8 Online Banking Fraud Prevention Tips

  1. Choose a bank account that offers some form of multi-factor authentication Keyboard with E-Banking Button.(MFA) for online banking, such as a key code or unique image. First Financial offers this with our Online Banking!
  2. Create a strong password, avoiding common words or phrases, and change it every few months. Also, for security questions, the answer does not have to be the real answer, just one you will remember.
  3. Keep your security software (anti-virus, firewalls, etc.), operating system, and other software up-to-date to ensure that there are no security holes present when using your computer for online banking.
  4. Beware of suspicious emails and phone calls that appear to be from your financial institution asking for account information. Access your online banking account directly by typing the address into your browser, going through your financial institution’s website, and only call your financial institution back via a number that you are familiar with and you know is legitimate.
  5. Access your accounts from a secure location, using computers and networks you know are safe and secure. Avoid using public networks and always look for the padlock icon in the corner of the browser, signaling that the website is encrypted.
  6. Always log out and clear your computer’s cache at the end of each session.
  7. Set up account notifications to immediately alert you if there is any suspicious activity on the account, such as large withdrawals or a low remaining balance.
  8. Monitor your accounts regularly, paying attention to all transactions over the past few months.

If you fall victim to ID Theft, don’t panic – First Financial is here to help! Report the incident regarding any of your First Financial accounts immediately, by calling us at 866.750.0100 or emailing info@firstffcu.com

Learn How to “Get out of debt, manage your credit, & stop paying more than you have to!” at this FREE Seminar in March 2015

246657_bigAre you interested in improving your credit score, paying down debt, and saving money in order to get your finances on track? If so, allow the experts at First Financial to provide you with insightful information to help you manage your credit & debt in this free seminar.

Attending this seminar, you will learn:

  • What affects your credit score
  • What makes up your credit score and how to improve it
  • How to budget and cut spending
  • How to promptly pay off debt

This FREE “Get out of debt, manage your credit, & stop paying more than you have to!” Seminar will begin at 6:00pm on Thursday, March 19th at First Financial’s Neptune Branch. The seminar will teach attendees ways to keep their credit score where it should be in just a few simple steps. The seminar is located at 783 Wayside Road (Off Route 66) in Neptune. Register today, space is limited. 

Register Now!

5 Ways You Could Be Sabotaging Your Future Net Worth

The 3d person under a bill's rain. crise hopelessnessYou may not realize it, but the actions you take now can greatly impact your sense of financial security down the road. Many Americans inadvertently minimize their future net worth by focusing only on the short-term. It can be great to live in the moment, but in some situations it’s a good idea to take a step back to evaluate the long-term impact of your financial decisions.

Here are five ways many Americans are shooting their future net worth in the foot:

1. Renting a Home Instead of Buying

Purchasing a home is probably the biggest investment you’ll ever make, but if you choose a property wisely, it’s definitely worth it. Sure, you’ll need to come up with an initial down payment and you’re responsible for all upkeep and repairs, but in most cases these costs pay themselves back.

When you own the property, you build equity in an investment that will likely increase in value over time. Rather than making monthly rent payments to someone else, your mortgage payments are essentially an investment in your future. Homeowners enjoy the stability of knowing their monthly housing expenses are for the long term, whereas renters never know when their monthly rent will increase. Additionally, interest and property tax paid by homeowners is tax deductible, often offering the chance for an annual break from Uncle Sam.

Need a mortgage or you’d like to re-finance your current mortgage? First Financial has great, low rate mortgage options!  Check them out today. We also have a mortgage rate text messaging service, and when you text firstrate to 69302 – you’ll receive a text message whenever our mortgage rates change.*

2. Not Paying Into a Retirement Plan Early in Your Career

When you’re young, saddled with student loans and barely making enough money to pay the rent, it’s easy to put off saving for retirement because it’s still 40 years away. However, waiting until you’re older to start saving can have a significantly negative impact your financial stability in your golden years.

The earlier you start saving, the more money you’ll earn in interest. For example, if you opened a 401(k) account in your mid-20s, saved a total of $30,000 and realized an 8 percent rate of return, you would have approximately $280,000 by age 65. However, if you save the same amount, realizing the same rate of return, but wait until your mid-40s to start the process, you’ll have only about $60,000 at age 65. Many companies also have a 401(k) match program, where they’ll match your contribution to a certain percentage or dollar amount, so you’re essentially turning away free money by not taking full advantage of this opportunity.

3. Waiting Until Withdrawal to Pay Taxes on Retirement Plan

Traditional 401(k) and IRA plans allow you to make tax-free contributions into your retirement account, with the deductions made in retirement when you withdraw funds. However, it might be smarter to open a Roth 401(k) or IRA, where taxes are deducted upfront, allowing you the benefit of making tax-free withdrawals in retirement. This could be a savvy move, as there’s a very good chance you’ll be in a higher income tax bracket when you retire than you were when you opened your retirement account.

4. Leasing Vehicles Instead of Financing

At first glance, leasing a vehicle can seem like an attractive option — less money down, lower monthly payments and the ability to drive a higher-priced car than you could afford to finance. However, leasing won’t add any gains to your future net worth. The monthly payments you make are essentially rent to the dealership, as you don’t get to keep the vehicle at the end of the lease. Rather than paying off the car and driving it for a few years payment-free, you’re forced to return it and immediately start making payments on another model — and continue the cycle every few years when your lease is up. Additionally, you’re limited to the number of miles you can put on a leased vehicle, you have to pay extra for excess wear-and-tear charges and you’ll pay sky-high early termination fees if you need to break the lease early.

In the market for a vehicle?  At First Financial, our auto loan rates are the same whether you buy new or used.** Apply online 24/7!

5. Using Credit Cards to Overspend

Everyone wants things they can’t afford, but offers for zero or low-interest credit cards can make it very difficult to avoid temptation. It might seem harmless to book a vacation or purchase a new furniture set using a credit card with little-to-no introductory financing, but what if you can’t pay the balance off before the promotional period ends? It’s not uncommon for these promotional interest rates to rise from zero to 18 or 20 percent, which can seriously increase the initial price of your expenditures and leave you with a mountain of debt that can take years to pay off.

Do you have a large balance on a high interest credit card? Have no fear, First Financial’s Visa Platinum Card has a great low rate, no balance transfer fees, no annual fee, and rewards!*** Apply online today.

Making savvy financial choices now can help ensure you’re able to enjoy stability later in life. Sometimes it’s worth making initial sacrifices now to allow yourself to ultimately come out ahead. Always consider what the impact of the choices you make now will have on your long-term happiness before jumping head first into a decision you’ll grow to regret.

 *Subject to credit approval.  Credit worthiness determines your APR. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.  See Credit Union for details. Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

**A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Subject to credit approval.

***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. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. 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.

Article Source: Laura Woods of gobankingrates.com, http://www.reviewjournal.com/business/money/5-ways-you-re-sabotaging-your-future-net-worth

 

3 Reasons Your Tax Refund Might Not Be As Big As You’re Expecting

09ba4dd1-bbe3-4f1f-9400-940dc6df347fEveryone tells you not to plan on having a tax refund. If you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, though, you know where every dollar is going. You might be counting on that money to give you the breathing space you need.

Even if you’re a little further ahead than that, you may still have made plans for your tax refund. You might be planning to pay off a credit card from the holidays or hoping to put a down payment on a car. You might just be hoping to take a little vacation over spring break!

Whatever your plans for the money, it’s a good idea to temper your expectations. Unfortunately, you can’t count on the same tax refund you got last year. Here’s why.

1. Student loan garnishments. 

If you’re behind on your student loans, you might not see much of your refund. If you don’t have much of an income, it’s easy to get behind and it’s hard to catch up. Student loan companies know that, for people with minimal income, tax refunds are a source of a big chunk of money. Also, since it’s not a regular source of income, the rules regarding garnishment are more lenient. Ordinarily, creditors are only allowed to take 15% of your discretionary income if you have one loan, or 25% if you have multiple loans. For a tax refund, the Department of Education can instruct the IRS to apply the full amount of any tax refund you’re due to the balance of your loan.

Even if you’re paid off in full, it might be wise to check with your spouse. This process can also apply to your refund for his or her defaulted student loans. As far as the IRS is concerned, you’re one taxpayer with one set of obligations.

This process can apply to federal student loans, federally subsidized loans and some private loans. You’ll receive a notice of proposed offset from the IRS. You have 65 days from receipt of the notice to object to the offset. Deferments can be provided for up to 3 years for economic hardship and unemployment. They may be provided indefinitely for individuals seeking an advanced degree or for people with disabilities.

It’s also possible the “loan” may just be a paperwork error. If you’ve unenrolled from classes but haven’t yet received a repayment from the school, for instance, you might get your refund back with a short letter. The notice of referral will provide you instructions to request a review.

2. You made more money.

Usually, getting a raise is something to celebrate. If you got one this year, that’s good news for your career future. It’s less good news for your refund. The refund is the difference between what you paid in taxes and what you ended up owing. Your taxes are withheld from your paychecks assuming they stay the same all year. If you got a raise in June, then you were effectively under-withholding for the first half of the year.

Beyond the difference in payment, you may find your raise puts you just above the threshold for credit programs. Credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) have income eligibility requirements. If you made more money this year than you did last year, you may not qualify. The same is true for subsidized insurance premiums through the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). If your income changed after you obtained coverage, you may have to hand back a part of that subsidy.

The EITC is fairly significant, particularly if you have kids. It may be worth your time to look for other deductions you can take to get your gross income under the threshold. Consider working with a professional tax preparer, too.

3. You were the victim of identity theft.

The past few years have seen an increase in tax returns filed fraudulently on behalf of victims of identity theft. A crook uses your Social Security Number and fabricates financial information to get a hefty tax refund, then cashes the check. You’re not only out your tax refund, but also may be facing criminal charges for the phony info on “your” return.

With cuts to the IRS budget this year, its enforcement and investigation of these crimes has dropped. You should contact the IRS immediately if you receive notice that more than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number or if you are issued a W-2 (an income statement report from your employer) by an employer you don’t recognize. These are red flags that someone is fraudulently using your identity.

The FTC recommends you contact the IRS’s Specialized Protection Unit at 1-800-908-4490. You should also prepare proof of your identity, like a copy of your drivers’ license, Social Security card, or passport. The IRS has a form, IRS ID Theft Affidavit Form 14039, that will start the investigative process. Recovering from this crime will take time, but you will get the refund you’re due.

To prevent identity theft, check out First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored and you can try it FREE for 90 days!* To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!**

TurboTax has some great offers for the 2014-2015 tax season! Click here to get started and save with First Financial’s TurboTax microsite. From now until 2/26/15, TurboTax users are automatically entered into this year’s $25,000 Giveaway when they file between the sweepstakes dates and provide a valid email address. One grand prize winner will win $15,000 and ten first prize winners will receive $1,000 each! This is a nationwide sweepstakes.***

*Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program. **Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions. ***TurboTax is a tax preparation software product offered to our members through the Love My CU Rewards Program and is not a product of this Credit Union.

Article source courtesy of CUContent.com.

5 Types of Debt – What to Pay Off Now and Later

debt dollar billYou often hear that there’s good debt and bad debt. That’s probably because it would not sound too great if financial experts went around referring to bad debt and even worse debt.

After all, it’s challenging to live without owing somebody something – right? If you want to buy a house with cash, by the time you save up enough, it may be time to retire. If you’re saving up to buy a car free and clear, you may have to spend a lot of years riding the bus first. Most people get through life by borrowing money.

So sure, there’s good debt (the kind you probably can’t avoid carrying) and there’s bad debt (the kind you should try to get rid of sooner rather than later). One key to determining which debt to pay off now versus later is the interest rate: the lower it is, the longer you can carry the debt without it becoming a burden. Here are some guidelines to help you prioritize your debt.

Mortgage: Pay off later.

If you have a large mortgage and you win the lottery or come into an inheritance that allows you to pay your house off easily, doing it now is probably not a bad idea. But if you make it your main goal to pay off your mortgage, you might end up sacrificing other goals like saving for retirement or your kids’ college education.

Revolving credit card debt: Pay off now.

With the steep interest rates on credit cards (the national average is 13% APR for fixed-rate credit cards and 15.7% APR for variable-rate credit cards), this one’s a no-brainer. Revolving credit card debt is not good, and should be paid off as quickly as you can.

Not only is paying all of that interest expensive, it’s a result of a lifestyle people can’t yet afford. Once you establish a pattern of increasing expenses for your lifestyle, it could be impossible to catch up.

Did you know you can transfer your high-interest credit card balances to First Financial’s Visa Platinum Credit Card, which has a great low rate and no balance transfer fees?* Apply online today!

Student loans: Pay off later.

Let’s just stress that if you have a choice between buying a sports car or retiring that student loan debt, you know what the smart decision is (hopefully you were thinking to pay off the student loan first!).

In most cases, you’ll be just fine if you make the monthly student loan payment and don’t stress over paying it off any faster. Student loans typically tend to have a lower interest rate and an extended payment period. In most cases, if you have an extra thousand dollars, you’re better off using it to pay down your revolving credit card debt than putting it toward student loans (unless this is your only source of debt and your goal is to be debt-free).

Car loans: Pay off sooner rather than later.

If you can buy a perfectly good used car and borrow less, or buy a car without a loan, that’s ideal. But if you’re going to go into debt when you buy an automobile, try not to get stuck in a lengthy loan. Experian Automotive recently reported that in the second quarter of 2014, the average new car loan, for the second quarter in a row, was 66 months. That’s an all-time high. And that’s just the average. Approximately a quarter of new car loans are between 73 and 84 months long. Those are six and seven year car loans.

Historically, the average car loan has been around four to five years, with three years considered to be the sweet spot. Consumers are naturally attracted to an 84 month loan because the monthly payment is far lower than it would be if you took on a 36 month or even 60 month car loan. But you’ll likely pay thousands more with a lengthy loan. You may also find that your warranties will run out long before you make that final payment, and your car may not even last seven years depending upon what you bought.

Did you know at First Financial, our low auto loan rates are the same whether you buy new or used? Be sure to check them out today, and if you like what you see – you can apply for an auto loan online 24/7.**

Car insurance premiums: Pay off now, but only if you can.

This is small potatoes as far as your financial obligations go, and it may not be fair to call it a debt, since you pay as you go with insurance. Still if you have car insurance, it’s a financial obligation that you’re generally stuck paying indefinitely, so it feels like a debt.

If you can pay six or 12 months ahead of time instead of just once a month, you can avoid installment fees, which generally run between $5 and $9 dollars month. These additional costs, although relatively small individually, can add up over a 12 month policy period. Moreover, you’ve not only saved some money – you have one less monthly bill to worry about as you deal with your bigger debt.

On the other hand, if you’re going to have trouble making your car payment because you’re paying for a year’s worth of car insurance, stick with the monthly plan. Paying debt off successfully is really about successfully managing your cash flow.

*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. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. 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.

**A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Subject to credit approval.

Article Source: Geoff Williams of money.usnews.com, http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2014/12/11/5-debts-you-should-pay-off-now-or-later