Members 1st National Credit Month

What does it mean to have "good credit," and how can you protect yourself from those who wish to steal it?

Credit cards present a fantastic way to tap into money stores you do not yet have. However, this type of power requires a great amount of responsibility. It is not only important to maintain a good credit score, but also to protect yourself from hackers looking to steal this type of valuable information.

Q. How do I protect myself regarding credit card security?

A. There are many tools available for consumers looking to keep their card secure, and we hope that all consumers will find these tips useful.

1. Make sure that your card is with you at all times. When you pay your bill at a restaurant or use your card for a purchase and the card leaves your possession, ensure that you look at the card you used before you leave to ensure that it's your card and not someone else's.

2. Personalize your card with a picture of your family, dog or favorite landscape - or even add your picture to the card.

3. Set up alerts on your account so that you are notified when a purchase is made. This will tell you where your card was used, when it was used and for how much.

4. Check your balance and your transactions regularly by using a mobile app.

5. Don't leave or write your PIN on your card, and never give your PIN to anyone else. It is personal.

6. Contact your financial institution immediately if you notice a charge that is not yours or if you've lost or misplaced your card.

Q. What is a credit score, and can I improve mine?

1. Your credit score is a three-digit number that relates to how likely you are to re-pay a debt. There are three major credit reporting agencies, and each of them may have a slightly different score for you.

2. The most commonly used score by banks, credit unions and other financial institutions is the FICO score.

3. You can keep your credit score strong or improve it in a number of ways:

a. Always pay your bills on time

b. Don't open multiple credit accounts in a short period of time; it is better to increase your credit limit on existing accounts

c. Keep your balances low on credit cards and other revolving accounts

d. Pay off debt rather than moving it around

e. Keep a good mix of different kinds of credit accounts: revolving and installment

4. The longer you maintain a clean credit history, the better your score will become.

To learn more about your credit score and what you can do to protect yourself, visit