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ICBA and Charles River Bank Offer Tips to Help Students Handle Credit Wisely

August 15, 2011(WASHINGTON, DC)

As the nation's college students head back to school, and with a growing number of them planning to use credit cards during the school year, the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) and Charles River Bank want to encourage students to be responsible when using their credit cards so they can maintain their finances and establish solid credit.

"The fact is that no one may ever need to see your transcript after you leave school, but your credit report will be with you for the rest of your life," said Sal Marranca, ICBA chairman and president and CEO of Cattaraugus County Bank in Little Valley, N.Y. "Community bankers want to be sure that students learn how to use consumer credit wisely so that they establish good credit and build a foundation that will serve them well when they are ready to buy a car or a home or pursue their dreams of owning a small business."

New rules governing credit cards aimed specifically at protecting students went into effect last year. Credit card companies are prohibited from issuing cards to anyone under the age of 18, and those under 21 need either an adult co-signer or proof of income. Educational institutions must disclose any agreements they have with credit card companies that market to students, and credit card companies may no longer entice students with free gifts. All other provisions in the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act that cover consumers—such as advance notice of changes, more time to make payments and terms that are easier to understand—apply to students as well.

Even with these safeguards, the best protection against getting deeply in debt is knowing the pitfalls and how to avoid them. ICBA and Charles River Bank offer the following tips to help students use credit cards wisely:

  • Set up and follow a budget that includes paying off a credit card balance. “Maxing out” or charging up to your card’s credit limit can make sticking to your budget more difficult.
  • Remember that cash advances, unlike purchases, generally have finance charges that apply immediately.
  • Pay on time, every time. Whenever possible, pay more than the minimum payment owed (for example, 150 percent of the minimum) to pay off the balance faster and save on finance charges.
  • Keep records of your account number, expiration date and the phone number of your card issuer in a safe place.
  • Keep your account information confidential.
  • Never give out your credit card number, card verification number (which appears on or near the signature panel) or expiration date over the phone, unless you initiated the call and know who you’re dealing with.
  • Elect to receive your statement information online. Many sites offer an alert for unusual transactions and reminders of when your bill is due.
  • Consider making your credit card payment online to ensure it is received by the monthly due date.
  • Routinely access your account information online to track your spending and to quickly identify fraudulent transactions. If you see a transaction that is not yours, notify your card issuer immediately.
  • If there’s an error on your account, report it immediately by notifying your card issuer. Look for complete instructions on your monthly statement or your bank’s website and follow them carefully to protect your rights.
  • Keep a copy of your sales receipts so you can compare what you bought with the charges on your bill.
  • When making online transactions, be sure the site is secure. Don’t let others see you enter card information.
  • Don’t lend your credit card to anyone, not even a friend. Ever.
  • If you move, notify your card issuer immediately.
  • If you encounter financial difficulties, contact your card issuer as soon as possible.

"If students want to learn more about credit cards and how to manage their credit, they should talk to their local community bank," Jack Hamilton CEO & President of Charles River Bank said. "Community banks are common-sense lenders that provide credit cards as a valuable service to their customers."

Charles River Bank demonstrates its commitment to helping the young people in the communities it serves develop responsible money management skills through the programs it runs in the local schools. Elementary school students in Medway and in Mendon at the Clough School participate in the School Savings Program run by Charles River Bank. Each year, officers and managers of Charles River Bank deliver Personal Finance classes and seminars regarding responsible use of checking accounts and credit for college bound students at Medway High School. The Bank also operates a full-service branch in the lobby of Medway High School that also serves as an educational facility for approximately 15 students each year.

To learn more about Charles River Bank, visit www.charlesriverbank.com or call 508-533-8661. To read more about the benefits of community banks, please visit www.icba.org.

About Charles River Bank

Charles River Bank - with assets of $186 million - was founded in 1915 and offers a wide range of individual and business banking services.  Charles River Bank is a member of the FDIC and the SIF, and all deposits are insured in full. The Bank’s Main Office is located at 70 Main Street in Medway MA.  Charles River Bank also operates three other  local branches -  in Bellingham at the intersection of Maple Street and Route 140,  in Mendon at the intersection of Route 16 and North Ave, and a branch in the Medway High School that operates during the school year.  Visit www.charlesriverbank.com for more information or call Mortgage Consultants Mickee Whitney (NMLS# 782138) or Mike Shain (NMLS# 776638).

About ICBA

The Independent Community Bankers of America, the nation's voice for community banks, represents nearly 5,000 community banks of all sizes and charter types throughout the United States and is dedicated exclusively to representing the interests of the community banking industry and the communities and customers we serve. For more information, visit www.icba.org.