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/

 

3 Sneaky Things Hurting Your Credit That You Can Easily Fix

Credit-ReportWhen it comes to understanding your credit, it can feel as complicated as trying to solve a Rubik’s cube. Frustrated by this confusion, many consumers neglect their credit, which can have a devastating impact on their financial futures.

A Consumer Action study recently revealed that 27% of Americans have never checked their credit report. That’s alarming, because it’s estimated that a large number of consumers have errors on their credit reports that could damage their credit.

Here are three things that could be hurting your credit:

1. Wrong Information

The wrong personal information on your credit report could hurt your credit. This could be things like your name misspelled, your incorrect home address, where you’ve worked in the past or even your Social Security Number listed incorrectly. How does a wrong address hurt your credit? Your information may be mixed up with someone else’s, especially if you have a common name, or are a “Jr.” or “Sr.” Or it could indicate identity theft — and that could really wreak havoc with your credit. By reviewing your credit report, you’ll be able to quickly see if there’s any information that needs to be updated or changed.

2. High Balances Compared to Limits

Another sneaky thing that could hurt you is your credit card balances — even those you pay in full. How can a credit card that you pay off hurt your credit? Issuers typically report your balances as of the statement closing date. But then those cards aren’t due until about a month later. So in the meantime, the balance on your reports may look high in comparison to your credit limits.

Generally you want the balance on each card to stay below 20 to 25% of your available credit. If you have a retail card with a small limit or a rewards card that you use to pay for everything to earn points, then this factor could come back to haunt you.

So you need to either pay your charges off before the statement closing date or ask for a higher credit limit. Of course, a higher credit limit should not be an invitation to overspend. You won’t improve your credit scores if you get in over your head with debt!

3. Outstanding or Delinquent Bills

The third sneaky thing that could hurt your credit score could be outstanding or delinquent bills. You’ll want to make sure you check your credit report to make sure that you have no outstanding bills or any delinquent bills that you need to get addressed.
Review your credit report and make sure you’re not being marked for anything delinquent that could be damaging your credit. This could be things like former gym memberships, old credit cards, or even medical bills.

*Article Source Courtesy of Jeff Rose of Daily Finance Online

How to Build Credit if You Have a Small Income

Building and maintaining a good credit score is one of the best moves you can make for piggy bankyour financial health. It might seem intimidating at first – the credit scoring system is definitely complex – but when it comes time to apply for a mortgage or other loan, you’ll be happy you made building a solid score a priority.

How does the picture change if you make a small income? As it turns out, not much. You don’t need to be a Rockefeller to achieve good credit. Take a look at the details below to learn how to build a great score, no matter how large or small your paycheck is!

First, know what makes a good score.

Before digging into specific recommendations, it’s important to understand the factors that affect your credit score. The FICO scoring model – which is the most widely used credit scoring system in the United States today, takes a lot of variables into account to create your score. These include:

• Payment history
• Amounts owed
• Length of credit history
• Mix of credit accounts
• Recent credit inquiries

You’ll notice that income is not one of the factors used to determine your credit score. This means that earning a big salary doesn’t equate to earning a high credit score. Even if you have a small income, you can succeed at scoring high, as long as you’re using the right strategies.

Obtaining credit is an important first step.

It’s empowering to know that the steps to good credit are about financial behaviors, not the size of your bank account balance. But what exactly should you be doing to get there?

Above all, it’s important to start using a credit account responsibly as soon as you can. Proving to potential lenders that you can be trusted with borrowed money is the best way to start building your credit momentum.

One of the easiest ways to do this is with a credit card. If you’re not earning much money, you might be shying away from plastic to avoid the temptation to overspend. But this may in fact stall your efforts to build good credit.

If you’re not interested in getting a credit card, obtaining another type of loan to establish a credit history is a good idea. You might have trouble getting approved if your income falls below the lender’s requirements. In this case, offering a big down payment or securing a co-signer might help you qualify as well.

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!*

Keep up with good habits.

Once you’ve gained access to credit, keeping up with good habits is essential to building your score further. Specifically, you should focus on a few important behaviors.

The two most important factors the FICO score looks at are:

  • Payment history – Are you making the minimum payment required on time every time? This accounts for 35% of the FICO Score.
  • Credit Utilization – Are you keeping the balances on revolving credit (typically credit cards) below 30 percent of your available credit? This accounts for 30% of the FICO Score.

In short, paying your bills on time and in full are the two most powerful things you can do to create and hold onto a good credit score.

And just to be clear: Neither requires a big income. Spend and borrow within your means, and it will be easy to manage your payments properly.

The takeaway: Those with small incomes have the same opportunity as their high-earning counterparts to build good credit.

Use the tips above to get started today!

*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.

Article Source: Lindsay Konsko of NerdWallet

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/09/01/credit-score-financial-health/13628811/

Shoppers Beware: Retail Credit Card APRs Average 23%

Open WalletBefore you take the bait from the cashier and sign up for a new store credit card, be sure to read the fine print first.

Retail credit cards boast average annual percentage rates of 23.23%, according to a CreditCards.com analysis of cards from 36 of the nation’s biggest retailers.

That’s more than eight percentage points higher than the average credit card APR of 15.03%.

“Retailers dangle incentives like 15% off a purchase to encourage consumers to sign up for their credit cards,” said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com. “But the much higher interest rates far outweigh the one-time discount for anyone who carries a balance.”

If you’re confident you will never miss a payment and you think the retailer’s rewards program would provide you with savings, then it could be a fine deal. But if there’s even a small chance you’ll carry a balance, you could end up paying big money in interest as a result.

Customers with a 23.23% APR credit card, for example, would be hit with $840 in interest if they carry a $1,000 balance and only make minimum monthly payments — and it would take them 73 months to repay that balance. That compares to $396 in interest for the average credit card.

Jeweler Zales’ store card topped the list, with a rate of up to 28.99%, Office Depot and Staples both offer cards with rates as high as 27.99%, and Best Buy credit cards come with rates ranging between 25.24% and 27.99% depending on your credit.

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.**

If you have a great deal of debt, we also have 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.

*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.

Article Source: Blake Ellis for CNN Money, http://money.cnn.com/2014/08/07/pf/retail-credit-cards/index.html?iid=SF_PF_River

 

3 Ways Moving Can Hurt Your Credit Score and How to Combat Them

Stack of cardboard boxWhether you are moving because it’s an upgrade to go along with a higher salary, or simply a change of scenery, many of us love to hate moving – and do so frequently. But between asking around for free boxes and trying to comprehend how you’ve acquired so much stuff, watch out for your credit! Here are three ways moving could impact your credit score and how to deal with them.

1. A credit check will initiate a hard inquiry.

When you apply for a new apartment, your apartment management company will likely pull your credit to see whether you’re responsible with money. This will trigger a hard inquiry, which can pull down your credit score a few points. Hard inquiries remain on your credit report for two years and affect your credit score for one.

Because of the minor impact of a hard credit pull, it’s generally not a huge concern. However, if you’re initiating multiple hard inquiries each year, you could hurt your score more significantly. Hard inquiries may include: applying for credit — such as credit cards, mortgages, and loans, or applying for a service that requires financial responsibility, such as a cell phone.

Solution: To keep your credit score from suffering multiple inquiries, you should limit your annual credit applications and take advantage of rate shopping when possible. This will keep your inquiries low and your credit score high.

2. Bills that go to your old address may go unpaid.

new study released by the Urban Institute states that over 1/3 of Americans have an account in collections. But what does this have to do with moving? An account can easily end up in collections because it isn’t forwarded correctly, instead being sent to an old address. There are two easy things you can do to prevent such a mix-up.

Solution: First, change your address with the U.S. Postal Service before you move. It will forward your mail to your new address for one year. By that time, you should have your address changed on all of your accounts. Remember to update your address on your accounts as soon as possible.

While you’re updating your address, you may also want to enroll in paperless statements and automatic bill pay. In an increasingly paperless world, it’s best to handle your financial dealings electronically. If you don’t want to use auto pay, have statements sent to your primary email so you can pay them before the due date.

First Financial members can take advantage of our free Online Banking and enroll in e-statements. Online Bill Pay is also free, if you pay at least 3 bills online per month – otherwise a $6 monthly fee applies. Learn more about how you can self-enroll in Online Banking today!

3. You’re putting too many moving expenses or new purchases on credit cards.

Moving can be expensive. Between paying for a moving truck and covering your security deposit and first month’s rent, it may be tempting to put moving-related expenses on credit cards. This is all well and good, but only if you have the funds to pay off your credit card in full before the due date to avoid accruing interest.

It’s also easy to fall into the trap of charging new items for your home. After all, new digs require new furniture, right? Wrong! Unless you can reasonably pay for your new purchases, resist the urge for now.

Solution: Save money well before your move-in date to cover all moving-related expenses. And in the case of buying new things for your new place, purchase the decor of your dreams slowly as you have the money. Your home shouldn’t be a source of stress, so make sure it isn’t filled with things that are hurting your finances.

If you do need to put some moving expenses on a credit card – be sure you are using a low-rate card like First Financial’s Visa Platinum Card, which also has no balance transfer fees and no annual fee.*

Bottom line: Moving can hurt your credit score, but only indirectly. To keep your credit from being damaged by your upcoming move, avoid getting too many hard inquiries in any given year, change your address with the USPS and switch to paperless billing, and try not to buy anything moving-related or otherwise that you can’t pay for before your credit card due date.

*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.

Article Source: Nerdwallet.com

3 Totally Common Financial Tips You Should Probably Ignore

Mature man taking data off the computer for doing income taxesWhether you get your financial tips by asking friends and family, checking out library books, attending seminars or searching online, impractical pieces of advice sometimes abound.

Too many personal finance experts tend to populate their cable appearances, books, columns and blogs with the same simple tidbits. But some of that common advice is also not applicable to everyone. For each of these three clichéd tips, let’s look at some other alternatives:

1. In Debt? Cut Up Your Credit Cards

Certain financial gurus advise people in debt to cut up all their plastic and consider using credit cards as the eighth deadly sin.  Here’s some advice: don’t cut up your cards.

People land in debt for various reasons, and some – like student loans, don’t have anything to do with credit cards.

If being unable to pass up a sale or discount clothing bin is your trigger for getting into massive amounts of debt, then put your cards in a lock box and back away. If you fell into some bad luck and used your credit card for an emergency, consider a balance transfer.

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.*

But just because someone is in debt and wants to get out of it doesn’t mean they’re going to stop spending money entirely. People still need to eat, fill the car with gas, and deal with the occasional unexpected expense.

Some may counter that it’s best to use a debit card, but consider the ramifications of debit card fraud.  A compromised debit card gives thieves direct access to your checking account. While most financial institutions will cover the majority of money taken from your account, it can be an extreme hassle to deal with. When a credit card is compromised, the issuer typically reacts quickly – possibly even before the customer notices, and usually offers fraud protection.

It also helps to have a low-interest rate credit card for emergencies. Think of it as a fire extinguisher housed in a glass case. You don’t want to break that glass unless you really, really need it. But you do want the fire extinguisher to be there.

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.

2. Have a 20% Buffer in Checking

Undoubtedly, it’s preferable to have a buffer in your checking account to avoid overdraft fees, but two types of situations typically cause overdraft fees.

  • Person A is forgetful, forgets a recurring charge or neglects to check his or her balance before making a purchase.
  • Person B uses overdrafts as a form of short-term borrowing because he or she does not have enough money to get by without going into overdraft.

About 38 million American households spend all of their paycheck, with more than 2/3 being part of the middle class, according to a study by Brookings Institution.

It’s simple for personal finance experts to recommend tightening up the purse strings, doubling down on paying off debt, and moving out of the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle – but those who don’t have assets and who struggle each month to make ends meet don’t need to hear people harping about avoiding overdraft fees by “just saving a little bit.” Every little bit counts for them.

Instead, let’s offer some practical advice: Those looking to avoid overdraft fees should evaluate their banking products.

Americans who use overdraft fees as a form of short-term lending may want to set up a line of credit with a credit union or have a low-interest credit card for emergencies.

First Financial Federal Credit Union has both options available – give us a call at 866.750.0100, Option 4 or learn more about our lines of credit and low-rate Visa Platinum Card on our website.***

3. Skip That Latte!

Many years ago, David Bach created a unifying mantra for personal finance enthusiasts. The “latte factor” was that you could save big by cutting back on small things.

Bach’s deeper concept – that each individual needs to identify his or her latte factor – got lost in the battle cries, with many people crusading specifically against your daily cup of coffee.

Yes, people should be aware of leaks in their budget. But everyone’s budget looks different. If “Person A” buys a coffee each day, but rarely buys new clothing, and trims the budget by cutting cable and brown-bagging it to work, then leave them alone about their caffeine habit.

People are allowed to live a little when it comes to their personal finances. It’s important to save for the future, but it’s also important to enjoy life in the present. Personal finance shouldn’t be a culture of constant denial either. Create a budget, figure out if you can work in an indulgence or two, and don’t live in complete deprivation. For those working to dig out of seemingly insurmountable debt, then yes, it may be time to identify and limit your latte factor or make an appointment with a financial counselor.

Decide What’s Right for You

Keep in mind, personal finance is indeed personal.  A generic piece of advice, like keep a 20% buffer in your checking account to avoid overdrafts, may not be helpful in your personal situation.  You need to figure out what works for you, and ask for help along the way if you need it.

*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.

*** Subject to credit approval. 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 Line of Credit or VISA Platinum Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2014/07/28/common-financial-tips-you-should-ignore/ by Erin Lowry.