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Browsing Credit Cards

Step by Step: Get a photo on your credit card!  by Tara


Few things make us happier than seeing pictures of things we love! Whether it’s a picture of someone who makes your heart skip a beat, something you love or a just a reminder of that hilarious inside joke,  now you can see it every time you pull out your Linn Area credit card! I’m going to walk you through the process of getting your own custom photo credit card. (Sorry – this only works for your CREDIT cards, not debit cards!)

First things first:

  • You have to have one of our Linn Area credit cards in order to get started! Don’t have one yet? Click here to get hooked up.
  • As long as you have the pic you want handy and have your card nearby, this process takes less than 3 minutes!!! I know, I tried it myself!
  • It only costs a piddley $5 to change your card from the standard background to one that you pick yourself! Once your image is approved, the $5 will be charged to your credit card.
  • Don’t worry – your account number and date of expiration will NOT change.
  • Once you change your picture, you can swap it as often as 60 days for just $5 each time.
  • If there is more than one cardholder on your account, each cardholder will receive this image unless they upload their own design the same day this design order is submitted. If additional cardholders do not upload their own image on the same day, they will be unable to upload an image for 60 days.

Alright! Let’s get started!

  • Go here. Ignore the “Login” button if this is your first time switching pics.
  • Read the Terms and Conditions (because we always, always do that, right?) and then check the box to say that you agree to them. Once that’s done, click “Next Step” to get to the fun stuff.
  • You’re now into the Design section, a.k.a. the fun part! You have two options – either choose from the online catalog of stock photos or upload your own. I have to be honest – there are some pretty cool pics in the catalog! You have 14 categories to choose from. My personal faves were “Fresh!” and “Creative & Artistic.”
  • If you are going to upload your own pic, the file has to be a JPG, TIF, or Bitmap and cannot exceed 4 mb. The image size should be 480 x 480. The larger and the higher resolution, the better your image will appear when printed on the card. (No one wants their cutie-pie baby or fur-baby to be pixilated!)
  • Not every image is kosher! There are a whole slew of image guidelines to read through, but I’ll point out that you can’t put your favorite team’s logo or a pic of that celebrity you have a crush on. *clearing throat* Like Channing Tatum. Please read through the list to ensure your image will get approved. (FYI – An actual human being looks at each and every picture, so don’t try to pull a quick one!)
  • Have the image you want? Click “Upload Image.”
  • You’ll now have the opportunity to move the pic around on the card to make sure it looks just the way you hoped! Click “Next Step” when you’re ready. Like this:

  • Here’s where you need to know the last 4 digits on your card and the last 4 of your SSN, along with some other info to help make sure your image gets onto the correct card. Click (you guessed it!) “Next Step” once everything is filled in. If you are the only person on your account getting the image, you can just ignore the Name Box -2, etc. So you’re not surprised on what you’ll need, here’s what it looks like:

  • A friendly reminder that all cards get reviewed. Time to create a log in so that the next time you swap your pic, it’ll be even faster! (Remember that button on the very first page? Yep, next time you’ll just click there to log in!)
  • This is your last chance to review the card. If you aren’t ready to pull the trigger just yet, you can “Save design” and come back at a later time to get the job done. Everything look fabulous? I figured! Go ahead and approve it! And taaaah dahhh:

  • I’d like to point out that there is a “Saved Design” section now that you have a Log In. This is a library of all your past orders, including the order ID, dated created and status. Pretty cool, right?

You can expect to have your new spiffy card in 7 to 10 business days. Just in time to finish up all that holiday shopping!

Tell us in the comments below: What will your card show?

Back to the Basics: CC Style, Part 4  by Tara


You know how at the end of fireworks shows, they have the grand finale? It’s jammed full of pop, sizzle and BAM! Well this is our grand finale to our credit score series! It’s the thing that everyone has been waiting for…

10 Ways to Improve Your Credit Score (and some of them you can start doing immediately):

  1. Pay your bills on time – EVERY time.
  2. Open a credit card if you don’t have one. Time to start building that GOOD credit!
  3. Don’t open accounts you don’t intend to use. Even if it will get you 10% off your purchase that day!
  4. Add an installment loan from Linn Area Credit Union to your credit mix.
  5. Request a higher limit on the credit cards you carry a balance on.
  6. Keep your balance low in relation to your available credit. We suggest that you never carry a balance that exceeds 30% of your available credit.
  7. Order a copy of your credit report and correct any negative errors. Go to
  8. Don’t close unused accounts in good standing.
  9. Don’t open several new accounts in a short period.
  10. Work with us to boost your credit score!

Come on in to any full-service Linn Area Credit Union and talk with a financial counselor. Together, we can determine how to give your score a lift and see if we can save you money in the meantime.

If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments!

Back to the Basics: CC Style, Part 3  by Tara


Well hello again! Welcome to your third installment of Back To the Basics: Credit Style. I hope you’re learning lots about the three little numbers that rule the financial world! I think today’s topic is really going to peek your interest.

We help members with credit related questions every single day at Linn Area Credit Union. One of the most commonly asked questions is, “What hurts my credit score?”

Well here it is, folks! A nice little list of things people do that cause their credit score to feel the burn:

  • The easiest to prevent and most common mistake is missing payments. It doesn’t matter what the dollar amount is, if you miss a payment, it’s going to burn. It can take up to 24 months to restore credit with just one late payment showing up on your credit report.
  • Closing unused accounts that are in good standing. This one is a little confusing. You see, closing an account in good standing actually diminishes the number of good trade lines on your credit report.  And it could shorten the length of time of your oldest credit history.
  • Applying for a lot of credit cards and store cards in a short period of time.
  • Having an account sent to collections or (eek) charged off.
  • Closing a credit card that still has a balance.

Who knew credit scores were so needy and sensitive? Just like that person you used to date in high school…

Well here’s some GOOD news! There are some things that DO NOT affect your score:

  • Debt ratio (how much debt you owe compared to your income)
  • Income
  • Length of residence
  • Length of employment

Don’t be fooled, though! These items do factor in when applying for things such as loans.

If you’re credit score isn’t quite where you want it to be, fear not! Next time we are going to share with you TEN WAYS to improve your credit score – things that you can start doing RIGHT AWAY! Holy cow! I can hardly wait!

Back to the Basics: CC Style, Part 2  by Tara


Welcome back! If you’re just joining us, you might want to skip back to here and get your credit score.  ;o)

So now that you have your number (or at least know how/where to get), it’s time to examine how a credit score gets built – and it’s super interesting! Okay, maybe not super interesting, but definitely something you need to know about. :o)

What makes up your credit score?

The Iowa Credit Union League provided an excellent pie chart (mmm… pie!) that helps explain the stuff that gives us that three digit number:

10% Types of Credit In Use: Try to have a good mix of installment (auto, personal loans, etc.), credit card, and mortgage accounts. Try to avoid finance company debt.

10% New Credit: Limit your credit cards and store cards to just what you’ll ACTUALLY use.  (Make sure to ask yourself if saving that extra 10% of your purchase is worth it!) Opening new lines of credit frequently can hurt your overall score.

15% Length of Credit History: The longer you’ve successfully handled credit, the better your score (potentially) will be. This is why we encourage teens to get our Plugged In credit card or auto loans. Go here for more information!

30% Amounts Owed: This is a measure of your “credit utilization” or balance to credit limit ratio. The lower you’re using overall, the better your score. Try to keep your credit card balance under 30% of the available credit limit.

35% Payment History: Put simply, if you’re late on payments, you score WILL suffer. Make sure all payments are being made on time or within the grace period.

Good job making it through all of that! I think you’ve earned a slice of PIE!!! Baw ha ha. In the spirit of pie and pie charts, I have made my own pie chart…

Tell us in the comments below, did any pieces of this credit pie surprise you? Or tell us what your favorite kind of pie is!

Back To the Basics: CC Style!  by Tara


We’re all at different points in our financial journey. Whether it’s your first time around the block or you’re an old pro, it’s a really great idea to go back to basics and revisit the three little numbers that make the world go ‘round – your CREDIT SCORE!!!

We are going to take a closer look at how to improve your credit score through a series of four blog posts. We’ll break it all down so that you understand exactly what makes up your credit score, what actions will hurt your score, and things you can do to start improving your credit score right away.

Think fast – what’s your credit score?

*insert Jeopardy theme song*

Bonus fact while you wait: Did you know that as of January 2011, the National Average score was 692?

Time’s up. How quickly were you able to answer that question? Better yet – how SURE were you of the accuracy of your answer?? ;o) We encourage you to go to once a year to pull your credit report. It doesn’t ding your score and can actually HELP it if you see things on there that don’t seem right. FYI – there is a small small fee to get your credit SCORE, but worth it. (This purchase is Tara Approved!!!)

You know how to get your credit score, but what does it mean and, most importantly, how can you prove it? Just keep your eye on this blog, friends, because we are going to go into detail! Believe me, your credit is going to look fabulous after we’re done with you!

Tell us in the comments below, when was the last time you check your credit score??

Delicate Balance  by Tara


Life is all about balance. Some days you might feel like a member of the Fab Five, just trying to keep both feet on that balance beam so that you can achieve your dreams. I’ll tell you, every Olympic gymnast I watched on that balance beam caused me to hold my breath and keep my body perfectly still – hoping that maybe my stillness would somehow help them keep both feet on that beam. A delicate balance, that’s for sure.

It’s not so different with our finances, really. We have to do everything we can to stay grounded because swaying too far one way or another could cost us lots of points (on our credit report, that is).

At Linn Area Credit Union, we want our members to feel as balanced as possible. One perk we have over pretty much anyone else is that our credit card rates are super duper low. We urge you to take a look at the rates you are paying on your cards and then compare them to ours. One suggestion we have is for you to move any balances you have on a higher rate card over to our low rate cards and, ultimately, pay less in interest.

Did you know that it doesn’t just have to be a major credit card you can transfer a balance from? It can be a store card or even a loan.

So how does this work? If you already have one of our credit cards, you just click here to fill out a balance transfer form online or come on in and we’ll hook you up. If you don’t have one of our cards yet – yeesh, it’s about time you get on that! Go here to get started.

The balance transfer form needs the following info regarding the card/loan you are transferring the balance from:

Pay To (the name of the credit card/loan we are paying off)
Address (the addy of the place were you currently send your payment to for the card or loan we’re paying off)
Account Number (you guessed it – the account number of the card or loan we are paying off!)
Amount to be transferred

Interest will accrue (but at a lesser amount than before on your higher interest card), but we won’t charge you any fees for this service. Allow three weeks for the transfer to be made and make any payments required during that time. Keep in mind, the amounts you transfer must stay within the credit limit of your card.

I’m going to take a wild guess and predict that your plan for 2016 probably does NOT include balancing on a beam while donning a red sparkly unitard as the whole world watches, but, if you get with LACU, you might be gearing up for a gold medal in financial freedom!

Now that we’ve all had plenty of time to recover from all the late nights of staying up to watch the Olympics, what was your favorite moment?

How I became debt free  by Tara


I’ve talked before about how I used to have a bit of credit card debt. I thought you might be interested to know how I managed to say sianara to it. :o)

I had four credit cards with varying balances – some low, some high. Two were store cards and two were major credit cards; all with interest rates 20.00% APR or above. I was making the minimum payment each month, plus a little extra per card. Each month I’d look at my statement and feel frustrated that my payment was barely making a dent in the overall balance. I felt helpless. How was I ever going to pay them all off?

It was time to get real.

I grabbed a piece of paper and my stash of credit cards. I divided the paper into three columns. In the first column, I wrote down the name of the credit card. In the second column, the current balance. Finally, in the third column I wrote down the interest rate. Then I added the total. Nearly $5,000. Then I ate a piece of chocolate and counted to ten. Now that I knew exactly what I was working with, it was time to devise a plan.

My plan of attack was just that – MINE. Linn Area Credit Union is in no way endorsing my plan. I’m just sharing with you guys what worked for me at a time when I was tremendously overwhelmed. Hopefully you can start thinking how you can tackle any debt that you might have! (Need help? Give us a call and we can see how much money we can save for you!)

I borrowed from Dave Ramsey’s “snowball” idea and implemented it into my debt-free plan.

I arranged my credit cards from the lowest balance to the highest balance. The lowest one had about $250 on it. I decided that THAT card was the one I would conquer first.

I added up how much total I could afford to spend on paying off my credit cards in a month. For me, the minimum payments totaled to about $85 per month. I could afford to allot about $175 per month (my minimum payments plus about $90).  Instead of dividing that number up equally between all four of the cards, I paid the minimum on three cards and used the rest of the money and put it ALL towards that fourth card.

That very first month, my credit card balance on that first card went from $250 down to about $150. WHAT?!?! And guess what? I had that sucker paid off within a couple months.

I was excited!!! I only had three cards to worry about now and I could now focus all my energy on the next troublesome card – but now with more money because there wasn’t a fourth card reaching into my pocket.

And another cool thing happened. I became PSYCHED about paying off my cards. I looked for other ways to cut back in order to put more money towards paying off my debt. It was psychologically uplifting to watch the numbers decrease – all because of ME! I was able to completely take care of my credit card debt in about a year.

I know some people shy away from using credit cards after dealing with past debt, but that’s not the case for me. I make sure that I have credit cards with the best rates (you can’t beat Linn Area’s – click here) and I pay charges off quickly. I also like cards that give me something back, like our Rewards Card.

You have to be diligent, committed and brutally honest with yourself, but I believe that you, too, can get yourself out of debt.

Sound off: Tell us in the comments below things that you have done to get out of debt!

Denied? No biggie.  by Tara


I heard something the other day that I wanted to address. Someone told me that they wanted to apply for a loan, but were afraid that they would be rejected. If this happened, the person was worried that they would feel embarrassed.

As someone who truly encompasses the values of LACU, my first reaction is “Ahhhhh! I want to give this person a hug!!!” Okay, now that I have THAT out of my system, I want to scream to the hilltops that we will never, ever judge you. We encourage people to come in, chat with us about your needs and then let us help you figure out how we can save you money or determine if we can help get you that new car you need or the bigger home for that growing family of yours.

But let’s push away the hearts and flowers for a second. I’m going to reveal to you exactly what happens if you are not approved for a loan:

A financial counselor will let you know that you have not qualified at the time. Instead of laughing at you (which would never happen here!) or kicking you out the door, the financial counselor will go through your credit report with you. Together, you’ll look at what portions might be, well, bruised. Based on what the credit report says, the financial counselor will be able suggest things you can do to start improving your credit right away. You might even be able to determine a timeline as to when you could reapply for whatever loan you were hoping for.

What’s helpful about this process is that once you see the good, the bad, and even sometimes the ugly on your credit report, you’ll finally be able to determine a plan of attack. I truly believe that a PLAN is the key to achieving your goals!

You should know that we are required by law to give you a denial notice. The notice contains all sorts of information, including your credit score, contact info for the credit bureau that we obtained your credit report from, and information on how you can obtain a free copy of your credit report (you just have to mail that denial notice into the credit bureau we got your info from).

Also, a denial is never listed on your credit report and does not negatively impact your score. For example, if you were denied a loan from us, your credit report would say that Linn Area Credit Union had an inquiry, but it does not say that you were not approved.

I hope that this has taken out some of the mystery for you curious folks. We will always remain professional and you’ll even receive some great financial advice to help improve your future! See, there really is a silver lining to a denial!

New Rewards Options!  by Tara


If you have our spiffy Visa Rewards Credit Card or are thinking about getting it (what a great idea), you know that you can redeem your points for some pretty great stuff (click here to see some real life stories of what people have redeemed their points for). Well good news, crazy cats! A couple of options have been freshly added to the Choice Rewards loyalty fulfillment catalog (ohhh, fancy name!):

1)      Car rentals
Within the existing travel catalog, car rentals appear as a separate, easy-to-find category. Within this area, cardholders are able to conveniently reserve cars at all major car rental providers (Avis, Budget, National, Alamo, Hertz and Dollar), as well as some regional agencies (domestic and international). This means that you can choose the car rental option that makes the most sense for YOU!

2)      In-Store Pick Up at Best Buy
You can now select in-store pick-up for electronic merchandise from Best Buy. The new feature will allow cardholders to redeem rewards online and then pick up merchandise within an hour at a local Best Buy store.

If you don’t have one yet, get on it! Click here to get started!

Sound off: What is the coolest thing you’ve ever used your credit card rewards points for?

Scary CC Stories: Dionn’s Nightmare  by Tara


Happy Halloween, all you Linn Area gouls and goblins! We hope that your day is going well and that you’re successfully dodging any black cats that try to cross your path.

Today is the final story from our real-life spooky credit card stories – and we’ve saved the best for last. So hold onto your knickers… this story is really going to make you cringe!

Victim: Dionn Pinckney

“My nightmare began March 2010. I had been with a card company for over 12 years. Most of the time, I paid my card off every month. This card was used quite alot for frequent flyer miles. In March I charged over 1000.00 for airline tickets to attend my aunt’s funeral. Because of bad weather, the airline cancelled our flight. With the new regulations the government put in place in Feb., this affected my card. My interest rate was 4.5% before the new rules.  Then it went to 17%.

For 2 months, I kept getting this huge interest charge.  I called the card company and they told me I had to pay my credit card off 2 months in a row in order not to be charged this rate. My interest was so large, because it was acruing daily.

I was shocked and very upset. I couldn’t pay it off, because of the credit from the airline. The next month when I received the credit, I paid the balance, cancelled the card, lost my flyer miles, and demanded they send me my .13 credit. I also told them they were backstabbing good customers, and will never come back. Linn Area is now the card for this family.”

*shuddering*  Uhhh!!!! That story gives me the heebie-jeebies! Well, except for the part when Dionn found Linn Area’c credit card. That part fills me with warm fuzzies!

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