Is a Rewards Credit Card Right for You?

Believe it or not, there isn’t a “one size fits all” credit card rewards program. For every card on the market, it seems like there are hundreds of different ways to earn rewards.

With all the options, the research can be overwhelming and you might not know where to start. Have no fear, because we’ve come up with a few ways you can choose the right credit card rewards program for you!

Is a rewards card right for you?

That’s the first question you need to ask yourself. A rewards card isn’t right for everyone. Here’s a handy checklist to help you decide whether or not a rewards credit card is a good fit for you:

  • You have a good credit score. Most card issuers are looking for consumers who have a FICO score of at least 670. Of course, a higher credit score will help you get a lower interest rate, but a that mid-600 range will get your foot in the door. FYI, the higher your credit score, the more lucrative rewards programs you’ll most likely have access to.
  • You can pay off your balance every month. Rewards cards sometimes have a higher-than-average interest rate. When you carry your balance over each month, you could end up paying more in interest charges than you earn in rewards.
  • You can maximize the value of your rewards. A rewards card can cost you money if you don’t maximize your reward-earning potential. If you don’t earn enough points, you can actually lose money if your card has an annual fee.

Now that you’ve determined if you could benefit from a rewards card, let’s talk about choosing the card with the program that best suits your lifestyle and spending habits.

Choosing the right card.

There are three main things to consider when choosing a card: your spending habits, personal preferences, and your credit score. If you don’t look at your spending habits and personal preferences, you could end up spending a lot of money and racking up rewards that aren’t right for you.

Let’s say you have a large family and your primary expenses are groceries and gas. It would make sense for you to have a credit card that offers bonus rewards on those types of purchases. But, if you’re single, have a small grocery budget or don’t have a car, those rewards wouldn’t make sense for you.

Use your cards for everything.

The more you use your card, the more rewards points you’ll earn. But, don’t let that be an invitation to start spending money on things you don’t need. Instead, use your credit card in place of cash or your debit card whenever possible.

Start looking for everyday situations where you can use your credit card instead of another payment method – gas, groceries, food, etc. But, always make sure you only spend what you can pay off every month.

What if a rewards card isn’t for you?

Rewards cards aren’t for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe your credit score isn’t in the right range for a rewards card at the present time, or maybe you’re not interested in using your card to gain rewards. Maybe you’re just looking for a credit card for emergencies only.

Whichever the case, we can help! First Financial has three great credit card options, lower APRs, no balance transfer fees, and no annual fee.* 

 Let us help you find the right card for you! Check out our website, stop by and talk to us or give us a call so we can answer any questions you may have. Or if you like what you see, you can apply online 24/7!

 *APR varies up to 18% 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.

The Pros and Cons of Having Multiple Credit Cards

Credit cards. You were probably pretty excited when you got your first one, and if you weren’t cautious with it, that excitement probably faded pretty quickly. But there’s no denying that a credit card can be a valuable tool. So how many should you have? Here are some pros and cons to having more than one credit card.

PRO – It can be great for your credit score: When credit bureaus determine your credit score they look at your debt utilization ratio (percentage of your available credit that’s in use). If you’ve got one credit card with a $5,000 limit, and you’ve spent $4,000 on it, then your debt utilization ratio is 80%. If you get a second credit card with a $5,000 limit and keep a zero balance, your debt utilization ratio is now 40%. Your credit score will thank you.

CON – It can be damaging to your credit score: While a larger debt utilization ratio might be good for your credit score, the act of opening the account can be damaging. Anytime you open a new line of credit, your credit score can take a small hit. Just make sure not to open two new accounts in a short period of time.

PRO – Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket: Occasionally you might have trouble with a card, and it’s always great to have a back-up. Let’s say you’re traveling and your card is lost or stolen. Having a second card stowed away somewhere will really come in handy.

CON – Large amounts of debt: If you’re not very good at keeping your spending in check, having multiple credit cards can potentially be a huge disaster. If you’re lacking self-control when it comes to credit cards, the less you have – the better.

If you’d like more insight into your credit score and managing your credit – view our credit and debt management guide here.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

 

Credit Card Regret: It’s More Common Than You Think

“Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention.” – Frank Sinatra

If you’re the kind of person who prefers to play it safe, there’s a good chance that, like Ol’ Blue Eyes, your list of regrets is mercifully short. But if you’re the adventurous type who’s more likely to yell “YOLO!” than take the time to consider the pros and cons, you may have made more unfortunate decisions than you care to admit. And if we’re being honest, some of them are probably related to finances.

Going into credit card debt is one of the most common financial regrets. According to a recent NerdWallet survey, “About 6 in 7 Americans (86%) who have credit card debt say they regret it.” With numbers that high, it’s safe to assume most of us would make different credit decisions if given a chance.

Common Reasons for Credit Card Regret

If you’ve ever opened a new credit card account and felt that distinctive twinge that tells you it was a bad decision, there’s a pretty good chance you filled out that credit application for the wrong reason. Bad reasons come in a variety of forms. Here are a few of the most common:

You wanted that sign-up swag. T-shirts. Koozies. Collapsible drink coolers. It doesn’t matter what it is, we all love free stuff. Credit card companies know this. Sure, free t-shirts are cool, but are they really worth opening a credit card that will charge you 26% interest on your purchases?

You can’t resist that one time discount.

“Would you like to save 25% on today’s purchase by applying for a store credit card?” If you’ve ever shopped at a retail store, there’s a good chance you’ve heard this sales pitch at the checkout register. If you took advantage of the offer and suddenly wished you hadn’t, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey, almost 75% of Americans have at least one store credit card. Not surprisingly, nearly half of them regret it.

You’re in a financial pinch.
When your checking account is running low, it can be incredibly tempting to sign up for a credit card just to get some temporary relief. However, credit cards don’t remedy poor financial habits, they tend to make them worse. If you’ve ever signed up for a new credit card “just to cover things until payday,” this regret may feel all too familiar.

OK, you signed up for a credit card and regretted it. Now what?
Before we go any further, it’s important to remember one thing: Just because you have a credit card doesn’t mean you have to use it. Even if your regrettable card carries a 26% interest rate, 26% of $0.00 is still $0.00. However, if you’re worried you won’t be able to resist using your card, you might be tempted to close your account immediately. This could certainly help you avoid charges you can’t afford to repay, but there may be a better approach.

Available credit and length of credit history are two of the main components of your credit score. Having an open, active account you don’t use could actually help you. If you were given a $1,000 credit line with your new card and you don’t make any purchases, you have $1,000 of available credit. If you close the account, you have no available credit. In this case, maintaining the credit line may be beneficial for your credit rating.

As for the length of credit history, that part’s fairly self-explanatory. The longer you maintain a satisfactory account, the more favorably it reflects in your credit score. With this in mind, you might be better off just removing the card from your wallet instead of closing the account altogether.

Good credit is one of the building blocks of your overall financial health. If you live, work, worship, attend school, or volunteer in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey and you’re trying to find financing options that are right for you, contact First Financial to make an appointment with a representative. We can help you review your financial situation and recommend the best products and programs for your needs. We are happy to help with managing your credit — and finances in general, with no regrets!

5 Ways to Keep Your Credit Card from Sabotaging Your Finances

Understand the terms of the card.

You shouldn’t apply for a credit card without reading the terms. Evaluate the card based on the fees, interest rates, and possible rewards. The many cards available each fit different consumers. You have a lot of options and choosing the wrong card could threaten your financial health.

Pay in full.

Making only the minimum payment each month increases the amount of time it will take to pay off your debt. That increase in time allows the interest rate to add on to your debt. Always make sure to pay off as much of your balance as you can each month.

Don’t use your card on everyday purchases.

Using you credit card as a substitute for cash is a bad habit that can easily lead you down a path to debt. When you buy food, clothes, or gas, try to use cash or your debit card so you won’t overspend.

Don’t go over your limit.

If you’re getting close to your limit, clearly you are spending too much. The last thing you can afford to do is go over that limit and incur the additional fees that come with it. These situations are avoidable by responsibly monitoring your spending.

Understand how it effects your credit score.

Ideally you should be paying off your debt every month. If you are unable to do that, you have to make sure that you are paying off at least the minimum (but preferably more than the minimum). This will not damage your credit score, but it will not improve it either. If you miss a payment you can do major damage to your credit score. If you look untrustworthy to creditors it’s not beyond reason that the credit card company would lower your limit. It is a vicious cycle that can be easily avoided by paying in full each month.

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.

*APR varies up to 18% 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: Tyler Atwell for CUInsight.com

 

5 Things You Should Never Put on a Credit Card

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Credit cards can seem convenient and actually benefit your finances when used correctly. However, there are times when it’s best to avoid using a credit card as it can contribute to debt. And, there are some things you should never put on a credit card. It’s not uncommon for the average American household to have several thousands of dollars worth of revolving credit card debt to deal with, which can be crippling to overcome. Credit card interest rates are pretty high and are why you should only use your credit card to pay for affordable purchases that you can pay off in full each month. To avoid the pitfalls of debt, here are 5 things you should never put on a credit card.

1. A Down Payment

If you are financing something and putting money down, it’s best to use your own cash instead of a credit card. Financing a big purchase like a vehicle is already creating debt that you have to pay back plus interest anyway. Financing the actual down payment too with your credit card could just create additional debt after the loan. Plus, it may be a key indicator that you can’t afford the item you are trying to finance.

While a lot of places won’t accept credit card payments due to the high fee the card company charges to process the transaction, some may allow it and there may be the option to utilize a cash advance through your credit card company. Even if the option is available, it’s almost always not worth it in the end. Instead, plan to save up over time to pay for large purchases in cash, or save up at least 20 percent of the total purchase price to put down as a down payment if you choose to finance.

2. Medical Bills

Paying off medical debt with a credit card is not usually a good choice. Credit cards are attached to daily or monthly interest rates while most medical debt is not. If you feel overwhelmed by your medical debt, you can try to consolidate it or work out a payment plan with your health care provider’s accounting department to avoid having your account go to collections.

As long as you are willing to pay back your medical debt, your provider should be flexible with establishing a monthly payment plan that you can afford. This way, you can pay off all your debt interest free without having to use a credit card.

3. College Tuition

Paying for college with credit cards it not a good alternative to taking out student loans. While your credit card may have a 0% intro APR offer for the first 12-14 months, if you don’t pay off the balance in full before that period is up, you will start paying interest on the balance. The interest rates for student loans is often lower than credit card interest rates, so charging the tuition for your college education on a credit card could actually cost you more money than taking out student loans would. Not to mention, maxing out your credit card or spending more than 30 percent of your total utilization could make your credit score decrease.

If you don’t qualify for government grants or federal or private student loans, you can always apply for scholarships, go to a local community college for your first two years of college and pay for tuition in cash with the help of a part-time job, or obtain a job with a company that will offer financial assistance for higher education. Companies like Starbucks and Best Buy offer to pay a portion of employees’ college tuition as long as they meet certain requirements.

4. A Vacation

With so many travel rewards credit cards out there, it’s important to remember that the golden rule of thumb is to only use a credit card to fund your vacation when you can pay the bill off in full at the end of your billing cycle.

Earning cash back and travel discounts and rewards for spending a certain amount of money on your credit card sounds great, but if you can’t afford to spend the money in the first place, the offer can do more harm than good. For example, how great would you feel if your week-long summer vacation left you with $5,000 in credit card debt but allowed you to earn a bonus of $500 for travel? You’d still be in quite a bit of debt which could spoil your entire travel experience.

Try opening up a high-yield savings account to save money for travel each month so you won’t have to go into debt just for a vacation.

First Financial offers a Summer Savings Account where you can put aside money to save for a vacation or general summer expenses. There are no minimum balance requirements and dividends are posted annually on balances of $100 or more. You can also elect to have either 50% transferred in July AND 50% transferred in August OR 100% transferred in July.* Click here to learn more about our Summer Savings Account today!

5. Your Dream Wedding

Again, a wedding is another life changing experience that you shouldn’t charge to your credit card if you know you won’t be able to handle paying the bill. Starting your new marriage off with debt will not feel good and will delay your family’s financial progress.

If you are planning a wedding and your budget is tight, consider lowering your wedding expenses by cutting corners, starting with non-necessities or traditions that aren’t important to you. Some couples have their wedding during the off season and on an unpopular day to save money while others go so far as to cut their guest list down or doing away with extra elements like flowers or a D.J.

Ultimately, when you focus on planning a wedding that reflects your vision, your budget, and what you value, you probably won’t have to pick up your credit card to charge pricey expenses at all.

Use Your Credit Cards Wisely

If you’re going to use a credit card regularly, it’s important to know your limits and use the card wisely. Make sure your spending is not exceeding 30 percent of your utilization each month and you’re making purchases for items you actually need and can pay for, not things that you will regret later.

First Financial’s Visa® Platinum Credit Card comes fully loaded with higher credit lines, lower APR, no annual fee, no balance transfer fees, 10 day grace period, CURewards redeemable for merchandise and travel and so much more!** 

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. Account-holder will elect to have either 50% of the funds transferred in July and 50% transferred in August OR 100% transferred in July. All Summer Savings funds are deposited into a First Financial Checking or Base Savings 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 program. Visit firstffcu.com to view full Rewards First program details, and to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

**APR varies up 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.

Original article source courtesy of Chonce Maddox of Lending Tree.

Millennials: How You Can Avoid Credit Pain

bigstock-Young-Business-Man-Under-Stres-89718578-e1446206462272Millennials think they know a lot about credit. But the numbers tell a different story.

More than 7 in 10 millennials said they feel confident about their credit knowledge, according to a recent survey by Experian. If fact, millennials on average estimated they had a score of 654. But it turns out that for many 18-to-34-year-olds, even that was an overestimation. And millennials are less likely to check their credit reports, Experian said.

Here’s how it works: Thirty-five percent of your credit score is determined by your payment history, or whether you have made payments on time, 30% is your credit utilization, or the amount borrowed compared to the total credit available, 15% is determined by the length of your credit history, 10% comes from the number of applications for new credit and 10% is from the types of credit you have (i.e. revolving, installment, mortgage etc.).

Generally, credit companies prefer a mix of credit because the variety suggests you know how to use credit responsibly. A combination of car and student loans along with some credit card use, for example, helps build up your credit score as long as you pay on time over an extended period.

Scores range from 300 to 850. If your score is above 750, you’re considered to have excellent credit, which paves the way to the lowest interest rates and a better chance of getting approved for loans. If your score is on the lower side, it can cost you — that means higher interest rates on everything from credit cards to auto loans.

Here’s the breakdown:

800+ = exceptional
740-799 = very good
670-739 = good
580-699 = fair
Below 580 = poor

Financial advisors warn that a bad score may even hurt your chances of getting a job. Employers have access to your score and can factor it in to their decisions. Your credit score is a reflection of you and if your credit is bad, it could inject some doubt about your ability to handle personal matters and business matters.

With a lower score – you may still get a loan, but you will likely have to put more money down as a down payment and pay a higher rate, which can be costly.

For example, having a score of 650 versus 760 can cost you $125 more a month on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage for a $200,000 loan, according to credit tracking firm CreditSesame.com. That’s $1,500 more a year, or $45,000 over the life of the loan.

You are entitled to a free report from the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) once every 12 months from annualcreditreport.com

Experts suggest checking your report regularly. Once a year is sufficient to get a gauge on your number, and check for any errors, like an incorrect payment status or delinquencies that have since been remedied.

Remember to keep an eye on the debt-to-limit ratio. What you borrow compared to the total credit available, also known as your debt utilization ratio, counts for a whopping 30% of your credit score. A debt utilization ratio greater than 30% will have a negative effect.

If you are borrowing too much, start a debt repayment plan to lower the ratio as much as possible.

Ideally, credit cards should be paid in full at the end of each payment period to avoid sky high interest. Paying in full each month also demonstrates that you are a responsible borrower. This will help build up good credit and save you money since the faster you pay down debt, the less interest you’ll pay.

Even if you don’t pay off all of your debt right away, make sure you are always paying on time. Set up automatic payments to avoid late payments. A missed payment will also hurt your score.

Ultimately, a credit score is one of the most important numbers you have. In the long run, a bad score could raise the cost of a car or home loan, increase you credit card interest from a single digit to double digits or even deny you credit entirely.

Not only does a good credit score save you money by lowering interest rates, it’s a reflection of you and your personal matters. So it is worth putting in the time to build up a good report. A credit score is one of the building blocks of your financial future and that has a big bearing on your entire life.

*Original article source written by Landon Dowdy of USA Today.