Do You Know Your Credit Card’s APR?

This year wasn’t kind to credit cardholders’ wallets. In 2019, cardholders paid an average of 17% APR – the highest level ever recorded by the Federal Reserve since 1994. To put it into perspective: In 2009, the average APR registered just under 13% and in 2016 it hovered around 12.5%.

Even the maximum APR has climbed significantly. Financial institutions typically offer a wide range of APRs. As a result of the increase, maximum APRs are around 25% with the median standing at 21%. Wow, that is high!

So, what does this mean for you?

It means you’re likely paying more in interest than you’ve ever paid. However, there are several ways around paying high interest rates that will help you in the long run.

Avoid balance carry over. Ultimately, the best and most responsible way to use a credit card is to pay off the balance monthly. By paying your balance in full each month, you avoid paying interest while reaping the benefits a credit card has to offer. Plus, it helps improve your credit score.

Avoid spending more than you have. We’ve all done it. We have a credit card for emergencies only, but something comes up we really want, and it finds its way onto the credit card. Next thing you know, there are multiple unnecessary purchases on there that you’re trying to pay off. The best habit to get into is not spending more than you can pay off monthly. The more you put on a card, the more interest you’re going to be charged.

Do your research. If you’re thinking about signing up for a credit card, do your research. First of all, know your credit score. That’s going to be a huge factor in determining your APR. Also, consider why you want a credit card. Are you looking for cash back options? Do you want to earn rewards points or airline miles? Don’t apply aimlessly. Look at the specific types of cards that are designed for the purpose you want and see which card best suits your needs.

Obtaining and maintaining credit by using credit cards doesn’t have to be a scary experience. First Financial’s Visa Credit Cards offer benefits that include higher credit lines, lower APRs, no annual fees, no balance transfer fees, a 10-day grace period, rewards (cash back or on travel & retailer gift cards), an EMV security chip, and more!* And they can be used anywhere Visa is accepted. Click here to learn about our credit card options and apply online today.

 *APR varies up to 18% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. 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 Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date.

3 Bad Choices that Could Damage Your Credit Score

Your credit score is a big deal. That number decides what kind of loan you’ll be able to get and what interest rate you’ll have to pay. If your credit score is low, you’ll need to find ways to raise and improve it. If your score is good, here are three things you may want to avoid in order to maintain your high credit rating.

Cosigning a loan: You’re a nice person and you do nice things for people you care about. In reality, you should really never cosign someone else’s loan. If the borrower starts missing payments, your credit score will take a big hit. The last thing you want to do is be on the hook for someone else’s car payments, personal loans, or credit cards.

Closing a credit card account: Maybe you have a credit card that was just used to build credit or have in case of emergencies. You may have paid if off and decided to stop using it, but be sure you don’t close that account. That card’s credit history is good for your credit score. Also, closing the account will lower your amount of available credit which could negatively affect your debt utilization ratio. Closing a credit card account is one action that can damage your credit score in two different ways.

Not looking for errors: Always keep a close eye on your credit score. If you haven’t looked at yours recently, check out annualcreditreport.com. If you don’t keep an eye on your credit report, you could have your identity stolen and not even know it. Even if isn’t the case, there could still be inaccuracies. The day you find an error on your credit report that is negatively impacting your score, is the day you’ll be extremely happy you checked.

If you’d like more insight into your credit score and managing your credit – view our credit and debt management guide here.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

3 Ways to Consolidate Debt

Debt can be overwhelming, but there are definitely ways you can consolidate. The idea of putting all of your debt in one place, with one simple monthly payment can be a big relief.  So, what are your best options for consolidating your debt? Here are three to consider, that you may not have thought of.

A balance transfer credit card: If you’re looking at this option, you’ll want to first make sure that you find a card that will have a high enough limit to contain all of the debt you want to consolidate. If you can find a card with a zero percent introductory rate, this is ideal for paying off debt. If you have $3,600 in debt, and zero percent interest for 18 months – you can pay $200 a month for 18 months, and be completely debt free without paying a cent of interest. However, be advised that if you continue to use this card and rack up even more debt and you don’t pay it off in time – that interest rate could potentially sky rocket at the end of 18 months, and you could really dig yourself into a hole (which is what you were trying to get out of in the first place). This option only works if you stick to your plan, don’t use this card, and continue to pay off your debt during the introductory period.

You also want to transfer your existing balance(s) to a credit card that doesn’t have a balance transfer fee. First Financial has 3 great Visa Credit Card options that have no balance transfer fees and no annual fee either!* Learn more here.

A home equity loan: After the introductory rate on a balance transfer credit card ends, the interest rate can be pretty high – as mentioned above. A home equity loan uses your home’s appraised value and what is still owed on your mortgage, and will provide you with a lump sum that you will agree to pay back over a set fixed rate term (this type of loan is also called a second mortgage). The main benefit of a home equity loan, is that the interest rate will be much lower. You will want to be careful if you go this route – if you default on the loan, you could put your home at risk.

To learn more about First Financial’s home equity loans and lines of credit options, and apply online 24/7 – click here.**

A personal loan: If you don’t like the idea of risking your home (or any other form of collateral), perhaps a personal loan might be the best option for you. If you have a good credit score, you’ll receive a favorable interest rate that is often lower than a credit card’s. If you think this may be a good option for you, ask your local credit union about any debt consolidation loans they have available.

First Financial’s personal loans have a fixed monthly payment, flexible terms, and are a great way to save money instead of opting for the high cost of retail financing.+ Get started here.

*APR varies up to 18% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. 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 Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

**First Financial will waive closing costs at inception of loan. If loan is terminated within the first 2 years of opening, closing cost waiver is revoked and the borrower(s) will be required to pay back closing costs in full to FFFCU. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a home equity loan, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See FFFCU for details or visit firstffcu.com for all current rates. Nationwide Mortgage licensing System & Registry ID # 685814

+APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Actual rate will vary based on creditworthiness and loan term. Subject to credit approval. A First Financial Federal Credit Union membership is required to obtain a Personal Loan, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this September 2019

Summer is officially winding down and the kids are heading back to school for another year, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of great inexpensive events happening near you. Check out the list of activities that are kicking off your local summer and the start of fall. Enjoy!

September 4: Fall Concert Series (Downtown Freehold) from 7:30-9:30pm at the Hall of Records. Come out and see The Nerds and enjoy an evening outside filled with upbeat, entertaining music! This event is free to attend. Learn more here.

September 6-8: Asbury Park Oysterfest across from Convention Hall. Admission is $3 on Saturday and Sunday, kids under 6 are free. Friday has free admission and event hours are 5-10pm. Saturday hours are 11am-10pm and Sunday is 11am-6pm. Traditional festival fare, seafood and oysters will be available from dozens of local food vendors. There will also be craft vendors, music, activities for kids, and this event is dog friendly. Learn more here.

September 7:

Ocean Grove’s Giant Fall Flea Market from 9am-4pm by the Great Auditorium. Admission is free, the event will be held rain or shine, and there will be over 300 vendors! Get more details by calling 732.774.1391 or clicking here.

Brielle Day Craft Show from 9am-4pm at Brielle Park (644 Union Lane). Brielle Day is a town wide celebration featuring a craft show, fire truck rides, beer garden, entertainment, kids activities and food vendors. The event will be held rain or shine. Get more information here.

Chocolate, Wine, and More from 12-4pm at iPlay America in Freehold. This event will feature representatives from chocolatiers, bakeries and specialty food markets. With your ticket, you will get a chance to sample it all, as well as purchase. In addition to chocolates and wine, there will also be a variety of vendors for some shopping opportunities. Tickets are $10 for adults 21+, $5 for ages 13-20, kids under 12 are free. Learn more and buy tickets online here.

September 7-8: Apple Fest at Delicious Orchards in Colts Neck from 11am-4pm. Don’t miss the ultimate summer sendoff and fall kickoff all at once! There will be games, prizes, live music, local food vendors, an antique car show and lots of things apple! Find out additional details here.

September 8: Ice Cream Social Picnic and Fall Festival (Havens Homestead Museum in Brick) from 12-4pm. Bring a picnic lunch and purchase made to order ice cream treats and soft drinks, enjoy the beauty of the museum property, and there will be autumn themed games for children. Admission is free. Reserve a spot by calling 732.458.6266 or visit http://www.bricktownshiphistoricalsociety.com/

September 14:

Late Summer Flea Market at Allaire Village (Wall) from 8am-3pm. Hunt for bargains among vintage treasures, books, artwork, handmade items and more! Admission is $2 for adults and kids under 12 are free. Learn more here or call 732.919.3500.

Food Trucktemberfest at Monmouth Park Racetrack (Oceanport) from 11am-5pm. There will be over 24 food trucks, you won’t want to miss this event! Live music will be available from 12-4pm. Parking is $5, admission is $5, and kids under 12 are free. See the food truck line-up here.

September 15: Red Bank Food and Wine Walk from 2-5pm. Tickets are $40 each (this event is for those 21+). Your ticket includes tastings at over 15 Red Bank eateries, as well as wine samples, and a self guided tour. The event is held rain or shine. Learn more here.

September 21:

Fall Apple Festival at Allaire Village (Wall) from 11am-4pm. Join the villagers in celebrating the harvest and try your hand at apple cider pressing, an apple pie baking contest, games and hat making for kids, hearth cooking, music, historic demonstrations, strolling villagers, and more! Adults are $8 each, kids 2-12 are $4 each, and kids under 2 are free. No parking fees for this event. Learn more and purchase tickets online here.

42nd Annual Festival of the Sea (Downtown Pt. Pleasant Beach, Arnold and Bay Avenues) from 10am-7pm. Visitors can sample dishes by the area’s finest restaurants – including lobster, clam chowder and more, there will be arts & crafts, pony rides, hundreds of vendors, kids activities, live entertainment, and more. Get additional information at http://www.pointchamber.com/

September 28:

Manasquan Fall Craft Fair from 10am-4pm at Squan Plaza on Miller Preston Way. The annual Manasquan Festival is an outdoor event with a vendors offering quality arts, crafts, and gifts – plus food, fun, entertainment, apple pie and pumpkin pie baking contests, pumpkin painting, and more.  See additional details at https://www.manasquanchamber.org/calendar.html

Spring Lake Italian Festival from 12-5pm in Downtown Spring Lake. Morris Ave from 3rd to 4th Avenues will become an Italian Village featuring live music, Italian food, dancing, wine, kids activities, and more. Get the scoop here.

Middletown Day takes place from 11am-5pm at Cryodon Hall (900 Leonardville Rd.) This fall festival boasts activities for all ages including a business and community showcase, craft fair, live local music, children’s activities, emergency response demonstrations, a petting zoo, hayrides, flea market, food court and more.  The event will be held rain or shine.  Learn more at https://www.middletownnj.org/450/Middletown-Day

Jackson Day takes place from 11am-5:30pm at John F. Johnson Jr. Memorial Park. The day celebrates over 175 years of Jackson history, and there will be vendors, a craft fair, touch a truck, a car show, entertainment, rides, a petting zoo, a game truck, and more! Find out additional details by calling 732.928.1200 x1361 or click here.

September 29: Belmar Kite Festival from 9am-4pm at 5th Avenue Beach. Come see some beautiful kites flying high up in the sky at the Jersey Shore! You won’t want to miss this gorgeous local summer event. Find out more here.

3 Important Car Buying Tips

Are you looking to buy a new ride before the end of the year?  Here are three important factors to consider before you sign your name on the dotted line.

Needs vs. wants: What do you plan to use your new ride for – commuting, weekend trips? These are just a few questions you should consider.  A smart car might get incredible gas mileage during your long commute, but really lacks in terms of cargo space. You may be able to get a bag of groceries home, but what about that 6-foot ladder you need? Don’t forget about things like Bluetooth connectivity and heated seats also. Weigh all your options before getting too excited about what car looks the coolest.

Monthly payments vs. total price: You love the lower monthly payments, but are you really considering how much a new car is going to cost you by the time you’ve paid it off in six years? Maybe you’re a big fan of the total price you’re getting, but you know the monthly payments are going to take some sacrifice in your budget. Is that something you really want to endure? Have you also factored in other costs like insurance, gas, oil changes, tires, and preventative maintenance? Take your time and make a list so you get a better idea of the true cost of your new vehicle.

Know your car before you buy: Do some research and see how other owners are feeling about their purchase.  Always take a test drive, and try riding through parking lots. How does it ride? Is it only smooth on smooth roads? What’s it like going over a speed bump? When it comes time to buy, it shouldn’t be a mystery and you should feel comfortable with your decision – this is a big purchase you will be using daily over at least the next several years.

In the market for a vehicle? If you’re just starting to shop, get preapproved and if you’re ready to make the purchase – apply for an auto loan online 24/7. We have quick approval decisions and same day closings!

APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. Additional terms & conditions may apply. Actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness and term. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

3 Things Kids Should Know About Money

With another school year about to get into full swing, money management is an important lesson your children can be taught right at home.

Your kids probably don’t have a deep knowledge about money and how to manage it. What they do know, they’ve probably learned from watching you. Here are some basics that all kids should learn about finances.

It has to be earned: As you were probably told when you were young (and possibly in a snarky tone), “money doesn’t grow on trees.”  While that’s only partially true (cash is made from paper and paper is actually made from trees), money is not free.  An allowance in exchange for doing chores is a great way to teach your kids about earning money.

It must be saved: An easy way to get your kids to learn how to save is to give them a goal. Whether it’s a video game system or a new toy they have been asking for, don’t just give your kids whatever they want. Have them save up for the item, and for something more expensive like a video game system – give them a savings goal and have them pay for at least a good portion of it.

It should be spent: While it’s important to save your money, it’s also important for kids to understand that money is meant to be spent. You have to spend money in order to live your life. But when learning to spend, they should learn how to spend wisely. Teach your kids about coupons, sales, and generics brand items. Saving and spending may seem like opposites, but spending wisely is also a great way to save!

Need a great way to teach your children to save? Open a First Step Kids Savings Account! Available for kids up to age 18, there are no minimum balance fees, and dividends are posted quarterly on balances of $100 or greater.* Get your kids on the path to savings today, we’re here to help!

*As of 12/12/2012, the First Step Kids Account has an annual percentage yield of 0.05% on balances of $100.00 and more. The dividend rate may change after the account is opened. Parent or guardian must bring both the child’s birth certificate and social security card when opening a First Step Kids Account at any branch location.  Parent or guardian will be a joint owner and must also bring their identification. A First Financial Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com