Debit vs Credit Cards: Which is safer to swipe?

holiday-credit-or-debitWhile the tens of millions of Target shoppers who had their credit and debit card information stolen likely won’t be on the hook for any fraudulent transactions that may occur, debit card users could face much bigger headaches than credit card users.

That’s because debit and credit cards are treated differently by consumer protection laws. Under federal law, your personal liability for fraudulent charges on a credit card can’t exceed $50. But if a fraudster uses your debit card, you could be liable for $500 or more, depending on how quickly you report it.

“I know people love their debit cards. But man oh man, they are loaded with holes when it comes to fraud,” said John Ulzheimer, credit expert at CreditSesame.com, a credit management website.

Plus, if someone uses your credit card, the charge is often credited back to your account immediately after it’s reported, Ulzheimer said. Yet, if a crook uses your debit card, not only can they drain your bank account, but it can take up to two weeks for the financial institution to investigate the fraud and reimburse your account.

“In the meantime, you might have to pay your rent, your utilities and other bills,” said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. The organization recommends that consumers stick to credit cards as much as possible.

Whichever card you decide to swipe, here are ways to protect yourself from scammers.

Be vigilant with your accounts: The Target hack is just the latest in a long history of data breaches, and it likely won’t be the last.

As a result, you should check your debit and credit account activity at least every few days and keep an eye out for any unfamiliar transactions. If you notice anything fishy, notify your financial instituion or credit card company immediately.

“Waiting until the end of the month to check out your credit card statement for fraudulent use is a relic of the past,” Ulzheimer said. “Fraud is a real-time crime, and we as consumers have to be constantly engaged.”

Set your own fraud controls: Financial institutions have their own internal fraud controls, but some transactions can slip through the cracks, said Al Pascual, senior analyst of security risk and fraud at Javelin Strategy & Research.

Many financial institutions will let you set alerts for account transactions. Even better, some allow you to block transactions that are out of the ordinary for you, such as for online purchases at a certain kind of retailer or for any purchases over $500.

“We believe that consumers are going to know best as to how to protect their account,” he said. “They know their own behaviors.

Did you know that First Financial has ID Theft Protection services? When you enroll in one of these services, one of the benefits you’ll receive is an automatic alert sent to you via email and text message, allowing you to confirm whether or not any recent activity is fraudulent. With Fully Managed Identity Recovery services from First Financial, 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. Click here to learn more and get started today!

Watch out for fraud hotspots: You should be especially wary of using a debit card online and at retailers more vulnerable to fraud.

Gas stations and ATMs are hotspots for so-called “skimmers,” or machines that scammers install to capture your card information. Watch out for ATM parts that look unusual and always cover your hand when typing your PIN in case a camera is watching, said Shirley Inscoe, a senior analyst with the Aite Group.

Don’t let your guard down: If you think your information has been compromised, don’t assume everything’s fine after a few months. Stolen card information is often sold to a variety of groups on the black market who may hold onto it for months or even years.

“Many times these fraud rings will wait until the news dies down and people have forgotten about it before they use that data,” Inscoe said. “It may not be used until next winter, so it really is a good idea for people to monitor their activity.”

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

*Article by Melanie Hicken of Yahoo Finance – click here to view the article source.

The Basics: Student Checking

Students with laptop computerMany young adults enter the “real world” lacking the proper knowledge in financial literacy. The following information will assist with setting up and understanding the features and benefits of student checking accounts more clearly.

What Can a Checking Account do for You?

A checking account offers easy accessibility to your money anytime, anywhere and it also helps keep your cash secure – often times through use of a debit card. A debit card is a card that grants you electronic access to the money in your account, which is often referred to as a check card. You may also receive checks to make purchases or pay bills from your checking account. This makes it easier to spend and receive money without carrying cash. Checking accounts are also important for building credit, which you will need to make major purchases such as a car or a house in the future.

A great checking account option for students is Student Checking. The perks of Student Checking accounts vary among financial institutions, but many include free checks, free ATM usage, and better loan rates.

Preparation

Before opening a checking account, make sure you are prepared. Here are a few tips to remember when you begin the process:

  • Get all of your personal documents together. You will have to prove that you are who you say you are, to open an account. Make sure you have the proper identification such as a driver’s license, photo I.D. card, and Social Security card.
  • Know what services your credit union or financial institution offers. Does the institution provide online banking and bill pay? What fees (if any) does the account charge?
  • Look for branch and ATM locations. When choosing a financial institution, it’s a good idea to check for locations near your home, job, or school. It’s also a good idea to consider the locations and availability of their ATMs.
  • Be able to identify fraud. Many Americans have been exposed to financial scams as of late, and even more are unable to identify classic red flags. Common fraud attempts include propositions for “educational” investment meetings, or being offered money in exchange for paying a fee or making an initial deposit. Use common sense and be cautious around offers that seem too good to be true.

First Financial offers Student Checking to students who live, work, worship, or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean County, ages 14-23.

The account includes the following features and benefits:

  • A free first box of checks and an allowance of the first mistake being free+
  • Free phone transfers to the account by parents
  • No per-check charges
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • No monthly service charge for having the account
  • A Debit Card issued instantly in one of our Monmouth or Ocean County      branches.
  • Free Online Banking with Bill Pay++
  • Unlimited in-branch transactions

For more information on how you can open a Student Checking account today, click here to visit our website.

Remember that it is important to establish yourself financially as a student. After your schooling is finished, you will begin your search for a career. Understanding your account and personal finance can only help you when you begin this independent stage of life, and First Financial is here to help you every step of the way!

*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.

 What the symbols mean:
+ Call or visit a branch to request refund of the first fee incurred. We must receive request within 90 days of date fee is charged in order to be eligible for refund. The eligible fees are NSF, Overdraft, and Courtesy Pay fees.
++ Bill Pay is free as long as 3 bills are paid through Bill Pay each month, otherwise a $6 monthly fee applies. 

Article Resources:

http://www.lifescript.com/life/money/save/5_things_to_know_before_opening_a_checking_account.aspx

http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/10/28/5-financial-traps-awaiting-young-adults/

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/checking/chapter-1-checking-account-types.aspx

http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2012/01/11/skinny-on-checking-accounts-for-teens/

http://money.msn.com/saving-money-tips/post–pick-a-checking-account-to-fit-your-student

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/savings/5-tips-for-opening-a-teen-checking-account-2.aspx

Checkout Fees: Are you Being Charged?

iStock_000017073811XSmall-300x199According to an article by the Electronic Payments Coalition, merchants have gained the ability to tag on additional fees to your purchase when you use a credit card through a term settlement. In states such as California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas, surcharging will remain illegal due to the state law. It is encouraged that residents of these states report any evidence of retailer checkout fees to their state attorney general.

As a shopper you have rights and you want to be aware of a few things when you are visiting other places where surcharging may be allowed:

  • Merchants are only allowed to assess a fee that is equivalent to what they pay to accept credit cards – which in the U.S. is typically between 1.5%-3%.
  • Consumers can only be charged checkout fees for credit card usage. Merchants cannot charge customers for the use of their debit card.
  • Merchants must provide “clear disclosure” of any checkout fees at their store entry and at the point of sale or on their first page if it is an online environment.
  • The disclosure must list the amount of the surcharge, that the charge is being imposed by the merchant, and that the surcharge is not greater than the cost merchants pay to accept cards.
  • Merchants must also provide “clear disclosure” of the dollar amount of the checkout fee on the transaction receipt.

Some countries, such as Australia, have illegally turned the surcharge fees into an automatic profit source. In order to prevent fraudulent charges, The Reserve Bank of Australia put a cap on the amount that retailers could legally charge. Shoppers should know that this settlement was put forth to prevent retailers from charging excessive fees and any fees that are over the prescribed amount are illegal.

Here at First Financial, we provide our members with low-cost convenience. We offer a free checking account equipped with a First Access Debit Card, verified by VISA®*. In addition, First Financial also has a low rate VISA® Platinum Credit Card available for its members who qualify, to help with personal finances**. For more information about our Debit & Credit Card features and services, please visit our website or give us a call at 866.750.0100.

*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. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

**Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. 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: electronicpaymentscoalition.org.

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Where can you still find free checking? At First Financial!

accounts_check_185199-resized-600Many banks have done away with Free Checking. We keep hearing reports of big banks charging big fees for simple services like checking – or raising the fees they were already charging. One big bank in particular, has decided to begin charging $7 a month this May to New Jersey residents just for the privilege of having a checking account or writing checks. The fee will decrease to $5 a month if the bank’s customers elect online statements.

If these bank customers want to pay $7 to write checks and receive e-statements, we wish them well. Here at First Financial Federal Credit Union, we’ve always believed it’s our privilege that you choose to be a member and that you choose to deposit your money here – whether for checking, savings, online banking, or any other purposes. We’re happy to provide you with a variety of checking services, including Free Checking, to best meet your lifestyle. The very fact that you do your banking here is good for us and good for you!

Of course, it helps that we are owned by you – our members. You tend to do business in a more service-oriented manner when that’s the case. We also think that’s why more and more people are giving credit unions a fresh look. For us, it’s not all about squeezing every last dollar out of people in the form of fees and charges. It’s about serving the best interests of our members – period.

So if you’d like completely free checking*, come talk to us. If you’d like to be a member of an organization whose every decision is designed to meet your needs, we’re here for you! There are still places out there like this, and First Financial is proud to be one of them.

Learn More About First Financial’s Check
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*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. Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey.

Debit Cards vs. ATM Cards

FFNJDEBITCardFinal-resized-600Debit Cards vs. ATM Cards
A debit card and an ATM card are two completely different cards. Debit cards act exactly like cash or credit cards (without any interest since you are not “borrowing” money, but instead it comes from your checking account), while ATM cards are only used to withdraw money at an ATM. Here are some points to help you to better understand the differences between each:

DEBIT CARDS

  • Are usually accepted anywhere a major credit card is – since they will have a VISA or Mastercard logo.
  • Can replace check writing for purchases.
  • Can be used for purchases online.
  • Can be used to get cash back with purchases at grocery stores and some retailers.
  • Can be used to withdraw money at an ATM.
  • Can be used as a credit card (but is withdrawn from a checking account within 5 days).
  • Can be used to withdraw money from an ATM, either from a checking or savings account.
  • Has no monthly fee (at First Financial).*
  • Can only be tied to a checking account.

ATM CARDS

  • Only allow transactions made at ATMs.
  • Cannot be used to make purchases.
  • Is a card that is used only to withdraw money from a savings account.
  • Has a $3 monthly fee (at First Financial).**


dollar%20bills-resized-600Which is for me?

If you like the convenience of cash but are not a fan of carrying it or of writing checks, we recommend a debit card. If access to your money at ATMs is a must, but you cannot open a checking account – an ATM card will be your only option.

Learn more about First Financial’s First Access Debit Card, with no monthly fees!

*Debit Cards are available for First Financial members with Checking Accounts only. A First Financial membership is open 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. First Financial is Federally Insured by the NCUA.
**There is a $3 monthly fee for all ATM Cards and a non-First Financial ATM fee of $2 per transaction for the basic tier of Rewards First.