Important Alert: January 2015 USPS Email Scam Advisory

BEWARE OF SPAM! BOGUS E-MAILS SENT TO POSTAL CUSTOMERS

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Some postal customers are receiving bogus e-mails about a package delivery or online postage charges. The e-mails contain a link or attachment that, when opened, installs a malicious virus that can steal personal information from your PC.

The e-mails claim to be from the U.S. Postal Service and contain fraudulent information about an attempted or intercepted package delivery or online postage charges. You are instructed to click on a link, open the attachment, or print the label.

But Postal Inspectors warn: Don’t do it! Like most viruses sent by e-mail, clicking on the link or opening the attachment will activate a virus that can steal information — such as your user name, password, and financial account information.

What to do? Simply delete the message without taking any further action. The Postal Inspection Service is working hard to resolve the issue and shut down the malicious program.

If you have questions about a delivery or wish to report spam, please call 1-800-ASK-USPS or email spam@uspis.gov.

The 2% Auto Loan Challenge is Back January 2015 for a Limited Time!

 

2015 2 Percent ChallengeTPNew Year, New Savings! Back by popular demand, see if we can beat your current Auto Loan rate by 2%. Stop into any of our branches, apply online, or give us a call at 866.750.0100, Option 4 – to find out if we can save you money on your current Auto Loan payments.*

Please reference promo code AutoChallenge115 for this promotion when you stop into a branch or call. When applying online, enter AutoChallenge115 in the Comments section on page 8, in the Application Notes section of the application.

  • Rates as low as 1.99% APR
  • New loans only
  • Terms up to 72 months

This offer is back for a limited time only, so get started by taking the challenge today!

*Not all buyers will qualify – actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness. Loan to value ratio up to 125% based on credit score. A First Financial membership is required to obtain an auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. Cannot be combined with any other offer. **APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Rates as low as 1.99% for terms up to 36 months. For example, a $15,000 auto loan at 1.99% APR with a term of 36 months would have a monthly payment amount of $429.57.

Holiday Credit Card Traps – Beware!


Credit Card Trap, Predatory LendingBeware: Zero interest-rate financing. Store cards with discounts. Cash advances.

As consumers gear up for the holiday spend-a-thon, there are also plenty of opportunities to get into trouble with credit cards. And if you’re not careful, you can find yourself with a lower credit score, high interest payments, and more.

Holiday spending is expected to increase nearly 5% this year, with the average consumer planning to spend $804, according to the National Retail Federation. That can make credit card deals look enticing, and too good to be true.

Deferred interest credit card offers, for example, often surface this time of year, according to Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education for Credit.com. These offers, often announced as “zero percent interest” or “special financing” promotions, typically give consumers a grace period on interest, sometimes for a year or more.

For a consumer making a big purchase and planning to pay it off within that time, deferred interest plans can be helpful, Detweiler said. But she warned that consumers who leave even a single dollar of charges on the card by the time the deferred interest period is over can be hit with retroactive interest charges on the entire balance they charged.

She had just received a letter from Home Depot, for example, explaining that if she took its deferred interest offer and did not pay it off in full within the specified period, she would be charged interest on all her charges retroactively at a rate of 22.9%. (The store’s website describes a six-month deferred interest offer with interest rates on unpaid balances ranging from 17.99 to 26.99%).

According to CardHub, a credit card comparison website, paying off your credit card debt one month behind schedule or missing a single payment could increase your financing costs by more than 27 times if you rack up charges under a deferred interest plan. The site has compiled a list of retailers offering deferred interest plans with varying degrees of transparency.

Regulators are keeping an eye on deferred interest offers as well. In September the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a bulletin warning credit card issuers against “engaging in deceptive and/or abusive acts and practices in connection with solicitations that offer a promotional annual percentage rate (APR) on a particular transaction over a defined period of time.”

Opening new credit card accounts is another potential pitfall for consumers. Many retailers encourage consumers to take out store cards, often by offering enticements like a discount on that day’s purchases, or by offering a discount if the consumer spends above a certain threshold.

“Some of these offers will be designed to encourage you to spend more,” said Jeanine Skowronski, a credit card analyst with Bankrate.com.

High interest rates

Store credit cards often carry high interest rates. And even an application for a new credit card will appear on your credit report, Detweiler said.

“Every time there is an inquiry into your credit file, that’s a risk factor and that drops your score,” she warned. “If you open three or four new retail cards over the holidays, you can wind up not only with a lot of debt but also a lower credit score. If you know you are going to refinance a house or buy a car, be careful.”

Credit card cash advances are another potential pitfall for consumers. The interest on these is often well above the interest on credit card purchases.

“Stay away from them at all costs,” Skowronski said.

For people who really want to shop with cash, Detweiler recommends an alternative to credit card cash advances: a balance transfer. Consumers can ask a card issuer to deposit cash in their account to be used to pay off another card. Often, the interest rate on that balance transfer cash will be lower, Detweiler said — but usually only for a limited time. After that, she said, “any balances left will be charged a much higher interest rate.”

Of course, there are ways credit cards can be helpful with holiday spending too. For example, consumer protections on credit cards tend to be stronger than for debit cards: consumers are typically only liable for a maximum of $50 if they fall victim to credit card fraud, and as soon as the card is replaced they can use it again. Losses on a debit card are capped at a higher level, and it can take longer for a bank to straighten out an account where there has been fraud.

Credit card price protection promises can also be helpful. These guarantees typically allow a consumer to get a refund if the price on something they purchased drops within a specified period of time. Taking advantage of those guarantees takes discipline, though, as does sticking to a holiday spending plan.

Need to transfer a high rate credit card balance without any balance transfer fees, to a lower rate card? This is possible at First Financial, where our credit card rates are as low as 10.9% APR and we have no balance transfer fees!* And for a limited time – if you are approved for a balance transfer of $5,000 or more to our VISA Platinum Credit Card, you will receive 10,000 bonus CURewards Points! You can apply for the balance transfer by stopping into any branch or calling 866.750.0100 to be sent a balance transfer request form.**

*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.

**Additional bonus points will be reflected within 30 days from the balance transfer approval and can be viewed when signed into your VISA Platinum Card Account online through Online Banking. In order to redeem bonus points, an offer reference must be made to a First Financial representative. Bonus points can only be redeemed one time per member, on an approved balance transfer of $5,000 or greater during the promotional period of 4/28/14 – 12/31/14.

4 Ways to Keep the Grinch from Stealing Your Good Credit

GrinchDuring the holiday season, we’re more at risk for fraud and identity theft as we head out or online to shop. Theft of your credit cards or identity can be devastating to your credit, not to mention your finances and emotional well-being. Not exactly something we want to happen during this joyous time of year, right? Here are some tips to remember as we are holiday shopping.

1. Shop Safe Online

Be aware that just because you can shop in the comfort and safety of your home doesn’t mean you’re not at risk for identity or credit card theft. Stay safe online by entering your credit card number in as few places as possible – use a payment service such as PayPal; shop at reputable websites with names you know and trust; and avoid clicking on links sent to you in email or banner ads that could take to you websites other than where you intended to go.

2. Keep an Eye on Your Cards

When you’re out shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, keep an eye on your credit cards and make sure store clerks are not allowed to leave your sight with your cards in hand. Also, pick-pocketers are common this time of year, so make sure to keep your valuables safe when you are in public.

3. Check Your Statements

Checking your bank and credit card statements regularly – even as often as every day – is a great habit to start now, if you don’t already do it. This time of year, when you’re more likely to have increased activity on your accounts, it’s especially important to review them carefully and thoroughly. Get signed up for online access so you don’t have to wait for paper statements to arrive. If you see anything questionable, you can act on it right away and resolve any problems. You can also sign up for alerts to notify you whenever a purchase goes through.

4. Check Your Credit Reports & Credit Scores

The end of the year is also a great time to pull your credit report and/or get your credit score and compare it to your last one. Check your credit reports for any incorrect or unfamiliar information, inquiries, or credit accounts. Report any suspicious or wrong information to the creditor and the credit bureau. You can pull your credit reports for free every year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies on AnnualCreditReport.com, and you can see two credit scores for free on Credit.com.

With these four simple steps and by being smart and aware of your surroundings, you can help keep yourself, your identity, and your credit safer from the Grinch. Cheers to a happy holiday season!

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!**

*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: Jeanne Kelly of Credit.com, http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2014/12/09/4-ways-to-keep-grinch-from-stealing-your-good-credit/

 

5 Ways to Whip Your Budget Into Shape for the Holidays

Безымянный-2Holiday shopping is officially in full swing – but that certainly doesn’t mean you need to go broke over it. Here are just a few financial tips to whip your budget into shape for the holidays without sacrificing gift giving or your other financial goals.

Reflect on last year. If last year’s shopping season was a budget-busting disaster, then now is the time to learn from your mistakes. Take a look at your holiday bills from a year ago and think about whether your financial situation has improved or worsened since then. Be honest with yourself. Are you really up for a repeat spending performance this year? If not, start thinking about how much you can realistically afford to spend, and make sure it’s reflected in your new holiday budget.

Set a dollar amount. And stick to it! While holiday spending often feels essential, it’s easy to get swept away in the shopping frenzy and end up spending more than you can afford. So before you start shopping, use this opportunity to develop a realistic budget where you designate a specific dollar amount for each item or person on your list. Easily create, manage, and stick to your budget using a free online personal finance management tool that can also help you manage your money on the go.

Track receipts. You’ll need them for returns, price adjustments, and to compare against your credit card statement. Knowing how much you spent will keep you honest and help you plan better for future holiday shopping too. Tally the receipts from all holiday expenses, including gifts, postage, meals, entertainment, and decorations. Assess where you’ve spent and once you’ve completed your shopping list, stop shopping!  More mall or web time can amount to more spending.

Limit your use of plastic. Unless you know you’re good about paying off your credit card balances in full each and every month, leave the plastic at home. Only bring cash you’ve set aside for holiday shopping to avoid temptations for unnecessary purchases. If you must use credit this year and know you won’t be able to pay everything off right away, try this approach: Don’t rely solely on credit; make a plan in which you pay your purchases off completely within two to three months; and limit your credit card use to the card in your wallet with the lowest interest rate.

Did you know First Financial has a lower rate VISA Platinum Credit Card, great rewards, no annual fee, and no balance transfer fees? Apply today!*

No emotional purchases. Let’s face it, if you’re stressed out, you might make some unnecessary purchases. Take the emotions out of your holiday shopping, and stick to your original holiday budget. Having your budget in hand and a game plan for who you are buying for and what you want to buy, can help make the daunting task of shopping a bit more manageable. It’s also worth doing a little online research and comparison shopping before leaving the house, so you don’t get caught up on the hype of the holiday sales.

So why not take a different approach this year? By following some of these tips ahead of time you’ll be able to balance your gift giving and still avoid that holiday debt hangover.

To save for holiday shopping next year, check out First Financial’s Holiday Savings Club Account – don’t put yourself into debt over holiday spending, save ahead and come out on top (and not in debt)!**

  • Open at any time
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Dividends are posted annually on balances of $100 or more
  • Accounts automatically renew each year
  • Deposits can be made in person, via mail, payroll deductions, or direct deposit
  • Holiday Club funds are deposited into a First Financial Checking or Base Savings Account

*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.

**A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

Article Source:

Holly Perez of Money.usnews.com, http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2014/11/20/5-ways-to-whip-your-budget-into-shape-for-the-holidays

8 Things You Should Do With Your Money Before 2015

Checkbox 3DThe last thing we want to do right now while preparing for the upcoming holidays, is probably think about money. That’s what New Year’s resolutions are for, right? While it’s tempting to put off your finances until the New Year, you might miss some critical financial deadlines or lose the opportunity to save extra money. An end-of-year financial checklist gives you the opportunity to make changes and save before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st.

Here is a year-end financial planning checklist. Use these last few weeks to get your finances organized and under control — a great way to close out 2014.

1. Look over your spending.

Ideally, you’ve been tracking your spending all year. What were your spending patterns? Did you go over or under in a certain category? Take a look at what you actually spent vs. what you had budgeted for. Do you need to change your expectations? Review your financial goals from last year and consider whether they will work for you in the coming year and make the necessary adjustments. If you paid off a loan, see if you can redirect that money into a paying off another debt or adding to a savings or retirement account. Don’t let the money get eaten up by miscellaneous expenses. If you don’t have a budget, start one now. Mint.com, Level and Check are all good free budgeting tools with features to help you create a budget from scratch, track your spending, and set financial goals.

2. Order your free credit report.

You’re entitled to one free yearly credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Get a report now so you know where you stand before heading into the new year. Look over your report and check for errors or negative information. If your credit history could use some improvement, make 2015 the year you get back on track.

3. Get your credit cards in check.

That means checking your balances, rates, and cash back or other rewards. Make a large payment if you are carrying debt and have extra money to do so. If you can’t pay down a chunk of the debt you accumulated this year, create a debt repayment plan that will get it down next year.

If you have a great deal of debt, First Financial has a free, anonymous online debt management tool called Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

4. Make an extra mortgage payment.

Making just one extra mortgage payment each year can cut your loan down by years, saving you possibly thousands in interest. Also, making an extra mortgage payment means you may be able to claim an extra month of mortgage interest deductions in 2014. If you can’t afford an extra payment, try to make January’s payment before the first of the month. If the payment gets credited before January 1, 2015, it may still be tax-break-eligible for 2014.

5. Review your insurance plans.

Look over your health, life, homeowner’s/renter’s, and car insurance plans. Do you need to adjust your coverage, premiums, or add any dependents? Do you need to purchase new coverage, like life insurance or disability? Did you get married, have a baby, or buy a house? Do you have any changes coming in 2015 that you need to plan for? Those life events all trigger insurance changes.

PS: If you answered yes to any of those questions, you might need to make changes to your W-2, too.

6. Automate everything.

It’s time to finally automate your bills and savings. The more you can automate, the easier your finances will be in 2015. Automating helps you pay your bills on time and maintain a regular savings plan. This is also a good time to cancel any automatic subscriptions you aren’t using: video and music streaming, magazines, premium subscriptions, etc.

7. Make a tax-deductible charitable contribution.

If you are going to itemize deductions on your 2014 tax return, consider making a charitable contribution to a cause you believe in. The donation must be made to a qualifying organization and the tax benefit only saves you a fraction of what you donate, but you’ll be supporting a good cause to end the year.

8. Use your Flexible Savings Account.

If you have a Flexible Spending Account for healthcare or other qualifying expenses, now is the time to submit any outstanding claims. This is also the perfect time to make any year-end doctor appointments.

If you get your finances in order at the end of the year, it can only help you get more organized for the coming one!

Don’t forget to stop in to have your annual financial checkup before the year ends, or to kick off the beginning of the new year! Here at First Financial, we encourage our members to come in at least once a year to sit down with a representative at any one of our branches to make sure you are currently placed in the correct Rewards First tier for you, and also that you are receiving the best value, products and services based on your financial situation. Give us a call at 866.750.0100 or stop in to see us today!

Article Source:

Morgan Quinn of Gobankingrates.com, http://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/10-smart-money-moves-make-before-2015/