Spring 2018 Newsletter

Our Spring Semi-Annual Member Newsletter has arrived!

In a continued effort to go green, we’re publishing our newsletter electronically – it can also be found on our website and social media sites. Paper copies will also be available in our branches. This Spring First Edition newsletter covers some great new topics and talks about some of the exciting events and promotions going on at First Financial for the beginning of 2018.

The Spring Newsletter features the following articles:

  • Upcoming First Financial seminars and events (April – August 2018)
  • Article – “Should you pay for credit repair services? Probably not.”
  • Message from the CEO
  • Buy out your vehicle lease ad
  • “How does working affect social security retirement benefits?” – IRC Article
  • LIFE Fair Program
  • 2017 year-end food and gift drives help our local community
  • “Member Alert: Tech support scams” – Article
  • Important information, holidays, phone numbers, and branch locations

 To view a copy of the newsletter, click here.

Enjoy and Happy Spring!

5 Things You Should Buy at Costco

About 1 in 5 products sold at Costco are the store’s Kirkland brand. According to Consumer Reports, some Kirkland products rate higher than premium brands. Here are four highly-rated Kirkland products and one other item you should be buying from Costco.

Bacon

Consumer Reports tested regular and thick-sliced uncooked bacon, precooked bacon and turkey bacon. Of all types and brands tested, only Kirkland Signature bacon was rated excellent. “It crisped up nicely and consistently and had balanced fat and meat flavors, complemented by wood smoke and a taste of sweetness,” the report said.

Mayonnaise

After you’ve stocked up on bacon, head over to the condiment aisle to pick up some mayo to make BLTs. Kirkland’s Signature Real Mayonnaise rated just as good as Hellmann’s in Consumer Reports’ blind taste tests. And, it costs 60% less.

Car batteries

Kirkland’s Signature 12866 battery, which is suitable for large Ford or Mercury cars, trucks or SUVs, aced nearly every Consumer Reports test. The $85 dollar battery almost beat out the top rated battery from Interstate, which costs $280. Consumer Reports rated all car batteries and said many Kirkland batteries performed very well in its tests.

Ice Cream

Kirkland Signature Super Premium Vanilla ice cream consistently rates 5 out of 5 stars, and Consumer Reports tasters called it “full and dense with a big dairy flavor and complex vanilla-extract flavor.” The Costco brand beat out premium brands like Breyers and Baskin Robbins, and because it’s typically sold in packages of two half-gallon containers, it’s much less expensive than Ben & Jerry’s – about 30 cents per serving, compared to $1 per serving for Ben & Jerry’s.

Eye glasses

Costco topped Consumer Report’s eyeglass store ratings, which was based on a survey of nearly 20,000 subscribers. Costco shoppers paid less for frames and lenses than those who bought their glasses from independent retailers, private physicians or specialty eyeglass stores like LensCrafters or Pearle Vision. The median Costco price for a pair of glasses was $186, compared to about $300 elsewhere.

The moral of the story, it might be time to think about getting that Costco membership. Or if you already have one, be sure to check out these products!

Article Source: Heather Anderson for CUInsight.com

3 Ways to Prepare for Next Tax Season

Tomorrow tax season is finally coming to a close. Believe it or not, it’s never too early to start thinking about next year. If filing your taxes was a headache and a hassle this year, here are a few tips to get you prepared for 2019.

Get organized: Did you waste a bunch of time looking for receipts this year? Create a system, whether it’s a file cabinet or a shoebox, and keep track of those receipts and other financial documents you may need at the end of the year. Keep a tally of your charitable and retirement contributions and you’ll be ready to go as soon as you get that W-2 in the mail.

Keep track of changes: What’s happened to you this year, and what will be happening in the next few months? Are you getting married? Having a baby? Buying a house? Opening up a Roth IRA? All of these things will affect your filing status, so make sure you’re up to speed on how any of things will affect your filing process.

Be patient: Do you have a side business or do freelance work? If so, any number of hiccups can occur during tax preparation. Be prepared – but know it’s not a huge deal if you have to file an extension. If you find yourself in this boat, head on over to IRS.gov and get an extension form.

With a little preparation, you can make the tax season process a lot easier.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

 

The 4 Best Months to Buy a Car

From Mondays when business is slow to right before closing when salespeople are in a hurry, there’s no shortage of theories about the best time to negotiate the best price on a new car. But what if you’re not a Monday person or you work the swing shift? Here are the four best months to negotiate a new car deal.

May

Memorial Day weekend kicks off the “big sales event” season for car dealers from coast to coast. And of course, the typical Memorial Day sale runs longer than just those three days. If you want to head into summer in a new ride, this is the time to do it.

Also, according to data compiled by TrueCar, Memorial Day weekend is an especially good time to shop for a mid-size SUV.

October, November, and December

Yes, all three of these are good months to go car shopping, but each month for a different reason – and a different type of car.

October is the first month that dealers really become aggressive about clearing out the previous model year. According to TrueCar’s data, buyers in October average nearly 8% savings off MSRP.

October is also a slow month for full-size pickups. With supply high and demand low, it’s an especially good time to deal on that F-150 or Ram 1500. Most pickups don’t change much from year to year, so if you’re willing to accept a truck from the previous model year, you may find yourself with a screaming deal.

Black Friday is supposed to be all about retail. However, in recent years, car dealers have jumped on the Black Friday bandwagon, too. TrueCar data suggests that November is an especially good month to buy midsize and compact cars. However, you’re well-advised to avoid SUVs and crossovers in November. Sure, supply is ample, but so is demand. Dealers are less likely to deal on whatever’s hot at the moment.

By the time December rolls around, car dealers aren’t thinking only about clearing out the previous year’s models; they’re thinking about hitting their annual sales goals, too. The big push is on to close deals. If you’re in the market for an SUV, TrueCar’s data indicates that waiting until December will pay off. Regardless of what vehicle you’re looking for, keep this in mind: While you may get a great deal on the previous model year, by December your choices will likely be very limited.

Bonus: New Year’s Day

Why would you go car shopping after the end of the year? Isn’t it already too late? Haven’t the dealers already reset for the start of the new year? It may surprise you to learn that the car dealer year actually ends on January 2. This gives dealers one final holiday to clear out inventory and make sales quotas. It’s literally their last chance to sell you a vehicle during the current year, so you’re really in the driver’s seat, so to speak.

Limit your car shopping to the months (and holiday) described here, and you’re sure to save some serious dollars!

If you need help financing, First Financial has you covered with low rates, personalized service, same-day approval decisions and electronic closings! Learn more here, and apply online 24/7.*

Article Source: CUInsight.com

*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. Federally insured by NCUA.

 

5 Easy Ways to Cut Your Spending Dramatically

Trying to trim expenses can seem like a never ending task, as new expenses always pop out of nowhere. With already tight budgets, the task of reducing spending can seem impossible. You’ve already cut out your morning latte and canceled your gym membership – what more can you do?

Lowering your expenses is definitely a daunting task. While you’ll have to make sacrifices and get a little creative, it definitely can be done without cramping your lifestyle too dramatically.

Cut Up Your Credit Cards

Take a close look at your credit card collection if you have multiple cards, and decide which ones you should keep using and which ones you can cut up. First, note the interest rate for each card, and don’t use the ones that charge the higher rates. Obviously, it is ideal to be able to pay off your bill every month – but that isn’t always realistic depending on your situation. Second, take a close look at the rewards programs for each card. Such programs are becoming more and more competitive and can be a determining factor when deciding what your go-to card should be. Also, canceling credit cards can negatively affect your credit score as it lowers your credit to debt ratio. Consider literally cutting them up and forgetting about them instead of really canceling them.

Be Your Own Chef

Food is one of the biggest expenses we face and most people are guilty of spending too much on dining out. Don’t ignore this habit because the expenses can really add up. Cooking more at home can easily and drastically lower your spending.

But what if you hate cooking? Don’t worry, because you can still save. To mitigate this, cook once a week by meal prepping. Make a big batch of whatever you want and portion it out into multiple meals a week. When it’s time to eat, all you have to do is heat it up – even easier than going out.

Ride a Bike

Car maintenance and gym memberships can cost an arm and a leg. Why not kill two birds with one stone by riding a bike? Depending on where you work, riding a bike to your office could be a great option to get a workout in and save money on gas. Many big cities also now have bike sharing programs, which makes it even more convenient to ride wherever you need to go.

Reinvent Your Social Life

Socializing with friends takes time and money. Just having a single drink could cost up to $15 with tax and tip, which can really add up as the night goes on. However, there are plenty of inexpensive or free activities you can do instead. If you’re going out for drinks, consider meeting up during happy hour. While timing might not be ideal, it can cut your bill in half. Also, every city, big or small, has free events, especially during warm weather. So take advantage of them as the weather is warming up for the season.

Analyze Your Bills

Getting a bill is never a fun moment, but be sure to take a thorough look instead of quickly glancing through it. Many of us end up paying fees we don’t realize every month that could easily be avoided. Also, look carefully at your usage every month, particularly when it comes to your cell phone and utilities. Perhaps you could lower your texting plan if you’re not close to using your maximum for the month, while others can easily trim their data plans. Small details like these seem insignificant when you look at them individually, but everything can collectively make a huge difference in the long run.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com

Important Member Alert: Mobile Phone Port-Out Scams

Fraudsters are impersonating mobile phone users to have phones transferred to a different carrier – effectively stealing the user’s mobile phone number. This is being coined as a port-out scam. Once transferred to a different carrier, the fraudster receives all calls and texts that were intended for the user – including those that can be used to takeover a member’s account via online banking. Fraudsters have successfully intercepted one-time passcodes used to authenticate members logging into their account or to initiate transactions within online banking.

How can you prevent this scam from happening to you?  You can place a “port validation password” on your mobile phone account to help prevent having your phone fraudulently transferred to a different carrier.

Call your wireless carrier and ask for PIN authentication for your accounts. Sprint requires customers to create a PIN when they open a new account. Here’s what to do with the other major carriers.

  • AT&T: Log into your ATT.com account, go to your profile by clicking your name, and under the wireless passcode drop down menu, click on “manage extra security.”
  • T-Mobile: Call 611 from your cellphone or (800) 937-8997 to speak with customer service.
  • Verizon: Visit vzw.com/PIN or call (800) 922-0204.

Scam Levels and Details

Mobile phone users switch carriers for a variety of reasons, and can carry their phone number with them to the new carrier. Meanwhile, fraudsters are exploiting this capability by impersonating mobile phone users to have the mobile phones ported to a different carrier. The fraudsters harvest the user’s personally identifiable information and use this information to impersonate users in having the mobile phones transferred to a different carrier.

The port-out scam can take place at a wireless store or online, but in both cases, the imposters have enough information to convince the phone company that they are who they claim to be and have that person’s phone service transferred to their mobile device.

“And with a smartphone, if you’re on Wi-Fi, everything’s going to work except the actual calling and texting, so you may not even notice right away that something’s wrong with your phone — which can give the scammers a few hours of lead time,” said Katherine Hutt, director of communications for the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “If that ever happens, if you can’t make calls or receive calls, immediately contact the phone company and see if your number has been ported.”

Online Banking Fraud: A fraudster often ports a user’s mobile phone to a different carrier after the fraudster has stolen the user’s account login credentials. This could increase the risk of account takeovers through online banking, which involves sending a one-time-passcode via text message for login attempts as well as to validate transactions initiated within online banking. Members must enter the one-time-passcode to complete the login or transaction. By transferring a member’s mobile phone to a different carrier, the fraudster would receive the one-time-passcode intended for the member.

Card Fraud: This scam could also result in fraudulent transactions using credit and debit cards. A fraudster, who has ported a cardholder’s mobile phone to a new carrier, could use a counterfeit or stolen credit or debit card belonging to the cardholder to conduct fraudulent transactions. If a card processor’s fraud management system detects a suspicious transaction, a fraud analyst could attempt to contact the cardholder to confirm the legitimacy of the transaction by calling the cardholder’s mobile phone. However, the call is made to the fraudster who confirms the transaction as legitimate.

Card fraud could be worsened when, after confirming a suspicious transaction as legitimate, the card is suppressed for a period of time – usually seven days. It is common practice for card processors to suppress a card when the fraud management system identifies a suspicious transaction that a cardholder confirms is legitimate. When a card is suppressed, transactions on the card are not monitored by the fraud management system.

Email Fraud: Many public email service providers also offer out-of-band authentication using one-time passcodes that are sent via text message to user’s mobile phones. This could easily lead to a compromise of a member’s personal email account after a fraudster ports the member’s mobile phone to a different carrier.

Read more about mobile port-out scams from NBC News.

If at any time you feel any of your First Financial accounts may have been compromised in a similar scam, contact our Member Relationship Center right away at 732.312.1500. If your First Financial credit or debit cards were compromised in a scam, call the 24/7 toll-free number on the back of your card to report the incident and replace your card. All important phone numbers for members can be found on our website: https://www.firstffcu.com/contact-us.htm

Article Source: CUNA Mutual Risk Alert, and Herb Weisbaum for NBCNews.com