Ent Federal Credit Union is one of four credit unions in Colorado participating in a nationwide program to help first-time homebuyers.

Ent, along with the Denver-area-based Bellco, Red Rocks and Denver Public Schools credit unions, will provide nearly $1 billion in below-rate mortgage loans to homebuyers, according to the Colorado Credit Union League.

The program is called the Home Loan Payment Relief mortgage program and is expected to attract participation from other credit unions throughout the state.

Bank of America to host Hometown Hopefuls

Bank of America will host its Hometown Hopefuls Olympic Winter Games this February in Italy

Bank of America is the Official Bank Sponsor of the 2006 U.S. Olympic Team. The Hometown Hopefuls program offers discounted accommodations to families and friends of qualified athletes who are attending the Games.

During the Olympic Games, friends and family members can stay at the Family Center, which offers complimentary lunch and dinner, wide-screen televisions with closed-circuit coverage of the competition and complimentary tickets to Olympic events.

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Bank of America introduced the Hometown Hopefuls program during the 2004 Olympic Games.

U.S. Bank wins tech award

U.S. Bank has won CIO magazine’s 14th Annual CIO Enterprise Value Award in the banking and brokerage category.

The bank was one of 11 winners and two honorable mentions nationwide.

The award recognizes organizations for exemplary use of technology in their operation, demonstrating how to leverage technology to achieve business objectives and produce return on investment.

U.S. Bank won for its Access Online program, an electronic payment tool used by large corporations.

Key Bank names new branch manager

Kimm Looney has been named manager of Key Bank’s branch at 1115 Elkton Drive. Looney has five years of experience in the banking industry and volunteers with the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, the Red Cross and the Fort Carson Officers’ Spouses Club.

Key Bank operates 50 locations across the Front Range.

Tips for selecting a credit counselor

Because of stricter laws that took affect Oct. 17 requiring extensive credit counseling before filing for bankruptcy protection, thousands of Americans are likely seeking reputable credit counselors.

The Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater of Dallas released the following tips to consider when choosing a credit counseling agency.

  • Find out if the agency is affiliated with a national trade organization. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is the nation’s largest and longest serving credit agency. Membership is dependant upon maintaining high standards. Selecting a certified agency ensures quality service.
  • Look for independent third-party accreditation. The Council on Accreditation evaluates NFCC agencies. Once achieved, the agency has to be reaccredited every four years.
  • Make sure your counselor is certified. The NFCC requires that all counselors become certified within 12 months of hire.
  • Find out if the agency offer solutions other than a debt management plan. As appropriate as a debt management plan is for some, it’s not right for everyone. As a matter of fact, only about one-third of the 1.5 million consumers who seek assistance from an NFCC member agency each year need professional intervention through a DMP. Also find out if the agency pays commission on debt management plans. A true nonprofit will not offer commission to its employees.
  • Accept only reasonable fees, and find out if the agency waives the fee in cases of true hardship. Even nonprofits have to pay their bills, so charging a fee for service is not unreasonable. However, excessive fees are not in the true spirit of help and should be avoided.
  • Confirm that the agency offers in-person counseling. The consumer may prefer to be counseled by phone or online. However, the option of a face-to-face session is something that is appealing to many, and something that newer entrants into the field often do not offer because of cost.
  • Don’t do business with an agency that doesn’t spend time with you. The counselor should spend 60 to 90 minutes during your first consultation. If you feel uncomfortable after the consultation, you should tell the agency that you’ve changed your mind. Then, get advice from another organization.
  • Make sure the agency offers financial education. A credit counseling agency is only considered a true nonprofit if it offers an abundance of education. Be wary of brief online courses. The agency should offer a variety of education on several subject matters.
  • Know if the agency offers personalized solutions. If it sounds like the counselor is making a sales call rather than helping you with your own personal problem, then that person is probably trying to make money though a consolidation loan or other product. Make sure the agency creates a solution for your exact situation, detailing concrete steps of how to solve the problem.

Rob Larimer covers banking and finance for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.