Having good credit can enhance your chances of buying a home or a car, make it easier to qualify for a loan or rent a new apartment, and even improve your standing with a potential new employer. Because it provides an indication of how you’ve handled debt in the past—and in the process, sheds some light on your sense of personal responsibility—credit is fundamental to navigating those life events that involve money or assets. And having good credit can open doors to a better financial future.
But maintaining a good credit score can be easier said than done. That’s where a credit union like Grow Financial, which has been serving members since 1955, comes in. Unlike traditional banks that are designed to generate profit for shareholders, credit unions like Grow Financial are owned by their members, and have a defined mission of fostering the financial well-being of those members. That leads to products and services designed with members in mind—such as tools to help build and maintain good credit.
“When we're thinking about designing products and services, we don't have to be concerned about producing a profit that will go to a third-party shareholder,” says Jared Barr, senior vice president of marketing at Grow Financial. “We produce and create products that are in the best interest of serving the needs of the membership. And I think the notion of building credit and helping people with credit is culturally unique to credit unions. They're really listening to what the members actually need, instead of trying to sell more credit cards.”
Better credit begins with education
For Grow Financial members, the road to a better credit score often begins with education—on what goes into determining a credit score, what factors can affect is positively or negatively, and what kind of habits can help it improve. Grow Financial has taken that curriculum into schools and public forums, hosted lunchtime workshops at its stores, and developed worksheets to help members better track their financial decisions.
“Essentially the presentation is really just like a budgeting basics,” says Angelica Nguyen, finance management program associate at Grow Financial. “This is for individuals who need to get a firm grasp of how to start budgeting, know what goes into a budget, and be consistent and stick to it. We speak at a basic level, because everyone has individual financial terrain that they're on, and there's not going to be any advice that's going to solve everyone's problems. So, the idea here is really just to provide them with that education so they can make an intelligent decision based on their own situation.”
Grow Financial can help members better understand credit card interest rates and payments, showing how long it can take to pay off a credit card debt—and how much more you’re paying in interest—if only the minimum payment is being made. Grow Financial also offers tools like a secured Visa credit card backed by funds in a savings account, which can help the user improve their credit by lowering the danger of overspending. As part of the program, the user’s credit score is posted every three months in their online banking account, so they see the direct impact of good financial habits.
The importance of paying bills on time
Being aware of your credit score is one of those fundamental building blocks to a better financial future. So is avoiding maxing out your credit score, which can signal to lenders that you may be in over your head financially. And then there’s the simple matter of just paying bills on time, perhaps the most important step toward maintaining good credit. Grow Financial can help members in that regard through programs that assist with consolidating balances and automating payments.
“Paying your bills on time is really the foundation of it,” Nguyen says. “That lends itself to budgeting and making sure you’re living within your means. Because if you can’t pay the bills that are coming in, there are a lot of other things you can’t do. So a lot of having a good credit score does come down to simply being able to pay your bills on time.”
And without shareholders demanding dividends, a credit union like Grow Financial can offer programs like lower loan rates that make it easier to keep up with payments, specialized loans that help members rebuild credit, and fewer fees that mean more available funds going toward paying off debt. “Our team members are really trained to listen and understand what need it is you’re trying to fulfill,” Barr says. “Because we may actually have a product that can help you in what you’re trying to accomplish, whether it’s rebuilding your credit or something else.”
Interested in learning more about how a credit union can help you improve and maintain good credit? Contact Grow Financial Federal Credit Union at (843) 285-4424, visit their locations at 805 Highway 378 in Lexington and 163 Forum Dr. in Columbia, or see their website at GrowFinancial.org for further information. Right now, you’ll receive $200 after opening a Grow Financial checking account and making five transactions totaling $200 by December 30.