9 Things to Remember When Using Your First Credit Card

Getting your first credit card is a significant financial milestone. After sorting through an endless array of program options and promotional offers, you made your choice, filled out the application, and saw those two magic words: You’re approved!

After the initial excitement wears off, it’s important to remember that just like your first car, your first credit card comes with a lot of responsibility. While it may be tempting to grab some friends to take the new plastic for a test drive, it’s a good time to exercise a little restraint. The financial decisions you make now will have long-term effects. It only takes a momentary lapse in judgement, to make a mistake that could follow you for years to come.

Before you start exercising your newfound financial freedom, here are a few tips to make sure your first credit card experience is a positive one:

1. Pay attention to the fine print. Even if you don’t need reading glasses, you may want to have a pair handy. The big credit card companies tend to sneak stuff in the small print. Introductory interest rates can be attractive (like 0% APR for a certain amount of time), but once those offers expire, you could be left paying higher interest on your purchases. Not to mention, if you are carrying a balance when your 0% offer expires – you could be left to pay an extremely high APR on that balance.

2. Don’t be a card counter. If you have multiple cards, it can be tempting to spend more than you intended. Also, it makes your wallet pretty large – which makes for uneven seating or a heavy purse. Simplify your life – stick to a single card, and keep the credit limit sensible.

3. Consistency pays off. This simple step will help you avoid additional interest charges, and it’s an effective way to build an excellent credit rating.

4. Always pay your bill on time. Late payment charges are usually more expensive than your minimum payment, which can make it hard to keep up with your bill. If you’re worried that you’ll forget the due date, most cards offer an automatic payment option. Use it. Or set a recurring reminder for yourself on your phone or a computer calendar.

5. It’s your budget, don’t fudge it. Try to think of your credit card as for emergencies only. Do your best to continue using your checking account or cash to cover everyday expenses. Your credit card is like that friend you call when you need help moving or a ride to the airport. There when you need it, but not to be overused.

6. Steer clear of cash advances. These advances usually charge a higher interest rate than regular credit card purchases. The convenience isn’t worth the cost.

7. Keep your monthly credit card payments to less than 20% of your income. Once your bill exceeds that amount, it becomes exponentially more difficult to stick to a sensible, reasonable budget.

8. Review your credit card statements each month. In addition to being a smart way to track your spending, regular monitoring is the most effective way to combat credit card fraud and identity theft.

9. Be honest with yourself. If you find that your spending gets out of hand, there’s no shame in putting your credit card away (or getting rid of it all together), until you correct your bad financial habits.

Credit cards can be useful tools for emergencies, and when used properly, they can help you maintain a strong credit rating. But with so many card options available today, it is essential to choose the one that’s right for you.

If you haven’t secured your first card yet and are wondering where to find a trustworthy offer, First Financial Federal Credit Union offers a variety of Visa Credit Cards to meet your financial needs. If you’re looking to build, establish, or re-establish credit – our Secured Visa is a great place to start. We also have a low rate Visa Platinum Card, where you’ll earn rewards points on all your purchases, or our cash back Visa Signature Card.* If you live, work, worship, attend school, or volunteer in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in NJ – we’ve got the perfect credit card to fit your lifestyle. Learn more here, and apply online 24/7.

 *APR varies from 12.65% to 18% for the Visa Platinum Card and from 14.65% to 18% for the Visa Signature and Secured Cards 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. Visa Signature Card Cash Back: Your First Financial Visa® Signature Credit Card will earn cash back based on your eligible purchase transactions. The cash back will be applied to your current credit card balance on a quarterly basis and be shown cumulatively on your billing statement. Unless you are participating in a limited time promotional offer, you will earn 1% cash back based upon eligible purchases each quarter. 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.

5 Ways to Slash Halloween Costume Costs

October is not just about getting that pumpkin spice fix, but also finding the perfect Halloween costume.

According to the 2018 National Retail Federation Halloween survey, Americans are expected to spend $9 billion on the holiday. Because both adults and children celebrate Halloween, 8% of shoppers plan to buy costumes for a projected total of $3.2 billion.

Here are 5 ways you can avoid feeling haunted by sticker shock this Halloween season:

Expand your store options: Don’t just limit yourself to your standard go-to’s like Walmart, Target or Spirit of Halloween. Check out Walgreens, the dollar store, Party City, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Kohls, warehouse stores like Costco, Sam’s or BJ’s, thrift shops and consignment stores. You may be surprised by the finds and discounts available.

Take a detour from the Halloween aisle: Sometimes finding a deal on kids’ costumes means exploring other areas of the store. You really do pay more for seasonal costumes set aside for Halloween. Try checking the toy aisle for dress up outfits or the kids sleepwear section for action hero or princess options with a cheaper price tag. If your kids are into sports, take a look at the athletic/active section of the store.

Explore online deals: Check online coupon offerings found on deal sites like RetailMeNot.com or Groupon.com.

Get creative: Why not get crafty this year and make your own costumes? Or, build an outfit around a staple piece like a wizard’s cloak (dust off that graduation cap and gown), a cape or a mask. Let your imagination run wild. Maybe you could put your own twist on a popular character, superhero or villain. Just make sure your ambition doesn’t lead to spending more money (or time), to bring your vision to life.

Timing is everything: Either buy your costumes early on or just before Halloween to find the best bargains. If you don’t mind having your options limited to whatever is left, then wait until the last minute for deals on the Halloween items retailers want to move. The BEST time to buy costumes and decorations is actually AFTER Halloween. Hitting the stores November 1 will land you savings of anywhere from 50% to 75% off – perfect for next year!

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com

 

11 Ways You Can Save On Your Wedding Day

If you’ve ever hosted a wedding of your own or attended a wedding, you definitely know how much it can potentially cost. From venues to flowers to photography, the expenses add up quickly. And considering that it’s actually only one day of your life, the cost of a wedding can be very daunting.

While weddings can get really expensive, there are ways to cut back without sacrificing the experience for you or your guests. Being strategic about how you stick to your budget can significantly impact your costs in a good way. Here are 11 tips to help you save on your wedding day:

Venue

1. Date: Flexibility is key when you choose the big day. Wedding season typically runs from May through October, with some venues extending peak season to November. Pricing for peak season is substantially more expensive – as much as 50% for some venues. Having your wedding outside of these months, particularly the winter, will save you quite a bit. Also, be sure to ask about July and August. Some venues will consider this off-peak because many couples prefer not to get married in the heat of summer. If you’re having your ceremony and reception indoors where there is air conditioning, outside heat won’t really matter.

You should also consider a Friday or Sunday wedding, instead of a Saturday. Many couples are also opting for weekday weddings as well, particularly a Thursday, if many of their guests are taking time off and flying to the destination anyway. Lastly, Saturday brunch weddings are becoming more and more popular. Afterwards, the bride and groom can take the after-party elsewhere while the night is still young.

2. Location: Location is also a big one. The cost of a venue can be astronomical in big metropolitan cities, but you can save a lot if you move the wedding just a few miles out of the city. This could be a great option if there is public transportation available or most of your guests are driving.

3. Guest List: Lastly, if you can’t do anything about the date or location, it’s time to cut the guest list. Think carefully about who you really want to be spending your big day with you.

Food and Drink

4. Bar: The bar is arguably the most important part of your wedding, but also one of the most expensive options. You can cut down on liquor costs by only serving a select few beverages. Many couples are also opting for beer and wine only or a cash bar these days, as mixing unlimited alcohol can get expensive and can potentially make some guests a bit too rowdy.

5. Cocktail hour & Reception: Many couples overdo it with the amount of food available at the cocktail hour and reception. You can have your cocktail hour serve only a few hor d’oeuvres, and your reception two courses instead of three (or cut down on your meal selection options – give your guests two choices instead of four). Your guests won’t even notice, and you could potentially save big bucks.

6. Cake: A cake is definitely a symbolic part of your wedding, but not everyone cares for it (or maybe they are too full to eat it after cocktail hour and dinner). To save, you can choose a smaller cake and have other desserts for your guests. Many couples are also going for cupcake towers instead, which are fun and much less costly. If you must have a large cake, minimize the decorations to save yourself some money.

Invitations and Decorations

7. Flowers: It’s crazy how much fresh flowers can cost, especially when vendors seem to automatically double the price when they know it’s for a wedding. Replace flowers with other decorations like candles or framed pictures. Also, look for flowers that are in season and limit yourself to two different types to save even more.

8. Favors: The best way to save on favors is to DIY. Gather the bridesmaids (and even groomsmen), to put together small treats for your guests. Candy is the easiest. It’s simple and something your guests will enjoy.

9. Invitations: Invitations and programs from a printer can cost several dollars each. Consider printing them yourself on nice cardstock if possible. Some couples are also going digital these days and sending invites via email.

Photography and Entertainment

10. Photography & Videography: You definitely want to remember your big day with photography and videography, but these services aren’t cheap. However, most photographers and videographers will work with you to find a package that fits your budget, so don’t hesitate to ask. Many will also give you a nice discount if you book your engagement photos, wedding photos, and videography together. Don’t be afraid to negotiate!

11. Band: Bands can really take your wedding atmosphere up a notch, but they also cost considerably more than a DJ. If you really want a band, consider looking locally. Many local up and comers would love the exposure and won’t charge as much as a typical wedding band.

Lastly, don’t forget to have fun. Planning a wedding can be overwhelming and stressful – but it’s your big day! Take the time to enjoy your first day as a married couple.

Getting married in the Monmouth or Ocean County NJ area? Apply for a Financial Helper Wedding Loan from First Financial. We’ll help you cover the expense of your big day with a low interest rate!*

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Rates are subject to change. Maximum loan is $25K and maximum term is 60 months. Not all applicants qualify, subject to credit approval. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a loan, 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. See credit union for details. Federally insured by NCUA.

Article Source: Connie Mei for moneyning.com

Are You Smart About Smartphone Financial Security?

All of us are creatures of convenience, and that extends to our finances. It’s not enough to access online banking, budgeting tools, and retailer websites from home — we want them on our mobile devices, too. But, just as browsing the web from home can expose our finances to ever-evolving cyber threats, using mobile apps can too. Though personal devices may seem more secure than a public computer, hackers can still find ways to get into our phones and steal sensitive financial information.

Are you smart about smartphone financial security? If not, following these tips is a good place to start.

1. Use Those Optional Security Measures Like Touch ID

Are you someone who’s been stubborn about setting up a passcode or Touch ID to open your phone? It’s a little less convenient, but the extra step is also the first line of defense for your personal information.

2. Add Extra Security Measures to Financial Apps

Besides your smartphone’s overall security, it’s important to protect access to financial information on your phone housed in banking account apps, account linked financial management apps, and digital wallets. Setting up additional features like passcodes (or Touch ID) for each financial app provides another line of defense if your phone is lost or hacked. As with all personal accounts, choose unique passwords, update them regularly, and keep them in a secure location (a.k.a., not in your phone!).

Some smartphones also allow you to at least partially block Internet access and ad tracking mechanisms on a per-app basis to protect your information from outside threats.

3. Know Your Smartphone’s Vulnerabilities

Whenever there’s a major data breach, tech companies inform the public of who could have been affected where, when, and how. There’s similar information available on which smartphone operating systems, browsers, and other tools have been (or could be) vulnerable to various types of cyber threats and attacks. You don’t have to be super tech-savvy to search for your phone’s systems and look at the risk scale and number of vulnerabilities. You can also check out consumer-focused technology blogs and news sites.

4. If You’re in the Market for a New Smartphone, Consider Security Features

The older your phone is, the less security features it’s likely to have and the more vulnerable it is to hackers. If you’re already due for a new smartphone, make security a priority. Some features will be standard, but smartphone security differs widely based on model and operating system (OS). Check for reviews and explanation of security features, and choose the level of security that best fits the way you use your smartphone.

A simple (and free) thing you can do in between upgrades is to promptly install any system updates. Some of them are just for new features or speed, but others could be correcting security vulnerabilities.

If at any time you feel any of your First Financial accounts may have been compromised due to a smartphone or online vulnerability, 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: Jessica Sommerfield for Moneyning.com

How Much Should You Tip?

Tipping. Conversation about the topic can spark lengthy debates with opinions ranging from staunch support to extreme opposition. Some consumers appreciate the opportunity to reward the service industry for a job well done. Others feel the practice places an unfair expectation on the patron, inflates the overall cost of goods or services, and leads to increased employee turnover.

Historically, the American tipping model allows wait staff at upscale restaurants to earn a comfortable living, but those working at smaller establishments often struggle to make a livable wage. The wide disparity in earning potential stems from a 1966 law that established a federal minimum wage for tipped employees. The current minimum wage for tipped employees? $2.13 an hour. If that figure sounds shocking, consider the fact that it hasn’t changed since 1991.

Should the federal minimum wage for tipped employees be raised? Perhaps. There are advocates on both sides of the issue. Are there alternate ways to create a more equitable earning system? Absolutely. Tipping is standard practice in restaurants across the country, but the service industry extends beyond the dining room walls. And while 15-20% seems to be the going rate for a restaurant tip, you may be wondering how much to tip in other areas.

Here are a few general rules, courtesy of DealNews, to help you tip with confidence:

Waiter/Waitress: 15-20% minimum
Tipping Tip: We’ve already covered this one, but here’s an additional reminder – if you use a coupon or discount promotion, be sure to tip on the original price, not the discounted total.

Food Delivery Driver: 10% (or $2 minimum)

Tipping Tip: If you live far away from the restaurant (20-30 minutes), consider adding a few dollars extra to help the driver cover the additional gas expense.

Hairstylist/Barber: 10-15% for standard service, 15-20% for exceptional service

Tipping Tip: It’s hard enough to find a hairstylist you like. When you finally do, tipping them well can not only show your appreciation –  but help establish a great relationship going forward.

Tattoo Artist: 10-20%

Tipping Tip: Like most purchases, this one can vary based on the size and detail of the tattoo you choose. As for the exact amount, if you’re pleased with the artist’s work and you have any thoughts of becoming a return customer, the goodwill you build with a solid tip is well worth it.

Bartender: $1 per drink or 15% of the bill

Tipping Tip: You can take a wait-and-see approach by tipping when you close out your tab, or you can increase your odds of getting good service by tipping ahead of time.

Car Wash Attendant: $2-3 for a basic wipe down, $5-10 for more extensive washes

Tipping Tip: If you’re going to spend money on a quality car wash, investing a few extra dollars in a tip will help you ensure your attendant pays attention to the little details that make your car shine like it should.

Uber/Lyft Driver: $2-3 for a standard trip, $5-6 for extended trips

Tipping Tip: Along with lowering their fares, most ridesharing apps have added a tip option. This should save you from navigating from the whole “So sorry…I don’t have any cash on me” conversation.

If you find yourself in a situation other than those listed above, and you’re unsure about the standard tipping rate, it’s usually safe to assume that 18% of your total bill is a quality tip. It may not qualify you as a high roller, but you certainly won’t have to deal with dirty looks on your way out either.

3 Free Apps That Cook Up Savings

At some point, we all get tired of our go-to meals. For a family, going out to eat (or ordering in), two to three times a week can really add up.

In 2017, according to restaurant industry analyst firms Acosta and Technomic, 51.8% of U.S. food spending went toward eating out. The average amount spent on food prepared outside the home kitchen per month totaled $144. Millennials tended to spend more ($202 a month), with 42% of their total monthly food budget allocated to eating out.

Who doesn’t enjoy someone else doing the cooking and the easy clean-up? Our wallets, that’s who.

Still, gazing into your refrigerator and pantry, trying to figure out a new spin on the same old chicken, can be a real struggle.

Check out the following three free recipe apps:

SideChef: There are step-by-step voice instructions! No going back to check the next step. There are also many recipes to choose from, as well as fun food facts and videos.

Tasty: This app will help anyone believe cooking is easy and they can make anything. The short videos are fun and easy to duplicate. You can even get recipe recommendations based on the time of day, day of the week, and major holidays.

Yummly: It’s easy to tailor searches based on your specific needs whether dealing with food allergies, vegetarian dishes or kid-friendly meals. The app learns your likes and dislikes over time and it shows in the recipe recommendations.

Happy cooking (and saving money at the same time)!

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com