With ‘Pokémon Go,’ If You Gotta Catch ’em All, Consider The Price

Brought to you by Destinations Credit Union

If you were alive in the 1990s, you might remember a new craze that swept the world in the form of a Nintendo Game Boy game called Pokémon. The premise of the game is incredibly simple. You capture monsters, train them and pit them against the monsters trained by your opponents. What made the game so popular was that simplicity combined with the social aspect. Not only could you duel against computerized opponents in single player mode, you could also link two handheld consoles together and battle your friends.

Each new generation of Nintendo handheld console had a new iteration of the same essential premise, with new creatures to capture, of course. The game remained popular, but it never had the same monstrous cult appeal of the original. The core problem is a hardware one. It’s hard to convince adults and older teens to buy a dedicated handheld gaming console when they have a phone that can provide endless distraction.

Finally, the makers of Pokémon have found a way to solve that problem. They brought Pokémon to the mobile marketplace with a free app called “Pokémon Go.” It’s available for iOS and Android devices, but it does require usable GPS functionality. It’s been incredibly popular. USA Today reports it has been downloaded over 15 million times, and Survey Monkey claims there are more than 20 million players. The success has been surprising even to the companies responsible for producing it; game servers have been crashing under the weight of unexpected traffic. The game is a perfect storm of convenience and nostalgia.

The game has been largely unchanged. A graphical update makes it look modern, but the concept is still the same. Catch Pokémon and battle them against other trainers. The big departure is that the gamepad has been replaced with something larger: the player’s body. You move your digital avatar around the game world by walking with your phone. Walking defines much of the mechanic of the game: Pokémon can be found in the real world outside the house, and various other game components incentivize players to be active.

Players can also obtain supplies at businesses that are registered as “Pokestops.” Getting within a few yards of a registered business or local landmark allows players to gather needed materials and may encourage them to step inside to check out a sale. In order to do battle with others, players need to head to “gyms,” which are set up in public places like churches, libraries and bus stops. At first glance, the app seems like a positive step in gaming. Rather than sitting in a bedroom playing games all summer, kids of all ages are encouraged to go outside and play with friends. It seems like a great generational compromise.

Still, there have been concerns about the game. News programs have reported instances of distracted players wandering into traffic, with some being seriously injured or even killed while playing. Further, the addictive history of the franchise should encourage some caution about the micro-transactions that are embedded in the app.

Safety concerns

Anything that commands your attention while you’re moving is a potential health hazard. What makes “Pokémon Go” uniquely hazardous is that it encourages exploration while being distracted. Players could be led into potentially unsafe areas in pursuit of rare creatures.

The best way to avoid these concerns is to encourage collective Pokémon exploration. Two people playing the game and exploring together, or two people playing one game, could be far more resistant to danger. There’s also no reason to head to unfamiliar territory while playing. Pokémon appear to populate the world randomly, so there’s no need to wander off an established route to catch ’em all. If a young child is interested in playing, it may be helpful to establish a “collection route” that takes them by several “pokestops” and takes a known amount of time.

It’s also important to remind kids about the physical boundaries that don’t appear as easily in the virtual world, like porches, fences and curbs. If you wouldn’t go somewhere without asking to get a ball back, don’t go there in pursuit of Pokémon!

At launch time, there were concerns that the app was peeking through users’ calendars, emails, and stored files in Google Drive. Google has clarified that these are not and have never been available to the app manufacturer. It’s still a good idea to pay attention to what permissions an app is requesting, but there are no immediate privacy or data security concerns with Pokémon Go.

Cost concerns

There are two big cost worries with “Pokémon Go.” First, the app includes micro-transactions: small fees charged for in-game content. These are used to buy in-game items that otherwise come in limited supply. While they cost small amounts, with the most expensive item being $5, many of these purchases can add up. It may be helpful to link the account with a pre-paid debit or credit card as a means of limiting the purchasing power of a potential player.

The other concern is in accounting for wireless data. The app takes players away from home wifi locations, which means it needs a constant stream of wireless data access. While consumption rates will vary, 4 hours of play could easily use 0.1GB, about a quarter of a percent of a 4 GB family wireless share plan. Be sure to monitor mobile data consumption on phones being used to play the game, and have a plan to cut off data access to avoid overage charges if that limit is approached.
“Pokémon Go” can be good, clean, healthy fun. It could also be a source of trouble. Talking to players about these risks and what to do to manage them can ensure everyone gets to have a great time.

How Can I Know If My Too-Good-To-Be-True Deal is Legitimate?

Brought to you by Destinations Credit Union 

Q: I was shopping for a new handbag online and noticed a huge difference in prices between retailers. One had a bag for $20, while the other had the same for $200! The first option seems too good to be true. Should I be wary of that amazing deal? 

A: It’s possible, though very unlikely, that someone is selling brand name goods at a fraction of the price. It’s far more likely, though, that the cheaper goods are counterfeit. They’re made to resemble the original, but use low-quality materials and little or no quality control in the manufacturing process.

Counterfeit goods used to be confined to small luxury items sold by street vendors. Sunglasses and watches were the easiest to vend to tourists and others who were prepared to deal in cash yet unprepared to carefully scrutinize the goods. The rise of the Internet as an international marketplace has resulted in the proliferation of the “fakes” industry. A recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows that around 2.5% of all global trade is in the form of counterfeit goods.
While the most common targets are luxury goods, modern counterfeit manufacturers have moved on to products where the deception is even more difficult for lay people to detect. Car parts, computers, and pharmaceuticals are among the growing pool of off-brand goods that are being marketed at name-brand prices.
It’s not just the fashion-conscious who should be concerned. These products aren’t held to any production standards. There’s no telling what could be in a counterfeit drug, or whether a counterfeit car part will even work. These products take advantage of the trust consumers put in established brands and could result in serious injury or death.
Even if you’re buying shoes (one of the most commonly counterfeited products, according to the OECD), it may not be harmless fun. Because the manufacturers operate outside the law, they frequently circumvent all labor safety standards. The counterfeit goods may be manufactured by children, or in conditions that fail to meet even the most basic safety standards. The chemicals used to treat vinyl or leather in counterfeit manufacturing facilities are also exceedingly hazardous, and may contain toxic levels of lead even after arrival.
The profits from the counterfeiting industry may support a wide range of dangerous elements. Organized crime groups, drug cartels and terrorist organizations are among those that use counterfeit goods to finance some of their operations. Because of all these scenarios, supporting the fakes industry is not a decision to be made lightly.
Counterfeit goods are like any other online scam. You need to take steps to protect yourself against being shortchanged. If you’re worried about buying counterfeit goods online, take these steps.
1.) Watch the price 
It’s possible that a vendor is selling goods at an impossibly good deal. If you’re buying from last year’s stock of brand name goods, or if the goods are returned or were previously opened, you might get 40% off the retail price. If you’re seeing a brand name good for 10% or less of its retail price, it’s got to be too good to be true. 
2.) Check the label! 
Most counterfeit goods are made to pass an initial visual screening. Manufacturers will put as much effort as possible into making the knock-off item shiny, with the logo being highly visible. They hope to distract consumers from exercising more careful scrutiny.
One of the most common errors in counterfeit goods manufacturing is the manufacturer’s address. Counterfeiters will use the corporate headquarters address, while manufacturers will list the location the goods themselves are manufactured. Minor errors in spelling or formatting of care instructions can also serve as red flags for counterfeit goods. 
3.) Evaluate your source 
Reputable vendors want nothing to do with counterfeit goods. The brand has value to the retailer as well. If asked, vendors should be able to clarify their supply chain. They should take steps to ensure their goods are legitimate.
If you’re buying something pre-owned, it can be difficult to keep the same level of scrutiny up. Check labels and serial numbers as carefully as possible. If an item has survived one owner, odds are good it’s not counterfeit.
When shopping online, stay away from auction sites like eBay, which are rife with counterfeit goods. Look for authorized retailers or online versions of brick-and-mortar stores. These retailers are more likely to have those supply chain controls in place.
Many cities also have places that are infamous for selling counterfeit goods. Trust your instincts if you’re on vacation. If an area is surrounded by street vendors selling normally expensive branded merchandise, find another place to shop. 
4.) Pay your taxes 
One of the most common ways criminals get caught is through the IRS. If you’re concerned with the authenticity of a retailer, ask for a receipt. If you don’t get one, that’s a huge red flag. If you do, look for sales tax. Because counterfeiters are already breaking the law, they don’t bother to report their sales or pay sales tax. This exclusion also reflects part of the “incredible deal” they are able to offer on brand name goods. If a store is paying sales tax, odds are good they’re on the level. 
Okay, now it’s your turn to share: What do you do to check the quality of the goods you purchase? Are there brands you always trust, or retailers you recommend? Ever have an experience you’ve regretted but learned some tips that might be beneficial to others? We’d love to know!

What are my options for digital banking?

Plenty. We live in the digital age, where you don’t even need to leave your couch to do anything; from buying groceries to meeting the love of your life. Destinations Credit Union is part of the many financial institutions allowing you to bank from a mobile device, and even through a mobile app!

In fact, The digital age is ushering in a new era of green banking, and the planet is healthier for it already. Mobile banking saves gas that you would spend on making a special trip to a branch. It saves paper that would be used on statements or receipts. Of course, the advent of the credit card is cutting down quite a bit on the paper, metals and energy used to make, track, and replace dollars and coins. Sites like Paypal or GoFundMe allow you to pay or be paid instantly, which cuts out the need for paper in checks or, again, receipts and paper money. The same goes for the ability to pay bills automatically online, either through your online/mobile banking page or through the company’s website. 

Are there any risks to digital banking? 

While the benefits are fantastic, digital banking does come with a few small risks. Some people find keeping a budget to be more difficult when they can just look at their phone and rationalize a purchase they don’t need simply because their balance seems okay. This is best solved with separate accounts for savings and spending, so you never think you have more money than you do. Also, although you can do quite a lot of your banking online, you can’t do everything. There are still some important tasks that you need to do in person, including setting up new accounts and making deposits over a certain threshold.

Of course, the biggest concern with banking in the digital age is the ever-looming threat of hackers. Robbery no longer looks like a tall man in a ski mask with a revolver. Instead, most robbery happens through identity theft, perpetrated by a much scarier, faceless criminal who could be anywhere. Protecting security is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and Destinations Credit Union uses industry-leading security protection technology. You can help by choosing strong passwords and avoiding online banking from public computers. Fortunately, identity theft is still quite rare. In fact, online banking has helped reduce much of the danger that comes from having paper with personal information on it sitting in the garbage can for anyone to find. The benefits that online banking provides continue to outweigh the risks. 

Are there any banking initiatives that directly support environmental sustainability? 
For starters, an ethical financial institution is one whose primary goal is to support sustainability and the long-term health of its community. Credit unions nationally have led the charge by identifying and supporting local businesses. The less distance goods have to travel, the less CO2 gets pumped into the atmosphere. Destinations Credit Union has also contributed to green initiatives across the community, such as conversion to a mostly paperless system and our annual shred day. Buying an energy-efficient car or building green features into your home can help build a sustainable future. 

How can this help me? 

In addition to the long-term benefits of going green, sustainable banking offers many advantages. Online banking can be done at any time and any place – no waiting for the branch to open, no wasting extra gas money driving to the ATM. Having receipts and monthly statements emailed to you keeps them all in one place, which allows for easy organization and budgeting.

The ability to be paid instantly allows you to, well, be paid instantly. No more waiting for a check to cash or losing it at the bottom of your purse. With automatic bill payments, you can put the bills right out of mind and never have to worry about forgetting them again. This does great things for your stress level and your credit score. In the end, saving the earth can also save you time, money and energy. 

How can I go green banking? 

In the year 2016, green banking is easier than ever. If you’re ready to be a part of the future, take these four easy steps:

  • Download our app for easy access to your accounts from anywhere in the world (note, you must be enrolled in and know your online banking credentials to use the app).
  • Enroll in paperless statements and get your important financial updates via email.
  • Set up direct deposit to split your paycheck between your savings and your checking and/or to make loan payments.
  • Use online bill pay to automatically and securely pay your bills each month.

Volunteer Your Child For Success Later In Life

Brought to you by Destinations Credit Union
Volunteering is one of the most selfless acts a person can do. It’s all about experiencing things as someone else experiences them, and making life a little better for the both of you. Some parents would rather their children spend that time studying instead of doing something selfless. Volunteering, to them, is nice in theory, but just not worth it. What if, though, volunteering could help you as much as it helps your community? There’s nothing selfish about seeking a win-win.

Here are three excellent (if slightly selfish) reasons to volunteer:

1.) Do it for the money

The Corporation for National and Community Service estimates that, in the last year alone, volunteers across America have provided an estimated $184 billion in the value of their service. At first glance, that might seem impossible, but if we take it down to each individual person, it starts to make sense. Let’s pretend a volunteer at a soup kitchen got paid. Let’s say their minimum wage is $7.25 and they worked three hours every week, times 10 different volunteers at that soup kitchen. That’s $11,310 each year that the soup kitchen can spend on countless other things: fresh or canned food, extra for patrons to take home, or even something as simple as more comfortable chairs. The more time your child spends volunteering, the less money your city (and you as a taxpayer) have to spend on keeping that city clean and healthy.

2.) Do it for the job

Though some might see volunteer hours as less time your child could spend at a job, statistics show that volunteering helps a lot in the long run. The Corporation for National and Community Service says that volunteers have a 27% better chance of finding a job than non-volunteers. On a more long-term note, volunteer hours are always on a college’s top list of things they look for on an application. Volunteering may mean lots of hours and transportation right now, but the shining spot on your child’s resume in the future makes it all worthwhile.

3.) Do it for growth

Volunteering, in the end, is all about two things: making a difference and growing as a person. If your child has the opportunity to impact someone else’s life, it will always change their own. Even the thanks they get from something as dull as collecting trash or shelving books is enough to show them the impact they can have.

Five Ways To Partner With Destinations Credit Union To Build Your Credit Now

Perhaps you may have had good credit in the past, but are now experiencing a much lower credit score due to choices or life circumstances. Or, you may be building your credit for the first time as a young adult or as a newly single adult. Whatever the reason, you can rely on Destinations Credit Union as your partner in building or reestablishing your credit.

Here are five ways we can help you get your credit rating going in the right direction if you’re just starting out, or boost your credit rating at any time:
1.)   Telephone counseling – Give us an opportunity to work with your credit report and your budget to help you find ways to pay down and eliminate debt or unnecessary expenses. Sometimes, it takes a fresh perspective to see your own situation clearly, and we’ve already helped countless members do just that. This is especially true if you feel weighed down by debt and monthly payments. Give our credit counselors a chance to show you how to pare down your debt and build up your credit score. It’s one of your many free benefits as a credit union member!
2.)   Credit builder (or re-builder) loansWe offer a credit builder credit card for members with limited credit history.  In addition, if your credit is damaged, we offer a variety of loans to help you get back on track.
3.)   Secured credit card – Consider setting aside $200-$300 to secure a credit cardin your name. You’ll have the convenience of shopping with a reputable card brand, and we hold the funds in a savings account to secure your purchases. You pay off your card balance or make monthly payments by the due date each month, and your credit score goes up.
Compare our low interest rates with no annual fee to bank products, and you’ll see they generally have higher interest rates and annual fees. It’s easy to see why it makes sense to build your credit with your Destinations Credit Union membership benefits.
4.)   Online budget/financial management tools – Our credit counselors will help you set up your online budgeting program and provide you with options for saving and investing, too. You can use the program on your own, whenever you’re ready. You’ll find options for monthly spreadsheets, and profit and loss statements for your personal and small business needs.
5.)   Rent payment reporting – Make sure your rent payments are tracked and reported to Experian RentBureau, the only major credit reporting agency to include on-time rental payment data on its reports. Use of timely rent payments to build and boost credit scores is relatively new, and many people don’t know about it yet.
If you’re already leasing a home, or looking to find a suitable property to lease, ask your management company if your payments are reported to Experian RentBureau. And if you pay rent to an individual rather than a management company, you can still take advantage of a service that collects your rent payments electronically, pays your landlord and reports to Experian. It may be possible to include your excellent rent payment history, too.
Here’s the important thing to remember – to use your timely rent payment history for building or rebuilding your credit, you’ll need to be proactive about it. There are a handful of services that will collect, disburse and report for you, but of course, you’ll pay a small fee for the service each month. You must contact them to pay the small fee, but it can be a valuable investment in building your credit score, along with credit counseling, credit builder loans and secured credit cards from Destinations Credit Union.

Planning for a good credit rating is just as important as planning for major purchases and life transitions. The importance of a good credit rating means it can’t be an afterthought and it shouldn’t be left to chance.
You’ve made the decision to become a credit union member, and that’s a step in the right direction! Give Destinations Credit Union a call at 410-663-2500 to take a look at your credit score and to talk about options for improving it.


Brextastrophy Or Brexportunity? What The Brexit Vote Means For Homebuyers And Homeowners

The recent decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union has led to serious turmoil in stock markets around the world. Many investors are panicking and selling off stocks in a hurry. Smart investors, though, can be prepared to ride out the storm by making a few savvy moves.

In times of trouble, people tend to look for the safest possible investment. These generally fall into three groups: stock in big companies, bonds of financially stable governments and real property. That last category should be of interest to homeowners and house hunters alike, as the recent Brexit vote is likely to be a boon to real estate markets everywhere outside the United Kingdom.
It’s not that people are flocking out of the UK and looking for houses to buy. Rather, many people are looking to invest in real estate, but the British pound sterling is experiencing a loss of value. On the other hand, for people looking for real estate either as living space or as an investment, the time has never been better.
Let’s take a look at how this could affect each group individually.

Real Estate Investors

Owning rental property is a big wealth-building strategy component for many people. Whether you serve as landlord yourself or turn the property over to a management company to handle the day-to-day operations, rental income is as close to passive as it gets. You get the rent minus expenses, plus the appreciation of the property.

One of the biggest costs associated with buying rental property is the mortgage. Very few landlords own rental property outright. More often, they mortgage the property and use the rent to cover the mortgage payment.

Interest rates have been historically low as a means of economic stimulus for quite some time, so costs have already been modest. With the uncertainty created by the Brexit vote, most experts expect the Fed to avoid raising those rates. Mortgages will stay cheap into the foreseeable future.

Moreover, investors seeking to invest in a more diverse real estate portfolio are buying mortgages at an accelerated rate. They’re doing so because they’re seeking a safe investment, and prime mortgages (loans made to people with good to very good credit) represent a pretty safe place to park money. Since there are more dollars available to lend, the cost of those dollars (the interest rate) will drop further.

If you’ve been on the fence about buying an investment property, the time could be right. Low rates and rising property values could make it a valuable part of your retirement strategy.


Most of the reasons why home ownership makes sense for investors also make sense for people looking to buy a home for themselves. There’s one more factor, though, that could tip the scales in favor of buying a home.

One of the other effects of increased mortgage availability is an easing of mortgage requirements. The door is open for borrowers with less-than-optimal credit scores. Many of these people have been scared away from the mortgage market because they fear they won’t be approved. The increased availability of credit, though, may make mortgages easier to get. Working through a community lender like Destinations Credit Union can offer borrowers the personal guidance they seek along with access to loan options that are not always widely available on the open market.

Homebuyers with good or very good credit may be able to up their price range a bit. If you’ve been on the market for a while and had little success, it may be time to take another look at payment projections and re-evaluate how much house you can afford. With interest rates approaching 3-year lows, you may be able to find an affordable house payment on a more expensive house.


If you’re a current homeowner, these rates should be attractive to you, as well. If you’re thinking about selling your home, now’s a great time. Cheap loans and rising rents will continue to push more people into the housing market, and more demand means prices are sure to continue to increase. Now might be a good time to get an estimate or test the waters to see how much you might get for your home.

If you’re happy with your home but want to make some upgrades, getting a home equity line of credit to do those remodels is another way to take advantage of low rates. Remodeling a bathroom or kitchen using a home equity loan could help you take advantage of the surging real estate market, and it could make your house a happier home in the meanwhile.

If remodels aren’t in the cards right now, it may be a wise opportunity to refinance. If you got a loan when you had less than perfect credit but have been making payments consistently, you could qualify for a significant savings in your monthly payments. The same is true if your mortgage is more than 10 years old. Refinancing now could lock in some serious savings and take some pressure off the budget each month.

You can probably save money on your homeowner’s insurance too.  If you haven’t shopped around for a while, you might want to see what switching can save you.  Our partnership with TruStage and Liberty Mutual offers great discounts to our members.  Liberty Mutual was one of the companies cited in The Simple Dollar’s Blog for the cheapest home insurance.  Get a quote and put some extra money in your pocket.

Don’t buy into the hype. The Brexit vote is not a time for panic. It’s not a time to stuff your money in a mattress. It’s a time to make smart moves to protect your investments, when disciplined investors can significantly improve their position. You can do it, and Destinations Credit Union can help!