How to Manage Your Credit Card During Difficult Times

Life can get expensive, especially during times like these. While your credit card has likely provided you with some additional freedom and flexibility lately, it’s important to remember that your credit card is not free money. You will have to pay it back eventually (and with interest)!

With U.S. credit card debt hitting an all-time high of $930 billion earlier this year, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, we could all probably use a reminder on how to effectively use and manage our credit cards. Here’s some important advice:

Try to pay your credit card off ahead of time.

There are many reasons you should always try to pay your credit card off ahead of time, but the most important is to avoid paying interest. Accounts that don’t run a continuous balance are given an interest-free grace period, which usually lasts until the next due date. If you can’t pay in full, be sure to pay as much as you can – in order to reduce your interest payments.

In addition to avoiding interest payments, paying your credit card off ahead of time can also help to improve your credit score – since it reduces the amount of your credit limit used. This, along with payment history – can account for the majority of your credit score.

Don’t strain your wallet.

You should avoid maxing out or spending anywhere near your credit limit, as it could cause long-term financial issues – like fees, debt, and damage to your credit score. A good practice is to use less than 40% of your available credit. Treat your credit card similar to a debit card or checkbook. If you don’t have the money currently or can’t save to pay it off later, that should be a sign that you really can’t afford to make a purchase.

Monitor your balance daily.

If you’re using your credit card for everyday purchases, it can be easy to forget how fast those daily transactions can add up. That’s why it’s crucial to regularly monitor your balance. One of the best ways to do this is to download your card’s mobile app. Also, be sure to set up daily or weekly account balance updates/notifications that can be sent directly to your phone or email. You can often do this right from the mobile app, or through your online account. Typically you can also set up monthly payment reminders here too.

Take advantage of your credit card rewards. 

Take full advantage of any rewards or benefits programs offered through your credit card. This can mean anything from retailer gift cards, cash back, electronics and airline miles. These perks can save you money! If you’re contemplating a new credit card, make sure to choose the credit card that best suits your needs and lifestyle – along with a low APR.

First Financial has three great credit card options, lower APRs, no balance transfer fees, and no annual fee.* 

Let us help you find the right card for you! Check out our website or give us a call so we can answer any questions you may have. Or if you like what you see, you can apply online 24/7!

*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.

Article Source: Jackson Bolstad for CUInsight.com

 

Considering a Pet? Do Your Financial Homework First

While many people have been spending more time at home and working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve decided you’d like to bring home a furry friend also. You’ve done your research, you’ve figured out what type of pet you want, and you’re ready to sign on the dotted line. But, have you thought about the ongoing cost(s) associated with getting a pet?

There are two main areas regarding costs to consider when it comes to owning a pet. First, there are initial costs (adoption fees/breeder fees, first vaccinations, training, etc.) and then general costs over your pet’s lifetime (food, toys, routine vet visits, grooming, etc.). It’s a good idea to prepare for the several different types of costs you might have, before you decide to bring your pet home.

Adoption Fees vs. Breeder Fees

One of the first expenses pet owners experience is an adoption fee or purchase price. Typically, adoption fees are going to be less expensive than breeder fees.

Most shelters and rescue organizations will provide medical care, vaccinations, and possibly even spaying or neutering animals. If you decide to go the shelter route, it’s essential to ask what services your adoption fees include.

It’s also a good idea to find out what the adoption process looks like. It could be different depending on the shelter or rescue organization you choose, but usually the basics are the same. Once you select your fur-ever friend, you’ll have to fill out paperwork to be approved. The shelter or rescue organization will want to know where you live, whether or not you have other pets, if there are kids in your home, and they may even do a house visit before you’re allowed to take your new friend home. Once you pay the adoption fee and your application is approved, then the real fun begins!

If you plan to purchase from a breeder, the type of breed you’re interested in determines the amount you’ll pay in fees. When buying from a reputable breeder, you’ll likely get a fair, competitive price, and most will have official paperwork on the animal you’re purchasing. Do your homework on the breeder and make sure you’re buying from someone who is breeding ethically.

Medical Costs

Vet bills are often the most expensive aspect of owning a pet. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a relatively healthy animal that only needs a vet visit once or twice a year. On the other hand, if your pet does need additional vet care, it can be pretty costly and you’ll want to be prepared.

The average vet visit can cost a pet owner anywhere from $50 to $400, depending on the nature of the visit. If you’re trekking to the vet once a year, it’s not as challenging to work into your budget. However, if it happens every couple of months, you could find yourself in over your head with vet bills.

Eating Right for Less

For every question you have about pet ownership, there are a million different answers – and that includes what to feed them! When you’re picking out what your pet eats, think about their size (are you feeding them once a day or do they require multiple feedings), how much they eat, and what they like. You might find that your cat loves a particular brand (let’s say it costs less than $20 for a 22-pound bag) or that your dog lives for a specific brand (let’s say that a 50-pound bag is less than $25). Don’t automatically buy the most expensive food. See what works for your animal and your budget.

Toys!

You can’t have an animal without toys. Every cat needs a scratching post, and every dog needs a good rope to play tug-of-war. The great thing about toys? You can spend as much or as little as you want. You might have a cat that would rather play with bottle caps than catnip mice. Before you spend your paycheck buying toys, get a few and see which ones your furry companion likes. You might be surprised.

Training & Grooming Costs

Training and grooming are additional costs that you may not have to consider. If you’re getting a cat, you won’t have to worry about training classes or grooming (unless you choose to do so). With a dog, however, training classes might be something you need to consider. Depending on the breed of your dog, grooming might be a necessity too. Do your research. Look around and find the best deals on grooming and training.

Bringing home a furry friend is a huge commitment. It’s essential to evaluate your current financial situation before deciding to purchase a pet. We have affordable personal loans or low-interest credit cards that meet your needs for multiple parts of your life.* We’re your credit union, let us see how we can help! Contact us today.

*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 loan or credit card, 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. Federally insured by NCUA.

 

What to Know Before You Buy a Car

Have you been considering purchasing a vehicle? Now could be the right time for you to buy, as dealerships and DMVs start to open back up in New Jersey.

Due to declining sales in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, dealerships are most likely highly motivated to sell vehicles right now – but you may not necessarily get the deal that is best for you. Our goal is to encourage you to do your due diligence and buy a vehicle that works for your lifestyle and budget. To help you make a smart decision, we’re providing a few tips to ensure you’re well-informed.

Know you have choices. Due to dealerships looking to make up for lost sales, they’re probably offering flashy, headline-making deals. However, once you take a look under the hood, the deals aren’t always as great as they can seem. For instance, a cash rebate is more likely to be a better deal than 0 percent interest when paired with a low-interest loan that can lower your monthly payment. Therefore, consider taking the rebate and finance or refinance your ride with First Financial!*

Consider your warranty options. When you’re buying a vehicle, whether new or used – dealers will try to sell you or automatically include add-ins like warranties to your loan. When buying a car, think of how long you plan to own it. If you trade or upgrade your vehicle often, you may not need an extended warranty. Typically, new vehicles come with manufacturer warranties that supersede any extended warranties. This means that your extended warranty has no value until the original manufacturer warranty expires.

If you plan on keeping your vehicle for an extended length of time, an extended warranty could be right for you. Compare the costs of the warranties the dealer offers with our Mechanical Repair Coverage options.**

GAP Insurance. GAP stands for Guaranteed Asset Protection. What is GAP insurance? It’s optional car insurance coverage that helps you pay off your auto loan in the event that your car is totaled or stolen, and you owe more than the car’s current value. This helps bridge the “gap” between what you owe and what your insurance is willing to pay. For example, say you owe $25,000 on your car but the actual value is $19,000. If you incur a total loss accident, your insurance will most likely only pay the value amount of $19,000. GAP insurance will pay the other $6,000 so that you are debt-free. Compare the GAP insurance from the dealership with our Loan Payment Protection options.

If you’ve made up your mind to purchase a vehicle, don’t be intimidated by the dealership. Take control of your car buying journey and get pre-approved with First Financial.* Learn more about our current auto loan offerings, or fill out a quick inquiry form online. We can help you compare the numbers and guide you to make the best financial decision for you!

*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.

 **Mechanical Repair Coverage is provided and administered by Consumer Program Administrators, Inc. in all states except CA, where coverage is offered as insurance by Virginia Surety Company, Inc., in WA, where coverage is provided by National Product Care Company and administered by Consumer Program Administrators, Inc., in FL, LA and OK, where coverage is provided and administered by Automotive Warranty Services of Florida, Inc. (Florida License #60023 and Oklahoma License #44198051), all located at 175 West Jackson Blvd., Chicago Illinois 60604, 800.752.6265. This coverage is made available to you by CUNA Mutual Insurance Agency, Inc. In CA, where Mechanical Repair Coverage is offered as insurance (form MBIP 08/16), it is underwritten by Virginia Surety Company, Inc. Coverage varies by state. Be sure to read the Vehicle Service Contract or the Insurance Policy, which will explain the exact terms, conditions, and exclusions of this voluntary product. MRC-2341946.1-1218-0121 © CUNA Mutual Group

Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth & Ocean Counties this July 2020

After the unprecedented year we’ve had so far, it’s time for some fun in the sun! Enjoy the weather and the sights and sounds the summer season brings. The holiday weekend may look a little different this year, but you can still enjoy some time and activities outdoors. Continuing to keep social distancing in mind, check out these free or inexpensive events in a town near you this month.

July 3:

Drive in movie at Drum Point Sports Complex (Brick) begins at dusk. The parking area will open an hour before and is limited to a first come, first serve basis. Toy Story 4 will be shown. Social distancing according to state guidelines will be enforced. For more details, click here.

Fireworks (Red Bank) at 9:15pm, sponsored by the Hackensack Meridian Riverview Medical Center Foundation. The annual event on the Navesink River will not take place this year, but the fireworks will still be visible starting at 9:15pm near the Oceanic Bridge. Find out more here.

Fireworks (Lakewood) at 7:30pm at First Energy Park. The Lakewood BlueClaws are hosting a fireworks display at New Hampshire and Cedar Bridge Avenues. Tickets to that event — both inside the stadium and in the parking lot — are sold out, however you may be able to see at least part of the display from some of the parking lots at businesses near the stadium.

July 4:  

Allentown, 9am Annual Reading of the Declaration of Independence

Bay Head, 10:30am Annual Bike Parade begins at Sacred Heart Church and ends at Bay Head Fire Station

Eatontown, 4th of July Reverse Parade (Drive around town and see decorated homes and businesses by getting a map from the Recreation Department).

Lavallette, 9am Patriotic Bike Parade

LBI, 9pm Fireworks (Long Beach Township at 68th Street, Bayview Park)

Ocean Gate, 10am Independence Day Parade at Ocean Gate Avenue

Toms River, 9pm Fireworks at Shelter Cove Beach

July 10:

Summer drive in movie (Barnegat), 8:30pm at the Barnegat public dock. Don’t miss this free drive in showing of Grease, social distancing rules will be in effect. All attendees must remain in their vehicles. Learn more here.

Keansburg Summer Concert Series featuring Asbury Fever (A Springsteen cover band), from 7-9pm at Keansburg Recreation. Bring a lawn chair or blanket, and don’t miss this great concert! Social distancing rules apply. Find out more here.

July 14: Twilight Firefly Hike at Big Brook Park (Marlboro), 7:30pm. Join a family adventure hike to search for fireflies and other creatures that live in the park. Don’t forget to bring flashlights! Get more details here.

July 18: Celebration Saturday (Bradley Beach) off Main Street in Riley Park, 11am-5pm. Shop at the sidewalk sale, get takeout, have a picnic in the park, and listen to great live music. Learn more here.

July 18 & 19: Boat Tours of the Manasquan Reservoir (Howell), 2-5pm. Join a 45 minute boat tour narrated by a park system naturalist. Tickets are $6 per adult and $4 per child, and must be purchased on the day of the tour. Life jackets are required. Other dates and time slots are available as well, find out more information here.

July 25: Blue Grass at the Beach (Bradley Beach), from 7-9pm at the Bradley Beach Gazebo. Don’t miss great music at the beach, featuring The Dunegrass Band. Click here for more information.

July 31: Beach Ball-a-Palooza (Toms River), from 5-8:30pm at Cattus Island County Park. There will be food trucks, live music, crafts, bay boat tours, guided nature walks, and more! Bring your beach chair or a blanket. Find out more here.

We hope everyone has an enjoyable and safe summer!

3 Ways to Stop Overspending During These Times

Given the current pandemic that continues, you’re most likely more mindful of your finances these days. Even if you have a budget set up, you may still find that money feels a little tight right now. The last thing you want to do in these current times, is rack up unnecessary debt or spend too much money. Here are 3 easy ways to stop overspending.

Cut back on takeout: It’s great to support local businesses right now, but don’t overdo it. Have you been consistently making trips to your favorite fast food drive thru or ordering takeout/delivery? If your takeout budget has increased, your grocery budget needs to decrease. Be mindful of what you are spending on food and if the takeout is taking over your budget.

Pay with cash: After you pay your bills for the month, try to use cash for anything else. Other than necessities that you may still want to purchase online for health and safety reasons, are you shopping online and using a card just to pass the time or buy items you don’t really need? Using cash may prevent you from adding that one extra item to your Amazon or other online shopping cart.

Make do with what you have: Delayed events are happening all over. Movies and concerts have either been pushed back or cancelled. As much as you might want to spend money you normally would spend on summer concert tickets on something else, keep it in your savings account. For now – watch a movie on Netflix you haven’t seen yet, or on your cable network’s free on demand movies. You can also login to YouTube and view a past live concert at no cost. There are many ways to improvise and save money!

 

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Student Loan Payment Changes During COVID-19

With unemployment levels rising and many employers cutting work hours, large numbers of college grads are now struggling to meet their student loan payments. Thankfully, the federal government has passed legislation to help ease this burden. However, many borrowers are confused about the terms and conditions of these changes. Here’s all you need to know about changes to student loan debt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

All federal student loan payments are automatically suspended for six months.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) signed into law on March 27, 2020 – all federal student loan payments are suspended, interest-free, through September 30, 2020. If borrowers continue making payments, the full amount will be applied to the principal of the loan. The suspension applies to all federal student loans owned by the Department of Education, some Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), as well as some Perkins Loans. Students do not have to take any action or pay any fees for the suspension to take effect.

Additionally, during the suspension period, the CARES Act does not allow student loan servicers to report non-payments as missed payments to the credit bureaus. Therefore, the suspension should not have a negative effect on borrowers’ credit scores.

If you’re not sure whether your student loan is federally owned, you can look it up on the Federal Student Aid (FSA) website. Be sure to have your FSA ID handy so you can sign in and look up your loan. You can also call your loan servicer directly as well.

Contact information for federal student loan servicers:

CornerStone: 1-800-663-1662

FedLoan Servicing (PHEAA): 1-800-699-2908

Granite State (GSMR): 1-888-556-0022

Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Inc.: 1-800-236-4300

HESC/Edfinancial: 1-855-337-6884

MOHELA: 1-888-866-4352

Navient: 1-800-722-1300

Nelnet: 1-888-486-4722

OSLA Servicing: 1-866-264-9762

ECSI: 1-866-313-3793

Suspended payments count toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Loan Rehabilitation. 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a federal program allowing borrowers to have their student loans forgiven, tax-free – with the stipulation that they work in the public sector and make 120 qualifying monthly payments. A disruption of these 120 payments would typically disqualify a borrower from the program. According to the CARES Act, suspended payments will be treated as regular payments toward PSLF. This ensures that borrowers who have been working toward these programs will not lose the progress they’ve made toward loan forgiveness.

The same rule applies to individuals participating in Student Loan Rehabilitation, during which borrowers who have defaulted on student loans – must make 9 out of 10 consecutive monthly payments in order to bring their loans out of default. The U.S. Department of Education will consider the six-month suspension on payments as if regular payments were being made toward rehabilitation.

Some states and private lenders are offering student loan aid for struggling borrowers.

If your student loan is not federally owned and you are struggling to make your payments, there may still be options available – such as loan deferment or forbearance. If you are in need of such assistance, contact your lender directly to discuss your options.

Consider an income-driven repayment plan.

If you have an FFEL that is ineligible for suspension, you may be able to lower your monthly payments by enrolling in an income-based repayment plan. This would adjust your monthly student loan payment amount according to your discretionary income. If your salary was cut as a result of COVID-19, or you are currently unemployed – these plans can provide relief by making your monthly payments more manageable.

Still have questions about your student loan payments during this time? It’s always a good idea to reach out to your lender and find out what options are available to you.

Article Source: CUcontent.com