Three Reasons Your Car Insurance is So Expensive

Did you know the average American pays $1,674 a year or about $140 a month on auto insurance?*

Like it or not, it’s a necessity if you own a car – however, it doesn’t have to be so expensive. Want to try and get a better rate? Here are three things that might be impacting your auto insurance premium.

The make and model of your car is a major contributing factor in how much you’ll pay for insurance. Some cars are cheaper to insure than others. Insurance companies will charge less to insure safe vehicles, as they’ll pay less for any claims you make. For example, a car with a high safety rating could get you a small discount. Likewise, some types of vehicles are statistically more likely to be stolen – so the type of vehicle you are insuring could also be a contributing factor. Rates for these types of vehicles can be more expensive to insure as a result.

The more traffic violations you have, the higher your insurance. Traffic violations and car accidents can result in a premium increase upwards of 200%, compared to what you were paying before the incident. Your premium increase will depend on a couple of things: the severity of your violation and whether you’ve been convicted in the past. Typically – traffic tickets and accidents will drop off of your record in three to four years, allowing your premium to hopefully go down again.

In most states, insurance companies will charge you more if you have poor credit or no credit history. Much like getting a loan or applying for an apartment or a mortgage – your credit score will impact whether or not you get insurance and how much you will pay. Only three states have banned insurance companies from using your credit score to factor into your insurance costs (California, Massachusetts, and Hawaii).

With that being said, there’s a few ways you can save!

Shop around! As a member of First Financial, did you know you are eligible for car insurance through our TruStage Insurance Program which partners with Liberty Mutual? Learn more and get started here, or call 855-418-6513. +

Improve your credit score! Contact us for a free credit report review. Not only could you save money on your insurance, but you could reduce the interest you are paying on loans you have with other lenders.**

*Based on a 2021 study by Bankrate.com

**Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. First Financial FCU maintains the right to not extend credit, after you respond, if we determine you do not meet our guidelines for creditworthiness. Current loans financed with First Financial FCU are not eligible for review or refinance. A First Financial membership is required to obtain an auto loan and is available 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 to establish membership.

+TruStage insurance products and programs are made available through TruStage Insurance Agency, LLC. Life insurance and AD&D insurance are issued by CMFG Life Insurance Company. Auto and home insurance are issued by leading insurance companies. The insurance offered is not a deposit, and is not federally insured, sold, or guaranteed by your credit union.

Car Prices Hit a Record High, What Does this Mean for You?

The average new car price hit a record high of $38,255 last month, according to JD Power. That’s up 12% from the same period a year ago.

If you’re out car shopping right now, be prepared to pay bigger bucks than usual for that vehicle. About two-thirds of car buyers paid within 5% of the sticker price last month, with some even paying above sticker price. That means there are fewer deals to be had and fewer negotiations taking place.

Why? Due to a computer chip shortage at auto plants around the world, car dealers are left with a fraction of the vehicles (both new and used) than what they typically have on hand. Since more people are buying used cars, they are also becoming as difficult to get as new cars.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re in the market for a new or used vehicle right now:

  • Don’t expect a great deal: Don’t be surprised if the dealership only discounts the vehicle you’re looking at by a few hundred dollars, if anything at all.
  • Search outside of your community: Not finding what you want in your local area? Look at dealerships a bit further away from home. This can make a difference in getting the car you want or in hopefully getting a better deal.
  • Ask for top dollar for your trade-in: One bright spot is if you have a vehicle to trade-in, because of the shortage – trade-in values are at an all-time high. This can help cushion the higher sales price.
  • Hit pause: According to Edmunds, the vehicle shortages might last for another six months or so. If you’re not in a hurry to buy a car right now, their best advice is to wait a bit.

Are you still considering buying a new or used vehicle and need a loan? Click here to find out about a First Financial Auto Loan or get pre-approved to ensure you know where to start, what monthly payments you can afford and get the best deal possible for you.*

Waiting it out? You may be able to save by refinancing your current vehicle from another lender.** Click here to get started by filling out our online quick Auto Loan Review inquiry form.

Do you have a lease coming due soon? Another option is to keep the car you already know and love, by buying out your car lease.* Get started here.

*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.

**Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. First Financial FCU maintains the right to not extend credit, after you respond, if we determine you do not meet our guidelines for creditworthiness. Current loans financed with First Financial FCU are not eligible for review or refinance. A First Financial membership is required to obtain an auto loan and is available 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 to establish membership.

3 Easy Ways to Save Money this Summer

Wouldn’t you rather spend your money on making lasting memories with friends and family this summer? If you’re on a tight budget but still want to enjoy all that summer has to offer, here are three easy ways you can save.

  1. Save up to $300 by packing your lunch. Making your lunch is usually healthier and cheaper than eating out. Instead of buying lunch every day, take a few extra minutes in the morning (or the night before) – and make your lunch at least two or three times a week. You could save $20–30 each week, which will add up to $200–300 throughout the summer!
  2. Let Mother Nature dry your clothes. Give your dryer a break and let the warm summer air dry your clothes for free. You can also use cool water in the washer more frequently, which can clean your clothes just as well as warm or hot water. Changing up your laundry habits is an easy way to start saving money on summer bills.
  3. Earn up to $100 by selling your old clothes. No time or space for a yard sale? Clean out your closets and take those clothes you “might wear… someday” to a consignment shop, or sell your clothes from home through an online marketplace like thredUP or Poshmark. Put the money you make toward a summer vacation.

How about one bonus way to save?

Did you know you’re not stuck with the car loan you got at the dealership? Dealers can make a good bit of profit by increasing the rate on customers’ initial auto loans. For example, Lender “A” offers a loan at 5% APR but you may end up paying 7% APR with the dealer. You may be able to save money and/or lower your interest rate by refinancing your vehicle loan with us.*

It costs nothing to find out if you could save, and you may then be able to pocket some big savings to use for a vacation this summer.

Get started by completing our quick Auto Loan Review Inquiry Form.

*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. Current loans financed with First Financial FCU are not eligible for review or refinance.  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.

How to Get a Loan if You are Self-Employed

If you are self-employed, it may be a little harder to qualify for a loan based on other borrowers who can easily furnish a W-2 form. Keep reading to find out how you can still qualify for a loan when you’re self-employed.

Check Your Credit Rating

Your credit history is probably one of the most important factors in qualifying you for a loan. Your credit score is used by lenders to gauge how and if you’ll be able to repay the loan. So if your credit isn’t that great, getting a loan could be extremely difficult – or if you do, you may be paying a great deal more in interest for the loan you’re seeking.

If your credit score isn’t in the higher 600s or above – your best bet may to be to wait before applying, and continue to build your score. You can increase your credit score by paying bills on time, rectify any past due payments, and keep all your lines of credit open.

Need to know your credit score? Visit https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action and be sure to check your credit report for errors too. Errors on your credit report can also affect your score, so you’ll want to make sure you review the report in detail to ensure all open lines of credit are truly yours, and that all charges and loan payments are legitimately yours.

Compile the Necessary Documents

Due to the fact that you are self-employed, more than likely your lender is going to ask you for more documents in order for you to qualify for a loan. Here are the most frequently asked for documents, that you’ll want to get organized for at least the last 2 years before you apply:

  • Bank statements
  • Profit and loss statements
  • Tax statements (Your 2 most recent tax returns, schedules and transcripts)
  • 1099 forms

Get Prequalified

Many lenders will prequalify you for a loan first before you actually need to apply. If this is an option you might be interested in, reach out to your lender and ask what might be needed in order to issue a prequalification (where you’d find out the amount you’d be approved for and the loan terms).

Decide About Applying

If you’re happy with your lender’s terms and rate, you’re now ready to apply for the loan. Or if you’ve been researching several different lenders to compare the loan rate that you’d be offered, decide which one you’d like to apply with.

Lenders will typically offer online applications, or you may be able to call and apply over the phone or in person. This is where all the documents from above will come in handy. You’ll be asked detailed questions about your business income and finances. Having everything ready to go in advance will streamline the process.

Await Loan Approval and Funding

Once your loan application is fully submitted and complete, your lender will review your documentation and let you know if you were approved for the loan. Once your loan is approved, the funds will be deposited into your account and you’ll be able to continue to improve your credit rating, finance a large purchase, or fund your business needs.

At First Financial, we understand that not every business is the same – therefore not every loan is going to be the same. We pride ourselves in personalized service and reasonable timelines, keeping your business in mind. Email us at business@firstffcu.com and we’ll be happy to provide you with more information on loans for your business. Or, if you’re self-employed and looking for a consumer loan for personal use – check out the Loan Source page on our website. We have various consumer loans too!

A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey. 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. Federally insured by NCUA.

Article Source: CUInsight.com

How to Prevent Person-to-Person Payment Scams

Person-to-person (P2P) payment options have certainly made paying back borrowed money to friends and family very convenient. From going out to eat and splitting the tab, to chipping in for a gift, or paying a trusted contact for a service – P2P payment services have made our lives quick and easy. However, if you are a user of a P2P payment service such as Zelle, Square Cash, PayPal, Venmo, Facebook Payments, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, Payzur, and the like – buyer beware.

Continue reading to ensure you know how to spot a P2P payment scam so that you don’t fall victim to this type of fraud. P2P scams are extremely serious, because the victim unfortunately usually is not protected from money lost and fraudulent access to their account(s).

Why are victims of P2P scams usually not protected?

Due to the fact that P2P transactions are consumer initiated, there is not much protection when a fraudulent transaction occurs – because technically the consumer authorized the transaction. Whether it’s the actual consumer or a fraudster who initiated the payment service transfer, there really is no way to prove it. In addition, user error is often not covered either. Most P2P apps have user agreements prior to first time use, where the user agrees when money is sent through the app – any losses are on the user, since they authorized a transaction.

Recently, Zelle’s P2P service added a measure to help prevent users from sending money to the wrong person. Zelle now includes a pop-up warning if a user is trying to send money to someone who is not in their contacts, which makes them think twice before allowing the funds to leave their account.

How does a P2P scam work?

A P2P scam is basically an account takeover scam. Fraudsters will send text messages to an unsuspecting consumer, appearing as if the message is coming from the individual’s financial institution.

  • The text will usually appear to come from the individual’s financial institution (aka: spoofing) and will warn them of suspicious debit card activity.
  • For those who respond to this fraudulent text, the fraudster will call that consumer also spoofing the financial institution’s phone number – and claim they are from the bank’s fraud department and would like to verify a suspicious transaction.
  • The fraudster will then try to get the unsuspecting consumer to verify their identity, and let them know a passcode will be sent via text message – and that the consumer must provide the passcode over the phone.
  • Once the fraudster has that passcode, they’ll attempt a transaction that triggers another two-step authentication passcode (such as forgot password so they can reset the consumer’s password, or they’ll try to initiate a P2P transaction).
  • The fraudster now has access to all of the consumer’s accounts within Online Banking, as well as access to their P2P payment service if one is provided through the bank (such as Zelle) – and will begin using P2P payments to transfer money to themselves.

And unfortunately, there is not much that can be done once this happens – because it appears that the consumer approved the P2P transfer. Since the fraudster spoofed the financial institution phone number, they more than likely won’t be caught either – once it’s recognized that a scam occurred.

How can I make sure I don’t become a P2P scam victim?

  • Only send money to people you actually know. P2P transactions are instantaneous (meaning they happen within seconds) and are often irreversible.
  • Get all of your recipient’s details prior to initiating a P2P payment. Before you press “send” or “pay,” be sure you have the correct user name, phone number, photo, or other identifier. If you incorrectly enter a recipient’s email or phone number, the money could go to the wrong person and you may not get it back. Some P2P services offer the option of receiving a special code to confirm that the person you’re sending money to is your intended recipient. If this feature is available – use it.
  • Confirm you know how to get help if something goes wrong. Before using a P2P service, search the app for procedures and customer service contacts. Know who to reach out to if you have a problem.
  • Keep your app updated. Hackers usually look to exploit vulnerabilities. If your software is not up to date, you’re missing out on protections. Be sure automatic updates are turned on so you know you’re covered.

While P2P services are a useful and convenient way to pay those you know without having to go to the ATM or get change – it’s important to also be aware of the risks and ways to avoid fraud while using them.

Always remember that your legitimate financial institution will never ask you for your login credentials, passcodes, or user name. If you have additional questions or concerns about P2P payment services or have been a victim of a P2P scam in relation to a First Financial account, please give us a call at 732.312.1500 or email us at info@firstffcu.com.

Article Sources:

CUNA Mutual Group 2019 Peer-to-Peer Payments Risk Overview

CUNA Mutual Group Risk Alert – Sophisticated Scams Lead to P2P Fraud (May 12, 2020)

Better Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

According to the IRS, the average tax refund is $2,893. Add that amount to any stimulus checks you’ve received, and there could be quite a bit of money currently in your bank account. What’s the best way to handle all this cash? While you might be tempted to go off on a shopping spree, it’s probably a better idea to hold onto your check as long as you can. Here are some better uses for your tax refund.

Pay Down Debt. You might want to put your tax refund toward paying down any outstanding debt you have. Making a large payment can not only significantly reduce the amount you owe, but can also be a motivating factor for continuing to pay off your debt more quickly. Focus on paying off the highest interest debt first, or the one with the lowest balance – depending on whichever method you prefer. Credit card debt is the kind of debt typically with the highest interest and the one you don’t really want lingering, so it’s usually best to pay off credit card debt first. Then continue attacking your other debt with any extra money.

Add to Your Emergency Fund. If you don’t have an emergency fund, you should start one as soon as possible using your tax refund or stimulus payments. An emergency fund can help you prepare for unexpected expenses, as well as keep you on a better financial path. It can be hard to contribute to an emergency fund on a regular basis without a large boost. Think about putting a significant portion of your tax refund away for this purpose.

Save for Retirement. If you really don’t have any debt and already have an emergency fund, you might want to think about using these extra funds for your future retirement. The earlier you start saving, the more it will add up over time. One way to do this is with a Roth IRA. You’ll get tax benefits and continue to save for years to come. If you have questions about opening a Roth IRA, contact the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial.*

Contribute to a Travel Fund. Traveling can be expensive, but an extra lump sum of money can help you save up for that trip you’ve been dreaming about. Open a separate savings account dedicated to your travel fund only. Deposit your tax refund into that account and then continue to contribute even a small amount each time you get paid, to this account and watch it grow.

Spend it on Something You’ve Always Wanted. If you have extra money available, sometimes you might want to reward yourself for all your hard work over the past year and enjoy it now – instead of waiting until much later. For example, maybe you’ve been wanting to purchase a bike to ride around town in the nice weather and for some fresh air, or perhaps you’ve been wanting to take a class but just didn’t have the extra money laying around. It’s okay to use some of these funds on yourself for your own personal mental health and growth. Plus if you have the cost covered, you won’t be going into debt for it either.

Home Upgrades. Maintaining your home or upgrading your living space is usually something that gets pushed to the bottom of the spending list. If you have extra money and have been thinking about upgrading your backyard outdoor space, buying new furniture, or finally getting that energy efficient appliance – this may be a great way to use your tax refund.

Be sure you’re spending and saving your tax refund and any stimulus money you’ve received wisely!

*Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Article Source: MoneyNing.com