November 27, 2018, 9:17 AM
Temperatures are starting to plummet across the country, and winter weather can have devastating consequences for your home and household budget. Fortunately, you can take some precautions to avoid the inconvenience and expense of winter damage.
Common Winter Weather Issues in Your Home
Property damage and dangerous accidents can occur thanks to extreme winter weather. In 2016 alone, winter storms were the cause of approximately $1 billion in insured losses. Here are some of the most typical winter weather-related risks to your home and how you can address them.
Heavy rain. This can lead to leaky roofs as well as sewer and water backups. To prevent interior flooding, have a sump pump installed with a battery backup. It should also have backflow valves on drains, sewer connections, and toilets.
Ice storms and heavy snow. These can clog gutters and damage roofs, leading to ice dams, water intrusion, and even mold damage. Keep tree branches trimmed that could break due to the heavy weight of ice or snow. Also, clean snow and ice off of roofs and clear out gutters.
Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. A buildup in a stovepipe or chimney can cause catastrophic structure fires. Keep these cleared out and schedule an annual checkup for both.
Ice buildup on driveways, sidewalks, and outdoor stairs. Slip and falls on ice can lead to injury and a negligence claim on your insurance policy. Keep these areas shoveled and salted, and have them adequately lit for improved visibility.
Overloaded or wrongly placed Christmas trees. While not connected to weather, Christmas trees that are not handled properly cause many injuries and deaths this time of year due to fires. Avoid using frayed lighting, overloading them, or placing them next to heaters.
Exposed pipes. An exposed pipe can freeze, contract, and burst, leading to massive damage inside your home. You should insulate your exposed pipes and shut off outdoor water faucets or the water supply if the weather will be particularly extreme.
What You Need to Know About Insurance
You should have adequate insurance coverage in place to protect your property whether you own or rent your home. You may be able to receive additional discounts on your premiums with a few simple adjustments.
Structural changes. Your insurance policy should reflect changes to the structure that might include a new roof, windows, or other remodeling projects.
Fire prevention. Installing certain modern fire prevention devices might qualify you for premium discounts.
Other vehicles. If you store an RV or boat off-site, ask about limits on coverage under your current policy.
It's always a good idea to update your home inventory annually so that you have an accurate list of the value of your possessions. When your policy renewal data comes up, speak to your agent about any changes and find out if you qualify for additional discounts.
How Can City Bank Help?
At City Bank, we are committed to our customers and want you to have the most useful financial tools and knowledge necessary to help you achieve your financial goals. We offer a wide range of feature-rich personal banking services, including competitive mortgage options. Contact us now with any questions or to get started with establishing your new account.
November 27, 2018, 8:57 AM
As your options for purchasing and banking online grow, so does the need to safeguard your security and privacy while using the internet on your mobile device. Online security protects you from fraudulent intrusion as well as the careless release of your sensitive data.
Sometimes, mobile security is as simple as a frequent review of your bank accounts to ensure that nothing unauthorized has occurred. But there are other things you can do to stay safe in an online environment.
Here are 10 online mobile security tips to help protect your money and your sensitive data.
1. Use strong passwords
A strong password is the first step in mobile security. This is something that can't be easily guessed by either another human or a computer program. The strongest password should have at least eight characters and include letters, numbers, and symbols. Make sure you are using different passwords for your various online accounts.
2. Avoid vulnerable numbers
It's never a good idea to use identifying numbers as part of your password, personal identification number (PIN), or user ID. This includes parts of your Social Security number, birth date, age, or those of loved ones. This is information that someone else could find and use to access your account.
3. Watch for strange emails
Your bank will never send you emails requesting that you send them back sensitive data such as your account information or login details. If you receive emails like this, you can call the bank to verify their legitimacy.
4. Be wary of email attachments
Avoid clicking on email attachments unless you are 100% sure that you know the sender of the message. Attachments can launch virus programs on your mobile device and compromise your sensitive information. Even if a message appears to come from a friend or familiar company, it's always better to use caution with attachments.
5. Watch your online sharing
The more information about yourself you disclose online, the more vulnerable you can become to fraud. Identity thieves are looking for accounts that have plenty of data, so it's a good idea to check your social network privacy settings and curtail your sharing.
6. Pause before you click
When shopping and banking online, you can avoid scams by only using sites that have strong security in place. Look for websites that have an "https" at the beginning instead of just "http." That extra "s" indicates that they have put extra security measures in place.
7. Secure your smartphone
If you shop, access mobile banking, and have any other sensitive data on your smartphone, keep it secure. You can do this by turning on the screen lock function of your phone. After a set period of inactivity, your screen will lock and the phone will ask for a passcode or your fingerprint to be used again.
8. Don't store sensitive data on your phone
Certain sensitive data should not be stored on a mobile device. This includes bank account numbers, PINs, Social Security numbers, and credit card numbers. If you use a mobile banking app, your bank will not display this data on the app.
9. Use caution with apps
10. Update your technology
Mobile devices run on an operating system (generally iOS or Android), and these systems often have security patches in each version. You should not only keep your operating system updated but also consider an additional mobile antivirus program.
City Bank Cares About Your Personal Information
By following these mobile security tips, you can help prevent your sensitive information from getting into the wrong hands. If you suspect that your banking data has been compromised, contact us immediately.
At City Bank, we take your privacy and security seriously. We use a layered approach to help protect your identity and financial accounts. If you have any concerns about mobile security, we're here to answer your questions.
November 14, 2018, 10:13 AM
The end of the year is quickly approaching and it’s time to start thinking about how to end the year on a financial high note. Here’s a checklist to get you started.
1. Max out your IRA and/or Roth IRA contributions. Consider increasing your contributions. Those 50 and older can take advantage of catch-up contributions in some cases.
2. Establish/increase your emergency fund. Consider gifting yourself and/or your family with three to six months’ worth of expenses in the bank. Be sure to make it liquid and easily accessible.
3. Check your Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account. Do you need to save more in your HSA? Will you have spent everything in your FSA by the end of the plan year?
4. Confirm/update your beneficiary designations. The designations you make in individual documents (insurance policies, etc.) supersede your will. Make sure you know where your assets will be going.
5. Review life insurance policies and discuss with those who care about you. It’s great to have a policy, but if no one knows where it is or what your wishes are it’s hard to carry it out.
6. Review your current spending and create a budget for the new year.
7. Consider investing in a 529 Plan for your kids. Enrolling early in a 529 Plan can pay dividends in years to come—literally!
8. Review your investments and offset any losses. Consider if profits gained can be offset by some losses to avoid some taxes.
9. Schedule a meeting with your tax advisor.
10. Schedule a meeting with your City Bank financial advisor. Our financial advisors can go with you when you meet with your tax advisor if you need them. Call us today at (806) 687- 2955!
October 31, 2018, 12:31 PM
It's difficult to discuss handling money responsibly without first talking about the concept of giving. Teaching children about giving can be rewarding for both parents and their children.
Even when children are still small, it's never too soon to begin charitable traditions which can make a lasting impression and instill the core values of gratitude and generosity. Here are several ways to involve children of all ages in charitable giving.
Begin the Conversation Early
It's never too early to begin speaking to your children about the importance of giving to those less fortunate. You can start the conversation at any age, but expect it to have more meaning when a child reaches age three and over. This is when children being to develop a strong sense of empathy, which is the basis for charity. Explain that not all children have as much as they do, which is why it's a good idea to help.
Adopt a Family in Need
Find a local organization or program that will connect your family with another one in need. You and your children can shop together for back to school and holiday items. Ask your child for input on what the appropriate things to buy might be and let them help in packaging and making deliveries.
If your children receive an allowance, encourage them to set aside a portion of that money for savings and another for charitable giving. Decide together the appropriate amounts for each category.
Let your children have input on where their charitable dollars will go. If they don't already have someplace in mind, help them do some online research to locate a cause that is meaningful to them. Websites such as GuideStar and BBB Wise Giving Alliance can help make this research project fun.
Donate Items or Your Time
Charitable giving doesn't necessarily need to be in the form of cash to be meaningful. If you are donating your time to a cause, this is setting a stellar example for your children. It is also something that they may be able to participate in depending on their ages and the work involved.
Your children can help you volunteer at a local soup kitchen or sort items that will go into a donation box. Your family can come together on a regular schedule to help a housebound neighbor with yard work or to bake cookies for a local senior center.
When you start charitable habits early, children learn the importance of reaching out to others and exercising empathy. This is something that they will carry on into adulthood and pass along to their own families and communities.
City Bank Community Rewards
City Bank regularly gives back to its community through its Community Rewards program. This year alone, we have made $60,000 available to qualifying nonprofit agencies in our service area. Contact us to find out how you and your family can participate in securing "rewards" that will be returned to people in need in our local communities.
October 24, 2018, 12:57 PM
Homeownership is a dream and goal of many Americans, and the right mortgage lender can put this in reach. But buying a home isn't as simple as placing an online order or even buying a car. There is a lot involved in this process.
This could be one of the most significant transactions that you will ever make, and it can get complicated. The good news is that this shouldn't scare you away because millions have done this before you and you have people in your corner that want to see you succeed.
One of those is your mortgage lender, and here are 10 questions you should ask to both ease your mind and make sure you have all of your financial ducks in a row for your upcoming home purchase.
1. How much money can I borrow?
How much you will be able to borrow isn't going to be the same as your co-worker or best friend. Your creditworthiness determines this figure. What does this mean? A lender will look at your income compared to the amount of debt that you hold. They will also consider other factors such as your employment status and credit history.
Speak to your mortgage lender about getting prequalified for a mortgage before you begin shopping for a home. This can simplify your experience. Also, ask about special mortgage programs for first-time homebuyers and military veterans.
2. What is my down payment requirement?
If you want to get the best interest rate on your mortgage loan, you should plan on committing at least 20 percent of the purchase price as a down payment. Lower down payments are certainly possible, but a loan like this might require that you also have private mortgage insurance (PMI).
The amount of down payment that you choose is going to impact such things as your APR, monthly payments, and loan term. Ask the mortgage lender what they require and find out if you qualify for any cost-saving assistance programs.
3. What is the interest rate on your loans?
Of course, you want to ask your lender about the interest rates on their mortgage loans. Find out about direct interest rates and have the lender give you the corresponding annual percentage rate (APR) for each loan. The APR will incorporate all loan-related charges, such as fees, so that you can get the most accurate picture of what you will pay to borrow money.
4. How are fixed rate and adjustable rate mortgages different?
You may be surprised to learn that there are many different types of mortgage loans. This is a benefit since you and your mortgage lender can customize a loan to suit your needs and financial situation. Ask your lender to explain their options.
A fixed-rate loan is going to charge you the same interest rate for the life of the loan, generally 15 or 30 years. This means that your monthly payment is never going to change. An adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) has an interest rate that can go up or down based on market conditions and the terms of the loan. For example, a 30-year ARM might have a fixed rate for the first 5 years and then adjust annually.
5. How many points does the rate include?
Ask your lender if their loans have points and, if so, how many. Points are fees charged by lenders in exchange for a lower interest rate (1 point equals 1% of your total mortgage). Discuss the benefits of using or not using points in your mortgage with your lender.
6. When can I lock in my interest rate?
Interest rates can change, so it would be beneficial to lock in your interest rate if there is a possibility of rates going up. Ask your lender when you can lock in your mortgage interest rate and how long that rate lock is valid. Generally, lower interest rates are awarded to shorter rate locks.
7. What are the estimated closing costs on my loan?
There are many costs associated with buying a home, and closing costs can be steep. These include appraisal fees, attorney fees, and loan origination fees. Ask your lender to help you estimate these based on your home purchase price and the type of mortgage that you'd like to use.
8. Are there any other fees or costs that I need to know about?
It helps to be as prepared as possible when you buy a home and take out a mortgage. Have your lender give you an estimate of all the fees you will be expected to pay. They generally provide this on a Closing Disclosure form.
9. Can you tell me when my closing will take place?
Many of the factors that will determine your closing date are beyond your control. The mortgage, however, is a big part of the closing, so your lender can at least give you an idea of when their part of the equation will be finalized.
10. Are there any factors that could delay my closing?
There are also many things that can delay and derail a closing. Buying a home is a complicated process that involves many moving parts. The best way to avoid unwanted delays is to stay in close communication with everyone involved and provide each party with the documentation they require to keep the process moving towards closing.
City Bank Mortgage
Whether you are ready to buy a home or just have a few questions, City Bank is ready to speak with you about your options and its mortgage programs. We offer best-in-class experienced paired with competitive rates on a wide range of mortgage loans. Contact us now to start an application or discuss your next steps.
October 17, 2018, 11:20 AM
Getting your first credit card can be exciting, but it also involves some responsibility. For many young adults, being approved for their first credit card is the best thing to happen since getting a drivers license or turning 18.
Having a credit card has benefits that include convenience and a step toward financial independence. This is a tool that can help you build credit, allowing you to borrow money at more favorable terms in the future.
But credit cards can also be dangerous when not used responsibly. Here are some essential steps to make the right moves with your first credit card.
1. Use Your Credit Wisely.
You will receive a credit limit with your card, and it's a good idea to avoid burning through your available credit. A common rule of thumb is to not spend more than 30 percent of your available credit. This means that you will need to think carefully before pulling out your credit card.
2. Pay Your Bill on Time.
Missing payment due dates can have several unfortunate consequences. Not only will you be hit with interest rate charges but also a late fee. Additionally, paying your bill late could impact your credit score.
3. Pay Your Entire Balance.
When you pay your credit card bill each month, it's best to pay the entire balance whenever possible. This can help you avoid costly interest charges. When you can't pay the entire balance, aim to pay more than the minimum monthly payment. This strategy can also save you a significant amount long term.
4. Keep Tabs on Your Credit.
One of the benefits of having a credit card is to build positive credit. This is something you should continuously monitor to ensure that lenders will get an accurate picture of your history. You can get a free credit report each year from the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) through annualcreditreport.com. Getting an estimation of your credit score will be an extra charge.
5. Monitor Your Account.
When you're using a credit card, it's relatively easy to lose track of how much you are spending. This can be dangerous. To avoid overspending, use your bank or credit card issuer's online access or app to keep close tabs on your monthly purchases. This can also help you make on-time payments online and quickly spot any potential trouble.
6. Protect Yourself from Fraud.
Fraud is an ongoing problem with credit cards, and your constant monitoring can help protect your account from malicious charges. Review your bank's terms to find out what to do if you become a victim of fraud or if your credit card is lost or stolen. Some common tips to keep your information safe include never giving out PINs online or over the phone and keeping your credit card in a secure location.
A credit card may be a big responsibility, but there are also many benefits when it is used wisely. Rather than putting in several applications at once and possibly damaging your credit score, choose a local bank that you know and trust for this important service. Contact City Bank now to learn more about our personal banking services, including several feature-packed, low-APR credit cards.