At Centinel Bank, we are dedicated to giving you the knowledge and skills needed to own your economic success, plan for your future, and make smart economic choices. We feel that investing in your financial knowledge leads to financial success, and this is key in building a strong community.
Teaching our customers and their children, as well as our Taos County communities about how to maintain a bank account, balance a checkbook and calculate interest, or save for college, establish good credit, buy a home, plan for retirement and recognize the need for an emergency fund are some of the topics covered through our education/financial literacy initiatives at Centinel Bank.
Please browse through any of our articles, use any of our calculators and schedule a workshop or presentation with us. Our hope with our financial education efforts is to strengthen financial literacy for individuals and businesses in all populations and through all stages of life in our community– youth, teens, adults, and seniors.
As active community members, we are happy to conduct workshops, presentations, or one-on-one meetings in the community on financial literacy related topics. We invite community organizations and individuals to contact us, if you are interested in having us lead such a session or workshop.
Financial Tools, Education & Resources
Calculators Click here to use a variety of easy-to-use online calculators to help you solve common financial problems.
Articles and Education
Shifting to New Phases
With the travel industry lifting restrictions, and businesses and schools beginning to open again, it creates a feeling of starting fresh and encourages us to set new goals. Setting new financial goals should be on the top of our lists. As you reflect on the past year, focus on your experiences – build on what worked and what didn’t – to shape this year’s money habits. Here are some ideas to consider as you set your financial goals.
New Savings Account
Think about what you want to save for the coming year and commit to opening a savings account to reach that goal, whether it’s creating an emergency fund or setting money aside for your kids’ future college tuition. There are many types of savings accounts available to save for both short term and long term goals.
Small Step: Decide on the type of savings account that will meet your goal and commit to depositing a set amount on a regular basis to get into the habit of saving. For example, if you open a basic savings account, deposit $25 every month and sign up for direct deposit or automatic withdrawals from your checking account to ensure that amount is saved. Once you’re comfortable with saving a small amount consistently, you can increase it.
Pay Down That Old Debt
Confronting your debt and thinking about how to pay it off can be scary and overwhelming. Make a list of your debts, noting the monthly payment, current balance, and interest rate, and make a plan to start paying down the debts. Many experts recommend focusing on either debts with the highest interest rates or debts with the lowest balances to pay off. While you will likely save more money paying off debts with the highest interest rates, it may be faster to pay off the smallest balances first, and seeing this progress may help keep you motivated.
Small Step: Whichever method you choose for paying down debt, start by adding a small amount to one of your current payments. For instance, if you are focusing on paying off a credit card with a minimum monthly payment of $100, add $25 to that amount to start (for a total monthly payment of $125). Once you are comfortable with that new amount, add more when you’re able and stay focused on the goal.
Keeping your finances organized will help you control your money and achieve your financial goals. Some basic tasks to help you get organized include making a budget, tracking your spending, and putting a system in place to ensure you pay your bills on time every month. Be sure to monitor your credit card and bank statements for any unexpected fees or unusual activity too. The sooner you find mistakes or unauthorized transactions, the easier it is to correct those issues.
Small Step: Like dealing with debt, organizing your finances can be daunting, so start small by picking one organizational task and focus on that task for one month before adding another. For example, you might start by setting up automatic bill pay from your bank account in order to make sure your bills are paid on time. Give yourself one month to learn about it, set it up, and get comfortable using it. Next month, focus on creating a budget, which gives you several weeks to learn about budgeting and working on it.
Protect Your Money
With so many financial transactions occurring electronically, it’s important to proactively protect your personal information, including your credit card and bank account numbers. Take charge of protecting your money. Never provide your personal information in response to an unsolicited request, whether it is over the phone or over the Internet. Always track your bank and credit card statements and your credit reports for unusual activity. Catching abnormal transactions early will allow you to take steps to prevent more harm if your information has been stolen.
Small Step: One important step to protect yourself from online scams and theft is to change your passwords regularly. If you have been using the same passwords for your financial accounts for a while, create new, difficult-to-guess passwords and change them often to keep your money safe.
Many consumers establish a budget as a planning tool. It is especially important to take a look at your finances and have a plan when your income decreases. By understanding what money you are getting and what you are spending, you may be able to make changes to help you through the tough times. Reviewing your expenses and income together can help you identify expenses you may be able to cut or reduce, purchases you might be able to delay, and make sure you have enough money to pay for things that are a priority.
How do I create a plan or a budget?
Your income and expenses are two parts of your budget that can change over time. A budget is a great tool to help you track your income and expenses and allocate specific amounts of money for spending. Putting it together in one place can help you make adjustments to make sure you are not spending more than you are earning.
Be sure to take a look at the expenses you need to pay annually or semiannually, such as taxes or insurance premiums, and make sure to include them in your plan. Update your budget to include all of your income, such as wages and bonuses, and other possible amounts. Be sure to update your list of expenses as they change, including utilities, mortgage or rent payments, car payments, food, and entertainment. It is helpful to consider any anticipated expenses, such as education costs, to see the impact they will have and prepare for the change.
Online personal finance management tools or mobile apps can help you create a budget and make it easier for you to stick to your budget. Find more budgeting ideas at FDIC Consumer News: Time to Take a New Look at Your Money Habits.
Are all the expenses I'm paying for automatically each month really worth it?
Some expenses you put on automatic payment may look small but can add up over time. Review your credit card and checking account statements for expenses that are charged on a recurring basis. Check to see whether you still get value or need these products or services. Sometimes you may find that you have the same benefits elsewhere, which is duplicative and costly.
What is “paying myself first?”
Saving money may seem impossible when funds are tight, but consider opening a savings or money market deposit account to regularly set aside money for unexpected events. Treat your savings like a bill and pay yourself first, even if it doesn’t seem like that much. You will be surprised at how consistently saving a seemingly insignificant amount of money will add up over time. Set savings goals that are easy and manageable. Doing so will create a habit of saving, which will help well into your future.
How do I use credit wisely?
While building a credit history is important, understanding how to manage credit is equally important. Make your loan payments on time. Avoid using your credit cards impulsively and charge only what you can pay off in the following billing cycle as much as possible. When you use your card to make purchases, if you pay that balance in full by the payment due date each month, you won't be charged any interest on that balance. Carrying an unpaid balance on your credit card will result in interest charges. Interest is also charged on cash advances beginning on the transaction date. The Truth in Lending Act gives you certain protections when you use your credit cards and loans. Paying your loans on time and other parts of your credit history will often determine whether your financial institution will approve your application for a loan and/or determine the interest rate you will pay for the loan. For more information, visit FDIC’s Consumer Protection Topics - How to Choose and Use a Credit Card.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Credit Reports and Scores
Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Managing Debt
Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Focus on Financing: Preparing for Your Future
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC): Save and Invest
Your mobile device provides convenient access to your email, bank and social media accounts. Unfortunately, it can potentially provide the same convenient access for criminals. We recommend following these tips to keep your information — and your money — safe.
- Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen.
- Log out completely when you finish a mobile banking session.
- Use caution when downloading apps. Apps can contain malicious software, worms, and viruses. Beware of apps that ask for unnecessary “permissions” and delete unused or rarely used apps.
- Download the updates for your phone and mobile apps.
- Avoid storing sensitive information like passwords or a social security number on your mobile device.
- Tell your financial institution immediately if you change your phone number or lose your mobile device.
- Be aware of shoulder surfers. The most basic form of information theft is observation. Be aware of your surroundings especially when you’re punching in sensitive information.
- Wipe your mobile device before you donate, sell or trade it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen.
- Beware of mobile phishing. Avoid opening links and attachments in emails and texts, especially from senders you don’t know. And be wary of ads (not from your security provider) claiming that your device is infected.
- Watch out for public Wi-Fi. Public connections aren't very secure, so don’t perform banking transactions on a public network. If you need to access your account, try disabling the Wi-Fi and switching to your mobile network. Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) app to secure and encrypt your communications when connecting to a public Wi-Fi network. (See the Federal Trade Commission’s tips for selecting a VPN app.)
- Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately.
- Always protect your Debit/ATM card and keep it in a safe place, just like you would cash, credit cards or checks.
- Do not leave your ATM card lying around the house or on your desk at work. No one should have access to the card but you. Immediately notify your bank if it is lost or stolen.
- Keep your Personal Identification Number (PIN) a secret. Never write it down anywhere, especially on your card.
- Never give any information about your ATM card or PIN over the telephone. For example, if you receive a call, supposedly from your bank or possibly the police, wanting to verify your PIN, do not give that information. Notify the police immediately.
Using an ATM
- Be aware of your surroundings, particularly at night. If you observe or sense suspicious persons or circumstances, do not use the machine at that time.
- Have your Debit/ATM card ready and in your hand as you approach the ATM. Don't wait to get to the ATM and then take your card out of your wallet or purse.
- Visually inspect the ATM for possible skimming devices. Potential indicators can include sticky residue or evidence of an adhesive used by criminals to affix the device, scratches, damaged or crooked pieces, loose or extra attachments on the card slot, or noticeable resistance when pressing the keypad.
- Be careful that no one can see you enter your PIN at the ATM. Use your other hand or body to shield the ATM keyboard as you enter your PIN into the ATM.
- To keep your account information confidential, always take your receipts or transaction records with you.
- Do not count or visually display any money you received from the ATM. Immediately put your money into your pocket or purse and count it later.
- If you are using a drive-up ATM, be sure passenger windows are rolled up and all doors are locked. If you leave your car and walk to the ATM, lock your car.
Special Precautions for Using an ATM at Night
- Park close to the ATM in a well-lighted area.
- Take another person with you, if at all possible.
- If the lights at the ATM are not working, don't use it.
- If shrubbery has overgrown or a tree blocks the view, select another ATM and notify your bank.
Avoid phishing, smishing, vishing, and other scams
Criminals are constantly trying to steal consumers’ personal data using fake emails, websites, phone calls, and even text messages. They use a variety of ways to try to trick people into providing Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, and other valuable information. In many cases, their goal is to steal money from you. This article defines some terms used for different online scams and how they work, so you can protect your money.
How do scammers contact their victims?
Phishing is a term for scams commonly used when a criminal uses email to ask you to provide personal financial information. The sender pretends to be from a bank, a retail store, or government agency and makes the email appear legitimate. Criminals often try to threaten, even frighten people by stating “you’re a victim of fraud” or some other urgent-sounding message to trick you into providing information without thinking. Don’t do it.
Smishing is similar to phishing, but instead of using email, the criminal uses text messaging to reach you. Same idea, they pretend they are from an organization you might know and trust (such as a bank or the IRS) and try to get your personal information.
Vishing, similar to phishing and smishing, is when scammers use phone services such as a live phone call, a “robocall,” or a voicemail to try to trick you into providing personal information by sounding like a legitimate business or government official.
What are the different types of scams?
Government Impostor Scams are when fraudsters pretend to be an employee of the FDIC or other government agency, sometimes even using the names of real people. The March 2020 FDIC Consumer News issue has more on how to avoid being scammed by government impostors.
Remember, the FDIC does not send unsolicited correspondence asking for money or sensitive personal information, and we’ll never threaten you. Also, no government agency will ever demand that you pay by gift card, wiring money, or digital currency. The FDIC would never contact you asking for personal details, such as bank account information, credit and debit card numbers, social security numbers, or passwords.
Lotteries and Sudden Riches Scams are when you are told that you won a lottery, perhaps in a foreign country, or that you are entitled to receive an inheritance. You are told that in order to “claim" the lottery winnings or inheritance, you must pay “taxes and fees.” A fake cashier’s check might be sent to you, which the scammer asks you to cash and then wire back the funds to cover the taxes and fees. They disappear with your funds and you get nothing but taken advantage of by the criminal when the check is found to be fraudulent and your bank holds you responsible for the loss.
Online Auctions, Classified Listing Sites, and Overpayment Scams involve an online auction or classified listing site. The scammer offers to buy an item for sale, pay for a service in advance, or rent an apartment. The clue that it is a scam is that they send you a cashier’s check for an amount that is higher than your asking price. When you bring this to their attention, they will apologize for the oversight and ask you to quickly return the extra funds. The scammer’s motive is to get you to cash or deposit the check and send back legitimate money before you or your bank realize that the check you deposited is fake.
Grandparent Scams happen when a fraudster hacks into someone’s email account and sends out fake emails to friends and relatives, perhaps claiming that the real account owner is stranded abroad and might need your credit card information to return home. If you receive such an email, make sure you contact the sender through other means before sending any money or personal information.
Secret or Mystery Shopper Employment Scams involve fake advertisements for job opportunities that claim to be "hiring" people to work from home. As the potential new “employee,” you might receive an official check as a starting bonus, and are asked to cover the cost of “account activation.” The scammer hopes to receive these funds before the official check clears and you realize you have been scammed. Another scenario involves an offer to work from home as a secret shopper to "assess the quality" of local money transfer businesses. You are sent a cashier’s check and instructed to deposit it into your bank account and withdraw the amount in cash. You are then instructed to use a local money transfer business to send the funds back to the “employer” and "evaluate" the service provided by the money transfer business.
Be sure to read the FDIC Consumer News on check fraud to learn more about scams involving checks. FDIC Consumer News: Beware of Fake Checks.
How can I avoid scams?
Be suspicious if someone contacts you unexpectedly online and asks for your personal information. It doesn’t matter how legitimate the email or website may look. Only open emails, respond to text messages, voice mails, or callers that are from people or organizations you know, and even then, be cautious if they look questionable.
If you think an email, text message, or pop-up box might be legitimate, you should still verify it before providing personal information. If you want to check something out, independently contact the supposed source (perhaps a bank or organization) by using an email address or telephone number that you know is valid, such as from their website or a bank statement.
Be especially wary of emails or websites that have typos or other obvious mistakes.
FDIC Video #FDICExplains: Phishing
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): Impostor Scams
(FDIC July 2020 Consumer News)
The FDIC encourages banks to work with their customers experiencing financial difficulty, where possible. This may include delaying loan payments, extending the terms of a loan, or restructuring loan agreements. It is important to contact your bank to discuss your options before skipping any payments or taking any other action that differs from the terms of your loan.
If you do not think you can make your loan payments on time, contact your bank as soon as possible to discuss your options. Paying your debts late or not at all can cause significant problems, including the assessment of fees. In addition, making late payments can damage your credit score. Your bank may be able to work with you on a solution, but it is critical that you contact your bank as soon as possible and explain your situation.
If you have additional concerns or a complaint with your bank, be proactive. First, contact the bank directly to work on a mutual resolution. If that is not effective, you may contact the appropriate federal or state regulatory agency for help or guidance. This includes the FDIC at FDIC Information and Support Center.
Beware of scams
Scammers try to profit from people who are financially vulnerable. Scams are meant to sell you services or products that sound good, but only take your money, so be on the lookout. Do not provide bank account or credit card numbers or other personal information over the phone or in an email, unless you can verify that the entity is reputable and trustworthy. More information on debt relief scams is available from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Credit counselors and assistance with creating a budget or plan
With the help of a credit counselor, you can get advice on creating a budget and a plan to address your financial difficulty. This should allow you to organize your debts and establish a roadmap to paying them down. A credit counselor may also help you work with your financial institution. Counselors typically do not negotiate any reduction in the debt you owe. However, they may be able to help make your monthly debt payments more manageable by negotiating extensions of the time that you can repay loans and working with your financial institution regarding fees and interest charges. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) can assist you with finding a credit counselor.
What is mortgage forbearance?
Mortgage forbearance is when your financial institution or lender agrees to allow you to temporarily make reduced mortgage payments or suspend your mortgage payments for a period of time. Forbearance may help you through your financial hardship by providing temporary budget relief or giving you additional time to catch up. Forbearance does not cancel the amount you owe to your financial institution. You will have to repay any missed or reduced payments in the future.
You can find additional information on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which may provide you with additional forbearance options due to the coronavirus pandemic by visiting the CFPB at Learn about mortgage relief options and protections.
If you are having trouble paying or managing your mortgage, you can contact a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-approved housing counselor for help with your situation.
Dealing with a debt collector
Ignoring or avoiding a debt collector will not stop their attempts at contacting you. The debt collector may even use other means to try to collect the outstanding debt, including a lawsuit. If you do not owe the debt, you should explain this to the debt collector attempting to contact you. If the debt is yours and you are unable to make payments, you may be able to make arrangements with the debt collector. You can also ask the debt collector in writing to stop contacting you, which will stop the communications; however, this does not necessarily stop other efforts to collect the debt.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that governs debt collection practices and prohibits debt collection companies from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices. The CFPB (toll-free 1-855-411-2372) and the Federal Trade Commission (toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP) share overall enforcement responsibility for the FDCPA and accept complaints about debt collectors. The FDIC toll-free at 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877-275-3342) may also help with your complaint. FDCPA covers consumer debts mainly for personal, family, or household purposes such as mortgages, credit cards, and medical debts. Please note that the FDCPA does not cover business or commercial purpose debts.
FDCPA communication requirements for debt collectors:
Generally, debt collectors are prohibited from contacting you at an unusual time or place, and are prohibited from contacting you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
Debt collectors are not allowed to harass you or anyone else through any forms of their contact.
If you are represented by an attorney, the debt collector generally must stop contacting you, and must contact the attorney instead.
More information is available at: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
Is Digital Banking for Me? (FDIC Consumer News)
Choosing the best options for your finances
Now is a great time to learn more about digital banking, in times when face to face interaction is unavailable or households need to change the way they conduct their finances. Technological advances in the ways we obtain credit, make payments, and manage money can provide convenient ways to access some financial products and services that no longer require going to a physical bank branch. These “brick and mortar” banks, a term used to denote a bank branch located in a building, were once the only option we had. With digital banking and mobile banking now widely available and even newer technologies on the horizon, you might be asking, “Is it safe for me to take the leap to digital banking?”
So what is digital banking? The key features of digital banking are affordability, convenience, and instant access to information. These features help consumers understand their financial standing in real time, as well as plan for long-term goals and unexpected emergencies. Whether your bank has physical branches or not, online and mobile banking enables consumers to manage their finances remotely from anywhere, including depositing checks, transferring money between accounts, and even paying friends and family electronically through peer-to-peer (P2P) payment platforms. The October 2019 issue of Consumer News provides helpful information about protecting yourself when using online and mobile banking technology. Some banks, known as online-only banks, have opted not to provide a physical location at all.
The FDIC provides insurance for the funds that you deposit in FDIC-insured banks. This means that, if your FDIC-insured bank fails, the FDIC will protect you against the loss of your insured deposits whether the bank is brick and mortar or online-only. For more information visit FDIC deposit insurance.
Depositors in FDIC-insured banks also benefit from other consumer financial protections. State and federal regulators supervise banks to protect consumers from certain practices, including those involving overdraft fees and correcting account errors. For more information on consumer financial protections, visit Consumer Assistance & Information - Consumer Protection Topics.
What do brick and mortar banks offer?
In addition to traditional banking services like depositing money and withdrawing cash, brick and mortar bank locations generally offer services such as providing money orders and notarizing documents, which involve an in-person interaction with a teller or other bank employee. Many brick and mortar banks also offer safe deposit boxes, which customers can lease for storage of valuable items. It is important to note that the FDIC does not insure the contents of safe deposit boxes.
Many brick and mortar banks also offer online and mobile access to their banking services, which their customers can use to manage their money online. Contact your bank or check their website to learn about all of the services it provides.
What does digital banking offer?
Banks that offer online and mobile banking services give you the ability to do some or all of your banking on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. These digital banking services might include transferring funds, depositing checks, viewing account statements, and paying bills. Some online bank services allow you to open deposit accounts and apply for loans, tasks that once required a visit to a physical location. These options may streamline the exchange of loan application information and may lead to faster loan decisions. Some banks also provide budgeting tools to help you manage your finances.
To use digital banking services, customers typically sign up and create account information that enables you to access your accounts on the web or mobile device. Check with your bank to find out what digital banking features they offer and how to sign up for them. It’s also a good idea to make sure you know how your bank is protecting your digital banking data. Read more about keeping your data safe in the special Cybersecurity Edition of Consumer News.
Online-only banks do not have a physical presence, so customers open accounts and access financial products and features through a website or an app on their computer or mobile device. You can generally use debit cards at ATMs to take out cash and deposit checks. In some cases, you can also make payments electronically. Some digital-only banks do not accept cash deposits, and there may be a fee for certain transactions, so be sure to verify that the features they offer meet your needs.
Like traditional brick and mortar banks, digital-only banks generally have a customer service department that you can contact to ask questions, get help with transactions, and address other concerns or issues; however, they do not offer an option to meet in person with a customer service representative. If services can be conducted online or over the phone instead of in person, they generally offer many of the same services as a brick and mortar bank.
Is it a legitimate bank?
Before engaging with any bank, whether it is digital-only or brick and mortar, it’s important to make sure you are working with a legitimate FDIC-insured bank. Make sure it isn’t a fraudulent website set up by criminals to mislead and entice people into transferring money or disclosing personal information for use in committing identity theft. To confirm that a website belongs to an FDIC-insured bank, check the FDIC’s online database, BankFind. BankFind includes both digital-only and traditional brick and mortar banks.
What’s best for me?
Brick and mortar banks provide the opportunity to build a personal relationship and have personnel who can go over loan terms or address account issues in person. This relationship is important to some consumers, and others may simply like knowing the bank has a physical presence and commitment to their community. In some circumstances, banking online or on a mobile device may not only be a convenience, but a necessity when face to face interaction is unavailable, even if it is only temporary. The bank that’s right for you might be brick and mortar, online, or a bit of both. The best news is that options are available to access your money and keep your funds FDIC-insured.
Keep Yourself and Your Money Safe
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is working with federal and state banking agencies and financial institutions to assist customers affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic. The following information is more important than ever during these challenging times.
Advances in mobile banking technology enable you to exercise social distancing (To Beat COVID-19, Social Distancing is a Must) and conduct banking transactions at the same time. Banking technology and services provide the convenience of conducting banking transactions with your computer, smartphone, or mobile computer device. If you aren’t using these services, ask your bank if the following are available to you and how you can activate them.
Money Transfer Services:
Person-to-person payment services and mobile payment apps have become part of everyday life for many people. Payment services and apps let you send money to people without having to write a check, swipe a card, or hand them cash.
Online Bill Pay Services:
These programs generally allow you to sign up on your bank’s website to receive bills electronically from companies you do business with. Then you can review the bill and pay it online.
Depositing Checks Using Remote Deposit Capture:
Many banks allow customers to use Remote Deposit Capture (RDC), which allows customers to take a picture of a check with their mobile device and deposit that check electronically without ever visiting a branch or using an ATM.
You can find additional tips on mobile banking technology by visiting: Banking at the Speed of Technology.
Some banks may have adjusted hours or services to observe Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance on social distancing, but that doesn’t change the fact that an FDIC-insured account remains the safest place for you to keep your money. FDIC’s Electronic Deposit Insurance Estimator (EDIE) can help you determine deposit insurance coverage based on accounts you already have with a bank or accounts you are considering opening. Find additional help using the EDIE Calculator at FDIC deposit insurance coverage.
As a reminder, keeping large sums of cash in your home is not advisable because it puts these funds at risk of theft, fire, flood, loss, or damage. Also, because of the physical interaction and exchange of currency, paper money has the potential of harboring germs and bacteria, another drawback of storing large sums of cash in your home (see New coronavirus stable for hours on surfaces).
Areas across the United States are undergoing temporary closure of schools, businesses, and events in an effort to reduce the potential exposure to COVID-19. Albeit necessary to contain the spread of this pandemic, many may experience loss of income because of illness or impacts to their workplace. The FDIC is encouraging banks to work with their customers experiencing the impact of COVID-19 by, for example, allowing them to skip loan payments with no adverse consequences, extending loan terms, and restructuring loans. Contact your bank to discuss your options before skipping any payments or taking any other action contrary to the terms of your loan.
If you do not think you can pay your loan payments on time, immediately contact your bank. Paying your debts late or not at all can result in penalties, interest charges, and damage to your credit score. Your bank is likely able to work with you on a solution, but it is important to contact them as soon as possible and explain your situation.
If you have additional concerns or a complaint with your bank, be proactive. First, contact the bank directly. If that is not effective, you may contact the appropriate federal or state regulatory agency for help or guidance, including the FDIC at FDIC Information and Support Center.
Unfortunately, some people may take advantage of COVID-19 by using fraudulent websites, phone calls, emails, and text messages. While claiming to offer “help,” they may be trying to trick people into providing social security numbers, bank account numbers, and other valuable personal information. Do not divulge your bank or credit card numbers or any other personal information over the phone unless you initiated the conversation with the other party and you know that it is a reputable organization.
In addition, you should be cautious about online solicitations. Be on guard against imposters who contact you claiming to be government employees or volunteers and who ask for personal financial information or money. Learn more about how to protect yourself from these scams in the March 2020 edition of Consumer News.
Reject offers to cash a check for someone in exchange for a fee, even if the bank makes the funds available to you right away, as it may later turn out that the check was fraudulent. Read more about fake checks in the August 2019 edition of Consumer News. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has additional information at Avoid Coronavirus Scams.
ATM and Point of Sale Debit Card Purchases
In 2010, federal regulations took effect that provide certain protections for bank customers when their deposit account(s) are overdrawn. Customers now have a choice whether to opt-in to a bank’s overdraft program. By choosing to opt-in, the bank can charge you a fee to process point-of-sale (POS) or ATM transactions that exceed your account balance.
This is called the “opt-in rule” – if you do not opt in, the bank will decline your ATM withdrawals and debit card transactions at POS terminals if you do not have enough money in your account to cover the withdrawal or purchase. If you do not opt-in but the bank pays an ATM or POS item when your account is overdrawn, the bank cannot charge you an overdraft fee.
Avoid Overdraft Fees
An overdraft can occur when you try to spend more money than you have available in your checking account. For example, let’s assume you have $40 in your account. You ask the phone company to electronically deduct $35 from your checking account to pay the bill. You now have $5 available. Next, you use your debit card to make a $10 purchase. You could overdraw your account if the bank allows the $10 purchase to be processed. This could cost you expensive overdraft fees. The amount you are overdrawn plus your bank’s fees will be deducted immediately, in full, from your next deposit(s) -- including from payroll deposits made by your employer, government benefit deposits, and other direct deposits on which you may depend. These deductions will lower your account balance once again and may increase the risk of more overdrafts and costly fees.
Checks and Other Transaction Account Payments
For other transactions that would cause you to exceed your balance, such as if you write a check that overdraws your account or for recurring bills automatically deducted from your account, your bank can choose whether to “pay” (cover) the transaction that would cause you to exceed your balance. If the bank decides it will cover the transaction, expect it to charge you an overdraft fee, which may average around $30. If the bank decides not to cover the transaction, it may charge you a “non-sufficient funds” (NSF) fee and the merchant also may charge you a returned check fee.
Two Ways to Avoid Costly Overdraft Fees in Automated Overdraft Programs
You can protect yourself from costly overdraft fees by:
1. Watch Your Balance. Track the money you deposit into and with draw from your account. You can do this on a paper check register or electronically. Remember to track ATM withdrawals, purchases you make with your debit card, bills that get debited electronically from your account, and checks. It also may be a good idea to keep a cushion of funds in your account to help prevent unintended overdrafts.
2. Link Your Checking Account to a Savings Account. If the accounts are linked and you do not have enough money in your checking account to cover a transaction, the bank will transfer funds from your savings account to your checking account to cover the difference. This can save you money over other overdraft programs because most banks will only charge you a small fee, if they charge at all, for transfers. But, this option is useful only if you have enough money in the linked savings account to cover the transaction. Otherwise, ask your bank about other less costly alternatives to over-draft payment programs, such as a linked line of credit or affordable small-dollar loan.
What should I do if I have a problem?
If you have a concern about your account, contact your financial institution. Explain the problem and how you would like to see the problem resolved. If contacting the bank does not produce desired results, you can contact the bank’s federal regulator for assistance.
To learn more about smart ways to manage your money, complete the FDIC Money Smart financial education program online through www.fdic.gov/moneysmart. You can also find financial education workshops or individualized counseling in your area.
To learn more about how to contact your bank’s federal regulator, call the FDIC’s Consumer Assistance Line at 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877-275-3342). www.fdic.gov/consumer
Put yourself in the driver’s seat with these great tips
A personal budget is a great tool to capture expenses and help determine how much to spend. Budget templates are available in a variety of formats for smartphones, tablets, and computers, and often look something like this:
For more information on budgeting, visit https://www.consumer.gov/content/make-budget-worksheet (www.consumer.gov).
Make a Budget - PDF (www.consumer.gov).
Credit scores and loan costs - It’s a good idea to shop for loans to get the best interest rate and terms. Your credit score also helps determine what kind of auto loans and interest rates are available to you. A higher credit score typically gives you a better interest rate on your loan. To learn more about improving your credit score, go to: FDIC Consumer News - Summer 2015: Establishing or Rebuilding Credit Scores: Options for Moving Forward.
Be sure to review your credit report and dispute any errors that you may find to ensure your credit score is accurate. For more information about obtaining a free copy of your credit report, visit: Consumer Protection Topics - Credit Reports: Credit Report Basics.
Loan Preapproval - Getting preapproved for a loan by multiple lenders allows them to compete for your business. This puts you in a stronger negotiating position with your lenders and can help lower your total loan cost. Be sure to compare the financing offered through the dealership with the rate and terms of any preapproval you received from other lenders, and then choose the option that best fits your budget. Regulation Z, which implements the Truth in Lending Act, requires banks to provide consumers with certain information about a loan before you decide to move forward with it. Banks should provide an itemization of the costs to be financed, annual percentage rate (APR), payment schedule, total number of payments, late payment information and fees, and security interest information.
Co-signers - Consider whether or not you need a co-signer for your auto loan. A co-signer is a person, such as a parent, family member, or friend who is contractually obligated to pay back the loan if you can’t. If your credit history is limited, needs improvement, or you have a low credit score (or no credit score), a co-signer with good or excellent credit could significantly lower your interest rate. The lender relies on the co-signer’s credit history and score when deciding whether or not to make the loan. You and the potential co-signer should think carefully about this option. If you do not repay your loan, you and your co-signer will be responsible for repayment. The co-signer will be responsible for the loan even though he or she has no right to possession of the vehicle. In addition, any late payments made on the loan would affect both your credit history and scores and your co-signer’s credit history and scores.
Add-ons - Some common add-ons are service contracts or warranties, Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP) Insurance, and Credit Insurance. Often there are optional physical features for the vehicle, such as alarm systems, window tinting, tire and wheel protection, and other products offered by the auto dealer. It’s a good idea to think about optional add-ons ahead of time, so that you are prepared and know what you want on the day you finance your vehicle. If you buy them, it will increase the total cost of your loan. Shopping around for any add-ons that you decide you want can also save you money.
Buying a new car can be exciting, just make sure you are well informed on the costs and financing and have a plan in place before you start shopping.
Thinking about going on a vacation, paying for a wedding, buying gifts for birthdays and holidays, or perhaps you have another short-term money goal? We often think of savings for long-term purposes like retirement or buying a house, but they are great for short-term objectives too. Money in an account that is low-risk (less likely to lose money), allows for easy access, and provides opportunity for growth, is a great alternative to a piggy bank. Let’s look at some options to help you better meet your goals and keep your money safe. Learn more here.
Millions of people today use mobile devices to manage their finances, and the number of users continues to grow. Why? Mobile banking technology and services provide so much convenience. You can access your account from just about anywhere using a smartphone or mobile computer device today. As demand grows, the banking indurstry strives to improve online service while keeping customers' safe. Click here to read full article from The October 2019 FDIC Consumer News.
Money Transfer Services:
Person-to-person payment services and mobile payment apps have become part of everyday life for many people. They let you send money to people without having to write a check, swipe a card, or hand them cash. With the development of new payment methods, there are also new risks, so keep the following in mind when using these services and apps:
Have your friend send you a request for payment first. If you’re sending money to someone for the first time, ask that they send a "request" from their app, if that service is available.
Double-check before you press that send button. A simple mistype can send money to the wrong person or the wrong amount.
Know when to expect to receive transferred money or when it should leave your account. You may have to wait to spend money you receive in a transfer. Even if the money appears to be in your balance instantly, you may not be able to spend the money as quickly as it shows up, so be sure to read the disclosures to find out how much time they have to complete the transaction.
Depositing checks using Remote Deposit Capture:
Many banks allow customers to use Remote Deposit Capture (RDC), which allows customers to take a picture of a check with their mobile device and deposit that check electronically without ever visiting a branch or using an ATM.
If you use RDC, carefully track the checks you deposit. For example, you might write the date you deposited the item on the front of the paper check and hold onto it until the check has cleared and the money is in your account. Once the deposit is verified, you can destroy the check, preferably using a high-quality paper shredder. Ask your bank more about how this service works.
Even in today’s digital and mobile world where electronic money transfers are common, consumers and businesses may still prefer the assumed security of paper cashier’s checks or official bank checks for large or major payments. Recipients generally prefer one of these checks over a personal check because the financial institution presumably has already collected the funds from the party purchasing the cashier’s checks or official bank checks. This means the payment is guaranteed, unless the check is counterfeit, so there are risks to consumers and businesses from these types of paper instruments, as well.
Unfortunately, criminals have come to rely on their victim’s sense of “security” provided by cashier’s checks and official bank checks. Advanced graphics and printing technologies allow scammers to easily create fraudulent and hard-to-detect counterfeit checks in a matter of minutes, adding a sense of legitimacy to their scams. Fake checks can look so real that it’s very hard for consumers, or even bank employees, to detect.
Fake bank checks are typically used in scams where the scammer tries to get you to cash or deposit the check. Once it is deposited, they ask that you send all or part of the proceeds back to them or to someone else (an accomplice) before the bank where it was deposited tries to clear or process the check for payment and realizes the instrument is fake. The scammer might ask you to return the funds in a number of ways: in cash, by writing a personal check, by loading it onto a pre-paid or gif card, or through some electronic means, such as a wire transfer, automated clearing house (ACH) payment, or a person to person (P2P) transaction.
If it is later determined that the check was counterfeit, you will likely be held responsible for the funds that were provided to the scammer, so it is important that you recognize the signs of a counterfeit check to protect yourself. Remember, fraud artists are constantly coming up with new ways to use fraudulent cashier’s or official bank checks in their scams. Here are three of the most common scams, and tips on how to detect whether or not you are being scammed.
1. Lotteries and Sudden Riches Scams
In these examples, the check recipients are told that they won a lottery—perhaps in a foreign country—or that they are entitled to receive an inheritance. The recipient is instructed that in order to “claim” their lottery winnings or inheritance, the recipient must first pay “taxes and fees” before they can receive their prize or money. A fake cashier’s check is sent, which the scammer asks the recipient to cash and then wire back the funds to cover the taxes and fees.
2. Online Auctions, Classified Listing Sites, and Overpayment Scams
Scammers might go to an online auction or classified listing site and offer to buy an item for sale, pay for a service in advance, or rent an apartment. The odd thing is that they might send you a cashier’s check for an amount that is higher than your asking price. When you bring this to their attention, they will apologize for the oversight and ask you to quickly return the extra funds. Te scammer’s motive is to get you to cash or deposit the check and send back legitimate money before you realize that the check you deposited is fake.
3. Secret or Mystery Shopper Employment Scams
In these cases, the scammer advertises a job opportunity and claims to be “hiring” people to work from home. The “employee” might receive an official check as a starting bonus and is asked to cover the cost of “account activation.” The scammer hopes to receive these funds before the official check clears and the new employee realizes they’ve been scammed.
Another scenario involves an offer to work from home as a secret shopper to “assess the quality” of local money transfer businesses. The “employee” is sent a cashier’s check and instructed to deposit it in their bank account and withdraw the amount in cash. They are then instructed to use a local money transfer business to send the funds back to the “employer” and “evaluate” the service provided by the money transfer business.
How to Spot a Fake Check
Determining whether a cashier’s check or bank check is legitimate is difficult just by physical inspection. However, there are some things you can do to help identity a fake check:
- Make sure the check was issued by a legitimate bank. While some counterfeit checks will include a legitimate bank’s name, a fake name is a sure giveaway. FDIC Bank Find allows you to locate FDIC-insured banking institutions in the United States.
- Check with the bank that supposedly issued the check to make sure it is real. Make sure you look up the phone number on the bank’s official website and don’t use the phone number printed on the check (that could be a phone number controlled and answered by the scam artist). Next, call the official number and ask them to verify the check. They will likely need to know the check number, issuance date, and amount.
- Consider how and why you received the check. If someone you don’t know initiated the payment, be skeptical and proceed cautiously. Scammers often communicate with their victims via e-mail or text message. Their communications may contain poor grammar and spelling errors.
- Look where the check was mailed from-if the postmark is not the same as the city and state of the “supposed” issuing bank, it might be an indication the check is fake. Be especially cautious if it was mailed from overseas.
- Determine if the amount of the check is correct and as expected. Fake checks are often made out for more than the agreed upon amount. This is intended to coax the person receiving the check into wiring the over payment back to the scammer.
- Official checks usually contain water marks, security threads, color-changing ink and other security features. While scammers are able to sometimes copy these security features, the quality is often poorly executed.
What to Do If You Are Scammed
If you think you’ve been targeted by a counterfeit check scam, report it immediately to any of the following agencies:
- The Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1.
- The U.S. Postal Inspection Service athttps://www.uspis.gov/ (if you received the check in the mail).
- Your state or local consumer protection agencies. Visit www.naag.org for a list of state Attorneys General.
- For possible online crimes involving counterfeit checks and money orders, file an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (a joint project of the FBI and National White Collar Crime Center) at http://www.ic3.gov.
In addition to notifying the bank whose name is on the check, you can notify the website or online service where you encountered the scammer (for example, the online auction website or job posting website), so they can block them from utilizing their services in the future.
For more help or information, go to www.fdic.gov or call the FDIC toll-free at 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877-275-3342). Please send your story ideas or comments to Consumer Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to read 5 considerations when deciding if you should rent or buy a home.
(FDIC May 27, 2019 Consumer News)
A teen’s first job provides a great opportunity to shape positive financial habits.
Money management is an important skill for teens to learn before they leave home, and a bank account is a great tool to teach teens about handling money. By opening a youth bank account, you open the door to important discussions about savings, budgeting, and proactive financial management.
Many teens think about how they can earn money so they can spend it, but it’s important to learn how to manage it as well. The best place to start is with a bank account. Once you land that new job, you should establish a bank account to keep track of your new earnings and keep it safe. This one step will open the door for hands on experience managing money and discussions with others on various aspects of financial management, which will help you prepare for the future.
Opening a Bank Account as a Teen
Banks offer accounts with different features, so it’s important to find out
what is available for students and young adults, then compare them to make the best selection for your situation. Go over items such as minimum account balance requirements, mobile banking features, ATM fees, and interest rates offered when deciding on an account. Regardless of the account you choose, if you are under the age of 18 (or 21 in some states), it will need to be a joint account with a responsible adult.
Share and Gain Knowledge
Once you establish a bank account, make sure you understand the information provided in bank statements, such as how money is credited to and debited from your account and the difference between an account’s current balance and available balance. Review account statements with someone who knows the information well and take the opportunity to learn about things like direct deposit and automatic bill payments.
Graduation is an exciting time for many students transitioning from the classroom to the "real world." As your local community bank, we want to remind new graduates that fhe financial decisionss made now will affect your future for years to come.
Here are three tips to follow that can help you take control of your finances:
- Start a budget.
- To begin set your goals. It’s important to think about what you want to accomplish financially in the next three months, the next year, and the next three years.
- Determine your income and your expenses.
- Create a spending plan (budget) to be aware of how much money you have, where it needs to go, and how much, if any, is left over.
- Your budget should meet your "needs" first, then the “wants” that you can afford, and your expenses should be less than or equal to your total income.
- If your income is not enough to cover your expenses, adjust your budget (and your spending) by deciding which expenses can be reduced.
- Spend responsibly. Shopping and weekend getaways are a great way to recharge from the work week but can quickly eat away at your budget. Research the products you’d like to buy, along with restaurants and excursions in your price range and plan accordingly so these purchases and activities don’t become a financial hardship.
- Establish an emergency fund to cover life’s unexpected events and give you greater peace of mind. Contribute spare change or a little from each paycheck until you have between three to six months of net pay.
Centinel Bank of Taos and The Independent Community Bankers of America® (ICBA) are reminding consumers: Where you choose to bank and with whom matters.
“When you bank locally, you’re reinvesting in your community, contributing to the welfare of your neighbors and building a legacy of prosperity for future generations,” said ICBA President and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey. “Community bankers power your region’s small businesses and influence job growth one loan at a time. They’re rooted in your community, ensuring they have a stake in your financial success and the strength of the community overall.”
Community banks support local startups—funding more than 60 percent of small business and more than 80 percent of agriculture loans. Community banks contribute tax dollars that help maintain local municipalities and keep local neighborhoods viable and vibrant.
You have a choice
When choosing who to trust with your hard-earned money, Centinel Bank of Taos and ICBA want consumers to know the following:
- Community banks respect and honor their community ties. Community banks have symbiotic relationships with their communities—one cannot thrive without the other.
- Community banks are relationship lenders. They know their customers and understand their financial needs.
- Community banks understand and embrace local businesses. A study from the Federal Reserve Banks found that small businesses that apply for loans with community banks are the most successful and most satisfied.
- Community banks give back. Serving local communities is second nature to community banks.
Centinel Bank of Taos is Taos’ only locally owned and operated community bank, serving Taos County since 1969. As a full-service bank, we offer checking and savings accounts, an array of loans and mortgages, and helpful, smart advice. Our friendly staff looks forward to sharing Centinel Bank’s community-focused approach, featuring customized service with local decision-making.
Our commitment to our Taos County community is what sets us apart from other financial institutions and industries. Stop by Centinel Bank today to discover how your community bank can help you realize your financial dreams—and how together, we can contribute to a more vibrant and sustainable economy in our Taos County community. Let’s dream together!
The Centinel Bank Debit Card look like a credit card and can be used anywhere Mastercard® is accepted, but it functions like cash or a personal check using funds directly from your checking account.
Credit and ATM/debit cards look similar, but they use money in very different ways. Click here to see a chart explaining the difference between a credit card and a debit card.
Good Credit is Key to Solid Financial Future from Centinel Bank of Taos and ICBA
When establishing financial fitness goals, Centinel Bank of Taos and The Independent Community Bankers of America want to remind customers: it’s easier to build a credit score than to repair a bad one.
Having a good credit history is key to any financial plan. Credit scores take into consideration years of past behavior, so it’s important to establish a history of responsible credit practices and build your score by maintaining good habits. Click here to read tips on how you can establish a good credit score.
Thinking of applying for a loan? Do you know what your bank will look at to determine your creditworthiness? Lenders look at your 5 c's.
- Credit History/Character
- Collateral (when applying for secured loans)
To read more about the 5 C's of credit click here.
If you have questions and/or are thinking of applying for a loan, call us @ 575-758-6700 and ask to speak to one of our lenders.
Where you choose to bank matters. Did you know, not all banks are the same? While they do provide many similar services, there're also many differences. Centinel Bank of Taos is a community bank, locally owned and operated, serving Taos County since 1969. Along with traditional banking services, Centinel Bank offers many community banking benefits.
This April, in celebration of Community Banking Month, we encourage everyone to consider what it means to bank locally. Banking local helps sustain our community today, tomorrow and for generations to come. Click here to read more.
Phishing is a type of fraud. Phishing attempts are getting very, very sophisticated. More and more people are finding themselves targets and sometimes victims of the fraud. At Centinel Bank we care about your security and offer the following information.
What is phishing?
Phishing is a form of fraud in which a target or targets are contacted by criminals through email, telephone or text message as well as through human interaction and malicious websites. It’s by someone posing as a legitimate institution, new employees or even repair personnel. The fraud is an attempt to lure individuals into providing sensitive data and attempt to trick them into divulging personal information. Examples include:
- Personally identifiable information
- Credit card details
- And more
The information is then used to access important accounts, steal your money, use your name to open credit cards or loans and more.
Click here to read how you can avoid being a victim and what to do if you think you are a victim.