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

The 4 Fastest Ways to Pay Off Credit Card Debt

Customer in store struggling to remember PIN number

There are many reasons why most of us decide to sign up for a credit card. Whether it’s to help boost your credit score or as a means of purchasing a more expensive item that you plan to pay off in increments, credit cards can be a smart option for your finances. Unfortunately, they can also be very detrimental to your budget if not used wisely or paid off in a timely manner. If you’re feeling stressed about your card balances – keep your head up and remember you can work your way out of debt! Here are four fast tips for effectively paying off your credit cards.

Cut them up.

This may sound like an obvious solution, but it is an enormously effective one. Stop the behavior that has gotten you in trouble in the first place and put an end to making charges once and for all. Moving forward, plan to only make purchases you can pay for right away and begin the process of working your way out of the debt you’ve created.

Pinpoint the problem.

What is it that you’ve had to use your cards to purchase? Clarity is key when it comes to your personal finances. Are you living out of your means and making high end purchases that you simply cannot afford? Are you making poor financial choices like eating out too much that you can easily rectify? Sit down, look at your credit card statements, and alter your lifestyle accordingly.

Compare interest rates.

If you owe on multiple cards, go back and review each one’s interest rates. Many people automatically assume that the card with the highest balance is the one to work on first, but this is a mistake. The high interest rates are what will get you in the end, so concentrating on those cards will have a greater impact on your finances.

First Financial’s Visa Credit Cards come fully loaded with higher credit lines, lower APRs, no annual fees, no balance transfer fees, a 10 day grace period, rewards, and so much more!* Click here to learn about our cards and apply online today.

Get a side job.

Sometimes, if your debt is going to take a significant amount of time to control, it’s best to look into other sources of income. There are often easy ways to make money on the side to get a few extra dollars in your pocket.

*APR varies from 11.15% to 18% for the Visa Platinum Card and from 13.15% 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. 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: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

How to Protect Your Credit Card From a Data Breach

hackedEven if you’re not one of the 40 million Target shoppers whose credit or debit card information was stolen Nov. 27 to Dec. 15, 2013, you’ve most definitely heard of the data breach by now. With the list of hacked companies, websites and apps growing longer, it’s time to take a serious look at credit card security and what you can do to stay safe online. Let’s run through the basics of credit card companies’ fraud prevention methods, and what you can do to protect yourself.

How credit cards work:

Your credit card has a lot of information that can be used to verify its authenticity: an expiration date, a three-digit security number and your name. There’s also a magnetic strip on the back of the card that contains all of that information and more. When you swipe your credit card, the information on the magnetic strip gets transmitted to a third party, who then verifies with your financial institution that all your information is correct, and approves the transaction.

There are other authentication methods, such as checking your signature or asking to see an ID, but not every merchant takes these steps. Additionally, if you’re making an online purchase, you might be required to input the three-digit number called the card verification value, or CVV, as well as the card number and expiration date. Merchants aren’t permitted to store the CVV in their databases in an effort to keep that information away from hackers. Therefore, merchants ask you to enter your CVV to prove that you actually have the physical card.

What about the rest of the world?

America lags behind the rest of the world in terms of credit card security techniques. We use magnetic strips to hold our data, whereas other countries use EMV chips. These chips use a different (some say better) method of encrypting data. While magnetic strips have the same encryption method, the method for EMV chips varies, making them harder to hack. This has produced dramatic results on point-of-sale transactions. For example, the United Kingdom rolled out EMV technology in the 2000s and saw fraud rates drop by 63 percent between 2004 and 2010, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. The United States is moving closer to widespread EMV adoption, but for now, we’re still using our old magnetic strip cards.

How can I keep my data safe?

Here are a few ways to protect your credit card data beyond the encryption methods offered by merchants:

  • Make sure you sign the back of your credit card – if you don’t, your fraud liability might be higher.
  • When making online purchases from your computer or phone, make sure the web address starts with “https” instead of “http.” The “s” means the site is secure.
  • Use a personal finance service like Mint.com to instantly see which transactions have been made on which card.
  • Shred credit card statements and anything that has your credit card number or personal information on it.
  • Be wary of making online purchases on a public Wi-Fi connection – they’re easy to hack. If you find yourself using public Wi-Fi often, consider getting a VPN, which is more secure.

But don’t worry too much.

While credit card fraud is a hassle to deal with, your liability is limited. By law, you’ll never be on the hook for more than $50 if your credit card is stolen and the thief racks up charges. You’re also not liable for any purchases made after you report the card lost or stolen. In the wake of the Target data breach, it’s reassuring to know that you have no liability if your card information, rather than the card itself, is stolen. Finally, many credit cards offer zero-liability policies that provide better protection than the law requires.

If you ever fall victim to a Target-like data breach, call your financial institution right away to report the incident. Don’t panic, though – federal law gives you quite a bit of protection!

After the recent credit card data breaches, this is the perfect opportunity to enroll in First Financial’s ID Theft Protection Services. Our ID Theft Protection services can easily be obtained, there are options for setting up a credit score tracker, as well as a virtual vault to store your important documents and passwords online, and should an ID Theft incident ever occur – you’ve got an advocate on your side assisting you every step of the way. Ask us how to get started today by calling 866.750.0100 or emailing info@firstffcu.com!*

Article by Anisha Sekar of US News. Click here to view the article source.

*Identity Theft Insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informal purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

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My Kid’s Drowning in Credit Card Debt! What Do I Do?

consumerismIf you trusted your son or daughter to keep track of their finances, and they slipped up, what in the world are you supposed to do?

Let’s say they’ve racked up a big, nasty credit card debt — to the tune of thousands of dollars. Should you pay off their debts to help keep their credit score above water? Or is it better to let them learn from their mistakes and suffer the consequences? Though each individual situation is different, here are your options, what’s at stake, and a few pointers to help you plot your course of action.

A Personal Loan, With a Contract

If you have the means, think about whether or not you want to loan your child the money. Sometimes the debt is manageable enough that you can pay it off in the form of a personal loan to your child. You can even decide to charge them interest as well, so they learn just how much a high APR can cost them.

But you have to examine the situation from a lender’s perspective, rather than simply write a check and expect your child will make payments. What is the child’s employment situation? Will he or she be able to make payments to you without the security blanket of your relationship making them complacent? Has your child typically been a responsible spender in the past, or does he or she impulsively purchase on a grand scale regularly? If you do decide to help protect their credit history, it’s a smart idea to sign a contract with your child to make your agreement more official and binding.

If You Co-Signed, You’re on the Hook

If you co-signed on your child’s account, you’re responsible for their debt. Because of regulations passed in the CARD Act of 2009, it’s more difficult for young adults to qualify for credit cards, so more and more parents are co-signing on accounts and acting as guarantors for their children. If you’ve already taken that step, you should hopefully have realized that your child’s purchases will affect your credit, regardless of your involvement.

In this case, it may be more prudent to pay off the debt if you can, cancel the account, and work together to come up with a payment plan to rectify the situation and make sure it never happens again. If you haven’t co-signed yet, sit down for a serious conversation with your child on your values and financial responsibility.

Lessons to Be Learned?

Bad credit now will impact their financial future later, but so will bad habits. If your child doesn’t learn from his or her mistakes now, there could be bigger and more damaging mistakes ahead. Will bailing your child out of their financial mess with creditors make them realize the gravity of their mistake? Or will you just end up fostering their sense of dependence on you? You won’t always be there, wallet in hand to save them, so if they can manage to take the credit hit, perhaps it’s best to let them learn the lesson this time, and give them some tough love.

Communication Is Key

Loaning money to someone you love is always, always messy. While your child should intellectually know that your love is unconditional (which is why your help comes so willingly), it’s emotionally very difficult to face your parents when you owe them money. Plenty of relationships have been ruined by debts of personal loans, both from neglected payments and feelings of shame. Be sure that if you choose to help your child, you commit to maintaining an open dialogue and doing your best to keep business and family separate.

Ultimately, each family and financial situation is different. But before you make a plan to tackle your son or daughter’s debt, you need to examine the situation from all angles. There are many factors in play, but above all, your relationship and your child’s sense of responsibility from this learning experience should be at the forefront of your mind.

Click here to view the article source, from DailyFinance.com.

4 Tips to Help 20-Somethings Manage Their Debt

Debt can be a heavy burden on anyone, no matter what their age, but increasingly, young adults are starting out deeper in the hole. A recent report from credit-score provider FICO shows that student loan debt has climbed dramatically for those ages 18 to 29, with average debt rising by almost $5,000 from 2007 to 2012.

The good news, though, is that young adults are taking steps to get their overall debt under control, reducing their balances on credit cards and their debt levels for mortgages, auto loans, and other types of debt. With 16% of 18 to 29-year-olds having no credit cards, young adults are getting the message that managing debt early on is essential to overall financial health.

With the goal of managing debt levels firmly in mind, let’s take a look at four things you should do to manage your debt prudently and successfully.

1. Get a Handle On What You Owe.

In managing debt, the first challenge is figuring out all of what you owe. By pulling a free copy of your credit report you’ll get a list of loans and credit card accounts that major credit bureaus think you have outstanding, along with contact information to track down any unexpected creditors that might appear on the list.

Once you know what you owe, you also have to know the terms of each loan. By making a list of amounts due, monthly or minimum payment obligations, rates, and other fees, you can prioritize your debt and get the most onerous loans paid down first. Usually, that’ll involve getting your credit card debt zeroed out, along with any high rate debt like private student loans before turning to lower rate debt like mortgages and government subsidized student loans. With your list in hand, you’ll know where to concentrate any extra cash that you can put toward paying down debt ahead of schedule.

Debt in Focus is the perfect anonymous online tool for those who need financial help but might not be open about their current financial situation or do not have the time to go to face-to-face counseling. In just minutes, users will receive a thorough analysis of their financial situation by answering a few questions, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help control debt, build a budget, and start living the way you would like to.

2. Look for Ways to Establish a Strong Credit History.

Having too much debt is always a mistake, but going too far in the other direction can also hurt you financially. If you don’t use debt at all, then you run the risk of never building up a credit history, and that can make it much more difficult for you to get loans when you finally do want to borrow money. The better course is to use credit sparingly and wisely, perhaps with a credit card that you pay off every month and use only often enough to establish a payment record and solid credit score.

First Financial hosts free budgeting, credit management, and debt reduction seminars throughout the year, so be sure to check our online event calendar or subscribe to receive upcoming seminar alerts on your mobile phone by texting FFSeminar to 69302.*

3. Build Up Some Emergency Savings.

Diverting money away from paying down long term loans in order to create a rainy day emergency fund might sound counterintuitive in trying to manage your overall debt. But especially if your outstanding debt is of the relatively good variety — such as a low rate mortgage or government subsidized student loan debt — having an emergency fund is very useful in avoiding the need to put a surprise expense on a credit card. Once you have your credit cards paid down, keeping them paid off every month is the best way to handle debt, and an emergency fund will make it a lot easier to handle even substantial unanticipated costs without backsliding on your progress on the credit card front.

4. Get On a Budget.

Regardless of whether you have debt or how much you have, establishing a smart budget is the best way to keep your finances under control. By balancing your income against your expenses, you’ll know whether you have the flexibility to handle changes in spending patterns or whether you need to keep a firm grip on your spending. Moreover, budgeting will often reveal wasteful spending that will show you the best places to cut back on expenses, freeing up more money to put toward paying down debt and minimizing interest charges along the way.

Click here to view the article source, from The Daily Finance.

*Text message and data rates may apply.