Heather Dewey

First-Time Homebuyer’s Playbook: 4 Steps to a Successful Offer

Are you getting ready to buy a home? Here are four keys to being prepared to make your first offer.

1. Know what you can afford and how much cash you will need. Knowing what you qualify for before looking at any homes will save you the disappointment that can come from falling in love with a home that’s out of reach.

2. Know where you want to be. Learn about the neighborhood before you make an offer to buy. Sample the commute. Talk to would be neighbors. See the schools, shops, and services before you start negotiating.

3. Choose your property type. Consider your range of choices: single family, multi-family, townhome, condo, co-op, new construction, etc. Know the pros and cons of each. Decide which is best for you and define your search accordingly.

4. Obtain a valid pre-approval before you make an offer. This entails document verification, a credit check and automated or actual underwriting. If all is in order, you will receive the equivalent of a loan commitment that’s subject to a contract, appraisal, and title work. Your pre-approval gives you and the seller confidence in your ability to close the deal once you find your perfect home.

You will probably buy a home only a few times in your life, but we’re laser focused on the process every day. We know how important proper preparation can be to making the process easy and rewarding. Reach out and we’ll start you down the road to being a well-informed, confident, and happy home buyer today.

Talk to a mortgage lender today!

Source: Surefire CRM

Bank Holidays: Understanding Their Impact on Deposits and Transactions

Federal Holidays allow not only for celebration but also for the employees of banks to enjoy valuable time with their loved ones. However, it’s important to recognize that these holidays can also influence certain financial operations.

In this blog, we’ll explain how bank holidays impact direct deposits and other money-related tasks and how to plan around them so you can enjoy these stress-free holidays.  

Currently, there are 11 bank holidays, which are designated by the Federal Reserve. The newest bank holiday is Juneteenth, which became a federal holiday in 2021.  It is important to note that on Federal Holidays, banks can perform transactions, but due to the Federal Reserve being closed, the transaction most likely won’t post to a bank account until the following day.

For holidays falling on Saturday, Federal Reserve banks and branches will be open the preceding Friday; however, the Board of Governors will be closed. For holidays falling on Sunday, all Federal Reserve offices will be closed the following Monday (www.federalreserve.gov).

These are the current official bank holidays in the United States:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Washington’s Birthday (Presidents Day)
  • Memorial Day
  • Juneteenth National Independence Day (Newest Holiday)
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

Their Impact:

  • Branch Availability: On bank holidays, branches may be closed or have limited hours, affecting in-person services.
  • Delayed Deposits: Bank holidays can lead to delays in direct deposits. When a holiday falls on a regular business day, financial institutions are often closed, and transactions, including direct deposits, might not be processed until the next business day. This can affect paychecks, government benefits, and other regular deposits.
  • Transaction Processing Delays: Bank holidays can lead to delays in processing various financial transactions, including bill payments, ACH transfers, wire transfers, and transfer of funds between banks. Transactions initiated on or around a bank holiday might take longer to reflect in your accounts.
  • Check Clearing: If you deposit a check close to or on a bank holiday, it might take longer to clear, resulting in a delay in accessing the funds. Electronic check deposits and mobile banking apps can help expedite this process.

Tips for Navigating Bank Holidays:

  • Plan ahead: Be aware of upcoming bank holidyas. Adjust your budget and payment schedules accordingly.
  • Use Online and Mobile Banking: These eliminate the need to visit a physical bank branch, saving you time and effort. However, even mobile check deposits have their limitations during bank holidays. Although you can initiate a mobile check deposit, the processing won’t occur until the following business day. However, you can utilize either online and/or mobile banking platforms to manage your finances. These tools often allow you to access to account balances, transaction histories, set alerts and even schedule payments in advance.
  • Anticipate Cash Needs: If you anticipate needing cash around a bank holiday, consider withdrawing funds a day or two in advance to ensure you have the appropriate funds on hand.

Stay informed about Bank Five Nine’s holiday schedule, explore digital banking options, and consider adjusting your financial routines to ensure a smooth experience even during holiday periods. Sources: Federal Reserve Board – Holidays Observed – K.8

Mortgage Lending for Veterans at Bank Five Nine

Bank Five Nine recognizes and appreciates the sacrifices made by Veterans and active service members to this country and our communities. To show our appreciation, we offer benefit programs to help this very special segment of the population with all their home buying needs.

VA Loans + Incentive

A VA loan helps Veterans, service members and eligible surviving spouses become homeowners. The benefits of using a VA home loan include no down payment (Lenders may require down payments for some borrowers using the VA home loan guarantee, but VA does not require a downpayment), competitively low interest rates, limited closing costs, no need for Private Mortgage Insurance, and it’s a lifetime benefit, meaning you can use the guarantee multiple times! And if that’s not enough to incentivize you to ask about the program, Bank Five Nine is offering up to $300 off closing costs when you finance your VA Home Loan through us.*

If you’d like additional information about this program or how Bank Five Nine can help, talk to a mortgage lender today!

*Borrower must meet U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs requirements to be considered for a VA Home Loan. Offer applicable for fixed rate first lien, 1-4 family real estate mortgage loans. Up to $300 off closing costs offer includes payment of customary borrower closing costs, at time of closing with Bank Five Nine. Available on all qualified purchases. This offer does not guarantee loan approval. Offer subject to loan approval. Not redeemable for cash. Loan rates and terms subject to credit history and other underwriting factors. Offer not valid for construction loans, lot loans, refinancing, or home equity lines of credit (HELOC).

Reviewing Random Acts of Kindness 2023

Throughout the month of April (and start of May), Bank Five Nine employees celebrated Community Banking Month and Power of Community Week by “paying it forward” to local citizens and organizations in the communities we serve! From dropping off flowers to local nursing homes, donating time and supplies to local animal shelters, surprising customers with free lunch, buying coffee for patrons of a community coffee shop, providing meals to local fire and police departments, to delivering surprises to hospital patients and staff, Bank Five Nine had a lot of fun demonstrating the commitment we have to our communities through many random acts of kindness! If you have a moment, we encourage you to scroll through the photos (maybe even get a few ideas yourself to do a random act of kindness!)

Making Lives Better Through Random Acts Contest
If someone has made your life better in the recent past, make sure to comment on the pinned Bank Five Nine’s Facebook page monthly contest post! We want to encourage kindness and positivity in our communities, so we’re asking you to share how someone has made your life better recently! It could be something big or small, as long as it has made a positive impact on your day! (Even as simple as someone holding the door open for you on your way out of a coffee shop. 😊) At the end of each month, we’ll select a winner from the comment section and ‘treat’ them for sharing! We will pin this post to the top of our page, so be sure to check it out and share the love throughout the month. Click here to get to our Bank Five Nine Facebook Page.

What are ACH Payments and How Do They Work?

Have you ever received money in your bank account or paid your phone bill online? Chances are, you used ACH payments without even realizing it! But what exactly are ACH payments, and how do they work? In this blog, we’ll break down the basics!

First, what is “ACH”? ACH stands for Automated Clearing House, which is a secure, electronic network used by banks and other financial institutions to process a variety of transactions. These transactions can include direct deposits, online bill payments, and more.

When you receive money through direct deposit or send money through an online payment service, the funds are transferred through the ACH network. This process typically takes one to two business days to complete with the exception of holidays (holiday submission timelines here). ACH payments are safe, reliable, and efficient, making them a popular choice for businesses and consumers alike.

So, how do ACH payments work? Let’s use an example to explain the process. Imagine you’re paying your monthly cell phone bill online using your bank account. Here are the steps involved:

  • You log in to your online banking account and enter the payment information, including the phone company /provider name and your account number.
  • Your bank sends the payment information to the ACH network, which processes the transaction.
  • The phone provider/company receives the payment from the ACH network and applies it to your account.

It’s that simple! ACH payments are convenient because you don’t need to write a check or visit a physical location to make a payment. They’re also secure because the ACH network uses advanced encryption technology to protect your sensitive information.

ACH payments are a safe and efficient way to send and receive money electronically. They’re used by businesses and individuals to process a variety of transactions, from direct deposits to online bill payments. So the next time you use your bank account to pay a bill or receive money, you’ll know how the ACH network is working behind the scenes to make it all happen.  Learn more about Bank Five Nine ACH User Information here.

Flowchart of how ACH payments work

Understanding Mortgage Interest Rates

Interest rates play a fundamental role in the world of mortgages. They determine the cost of borrowing and significantly influence the affordability of homeownership. In this blog we will explain how interest rates work, factors influencing them, and how they affect monthly payments and the overall cost of a mortgage. Of course, for more information, our team of Bank Five Nine Mortgage Lenders are always here to help answer any questions you may have.

Understanding Interest Rates

At its core, an interest rate is the cost of borrowing money. When you take out a mortgage, you’re essentially borrowing a substantial sum of money to purchase a home, and you are charged with interest for the privilege of accessing those funds. This interest is a percentage of the loan amount and is paid back over the life of the loan, which can typically range from 15 to 30 years or more.

When interest rates drop, housing prices often tend to go up and when interest rates are low, it becomes cheaper for people to borrow money to buy homes.

  • When interest rates are low, generally more people can afford to purchase houses, increasing the demand for homes. As demand rises, sellers can ask for higher prices since there are more buyers willing to pay.  
  • When interest rates rise, borrowing money for a home becomes more expensive. This can lead to fewer people being able to buy homes, causing the housing demand to go down. When demand goes down, sellers might need to lower their prices to attract buyers.

Factors Influencing Interest Rates

  • Economy:  During periods of economic growth, interest rates tend to rise as demand for credit increases. During economic downturns, interest rates often decrease to encourage borrowing.
  • Federal Reserve: The actions of the Federal Reserve in the United States, have a significant impact on interest rates. They use policy tools to influence the economy and may raise or lower interest rates to control inflation and economic growth.
    Here’s how it works: when the economy is speeding along too quickly and things are getting expensive too fast (that’s inflation, which we will talk about below), the Federal Reserve might make borrowing money a bit more expensive (meaning interests rates go up). This can help slow down spending and keep prices in check. On the flip side, when the economy is slow-moving. they might lower the cost of borrowing money (meaning interests rates go down). This encourages people to spend more, which can help the economy grow.
  • Inflation: Inflation is when things get more expensive, and your money can’t buy as much as it used to. To make sure the money they lend does not lose its value, lenders can raise the interest rates a bit when they think prices are going to go up. This helps them keep the money they lend worth the same, even if stuff gets pricier.
  • Credit Risk: Your “creditworthiness” as a borrower also affects your interest rate. Individuals with higher credit scores are seen as lower-risk borrowers and may qualify for lower interest rates, while those with lower scores may face higher rates. If you are someone who’s really good at paying back what you owe, lenders trust you more. They see you as a responsible borrower and might give you a lower interest rate. But if you have had trouble paying bills on time or managing your money, lenders might think you’re riskier, so they may charge a higher interest rate to make sure they’re covered if you can’t pay back on time.

Here are some blogs about credit:

Impact on Monthly Payments and Overall Mortgage Cost

  • Monthly Payments: The interest rate decides how much you pay every month for your mortgage. If the rate is higher, you will have to pay more each month. But if it is lower, your payments will be more affordable. At the beginning of your loan, a bigger part of your payment goes to interest.
  • Total Mortgage Cost: While you are paying off your mortgage, the interest you pay can become much bigger than the actual amount you borrowed. A high interest rate means you pay more in total, making the loan cost more. A low interest rate can save you a lot of money over the whole time you’re paying back the loan.

At Bank Five Nine, our Mortgage Lenders are always here to help you make sense of all things mortgage, guiding you toward the best practical mortgage options for your particular situation.
Find a Bank Five Nine Mortgage Lender here: www.bankfivenine.com/mortgage

Sources:
https://www.federalreserve.gov/faqs/why-do-interest-rates-matter.htm
The Fed – What is inflation and how does the Federal Reserve evaluate changes in the rate of inflation?

Fun Games to Teach Kids About Money

Teaching children about money is an important part of their financial education. One way to make learning about money fun is through playing games. Here are some fun money games for kids that can help teach them about financial literacy:

Monopoly Junior: This classic board game has a junior version that is perfect for younger children. It teaches them about money management, budgeting, and basic math skills. Monopoly has a bunch of themed game boards too!

The Game of Life: This board game simulates life events and teaches children about financial planning, decision-making, and risk management.

Money Bingo: Create a bingo card with different denominations of money and have children match them to actual coins and bills.

Savings Scavenger Hunt: Hide coins or bills around the house or yard and have children search for them. Once they find them, encourage them to save the money in a piggy bank or savings account.

Grocery Store Scavenger Hunt: Take children to the grocery store and challenge them to find the best deals and bargains. This will help them learn about comparison shopping and making smart purchasing decisions.

Lemonade Stand: Help children set up a lemonade stand and have them learn about entrepreneurship, profit and loss, and customer service.

Stock Market Game: Create a pretend stock market and have children invest pretend money in different stocks. This will help them learn about risk and return, diversification, and the importance of research.

Online Financial Literacy Games: Many websites offer online games that teach children about money management and financial literacy. Some popular options include Financial Football, Peter Pig’s Money Counter, and The Mint.

Money Jars: Give children three jars labeled “spend,” “save,” and “give.” Whenever they receive money, encourage them to divide it up into the jars according to their priorities.

DIY Board Games: Have children create their own board games that incorporate money management skills, such as budgeting, saving, and investing.

There are many fun and creative ways to teach children about financial literacy through games. By incorporating these games into their playtime, you can help children develop important money skills that will benefit them for a lifetime!

What is the Difference Between a Credit Card and a Debit Card?

Are you confused about the difference between a credit card and a debit card? Don’t worry; you’re not alone! While both types of cards are used to make purchases, there are some key differences between the two. In this blog, we’ll break down the similarities, differences and pros and cons between credit and debit cards to help you decide which one is right for you.
First, let’s talk about how these cards work.

A debit card is linked to your checking account (click here for ‘what is a checking account and how does it work’), so when you make a purchase, the money is withdrawn directly from your account balance. This means that you can only spend what you have in the bank, and you won’t have to worry about accumulating debt or interest charges.

A credit card, on the other hand, works like a loan from a bank or financial institution. When you make a purchase with a credit card, you’re essentially borrowing money that you’ll need to pay back later, typically with interest. Credit cards come with a credit limit, which is the maximum amount you can borrow at any given time. Your credit limit is determined by factors such as your credit score, income, and credit history.

Now let’s dig into the pros and cons of each!

Debit cards:
Pros:
• Convenience: Debit cards are accepted at most retailers and can be used to withdraw cash from ATMs.
• No interest: Unlike credit cards, you won’t accrue interest on your purchases with a debit card.
• Budgeting: Since a debit card draws from your checking account, it can be easier to keep track of your spending and stick to a budget.

Cons:
• Limited fraud protection: Debit cards offer less fraud protection than credit cards. If your card is stolen or used fraudulently, it may take longer to get your money back.
• No rewards: Debit cards typically don’t offer rewards programs, so you won’t be earning cash back or other perks on your purchases.
• Overdraft fees: If you overdraw your checking account with a debit card, you may be hit with a fee.

Credit cards:
Pros:
• Rewards: Many credit cards offer rewards programs that let you earn points, miles, or cashback on your purchases. Depending on the card you choose, you may be able to earn rewards on everything from groceries to travel.
• Protection: Credit cards offer better fraud protection than debit cards. If your credit card is stolen or used fraudulently, you can report it to your issuer and dispute the charges.
• Building credit: Using a credit card responsibly can help you build a positive credit history, which can be important if you want to apply for loans or mortgages in the future.

Cons:
• High interest rates: Credit cards often come with high interest rates, especially if you carry a balance from month to month. This can add up quickly and lead to a lot of debt if you’re not careful.
• Fees and surcharges: Some credit cards come with annual fees, balance transfer fees, or other charges. (Make sure you read that small print before signing up for a card!) It’s not super common, but there are some retailers that may also charge you a little bit extra for using a credit card, so it may be worth it to pay with debit.
• It’s easy to overspend: Credit cards can be a slippery slope if you’re not careful. It’s easy to rack up debt if you’re not keeping track of your spending. Also, if you carry a balance for too long or miss payments, it can negatively impact your credit score.

So, which one should you use – credit or debit? It really depends on your financial situation and spending habits. If you’re someone who struggles with overspending or wants to stick to a strict budget, a debit card might be a better fit. But if you’re someone who travels frequently or wants to earn rewards for your purchases, a credit card might be a better option.

At the end of the day, both credit and debit cards have their pros and cons. It’s important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each option and choose the one that best aligns with your financial goals and lifestyle. Some people carry both – one credit card and one debit card in their wallet.

Budget Friendly Easter Basket Ideas

Homemade treats: Instead of buying expensive pre-made treats, consider making your own Easter-themed snacks like Rice Krispie treats or homemade cookies.

Dollar store finds: Head to your local dollar store to find inexpensive Easter basket fillers like small toys, stickers, and coloring books.

Art supplies: Fill your child’s Easter basket with art supplies like crayons, markers, and paint sets. You can often find these items at discount stores or in bulk online.

Books: Consider filling your child’s Easter basket with a few age-appropriate books. Check out your local library or thrift store for gently used books at a fraction of the cost of new ones. (Sometimes you can even find brand new books there as well!)

Outdoor toys: With the arrival of spring, outdoor toys like bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and jump ropes are perfect additions to any Easter basket.

DIY craft kits: Create your own Easter-themed craft kits using materials like pipe cleaners, felt, and pom poms. You can find instructions for simple crafts online and put together the supplies yourself.

Instead of buying pre-made Easter grass for the basket, make your own by shredding colorful paper. This is a great way to save money and create a unique look for each basket. You can use old newspapers, magazines, or even tissue paper to create your Easter grass.

Personalized items: Consider adding a personal touch to your child’s Easter basket by including items like a personalized water bottle or a customized t-shirt.

What is a Checking Account and How Does It Work?

Are you curious about how checking accounts work? Well, you’re in the right place! Let’s dive in.

Checking accounts have several features that can help you easily manage your finances.

  • Convenience:  Bank in person, online, or through a mobile device
  • Security:  Set up fraud alerts, create a PIN for your debit card, and have your deposits insured by government agencies protect your money
  • Flexibility: Make payments with checks, debit cards, or a digital wallet or mobile payment app

How is a checking account different from a savings account?

A checking account is designed for everyday transactions, such as paying bills, making purchases with a debit card, and withdrawing cash from an ATM. These accounts typically have no limits on the number of transactions you can make and allow for easy access to your funds. Checking accounts also usually come with a debit card that you can use to make purchases, and many banks offer online banking services to help you manage your account.

A savings account is designed for longer-term savings and typically offers higher interest rates than checking accounts. Savings accounts are ideal for saving money for specific goals, such as a down payment on a house or for a vacation. These accounts often have limits on the number of withdrawals you can make per month and may require a minimum balance to avoid fees. To view Bank Five Nine saving account options, click here.

How does a checking account work?

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how a checking account works:

  • You deposit money into your checking account, either by depositing cash, a check, or transferring funds from another account.
  • You can use your debit card to make purchases at stores, restaurants, and online retailers. When you make a purchase, the money is deducted from your account balance.
  • You can also withdraw cash from ATMs using your debit card. Depending on your bank, you may be charged a fee for using an out-of-network ATM. (Bank Five Nine has over 600 ATMS in network: ATM Access Locations – Wisconsin Bankers Association (communitybankers.org))
  • If you need to pay bills or make other payments, you can write a check from your checking account. When you write a check, you’re essentially telling your bank to transfer money from your account to the person or company you’re paying. (Yep! People still write checks. They may seem like ancient history, but they’re still a useful tool in managing your finances! Click here to see how to write one if you don’t know how!)
  • Most banks, including Bank Five Nine, offer online banking services that let you manage your checking account from the comfort of your own home. You can check your account balance, review your transactions, and even pay your bills online.

Types of checking accounts:

There are several types of checking accounts that you may consider for your financial needs. Keep in mind that features and fees can vary depending on the financial institution and account type. Here is a brief overview of the common types of checking accounts you may encounter!

  • Personal Checking: This is the catch-all term for different types of checking accounts used for personal banking.
  • Business Checking: If you are a business owner, this type of account can help you keep your personal and business finances separate.
  • Student or Custodial Checking: If you are a minor, these accounts can be opened without credit or banking history, but the joint account-holding parent/guardian might need to qualify.
  • Joint Checking: These accounts can be opened by two or more people who have joint ownership and are both responsible for any overdraft or penalty fees. Joint savings or checking account can make your financial life easier and less complicated if you manage your money with another person, such as a spouse or partner. Click here for our blog that talks all about joint checking!
  • Other types of checking accounts: click here for the checking account options that Bank Five Nine offers with a comparison chart!

 A checking account is an awesome tool for managing your finances. It gives you easy access to your money, online banking services, and a ton of other features that make managing your money a breeze. And with a little knowledge and a bit of responsibility, you can use your checking account to achieve financial success. You can also learn more about checking accounts in our Financial Education Center!