618) 797-7993.

  • Staying in Control of Holiday Spending

    Even if you carefully manage your money all year, the holidays can take a significant bite out of your financial standing. Many people drain their checking accounts and run up their credit cards trying to cover the costs of gifts, decorations, and entertainment. With a little planning, however, the holidays don’t have to spell financial doom for the new year. Here are some ways you can control your holiday spending.

    One easy to reduce the financial burden of the holidays is to spread out the costs throughout the year. Buy next year’s décor during post-holiday sales, and pick up gifts when they are on sale during the year. It can also help to save up for the holidays all year. GCS Credit Union’s Christmas Club savings account lets you put money aside during the year that will automatically mature and transfer to your checking account in October, just in time for holiday shopping.

    Learn more about our holiday savings account by calling GCS Credit Union today. Dial (618) 797-7993 to get answers to your questions about our credit union in O’Fallon.

  • FAQs About Share Certificates

    If you are looking for a way to boost the power of your savings without making a risky investment, a share certificate could be right for you. Share certificates are issued by credit unions and reach maturity after a set period of time. Typically, they can be opened with a small deposit, making them a good addition to many people’s overall savings strategy. Could a share certificate be right for your savings goals? Here are the answers to questions you may have about this credit union savings tool.

    How is a share certificate different from a CD?

    Share certificates are essentially the same thing as a CD, or certificate of deposit. When this kind of savings vehicle is issued by a credit union instead of a bank, it is called a share certificate instead of a CD, but it functions in the same way. Share certificates are as safe as CDs, as they are protected by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund. The difference is that share certificates often earn higher interest than CDs, since credit unions are nonprofit institutions.

    What are the benefits of share certificates?

    Share certificates offer a way to earn higher interest on your savings than you would in a standard savings account. They are an alternative to risky investments and allow you to start saving with a relatively small opening deposit. Share certificates have fixed interest rates that increase incrementally, so you know exactly how much interest you can earn and how long it will take.

    What if I have to remove my money from a share certificate early?

    Share certificates are intended to be long-term savings tools, but sometimes, it is necessary to withdraw the money early. If you do, there may be a penalty, and you will miss out on some of the interest. The specifics of the penalties depend on the share certificate you choose.

    If you have questions about share certificates or other savings tools, call GCS Credit Union today. You can speak to a member of our credit union team in O’Fallon about how we can help you reach your financial goals by calling (618) 797-7993.

  • Is Your Christmas Club Account Overdue for a Deposit?

    GCS Credit Union’s Christmas Club account is the perfect way to avoid stress and debt during the holiday season. With this savings account, you can save up money a little at a time throughout the year and watch it grow with interest, so that when it is time to start spending, you’re ahead of the game. If you haven’t made a deposit into your credit union Christmas Club account recently, here are some of the benefits you could be missing out on.

    There is no minimum balance or service fee on the account, and it earns a competitive rate throughout the year. Funds mature on October 15 each year, when they are automatically transferred to your checking account. There are no penalties for early withdrawal, and you can set up a direct deposit into your account for easy savings.

    To learn more about all of our credit union accounts, call GCS Credit Union today. Get more information about online banking, auto loans, and more by dialing (618) 797-7993.

  • Saving Money as a Teen

    Learning to save money as a teen is a skill that will help throughout life, but learning the best ways of saving can be challenging. This video offers suggestions for teens who need strategies for building up the balances in their credit union accounts.

    Thinking before you spend is a critical part of saving money. For example, consider how long you had to work for the money you will need to spend on something. This will help you better evaluate your decisions, so you don’t spend needlessly when you could be saving.

    GCS Credit Union makes it easy for teens to learn how to manage money with our Student Success Account Package that combines savings and checking accounts. Contract our credit union in O’Fallon today at (618) 797-7993 to learn how to open one of our teen-friendly accounts.

  • How Do Late Payments Affect Your Credit?

    If the inner workings of your credit score are a mystery to you, you’re not alone. Most people simply aren’t sure how their credit scores are calculated. The formula is surprisingly complex and difficult to understand for something that is such a vital part of your financial wellbeing. If you’re a credit union member, the team there can answer many of the questions you have about your credit score, but one query comes up frequently: How do late payments harm your credit score? There is no easy answer, but there are some general facts that will help you better determine just how much a late payment will harm your score.

    When is a payment considered to be late?

    The good news is that if you remember you forgot to pay a bill a few days after the due date, your credit is unlikely to be impacted at all. Creditors can begin reporting late payments to credit bureaus when the payment is 30 days late. Creditors will report a payment and specify how late it is. For example, a creditor may decide to report your account to a credit bureau when it is 60 days late, and specify it as such. Late payments can be reported multiple times as the debt gets older, up to 150 days late, at which point it may be reported as charged off.

    How much can a late payment impact a score?

    There is no set rule for how much a late payment will impact your score. How late your payment is, how often you have paid late, and how long it has been since the late payment was reported will factor into how it influences your score. Generally, the higher your credit score is, the more a late payment will affect it. In some cases, a single late payment could reduce your score by 110 points, if your credit score is high. If your score is lower, the impact may be 80 points or less.

    Managing your credit score is hard, but at GCS Credit Union, our team is here to support you as make smart decisions to on the path toward your financial goals. Talk to a credit union representative in O’Fallon today by calling (618) 797-7993 for more information.

  • Financial Management for College Freshmen

    College freshmen face a whole new world when they go off to school, and that often includes being in charge of managing their own finances for the first time. For families, it’s important to make a plan for how freshmen will manage their money at school, from whose names will be on the checking account to how much spending money students will have. This advice will help families get through freshmen year without financial hiccups.

    Know What Is Coming In and Going Out

    Start by tallying up how much money is going to be coming in each semester and how much as to go out. After tuition is paid, how much will be left over from grants and loans? Will the student have a job, and if so, how much is he or she likely to earn? Next, add up fixed expenses, like cellphone bills, and estimates for things like entertainment and grocery shopping. This will give you a good idea of where you stand, and how much wiggle room there is in the budget.

    Be Ready to Be Flexible

    It’s difficult to anticipate exactly what expenses will be at college, so be ready to be flexible with the budget. It’s also very common for freshmen to make some financial missteps. These are great opportunities for leaning, so if a checking account gets overdrawn or a bill gets overlooked, use it as a lesson.

    Break Up Money into Small Chunks

    For parents of freshmen, it’s better to dole out a small amount of money each week or month than give kids a set amount for the semester in one lump. For freshmen, learning to budget this small amount of money and making it stretch is a good way to develop the skills necessary for managing larger amounts.

    At GCS Credit Union, we have a number of different savings and checking accounts designed for young credit union members to help them learn financial responsibility. Talk to one of our representatives about how our credit union in O’Fallon can help your freshman by calling (618) 797-7993.