Shedding the Weight of Credit Card Debt

by Vince Liuzzi
Executive Vice President and Chief Banking Officer, DNB First


160304With spring just around the corner and summer not far behind, many people are focused on getting into shape. While it’s always important to focus on our physical health, it’s equally important to focus on our financial health. And now is the perfect time for those carrying “extra weight” from debt to shape up.

It’s estimated that in 2015, the average amount of credit card debt in America was more than $16,000 per household. And, according to data from the Federal Reserve, total credit card debt in America as of August 2015 was $918.5 billion.

A smart way to shed added interest
So if you’re carrying the weight of extra debt, what can you do? If you’re a homeowner, you might consider one possible solution – a home equity loan or line. With competitive rates, potential tax savings (be sure to consult your tax advisor), and the flexibility to borrow money for any purpose, a home equity line or loan can be a great way to consolidate credit card and other high-interest debt.

Keep in mind, however, that if you decide to consolidate credit card debt with a home equity loan or line, you’ll be securing that debt with a second mortgage on your home, so be sure to make all your payments in a timely manner.

Put your debt situation to the test
Before you make any decisions on home equity debt consolidation, you should analyze your current debt situation to see how much you’re paying in interest. You’ll want to consider the following questions:

Do you have enough equity in your home?

How much will you save on interest?

Will consolidating debt improve your cash flow? Or help you pay off the debt more quickly?

Will you be disciplined enough not to run up your credit card balances again if you pay them off?

We can help you determine if home equity borrowing is a smart way for you to trim down your excess debt. As for the other “weight” you may be carrying, the forecast calls for beautiful running and cycling weather in the weeks ahead!

Posted in Home Loans, Personal Finance

Be Mortgage-Ready in 2016

Mortgage-160129by Vince Liuzzi
Executive Vice President and Chief Banking Officer, DNB First


It’s that time of year again; the time to think about the goals you’d like to accomplish over the next 12 months. If one of those goals is owning a home, there are some important steps you can take to put yourself in the best position to get the mortgage you’ll need to make it happen:

  • Do your homework. Before you start shopping for a home, take some time to study the real estate market and the prices of houses in your target area. Real estate websites, such as Zillow, Trulia, and make it easy for you to browse by area and price ranges.
  • Determine how much you can afford. Once you get a sense of home prices, figure out how much of a mortgage you can afford. With a conventional mortgage, lenders generally require that your housing expense not exceed 28% of your income. This number is slightly higher for non-conventional loans, such as Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans. You can do a quick analysis of how much you can afford by calculating and comparing your income and expenses.
  • Know your credit score. One of the most important factors in determining your creditworthiness, or your ability to qualify for a mortgage, is your credit score. A good credit score will not only help you qualify for a mortgage, but also help you earn a better interest rate, thereby saving you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. Your credit score is actually determined from the information on your credit report, so it’s important to request a copy of your credit report to review your credit history and to ensure no errors have been made. You can obtain your credit report from any one of three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
  • Do some credit cleanup. By getting a copy of your credit report, you’ll be able to determine what, if any, areas you need to clean up to improve your credit score. Here are some basic steps you can take:
    • Address any errors. Credit report errors are very common, so if you see something that may be inaccurate, be sure to dispute it. Ignoring an error could end up getting you a higher interest rate, which could cost you significantly.
    • Get current on any debt. If you have delinquent accounts, be sure to make good on any overdue payments as soon as you can. If you can’t afford to pay the entire balance, contact the creditor and work out a payment plan. Don’t ignore what you owe, as inaction could cost you greatly.
    • Pay all your bills on time. Get into the habit of paying every bill you have on time.
    • Limit new debt. While it may be tempting to save 20% on your purchase at a department store if you open a charge card, doing so could hurt your credit score. Try to limit the amount of credit lines you have.
  • Get pre-approved. Before you start shopping for a home, you should obtain a pre-approval from a lender. A pre-approval offers several advantages. It will let you know how much you can afford, allowing you to focus on homes in your price range. Plus, it will give you a negotiating edge with sellers, informing them that you’re a serious and qualified buyer.

So, as you can see, putting yourself in a better position to obtain a mortgage isn’t rocket science. However, if you follow these steps, you can get the best rate and be over the moon in 2016.


Posted in Banking, Home Loans, Personal Finance

5 Cool Reasons to Use Your Credit Card

Credit card-151214by Vince Liuzzi
Executive Vice President and Chief Banking Officer, DNB First


Credit cards. We’ve all been warned about the dangers of using them. Some experts advise you to cut them up. Others offer creative suggestions to discourage usage and avoid temptation, including putting your credit cards on ice.

Before you do anything drastic, freeze.

A credit card can be a very useful tool to help manage your finances. Here are five smart reasons to use one:

  1. Expense tracking. One of the biggest financial mistakes people make is not knowing how they spend their money. That’s why one of the first recommendations financial experts make is to determine your expenses and set up a monthly budget. If you pay your bills using a credit card, you’ll be able to easily track expenses. And if your credit card offers a year-end summary of purchases, you can make annual income tax preparation a whole lot easier.
  2. Credit building. If you’re starting out and plan to buy a home or car someday, you’ll need to establish a credit history. Credit cards are a great way to do this. Keep in mind, however, that to maintain a strong history, you’ll need to make payments on time and limit the amount you borrow.
  3. Savings. Most credit card issuers, including DNB First, offer credit cards with rewards for the purchases you make. You may be able to earn cash back or enjoy savings on travel, merchandise, and other goods and services.
  4. Protection and peace of mind. Credit cards often offer travel benefits, including emergency assistance and travel accident insurance. Your credit card also comes with another level of protection, purchase protection, which covers you if you have a problem with something you purchase or if someone makes unauthorized purchases with your card.
  5. Emergency money. Life is unpredictable and there may be times when you encounter financial emergencies. With a credit card, you can easily access the money you need. If you’re traveling, it’s always wise to bring along a credit card, which offers worldwide acceptance.

Use credit cards wisely.

Despite the advantages of using credit cards, they still present risks if not used wisely. Here are some ways to ensure you avoid credit card trouble:

  • Pay off your balances in full each month to avoid interest charges.
  • Don’t charge anything if you don’t have the money to pay for it.
  • Make your credit card payments on time. Every time.
  • Avoid opening too many credit card accounts, including department store cards.
  • Review your statements and activity to ensure no unauthorized purchases have been made.

With the holiday season upon us, now is a great time to be disciplined with credit card usage. The last thing you want to do is charge more than you can afford – and well… lose your cool.

Posted in Banking, Personal Finance

Are You at Risk of a Corporate Account Takeover?

by Vince Liuzzi
Executive Vice President and Chief Banking Officer, DNB First


Phishing-151123Strategic. Financial. Competitive. Regulatory. The business landscape has always been laden with different types of risk. And today with the explosive growth in cyber theft, business owners are faced with significant fraud risks, including a serious and growing one that’s cost businesses of all sizes tens of thousands of dollars: corporate account takeovers. A corporate account takeover occurs when cyber thieves gain access to your online banking accounts to initiate wires and other fraudulent transactions out of your accounts.

Beware of phishing and other scams

To carry out their work, thieves will often target your employees to gain access to your company’s online banking platform. They may utilize phishing scams,

where they pose as credible organizations, such as your bank or the Better Business Bureau, to attempt to access your company’s online banking credentials. Employees may then inadvertently download malware, allowing cyber thieves to take control of their computers and access sensitive information. Thieves may also attempt to reach your staff by phone or through social media to get personal information.

Reducing your company’s risk

It’s important to be aware that cyber thieves will target any size business. So whether you have 2 or 200 employees, your business could be at risk of a corporate account takeover if you make electronic transactions. There are, however, some steps you can take to protect your company and the money you’ve worked so hard to earn:

  • Warn your employees. Share with them some of the tactics cyber thieves use and encourage them not to download or click on any suspicious emails or links.
  • Monitor your accounts regularly for suspicious activity and transactions.
  • Divide online banking tasks among employees and computers.
  • Look for suspicious emails and install SPAM filters.
  • Install anti-virus software and keep it up to date.
  • Don’t click on links from unknown virus protection software programs.
  • Instruct employees to regularly change passwords. Passwords should be mixed with letters and numbers and be difficult for others to ascertain.
  • Log out after each online banking session and never leave computers unattended.
  • Ensure employees do not access online banking from public places with public Internet access.
  • Look for changes in the performance of your computer. If you notice a dramatic change in your computer’s processing speed or your computer frequently freezes, run a scan immediately.

At DNB First, we are committed to making your Online Banking experience as secure as possible. By increasing your knowledge and awareness of corporate account takeovers and other online scams, you’ll have one less risk to worry about, giving you more time to manage all those others.

Related links:

Posted in Business, Security, technology

Go Beyond the Annuity Myths

by Vince Liuzzi
Executive Vice President and Chief Banking Officer, DNB First


“They’re too complicated.”Annuities

“They’re only for old people.”

“The fees are outrageous.”

“Any extra money you have goes to the insurance company when you pass away.”

Annuities are among the least known of financial vehicles, but often drive the most intense feelings from those who do know about them. They seem to be shrouded in mystery, myth, and even misunderstanding.

So what exactly is an annuity? And are the myths and misconceptions true?

An annuity is a financial product offered by an insurance company that provides a steady stream of income for a person over a set period of time, or for life. Because of the benefit of providing a steady stream of income, annuities are commonly used for retirement.

Despite the misconception, annuities aren’t really all that complicated. You can make a lump sum investment or multiple investments and then, after a specific timeframe, or immediately, if desired, you receive a stream of income for a set period of time, or for life, depending on the annuity.

A popular alternative in today’s financial climate.

With the volatility in today’s financial markets, the low deposit rate environment, and the pressure on Baby Boomers facing retirement, many people are taking a second look at annuities. And with these compelling annuity benefits, it’s easy to see why:

  • Unlimited contributions. Unlike an IRA, there is no limit to the amount of money you can contribute to an annuity.
  • Tax-deferred growth. Money invested in an annuity grows tax-deferred until it is withdrawn.*
  • Protection from market volatility. One only has to review recent stock market activity to understand this benefit from a fixed annuity product.
  • Competitive rates. An annuity can provide a greater rate of return than many CDs, particularly in today’s low-rate environment.
  • Guaranteed income. One of the biggest attractions of annuities is that they pay a guaranteed return until the annuitant (the person who gets the income) dies or thereafter depending on the type of annuity.
  • Bypassing of Probate. If you leave funds in an annuity to your beneficiaries, they won’t have to deal with the time and expense of Probate. In addition, funds in annuities generally can’t be accessed by creditors.

Annuities now offer another benefit that made them less attractive to investors in the past – liquidity. Annuity holders can take advantage of flexible riders that allow them to customize their investment to their unique needs and financial situation. DNB First Wealth Management, for example, offers annuities that will let you take advantage of improved market conditions and choose different death benefit options. In addition, we can ensure that any fees never come from the benefit your annuity generates.

Though annuities offer many benefits, it’s important to note that they aren’t for everyone. At DNB First Wealth Management, we’d be happy to review your situation to determine if annuities may be right for you. We’ll do what’s in your best interest. That’s no myth.

* Consult a professional tax advisor regarding your individual tax situation.

Posted in Financial Planning, Retirement Planning

More Secure Purchasing Will Soon Be In Your Hands

by Vince Liuzzi
Executive Vice President and Chief Banking Officer, DNB First


shutterstock_159873380-EMVThe stories vary. One might involve a dishonest waitress or employee who secretly writes down your credit card information. Another could be a crook who bumps into you with a skimming device that reads the magnetic strip on the debit card in your wallet. Or, there might be a data breach with a retailer.

However it happens, the result is always the same — your debit or credit card is compromised, resulting in the loss of money and something even more valuable – your sense of security.

Fortunately, there’s a new generation of card technology that’s coming to America to help prevent credit and debit card theft – EMVTM cards. Coined after the initial sponsors of the technology – Europay, MasterCard, and Visa – these “smart cards” are debit cards that contain microchips that make purchasing even more secure. When inserted in a special merchant EMV terminal at the point of purchase, these cards generate a unique one-time code. This code makes it impossible for thieves to duplicate your card.

Though this technology is relatively new in America, EMV cards have already been used in other countries around the world, including Canada, the United Kingdom, and Mexico. Many financial institutions have already or will soon replace cards with the new technology.

Here are some important things to know about EMV cards:

  • The technology only works with special EMV card readers. If you have a debit card equipped with the EMV technology, the added level of protection, i.e., the unique one-time code, will only be generated at merchant locations equipped with EMV terminals.
  • To use an EMV card at a point of sale, you must dip your card rather than swipe into the terminal slot. This allows the terminal to read the chip and may result in a slightly longer wait time.
  • If a merchant does not have an EMV terminal, you can still swipe your card and use it as you normally would.
  • If you’re a merchant and accept credit and debit card payments, switching to the new EMV technology will allow you to reduce your company’s liability.

In the coming months, we at DNB First will begin issuing new EMV cards to our cardholders. It’s just another small way that better, more secure banking will be in the cards for you.

Related links:

Posted in Security, technology

The Gift of Life Insurance

Peace of mindby Vince Liuzzi
Executive Vice President and Chief Banking Officer, DNB First


Anyone who is a parent can tell you: parenting changes you in many ways.

One of the most obvious is an intense desire to care for and protect our children. We want to be sure we’re always there to provide the things they need during their different stages of life. But when they reach adulthood, we experience a change in thinking:

We want to protect and care for our children when we are no longer here.

Fortunately, there’s a very simple and proven solution that makes that goal possible: a solution that many people don’t fully understand or use to their advantage.

It’s called life insurance.

According to a 2015 study by Life Happens and LIMRA (the Life Insurance Market Research Association), “more than 40% of Americans don’t have life insurance.” What’s more, those who do have it are often underinsured and know they need more.

One of the biggest reasons for underinsurance is the perception that life insurance is “too expensive.” And when people are worried about meeting their monthly bills today and saving for retirement tomorrow, they may view life insurance as an additional expense they don’t need.

What they should understand, according to Rick Weber, Managing Director of DNB First Wealth Management, is that “ life insurance isn’t expensive for what it can offer you, mainly peace of mind. It can help a person preserve and create wealth, particularly in this low interest rate environment.”

An example of the gift of life insurance.

Weber cites one type of program as an outstanding example of the power of life insurance. The program is designed for clients looking to gift funds they don’t need for retirement to their loved ones. It allows participants to make a single premium payment and get up to two and half times that in the form of a death benefit. For example, if they put $100,000 into the policy, their beneficiary could receive upwards of $250,0000 upon their death. (The precise amount of the death benefit depends upon selective criteria such as age, gender, health and tobacco use.) The program also provides the flexibility for the policyholder to cash out the principal amount at any time without penalty. In addition, the death benefit is free from federal taxes, as well as the Pennsylvania inheritance tax.

To learn more about this program and others offered, call DNB First Wealth Management at 484-359-3531.

Posted in Financial Planning, Retirement Planning