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7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score

In recognition of Get Smart About Credit Day, BankWest is reminding customers of the importance of their credit score when it comes to your finances.  BankWest suggests the following tips to improve your credit score:A couple is filing their taxes on their laptop.

  1. Request a copy of your credit score report – and make sure it is correct. Your credit report illustrates your credit performance, and it needs to be accurate so that you can apply for other loans – such as a m873148ortgage. Everyone is entitled to receive a free copy of his or her credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies, but you must go through the Federal Trade Commission’s website at annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228. Note that you may have to pay for the numerical credit score itself.
  2. Set up automatic bill pay. Payment history makes up 32 percent of your VantageScore credit score and 35 percent of your FICO credit score. The longer you pay your bills on time, the better your score.  Avoid missed payments by setting as many of your bills to automatic pay as possible.
  3. Build credit through renting. VantageScore’s scoring model, created by the three major credit bureaus, will now weigh rent and utility payment records. This will allow it to score as many as 35 million people who previously couldn’t get a credit score.
  4. Keep balances low on credit cards and ‘revolving credit.’ Racking up big balances can hurt your scores, regardless of whether you pay your bills in full each month. You often can increase your scores by limiting your charges to 30 percent or less of a card’s limit.
  5. Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed. Keep this in mind the next time a retailer offers you 10 percent off if you open an account. However, if you need a new line of credit, don’t jump at the first appealing offer; compare rates and fees offered through mail solicitation, on the Internet or at your local bank.
  6. Don’t close old, paid off accounts. According to FICO, closing accounts can never help your score and can in fact damage it.
  7. Talk to credit counselors if you’re in trouble. Using legitimate, non-profit credit counseling can help you manage your debt and won’t hurt your credit score. For more information on debt management, contact the National Foundation for Consumer Credit (nfcc.org).

Follow these tips to get your credit score in tip top shape! For more information, visit with one of our friendly staff members at any of our BankWest locations.

Member FDIC

Renters Insurance: A Few Things to Consider

When considering renters insurance, most think of protecting their pocketbook after theft or damage of their belongings, but there are additional reasons to look into getting a policy.

Your renter’s insurance policy covers personal liability. If a guest were to be injured at your residence, medical bills could be covered if you were found responsible for their injuries. If you accidentally damage a visitor’s personal property, the policy would cover repairs to their belongings.

Also, policies traditionally cover temporary living expenses like hotel costs if your living space was uninhabitable due to a fire, broken water pipe or other covered peril.

In today’s economy, it’s important to shop around for the best value. As independent agents, BankWest insurance professionals work with dozens of different companies to ensure you receive the best coverage for you at a competitive price.

We’re a locally-owned agency, giving you peace of mind that we’ll be there when you need us most. Contact one of our knowledgeable insurance agents today to discuss a renter’s insurance policy.

Insurance products are not deposits, not FDIC insured, not insured by any federal agency, not guaranteed by any bank, and may go down in value. This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Negotiating the Purchase of Your New Home?


Know what you want – and where you can compromise.

While your real estate agent will be by your side to assist you with making an offer on a home you wish to purchase, it’s helpful if you understand some of the negotiation tactics you’ll need to employ in order to get a positive outcome on your home bid.

Trust your real estate agent. Your agent is there to negotiate on your behalf. While you ultimately decide the terms you are comfortable with, your agent will have advice and ideas to help you win the bid.

Arm yourself with beneficial tools. Getting pre-qualified for a home loan instantly marks you as a serious buyer who can fulfill the terms of a purchase contract and will elevate you over other home shoppers who have not yet taken that step.

Have a set budget. You and your mortgage professional will review your financials before you start house hunting to determine the monthly payments you are able to make. Stick to the budget so you don’t end up signing a deal you are unhappy with.

Be prepared to compromise. Ultimately, to win the bid on a new home, you’ll need to know what terms are important to the seller and respond to them as best as you can. This doesn’t mean you must give up any terms that are important to you, but having an open mind can help you win the contract.

If you haven’t been pre-qualified yet, talk to one of our knowledgeable mortgage experts today and get started looking for the house of your dreams with confidence!

Equal Housing LenderEqual Housing Lender. NMLS #685987

Closing On Your New Home

 

Once you’ve received your loan approval, next comes the most exciting part of all: becoming the legal owner of your new home! Your lender will most likely let you know when you’re scheduled to seal the deal and sign the final paperwork.

Before You Close

  1. Get a home inspection. Ask your agent for inspectors they recommend.
  2. Get a homeowners insurance policy. Talk to our knowledgeable insurance agents about coverage that’s a right fit for you.
  3. Review the Closing Disclosure and make sure any errors are corrected.
  4. Review any other closing documents, which may come from your lender or your agent.
  5. Get the final closing dollar amount and instructions for providing payment.
  6. Do a final walk-through of the home 24 hours before closing to ensure all repairs have been made.

Doing all of these things can make the process go a little quicker and will help get you into your new home that much faster.

What to Expect at Closing

Be prepared for signing papers.  This can take as little as 30 minutes to complete. The title agent will review every document with you, explaining what each means, and you’ll sign off on them. Don’t rush, and if something doesn’t make sense to you – ask. Now is the time to make sure all the numbers are correct, all your contingencies are included, and all seller concessions have been recorded.

Your agent will probably accompany you, as will your loan officer, the seller and the seller’s agent.

If you have already wired the funds to the title company, you should get your keys to your new home right away! If funds for closing aren’t wired, you may also bring in a cashier’s check to cover your costs for closing.

To ensure a smooth transition in home ownership follow these tips and you’re on your way to closing day! Call one of our knowledgeable mortgage experts today for any questions you may have regarding the closing process!

Equal Housing Lender

Equal Housing Lender. NMLS #685987

Insurance products are not deposits, not FDIC insured, not insured by any federal agency, not guaranteed by any bank, and may go down in value.

To Refi or Not To Refi?

There are many reasons you might choose to refinance your home mortgage. Mortgage interest rates have plummeted, and now is a good time to consider two common types of mortgage refinances. The following scenarios are for example purposes only.

  1. Cash Out Refi
  • Tap into home equity to get access to cash for medical expenses or home improvements.
  • As of Q4 2019, American homeowners had nearly $19 billion in home equity.
    • One in four mortgaged homes is considered “equity rich” — 50% or more of the mortgage has been paid off.1
  • Individual households gained an average of $7,300 in equity in 2019.2
  1. Rate and Term Refi
  • Refinance to save money by changing your loan’s terms.
  • Shorter term — If you decrease your term: Pay less interest over time, save thousands.
  • Longer term — If you increase your term: Monthly mortgage payment can drop by hundreds.
  • Eliminate private mortgage insurance (PMI) if you have 20% equity.
  • Roll a piggyback loan into your first loan (they often have higher rates).
  • Switch from an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) to a fixed-rate loan or vice-versa: ARMs are suitable for people who plan to only stay in their homes a few years, need liquid cash each month, or who expect a boost to their income in the near future

Refinancing your mortgage requires you to pay lenders’ fees and closing costs, just like a regular home loan. Is it worth the money? A refinance might be worth it if:

  • You’ll get an interest rate at least 1% lower than your current mortgage.
  • Your ARM is about to reset.
  • Your credit score is in the 700s or above.
  • You have at least 20% equity in the home.
  • You have a low debt to income ratio.
  • You’ll still be in the home when you reach your break-even point (the point when you start saving more than you spent).

Call one of our knowledgeable mortgage experts today to review your current mortgage, your housing plans, and your finances so you can decide if refinancing is the right decision for you!

Sources:

[1] Attom Data Solutions, “U.S. Homeowners Remain Four Times as Likely to Be Equity-Rich Than Seriously Underwater,” May 7, 2020.

[2] CoreLogic, Homeowner Equity Insights report, data through Q4 2019.

Equal Housing Lender

NMLS #685987

 

How to Make a Mobile Deposit: In 7 Easy Steps

mobile phone showing mobile deposit

If you haven’t made a mobile deposit using BankWest’s mobile app now is the perfect time! With interactions being limited due to the coronavirus, this tool can help save you time. Download our app for Android and iOS devices via Google Play or the Apple App Store. If you already use online banking, you can use the same username and password to log in to mobile banking.

Log in to mobile or online banking and under Services, go to Mobile Deposit Enrollment and click “I Accept.” The Deposit Check feature will show in your mobile banking app’s menu under Transactions. The Deposit a Check feature can also be found in the More menu in the upper right corner of the app’s Home screen.

After logging in to Mobile Banking:

  1. Select Menu>Transactions>Deposit Check or More>Deposit a Check.
  2. Fill in the account you wish to deposit to, and the amount of the check.
  3. Tap the “Front of Check” button. Line up the check within the box and take the photo. Review the image and select Use Image if it is acceptable, or Retake if you need to take a new photo. Be sure to take the clearest photo possible of both the front and back of your check.
  4. Tap the “Back of Check” button. Line up the check within the box and take the photo. Review the image and select Use Image if it is acceptable, or Retake if you need to take a new photo. Note: The back of the check must be endorsed with the phrase “For Mobile Deposit” below your signature.
  5. Review your deposit information and images, then Submit Deposit.
  6. Upon successfully submitting your check deposit, you will receive a message that says “Deposit Processing.” You will also receive an email informing you that the deposit has been received. Upon review and approval by BankWest, you will receive a second email confirming that the deposit has been approved. Items deposited by 12:00 p.m. CT Monday through Friday will generally be available on the same banking day. Items received after 12:00 p.m. CT on any banking day, on weekends, or on federal holidays will be available no later than the next banking day.
  7. The following business day, confirm that your deposit has posted by using the Activity button in Mobile Deposit. This button will display a list of checks you’ve deposited through Mobile Deposit. After confirming your check deposit was processed, please retain your deposited check for 60 days and then securely destroy it. This allows you to retrieve the check if there is any issue with the deposit or if you need to pull information from the check for any reason.

If you have questions about making a mobile deposit please contact our eBanking Center at (800) 253-0362.

Mobile Deposit customers may make 20 mobile deposits per monthly statement cycle at no charge. A Remote Deposit Fee of $1.00 will be assessed for each mobile deposit in excess of 20.

Member FDIC

How Much Life Insurance Do I Need?

Wealth management meetingOften the first question that comes to mind when discussing life insurance is: “How much life insurance do I need?” That answer depends on a few factors.

The most common reason for purchasing life insurance is to provide a source of income if you are not there to provide for the financial needs of your family.  The amount of replacement income they would need if you were gone and the number of years for which they would need that income are the determining factors when this is your purpose for having life insurance.  Let’s assume you want to provide $30,000 of annual income to your family for a period of 25 years.  How much would you need?  Let’s assume a 6% return on the insurance proceeds after your death.  A death benefit of about $383,500 could provide income of $30,000 annually for 25 years.  What if you want that income to increase annually to keep up with inflation?  Increase the amount of insurance you purchase.

Perhaps the most difficult part of buying life insurance is determining how much of your current income your family would need if you were gone.  Would they need less because there would be one less family member or because you have some expensive hobbies that would not continue?  Or would they need more because they would have extra expenses without you, such as hiring someone to take care of the “chores” you handle now?  Should your spouse receive enough to be able to continue to save for retirement?  It can be helpful to make a list of added expenses that would be no longer necessary if you were gone.  Is there a net increase or decrease in family expenses?  Once you have calculated the amount your survivors will need, you need to project how long the need will continue.  Children do grow up and become self-sufficient, and your spouse’s need for income may be less when the children are educated and gone.  Generally, as we age our need for income replacement life insurance declines.

Thus far we have been looking at life insurance to provide an income stream.  There are additional uses for life insurance that may increase the amount you need.  One of these is debt reduction.  If your debt is significant, you may want to have enough life insurance to repay the debt without requiring survivors to liquidate assets.  If you are a small business owner, creditors may insist that you maintain life insurance for this purpose.  A business owner may also need life insurance as part of a buy-sell agreement.  A life insurance death benefit can provide cash to enable a partner or associate to continue to operate the business by purchasing it from your heirs.  If that partner is one of your children, this mechanism may also help to keep peace in the family by allowing him or her to keep the business, while other children receive cash from the life insurance.

Estate and inheritance taxes can also create a need for life insurance.  Particularly if your estate is large enough to be subject to federal estate tax, your heirs may have to sell assets in order to pay the tax.  Life insurance, especially life insurance owned by a special type of trust, can provide the cash required to pay the tax, thus leaving assets such as real estate or an investment portfolio intact for your family.

One more use of life insurance is to provide a legacy.  Some people, who no longer need it as a means to provide essential support to their families or to meet other obligations, prefer to maintain life insurance as an inheritance for children or grandchildren.  Some interested in creating a charitable legacy may name a favorite charity as a beneficiary of life insurance and establish an endowment that is funded at their death by the payment of life insurance proceeds.

The amount of life insurance you need depends upon what you wish to accomplish.  Is your goal income replacement, debt reduction, business continuation, estate and inheritance tax payment, creation of a legacy for family members or charity, or some combination of these?  Your goals will determine the amount of life insurance you need.  You may wish to consult your financial advisor for help in calculating the right amount for you. Then speak with one of our BankWest Insurance Agents about the right policy for your needs.

Insurance products are not deposits, not FDIC insured, not insured by any federal agency, not guaranteed by any bank, and may go down in value. This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

10 Procedures to Enhance Small Business Cyber Safety

Woman at computerOne of today’s most significant threats to companies across all industries are cyber-attacks. On average, data breaches cost a company $225 per compromised record, and to date, it is taking companies an average of 196 days to detect that an incident occurred and an average of 69 days to contain it.

In spite of these compelling statistics, many firms don’t take cyber-attacks seriously and are not prepared when their network, data or system has been compromised. But the reality is, in today’s environment something as simple as opening an email attachment or clicking a web link can trigger a major breach.

Addressing your internal risks will go a long way toward helping mitigate them. Major internal risks include operational vulnerabilities, which are often triggered by human error. Those vulnerabilities also include a company’s inability to detect issues (usually due to insufficient safeguards) and loose or informal operational practices.

In addition, insufficient security practices of your company’s external vendors/partners can increase your cyber-attack exposure as well.

It may seem obvious and simple but practicing good basics can’t be overstated. Here are 10 things for you to review:

  1. Lock your office doors when no one is there. Server rooms and equipment cabinets should also be locked.
  2. Don’t leave client information on desks or screens when not attended or being actively used.
  3. In terms of your network, make sure you have a good firewall that is kept up to date, is managed, and has some network level anti-virus and anti-intrusion detection on it. (The simple antivirus solution you started with years ago is not sufficient today.)
  4. Rotate your equipment purchasing so computers are current and patched with endpoint anti-virus on them. “Endpoint” refers to the ultimate user of each computer.
  5. Change passwords frequently. It’s not my favorite thing to do either, but it’s very helpful in warding off fraudsters. And longer is better.
  6. Create and review your backup policy at least twice a year.
  7. Maintain a device and data usage policy so there is a clear fence line about who can access what.
  8. Distribute, monitor and enforce your data policies. Just having them written won’t help you.
  9. Make sure there is a way to pull data off all devices.
  10. Follow a 3-2-1 Backup Strategy: keep at least 3 copies of your data, on 2 different mediums, with 1 offsite.

One final piece of advice: It’s vital for your team to understand the potential consequences of opening email attachments, not running the latest updates, and downloading infected software. Experts advise us to limit personal use on business devices and with all emails, err on the side of caution, not curiosity.

It’s a fact. Burgeoning cybercrime has created a challenging environment for all businesses, but proactive practices can go a long way to help prevent breaches and if it does happen, lessen its impact.

8 Uses for Trust Management Services

Chase Cooper
Chase Cooper, CTFA
Trust Officer

by Chase Cooper, CFTA

There is no such thing as a “typical” trust client.  Trusts are used by people of all ages to achieve a wide variety of goals.  One common element amongst our clients is that each desires some type of professional financial service.  That service might be record-keeping and bill payment, investment portfolio management, property management, estate administration, providing for needs of a family member, or aiding a charity. Sometimes it’s a combination of all of these.  Below is a list of the most common examples:

Financial Management

Some of our clients have reached an age where they no longer want to be burdened by their financial chores. These clients may rely on us to monitor their investments, see that their income needs are being met, pay their bills, or make arrangements if they need to move to different living accommodations.  If they own property, they can engage us to negotiate with renters, supervise property maintenance and interact other service providers.

Maintaining Control/Protecting Assets

Some trust clients are persons who wish to exert influence beyond their own lifetimes, either by prescribing how assets are to be used for their heirs or by providing future gifts to favorite causes. Oftentimes a parent or grandparent may be uncomfortable with the thought of leaving their assets to someone who has just come of age, or to someone who is not financially responsible. In those cases, their estate planning documents should direct that the inheritance go to a trust that will continue until the child reaches a specified age or demonstrated competency in financial affairs. Typical age designations are 25, 30 or 35.  Some Trust language provides for partial distributions at various ages or milestones, while others provide a single lump sum distribution.  Some trusts even extend beyond a single beneficiary’s life to go on benefiting more than one generation.

Minimizing Taxes

As of the time of this writing, federal estate taxes don’t kick in until a person has more than 11.58 million dollars in assets.  Double that number if they’re married.  As a result, Estate Tax minimization is now reserved for the ultra-wealthy. However, regular Americans can still take steps to minimize income taxes and/or capital gains taxes.  Specially designed trusts that include charities among the beneficiaries can bring about significant tax savings, while providing income to the donor or a family member for a lifetime.

Special Needs

Parents or grandparents of a person with a disability, no matter the age of their child, need to ensure that the child does not lose their public assistance by receiving a direct inheritance of any kind.  Through advanced planning these clients have arranged for assets, which otherwise would have been inherited by the child, to go to a special trust that can provide the types of benefits the child does not receive from public assistance.

Court Appointment

Sometimes our services are requested by the Courts.  One way this can happen is when a child is awarded or inherits money.  If the child is under the age of 18, the Court must appoint a Conservator to manage the money for the benefit of the minor.  Other times a Conservatorship can be put in place for individuals suffering from diminished capacities. In addition to investing the money, the Conservator must make decisions about how the money will be used for the benefit of the child until the child reaches age 18.  Additionally, the Conservator must report to the Court each year on how the money has been used.

Estate Administration

Another service we provide is to act as the personal representative of their Estates.  In this role we have the duty of gathering, protecting and accounting for the assets of the estate, paying final expenses, filing the appropriate tax returns, and distributing assets to the beneficiaries named in the will.  When we act as personal representative, grieving family members, who are busy with their own lives, or may not live nearby, are not burdened with administering the estate of a deceased loved one.

Charitable Purposes

We provide investment and administration of funds for many charitable organizations.  Donors, particularly those who want their gifts to continue in the future, place their gifts with us to be invested and used according to their wishes for the charity of their choice.  In this aspect of our work we administer scholarship funds, and donations to healthcare organizations, libraries and museums, churches, sponsors of cultural and educational events and organizations that provide youth services.

Employer Retirement Plans/Rollovers

We serve as administrator of retirement plans such as profit-sharing and 401(k) arrangements for a number of businesses, and as trustee for rollover IRAs for many retired persons.

Do any of these aspects of trust services sound like something you need?  To find out if we can help you or one of your family members, contact one of our Trust professionals today.

Investment products are not deposits, not FDIC insured, not insured by any federal government agency, not guaranteed by the bank, and may go down in value.

8 Ways BankWest Can Make Your Life More Streamlined

BankWest online banking

Banking and financial transactions shouldn’t be a hassle. At BankWest, we have several tools available that make life more convenient. Here’s a roundup of eight ways BankWest can make your life more streamlined – helping you make smarter financial choices wherever you might be.

  1. Online/Mobile Banking 

    Confirm balances, transfer funds and monitor transactions 24 hours a day. More advanced features include: setting up account management tools, transferring to external accounts, and paying your bills. Put the bank in the palm of your hand with the BankWest mobile app. Mobile banking includes all the features of online banking, plus mobile deposit.

  2. Bill Pay 

    Schedule single or recurring payments and track payment history from one secure site. Free bill pay services are available in online and mobile banking.

  3. Balance Alerts 

    Receive automated balance alerts by text, email or phone when your account balances go above or below the threshold of your choosing. Balance alerts are available in online and mobile banking.

  4. Mobile Deposit 

    Deposit checks in a snap! All you need is a BankWest deposit account, your mobile device and the BankWest mobile app.

  5. Security Alerts 

    Add your own security parameters by enabling a wide variety of account alerts ranging from each time a valid log in to your account occurs to when an external transfer is authorized. Security alerts are available in online and mobile banking.

  6. Fingerprint Login 

    BankWest mobile banking offers a faster, more secure way to log in to your accounts. Use your finger or thumbprint in place of a login ID and password. This feature is available on any device that supports fingerprint identification.

  7. Online Account Opening 

    Open a deposit account or apply for a loan on our website by clicking on “Open An Account” on the home page.

  8. Tap and Pay 

    Add your BankWest debit card to your mobile wallet. Enroll in Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay to make fast and secure payments in stores, in apps, and online.

To Buy or Not to Buy: 5 Questions to Consider Before Purchasing Your First Home

Couple In Front of House

Owning a home is a great investment, but before jumping into the market it is extremely important for consumers to consider the costs involved and budget accordingly to ensure they’re able to meet all of their financial obligations.

BankWest encourages consumers to consider these questions before beginning their housing quest:

How much money do you have saved?

Start with an evaluation of your financial health. Figure out how much money you have for a down payment. Down payments are typically 5 to 20 percent of the price of the home. But be sure to keep enough in savings for an emergency fund. It’s a good idea to have three to six months of living expenses to cover unexpected costs.

How much debt do you have?

Consider all of your current and expected financial obligations like your car payment and insurance, credit card debt and student loans. Make sure you will be able to make all the payments in addition to the cost of your new home. Aim to keep total rent or mortgage payments plus utilities to less than 25 to 30 percent of your gross monthly income.

What is your credit score?

A high credit score indicates strong creditworthiness. Home buyers can expect to have their credit history examined. A low credit score can keep you from qualifying for a mortgage loan. If your credit score is low, you may want to delay moving into a new home and take steps to raise your score.

Have you factored in all the costs?

Create a hypothetical budget for your new home. Find the average cost of utilities in your area, factor in gas, electricity, water and cable. Find out if you will have to pay for parking or trash pickup. Consider the cost of yard maintenance and other basic maintenance costs like replacing the air filter every three months. Factor in real estate taxes, mortgage and homeowners insurance and possibly a home owner association fee.

How long will you stay?

Generally, the longer you plan to live someplace, the more it makes sense to buy. Over time, you can build equity in your home. Carefully consider your current life and work situation and think about how long you want to stay in your new home.

If you’ve evaluated your budget and are considering purchasing a home contact one of our knowledgeable mortgage professionals to help you through the home buying process.

NMLS #685987 | All loans subject to credit approval

Equal Housing Lender

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