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.

Need to get your credit score in check? Try First Financial’s First Score Program, a low cost, interactive session ($30) with a First Financial expert, which simulates your credit score with various “what if” scenarios. You can email us at firstscore@firstffcu.com or call 866.750.0100, Option 4 to get started.

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.

A Message for Members Regarding Account Security Following Home Depot Data Breach

??????????????Home Depot is officially the latest big retailer to suffer a payment data breach, the company confirmed on 9/8/14. It’s unclear how many customers were affected, but Home Depot said the breach could have hit customers who used debit or credit cards at its U.S. and Canadian stores from April 2014 forward.

The company released few other details in its statement as it continues to determine the full scope, scale and impact of the breach. At this point there is no evidence that debit PIN numbers were compromised, and the breach doesn’t appear to have affected physical stores in Mexico or HomeDepot.com.

Naturally, this latest data breach has created inquiry from First Financial members regarding the security of their credit and debit card accounts.

We want to assure 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’ credit and debit accounts against unauthorized access and use. Here’s a quick update for your peace of mind:

  • 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!**

*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.

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.

Article Source: http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/security/home-depot-confirms-credit-card-data-breach-n198621

 

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth and Ocean Counties This September 2014

Family-fall-leavesAs the summer quickly comes to a close and your children prepare to go back to school, it’s important to make time for family activities. This September, there are so many things to do that are fun and low cost  for everyone.  Check out these budget friendly activities that are going on locally, and make some memories with your family and friends!

Saturday, August 30 – Start your day with the Spring Lake Labor Day End of Summer Celebration & Sale/Art Walk. This all day event takes place on Third Ave from 8 am – 5 pm. For more information, call 732-449-0037.

Monday, September 1 – Kick off September with a night out at Show Place Ice Cream Parlour (Beach Haven, LBI).  Enjoy a show and dessert as you become part of the entertainment. Watch the talented staff perform Cabaret, show tunes, and improvisation. For more information, call 609-492-0018.

Saturday, September 6 – The Jersey Shore Irish Festival will be held rain or shine from 10am-6pm at the Sea Girt National Guard Armory. Enjoy music, vendors, Irish food, and rides for children with family and friends! Admission is $7 per adult ticket purchased in advance, and $10 at the door. Children 12 and under are free.

Sunday, September 7 – Go fly a kite at the Belmar Kite Festival! Professional kite flyers will demonstrate their skills between the Second and Third Avenue Beaches. Families and individuals can fly their kites from the Fourth Avenue Beach southward. There is no cost to enter. Setup time begins at 10am, and the event takes place between 11am-4pm.

Wednesday, September 10 – What better way to start fall off then a Farmers Market! Come to Downtown Toms River from 11am – 5pm for a fabulous day at the market. Check out fresh produce, baked goods, honey, herbs, nuts, and prepared foods. You can enjoy a yummy lunch under the tents with your family and friends on this beautiful day. Parking is also FREE! For more information, contact Huddy Park at 732-341-8783.

Saturday, September 13 – Take your children to Jenkinson’s Aquarium (Pt. Pleasant) for a behind the scenes tour. Ages 5 and up are permitted to join for a fun morning to learn about what goes on in the Aquarium. Prices are $10.00 for children and $14.00 for Adults. For more information, contact Jenkinson’s at 732-899-1659.

Sunday, September 14 – 5K Race or 1 Mile Fun Run for the 9/11 Heroes 2014 (Wall Township) will take place starting at 8am at the Wall Municipal Complex on Allaire Rd. For more details visit wall@911heroesrun.org or click here.

Wednesday, September 17- Have a Girls Night Out at Laurita Winery (New Egypt)! Laurita calls out all ladies and their friends to enjoy a night of yoga, wine, and relaxation from 6-9 pm. Admission is free. Finish the night off with the sounds of live music and good laughs. For more information, call 609-752-0200.

Saturday, September 20 – Support scholarships and classroom grants in Monmouth and Ocean Counties by attending the First Financial Foundation’s Food Truck & Restaurant Bash at our Toms River Branch from 1-5pm! Join us for a fun day of food truck/restaurant vendors, games, entertainment, prizes and more. Entry donation is $5 per person (kids 12 and under are free!) and advanced tickets pay be purchased in any First Financial Branch or online using Credit/Debit/PayPal. We hope to see you there!

Sunday, September 21 – Come out to Freehold and check out the Circus at iPlayAmerica. The one and only Michael Dubois is the featured performer for the day. Bring your children, parents, and friends for a 40 minute show filled with magic, juggling, slack wire, and sideshow stunts! This is one event you certainly DO NOT want to miss! First show starts at 12pm and the second starts at 3pm. Tickets are under $20.00.  For more information, call 732-577-8200.

Saturday, September 27 – Join Allaire Village for a fun-filled day at the 1830’s Fall Harvest (Wall)!  Explore what life was like during the 1830’s with villagers as they cook food over the hearth, make apple cider, and play historic games. Kids can take part in arts and crafts and go on wagon rides around the village. Don’t miss the exciting demonstrations with ax and knife throwing, and fire starting. Admission is $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for children ages 5-12. For more information, call 732-919-3500.

Have a great start to your fall season!

Is There Such a Thing as Good Debt?

3d man sitting sad with text 'debt'.Most of the time, the word “debt” has negative connotations. Debt costs you money and therefore takes money away from financial goals like saving and investing.
So could there ever be good debt? That’s no easy answer. How you use debt has a big impact on whether or not you can consider it “good.” If you have too much of a “good” thing — that’s when it can turn into bad debt. So let’s consider 3 types of debt: investing in a college education, buying a home, and starting a business.

1. Are Student Loans Always Good Debt?
Student loans aren’t always good debt, because most people don’t consider how long they’ll be paying back their student loans when they take them out. But that doesn’t make them bad. If you take them out to obtain a job that you could have only secured with a college education and earn enough to make your student loan repayments manageable, your student loan debt was a good debt.

Here are some tips for student loans:

  • Keep your total loans under your projected starting salary when you graduate. If you’re able to do that, you should be able to pay them off with the standard 10-year plan.
  • Cut down on the loan amount. Get college credits while you’re in high school, go to a community college for your first two years, stick to a state school, and apply for scholarships.
  • Get a job to pay for your living expenses while you’re in school so you don’t take out loans for living expenses.
  • Keep in mind that private student loans don’t offer the flexibility of federal loans, so try to apply for federal student loans first.

Check out our FREE student loan calculator here to help manage your student loan debt, which will show you how much you can save by consolidating multiple loans or how to pay off your high interest student loan debt as quickly as possible.

2. How Much Should I Borrow for a Mortgage?
Owning a home used to be considered the American dream, and for many people it still is. Most people need to take out a mortgage for their purchase. If you think you’ll be in the same area for several years and can put a 20% down payment on a home, a mortgage could be a good long-term investment. Interest rates on mortgages are historically low, and owning a home can also provide tax benefits. The nice thing about a home is that it’s an investment you can live in.

However, many people end up buying a home without thinking about how it will affect their lifestyle or how they’ll pay their mortgage if an emergency came up. To avoid this, here are a few rules of thumb:

  • Make a 20% down payment so you can avoid paying private mortgage insurance.
  • Don’t use your entire savings account for a down payment. Homes are a hotbed for dipping into your emergency savings, as there are far more unexpected expenses that come up than when you’re living in an apartment.
  • Boost your credit score before you buy. Make sure you have a score above 700 so you can qualify for the best mortgage rates available. This can save you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan.

Try First Financial’s First Score Credit Counseling program; a low cost, interactive session ($30) with a First Financial expert, which simulates your credit score with various “what if” scenarios. You can email us at firstscore@firstffcu.com or call 866.750.0100, Option 4 to get started.

  • If you think you might move in the next five years, you might want to rent so you don’t have to move during a down market and possibly sell your home for a loss.
  • In figuring out your monthly housing costs, the principal and interest on the mortgage loom large. But don’t forget property taxes, insurance, utilities, repairs, landscaping, snow removal and other factors. Make sure that your monthly housing expenses leave room for other expenses too.

We offer a number of great mortgage options, including refinancing – click here to learn about our 10, 15, and 30 year mortgage features and see what a good fit for your home is!*

To receive updates on our low mortgage rates straight to your mobile phone, text FIRSTRATE to 69302 and each time our mortgage rates change, we’ll send you a text message with the new rates.**

3. What About Using a Loan to Start a New Business?
Entrepreneurship seems to be the new job security for many people in this generation. Incurring debt to start a business can be good debt if the funds help you to build a sustainable livelihood that allows you to repay any money borrowed and improve your financial situation. Just be cautious of how much debt you’re taking on.

Follow these tips to be financially smart and successful in your business:

  • Self-fund your business venture with savings first.
  • The smaller the investment, the quicker you can make money.
  • Do your research and get experience in the field before your launch. Some business opportunities require much bigger up-front investments, which may lead to a small business loan.

Did you know First Financial offers Business accounts, loans, and services? We understand that not every business is the same and, therefore, not every loan need can be the same.  This is exactly why we look at each individual business and create a customized lending solution to meet your specific needs. Please contact us at business@firstffcu.com and we’ll be happy to provide you with more information on business loans and services.

Debt Costs Money, So Use it Wisely
Debt can be good, but only if it helps you leverage your assets to build wealth. Every good debt has the potential to turn bad, so do your research first. The fewer monthly obligations you have, the more money you have to fund a lifestyle that you love.

Don’t forget about our free, online debt management tool, 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.

*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. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR.

 **Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

 Article Courtesy of Daily Finance Online by Sophia Bera

First Financial Foundation Announces Winners of 2014 Erma Dorrer Literary Scholarship

Press Release

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(L to R): 2014 scholarship winners Kimberly Rogers, Demonica Britt, Michael Perry, President/CEO Issa Stephan, and Carly Burrus.

WALL, N.J. – The First Financial Federal Credit Union Foundation (www.firstffcu.com) recently awarded $500 scholarships to four deserving undergraduate students.

This year’s winners included: Kimberly Rogers of Ocean Township, Georgian Court University; Demonica Britt of Freehold, Seton Hall University; Michael Perry of Freehold, Boston College; and Carly Burrus of Neptune, Coastal Carolina University.

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Pictured above: 2014 scholarship winner Kimberly Rogers with Issa Stephan and her parents.

This year, there was one scholarship topic for student applicants to respond to: In today’s world, identity theft, building credit and maintaining 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.

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Pictured above: 2014 scholarship winner Demonica Britt with Issa Stephan and her daughters.

Applicants submitted a written essay or video clip to answer the question, and had to be a member of the credit union by 12/31/13 and about to attend for fall 2014 or currently attending a 2 or 4 year college anywhere in the country.

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Pictured above: 2014 scholarship winner Michael Perry with Issa Stephan and his parents and grandmother.

“We are thrilled to be able to aid these admirable and bright 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 78 years ago, with a group of schoolteachers in Asbury Park.”

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Pictured above: 2014 scholarship winner Carly Burrus with Issa Stephan and her mother.

View more about this year’s scholarships and the First Financial Foundation on First Financial’s website.

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About the First Financial Foundation:

Since 1994, First Financial has supported the Monmouth & Ocean communities with the Erma Dorrer Scholarship Program. Today, that program has been extended into the First Financial Foundation to assist charitable organizations of the Monmouth & Ocean County Communities.  The First Financial Federal Credit Union Foundation is a non-profit working to support a variety of community programs and organizations throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties.  We direct 100% of your contributions to programs because all administrative expenses are paid for by First Financial Federal Credit Union.  To learn more, visit www.firstffcu.com.