Money Smart

The average American household owes more than $5,000 in credit card debt. In honor of Money Smart Week, Naperville News 17’s Whitney Goodbred, employed the advice of BMO Harris Bank Manager, Nicki McIntyre on being financially savvy.

McIntyre says you can start improving your finances, by making a savings plan.

“We have a program called auto-save,” said McIntyre. “It’s taking a portion out of your paycheck weekly, monthly, bi-weekly and putting that in a savings account.”

Mobile banking and smart phone apps make it easer to keep an eye on your finances. Free apps like Mint and Check put your bank accounts, bills, and investments all on one screen. And many banks, like BMO Harris Bank, have their own app to check balances, make transfers, and bank on the go.

“The mobile banking and mobile application let our clients have their banking at their fingertips,” said McIntyre. “They can check it as many times a day that they want and it also has a really nice feature where you can make deposits right from that mobile application. Our customers love it.”

You should aim for a credit score over 700 to make it easier when you want to apply for a credit card, car loan, or mortgage. Typically, the better your score, the lower your interest rate.

To improve a not so great credit score, McIntyre says: make sure to all your bills on time, have at least three credit cards, loans or mortgage payment to establish credit, and “watch to make sure what you have in available credit, that you really stay under 40% of what is available to you. In usage, that really helps credit score at well.”

Many cards come with enticing rewards. McIntyre’s advice, they are great to use for rewards, but use them smartly.

“If you do get a credit card and it has a good rewards program, use that credit card for rewards, but make sure you pay that card off monthly,” advised McIntyre. “[That’s so] you don’t into the vicious cycle of having outstanding credit and paying high interest rates on those balances.”

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