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

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

 

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

The 4 Easiest Ways to Budget

corruption conceptBudgeting strikes fear (or annoyance, or disgust) into the hearts of many people, because we tend to see budgeting as something that is tedious, complicated, and keeps us from having any fun. But budgeting doesn’t have to be a scary word. Here are four ways to make budgeting as easy and painless as possible.

1. Automate It

To make room for savings in your budget, pay yourself first. Set up automatic deductions from your checking to your savings account each pay period so you’re not tempted to spend money you’ve earmarked for your emergency fund or retirement goals.

To avoid late fees and having to keep track of numerous due dates, set up automatic payments for as many bills as you can. The amount due will be deducted straight from your bank account when it’s due, and you won’t need to worry about mailing anything out by a certain date – or paying for postage.

Remove the potential for human error as much as possible, and you’ll find budgeting is already a lot easier!

2. Use Budgeting Tools

You don’t have to go it alone, especially if you’re not mathematically or organizationally gifted.

There are tons of great programs and software out there that can help you create a budget, track your spending and identify areas for improvement. Some are free, and some require a purchase — but they’re all waiting to make budgeting a breeze.

Check out free websites like Mint, that let you view all your accounts at a glance, or use an old-school worksheet to help you track your spending. Whichever tool you choose, make sure it feels intuitive and easy-to-use to you.

3. Adopt an 80/20 Budget

If the idea of tracking every purchase and reviewing your budget line-by-line makes you crazy, you may want to adopt an “anti-budget” or 80/20 budget.

Simply put, an 80/20 budget is where you put 20% of your income into savings automatically. This money becomes untouchable, and you have the other 80% available for the rest of your monthly expenses, such as groceries, utilities, and rent. If you find your monthly expenses go over 80%, then it’s time to trim some fat and find spending areas you can reduce.

You can also adjust the “anti-budget” to fit your own personal financial goals. If you’d like more savings to fall back on, try a 70/30 budget. If you want to aggressively pay down debt, you may want to consider a 60/40 (or even a 50/50) budget until you’re out of the hole.

4. Try the Envelope System

Another alternative is the envelope system, made famous by financial guru Dave Ramsey. If you’re a visual or tactile person, this could be the system that helps you finally see what budgeting looks like in action.

The envelope method involves taking all of the discretionary cash you have for the month and placing it in — you guessed it — envelopes that represent each of your budget categories.

If you can only afford to spend $300 a month on groceries, you place $300 in the “groceries” envelope. Being able to see how much cash you have left for the month helps you stretch out your spending, and if you use up what’s in the envelope before the month is over, you’re forced to make do with what you’ve already spent. (Maybe it’s time to get creative with leftovers, “shop your pantry,” or eat ramen noodles for the rest of the month).

If you’re the sort who tends to swipe a card and not really think about what you’re spending, the envelope system could be a great, old-fashioned way to get back to basics.

Did you know First Financial offers free budgeting seminars throughout the year?  Be sure to check our online event calendar to find out when the next one is, and register online.  Plus, when you attend – you’ll receive a computerized budgeting spreadsheet to use and easily plug in your expenses each month!

Article Source: Paula Pant for dailyfinance.com, http://www.dailyfinance.com/2014/12/20/easiest-budget-approaches/

How To Save When You’re Young

Businesswoman saving moneyIt’s hard to save money when you’re young. If you’re lucky enough to have a job, you’re probably not overflowing with cash. With a ton of young and talented job seekers, companies also have little pressure to offer generous starting salaries.

Meanwhile, apartment rents have steadily risen for 23 straight quarters, and life’s other inevitable expenses — utilities, food, taxes, etc. And these haven’t gotten any cheaper.

Let’s not forget educational expenses too. Inflation in college tuition has massively outpaced broader consumer price inflation for decades, meaning most college graduates start their careers with large student loan debts hanging over their heads. A recent poll found that college graduates finish their studies with an average debt load of $35,200. And if you are the ambitious type who decided to go to graduate school, you might have multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.

Still, the savings you manage to sock away while you’re young will have an outsized effect on the lifestyle you’re able to live when in middle age and your golden years.

Pay Yourself First.

Humans are hardwired to expand our spending to absorb any increases in income. In order to mitigate these impulses, you have to “pay yourself first” by allocating your first dollar of income to savings rather than your last. Figure out a dollar amount that you want to save, and set it aside before you budget your regular monthly expenses.

If your employer offers a 401k plan, this is easy enough to do. Your 401k contributions come out of your paycheck before you have a chance to spend them. Not including the value of employer matching, if your employer offers this – is an “out of sight, out of mind” way to save for your retirement one day.

Even contributing $500 per month to savings will get you to $6,000 per year, and many young workers can try to make do with $500 less per month.

Make it Automatic.

Very closely related to paying yourself first is making your savings as automated as possible. For example with a 401k plan, this accomplishes both. Once you set your contribution limits, your company’s payroll department will take care of the rest. It’s automated, and you don’t have to think about it.

But what if your company doesn’t offer a 401k plan? There are plenty of other ways to automate your savings process. Often times, your payroll department will allow you to split your paycheck among two or more accounts. This will allow you to automatically divert whatever sum you can afford away from your primary checking account and into a savings or investment account.

You can also generally instruct your brokerage account or savings account to automatically draw from your checking account on a specified day every month. The key here is automating the process so as to remove your discretion. If you have a real emergency, you can always suspend the automated instructions for the time being. Otherwise, you have made saving part of your monthly routine and made it a lot harder to throw the money away on something frivolous.

Slash Your Budget.

Let’s face it, it can be easier said than done when your monthly bills seem to get bigger every month. Here are a few concrete examples of how to save without crimping your lifestyle too badly.

First off, ditch cable TV. Most of the programming you watch is probably available for free over the airwaves or at a very modest cost with Hulu Plus or Netflix  after a short delay. And the handful of shows not available probably aren’t worth the $100 per month or more you’ll pay in cable bills. If you can’t live without HBO, chances are good that one of your friends or relatives has a subscription that you can borrow from time to time.

Also, try to put off a new car purchase as long as possible. If you take reasonably good care of your car, it will last you 150,000-200,000 miles. Not only will you save money on a car payment, but the older your car the less insurance coverage you will need. And when you finally do need to replace your wheels, buy a late-model used car rather than a new one.

Did you know at First Financial, our 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.*

Consider cutting your rent and utilities bills in half by having a roommate. Chances are, you did it in college. Why not share an apartment for a few more years? The average apartment rent is more than $1,000 per month, and it is considerably more in the popular urban cities that attract younger people. Cutting that bill in half will make reaching your savings goals a lot easier.

*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: Charles Sizemore for investorplace.com, http://investorplace.com/2014/12/how-to-save-when-youre-young/#.VL65zNLF8uc

 

Intuit is Working to Resolve Emerging Tax Fraud Problem & Says Issue is Unrelated to TurboTax Product

intuit_blueIntuit Inc. has stated that recent fraud reports are not stemming from a breach of the TurboTax program. Intuit has dedicated all their resources to resolving this issue in conjunction with state and federal agencies.

Intuit has been working with third-party security expert Palantir on a preliminary examination of recent fraud activities, and believes that these instances of fraud did not result from a security breach of its systems and that the information used to file fraudulent returns was obtained from other sources outside the tax preparation process.

Intuit is working with state agencies to address growing concerns over state tax fraud. During this tax season, Intuit and some states have seen an increase in suspicious filings and attempts by criminals to use stolen identity information to file fraudulent state tax returns and claim tax refunds.

“We understand the role we play in this important industry issue and continuously monitor our systems in search of suspicious activity,” said Brad Smith, Intuit president and chief executive officer. “We’ve identified specific patterns of behavior where fraud is more likely to occur. We’re working with the states to share that information and remedy the situation quickly. We will continue to engage them on an ongoing basis in an effort to stop fraud before it gets started.”

As it worked with state governments to assess and resolve the recent issues, Intuit took the precautionary step Thursday, 2/5/15, of temporarily pausing its transmission of state e-filing tax returns. Intuit will be working with the states today to begin turning transmissions back on. Customers who have already filed their state tax returns using Intuit software during this temporary pause will have their returns transmitted as soon as possible. They do not need to take further action at this time. This action does not affect the filing of federal income tax returns, and is limited to those states that require residents to file returns.

To assist any customers who believe they are victims of tax fraud, Intuit has implemented a plan that includes a dedicated toll-free number, 800-944-8596, with direct access to specially trained identity protection agents who will provide comprehensive support and filing assistance. In addition, Intuit will provide identity protection services and free credit monitoring, as well as provide access to all versions of its software or to the assistance of one of Intuit’s credentialed tax experts who will prepare taxes for affected customers at no expense.

“We understand the pain and frustration identity thieves cause taxpayers,” Smith said. “We know how important tax time is and our number-one priority is making sure peoples’ returns are filed timely, accurately, and safely.”  In addition, Intuit will continue to apply the most advanced technologies and techniques on an ongoing basis to prevent and detect any suspicious tax filing activity.

First Financial would like to remind our members that your accounts with us are monitored 24/7 by an experienced team of security professionals for any suspicious or potentially fraudulent activity. First Financial employs the most advanced fraud detection and prevention technology to guard members’ accounts against unauthorized access and use.

  • If our security team observes any unusual activity on member accounts, we will contact members immediately to determine whether the transaction activity is legitimate and authorized.
  • It is also a good practice for members to keep a watchful eye on their accounts and transactions and look for any unauthorized activity or purchases.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! 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!*

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit. To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!**

We will continue to monitor all members’ accounts for suspicious activity. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please give us a call at 866.750.0100 or email us at info@firstffcu.com. Thank you for being a valued member of First Financial.

*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.

Article Source: http://investors.intuit.com/press-releases/press-release-details/2015/Intuit-Working-With-State-Governments-to-Solve-Emerging-Tax-Fraud-Problem/default.aspx