Is Your Rewards Credit Card Really Rewarding You?

cards_mastheadConventional financial wisdom for the last 10 years has been that you need a rewards credit card. Obviously, carrying a high revolving balance is bad, but if you pay your debt in full every month, it’s a no-brainer. You put all your expenses on your credit card, pay it off before you’re charged interest, and rack up those airline or other rewards. You cash those in for free flights, first class upgrades, restaurant gift cards, merchandise, and other perks.

There’s another bit of conventional financial wisdom, though: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Free rewards sound great, but are you really getting everything you’re promised?

It might be time to take another look at your rewards card. Is it still the best bet for your money? If you’re thinking about cutting the card, check out these factors:

  • Is there an annual fee? If you’re paying money every year to use the card but you’re not getting more than that amount in rewards, your credit card is a losing proposition. Check your billing statement for this information – and don’t forget to check the fine print.
  • Is the interest rate extremely high? If you pay the balance in full every month, you might not ever think to check your interest rate. Suppose though, that something unfortunate happened – you or your spouse lost your job, you lost track of the date, or otherwise forgot to pay the bill. You could rack up significant finance charges on even one month’s expenses.
  • Is there a real grace period on interest? You might assume that if you pay your credit card bill before the end of the billing cycle that you wouldn’t get hit with any interest charges. This might have been the case when you first signed up, but the deal may have changed over time. Credit card disclosures are often difficult to read, so check them carefully.

If any of the above are making your rewards card less of a reward and more of a chore or added expense, it might be time to look closer to home for your credit card needs. Here at First Financial we offer a Visa Platinum Credit Card* with no annual fee, no balance transfer fees, a 10 day grace period, and a CURewards program where you can redeem points for gift cards, merchandise items, travel, and so much more! PLUS, we’re currently offering an introductory rate of 2.9% APR for the first 6 months on all purchases and balance transfers.**

Instead of counting on programs for rewards you may never see, put the money you save with our low-cost Visa Platinum Credit Card into a Holiday Club or Summer Savings account. Now that’s a real reward! Don’t forget to read all the important documents carefully, then pick up the phone. Our friendly staff will gladly help you make the switch. Speak to a First Financial representative today by calling 866.750.0100 or stop into any branch location.

*APR varies from 10.90% to 17.90% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. No Annual Fee. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

**The 2.9% promotional rate will apply to purchases and balance transfers only for six statement cycles from the new account holder’s initial balance and/or initial transfer to the First Financial VISA Platinum card. The balance transfer promotional rate does NOT apply to purchases or cash advances.

SOURCES:

Learn How to Walk Out of the Dealership with a New Car and Your Wallet this June 2015

Looking to purchase a new vehicle, and still want to get a great deal and not burn a hole in your wallet? You’ve come to the right place – register for our upcoming FREE seminar where you will learn the in’s and out’s of car buying from negotiating price to financing your car. Join First Financial’s Lending Team, as they show you the ways to prepare for car shopping, how to avoid allowing your emotions from getting involved in the transaction, and much more.

Attending this seminar, you will learn:

  • How to prepare and do your homework before car shopping
  • Ways to handle aggressive sales people
  • How to watch for aftermarket add-on’s

Join us on Tuesday, June 9th at 6:00pm for our free consumer seminar titled, How to Walk Out of the Dealership With a New Car AND Your Wallet, presented by the experts at First Financial. The seminar will be held at our new Freehold/Howell branch located at 389 Route 9 North (Next to the Howell Park & Ride). We invite you to bring a guest but space is limited, so make sure you sign up today!

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7 Tips for Financial Spring Cleaning

Metal Spike File With BillsSpring is not only a great time to spruce up your home and organize your closets, but it’s also an ideal time to clean up your finances too.

Sweep away winter bills.

Here’s a scary statistic: Consumer Reports estimates that 7% of all shoppers go into a new holiday season carrying debt from the previous one. And it’s costly.You certainly don’t want to continue making payments on your holiday purchases for another 9 months. Try to clear up this debt in the spring.

Polish your budget.

How are you doing so far now that the first quarter of the year has ended? Are you over budget or under budget? Do you even have a budget? If you’re close to your expectations – great, but if you’ve veered off track for any reason – perhaps because there’s been a job switch, you had a baby, bought a new house, or there’s been another life change – it’s time to re-evaluate the situation. Your budget will need to be refreshed to meet current needs as well as short and long-term savings goals.

Tidy up bad credit.

Have you been subject to high interest rates? Denied a loan altogether? Been unable to rent an apartment? If you’ve got bad credit, then you’re aware of these consequences. To improve your score, make your payments on time and avoid carrying large balances on your credit cards (keep your utilization rate — the amount you owe versus your total available credit — below 30%).

Purge clutter.

Now that you’ve filed your income taxes, shred statements, bills and other financial records and keep only the documents that are absolutely necessary. As a rule of thumb, you want to hang onto tax records and supporting documents for seven years, and it might be easiest to keep hard copies of those (even though the IRS is okay with digital copies). Definitely no need to hang onto paper records forever.

Dust off unwanted items.

To boost your savings goals or earn extra money to help pay down debt, sell your unwanted gift cards on a site like Gift Card Granny where you can get up to 95 cents on the dollar in return. There is also Thred Up – a site you can sell baby, kids and women’s clothing. Poshmark is another site (and free mobile app) where you can sell women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories. As for old electronics, consider Gazelle and Nextworth. You’ll get a fast quote, a free shipping label and quick payment once the item’s mailed in and inspected, and the payout is generous.

Clean up accounts.

Are there brokerage accounts that can be consolidated? Bank accounts you rarely — if ever — use that should be closed? Old retirement accounts from previous employers that should be rolled over? After years of bill paying online, do you have a huge list of creditors you have to scroll through every time you make a payment? Try to get all of these cleaned up and organized.

Straighten out spending.

We all know that the key to financial freedom is to spend less than you earn. However, given how easy it’s become to spend, and given the proliferation of ads, marketing schemes and various tactics that tempt us to buy more than we need, keeping spending in check is becoming increasingly challenging. It’s more important than ever that you control impulse shopping. How? Eliminate triggers such as browsing favorite online shops, heading to the mall after work to window shop, or buying something new when you’re feeling down to help boost your mood.

When it comes to need-based purchases, to get the best prices, use apps like Coupon SherpaRedLaser, and PoachIt.

Happy spring financial cleaning!

Article Source: Vera Gibbons for Marketwatch, http://www.marketwatch.com/story/7-tips-for-financial-spring-cleaning-2015-03-12

 

 

You Could Win a $100 Visa Gift Card in Our Financially Savvy Blog Contest!

FinanciallySavvyBlogContestPic

We look forward to hearing about how we’ve helped you become financially savvy throughout the years. Good luck!

*To enter, comment or post a video before the deadline and completely answer the question to qualify. Post your comment or video on or before 5/29/15 at 5pm. Must be 18 years or older to enter. The winner will be randomly selected from the entries received and notified by the Marketing Department on or about 6/1/15. Winner will be able to pick up their gift card in a First Financial branch or receive it via mail. No purchase necessary to enter or claim prize.

How to Choose What Financial Goals are Worth Setting

save-saving-housing-house-money-cash-e1394569718602Everyone needs financial goals in order to be efficient and successful, but determining which goals to prioritize can be difficult. If you don’t set enough goals, you may not save enough money. However, if you set too many goals it can be difficult to achieve all of them, and repeated failure can get you off track.

It’s best to prioritize how important different goals are in terms of the immediate future, as well as your long-term hopes and dreams. Once you know what is the most important to you, you can figure out which goals you should focus on. Survival should be your first priority; you need to pay for your basic needs first. After that, you can focus on longer-term goals. Consider these five questions as you set your next financial goals.

1. Do I need it to survive?

Obviously, you need food and shelter to survive. Your necessities have to come first. This means that you will need to have enough money to pay your rent and utilities, purchase groceries, and receive medical care when you need it. There are other things that may be necessary depending on your personal circumstances. You will probably require a job, and you might need a car to get there. You also will need clothing, so your first goal should be to afford basic necessities. If you can’t do that yet, then your other financial goals need to wait.

2. Is the goal too big or too small?

Setting goals that you can’t possibly achieve will only bring failure, and can potentially make you depressed or frustrated. If you can barely afford rent for your current one-bedroom apartment, you probably shouldn’t make a goal to purchase a four-bedroom home this year. But you can make long-term goals that include purchases you couldn’t possibly make now. Your income should increase as you become more experienced in your job field, and you can certainly make long-term goals that factor in your anticipated income.

You also shouldn’t spend too much time on goals that are really small. While setting some small goals may build your confidence (such as saving for a new dress or suit), setting too many small goals will pull your priority away from bigger goals.

3. How can I achieve my goal?

You can increase your chances of achieving your goal by taking extra steps to make it happen (outside of just making the goal itself). If you want to purchase a house, but you need to save for a down payment, start small. It’s good to start off by setting up a savings plan, finding out if you qualify for assistance, and cutting back on expenses. You don’t have to purchase a home (or a new car, or whatever else your big goal entails) right now. Make a plan for just how you can obtain your goal.

This is also true of other financial goals, such as moving up at work and making more money. If you want to move up, focus on the ways that you can improve your work performance and set yourself up for a promotion. Consider educational classes if necessary. You also might consider relocating if it will help you advance in your career. Taking proactive steps to achieve your dream will help you get there, and also may make you feel more accomplished and on-task.

4. Am I thinking about the future?

Vacations and fancy clothes can be wonderful, but you need to think about your future, too. Besides basic necessities, you should also prioritize your retirement savings. According to the United States Department of Labor, knowing your retirement needs, contributing to your employer’s retirement savings plan, learning about investment principles, considering using an IRA, and knowing about your social security benefits, can all help you plan for retirement.

Complete the necessary research in order to determine how much you might need to retire, and also to determine where you might want to live, which will affect how much money you need. You also need to consider your future health, and how it might impact your finances.

To get more information on planning for your retirement and schedule your complimentary appointment, contact First Financial’s Investment & Retirement Center at 732.312.1564 or email samantha.schertz@cunamutual.com.

5. How much time do I need?

This question factors into many of the other questions on this list. One of the best ways to achieve your goals is to set realistic ones, and to figure out when and how you will achieve them. Determine how many years you think it will take you to save enough for the type of home you want, or how much you need to save each year (and for how many years) to be comfortable in retirement. If you want to save for a vacation, consider how you will have to alter your current spending, and for how many months you will have to do so.

Short-term goals often take less planning, but it will still help you to determine how much time you need to achieve those goals. It’s easy to tell yourself that you can save enough for a trip in a few months, but actually sitting down and determining how much you need to save each month, and for how long, will help prevent overspending.

Here at First Financial, our first priority is helping you achieve your financial dreams by defining your dream goals and lifestyle, empowering you through financial education, building your wealth, planning your retirement, and managing your risk. Establishing financial goals is an important part of saving enough money, and being ready for the future and we are here for you! Stop into any one of our branches and sit with a representative to have an annual financial check-up for a review of your finances and portfolio. 

Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Nondeposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Article source courtesy of Sienna Beard of Cheatsheet.com.

Our Spring 2015 Newsletter is Here!

Our Spring Bi-Annual Newsletter has arrived! In a continued effort to “go green,” we’re publishing our newsletter electronically – it can also be found on our website and social media sites. Paper copies will be available in our branches in the coming weeks – stay tuned. This Spring “First Edition” newsletter covers some great new topics and talks about some of the exciting events and promotions going on at First Financial for 2015.

The Spring Newsletter Magazine features the following articles:

  • Upcoming First Financial Seminars (May – July 2015)
  • First Click – Remote Deposit Capture Announcement
  • “4 Easiest Ways to Budget” Article
  • Note from the CEO
  • Custom Debit Card Photo Contest Winner & Photo
  • Learn How to Earn Up to $240 a Year When You Open or Upgrade Your First Financial Membership
  • “Could Assumptions Harm Your Retirement Plan?” – IRC Article
  • Custom Debit Card Announcement
  • Popmoney Announcement
  • Financial Tips: Earn More. Save More. Spend Smarter.
  • New Freehold/Howell Service Center Grand Opening & Photo
  • Important information, holidays, phone numbers, and branch locations

To view a copy of the newsletter, click here.

Enjoy!