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!** Click here to apply online today.

*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 rstffcu.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 from 11.15% 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.

A Simple Financial Checklist You Really Need

bigstock-Young-Businessman-Checking-Mar-72052462When it comes to your fiscal health, things may seem overwhelming. There are so many different responsibilities and goals you have to keep straight to be truly on the right track. If you are struggling with this, just like with other overwhelming aspects and times in life, it is sometimes best to pause and make a list. You can often check in on your progress more effectively when you have everything in a visual format. Check out some items that should be on your list.

1. Evaluate your budget.

Almost as important as creating a budget, evaluating your budget can help you assess whether your money is still going where you want and in the amounts you intended. It also gives you the chance to make any changes based on your dynamic needs and goals. It’s a good idea to continue tracking your spending and adjusting any categories on your budget that are consistently lower or higher than you had estimated. This can help make sure you are on track for monthly and annual goals.

2. Contribute to retirement funds.

One of the ways to make sure you are preparing for your long-term future is calculating how much money you will need in retirement. Then you can focus on a collaboration of employer-sponsored and individual retirement accounts to save toward that goal while still meeting other goals. If possible, it can be a good idea to talk with your company’s human resources department and adjust your retirement account contributions so you can qualify for the maximum match available.

Set up a no-cost consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your savings and retirement goals – contact us at 866.750.0100 or stop in to see us!*

3. Double down on debt.

Everything from your credit card debt to student loan payments can hang over your head and cause stress. It’s a good idea to create a plan to automate your debt repayments so you avoid late payments and don’t have the choice of paying them or not. It may be stressful, but it’s important to come to peace with your debt and feel comfortable with your debt-repayment plan. This can even include taking on freelance, part-time or odd jobs to make additional payments if necessary.

Check out our free, online debt management tool, Debt in Focus. Once completed, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

4. Work on your credit score.

Your credit score affects many financial decisions in your life from what interest rate you pay on a mortgage to whether you can rent an apartment. It’s important to regularly check your credit report, look for any mistakes, and work on some ways to improve your score. These include paying your bills on time, opening credit card accounts only as needed, paying off debts and keeping revolving credit low. You can check your credit scores every month on Credit.com to track your progress.

5. Update your insurance details.

From home, auto, and health all the way to life insurance, it’s a good idea to make sure your personal information is up to date and that you are getting the best deals possible. Some strategies you can employ include simply paying your premiums as due, asking your provider about reducing your rates, and making sure you have the coverage you need even as your life circumstances change.

6. Boost your emergency fund.

You may have heard this one before but it is a good idea to stash of three to nine months’ worth of expenses in an easily accessible place in case of a sudden rough patch. The exact amount you decide to tuck away to cover the emergencies will vary depending on things like job security, living expenses and streams of income.

It is important not only to be financially responsible, but also to make financial goals and work toward reaching them. Writing your goals and responsibilities down can help you be more accountable and make things easier to grasp.

*Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Original article source courtesy of AJ Smith of USA Today.

Free Credit Management and Debt Reduction Seminar this March 2015

excellent-credit-scoreAre you interested in improving your credit score, paying down debt, and saving money in order to get your finances on track? If so, allow the experts at First Financial to provide you with insightful information to help you manage your credit and debt in this free seminar.

Attending this seminar, you will learn:

  • What affects your credit score
  • What makes up your credit score and how to improve it
  • How to budget and cut spending
  • How to promptly pay off debt

This FREE Debt Management and Debt Reduction Seminar will begin at 6:00pm on Tuesday, March 15th at First Financial’s Neptune Branch. The seminar will teach attendees ways to keep their credit score where it should be in just a few simple steps. The seminar is located at 783 Wayside Road (Off Route 66) in Neptune. Register today, space is limited. 

Register Now!

A Simple Guide to Paying Off Lingering Debt

www.usnewsIf you find yourself collecting more and more debt while struggling to figure out how you will ever pay it all off, it might be time to develop a step-by-step strategy. Paying off debt starts with making a budget and continues with changing your habits and rewarding yourself for progress. A few contributors to the U.S. News My Money blog offer a guide to get rid of the debt that’s been following you around for too long:

1. Create a budget.

“The first step to solving your debt problem is to establish a budget,” says Money Crashers contributor David Bakke.​ You can use personal finance tools like Mint.com, or make your own Excel spreadsheet that includes your monthly income and expenses. Then scrutinize those budget categories to see where you can cut costs. “If you don’t scale back your spending, you’ll dig yourself into a deeper hole,” Bakke warns.

2. Pay off the most expensive debt first.

Sort your credit card interest rates from highest to lowest, then tackle the card with the highest rate first. “By paying off the balance with the highest interest first, you increase your payment on the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate while continuing to make the minimum payment on the rest of your credit cards,” says retail analyst Hitha Prabhakar.

3. Pay more than the minimum balance.

To make a dent in your debt, you need to pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card statements each month. “Paying the minimum – usually 2 to 3 percent of the outstanding balance – only prolongs a debt payoff strategy,” Prabhakar says. “Strengthen your commitment to pay everything off by making weekly, instead of monthly, payments.” Or if your minimum payment is $100, try doubling it and paying off $200 or more.

4. Take advantage of balance transfers.

If you have a high-interest card with a balance that you’re confident you can pay off in a few months, Trent Hamm, ​founder of TheSimpleDollar.com, recommends moving the debt to a card that offers a zero-interest balance transfer. “You’ll need to pay off the debt before the balance transfer expires, or else you’re often hit with a much higher interest rate,” he warns. “If you do it carefully, you can save hundreds on interest this way.”

5. Halt your credit card spending.

Want to stop accumulating debt? Remove all credit cards from your wallet, and leave them at home when you go shopping, advises WiseBread contributor Sabah Karimi.​ “Even if you earn cash back or other rewards with credit card purchases, stop spending with your credit cards until you have your finances under control,” she says.

6. Put work bonuses toward debt.

If you receive a job bonus around the holidays or during the year, allocate that money toward your debt payoff plan. “Avoid the temptation to spend that bonus on a vacation or other luxury purchase,” Karimi says. It’s more important to fix your financial situation than own the latest designer bag.

7. Delete credit card information from online stores.

If you do a lot of online shopping at one retailer, you may have stored your credit card information on the site to make the checkout process easier. But that also makes it easier to charge items you don’t need. So clear that information. “If you’re paying for a recurring service, use a debit card issued from a major credit card service linked to your checking account,” Hamm suggests.

8. Sell unwanted gifts and household items.

Have any birthday gifts or old wedding presents collecting dust in your closet? Search through your home, and look for items you can sell on eBay or Craigslist. “Do some research to make sure you list these items at a fair and reasonable price,” Karimi says. “Take quality photos, and write an attention-grabbing headline and description to sell the item as quickly as possible.” Any profits from sales should go toward your debt.

9. Change your habits.

“Your daily habits and routines are the reason you got into this mess,” Hamm says. “Spend some time thinking about how you spend money each day, each week and each month.” Do you really need your daily latte? Can you bring your lunch to work instead of buying it four times a week? Or perhaps you can start cooking more at home. Ask yourself: What can I change without sacrificing my lifestyle too much?

10. Reward yourself when you reach milestones.

You won’t pay down your debt any faster if you view it as a form of punishment. So reward yourself when you reach debt payoff goals. “The only way to completely pay off your credit card debt is to keep at it, and to do that, you must keep yourself motivated,” Bakke says. Just make sure to reward yourself within reason. For example, instead of a weeklong vacation, plan a weekend camping trip. “If you aim to reduce your credit card debt from $10,000 to $5,000 in two months,” Bakke says, “give yourself more than a pat on the back when you do it.”

Don’t forget about First Financial’s free, online debt management tool, Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

*Article source written by Stephanie Steinburg of US News.

Frequently In Debt? Discover Your Personal Pitfalls

DebtManagement1.jpgYou don’t have to be a reckless spender to find yourself in debt. CNN touts that “one in three American adults have debt in collections.”

An Urban Institute study reported that 77 million people are so severely in debt that their account has gone to collections, while a Detroit Free Press article warns, “Young adults have more credit card debt than savings.”

Regardless of the angle, debt, severe debt – it’s an American epidemic.

So, how do you climb out of debt once and for all? Especially if you notice a recurring theme of continual debt-to-safety-to-debt wheel of fate, it is important to stop and analyze the causes for initial debt and the reasons for apparent insurmountable financial disease.

As with your medical health, financial heath is propelled by lots of hard work, dedication and realistic awareness. Denial will only perpetuate decaying health, physically or financially.

Step One: Take an honest assessment of your financial situation.

Before you can make a plan for diminishing debt once and for all, you have to understand the severity and expanse of the situation. Take into account all loans: student debt, mortgages and car payments. Know exactly how many credit cards you and your family have – make sure to count retail cards and reward cards in addition to traditional credit cards. Any plastic that can hold a debt/requires payment needs to be acknowledged forthright. Finally, collect all bills: anything that requires a payment plan or regular payment must be added into the mix. When you’re in debt, every $100 medical bill, $25 late fee for utilities or billed car repair must be accounted for.

Step Two: Take responsibility.

Playing the blame game or lying to yourself will not change the circumstances. Nobody cares if you don’t think it’s your fault. You owe the money. You have to pay the money. You can’t talk your way out of substantial debt. Take credit for your own shortcomings and accept the situation.

Step Three: Educate yourself and your family.

Money management is not an innate human skill. We are not born knowing how to allot, predict, and plan with 100 percent accuracy. And, sometimes, it is due to sheer ignorance that adults find themselves in debt. Whether or not a lack of financial education or money illiteracy is the root cause, understanding how credit works and how to budget are both beneficial life skills.

Step Four: Set realistic goals, with the end result being permanently digging yourself out of debt.

Each step should be attainable and based on practicality. However, do not fall into the mindset that “it’s going to take too long, so it’s not worth it.” Keep your eyes on the goal, but use baby steps to get there if necessary.

A good thing to do is to create a visual aid for you to help you along, like a financial plan. The important thing to remember is that your plan is a guide, not a crutch. It is a tool to keep you on track. Like any good guide, though, it can be tweaked to meet your needs and adjusted based on what obstacles you encounter on your journey to financial security.

Step Five: Perseverance.

It’s not an easy path. It’s not fun. The journey is oftentimes downright painful. But, avoidance and half-hearted efforts will not grant you the ability to squeak by. Debt can affect marriage, stress levels, relationships, and your future, but people often aren’t motivated enough to make a change. Many times, just climbing out of debt is not the largest challenge, it’s maintaining the healthy financial security that is attained through a debt-free life.

Don’t forget about First Financial’s free, online debt management tool, Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

*Original article source written by Joe Young of Nasdaq.

8 Signs You Have a Credit Card Problem

Credit troubles often begin inconspicuously, yet there are signs all along the way before they become unmanageable. Being alert to these warnings allows you to make the necessary changes to prevent a future of financial worries. Having a credit card isn’t bad when you use it for the right reasons. It serves as a bridge to better things and establishes a credit history, which helps you make big purchases such as a home or a car.

Unfortunately, the “spend first, pay later” option is a slippery slope that leads to serious credit problems. They can happen to people of every age, income level and social status. Many signs are obvious to conscientious consumers, but life can sometimes become so hectic that you push them aside for later. Only later never comes. The sooner you admit that you have credit problems, the sooner you are able to fix them. Neglect the issue and you may end up with accounts in collections, purchases repossessed, eviction and bankruptcy.

Watch out for these eight signs that indicate you are headed for trouble:

1. You never follow a budget. If you don’t budget, your spending can easily get out of control.

2. A bank denies your loan. It may mean that the creditor thinks you have too much existing debt already, even though your official credit score isn’t bad – yet.

3. You make late payments regularly. You face expensive penalties, increasing the size of your bills and your risk of falling into debt.

4. You use payday loans. If you resort to these short-term cash loans with high interest rates, you can soon land yourself into serious debt.

5. You buy essentials like food on credit. You’re living beyond your means if you charge essential expenses on credit cards and you can’t repay in full each month.

6. Your annual percentage rate (APR), the amount of interest you pay per year, rises. A higher APR means the lender considers you at greater risk of debt problems.

7. You can’t afford more than the minimum required payments. It’s a clear warning that you spend more on your credit card than your income can support.

8. You don’t have sufficient savings to cover emergency expenses. You risk racking up massive debt when you need to use your credit cards in emergency situations.

If you recognize these signs, you need to be serious about making changes, even to the point of altering your lifestyle. Examine every purchase and question its actual need. Limit your credit cards to emergencies and use cash for the majority of your expenses. Make a commitment to save a percentage of your income for an emergency fund.

Don’t forget about First Financial’s free, online debt management tool, Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

Article source courtesy of Kimberly J. Howard, AdviceIQ of you USA Today.