Buying your first home, financing a business or need a line of credit to finance farm operations? Here are some lending tips to increase your chances of success and reduce your stress.
First time home owners – Important information to get you started
What sort of a down payment is required when buying a home?
- Owning a home is the primary way most people build wealth. You can purchase a home with as little as 3 to 5% of the purchase price as a down payment as long as you have mortgage insurance. These ‘low down payment loans’ can be used with a variety of mortgages. Ask your lender for available options.
What are some of the other costs associated with owning a home?
- Knowing all the costs involved in owning a home helps decide whether you’re ready or not. In addition to the down payment, budget for mortgage fees and interest (plus mortgage insurance if your down payment is less than 20%), the home inspection, closing fees, property tax, home insurance, utilities and home maintenance. Your real estate agent should be able to give you a fair idea of what’s involved.
How can I repair credit?
- Bad credit makes things more difficult (and more expensive). Read through your credit report carefully to identify the negative factors (as well as identify any mistakes e.g. including accounts that are not yours) affecting your scores. Pay accounts that are charged-off (over 180 days due) and with collections to reduce negative impact. Also bring maxed out credit cards below the limit (less than 30%)—they have a big impact on your credit rating. Prioritize your spending. By the way, did you know that you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three bureaus every 12 months? Stop over to AnnualCreditReport.gov and get yours today and see what’s on your report.
Business Customers: The Vital Question—Is There Money To Lend?
Can small businesses still borrow money?
Small Business Administration (SBA) loans can help you manage setup and operations expenses. There are many government grants for this purpose including:
- 7(a) guaranty program for export and rural businesses as well as those with special requirements (employee stock ownership) and a particular group of borrowers like veterans, military personnel and persons from a distressed community.
- 504 expansion loan with long-term, fixed-rate financing used to acquire fixed assets for expansion or modernization and made available through Certified Development Companies (CDCs) and participating lenders like Astra Bank.
- Small Loan Advantage and Community Advantage is structured to encourage larger, existing SBA lenders to make lower-dollar loans (maximum loan size: $250,000) which benefit businesses in under-served markets.
Agricultural Customers – Variety of Loans to Meet Diverse Needs
What can you take a loan for?
Our friends on the farm are an important part of the American way of life. Whether it is a small operation or a large one, agricultural businesses can find financing options to meet a variety of needs. It’s important to work with a lender that understands the industry and has experience with just some of the following needs:
- Livestock purchase
- Crop production
- Real Estate
Shopping online securely lowers the risk of identity theft and fraudulent transactions. The convenience of making purchases via the Internet is one of the main reasons for its growing popularity. You don’t have to wait for store hours or navigate through traffic to go shopping.
Are security concerns holding you back from online shopping? It may help you to know that most credit and debit card companies have built-in protection. Both Visa (Verified by Visa) and MasterCard (MasterCard Secure Code) have an advanced protection facility for online purchase, and it’s free.
This doesn’t mean that you should throw caution to the wind while e-Shopping. Here are some simple ways for shopping online securely.
- Ensure your computer is “clean” by using an up-to-date security or anti-virus program. You can even elect to encrypt sensitive files that contain personal information or passwords to prevent unauthorized access.
- Only shop through recognized and reliable merchants. Research the company before you make the purchase. It is also preferable to make purchases with services within the US. Check to see if they have a phone number or some other way they provide customer service so that you know you can contact them if something goes wrong.
- Beware of fake sites by ensuring your browser has the padlock or key symbol and that the site address includes https:// every time you decide to make an online purchase. This ensures that your transaction is secure and the information you are sending along is protected.
- Choose a strong password that uses eight or more characters if you store your information at an online shopping site. Check out some of the recommendations in our prior blog post on Online Security.
- Check the delivery, return and refund policy for any discrepancies and also in case you’re not satisfied with the purchase.
- Do not provide card details until you have selected items for purchase and only offer the mandatory information requested. Again, double check that you see https:// to know the page is secure.
- Always print out a copy of your order with postal address, phone number, and legal terms, including return policy. Keep it for your own records for at least the period covered by the return/warranty policy.
- Don’t respond to any request for financial information that comes to you in an email. Banks and legitimate businesses do not ask for sensitive information via email. Most importantly, don’t click on any link embedded within a suspicious email, and always call the retailer or financial institution to verify your account status before divulging any information.
Astra Bank offers the MasterCard Secure Code service for shopping online securely and your protection.
Contact us for details about setting up an account with us.
You Can Still Enjoy ‘Free Service’ at Your Local Community Bank
It’s hard to believe, but some banks are charging excessive fees for checking accounts. The recent Wells Fargo move to cut free checking for new customers made headlines in the media including CNN Money Magazine and Reuters. Reuters even revealed that Bank of America and many other major banks are considering reinstituting account fees and other service charges. So if your big brand financial institution hasn’t already sent a notification of the change, enjoy the reprieve while you can… it may be round the corner!
Banks do offer options to waive these fees (and downgrading your account), however the change has put pressure on their customers. Wells Fargo, for instance, asks that you maintain a $1,500 minimum daily balance or make direct deposits of $500 or more each month. You can also get a $2 discount on the fee by opting to only receive online statements.
While some individuals and families find it difficult to meet the new minimum balance requirement in this struggling economy, others may take a while to adjust to changes and have to pay the monthly penalty. Is it fair to charge fees for checking accounts that were once free? Customers certainly don’t think so and many are shopping around for banks that still offer the ‘free service’.
Switch to a Local Community Bank to Avoid Fees on Checking Accounts
There are still some banks that aren’t charging excessive fees for checking accounts and it might be worth your while to check them out. American Banker has a smart suggestion—talk with your local community bank (like Astra Bank), where you’ll get personal attention, all the online conveniences of the big banks… but avoid many of the high fees you may be fed up with!
Astra Bank is one of the few financial institutions still offering ‘free checking’. While we encourage our customers to switch to green banking practices and online transactions to save time and effort, we don’t charge fees on checking accounts when you come into our bank. Plus, the great part about community banking is we’re here to help in all the other banking needs you may have down the road.
Stop by any of our banking locations in Kansas and Nebraska and speak with a representative about your free checking account and other services we offer. We’re looking forward to seeing you soon!
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