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ICBA Offers Tips for Using Credit Cards Wisely

Maintaining Good Credit Critical in Current Economic Climate

Washington, D.C. (Nov. 20, 2008)—With the nation’s largest banks restricting credit card lending due to the economic downturn, the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) encourages consumers to visit community banks to discuss their credit needs. ICBA and community banks, which have avoided the financial crisis due to sound lending and business practices, want to be sure consumers understand how important it is to establish and maintain good credit, especially in the current economic environment.

“Consumers of all ages should know how to shop for a credit card and maintain good credit,” said Cynthia L. Blankenship, ICBA chairman and vice chairman and chief operating officer of Bank of the West, Grapevine, Texas. “With larger banks facing financial setbacks that have led them to impose higher fees and lower credit limits, the first step toward sound credit ratings is visiting your local community bank. Community banks offer credit cards just like the larger banks—except usually with lower rates and the opportunity to sit down with someone from the bank face-to-face.”

ICBA offers consumers several tips on how to properly use their credit cards:

  • Be sure you understand the terms of your credit card before signing up. If terms and conditions are not clear, ask questions.
  • Make paying off your credit card balance part of your budget.
  • Pay on time, every month.
  • Elect to receive your statement information online and make your credit card payment online to ensure it is received by the monthly due date. Ask about going “paperless.”
  • If you cannot make your monthly payment, inform your creditor in advance. They can help you if you let them know beforehand.
  • Routinely access your account online to track your spending and stay within your budget.
  • Keep copies of your sales receipts so you can compare what you bought with the charges on your statement. If you see a transaction that is not yours or if there's an error on your account, notify your card issuer immediately.
  • Look for complete instructions on your monthly statement, whether electronic or on paper, and follow them carefully to protect your rights.
  • Know your credit limits. Creditors can raise or lower your limits for various reasons, but they must provide notice.
  • To maintain a good credit score, your typical monthly spending should be about 30 percent of your credit limit.
  • Negotiate for lower interest rates. If you’re paying off your balance responsibly, you might be able to get a better deal.

For additional resources, visit the consumer resources section of www.icba.org.