You Could Win a Warehouse Shopping Spree with the 2016 Magic Minute Sweepstakes!

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You’ve seen it on TV, right? Someone racing down the aisles of a warehouse, grabbing items left and right – trying to beat the clock. And you may have wondered how it might feel to be that person.  Well, it just might be your lucky year!

So how can you get a chance to win this opportunity of a lifetime?  If you are a First Financial Visa Platinum Credit Cardholder, register at CURewards.com then use your Visa® Platinum Credit Card three times per week for a chance to win an all-expense paid trip to Chicago and 60-second shopping spree in a CURewards® warehouse in early December. All true – no joke.

Not a Visa Platinum Credit Cardholder?  Apply today to experience some of the lowest rates around, plus earn rewards on merchandise and travel, along with no annual fee and no balance transfer fees.*

And – as if a no-holds-barred shopping spree weren’t enough, take note. You could be flying through a CURewards warehouse located in one of the most magical cities in the country – Chicago, Illinois. And it won’t cost you a dime. The airfare, hotel room, meals, entertainment, thousands of dollars in merchandise, 3 days and 2 nights…it’s all on us.

Come to think of it, calling it a magic minute is not exactly accurate. It’s more like days of magic.

Be sure to watch the video below to see last year’s winners and First Financial members, Jim and Meg Ferrell of Rahway, NJ. They were able to grab a total of 11 items including a grill, a few flat screen TVs, Dooney & Bourke handbag, kitchen gadgets, and more – over thousands of dollars worth of merchandise! See last year’s magic, right hereWe would love for another First Financial member to experience the Magic Minute again this year, so swipe your Visa Platinum Card 3x a week to qualify from now until 9/25/16! 

With their items won 2Check out this YouTube Video of Jim and Meg in the most exciting 60 seconds of their lives!

Register for your chance to participate now! Visit www.cumagicminute.com for details.

If you have additional questions, please contact us at 866.750.0100, email info@firstffcu.com, or visit us at any branch location.

No Purchase Necessary to enter or win. Open to credit card holders who are legal residents of the 50 U.S., D.C. or Puerto Rico, 21 or older, who are enrolled in a participating Credit Union CURewards Program. Ends 9/25/16. Void where prohibited. See full rules & how to enter without purchase at www.cumagicminute.com. Sponsor: PSCU, 560 Carillon Parkway, St. Petersburg, FL 33716. *APR varies from 11.15% to 18% 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. 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 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.

Press Release: New Corporate Office is Now Open!

Press Release

2016 New Corporate Office Opening - June Staff Photo

Pictured above: First Financial staff in front of their new corporate office that is now open!

First Financial Federal Credit Union’s new corporate office is now open (www.firstffcu.com) and located at 391 Route 9 North (next to the Howell Park & Ride) in Freehold, NJ 07728.

The credit union’s new corporate office is located on the same property as their newest branch which opened in early 2015, the Freehold/Howell Service Center (389 Route 9 North).  This branch now serves about one third of the credit union’s nearly 19,000 members.

This new corporate office boasts two stories, spans 20,000 square feet, and has the same modern design as First Financial’s newest branch directly in front of it.

In regard to the credit union’s new corporate location, Issa Stephan, First Financial’s President/CEO stated, “We are dedicated to Monmouth and Ocean county residents and businesses, and we were fortunate enough to be able to buy this land on a main highway like Route 9 and build our new corporate offices. The new building will provide enhanced operational efficiencies that will help us to grow and evolve to keep pace with our members’ needs.  The corporate location represents our commitment to our members and our investment in Monmouth and Ocean counties to deliver a member-centric approach to banking.  This is a win-win-win for New Jersey, for our First Financial employees, and for our members.”

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About First Financial Federal Credit Union:

First Financial Federal Credit Union (formerly Mon-Oc Federal Credit Union) is a not-for-profit financial cooperative whose goal is to provide the highest level of quality products and personalized services while maintaining financial integrity and stability.  Our vision is to be a long-term financial partner with our Members. While First Financial has a highly trained, professional staff using the latest technology, we also pride ourselves on our personal touch. Unlike huge banking conglomerates, policy setting and overall strategic direction of First Financial are overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors made up of credit union members. The credit union is federally insured by the NCUA. For more information on First Financial, visit www.firstffcu.com.

9 Hacks for a Perfect Monthly Budget

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While the word “budget” may want to send some of us screaming in the other direction, creating a successful budget is actually one of the biggest gifts we can give ourselves. It not only helps you out financially, but it does a ton to reduce the day-to-day anxiety so many of us feel when it comes to our finances.

If you’re losing sleep over your monthly finances but don’t know where to begin, here are eleven helpful tips for getting started with a monthly budget.

Grab Your Calculator and Block Out Some Time

Grab your calculator, a pen and paper, and open that Excel doc — and most importantly, block out some time for this. Really figuring out what you spend can take a few hours, and one of the most important parts of this process is simply scheduling some time to do it.

Record Your Take-Home Pay

The first step in any budgeting process is to figure out how much you take home each month. Don’t include anything that automatically gets subtracted, like a 401k or taxes — you just want to know what you actually have in your pocket each month.

Subtract The Essential Expenses

Subtract all of the “essential” expenses you absolutely have to pay each month, like student loans, rent, car payments, cell phone, etc. Take time to really think about every bill that comes in.

Allocate For Savings

You now have the amount of money you can use for personal choices — as in you can literally do whatever you want with it. Things like groceries, clothes, and take out all fit into this category. And in a piece for Nerd Wallet, financial writer Anika Sekar says this is now when you allocate for savings (or “paying yourself first” as some retirement planners put it). She recommended saving at least 20 percent after taxes, which comes to about 12-16 percent pre-tax. If you already accounted for a retirement fund in a previous step, you can factor it into this assessment.

Assess The Numbers

Now is the time when you assess the balance of your numbers. In a piece for the financial site Learnvest, financial writer Laura Shin recommended the 50/20/30 rule of thumb. This system says that no more than half your income should go to necessary expenses, no more than 20 percent should go to savings, and no more than 30 percent should go to everything else. If your ratio is coming off far from this, think about re-balancing.

Get Into The Nitty-Gritty

Now it’s time to break down that 30 percent, “personal choice,” portion of your budget. Figure out all the little things you spend on each month — from coffee, to manicures, to ordering in. It’s important to be realistic during this process.

Make Some Cuts

It’s entirely possible that after completing the above step you realize that you spend way more than your allocated 30 percent on random stuff. This is the stage where you might need to figure out where you can cut some expenses. Maybe it’s making coffee at home, or limiting yourself to a take out order just once a week, or maybe it’s not letting yourself “just pop in” to a store after work because you know you always end up buying something.

Consider A Money Tracking App

If all of this seems overwhelming, consider a money-tracking app on your phone. DailyWorth.com recommended Mint.com, Goodbudget, and Mvelopes as a few of their top choices for personal budget helpers, but you can definitely research around to see which one best suits your needs.

Remember — Treat Yourself Sometimes!

Budgeting doesn’t mean restriction. It just means knowing where your money is actually going. Don’t get overwhelmed at the thought of a monthly budget or think a solid budget is out of reach. Just remember it’s about informed choices so you can enjoy the money you make!

Article Source: Toria Sheffield for Bustle.com, http://www.bustle.com/articles/159271-9-hacks-for-a-perfect-monthly-budget

Important Member Alert: Don’t Fall for EMV Email Scams

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With the new, more fraud-resistant Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) chip in many credit cards, scammers are working a new angle to steal from consumers.

As consumers are anticipating the delivery of new debit and credit cards with the EMV chip, they are being targeted by scammers via emails that look like they are coming from their bank asking for updated personal financial information.

Bonnie Smyre, an Internet security expert explains, “These types of phishing emails have been around for a long time. You might remember the, ‘Hey I’m your long lost relative from a distant country and I left all of my money to you. I just need your banking account info’. Most people read those but said this looks fishy.”

Scammers saw an opportunity to freshen up this scam by contacting consumers about their new EMV chip credit card.

So now scammers are sending much more legitimate emails. It’s hard to tell that they’re fake. They often fake an email address so it looks like it’s from your bank. They use graphics from your bank. It looks very legit then they say, “You need to update your information. Your card is on the way, but before it can take effect – we need your personal and banking information to be updated,” added Ms. Smyre.

Don’t bite. Don’t reply to the email. Don’t click any links. It’s a new twist on an old scam meant to draw consumers in. If you get something like that and have questions about whether your bank or credit union is really trying to contact you, call the number on the back of your credit card or on your bank statement. If you have any questions about your First Financial accounts – please call 866.750.0100 or email info@firstffcu.com

Be sure to enroll in our newest, upgraded Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa – don’t wait until it’s too late! The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – click here to enroll today!

Article Source: New Jersey Credit Union League, Daily Exchange Newsletter from 1.14.16

Card Skimming 101: How to spot, avoid, and deal with it

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“Skimming” is a method by which thieves steal your credit card information, and all it requires is a little illicit technology and a lot of criminal intent by those who handle your credit card. Skimming occurs most frequently at retail outlets that process credit card payments — particularly bars, restaurants and gas stations.

How skimming works
Skimmers are small devices that can scan and store credit card data from the magnetic stripe. Crooks can install skimmers on a gas pump, or corrupt employees can have a skimmer stashed out of sight of customers. Once the card is run through the skimmer, the data is recorded, and the crooks can sell the information through a contact or on the Internet, at which point counterfeit cards are made. The criminals go on a shopping spree with a cloned copy of the credit or debit card, and cardholders are unaware of the fraud until a statement arrives with purchases they did not make.

John Brewer, assistant district attorney in the major fraud division of Harris County Texas District Attorney’s Office, says, “Many consumers think that shopping online is a high-risk endeavor compared to going to a brick-and-mortar store, but I believe the opposite. The vast majority of cases we investigate have to do with employees at a physical store stealing your information.”

How to avoid skimming

  • Make sure your card stays in sight, and never let anyone leave your presence with the card if you can help it. “Skimming occurs most at restaurants since the waiter has to walk away with your card,” Brewer says. “If you are in a retail store and they say they have to go to another counter to run the card, follow them.” If you are concerned about letting go of your card at restaurants, use cash instead.
  • Your credit card is like cash. “You need to be aware that your credit card is very valuable,” Brewer says. “Treat it like a diamond or cash. Would you just give someone cash and let them walk away with it?”
  • Monitor credit card receipts and check them carefully against your statements. If you are married, sit down with your spouse to account for all charges, Brewer says. Some thieves take out small amounts in hopes cardholders won’t notice.
  • Shred unwanted financial solicitations and put your mail on hold when you leave town. This will help with other forms of identity theft.

To further protect yourself from potential unauthorized charges or identity fraud, you can request that credit bureaus monitor your accounts for unusual spending patterns and require them to notify you before new credit can be granted in your name. These services come at a price; normally under $100 per year depending on the credit agency. But that might be a worthy investment, especially if you eat in restaurants on a regular basis.

How to deal with skimming

  • Call the police. “When your identity or credit card is stolen, it’s just like having a car stolen,” Brewer says. Make a police report and hang on to the police report number.
  • Contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately and tell them your card data has been stolen. If you don’t make a report quickly, you may be liable for some or all of the unauthorized charges.
  • If you report swiftly, federal law caps your liability at $50. Most credit cards voluntarily go further, and won’t charge you at all — again, if you report quickly. “If you end up being a victim, it’s probably not going to cost you any money,” Brewer says. “If you notify your bank quickly, they’ll return the money. Don’t get hung up about the fact that someone might drain your bank account. The most you will probably spend on it is wasted time and lots of aggravation, since it can be a long process to get everything worked out.”
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian — to request a security freeze, which prevents new credit authorizations without your consent. Brewer suggests visiting the website www.annualcreditreport.com.  Through the site, which was mandated by federal law in response to consumer outcry, you are entitled to receive one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit bureaus.

Brewer suggests viewing the credit reports on a computer you can print from – since you only get to check them once a year. “Look at the inquiries section of your report, and see which companies have looked at your credit,” Brewer says.

If a car dealership looked at your report but you didn’t go there, it’s a sign that the person with your card information went car shopping. Give these reports to the police; it will help them investigate your case.

Be sure to enroll in our newest, upgraded Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa – don’t wait until it’s too late! The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – click here to enroll today!

Article Source: Ben Woolsey and Emily Starbuck Gerson for CreditCards.com, http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/credit-card-skimming-scam-1282.php

5 Unique Ways to Save on Your Holiday Shopping

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Whether we like it or not, the holiday season is here. That means one thing: spending money and potentially a lot of it. In a survey by the American Research Group, Americans plan on spending nearly $900 on their holiday shopping. Such an amount can put a significant stress on a budget, leaving families looking for ways to save money.

We all know about the traditional ways to save money on shopping, from Black Friday to Cyber Monday sales. Those discounts can provide nice savings, but they only scratch the surface. There are many other tools and tricks to help you stretch your holiday budget. Below are some unique ones to help you save this year.

The Four-Gift Rule

The four-gift rule has made its way around the Internet over the past few years. The idea behind it is relatively simple. Instead of overwhelming recipients with a lot of gifts and costing you more, you make your gift-giving more intentional. The rule dictates the following: You buy the person something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

The rule may not work for everyone, as it’s particularly angled toward a younger child or perhaps a spouse. With children, in particular, this approach can help avoid excessive gift giving and thus save you money in the long run. It’s practical and still also allows for fun and creativity.

Use Apps

Smartphone apps can be a great way to save money on holiday shopping. We all know about popular apps like Amazon that allow you to compare prices in real-time. There are many other apps out there that can help save you money on your holiday shopping needs.

Some of these newer apps are Flipp and Slice. “It rounds up all of the shopping ads and circulars in your local area and presents them to you in a format that’s very easy to flip through,” says Jill Cataldo, founder of the Super-Couponing.com. The Flipp app also allows you to collect local coupons so as to maximize your savings.

The Slice app allows you to set a price tracker, which tracks the amount you spent on an item. If the price drops, it notifies you so you can get the difference refunded from participating merchants.

Use Gift Cards

MarketWatch reports that $750 million in gift cards were unused in 2014. If you have an unused gift card lying around, that is free cash not being spent. There may be a number of reasons you didn’t use the card, from not liking the store to forgetting you had the card.

Regardless of the reason, an unused gift card can be a great way to reduce the overall amount you spend out of pocket for holiday gifts. Instead of letting that card continue to collect dust and lose value due to potential inactivity fees, use them to buy gifts. It may feel tacky, but it is a great way to save money.

Buy Discounted Gift Cards

Gift cards play a dual role for potential savings. Many who have unused gift cards sell them for cash. This has opened up a market for sites like Card Cash, Raise, Card Pool and others that sell discounted gift cards. Such sites allow individuals to buy gift cards for up to 35 percent off standard price.

Such a service can be a great way to save a little extra money if a gift card is on your shopping list. Just make sure to read the terms and conditions prior to purchase.

Break It Up

Another overlooked way to save money on holiday items is by purchasing an item in bulk. That may sound counterintuitive, but it works. “The set gives you a lower price per unit and you can toss them into a gift bag helping you save without skimping on the gift,” says money-saving expert Andrea Woroch.

Woroch explains that the item bought at a warehouse club can be broken up and repackaged into smaller gifts while still allowing you to take advantage of the lower per unit cost. If you are giving multiple people the same gift, then this can be a great way to save extra money instead of purchasing higher-priced individual gifts.

The holiday shopping season can be a stressful one financially. It doesn’t have to be. With a little planning and creativity, you can avoid being an “average” shopper and become one who saves money.

The perfect way to save for your holiday expenses is by opening a Holiday Club Account right here at First Financial! No need to put yourself into debt over holiday spending – simply save ahead and come out on top (and not in debt)!*

  • Open at any time
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Dividends are posted annually on balances of $100 or more
  • Accounts automatically renew each year
  • Deposits can be made in person, via mail, payroll deductions, or direct deposit
  • Holiday Club funds are deposited into a First Financial Checking or Base Savings Account

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

Article Source: John Schmoll for http://money.usnews.com/money/the-frugal-shopper/2015/11/09/5-unique-ways-to-save-on-your-holiday-shopping