The Pros and Cons of Store Credit Cards

We’ve all approached a register to complete a purchase and were asked if we’d be interested in applying for a store credit card. And with the holiday shopping season about to get in full swing, chances are – you are going to be asked more than usual. There are pros and cons to having a store credit account, so make sure you take a good look before you open one.

Pro: They are easier to get

Application requirements for store credit cards are generally less strict than regular credit cards, so chances are you’re more than likely to get approved. If you’re looking to get a card from a store you often visit, this should make you happy and save you some money (provided you don’t rack up a balance).

Con: They carry higher interest rates

The average store credit card is 8-10 points higher in interest than regular credit cards. This may not be a big deal if you’re only using the card sparingly, but a few big purchases that aren’t paid off completely by month end could come back to haunt you.

Pro: They help you build credit

If you’re young and haven’t had a chance to build any credit, a store credit card could be very helpful. It’s easier to be approved for one so you wouldn’t need much credit history to qualify. A purchase or two a month will put you on the road to good credit too. Just make sure you pay the card off each month.

Con: Their use is limited

Some store credit cards may allow you to use them at sister companies, but for the most part, you’ll only use them in the store that issues them. That might be fine if it’s a store like Target or another retailer that you often visit, but overall it won’t be a very versatile card.

Pro: They provide in-store rewards

A lot of cards will reward the user with discounts and promotions which can provide great value. Free shipping for instance, is a perk that is appreciated. Just be sure these benefits don’t cause you to overspend either!

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 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.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight

Small Business Spotlight: Aspire Digital Marketing

I am pleased to present a monthly blog post which features one of our current businesses, how they got started, and how First Financial has helped them grow their business. If this inspires you to want to expand your business goals or see how First Financial can assist you further, feel free to reach out to me. Keep reading to learn more about our featured Business of the Month, Aspire Digital Marketing.  — Matt Brazinski, Assistant Vice President of Business Development

Meyer Laniado: Owner of Aspire Digital Marketing 

Aspire Digital Marketing, led by Meyer Laniado, is a digital marketing agency located in Neptune, New Jersey. Aspire helps drive leads from a solid web presence and sees themselves as their clients’ partners in business, dedicated to enhancing growth by matching them with their ideal customers. They combine business strategy with digital marketing to help local businesses meet their goals and grow with custom marketing solutions. Learn more at aspiredigitalmarketing.com.

What is your niche? 
Building brand awareness and generating leads for local businesses.

What is one of your recent success stories? One of our local clients’ Google Business pages recently received 32 phone call leads 28 days, offering them a 10x return on investment. What would an additional 32 monthly leads to your business mean for you?

What do you love most about this business?
Empowering business owners to do what they do best.  We work on increasing awareness and driving leads so businesses can service more of their market.

What are your products/services?
We combine business strategy and branding with digital marketing to drive leads for local businesses. Our branding strategy has been implemented with our team of three superb graphic designers, a creative web developer, an SEO fanatic and a social media ninja.

Our offerings include:

  • Logo Creation
  • Brochures
  • Postcards
  • Banners
  • Infographics
  • Websites
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Social Media Planning and Management

Aspire’s social media programs start at $500/month, and their SEO programs start at $750/month.

What do you like most about banking with First Financial?
Matt and Joe in the Business Development Department! Their personal touch and support has been essential for the growth of our business.

You can schedule a strategy call with Meyer here or contact Meyer directly at Meyer@AspireDigitalMarketing.com.

Ready to grow your business? Call the Business Development Department at 732.312.1500, email business@firstffcu.com or stop by any branch location. Learn more about our Business Account products and services on our website.

4 Ways to Save on Your Thanksgiving Feast

The countdown to Thanksgiving has begun. We all look forward to preparing a great meal for friends and family, but the costs (in both time and money) – can sometimes be hard to digest.

If you are hosting this year’s feast, here are few ways to keep the financial and emotional stress to a minimum.

Make a plan: Decide on your menu early. List all the ingredients you need and start looking for deals. When it comes to food shopping, the earlier the better. Many stores have already started their holiday season specials, so keep an eye out for coupons and discounts. Break up the Turkey Day shopping list and pick up a few items during your regular supermarket runs. Speaking of turkey, it’s time to get your pre-orders in. Spare yourself the stress of hunting down a turkey at the last minute by reserving a frozen turkey now. If you’re feeding a crowd, don’t limit yourself to just your local grocery store. Membership warehouses like Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s are great places to find deals on bulk wine, beer and other drinks, as well as produce, frozen items, and desserts.

Buy the right size turkey: According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, about 204 million pounds of turkey, worth a total of $293 million, is tossed in the trash each year. The general rule of thumb to figure out how much turkey you need is 1 to 1 ½ pounds of turkey per person. Don’t worry, you’ll still have leftovers.

Sharing is caring: Who says you have to do all the cooking? Maybe this is the year you go potluck. As the host, you can provide the main meat dishes like turkey, ham, lasagna, or whatever your family traditions include. Then, ask your guests to each bring a side dish, dessert, or a bottle of their favorite beverage to complete the spread. But be sure to confirm what each person is bringing, or you may end up with five green bean casseroles.

Outsource the meal: Do you want to host Thanksgiving dinner but you’re not up to cooking this year? Check out mail-order meal kits. Some consider it the best of both worlds. It’s still a home cooked meal, but the menu and ingredients are all delivered right to your door. If you prefer to have someone else do all of the cooking, start scoping out local restaurants and grocery stores for Thanksgiving Day catering deals. You will likely spend more money than going the DIY route, but the savings in time and stress may be worth it. The most important thing this time of year, is to enjoy the holiday season and spend time with loved ones.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com

How to Actually Stick to Your Holiday Budget

It’s almost that time of the year again, and the holiday season is right around the corner. While the last few months of the year are usually all about laughter and celebration, it is also one of the most expensive times of the year as well. With traveling expenses and gifts, your budget can quickly get out of hand.

Before you get stressed out about holiday budgeting, start a plan. The earlier you begin thinking about holiday spending, the more time you’ll have to actually enjoy the season. Here are five tips to help you stick to your holiday budget:

Start Early

The early bird gets the worm! While you might think it’s too early to start planning for the holidays, think again. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself scrambling for last minute gifts. Start your planning now before you stress yourself out. Begin making your list of people you need to get gifts for and jot down ideas of what you might want to get them. Once you have your list ready, you can start hunting for steals and deals well in advance. You might even get your shopping done early!

Tackle Black Friday Deals

You either love Black Friday or you hate it. If you plan to Black Friday shop this year, then prepare yourself for the big day. Many retailers will release a list of their sales the week prior so you can start making your list ahead of time. Be sure to research when stores open as you might want to get there early in case inventory sells out. If you don’t get exactly what you want on Black Friday, there’s always Cyber Monday – when you can find plenty of deals online without the crowds.

DIY Your Gifts

Store-bought gifts aren’t always the best. Homemade items carry a lot of significant value and you can personalize them and make them exactly how you want. Consider DIY-ing your gifts if you have the talent. Not only will your friends and family appreciate the thought and effort you put into their gifts, but you’ll also save a significant amount of money.

Set Limits

It would be amazing if we could buy all our loved ones the perfect gift, but most of us can’t afford to do that. While you’re making your list and shopping, be sure to be realistic with what you can afford. Decide what your limits are for each person and stick to it. Even if you find the “perfect” gift for someone on your list, it’s not going to work if it will break your budget. It’s the thought that really counts, so don’t worry about buying the most expensive gift.

Spend on Experiences

Most of the time it’s better to gift an experience if you can’t find the perfect gift for someone. Think about what they really enjoy doing. For instance, tickets to a local play or a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant can be great ideas. Plus, you might also be able to tag along – so not only do you get to enjoy the gift, but you also get to spend time with the recipient too.

The holidays are quickly approaching. While shopping and sticking to your budget is important, also remember to take a few moments to enjoy time with family and loved ones this season.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com

The Best Things to Buy in November

When it comes to deals, there’s plenty to be thankful for this month. With discount shopping days like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Travel Deal Tuesday – November offers a buffet of savings opportunities for shoppers.

Start making your list, and check to see what offers your favorite stores, warehouse outlets and online retailers have planned for Veterans Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Here are just a few of the best buys to jumpstart your holiday shopping savings.

Electronics: Look for deals on everything from televisions, smartwatches, gaming systems, laptops, tablets, desktop computers, and smartphones. It may also be a good time to give a few smart home devices a try.  Experts at DealNews.com and ConsumerReports.org say maximizing savings means waiting until Black Friday, November 23. If the crowds aren’t part of your post-Thanksgiving plans, you can always safely shop online.

Video games: Just in time for the holidays, you’ll find discounted games across all platforms through December.

Vacuums and appliances (both large and small): Time to get that InstantPot or finally replace your dishwasher. There are plenty of opportunities to save throughout the month – especially around Veterans Day, Black Friday, or Cyber Monday. You’ll find the deepest appliance discounts at home improvement stores toward the end of November.

Wedding dresses: According to GoBankingRates.com, with the latest designs hitting the runway, brides-to-be open to considering “older” inventory can score discounts of up to 70% off their dream gown.

Happy Shopping!

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com

First Financial Foundation Awards Classroom Grant to Shark River Hills Elementary School

Press Release

(Pictured Above L to R: Superintendent of Neptune Schools Dr. Crader, Grant Recipient Stephanie Huff, and Principal Williams).

FREEHOLD, N.J. – Shark River Hills Elementary School Pre-K teacher, Stephanie Huff, was surprised by members of the First Financial Foundation with a $500 Erma Dorrer classroom grant for the 2018-2019 school year. Ms. Huff has been an early childhood educator within Neptune Township Schools for 20 years.

Huff submitted a grant application to purchase equipment for the betterment of her students’ gross motor skills. The grant money will be used to benefit the 60 Pre-K children at Shark River Hills Elementary School for years to come. Currently, the school uses equipment from a gym cart – however there is not enough to go around and it was purchased 16 years ago. With the grant funds, Ms. Huff plans to purchase new kickballs, basketballs, foam balls, a hopscotch rug, a mesh tunnel, a bowling set, handkerchiefs and ribbons, a set of scooters, and more.

(Pictured above L to R: AVP of Business Development at First Financial, Grant Recipient Stephanie Huff, and VP of Marketing and Business Development at First Financial).

“We are required to provide our students with 45 minutes of gross motor activities each and every day.  Gross motor skills are defined as the abilities required in order to control the large muscles of the body for walking, running, sitting, crawling, and other activities,” said Huff. “In order to develop and strengthen those gross motor skills, equipment is needed to do so. Fred Rogers, beloved creator of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and dedicated child advocate, poignantly said: Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. I can personally attest to the value and worth of play in children’s learning.”

Since First Financial began with a group of Asbury Park schoolteachers back in 1936, the credit union has not forgotten its educational roots. That is why its Foundation offered current Monmouth and Ocean County educators six (6) classroom grants to use at their schools for the 2018-2019 school year.

“Education has and always will be a pivotal piece of our organization, and we’re delighted to be able to help our local educators enhance their classroom experience,” noted First Financial President & CEO, Issa Stephan.

Stephan also noted that the Foundation committee had a tough job of choosing just six winning teachers out of the numerous applications received this year. “We received dozens of heart warming essays and videos from educators hoping to use the grant money to implement or maintain a variety of creative programs in their schools such as flexible seating, virtual reality glasses, book stands and shelving, new classroom cabinets, and interactive books and games – to name a few,” said Stephan. “We wish we were able to reward each and every one of our participants, and after extremely careful consideration we selected the six classrooms in which we felt the grant money would have the largest impact.”

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.