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New Programs Give You Control to Raise Your Credit Score

For too long, consumers had little control over the subtleties of their credit scores. One forgotten payment dings a score by 10 points. Signing up for a department store credit card can take it down by 20 points. Most Americans don’t learn how to build their credit until they learn their credit score is so low, they have to pay far more than others for a car or home loan.

Waiting to check your credit score until you’re in the mortgage broker’s office is like showing up at the marathon after sitting on the couch for the previous six months. Why not condition for optimal performance now?

The good news is that there are now two, brand new programs that give you extra control over the key number that reflects your financial responsibility. These programs come from credit bureau Experian and credit analyst FICO (FICO uses Experian, TransUnion and Equifax to calculate your score. The credit bureaus do not calculate the score.)

Experian Supports the Consumer, Finally!

The Experian Boost program lets consumers report their on-time utility, phone and cable payments. Demonstrating reliability in making these payments can help a borrower improve how a credit bureau perceives his or her trustworthiness. While this idea may seem new to you, alternative lenders have used information from monthly bills for a few years now with great success. It allows them to make more loans and broaden their businesses with little increased risk. It turns out that those who prove they pay these typical monthly bills are good credit risks, even if they’ve forgotten a payment or picked up a new credit card.

Experian claims that of those who have tried the program so far, 64 percent have raised their credit scores.

To get started, all you need to do is give Experian access to your bank account. They need to see your payment history. Once this connection is made, you can calculate your score right away. Experian predicts that eight million Americans could move from poor to fair or fair to good credit with this new program. With better credit, they are more easily able to qualify for apartments, insurance, credit, mortgages and loans. It should only take a few minutes to set up and will jump start your credit repair efforts!  

FICO Finds Its Heart, too

As with Experian Boost, FICO’s UltraFICO links with your checking, savings and money market accounts. It reads whether you:

  • keep healthy average checking and savings balances
  • have maintained a bank account over time
  • avoid overdrafts
  • pay your bills regularly

In other words, it monitors your banking habits. FICO estimates that 15 million Americans can raise their FICO scores by opting into UltraFICO.  This program will be available soon. You can sign up to be notified when they’re ready to take your bank information.

Safety in these Two Programs

Today, Americans are more concerned about safety and privacy than ever. Experian and FICO have the most secure systems in the world. Both new programs involve sign-in verification, during which consumers grant read-only permission to connect to their online bank accounts. All of this information is encrypted so that no individual at either entity can know bank details. The algorithms crunch numbers and data. Use the links above to advocate for your credit worthiness and finally have some sway over your credit score.

Take the Pain out of Monitoring Your Finance

Go from bad credit to good credit without beating yourself up

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Can there be any joy in monitoring your finances? Your bank balance is disappointing more often than not. Trimming expenses doesn’t bring any joy. Reminders of irresponsibility can be a gut punch.

Still, a different mindset can help you make the changes to put you on the path to good credit.   

Begin by forgiving yourself for financial mistakes

The shame and blame we heap upon ourselves for not being where we want to be financially can make our situations worse. It leads us to avoid confronting credit spending, recurring debits from bank accounts, balances on personal loans or car loans, and important conversations with family members.

Shame springs from an idea that the individual has departed from social norms. Start dismissing your shame when you understand that one in three others you’ll meet today also have credit under 601. That’s right—one-third of Americans today have bad credit.

The individual experiencing bad credit has lots of company. And is this all their fault?  With aggressive companies relentlessly bombarding us with messages that we deserve their products and that we must keep up with our peers, it’s no wonder we overextend ourselves.

If you can grab your financial issues “by the horns” so to speak, you have made the first

 step on the path to success. Some psychologists tell us that, “a willingness to endure discomfort and capitalize on challenge is a trademark among successful, fulfilled individuals.” While it will require a little effort, put a budget in place, inform those who may impact it, stick to it. You’ll quickly find positive feelings about yourself and your financial situation multiplying. As Benjamin Franklin told the framers of our constitution, “Once begun, half done.” Those quill pens got to writing, despite their enormous task. 

Gamify Your Savings

Rather than tracking every $3 coffee, focus more on a positive indicator: your savings level. As that rises, set a reward after reaching certain amounts. The reward could be you get to buy a new piece of clothing or 10 shares of SnapChat stock. Set these levels up ahead of time and stick to these commitments. These rewards can offset the sense of loss from avoiding day-to-day overspending.

Take the pressure off when you avoid social media

First and foremost, understand that social media is simply carefully selected snippets of your friends’ and family members lives. What they choose to share is designed to elicit envy. Those of us here at First Financial are constantly surprised at friends’ life-is-so-great posts and how these compare to what we know are their real struggles.

What’s more, when you focus on others, you remove your attention from your own issues. If you have bad credit, all your attention needs paid to your spending and savings plans.

Let the social world turn without you when you use a religious tradition, mindfulness, meditation or good old smart reading to understand how pointless it is to compare yourself to friends, relatives.

Deepen Your Relationships when You Lay It All Out for Loved Ones

Serious conversations with loved ones can be intimidating, particularly when they’re about money. Strategize how to take the sting out of belt-tightening before you tackle it with those you love. In other words, have alternate plans to take the place of lavish habits so that your new financial regimen doesn’t translate as 100 percent loss.  

First, explain how it’s important now to join forces for common goals and how these efforts will unite you. Emphasize that working together for financial fitness by cooking meals together, going to resale and thrift shops and competing for better money saving strategies will get you talking and sharing more. Also, make sure you include your family members’ long- and short-term goals in your planning. Study after study reveals that children and spouses prefer experiences and time spent together over material goods anyway. Shared experiences just connect us better and for longer than shared material consumption. Use that research if you have to!

Your new financial fitness system may benefit from gratitude journals. Everyone should jot down at least one thing they’re grateful for every day. Sharing is optional, but when these grateful moments that include others are shared, it strengthens bonds. These journals, particularly effective when an individual is feeling particularly short-changed, have proven to increase happiness significantly.

How to Find High Risk Merchant Services for Ecommerce Stores

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20 years ago, it was amazing to have a book come right to your door from a little online store called Amazon.

Today, what’s even more amazing is that you can run your own little online store and send your own crafts and other products to your customers’ doors. Online services like Shopify and Miva have made it easy to open stores, bringing in side-hustle level money or even creating full-time gigs.

Collecting money is a critical aspect in online business success. Luckily, the ecommerce platforms make it easy to connect with merchant processors to make accepting credit, debit, PayPal and more payments simple. You will need both a merchant service provider and a payment gateway. It may be a few steps, but accepting a wide variety of payments only takes filling in fields online. You the ecommerce platform about the merchant service and payment gateway you want and follow the instructions to connect both to your bank account and website.

The good news is that technology has progressed to the point where vendors can have a store without a website. Google Shopping, Facebook Stores and Instagram shops sidestep the need for a website. Merchants simply list their inventory on their ecommerce platform and feed it out through a line of code.

Even better, most ecommerce platforms accommodate any merchant service provider you choose. To pick the right one, consider your business’s potential expansion and make sure your plan will accommodate that growth. Also, ask the merchant account service what specific features they offer for ecommerce shops.

Test All Software and Hardware

Quality software and hardware require a trial run before unleashing your business upon a market. It also gives you a chance to check out the customer service that comes with your ecommerce platform and your merchant account. Run through some experimental purchases. Get this done because when a glitch occurs in real-time with a real customer, you want to be able to get it taken care of quickly and with little thought or research. You risk not only alienating customers but ending up with chargebacks and returns.

Understand Fees Involved

Merchant account service charge a percentage for all transactions plus a flat rate for each transaction and a fee for each month. If the merchant service is asking for application, setup, programming, annual or termination fees, be wary. These fees are often considered unethical, and the competent providers do not require them.

Depending on the type of ecommerce business you run, you may be better off paying more up front but allows you to have a greater number of transactions each month. You have to look at your business and crunch the numbers to see what works best for you.

Finally, look in the fine print for “transaction volume caps,” or other charges. These can eat into your profits. Set daily or monthly transaction caps could prompt your provider to shut your account down. That’s the last thing you want if a surge in sales arises during a promotional or holiday offer.

Merchant Services Help You Increase Your Sales – Call 1 (800) 950-0212

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4 Ways to Reduce Your Merchant Credit Card Processing Fees

Credit card processing fees just come with the territory. That customers spend 20 t0 50 percent more when using credit cards should reassure you that accepting them feeds your profits. Use these tips to keep even more of your profits when you reduce your merchant credit card processing fees.

Find the Processor that Wants You

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Just as lenders can specialize in certain types of borrowers, processors like to stock their portfolios with merchants that meet carefully selected criteria. They marshal the software and hardware that caters to different transaction amounts and volumes. They may also design their offers by a merchant’s average ticket price (ATP) or lifetime value (LTV). That’s why you should evaluate several merchant processors to see which wants to work hardest for your business.

This said, make sure that processors offering low rates also provide sufficient services and aren’t hiding fees. When you find a possible processor, check its Better Business Bureau rating. Create a spreadsheet and get answers to the following questions:

· What is the total interest rate when including all fees?

· What are the application, cancellation, statement and service fees? Can these be waived?

· Do you require contracts? What are the terms?

· How can I get a lower fee per transaction?

Those not willing to work with you do not deserve your business. Review the answers other merchant account services. Always read the fine print.

Hardware Considerations

Leasing credit card terminal means you’ll end up paying up to 20 times the machine’s cost. Typically, leases run for three to five years. While the terminals cost $200 to $400 up front, leasing can run from $40 to $70 each month. Keep in mind that you can also consider mobile credit card readers that plug into smartphones. These include Paypal Here, SparkPay, Intuit GoPayment and more.

There are also a handful of new mobile credit card readers merchants can consider. These inexpensive devices plug into a smartphone or tablet and allow credit cards to be accepted from anywhere. Examples include Square, Etsy, Intuit GoPayment, Paypal Here, Spark Pay and Amazon Local Register. Evaluate them to determine which fit your sales type and volume.

Remember to Swipe Rather than Entering Manually

When the merchant enters the cardholder’s information manually, they’ll pay more in fees per transaction than if swiping the card. Accounting software Intuit tells us that this is because processors know that manually entered transactions can be more easily hacked by thieves. A credit card’s magnetic strip or EMV chip has the most state-of-the-art security features. When a merchant enters numbers manually, those security features are not engaged. With risk of fraud high with manual entry, processors balance their risk by charging more. If you have to retrain cashiers, do it.

Use Minimum Sales Amounts to Maximize Profits

Convenience stores and restaurants have credit card use minimums for good reason. Small transactions with thin margins can make the sale a money loser. Some merchants worry that a minimum could cut sales. If customers push back on this policy, explaining the costs involved usually helps them understand.

All it takes is putting up a note that says you accept credit cards, but require a minimum sale of $10 or $20. If a customer doesn’t understand, simply explain that the cost of processing plastic can be burdensome.

Today, all businesses must accept credit and debit cards. With all of the additional payment methods requiring a processor, no business can go without a merchant account. The fees involved should not scare you away from providing your customers a wide variety of ways to pay.

Merchant Services Help You Increase Your Sales – Call 1 (800) 950-0212

2019 Merchant Services Trends

blankNothing so constant as change! Business owners that keep up on merchant services trends will delight their customers by offering a wide variety of payment options, convenient refunds and fast processing. Technology advances quickly in all spheres, sure, but the rewards are yours when you work with your processor to keep your buying processes current.

Several Companies May be Serving You
Financial technology (fintech) companies have found cooperating gets them further than competing these days. The smaller companies do the innovating and let the larger ones shoulder the marketing costs in exchange for their technology. Some banks have connected with PayPal to allow shoppers buy in physical stores. Others partner with scanning technology companies to turn images into figures that can debit accounts. The bottom line is when you get your statements, be prepared to see several names, one claiming the other is part of their “group.”

Payment Options Expanding

Hang on to your POS processors! P2P platforms are shaking up the payments industry. Around 20 percent of young adults use Venmo and Zelle at least once a week. Since they remain peer-to-peer, these platforms don’t charge a fee. Their long-game, however, is to develop C2B or consumer to business payments, where the business shoulders the costs. Your merchant services provider should handle these new payment methods to capture these audiences, who are, after all in the prime spending years of 18 to 34.

Rewards Hunting Makes Consumers Fickle
Card issuers have found recently that they can lure customers away from competitors with more and more lavish rewards. They’re offering higher cash-back rewards on purchases and even upfront bonuses. Half of all consumers surveyed will go to the trouble to change cards if the enticement is rich enough. But someone has to pay for this fickleness, and it isn’t the consumer. In most cases, the resulting interchange fees go to the merchant processor and are in turned passed to the merchants. If your processor raises these interchange fees, there’s a good reason behind it.

The New Financiers
Auto and mortgage dealers aren’t the only ones to have financing programs. Today, Home Depot, Overstock and Walmart use PayPal to offer revolving credit lines that let shoppers buy online without a credit card. Newcomers giving PayPal a run for this financing opportunity are Klarna, Affirm and Square. According to a recent survey, 33 percent of American e-commerce businesses will offer purchase financing options in the next year or two.

Credit Card Processing Technology and Devices Changing
Real-time payment processing, cutting-edge anti-fraud measures and API integration advance at lightspeed and that means the credit card machines and POS systems must keep up. Where once, Mastercard and Visa ruled the day, today there are hundreds of payment options, some covered here. Businesses that capture whatever payments options shoppers care to use will prevail. Merchants must stay up-to-date on the hardware and software integrations that help their businesses thrive.

Merchant Services Help You Increase Your Sales – Call 1 (800) 950-0212

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Consider Prepaid Debit Cards for Travel

blankNothing like a beautiful sandy beach, a turquoise ocean and a cabana boy ferrying mai-tais to let you convince yourself you CAN spend a little extra. The credit card limit is twice the debt on there now, after all.  You won’t be angry at yourself for. . . say . . . another ten days or so. And you’re having so much fun!

Taking convenient prepaid debit cards on your trip instead ensures today-self and future-self remain in harmony.

European, Asian and the Middle Eastern travelers have been using prepaid debit cards for years. It’s time Americans get with this convenient — and budget-friendly — payment method. Prepaid cards are safer than cash because they require a code to redeem. You can get a prepaid card in a few days online without having to go to a bank, and there are no credit dings for getting one. Some prepaid cards can even be pre-loaded with the currency of the country to which you are traveling. In that case, if exchange rates favor your currency, you can save on purchases once you land!

Prepaid cards ensure you’re not stuck, either. You can always reload them as long as you have access to the internet. Because you reload them with funds from your bank account, you’re less likely to put too much more onto the card. Also, just the process of having to go to the internet and make the transfer helps to stop you from your impulse purchase.

Another advantage of using prepaid debit cards for travel is that you have a list of all your purchases available either via your computer or phone. This is particularly important if you have teens traveling with you. They want their independence and a little money to spend. But before you let them out of the hotel, make it clear you will know where their money is going.

While you will miss out on the rewards that credit card companies now offer, the prepaid debit card helps protect you from your own lack of discipline. That can mean more savings. Get this aspect of your travel taken care of when you order prepaid debit cards online now.

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