Don’t Get Caught In A Free Trial Scam!

You know what they say: “If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” And yet, dozens ofFingers pointing to computer key labeled Free Trial people fall for scams that promise them the moon – and they don’t realize they’ve been played until it’s too late.

Because of this truism, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning of an uptick in free trial scams. The scams come in several shapes and sizes, but most will look something like this:

You see an ad from Netflix or a cosmetic company saying you’ve been granted a temporary subscription to their service or product. They say it’s absolutely free. The only catch? There is none. They say that, anyway. That is until you’re asked to pay for hidden fees in addition to shipping and handling at a time when it’s too late to back out. Or, you might be asked to share all of your financial information even though you’re officially not obligated to pay anything.

In other words, there’s hardly a “free trial” that won’t cost you big.

In one such scam, a company aggressively advertised “free trials” for skin care products, dietary supplements and e-cigarettes on various popular websites. The lucky consumer would only need to cover the cost of shipping and handling and the product would be delivered – absolutely free!

Of course, the product wasn’t free and the unlucky victims sometimes paid close to $100 in fees before the first shipment was sent out. Worse yet, they were charged this same fee each month for the next year, with no way to back out of their contract until the 12 months were up.

In another scam with a similar setup, consumers were asked to share payment information for the $1.03 to cover shipping and handling for the “free” products. After their order was placed, another screen with a “Complete Checkout” button appeared. Shoppers who clicked that button unwittingly agreed to pay for monthly shipments of the product to the tune of $94.31 each month. And when that button was clicked, yet another “Complete Checkout” button appeared.

Again, those who clicked this button were subjected to a $94.31 charge each month. Consumers who’d taken the bait twice ended up with a total monthly charge of $188.62 – plus shipping.

In a third “free trial” scam, shoppers were lured into signing up for a 12-month trial subscription to a popular service, like Netflix, absolutely free. Unfortunately, though, the company advertising for the free trial wasn’t Netflix at all; it was a group of scammers. Victims were redirected to a new webpage where they were asked to share their sensitive information to qualify for the trial.

You can probably guess the ending: The scammer made off with the consumer’s information and emptied their accounts, went on a wild shopping spree or stole their identity.

Don’t let this happen to you! Here’s how to steer clear of free trial scams:

  • Do your research. A quick online search of the company name with words like “scam” or “negative review” should give you a basic idea of what the business is all about.
  • Read the fine print. Too often, there’s no way to refute charges relating to this scam because the consumer agreed to pay them. Don’t click anything without reading all of the terms and conditions attached to the offer. If you can’t find any, or you can’t understand them, opt out of the offer immediately.
  • Look for an exit strategy. Is there a way to cancel the offer? Can you change your mind about the product? If you only have a small pocket of time to cancel the trial, you might be looking at a scam.
  • Always review your credit card and checking account statements. This way, you’ll immediately spot anything suspicious and you’ll be able to determine if you can back out of a shady deal.
  • Never share sensitive information online. Unless you’re absolutely sure you know who you’re dealing with, it’s difficult to know if a website is 100% secure.
  • Check URLs. When signing up for a free trial, you’ll usually be redirected to a new site. Check the URL of the webpage and determine if it matches the company you are allegedly dealing with.
  • Ignore urgent calls to action. If an ad urges you to “Act now!” or claims an offer will expire momentarily, it’s likely a scam.

Read the fine print and only sign up for free trials that won’t cost you in more ways than you’d imagined.

Your Turn: Have you ever been duped by a free-trial, or similar, scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.lovemoney.com/news/amp/69117/netflix-free-trial-subscription-scam-warning-fake-1-year-offer-email

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/taxonomy/term/858
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/07/dont-let-free-cost-you

Back-to-School Shopping Hacks

You may be deep into your summer routine of lazy afternoons at the beach, family day mini shopping cart with school supplies insidetrips and bedtimes postponed in favor of firefly-chasing, but back-to-school season is already in full swing. And, any way you slice it, it’s going to be expensive! Between new backpacks, textbooks, a long list of supplies and a fresh autumn wardrobe, most parents are looking at a bill of close to $700 for school-related expenses this season.

Be proactive and save big! Read on for our handy list of back-to-school shopping hacks that will help you keep more money in your wallet.

1.) Plan to shop 5 times

To take full advantage of the sales and clearance events throughout the summer, don’t buy everything at once. Plan on making 5 shopping trips this season, and you’ll get the best prices out there.

2.) Stock up

No, your child doesn’t need a 6-month supply of No.2 pencils for the first day of school or five spare pocket-folders. But, if you buy enough school supplies while prices are low to last through the first half of the year – or even all the way into June – you’ll save big.

3.) Take advantage of loss leaders

Every week during back-to-school season, retailers will advertise one product at a super-low price. This is their loss leader, an item priced so cheaply that retailers actually lose money on sales. Of course the bargain-priced product attracts customers, so it’s worthwhile for the retailer, but all you need to worry about is snagging those ridiculous prices. Make sure you catch those hot deals!

4.) Shop the dollar store

Before you hit the typical retail stores, shop for real bargains at dollar stores like Dollar Tree and Family Dollar. You can find calculators, paper, pencils, pens and more – for just a buck!

5.) Buy designer backpacks online

If your kid is begging for a brand-name backpack, but you don’t want to shell out big bucks for a label, check out sites like 6PM and eBags. You’ll find fantastic deals on designer backpacks that will keep both the fashion-conscious child and mom happy.

6.) Look for manufacturer coupons

Comb circulars, like RedPlum and SmartSource, for manufacturer coupons from supply companies like Bic and Mead. You can also find them in magazines geared toward parents like Parenting or on online coupon sites, like Retailmenot and CouponCabin. These are usually steeper discounts than retailer coupons and they can be combined with in-store specials.

7.) Decode price tags

When shopping for new clothing, you want to know if you’re getting the best deal possible.

Most stores have a system for tagging items at their final markdown. Learn how to decode price tags and you’ll save big. Here’s how these popular stores mark their lowest prices:

  • The Gap: Ending in $.97
  • Target: Ending in an 8
  • Old Navy: Ending in $.47
  • TJMaxx: Yellow price tag

8.) Shop through Ebates for cash back

Do all your online shopping through cash-back sites, like Ebates, and get 2-4% of every purchase back. Ebates is affiliated with almost every major retailer, and it hardly takes any extra effort to shop through their site. It’s like getting paid to shop!

9.) Coordinate with other parents

To help you get the best deals and save some time, work together with other parents of school-aged kids. If you’re in Walmart when they have their penny deals on pencils and you can get a box of 24 for just $0.50, offer to buy a few boxes for your friend’s kids. And, when your friend finds the super-hot deal on crayons, they’ll pick up a few boxes for your kids. That’s money saved and fewer trips to the store.

10.) Use the season to teach your kids financial responsibility

With all the kid-centered shopping this season, it’s the perfect time for some financial lessons. Is your child desperate for designer supplies? Offer to pay for the regular price and let her fill in the rest with her own money. Give your older kids a list and some cash and let them shop on their own. Offer children a choice between a pricier backpack or a new pair of shoes. The teachable moments during back-to-school shopping are everywhere!

11.) Check out gift-card sites before you shop

Save by buying discounted gift cards to stores, like Michael’s and JCPenney, on sites like GiftCardGranny and Raise.

12.) Use the Amazon App to price-match

Have your phone handy when shopping so you can comparison-shop when buying your supplies. If an item is cheaper on Amazon, why buy it at the store (especially if you are an Amazon Prime member and can get free shipping)?

13.) Sign up for promotional mail

Most major retailers offer a discount for signing up for their promotional emails or text messages.

  • H&M: Save 20% on one item when you text your email address to 707-03
  • Kohl’s: Save 15% off your entire order by texting SAVE15 to 564-57
  • Old Navy: Sign up for a weekly text alert by texting 6046 to 653-689 and get a $5 coupon, and also sign up for promotional emails at OldNavy.com and you’ll be rewarded with a 30%-off coupon
  • Crazy8: Sign up for emails and receive 18% off your next order, plus free shipping
  • The Children’s Place: Input your email address in the pop-up box on TheChildrensPlace.com and get a $10 coupon.

14.) Take advantage of price-matching

Lots of stores you’ll be shopping at this season, like Office Depot, Staples and Target, offer to match any competitor’s prices. Take advantage of this generous offer by coming prepared with an online price posting of a cheaper item you’ve found elsewhere. You’ll visit fewer stores this way and save money, too.

15.) Shop early in the week

Weekly sales go live on Sundays and the best stuff gets grabbed first. Shop Sundays and Mondays so you never miss out on a great deal again.

Save big this season with [credit union’s] back-to-school shopping hacks!

Your Turn: What’s your secret back-to-school shopping hack? Share it with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/thekrazycouponlady.com/tips/money/back-to-school-shopping-hacks.amp.html

https://www.worthpointeinvest.com/the-best-time-saving-hacks-for-back-to-school-shopping/
https://www.sixsistersstuff.com/10-back-to-school-shopping-hacks/
https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2015/07/22/14-back-to-school-shopping-hacks

What Can I Do About Robocalls?

Are you sick of grabbing your ringing phone five times a day only to find yet another Hand holding phone with answer or decline call optionsrobocaller on the other end?

If robocalls are getting to you, you’re not alone. Those super-annoying automatic calls have recently exploded, and it’s enough to make anyone go bonkers. More than 30 billion robocalls were made in the United States in 2017, and the Federal Trade Commission answered a whopping 375,000 complaints about robocalls each month.

Unfortunately, those numbers are only rising.

If you feel like your phone is ringing off the hook from robocalls and you’re just about ready to throw it against the wall, read on. We’ll give you the inside scoop on these dreaded calls and show you what you can do to put a stop to them once and for all.

How do they have my number?

Many people ask how so many businesses and scammers have their number. It’s because robocallers are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and the internet is making their job easier. Scammers and telemarketers can scrape almost anyone’s phone number off the web.

They might find it on your Facebook page, another social media platform you frequent, or even drag it off your business’s website. Robocallers also buy phone numbers from popular companies or websites that require visitors to log in by submitting some basic personal information that includes their landline and cellphone numbers.

Or, robocallers may simply be dialing thousands and thousands of numbers at random, with no rhyme or reason at all.

Who’s on the other end of the line?

Robocalls come in many forms. Sometimes they’ll be trying to sell you a product or urge you into signing up for a service. Other times, they’ll try to scam you by appearing to represent a government agency, like the IRS.

You might think no one’s buying the marketed product, or that whoever actually believes the robotic voice telling them they’re about to be arrested is super naïve. Remember, though, that even if just a few people agree to buy the product or are taken in by the scam, the minimal cost of running the calls is more than worth it for the person behind the calls.

Here’s how the robocalls take a stab at appearing authentic:

  • Spoofing. Using software, the robocaller can tweak the way their number shows up on caller ID. They can make it look like the IRS is on the phone, that your electric service company is calling you or like a representative from Apple is seeking you.

Recently, scammers have been using neighbor-spoofing, in which their caller ID looks like a local number. This throws victims off and can help robocallers gain their misplaced trust.

  • Disguised identity. Robocallers may also choose to appear mysterious and show up on your caller ID as “private number,” “unavailable” or “unknown.”

Steps you can take

Thankfully, you don’t have to be bombarded by those irksome calls for the rest of your life. Here are several steps you can take to keep most robocalls from reaching your landline or cellphone:

  1. Don’t answer calls from unfamiliar numbers – If you don’t recognize the number on your caller ID, let it go to voicemail. If the ID shows a local number or the name of a recognized company you have no reason to believe is calling you, ignore it as well.
  2. Block unwanted numbers – It’s time to get offensive and start intercepting those numbers before they reach your phone. First, if there’s any specific number that calls you persistently, use your phone to block it and you won’t have to hear from them again.

    Next, check with your phone service provider about possible technologies you can download to block anonymous calls or those from specific area codes. Some systems allow you to create your own blacklist of numbers that will be blocked or sent directly to voicemail. You can also create a “white list” of numbers you allow to go through and stop every other number from reaching you.

    You may also want to enlist the help of a robocall-blocking app that can offer you a stronger defense against unwanted calls. Here are some apps that provide this service along with their prices:

○     Nomorobo: 14-day free trial. $1.99/month or $19.99/year

○     RoboKiller: Free 7-day trial. $2.99/month or $24.99/year

○     Hiya: Free. Hiya partners with Samsung, AT&T and T-Mobile and also has standalone apps.

○     TrueCaller: Free

  1. Require caller input –  To keep all automatic calls from reaching your phone, you can set up a call-blocking technology, such as the Sentry Active Call Blocker, that greets all callers with a message requiring them to enter a number before the call can proceed. That’s something robots can’t yet do.
  2. Don’t share your number – Never share your phone number on your social media profiles or pages. If a business asks for your number, do not give it out unless you absolutely must.
  3. Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry – Visit www.donotcall.gov to add your landline and cellphone numbers to the list of registered callers who don’t want to be bothered by telemarketers. Scammers won’t pay much attention to this list, but law-abiding companies that ignore the listed numbers risk being fined and will usually abide by the registry’s rules. This service is free and your number will never be taken off the list.
  4. File a complaint – If you’ve signed up for the Do Not Call Registry and, after a month, you are still receiving robocalls from specific companies, file a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov. When the agency receives enough complaints about a number, it will take action.

    If you’re constantly receiving unwanted calls from a known business after signing up for the Do Not Call Registry, you can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

You don’t have to let those robocalls overtake your life. Take action today and reclaim your peace!

Your Turn: What’s your best defense against robocalls? Share your favorite tip with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.consumerreports.org/robocalls/how-to-deal-with-robocalls/

https://www.moneytalksnews.com/7-tips-stop-annoying-robocalls/
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2018/3/6/17071478/spam-calls-how-to-stop-block-robocalls-robots-scam-iphone-android
https://www.robokiller.com/blog/why-do-i-receive-robocalls/

Why Beer, Cars And Washing Machines Are About To Get More Expensive

The president has made good on his promise to come down hard on the country’s trading partners. As a tax-paying citizen, who cars in dealer showroomlikely purchases more foreign-made goods than you realize, you owe it to yourself to learn how these new tariffs will impact your wallet. And we’re here to help you do just that!

First, let’s explore the general concept of tariffs and review those that recently went into effect.

A tariff is a tax on imported goods. The individual consumer or American company purchasing the imported product is responsible for paying the tax associated with it. The ultimate purpose of a tariff is to give an edge to U.S.-manufactured goods by raising the prices of their foreign-crafted counterparts.

Tariffs have long-lasting effects on the economy that fall beyond their intended purpose: When a company is forced to pay more for its materials, it will likely pass this extra expense onto its own consumers. Alternatively, they may choose to cut costs by hiring fewer workers and giving fewer raises to employees. Some companies will even move part of their production overseas.

The first of the recent wave of tariffs, targeting washing machines and solar panels, went into effect earlier this year. These were followed by a recent 25% tax on imported steel and a 10% tax on imported aluminum. Another wave of tariffs will go into effect later this month, focusing on hundreds of Chinese industrial goods. More are still planned, including taxes on Chinese-made TVs and cellphones.

Let’s take a look at how these tariffs impacted various industries and what it all means for the American consumer.

1.) Washing machines

The first move in the trade war taxed imported washing machines by 20-50%. The tariff was passed in an effort to stop Whirlpool from losing out to Korean-based Samsung and LG, who were grossly undercutting Whirlpool’s prices. While the move initially boosted the American company’s stock and employee base,the more recent tariff on steel will push up Whirlpool’s costs and likely offset any previous gains.

What this means for you: The price of washing machines has jumped by 17% in the last three months. Once the steel tariff hits the industry, those prices are likely to increase again.

2.) Solar panels

Imported solar panels were hit with a 30% tariff in January, 2018. However, there are plans for this tax to gradually decrease over the next few years. Like the tariff on washing machines, this tax was imposed because American manufacturers were losing out to offshore companies that were undercutting prices.

An incredible 80% of all solar panels in the U.S. are imported from overseas. For businesses that manufacture solar panels, this tariff is great news for their bottom line. But the many companies in the business of installing, marketing and distributing those panels have been dealt a near-fatal blow.

What this means for you:  The average price for solar panels is expected to increase by 40% over the next year.

3.) Aluminum

The 10% tax on imported aluminum was created to help American manufacturers of this heavily used raw material. Unfortunately, though, the many American companies that use aluminum for the production of their own goods will be forced to pay more for this essential metal. They will then pass this extra expense onto their customers.

While the administration is hopeful that the tariff will force the country to produce more aluminum, there’s no way for America to manufacture enough of this raw material to meet the country’s needs.

What this means for you: Your favorite drinks will likely see a price increase. Lots of beverage companies, like Coca-Cola and Budweiser, rely on cheap and imported aluminum to keep their costs down. You might see a price hike in lots of canned food products as well.

4.) Steel

Steel was recently slapped with a hefty 30% tariff. Like the aluminum tariff, it was passed with hopes that the U.S. will increase its steel production, thus creating more jobs. But, in another echo of the aluminum tariff, the U.S. doesn’t have the capacity to produce enough steel to meet its needs. It is also likely that the negative effect the tariff will have on other industries will more than counterbalance any gains.

What this means for you: The steel tariff has the largest impact of all; steel is used in the production of a huge scope of goods.

Here are some industries that will be affected by the steel tariff:

  • Cars. The American auto industry produced 11 million cars last year. With close to 2,000 pounds of steel used in the production of each car, the auto industry is going to be hit hard by the tariff. Naturally, car prices will rise dramatically.
  • Construction. Steel is used heavily in construction and renovations. Expect to see an increase across the entire construction industry.
  • Airline travel. Steel is a major part of every airplane. Expect to see flight costs rising thanks to more expensive steel.
  • Appliances. All major household appliances, like refrigerators and washing machines, are created from steel – and they’re all about to get more expensive.

There’s not much you can do about the upcoming price hikes, but now that you know what to expect, you won’t be in for much of an unpleasant surprise when you purchase products manufactured overseas or crafted using imported materials.

Your Turn: Do you think the tariffs will ultimately benefit the U.S.? Share your take on the trade war in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.timeinc.net/time/money/5316029/trump-tariffs-prodcut-prices

http://time.com/money/5295529/donald-trump-tariffs-beer-iphones-more-expensive/?xid=homepage
http://money.cnn.com/2018/05/31/news/economy/aluminum-steel-tariff-impact/index.html
https://www.bbc.com/news/amp/business-42784380

All You Need To Know About The Ticketmaster Breach

Hackers are at it again! This time, they’re skimming information on third-party sites in Ticket master logowhat may be the largest credit breach ever.

To that end, in late June, Ticketmaster announced that several of its sites had been compromised. Recent research, though, has revealed that this breach was only a small part of a massive credit card-skimming hack that may have affected more than 800 e-commerce sites.

Here’s what you need to know about the Ticketmaster breach:

What happened?

Ticketmaster revealed that customer information on several of its sites was compromised. The ticket-selling giant claimed no U.S. sites – or customers – had been hacked.

However, cybersecurity firm RiskIQ has said that more than 800 international e-commerce sites have been compromised in this hack.

Sites like Ticketmaster often rely on a third-party code that’s hosted on other sites to support their own payment systems. Third-party codes present a single point of failure. That means, if this code is breached on its host site, every site that uses the code will then be compromised.

That’s exactly what happened with Ticketmaster. Several of the ticket giant’s websites ran code from Inbenta, a customer support software company. When Inbenta was hacked, the sensitive information of these customers was compromised.

Though Inbenta claimed only these Ticketmaster customers had been affected by the hack, RiskIQ has found that some of Ticketmaster’s global sites – including its U.S. site – was running code from SocialPlus, another third-party that had been compromised by the same group that hacked Inbenta.

The breach gets even worse: All websites that relied on code hosted on Inbenta or SocialPlus were also compromised. The number of hacked sites has been estimated to reach 800.

The hack was executed quietly and efficiently. Scammers changed the code on the host sites to skim the credit card information being entered at checkout on the e-commerce sites. Since each code can be used on numerous sites, compromising this point can give hackers instant access to the information of 10,000 victims.

Who is behind the attack?

RiskIQ has identified Magecart as the hacking group behind the attacks. This group has been active since December 2016, and RiskIQ has been tracking them for nearly as long.

The hacking group targets software companies that provide codes for e-commerce websites. By altering these codes, the hackers can skim information from millions of customers every day.

According to Yonathan Klijnsma, a threat researcher at RiskIQ, the Ticketmaster breach has a larger impact than any other credit card breach to date.

While the cybersecurity firm did not name specific compromised sites beyond Ticketmaster, it did disclose that close to 100 top-tier sites have been breached, including large brands and popular online retailers.

What should I do if my information has been compromised?

Unfortunately, with the point of failure in this hack taking place at a third-party site, there’s not much you can do to protect your information from being compromised. However, by taking immediate action if you’ve been hacked, you can mitigate the damage to your credit and help law enforcement agents apprehend the hackers as quickly as possible.

If your information has been compromised, take the following steps:

  • Place a fraud alert on your credit accounts. This will warn creditors that you may have been victimized by identity theft and make it harder for a scammer to use your credit identity.
  • Consider a credit freeze. This will make it impossible for a hacker to open new credit in your name.
  • Alert the Federal Trade Commission. Let the FTC know you’ve been hacked at ftc.gov.
  • Tell Destinations Credit Union. Don’t forget to tell us that your information has been compromised. We’ll help you determine your next step and guide you until your credit has been cleared.
  • Dispute fraudulent charges. If you find any suspicious charges on your credit account, dispute them immediately. To do this, contact the associated financial institution and file a police report as well.

Scammers never take a break. Make sure you know what to do if your information has been hacked!

Your Turn: Have you ever been the victim of a credit breach? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.nafcu.org/newsroom/more-800-e-commerce-sites-targeted-cyber-attack?utm_source=NAFCU+Today&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=daily+news

http://www.nbc-2.com/story/38649397/ticketmaster-data-breach-part-of-larger-credit-card-scheme-report-finds
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.zdnet.com/google-amp/article/ticketmaster-breach-was-part-of-a-larger-credit-card-skimming-effort-analysis-shows/
https://www.riskiq.com/blog/labs/magecart-ticketmaster-breach/

How Many Credit Cards Should I Own?

The importance of maintaining a good credit score is old news. As you likely know, theStack of credit cards higher your score, the more attractive you will be to potential lenders, making larger loans and the best interest rates more accessible.

Hopefully, you’re working hard at keeping that score high by using your cards and paying your bills on time. You may be wondering, though, if more is better. Should you open a few more and get more available credit? Or, are too many cards a liability to your score?

Read on for the answers to all your questions.

How your credit score works

Before we answer the number of cards question, let’s explore the way FICO and other credit scoring agencies, like VantageScore, calculate that all-important credit score.

Here are the major components of your credit score:

  1. Your payment history. The timeliness – or lack thereof – of your payments comprises 65% of your FICO score, making it the most important factor. VantageScore, another major credit scoring company, doesn’t share the percentages it uses, but it calls payment history “extremely influential” in determining your score.
  2. Your credit utilization. Credit scoring companies look at how much of your available credit you are using.A large amount of available credit – even in aggregate across multiple cards – is not always a good thing.
  3. The age of your credit. Next up on the list of influential factors is how long you’ve had your credit cards open. Lenders want to see a long and active history of credit cards and on-time payments.
  4. The kind of credit you have. A variety of credit indicates that you are an attractive borrower.

The benefits of having multiple cards

Having one open credit card is not sufficient for achieving a high credit score. In order to give you the best shot at excellent credit, make sure you have several open cards. In the long run, having multiple cards can boost your score in two important areas:

  • Your payment history. When you pay several credit card bills on time instead of just one, this component of your score will go up.
  • Credit utilization rate. FICO likes to see a low credit utilization rate. This means that the more unused credit you have, the higher you will score in this area. Having multiple cards open will automatically increase your available credit. You’ll also be able to spread your credit use across several cards, further lowering your credit utilization rate.

The right number of credit cards

Are you waiting to hear that magic number telling you exactly how many cards you should have in for achieving and maintaining a high score? Well, unfortunately, there is no such “magic” number.

As mentioned, you do need to have several credit cards to increase your credit age and available credit, but there is no specific amount you should have. Instead, let’s take a look at the credit cards of consumers who have excellent scores.

The FICO high-achiever statistics track people with FICO scores that top 785. These statistics find that the average FICO high-achiever has 7 open credit cards. Of these cards, only four have outstanding balances. The average credit account is 11 years old and the most recently opened account is 28 months old.

So, while you may be quick to observe that several cards may be a good thing, consider the age of the cards in the wallets of high achievers. Perhaps lots of NEW cards won’t help you achieve excellent credit. Rather, a proven track record of on-time payments and responsible use of credit is the vital factor here.

When not to open new cards

If you’re planning on taking out a large loan, like a mortgage or an auto loan, within the next year, it’s not a good idea to start applying for new cards. Here’s why:

  • Hard checks on your credit. Every new credit card you apply for means another time your credit history gets pulled. Lots of “hard checks” can negatively affect your score – just what you don’t need before applying for a large loan. It may hurt your chances of approval and/or increase your approved rate.
  • Your credit age will decrease. The age of your credit is determined by taking an average age of all your cards. By opening lots of new cards, you’re bringing that average down and hurting your score.
  • Your credit variety will be lessened. Similarly, opening more unsecured cards with revolving credit will lower your credit variety, because you will suddenly have a much heavier amount of unsecured credit lines and less of other types of borrowings.
  • Too much open credit. While once considered a positive attribute across all credit scoring companies, the recent modifications to the VantageScore have changed all that. Lots of open credit will now negatively affect your VantageScore. This score is used for auto loans and other large loans; though most mortgage lenders currently only consider your FICO score.

Here’s the final word on having lots of open credit cards: If you’re just starting to build your credit and don’t plan on taking out a huge loan soon, it’s a good idea to open a few cards. Pay them on time and try not to go above 30% of your available limit on any of them. But, if you plan on applying for a large loan in the near future, give that card acquisition a rest and focus on using the cards you have responsibly.

Whichever category you fall into, remember to use your cards and pay those bills on time! The easiest way to do this is to make it automatic. Set up each of your credit cards to pay for a monthly bill. Then, set up your credit card bills to be paid automatically as well.

Keeping your credit score strong can have positive effects on your finances for years to come! Contact Destinations Credit Union or our partner financial counselor, Greenpath, for ways to improve your credit score!

Your Turn: How many credit cards do you own? Do you think this number is too few or too many? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.bankrate.com/credit-cards/how-many-credit-cards-is-too-many/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/lifehacker.com/how-many-credit-cards-should-i-have-1658094283/amp
https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/too-many-cards-1586.php
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/too-many-credit-cards-hurt-fico-score/
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.creditkarma.com/credit-cards/i/how-many-credit-cards-does-the-average-american-have/amp/

How To Save For A Boat In 8 Easy Steps

Are you ready to make waves with a new boat? That’s great, but don’t let your budget Boats docked at a piersink in the process! Save up for the boat of your dreams with our handy guide. We’ll have you ripping across those foaming waves sooner than you ever thought possible!

1.) Do your research

You don’t need to choose the exact make and model you’ll want to purchase just yet, but it’s good to have an idea of what kind of boat you’ll be looking to purchase. Spend some time researching the options and calculating how much buying and owning a boat will cost. Be sure to include upfront costs and monthly payments if you’ll be financing your purchase. Also remember to factor the costs of maintenance, storage, insurance, fuel, boating lessons and any add-on products you’ll want to buy.

2.) Create a savings goal

Once you’ve done your homework, create a realistic savings goal that will make your boat purchase possible. Establish a timeline for your goal and divide the total by the number of months that will pass until you are ready to buy that boat. This number is the amount you will need to save each month. If the number is too high, you’ll need to lengthen your timeline.

If you can only afford to put away a little bit each month, and you’re looking at a savings timeline of a few years or more, consider opening up a higher yielding savings account like a share savings certificate, or an investment fund to help your money grow. Ask a member service representative to show you your options; we’re always here to help!

3.) Review your monthly budget

Now, let’s take a look at how much money you spend and earn each month. If you already have a budget in place, this step is already done. Otherwise, you’ll need to track your expenditures and income for a month or two. Hold onto every receipt and bill. Then, review your spending habits carefully. Determine how much you pull in each month, and how much you spend.

4.) Identify your trouble areas

Take a closer look at how you’ve been spending your money. You usually can’t do much about fixed expenses like your mortgage payment and insurance premiums, but you can examine the way you spend on fluctuating expenses like groceries, new clothing and entertainment.

What are your biggest pitfalls? Which spending category is draining your wallet dry? Once you’ve figured that out, you’ll be better prepared to cut back.

5.) Trim your budget

Start with your biggest money hole and brainstorm for ways to tighten the strings. Once you’ve got a few good ideas in place, move on to other areas. Continue until you’ve trimmed enough fat to reach your monthly savings goal.

6.) Make it automatic

You’ve got your numbers worked out – now let’s make it happen!

Most of us are naturally lazy and, if we have to remember to sock away some money each month, it’s not going to happen. That’s why the best way to ensure you stick to your plan each month is to make it automatic.

You can do this by linking your checking and savings accounts and setting up an automatic transfer in your chosen amount to go through once a month. Give Destinations Credit Union a call at 410-663-2500; we’ll be more than happy to help you set this up.

Alternatively, you can use a money management app like Mint or Digit to help automate your savings. You can choose how much money you’d like to put away, grant the apps the necessary access to your accounts, and they’ll do the work for you. The apps will also allow you to tweak your settings if your current setup stops working for you.

Either way, the stash of cash that will set you sailing will be growing without you thinking about it at all.

7.) Boost your income

If you’ve worked through the steps above and you want to speed things up, you can look for ways to earn extra money to put toward your boat. Consider freelancing, consulting in your area of expertise or even taking on weekend jobs to help pad your pocket. A side hustle will help you hit the waves a whole lot sooner!

8.) Goal!

Once your goal is within reach, you can start shopping for the boat of your dreams. Don’t lock yourself in to your original number. If you find a boat that’s a lot cheaper than you anticipated, grab it! Use the extra cash to stock up on fuel and boating gear, or put it aside to jumpstart your next big savings goal.

[Before you set out for the docks, be sure to read our post on How to Buy a Boat!]

Your Turn: Are you a happy boat owner? How did you make your dream come true? Share your best money-saving tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://financialfitnessblog.com/how-to-save-money-for-a-boat/

https://www.discoverboating.com/affordable-boating/myths-and-tips.aspx
http://www.boats.com/boat-buyers-guide/how-to-buy-a-boat-tips-for-a-first-time-buyer/|
https://www.discoverboating.com/affordable-boating.aspx

What’s The Best Way To Finance A Home Renovation?

Q: I’m doing some home renovations this summer and I’m not sure how to finance this couple picking paint colorsexpense. There are so many loan options, but which one makes the most sense?

A: Whether you’re gutting your entire kitchen or turning your basement into a home theater, we’ve got you covered! As a Destinations Credit Union member, you have several choices when it comes to funding a home renovation. And we want to help you find the right one for your specific needs.

First, let’s take a look at some common choices and why they’re not the best idea for financing a home renovation project:

1.) Home Equity Loans

A home equity loan is a loan that’s secured by your home’s value. Home equity loans allow you to borrow a fixed amount of cash, which you receive in one lump sum. Most home equity loans have a fixed interest rate, a fixed term and a fixed monthly payment.

Cons:

  • Taking out a home equity loan can mean paying several fees.
  • Receiving all the funds in one shot can push you into spending more than you actually should.
  • You may find that the amount you borrowed is not enough.

2.) Credit cards

You may already have your credit cards open and won’t need to apply for a new loan, so you may be thinking, why not use this available credit to fund my renovations?

If you’re only doing some minor touch-ups on your home and you can afford to repay the charge within the next year or two, a credit card could work.

For bigger projects, though, funding them through your credit cards can have devastating effects on your financial health.

Cons:

  • You may be stuck paying higher interest rates until you pay off the balance on your card. This means your remodeling project will cost you a lot more than necessary.
  • Your credit score will likely be negatively affected by the large, unpaid balance on your card by pushing your balance to total available credit ratio well above 30%.
  • You might send yourself spinning into a cycle of debt once you already owe so much money on your card.

3.) Personal loans

Personal loans are short-term loans that may or may not be secured by some form of collateral (like a car or other titled good). They typically need to be repaid within 24-60 months.

Cons:

  • Upfront costs and interest rates on personal loans can be relatively high.
  • Like a home equity loan, you’ll receive all the money you borrow in one lump sum. This can compel you to spend it all, even if you don’t need to do so.

4.) Retail credit cards

Retail stores often lure customers into opening a credit card with the promise of being granted automatic savings when using the card for future store purchases. Some retailers, especially home-improvement shops, may encourage you to finance a large renovation project on their card. However, this is usually not a good idea.

Cons:

  • Retail credit cards tend to have exorbitant interest rates of up to 30%.
  • With so much credit available, the urge to splurge and go all out with your renovations will be that much stronger.

5.) Merchant loan

A merchant loan, or a merchant cash advance, is a loan that’s taken out against a business’s anticipated revenue. If you are a business owner, a merchant loan will need to be repaid with a predetermined percentage of your future revenue.

Cons:

  • Merchant loans usually come with high interest rates.
  • The percentage of your sales that you’ll need to pay is fixed. This means that, if your sales spike, you’ll be paying more and putting yourself and your business at a disadvantage.

There are so many loan options and so many strings attached! How can you fund that home renovation?

Enter the home equity line of credit (HELOC).

A HELOC is an open credit line that is secured by your home’s value. HELOCs have adjustable interest rates and have a “draw” period in which you can access the funds, ranging from 5-10 years. When the draw period ends, the loan will have to be repaid, either immediately or within the next 15-20 years.

If you’re approved for a HELOC, you can spend the funds however you choose. Some plans may require that you borrow a minimum amount at each draw, keep a predetermined amount outstanding (balance), or withdraw an initial advance when the line of credit is first established (initial draw/advance).

When looking for a way to pay for home improvement projects, we recommend a HELOC. And for good reason.

Here are just a few benefits of choosing a HELOC over another loan type:

You’ll save money

HELOCs help you stick to your budget. Instead of walking out with a huge amount of cash when you open the loan, you’ll have access to a line to use as needed. This credit will only be available to you for a specified amount of time and it will have a fixed amount as your maximum draw. You’ll withdraw money in the amount and at the time you need. Plus, you’ll only pay interest on this amount (not the whole line). This aspect of HELOCs makes them especially convenient if you don’t know exactly how much your project will cost.

Upfront costs for HELOCs also tend to be lower than those of other loans.

Flexible terms

Most HELOCs have fluctuating interest rates, but some lenders allow for the possibility of converting large withdrawals into fixed-rate loans.

Repayment of HELOCs is also flexible. When the draw period ends, you may be allowed to renew your credit line and continue withdrawing funds as needed.

Monthly payments also vary. However, many lenders only require borrowers to make payments toward the interest of their loan during the draw period. Once that time is over, the borrower will need to pay back the entire principle of the loan immediately, or over the course of 10-15 years. This is especially beneficial if you don’t have the funds to pay back the loan now, but you anticipate an improvement in your financial situation over the next few years.

Also, because you’re only paying interest on the money you withdraw, you’ll have the freedom to take out a larger line of credit and decide how much of it to use later on.

You May Be Able To Deduct the Interest on Your Taxes*

While the new tax laws for 2018 have limited the deductions for HELOCs, they have not been eliminated entirely.  Generally, if you are using the funds to remodel or improve the infrastructure of your home, you can still deduct the interest – up to certain limitations.  To read more, visit the IRS website.

*Please consult a tax advisor.

You’re improving your home’s value

It makes perfect sense to borrow against your home’s equity for adding to its value. If you plan on selling your home within the next 10 years, it is very possible for a HELOC to pay for itself, and then some.

Are you ready to get those renovation plans rolling? Call, click or stop by Destinations Credit Union today to get started on your HELOC application!

Your Turn: How did you fund your home renovation project? Share your choice with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://mtgprofessor.com/A%20-%20Second%20Mortgages/what_is_a_heloc.htm

https://www.google.com/amp/www.csmonitor.com/layout/set/amphtml/Business/Saving-Money/2017/0219/Why-a-home-equity-loan-is-a-smart-choice-as-rates-rise
https://www.bankrate.com/finance/topic/heloc.aspx
https://www.bankrate.com/finance/home-equity/home-equity-loan-heloc-or-cash-out-refi.aspx
http://blog.mechanics-coop.com/when-is-a-heloc-the-best-choice
https://www.thebalance.com/should-i-use-a-store-credit-card-2385754
https://www.cubefunder.com/blog/what-is-a-merchant-loan/

Look Before You Pump!

How many times a month do you fill ‘er up? It’s a mindless chore, but did you know it Hand Swiping Card at Gas Pumpcan also be the beginning of a financial nightmare? Gas pump skimming is an old crime that’s made a comeback – and your debit card may be at risk.

Every day, 29 million Americans pay for fuel using a credit or debit card. However, compromised pumps with skimming devices installed by scammers have recently been found in several states.

Since these skimmer devices are almost invisible, they can be really difficult to spot, enabling them to easily capture the information of up to 100 cards a day! And, thanks to Bluetooth technology, the criminal doesn’t even need to return to the scene of the crime to collect the data their skimmer has obtained; it can all be done remotely from as far as 100 yards away.

Yes, EMV-enabled technology has become more commonplace, but gas stations were given until 2020 to update their payment systems. This makes them even more vulnerable to such hacks.

Protect yourself against this heinous hack by arming yourself with all you need to know about card skimmers.

How it works

Hackers choose their gas pumps wisely. They usually opt to outfit the one that is farthest from the on-site convenience shop. This way, their activity is out of the range of any security cameras at the shop’s entrance. The hacker will then place a skimming device on top of the pump’s card reader. It will usually be identical to the existing reader, with only a few and hard-to-spot differences.

Sometimes, hackers may place a skimmer inside the pump itself. This task can be done in less than a minute. The hacker can then leave the area and access all the data being collected by the skimmer, with no one being the wiser.

Choose your payment method wisely

You may consider giving yourself extra protection by using a credit card or cash to pay at the pump. A credit card may be compromised just like a debit card, but you can easily dispute fraudulent charges made on your card. Depending upon your financial institution, your debit card may offer minimal purchase protection.   At Destinations Credit Union, we offer an additional free layer of protection with MobiMoney.  You can set up various types of alerts on your credit or debit card with MobiMoney.

If you want the safest payment method, cash is a good bet. However, remember that cash cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.

How to spot a skimmer

If you don’t like the idea of carrying around wads of cash, you can still protect yourself against skimmers. Use caution while at the pump, and learn how to spot a skimmer. If something looks suspicious, move on to the next pump and report your findings to the local police as well as the gas attendant on duty.

4 ways to spot a skimmer:

  1. Use your eyes.Check out the card reader very carefully. Do the numbers on the PIN pad look raised? Do they look newer or bigger than the rest of the machine? Does anything look like it doesn’t belong? Is the fuel pump’s seal broken?
  2. Check the tape. Many gas stations place serial-numbered security tape across the dispenser to protect their pumps from skimmers. If the tape has been broken, or there’s no tape on the dispenser at all, it may have been compromised.
  3. Use your fingers.Feel the card reader before sliding your card into the slot. Do the keys feel raised? Is it difficult to insert your card? These are both red flags that the card reader may have been fitted with a skimming device.
  4. Use your phone. There are several free anti-skimming apps you can install on your phone, such as Skimmer Scanner. Using these apps, you can scan a card reader for a skimming device and get an alert if one is detected. You can also check your phone’s Bluetooth to see if any strange letters or numbers appear under “other devices.”

General card safety

It’s always a good idea to practice general safety when using a card to pay at the pump.

Choose the pump that is closest to the store and always cover the number pad with your hand when inputting your PIN. If you haven’t yet updated to a chip card, now’s the time to do so. It’ll offer you an extra layer of protection. It’s also a good idea to periodically check your account statements for suspicious charges.

Your Turn: How do you pay at the pump? Why do you choose this method? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://budgeting.thenest.com/problems-using-debit-cards-gas-pumps-23710.html

https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/gas-pump-atm-skimmers.php
http://news4sanantonio.com/news/local/skimming-devices-found-on-pumps-at-northwest-side-gas-station

7 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Making A Large Purchase

You’re convinced: You really want that Coach handbag. Or you need that genuine ArmaniFamily carrying large box into home tie. Or maybe you know that gigantic, high-res entertainment center will transform your weekends. So you swipe your card and the dream item becomes yours. Of course, you’re absolutely thrilled.

That’s until, a few weeks down the line, when you’re staring a huge credit card bill in the face and buyer’s remorse hits hard. You can’t help wondering, then, why you thought this expensive purchase was worth the steep price tag.

Don’t get sucked in again! Before you say “yes” to a large purchase, ask yourself these 7 hard-hitting questions. You just may end up leaving that “dream” product in the store.

Do I have cash to pay for this item?

This is the number-one question to ask when you want to determine if you can really afford a purchase. If you’ve got money socked away in long-term savings, it won’t help much. You need to have it available now.

You might have been trimming your budget just a little bit each month to pay for this item, or maybe you’re using a surprise work bonus. Either way, make sure you have liquid funds that can cover the cost of your item. Putting it on credit means you can’t really afford it, and you’ll be hiking up the price once interest is tacked on. Plus, you’re now going to be reminded of the purchase you may come to regret for a long time to come.

Is this the best price I can get for this item?

When making a large purchase – and what constitutes “large” will vary with individual budgets – it’s important to comparison-shop before plunking down your money. Check several online listings and hit some brick-and-mortar shops to find the lowest selling price. Visit CouponCabin.com, RetailMeNot.com and similar sites to look for available coupons and discounts. Spend some time researching the best season for purchasing that particular item so you’re not buying it just weeks before it goes on sale. Finally, consider buying your item previously owned for steep savings.

Don’t spend any more money than you absolutely must.

How many hours of work will you need to do to pay for this purchase?

Nutritionists famously warn their clients that the calories in a single donut will take a 45-minute workout to burn off. This exercise helps dieters decide if that small indulgence is really worth the price.

Adapting a similar approach to your finances will help you make the best choices. Calculate the total amount of hours you’ll need to work to pay for this “must-have” item. Then ask if it is really worth the price.

How else can I spend this money?

Think about the money you’re about to spend on this item. What else can that money buy? Can it pay for a few weeks of groceries? Would it go further on vacation, where it can fund a priceless trip filled with memories that will last your lifetime? It might even be enough to sponsor your child’s wardrobe for the season!

Take some time to think of other ways you can spend this money before making your final decision.

Have you splurged on any other large purchases recently?

If you can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with an occasional pricey indulgence, even if you don’t absolutely need it. But when luxury purchases become a habit, it can spell disaster for your finances. Your standard of living will rise to match your choices and you might soon find yourself spending enough to go into long-term debt.

When was the last time you bought something this expensive? If you’ve been super-careful with your spending for awhile, and you can afford this purchase, go ahead and enjoy! But, if you picked up a designer handbag just last week, you might want to wait a bit before buying the one that’s caught your eye today.

How often will I use this item?

Yes, the item seems absolutely essential today, but looking forward, how often do you think you’ll really use it? If you can see yourself growing tired of it quickly, or only using this purchase several times a year, you might want to re-think your decision.

How much will this money be worth if I put it into savings?

Even if you do have funds put aside for this purchase, you might find that you don’t want it that badly once you calculate how much this money can earn you over time. Check out this investment calculator to get that magic number. The results might leave you pleasantly surprised.

Here at Destinations Credit Union, we have several types of long-term savings accounts that can really help your money grow. Give us a call or stop by, and we’ll help you choose one that’s perfect for you!

Your Turn: What’s your number one question before making a large purchase? Share it with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.frugalrules.com/questions-to-ask-before-a-large-purchase/

https://www.makingsenseofcents.com/2016/08/what-to-do-before-a-large-purchase.html
https://www.thebalance.com/before-you-make-large-purchases-2385817|
https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.businessinsider.com/sc/things-to-consider-before-major-purchase-2016-10