The Pros and Cons of Store Credit Cards

We’ve all approached a register to complete a purchase and were asked if we’d be interested in applying for a store credit card. And with the holiday shopping season about to get in full swing, chances are – you are going to be asked more than usual. There are pros and cons to having a store credit account, so make sure you take a good look before you open one.

Pro: They are easier to get

Application requirements for store credit cards are generally less strict than regular credit cards, so chances are you’re more than likely to get approved. If you’re looking to get a card from a store you often visit, this should make you happy and save you some money (provided you don’t rack up a balance).

Con: They carry higher interest rates

The average store credit card is 8-10 points higher in interest than regular credit cards. This may not be a big deal if you’re only using the card sparingly, but a few big purchases that aren’t paid off completely by month end could come back to haunt you.

Pro: They help you build credit

If you’re young and haven’t had a chance to build any credit, a store credit card could be very helpful. It’s easier to be approved for one so you wouldn’t need much credit history to qualify. A purchase or two a month will put you on the road to good credit too. Just make sure you pay the card off each month.

Con: Their use is limited

Some store credit cards may allow you to use them at sister companies, but for the most part, you’ll only use them in the store that issues them. That might be fine if it’s a store like Target or another retailer that you often visit, but overall it won’t be a very versatile card.

Pro: They provide in-store rewards

A lot of cards will reward the user with discounts and promotions which can provide great value. Free shipping for instance, is a perk that is appreciated. Just be sure these benefits don’t cause you to overspend either!

First Financial’s Visa Credit Cards offer benefits that include higher credit lines, lower APRs, no annual fees, no balance transfer fees, a 10-day grace period, rewards (cash back or on travel & retailer gift cards), an EMV security chip, and more!* And they can be used anywhere Visa is accepted.

 Click here to learn about our credit card options and apply online today.

 *APR varies 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. No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight

4 Ways to Quickly Raise Your Credit Score

1. Don’t miss a payment.

This is the number one thing that credit bureaus look at when determining your credit score. Your payment history makes up 35% of your FICO score. If you have trouble remembering to pay your credit card on time, set a reminder on your phone or automatically schedule your payment to be deducted from your account on the same day each month.

2. Pay as often as you can.

Going a step further, pay on your debt as often as you can. Just because your payment isn’t due for 3 weeks, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go ahead and make a payment. You don’t know when your credit card company reports your balance to the credit bureaus, so try to keep your balance as low as possible.

3. Reduce your debt.

Even if you’re making regular payments on your credit card, the goal is to get it paid off. If you’re keeping a balance from month to month, you’re getting charged more interest than you should be. Try and pay off your balance each month, but if that’s not possible, keep your balance as low as you can and your credit utilization under 30%.

4. See if you can increase your credit limit.

This is more of a trick than a solution, but it can work for you. If you’ve used $950 on a $1,000 limit, try calling your credit card company and getting that limit raised to $2,000. Then you’ve got a card that’s only 50% utilized as opposed to one that’s nearly maxed out. It doesn’t hurt to at least ask!

Learn about managing your credit and reducing debt with our guide.

Article source: John Pettit for CUinsight.com

 

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 Things to Consider Before Signing Up for a Store Credit Card

Many times, you’re at a store paying for your items when the cashier asks, “would you like to save 20% off your purchase today by signing up for our credit card?” Sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it? You’re inclined to say yes, fill out the easy application and have the instant gratification of saving on things you were willing to pay full price for. Is it too good to be true though?

Retail stores have been tempting customers for years to sign up for credit cards with discounts, free gifts, and special promotions. While it may seem like a no-brainer to sign up and get instant savings, there are longer term implications that can affect your finances for years to come.

Make sure you consider these five important things before signing up for a store credit card:

Your Credit Score May Be Impacted

Whenever you sign up for a credit card, especially one from a retail store, your credit report will most likely be pulled. While that doesn’t seem like a big deal, it might actually have a negative effect on your credit score. This is what is called a ‘hard pull’ which happens usually when a financial institution, like a credit card company, asks for your credit report. Hard pulls can decrease your credit score by a few points. While it is temporary and usually only stays on your credit report for about two years, it is something to consider, especially if you are applying for any bigger loans (like a vehicle or mortgage) in the near future.

Read and Fully Understand the Terms

When you’re signing up for a store credit card on the spot at checkout, you’re mostly likely not taking your time to read the fine print. But, make sure you fully read and understand the terms and conditions of your new card. Store credit cards are notorious for having very high interest rates and fees, so you should thoroughly consider the terms before signing your name on the dotted line. You don’t want to be stuck paying a high interest rate in the long run. If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

Consider the Sign-Up Bonus

The number one reason people apply for a store credit card is because of a special sign-up bonus. Often, stores will offer you a discount on your purchase that day or for a specified period of time. They might also give you free products and other perks. While it feels great to be able to save money instantaneously, you should really consider the sign-up bonus before you commit. While saving 15% on your purchase seems like a no-brainer, is it really that much of a bonus in the long run? In the grand scheme of things, sign-up bonuses are almost insignificant when compared against drawbacks, like interest rates and fees if you are carrying a balance on that store card.

Do Competitive Shopping

Consider your options before you sign up for a store credit card. Every store has different cards and policies and you want to make sure to pick the one that is right for you. If you’re really set on opening a store credit card, look first at the retailer where you spend the most money. You’ll probably get the most return if it has a good rewards and points program. Opening a card at a store you don’t really go to often probably won’t benefit you much. And of course, compare the terms and conditions between all cards.

Take Your Time to Make a Decision

Finally but most importantly, don’t make a spur of the moment decision. Stores will often reel you in with an engaging sales pitch at the register and many customers feel almost pressured into making a decision right then and there. If you’re interested in signing up, ask how long their current promotions and sign-up bonuses are valid for. Also ask for an application to take home for when you’re ready. Many companies will also allow you to apply online. This way, you can take your time to read the fine print and make a decision that is right for you (and your credit).

Store credit cards are very enticing, but they aren’t for everyone. Make sure you understand all the ins and outs of the card before you sign up. Otherwise, you can really do some damage to your credit score and debt levels. Choose wisely!

First Financial’s Visa Credit Cards offer benefits that include higher credit lines, lower APRs, no annual fees, no balance transfer fees, a 10-day grace period, rewards (cash back or on travel & retailer gift cards), an EMV security chip, and more!*

Click here to learn about our credit card options and apply online today.

 *APR varies 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. No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com

3 Reasons Not to Pay Off Your Credit Cards Too Fast

When it comes to getting rid of debt, it seems like the best option is to pay it off as quickly as possible. This is especially true of credit card debt. It’s high interest, so you should just pay off what you can, as quickly as you can, right? Not so fast.

It’s actually possible to pay off your credit cards too fast. Wait, what?! Here are three reasons to take a step back and evaluate whether or not you should pay off your credit cards immediately.

1. You Don’t Want to Completely Drain Your Emergency Fund

If you have a chunk of change in your emergency fund, it might be tempting to just take the lump sum and pay off your debt.

The problem with this though, is that you open yourself to financial vulnerability if an emergency crops up. You might have to turn to your newly-paid-off credit card. When that happens, you wind up back in debt, and you’ve got no emergency fund on top of it.

There’s a reason financial experts suggest you keep at least $1,000 in an emergency fund before you start paying off debt. That way, if something happens, you can cover it without going further into debt. Don’t deplete your emergency fund in an effort to get rid of debt right now.

2. Watch Out for Cutting into Your Regular Expenses

You feel rich on payday. You feel like you can put $500 toward debt, and it makes sense. Pay it off faster and win right?

Unfortunately, you might not actually have $500 to put toward that debt. What about your regular expenses, like groceries and insurance premiums? Have you looked ahead to the bills you will need to pay in two or three weeks?

Your debt payment needs to be based on your budget and grounded in the reality of your regular monthly expenses. If you aren’t looking at all your monthly expenses, and just throwing money at your credit cards without a plan, there’s a good chance that you will need to turn to those credit cards in order to get through the rest of the month.

That means you take a step back for every step forward. Instead of getting excited and putting a large amount toward debt when you get paid, make it a point to map out your budget. Look at your income and expenses. Then make a debt payment plan that calls for an extra debt payment based on the money you have available.

3. Don’t Put Your Future at Risk

Finally, it can be tempting to take a loan out from your retirement account in order to pay off your debt more quickly. However, that can be a bad idea as well. Even though you are “paying yourself interest” on the loan, the reality is that you can’t replace the time the money is out of the market.

Another potentially dire consequence is that you could suddenly end up needing to pay the whole retirement account loan back at once. For instance, the entire loan comes due within a few months if you lose your job. The amount becomes an early withdrawal if you can’t pay it back — subjecting it to penalty and taxes. That could put you in an even worse position.

Just because it seems like you should pay off your credit card debt quickly, doesn’t mean that you should be so extreme that you put your overall finances at greater risk. If you are looking to pay off your credit card debt, ensure you have a budget and financial plan in place so that your daily expenses and emergency fund are covered first.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for moneyning.com

Traveling with Your Credit Card: Safety Precautions to Consider

It’s summer, which means that many of us are packing up our bags and heading for the hills (or the beach, or the museums). The last thing you want to worry about is your credit card.

Unfortunately, all too many of us face hassles with credit card security while traveling — especially during trips abroad. These problems can range from the annoying to the devastating, but most of them are very preventable. Here’s how to have a worry-free vacation.

Pre-departure Preparations

You wouldn’t leave home without booking your flight or packing your bag, and credit card security is just as important. Make sure to add a few credit card specific tasks to your pre-departure list.

  • Call your card issuer to notify them of your travel plans.

Many credit card issuers have built-in fraud protection that could shut down your card if it’s used outside of your normal purchase pattern. The last thing you want is to have your card denied at that fabulous Italian bistro, so give your card issuer a heads up.

  • Do some research regarding foreign transaction fees.

If you carry multiple credit cards, you should know that there might be a wide variation between your cards when it comes to foreign transaction fees. Call your card issuers or do some digging online to compare fees.

  • Learn how to contact your credit card issuer while abroad.

Toll-free numbers don’t typically work abroad, so you’ll need a different way to contact your credit card issuer if you encounter problems during your travels. Some cards have international numbers printed right on the back. If yours doesn’t, call them up before you leave and ask them what number to use. Write down this number and keep it with your travel documents.

  • Make copies of the front and back of your credit cards.

This is one step that’s frequently overlooked, but if your cards are stolen, having photocopies can be very helpful. Many travelers also do this for passports.

  • Make sure your card will be accepted abroad.

Not all cards are taken around the world. Consider getting an EMV chip card (if yours doesn’t already have this feature), which is more widely accepted abroad – especially in Europe.

EMV Chip Cards

EMV security chip cards are fairly new to the U.S. market, but they have become the go-to standard in other countries. These cards feature embedded microchips that can hold a large volume of dynamic data. They also require entry of a pin in order to complete a transaction, and that means that a thief who simply has your card number can’t use your card.

If you bring an American swipe card abroad, expect it to be rejected at several common locations, including:

  • Gas stations
  • Parking meters
  • Many merchants and retailers
  • Destinations in Europe other than major cities

Handling Your Credit Card While Abroad

So you’ve taken all the precautions before boarding the plane: what about when you’ve reached your destination? There are several steps you can take to avoid fraud, theft, and unnecessary trouble abroad.

  • Avoid use of your credit card in less-than-secure situations.

The street vendor may have a lovely smile and even better food for sale, but this probably isn’t the best place to pull out your credit card.

  • Have your travel companion carry a different card as a back-up.

Even if you plan on relying primarily on one card, it’s not a bad idea to have a back-up along — and to have it carried by someone else. That way, if your wallet or money carrier is lost or stolen, you aren’t completely out of luck.

  • Keep your credit card in sight.

Try to hand your credit card directly to the person who will be processing the transaction. You’ll want to avoid situations where someone takes your card out of sight to process a transaction, because that scenario makes it easy for them to steal your information.

  • Be cautious with ATMs.

ATM fees can be extremely steep for international transactions. In addition, many foreign ATMs (especially outside of western Europe) are not as secure as we may expect from our U.S. counterparts. If you are traveling abroad and you must use an ATM, choose one that is attached to a legitimate business (preferably a bank).

  • Carry cash or travelers checks as back-up.

Try to carry enough local currency or traveler’s checks to get by each day (but not so much that you’re a ripe target for muggers). Credit cards are convenient, but if yours is declined or stolen and you don’t have an alternative method of payment available, you won’t think it’s very convenient. Look into getting a discreet carrying pouch specifically designed for passports and money, which is much more secure than a wallet or purse.

  • Document everything.

Keep receipts of all purchases in case mysterious charges are added to your account later. Keeping receipts also helps with expense tracking, so you can stay on budget.

The Bottom Line

This list may have left you a little uneasy. Don’t worry — you’ve already taken the first step by informing yourself. Credit cards are usually part of the solution — not the problem, when you’re traveling abroad. All you have to do is take proper precautions and exercise a bit of due diligence. Just think about how much more relaxing that well-deserved vacation will be, knowing that you don’t have to spend a moment worrying about your credit cards.

Bon Voyage!

Article Source: Ellen Gans for thesimpledollar.com