How to Get Your Child Financially Prepared for College

college-students-awesomeAfter the high school class of 2014 dons their graduation gowns, they’ll be spending this summer gathering dorm necessities, picking classes and hunting for the cheapest textbooks.

One major point of focus should also be signing up for the right student financial accounts, specifically checking accounts and credit cards. With so many choices, it can be confusing for parents and students, but there are simple approaches to getting college-bound kids financially prepared.

Pick the Right Checking Account

When looking for a checking account, parents may be quick to sign their children up to their own banks or to a major bank close to home. However, that approach may not be the best for the college student.

Since college students may need cash for spontaneous occasions, it is important to have an in-network ATM at or near the college campus. Constant cash withdrawals at out-of-network ATMs can amount to plenty of fees. At the 10 largest U.S. banks, the average out-of-network ATM fee is $2.45. Furthermore, the operator of the out-of-network ATM has the right to impose a surcharge, which typically ranges from $2 to $3.

Besides location convenience, parents also have to consider their ability to fund their kid’s accounts. Parents and students should research which financial institutions are around campus and near home to find the one with a student checking account that would allow them to stay financially connected. Parents, you should also make sure that the financial institution you choose has instant transfers during the times you have to transfer money into your child’s account electronically - you don’t want a 1-2 day delay period.

First Financial’s has a great Student Checking Account available for 14 to 23 year old students, which includes:

  1. A free first box of checks, and an allowance of the first mistake being free+.
  2. Free phone transfers to the account by parents.
  3. No per-check charges – unlimited check writing without getting charged after writing a certain amount of checks.
  4. No minimum balance requirements.
  5. No monthly service charge for having the account.
  6. A personalized Debit Card issued instantly in one of our Monmouth or Ocean County branches.
  7. Free Online Banking with Bill Pay++.
  8. Unlimited in-branch transactions.

Sign Up for the Right Credit Card

Credit cards are less attainable by college students since the Credit Card Act of 2009 took effect, requiring anyone under age 21 to provide proof of reliable income to qualify for a card. If a student can qualify for a credit card on his or her own, it is crucial to evaluate spending and repayment habits to maximize any rewards and minimize interest paid.

For instance, a student who will be driving around campus may prefer to get a credit card that offers rewards on gas purchases. Or if a student doesn’t expect to be able to pay off their balances every month, he or she may opt for a card that doesn’t have rewards but carries a lower interest rate.

The more likely situation would involve parents adding their children as authorized users on an existing credit card account. Parents can limit how much their children can spend on their authorized cards, and when the occasion calls for it, they can raise or reduce the limits accordingly. As authorized card users, students can also start building their credit profiles, which can increase their chances of qualifying for credit cards and loans in the future.

Keep an Open Line of Communication

Do your children know what to do in the case of a financial emergency? College students may encounter dilemmas that cannot be solved with the financial means available to them.

Parents should keep an open line of communication that would allow their children to contact them in the event of financial distress, regardless of how bad the situation may be. It’s important for parents to continue providing financial and emotional support, so their kids can focus on the most important aspect of college: their education.

Students need to be financially prepared not only before college, but also post-graduation. Check out some of our graduate products and services that we offer here at First Financial – from a Checking Account to an Auto Loan offer exclusively for recent graduates! 

Click here to view the article source courtesy of Simon Zhen of US News.

*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.  + 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.

First Financial Foundation 2014 Scholarship – Call for Entries

Happy group of students

This year, our non-profit organization — the First Financial Foundation – will be awarding (4) $500 scholarships to undergraduate students who apply on or before 11:59pm on June 30, 2014 for its Erma Dorrer Literary Scholarship.

There is one scholarship topic this year, applicants will need to answer the following question to qualify:

In today’s world, Identity Theft, Building Credit and Maintain Good Credit are essential elements in our financial lives.  How will you address these essential financial elements during your college years, and how will you guide your friends and family to address the above elements?  Your response should include details about how to protect yourself and what others should do to protect themselves from ID Theft, as well as how you plan to build credit and maintain credit for your financial future.

Applicants can submit either a written essay or video clip to answer the question.  Video clips should be recorded and uploaded to YouTube prior to applying. Creativity is encouraged! Essay or video should include your ideas for identity theft protection, and building and maintaining good credit and why these elements are important.

To qualify:

  • The scholarships will be awarded to First Financial members (as of December 31, 2013) who will attend (Fall 2014 Semester) or are currently attending a 2 or 4 year college anywhere within the country.
  • There are no age restrictions to apply – however this scholarship program is open to undergraduate students only, and trade or technical school students will not qualify.
  • A valid copy of either a college acceptance letter, student schedule, or registration confirmation must accompany all applications.

Winners will be announced by July 21, 2014.

Click here to view the 2014 Erma Dorrer Literary Scholarship Terms and Conditions.

*To apply, please email the essay or the link to your video to the First Financial Foundation at foundation@firstffcu.com, or you may send a printed copy of your essay, CD or flash drive (these will not be returned to you), and supporting documentation to the First Financial Foundation at PO Box 1172, Toms River NJ 08754.  Please be sure to list your contact information on your entry including your full name, address, phone, email, membership number and date of membership, where you are currently or will be attending college in the Fall 2014 Semester, any volunteer work you participate in, and a valid copy of either a college acceptance letter, student schedule, or registration confirmation to a 2 or 4 year college. 

Important Alert: Card Cracking Scam Targets Students

scamCash-strapped college students are being recruited to participate in a scam
referred to as “card cracking.” Using ATM/debit cards and PINs willingly provided by the students, fraudsters deposit fraudulent checks to the students’ accounts. The funds are subsequently withdrawn by the fraudsters with the students receiving a portion of the funds for their participation.

Details
The “card cracking” scam was reported to originate in Chicago and generally targeted college students who were recruited through social media sites including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Participants were even recruited in-person at college campuses. The sales pitch is to allow the fraudster to deposit a check to a student’s account and withdraw the funds for which the student receives half of the proceeds for agreeing to participate. This scam is now being reported nationwide.

Willing participants provide the fraudsters with their ATM/debit cards and PINs. The fraudsters deposit fraudulent checks (stolen or counterfeit checks) to the student accounts via ATMs and subsequently withdraw the funds. Their proposition is simple: If you provide me with access to your account so I can deposit a check and withdraw the money, I will provide you with half of the proceeds.

After initial contact is made, the scammer arranges to meet up with the student to retrieve the debit card and corresponding PIN. The deposit is made, the money is withdrawn and then the fraudulent checks were subsequently returned unpaid and charged back to the students’ accounts. Following the fraudsters’ instructions, the participants report their ATM/debit card as lost or stolen and that the transactions were fraudulent.

The participants may not be entitled to protection under Regulation E (Reg E) for
unauthorized use of their ATM/debit card since they willingly provided their card to the
fraudsters which contains an exclusion to the definition of unauthorized
electronic fund transfer:

Unauthorized electronic fund transfer means an electronic fund transfer from a consumer’s account initiated by a person other than the consumer without actual authority to initiate the transfer, and from which the consumer receives no benefit. The term does not include an electronic fund transfer initiated by a person who was furnished access to the consumer’s account by the consumer, unless the consumer has notified their financial institution that transfers by that person are no longer authorized.

This is a huge risk – especially for students who may have large amounts going through their accounts from loans, scholarships and tuition reimbursements.

“Even though the students might be considered victims, authorities point out that providing their debit cards to someone else is a crime,” the Sun-Times of Chicago says.

There’s an easy solution: Never share your account information, debit card or PIN! 

Here are some other safety tips you should keep in mind:

  • Always verify the identity of the person trying to obtain personal information.
  • Never give personal information to someone over the phone or via email. Personal information includes: Birth dates, social security numbers, maiden names, addresses, bank account numbers, debit/credit card numbers, PIN numbers, etc.
  • Maintain a record of the phone call or solicitation. Write down the phone number that the person is calling from, the time and date they called, the caller’s name, and reported affiliation. If it was online, save a copy of the email conversation or advertisement.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If you believe you may be a victim of fraud call your local police department so authorities can be alerted to the activity. You can also report email or internet scams to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) by going online to http://www.ic3.gov.

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 restoredTo learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!*

Click the links to view more information from the original article sources: Yahoo Finance, Explorer News and CUNA Mutual Group.

*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.

First Financial Foundation Names Christen Corrado of Freehold Winner of 2013 Scholarship

Press Release:

ChristenCorrado

L to R: First Financial President/CEO, Issa Stephan with 2013 scholarship winner, Christen Corrado

The First Financial Federal Credit Union Foundation (www.firstfinancialfoundation.org) recently awarded a $1,000 scholarship to Christen Corrado of Freehold, who is currently attending Rowan University’s School of Engineering, studying electrical and computer engineering.

Three winners were chosen overall for the First Financial Foundation’s 2013 Erma Dorrer Literary Scholarship.

This year’s scholarship topic was:

Due to heavy competition in New Jersey with banks and financial institutions on every corner, how can First Financial bring in new credit union members? How can we differentiate ourselves and successfully carry out a membership drive within the community to recruit new members? Please answer the question as if you were a First Financial executive – what would you do to educate the local community about the benefits of a credit union membership?

Applicants submitted a written essay or video clip to answer the question, and had to be a member of the credit union by 12/31/12 and about to attend for fall 2013 – or currently attending a 2 or 4 year college anywhere in the country.

Corrado submitted a very creative, professional essay, featuring her own headshot explaining three different ways First Financial could bring in new members – and how new members could benefit from credit union membership at First Financial in the same way she had growing up. In her essay she stated, “First Financial can bring in new credit union members and educate the local community by advertising to emerging high school graduates and their parents, offering rewards and discounts to new and existing members, and sponsoring local events.”

“We are thrilled to be able to aid these admirable and bright young students in their journey of success and education,” said First Financial President and CEO, Issa Stephan.  “Our credit union puts a high priority on education, after all – that’s how First Financial began 77 years ago, with a group of schoolteachers in Asbury Park.”

First Financial Foundation Announces Winners of 2013 Erma Dorrer Literary Scholarship

Press Release

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(L to R): First Financial’s President/CEO, Issa Stephan with 2013 scholarship recipient Christen Corrado. Not pictured: 2013 scholarship winners Kevin Rogers and Amanda Sayko.

The First Financial Federal Credit Union Foundation (www.firstfinancialfoundation.org) recently awarded $1,000 scholarships to three deserving undergraduate students.

This year’s winners included: Kevin Rogers, Ocean Township, Monmouth University (started Fall 2011); Christen Corrado, Freehold, Rowan University, School of Engineering (started Fall 2011); and Amanda Sayko, Howell, Penn State Erie, The Behrend College (started Fall 2013).

This year, there was one scholarship topic for student applicants to respond to:

Due to heavy competition in New Jersey with banks and financial institutions on every corner, how can First Financial bring in new credit union members? How can we differentiate ourselves and successfully carry out a membership drive within the community to recruit new members? Please answer the question as if you were a First Financial executive – what would you do to educate the local community about the benefits of a credit union membership?

Applicants submitted a written essay or video clip to answer the question of their choice, and had to be a member of the credit union by 12/31/12 and about to attend for fall 2013 or currently attending a 2 or 4 year college anywhere in the country.

“We are thrilled to be able to aid these admirable and bright young students in their journey of success and education,” said First Financial President and CEO, Issa Stephan.  “Our credit union puts a high priority on education, after all – that’s how First Financial began 77 years ago, with a group of schoolteachers in Asbury Park.”

Congratulations to our 2013 scholarship recipients and thank you to all of this year’s applicants!

College Financial Aid Seminar Summary

financial-aid-10111Recently we held a Financial Aid Seminar presented by Ken O’Connor, Director of Student Advocacy for CUStudentLoans.org. Ken talked about important information from costs of colleges, to breaking down the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Here are a few of many key points you may have missed out on, that are important to know:

• The cost of attendance depends on the type of school: public 4 year, private 4 year, and for-profit 4 year colleges/universities.

• College financing options: 529 Plan, monthly savings plan, personal liquidity, prepaid plan, and school selection.

• The top 5 school selection criteria for today: cost, career, major, school reputation, and commuter/resident.

• Cost of education: tuition and expenses, loan repayment, and monthly commitment to pay off studentloans.

• Atypical financial aid bill: Approximately $18,900 (tuition, room, board, books, transportation, etc.)

• Pay off tuition bills with scholarships, grants, and Federal Direct Loans.

• Get the FASFA filed and submitted before February 15th. Don’t be late! www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Questions on First Financial’s Private Student Loans or Student Loan Consolidation? Learn more here or call 866.750.0100, Option 2.*

For more key points visit our Twitter page to view the seminar’s live Twitterfeed at twitter.com/njbanking and search #FinancialAidSem.

*Private student loans should be used as supplemental funding after exhausting all other sources of financial aid, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans. Federal loans offer more attractive terms when compared to most other borrowing options, including private student loans. For more information on federal loans, visit http://www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Ken O’Connor is an 11 year veteran of higher-education finance, having served thousands of students and parents during his career as a financial aid counselor. Having assisted so many families, each having their own specific financial and educational needs, Ken has gained experience in creatively solving a multitude of the financial problems that arise with attending college.

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