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

What Kind Of Boat Should You Buy?

Are you ready to feel the lake or sea water spray on your face on a warm summer day?family on a speed boat

Before you become a proud boat owner, you’ll need to choose what kind of boat you want to buy. They are highly specialized, so the type of boat you choose should be largely determined by your favorite water activities. Are you going to be doing lots of on-deck entertaining? Will you use your boat mainly for fishing? Are your kids dying to spend each weekend water-skiing?

There’s a boat out there for everything!

To help you hit those waves sooner, we’ve put together a handy guide for the most popular boats on the market. Read on to find out what floats your boat!

1.) Bowriders

With their versatile design and open bow cockpit, bowriders are an all-time favorite. Take her out for a day trip, invite your friends over for a ride at sunset or get your adrenaline boost by attaching some water skis.

These boats were originally quite compact, but recently there’s been a small explosion of generously sized bowriders entering the market, some complete with full cabins. Most bowrider enthusiasts have their eyes set on the classic styles ranging from 18′ to 26′ in size. They’re more affordable than their monstrous cousins, yet still big enough to comfortably fit the whole family. You can find a bowrider powered by a stern drive or an outboard, depending on your preference.

The biggest upside of bowriders is also their biggest drawback. The jack of all trades is a master of none – bowriders’ versatility means they don’t specialize in any particular activity.

2.) Cruisers

Are you looking for a boat that can really take you places? Then you need a cruiser! These boats are perfect for extended vacations and trips to foreign ports.

Cruisers are powerboats that are equipped with overnight accommodations, a galley and the ability to take you far. They come as small as 30′ and as large as 100′. Though typically powered with inboards, stern drives or pod drives, you can also find a select few outboard cruisers on the market.

Here are some popular cruiser styles:

  • Convertibles. These cruisers have a flying bridge and are often designed for saltwater fishing. They usually come with a steering station on the bridge and another below in the cabin, making them ideal for any-weather cruising.
  • Express cruisers. These cruisers are lower and have a cockpit aft, a helm deck amidships, and staterooms forward. You won’t have an open steering station, but many newer models have sunroofs and lots of windows so you can get your fix of fresh air and sunshine.
  • Motor Yachts. The line between ordinary cruisers and motor yachts is a bit blurred, but most boaters consider anything topping the 50-foot mark to be a motor yacht. This extravagant cruiser comes with a matching price tag, but offers a truly luxurious ride.
  • Pocket cruisers. These very small cruisers have limited space and are popular with retired couples who enjoy exploring new places.

3.) Freshwater fishing boats

With the right fishing boat, you won’t let the big one get away! These boats are a must-have for fresh-fish aficionados. There are loads of freshwater fishing boat subcategories, though. These are the three most popular choices:

  • Bass boats. These are designed for catching largemouth bass. They’re super-fast and equipped with lots of accessories to bring you the biggest catch, like bow-mounted electric trolling motors and high-tech fish-finders. They also have convenient livewells so you can keep that catch fresh until you dock. Bass boats are some of the most expensive fishing boats you can buy.
  • Multi-species boats. These have a wider appeal than bass boats and come in a greater variety of styles. Some have open side consoles, others have tall windshields at the helm, and some are equipped with center consoles. You’ll also find livewells, rod boxes and mounted seats in most multi-species boats. These boats are ideal for fishers who love to catch a variety.
  • Aluminum fishing boats. These are some of the most popular boats ever. If you want to go fishing without blowing a ton of money, you can find a simple aluminum jon boat for less than $5,000.

4.) Pontoon boats

Pontoon boats fill the waters of smaller lakes and seaboards – and for good reason. All pontoons float on aluminum “logs” instead of the classic fiberglass hull. Pontoons were once slow and cumbersome. Today, however, they can be sleek and shockingly fast. They also offer loads of deck space and the capacity to add your favorite amenities, like a wet bar, towing arch or more.

5.) Saltwater fishing boats

If you love stalking the mangroves for striped bass and tuna, you might need a saltwater fishing boat. These boats come in tremendous range of styles and sizes. Here are some of the most popular types:

  • Bay boats. These shallow-draft boats were created for plying inshore waters. However, some larger varieties offer offshore capacity as well. Almost all bay boats are outboard-powered.
  • Center consoles. These wildly popular saltwater fishing boats range from dinghy-sized to true behemoths, like the Hydra-Sports 53 Suenos. Most center consoles are no-frills, though more expensive models come with luxury seating, built-in grills, and more.
  • Convertibles. These inboards run on pod drives and have large aft cockpits and tall flying bridges.
  • Expresses. Some offshore anglers love these smaller boats since the helm is right near the action. You can dash from the wheel to the rod in seconds.

6.) Speed boats

Speed junkies, this one’s for you! Get off the highway and out into the water on one of these hair-raising, adrenaline-pumping speed boats. You won’t find lots of space or luxury accessories on these boats, but you’ll get a thrill out of every ride!

7.) Watersport boats

If you use the water for sports, like wakeboarding, water skiing and wake surfing, you’ll need a watersport boat. This genre comes with a towing point for watersports of every shape and kind. These sports-dedicated boats are narrow in their versatility and aren’t very practical for overnighting, fishing or beaching.

When you’ve made your choice and you’re ready to buy that boat, don’t forget to call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union to learn about our boat loans!

Your Turn: Are you a happy boat-owner? Tell us all about your own model and why it was your boat of choice.

SOURCES:
http://www.boats.com/boat-buyers-guide/how-to-buy-a-boat-tips-for-a-first-time-buyer/

https://www.discoverboating.com/resources/article.aspx?id=134

7 Ways To Spot A Loan Scam

Your credit’s trending in the wrong direction, you’re short on cash and you’re desperate image of a hand on piles of moneyfor a loan. You need to get your hands on some cash to help pull you out of this tight spot, and you need to do it – fast! Unfortunately, though, it feels like no reputable institution is willing to grant you a loan. And the few that are will do so only with very unforgiving terms.

Then, miraculously, you find it: an ad for an easy loan with great terms that will qualify almost anyone. Best of all, the company is willing to work with borrowers regardless of their financial state. Finally – a way out! It’s the answer you’ve been waiting for. A dream come true.

Or is it?

Most successful scams prey on desperate and vulnerable victims. Loan scams are no exception: They specifically target people who are in dire straits and may be willing do anything to get their hands on some cash.But sadly, falling prey to a loan scam will only pull the borrower deeper into the pit of debt.

Once a loan scammer has snagged a victim, they will begin the process of having the borrower fill out a loan “application.” The victim, eager to get that quick money, willingly shares anything asked of them, including sensitive and personal information. With that info in hand, the scammer can make off with these details and empty the victim’s accounts, charge a shopping spree on the victim’s cards or even steal the victim’s identity.

Sometimes, the scammer may ask for an upfront debit card payment as collateral or insurance for the loan. Obviously, the victim will never see that money again.

Awareness and caution are the best defense. Here’s 7 proven ways to spot a loan scam:

1.) There’s no credit check

Every reputable lender, whether they’re affiliated with a credit union, a car dealership or an online institution, will want to verify that the borrower can, and will, repay the loan before they agree to the transaction. If a lender doesn’t bother checking your credit score and history, you can be sure they have no intention of lending you a dime.

The single exception to this rule is payday loans. Since these have such short terms and extraordinarily high interest rates, lenders don’t bother with credit checks. They still make money even if borrowers occasionally default on their loans.

2.) You’re asked to pay an upfront fee

You shouldn’t have to pay for a loan. When a lender asks you to pay a loan collateral, insurance or fees by prepaid debit card or wire transfer, you’re being scammed! Back out of the deal before it’s too late.

3.) The lender isn’t registered in your state

As per the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), every lender and loan broker must be officially registered in the states where they conduct business. A legitimate lender will have a list of states posted on their site to let borrowers know where they’re registered. If you can’t find this information on the site, and the lender refuses to provide further details, they are likely not legitimate.

4.) The lender is not affiliated with any financial institution

Authentic lenders must operate under a bank or credit union charter. This information should be clearly posted on the lender’s site. If it’s missing, you might be dealing with a scammer.

5.) You’re (sometimes strongly) urged to act immediately

If a lender stresses that you must submit your information and make your upfront payment RIGHT NOW, you’re likely interacting with a scammer. Most loans don’t expire after a few hours, or even a few days. The scammer is only trying to get you to act without thinking.

Exit the site immediately and change your device’s passwords as an extra precaution.

6.) The site isn’t secure

Whenever money is changing hands online, you’ll want to verify that you’re dealing with a legitimate site. The site’s address/URL will give you an easy clue: Look for an “s” after the “http” in the address. If it’s there, the site is secure; if it’s not, back out now!

It’s important to check the site’s security as soon as you hit the homepage. Waiting until you’re ready to submit your information can be too late. Creepy as it may sound, lots of hackers use keystroke loggers, which record as you type. That means, even if you haven’t actually submitted your filled-out application, they may already have all the information they need to scam you. If you check for a site’s security as soon as you’ve connected, though, you’ll exit any unsecured sites before you start typing.

7.) The lender has no physical address

Always do a quick online search using the lender’s official name. If it’s legitimate, a search should bring up a physical address and phone number for the company. If the lender’s name doesn’t turn up anything beyond the online world, opt out of the loan immediately.

Are you short on cash? Don’t get scammed – let us help! Call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union today to learn about our personal loans and other ways we can help keep or put your finances back in the black.

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a loan scam? Share your experience with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bankrate.com/finance/loans/personal-loan-scam-signs-1.aspx/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/peerfinance101.com/warning-signs-personal-loan-scams/amp/
https://www.finder.com/personal-loan-scams

How To Buy A Boat

Get ready to set sail this summer! Read on for the ultimate boat-buying guide.woman standing on deck of a sailboat

Step 1: Choose your boat type

Before you can start browsing, decide on the kind of boat you’d like to buy. Boats, like cars, should be purchased with their intended use in mind. Take some time to think about your favorite water activities and determine which are most important to you. Research different boat types and ask your boat-owning friends to share their own impressions and tips.

Once you’ve chosen a boat type, decide where you’ll keep it. If you’d like to save on dockage costs and have the space for it on your property, you might want to buy a trailer-able boat. Remember, though, that hauling your own boat means you’ll need to take it to a launch ramp each time you want to get out onto the water. A water-stored boat makes last-minute getaways possible.

Step 2: Decide if you want to buy a new or used boat

You can save a ton of money by buying a previously owned boat. Visit boating sites, like boats.com and discoverboating.com to check out used boats that are on the market. You might be pleasantly surprised! However, keep in mind that just like used cars, insurance premiums, repairs and maintenance may be higher for a used boat.

Step 3: Start boat shopping!

Get pre-qualified for your Boat Loan at Destinations Credit Union so you’ll know how much you can afford to spend.  Now you’re ready to hit the shops! Start your browsing with online listings. You’ll be able to sift through hundreds of models and compare prices, all from the comfort of your sofa. Check out  boats.com, YachtWorld.com and BoatTrader.com for a wide variety of models. On those sites, you’ll be able to search by boat type, size or even customize your search by location.

Once you’ve exhausted your online options, start making the rounds of local boat shows and dealers. Hop aboard as many boats as you can to get a real feel for the quality and potential ride. Be nosy and ask lots of questions. Snap pictures and organize them by boat so you can look it all over again when you get home.

Step 4: Narrow your choices

Now that you’ve spent some time checking out boats, you may have different priorities. Sit down and list what’s most important to you in a dream boat. Include all boat categories you will consider, and then narrow that by your must-have features, ones you’d like to have and ones you want to keep away from.

Next, review the snapshots of the boats you’ve looked at, both in real life and online, and list the ones that fit all, or most of, your preferences. Finally, it’s time to make that nail-biting decision and choose your boat!

Step 5: Inspect your boat

Once you think you have identified the boat of your dreams, conduct a walkaround and a sea trial. You might want to hire a professional surveyor to help you out here. You’ll need one for insurance purposes anyway, and they’ll know how to do the job more thoroughly.

Don’t be shy about inspecting your boat deeply – especially if a deal seems too good to be true. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises once the deal is done! Walk through the entire boat and closely inspect each structural component, feature and amenity.

When you’ve finished your walkaround, it’s time to take her offshore. Your sea trial will show you what the boat’s like out on the water. After the sea trial, ask to have the boat hauled. It’s important for you to see the entire boat before you buy it, even what’s usually out of sight and below the waterline.

Step 6: Find out what’s included

Before you sign a contract, sit down with the seller to discuss exactly what’s included in the sale. Request a list of all equipment that comes with the boat so you can ensure you’ve got it all. You can also ask the seller about an amenity package; they may be more than willing to get rid of their “boating stuff” and you can save a ton in add-ons this way.

Step 7: Seal the deal

You’re ready to make it happen! Assuming you’ll have the financial details worked out by now, all that’s left to do is sign the paperwork, and then the boat is yours. At this point, you may be feeling heady with excitement. Make sure you keep a clear mind so you don’t fall for any last-minute gimmicks.

Step 8: Purchase insurance, warranties and more

Before you set sail, make sure your boat is adequately insured against damage. You may also want to purchase a warranty against your boat’s condition. If you’re going to be hauling your boat around yourself, you’ll also need to buy a trailer before you can head out to the docks.

Finally! You’re all set to hit the water and take in many enjoyable hours away from it all. Power up that engine, feel the wind in your sails and enjoy the ride!

Your Turn: Have you recently purchased a boat? Share your best boat-buying tips with us in the comments!

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

What You Need To Know About Smishing Scams

How do you communicate with your nearest and dearest when you’re on the go and can’tclose-up of mobile phone on logging screen make a phone call? Do you send a VoiceNote? Use WhatsApp? Or, do you send an simple text message?

In a world where apps can almost run our lives for us, the humble SMS has outlived them all – and it’s still going strong. Unfortunately, though, texting has come under attack as one of the most vulnerable mediums for identity theft and more.

Here’s what you need to know about an SMS-based scam called “smishing.”     

How it works

Smishing scams are similar to email phishing scams in which scammers target victims by sending an email that appears to be from their bank or credit union, internet service provider or one of their favorite businesses. Smishing scams use text messages instead of emails, but their goal is the same as phishing scams: to establish contact with the victim and access their personal information.

The scam begins with a supposedly urgent text appearing to be from the victim’s financial institution of choice. Sometimes, it’s from a bank or credit union with whom they have never done business!

The text claims the victim’s checking account is locked and that the victim must take immediate action to restore it. Alternatively, the text may alert the victim about a large, unauthorized purchase that was charged to their account. The scammer warns that, if the charge is not contested immediately, the victim will be responsible for the transaction. There are more variations, but they will always convey a sense of urgency to induce panic and trigger immediate and mindless obedience.

The victim is then instructed to call a specified number and, upon doing so, will be asked to share personal financial information. Once they’ve got their hands on this info, the scammer is free to steal the victim’s identity, empty their accounts or go on a shopping spree on the victim’s dime.

Who are the victims?

Smishing scams primarily target people who use mobile banking apps and sites. Victims who use their phones to manage their accounts don’t question when their financial institution appears to contact them by text message and, unfortunately, these smishing scams are often successful.

It isn’t just online banking users who need to be wary of smishing. Fraudsters have widened their net and have recently started sending messages to any cellphone number they can get their hands on.

If you own a checking account and a cellphone, you are vulnerable to a potential smishing scam.

Recognizing smishing scams

If you know what to look for, you’ll be able to spot a smishing scam at first glance.

The credit union’s credit and debit card fraud detection partner may text you if the network detects suspicious activity on your account.  Destinations Credit Union’s card fraud detection department’s phone number is 1-800-889-5280.  Do not respond to the text, simply call the Fraud detection department and give them the reference number.

Destinations Credit Union will not use a text message to alert you of a lockdown on your account; we prefer to use more personable contact methods to help ensure your privacy and personal security.

Also, the phone number the smishing text instructs you to call is not ours. We service our members from our own premises, and our number is 410-663-2500. If you’re told to contact us at a different line (other than the card fraud number above), it’s not us you’re calling!

You can also spot the smishing scam just by looking at the phone number. The text will often appear to come from a number that is obviously fake. Alternatively, it can appear to have come from one of your contacts who is kindly letting you know about the trouble with your account. In such cases, ask your friend (directly, not in response to the message) if they actually sent it. If they have no idea what you’re talking about, someone is using their number to lure you into a scam.

If you’ve been targeted

If you receive a suspicious-looking text that might be a smishing scam, do not engage the texter! Jot down the scammer’s number and delete the message. Let us know about the smishing attempt and tell all your friends. You can also alert the FTC at ftc.gov so they can help catch those criminals.

If you’ve fallen for such a scam and your accounts have been compromised, alert your credit card companies and be sure to let us know as well. We’ll help you mitigate the damage and regain control of your finances.

Protecting yourself

You can’t insulate your phone against these scams, but there are some proactive steps you can take to protect yourself, your device and your money.  

  1. Always use two-factor authentication. Most credit unions require a two-factor sign-in, but if you have the choice of opting out of this extra step, don’t take it! It’s not worth the added risk.
  2. Strengthen your passwords. Never double your password use across different accounts, websites and apps. Make sure your passwords are strong and unique. Consider using a password manager like Dashlane or 1Password.
  3. Don’t respond. Ignore text messages from unknown numbers, even if they’re not alerting you about a problem with your accounts. A text from an unknown source may be the scammer’s first attempt at establishing contact and determining if you’re a willing target for a future scam.

Make sure you are always on the alert for smishing scams. Don’t let those crooks get their hands on your money!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a smishing scam? Tell us all about it in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/saltzman/2017/07/03/delete-suspicious-text-messages-on-your-smartphone/439647001/

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.timeinc.net/fortune/2017/07/07/smishing-scam
https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2015/01/23/5-scams-that-target-your-bank-account
https://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/12/this-growing-fraud-will-drain-your-bank-account.html

5 Ways To Budget For Your Wedding

Q: I’m ready to tie the knot, but I don’t know if I can afford to have a wedding! BetweenBride With Mother and Sister the flowers, gown and venue, it’s thousands and thousands of dollars. How can I cut costs without compromising on my special day?

A: If you’re finding the costs of your wedding to be prohibitive, you’re not alone. According to wedding magazine The Knot, the average American wedding costs upward of $35,000.

That’s a lot of money to spend on one day, especially for twenty- and thirty-somethings who might still be carrying college debt and are probably at the starting end of their earning potential.

It should come as no surprise, then, that more than half of newly married couples are still paying off debt from their special day years after the honeymoon is over.

This doesn’t mean you need to give up your dreams of a spectacular gown and a three-tiered wedding cake.

By planning ahead, choosing wisely and prioritizing what’s truly important, you can say “I Do” without stressing over wedding costs.

Here’s how:

1.) Start saving now

Instead of waiting for that special someone to pop the question, start saving now!

Ramit Sethi, popular finance blogger and author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, says this is the biggest mistake people make when it comes to planning for their weddings. The average age of marriage is 27 for men and 26 for women. If you start saving for your wedding when you’re 20, explains Sethi, you’ll only need to put away $333 a month. But if you start at age 26, you’ll need to put away $2,333 a month!

Start saving now and take your vows, debt-free.

2.) Time it right

Don’t assume you need to get married on a balmy Saturday in July. Think off-season and mid-week, and you’ll save a bundle!

First, consider a winter wedding. You might not have the luxury of sunny skies and blossoming flowers, but you’ll have the warmth and coziness of being inside on a freezing winter’s day. You can treat your guests to steaming hot cocoa and then set off for the ski slopes and a dreamy wintry honeymoon.

Best of all, you’ll shave thousands of dollars off the venue price by choosing an unusual time of year to get married.

Second, think beyond Saturdays. If you can find a church with a vacancy on a Sunday, grab it! Venue prices can drop dramatically with just a one-day switch.

You can also opt for a mid-week wedding that precedes a national holiday date, like July 4th or Thanksgiving. This way, your guests will still be able to enjoy the evening without rushing home.

3.) Skip the cake

A slice of a dessert for $2.50 that doesn’t even taste that good? Meh. Who needs it?

Here are some other ideas:

  • Fake your cake. If you can’t stomach the idea of a cake-less wedding, ask your baker to fake it for you by creating a false, cardboard bottom for your cake and only baking a genuine top layer or two. You’ll get the same look without the huge cost and you won’t be left with half a cake to trash when the wedding’s over.
  • Set up a bar. No, we’re not talking liquor. Make your wedding a conversation piece by setting up a dessert bar instead of a cake. You can serve hot waffles with ice cream, chocolate syrup, caramel sauce and a huge selection of other fun toppings. Or, you can choose to serve warm brownies or chocolate chip cookies as your base instead. Make it super fun with a hot chocolate fountain. Everything’s better with chocolate. You’ll be pampering your guests at a fraction of the cost!
  • Serve a sheet cake instead. Still want a cake you can eat in its entirety? Order a simple sheet cake from the best bakery in town. Your guests will be happy to savor a slice — even without all that fondant and frosting.

4.) Save on your gown

Every little girl dreams of her special day – and the special dress she’ll be wearing when it finally comes. But wedding gowns can cost thousands of dollars, and after being worn once, are often left to turn yellow in a forgotten corner of an attic.

Instead of throwing out thousands or even hundreds of dollars on your gown, look for a pre-owned gown on eBay, OnceWed.com or PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com. You can find a beautiful, gently used gown for under $100.

You can also look for a gown that wasn’t specifically designed as a wedding dress. Check out prom shops and sites, or embellish a bridesmaid dress to make it look like bride material.

5.) Vary your venue

Wedding venues tend to be couples’ biggest money-waster for their special day.

Save a ton by choosing a venue that has no outside contracts. You can shop around for the cheapest caterer, or break convention and skip the sit down meal, opting for something simpler and cheaper, like a BBQ buffet, burger bar or hors d’oeuvres and mini deli sandwiches.

If you really dare to be different, you can have your wedding in one of these unique, budget-friendly venues that can also serve as wedding halls for starry-eyed couples just like you:

  • Art gallery. It’s already decorated beautifully. Make your wedding stand out with this artsy choice of venue!
  • College campus. If you’re still a student and your college has a large dining hall and picturesque grounds, this can be an ideal wedding venue. Plus, you’ll probably be able to snag a steep student discount!
  • Vacation home. By renting a vacation home for two weeks, you’ll have lodgings for your out-of-town guests, a romantic wedding venue and a honeymoon destination when the wedding’s over.

Still not sure how to pay for your wedding? We can help! Call, click or stop by [credit union] today to ask about our personal loans, wedding clubs and other great services that can take the stress out of your wedding preparations.

Your Turn: Already married? Share your best wedding hacks with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.buzzfeed.com/amphtml/rachelwmiller/insanely-smart-ways-to-save-money-on-your-wedding

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.brides.com/gallery/wedding-budget-saving-tips/amp
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/ways-to-save-money-wedding/amp/

Debit Card Safety

“And how are you paying for your purchases today?”Close up of ATM key pad

It’s a question we have to answer almost every day. Will you be using cash, a credit card or a debit card?

It may be instinct for you to pull out any piece of plastic without thinking, but your random card of choice might not be the safest way to pay. Sometimes, you’ll want to use a credit card. And sometimes, its a better idea to pay with a debit card. Still other times, you’re best off using cash.

Let’s explore when and how to use your debit card.

Credit and debit: How are they different?

They’re both plastic, with a series of numbers, a security code and your name embedded on them. So, how are debit and credit cards different?

A better question might be: How are they the same? Appearances aside, your credit and debit cards have very little in common.

Credit cards allow you to choose your purchases now, and pay for them weeks, months or even years later. If you let your balance grow, you’ll be paying for a lot more than it really costs in the way of interest. But, if you make timely payments, you’ll have yourself a small loan that usually costs you1 little to nothing. Credit cards also offer rewards, purchase protection and the ability to back out of a purchase you’ve decided against. You can also contest fraudulent charges on your account, freeze your credit on a compromised card or even close the card completely.

Debit card transactions, on the other hand, take the money right out of your checking account as soon as you swipe. Some point of sale terminals put a freeze on the amount, removing it from your account a few days later. But, either way, you won’t be able to access that money and you won’t have to worry about paying for it later. There’s no interest here, but there also may be no purchase protection, depending upon your financial institution. Finally, in case of fraud you may need to resort to closing your checking account. However, usually a simple issuing of a new debit card is all that’s needed.

Which one’s better? It depends on the purpose. Debit cards are great for helping you stick to your budget and won’t send you into a cycle of debt. However, because they may offer very little recourse in cases of fraud, credit cards are usually the better choice in the most vulnerable situations.

5 purchases you should carefully consider before using your debit card

According to data from FICO, during the first 6 months of 2017, the number of compromised ATMs and point-of-sale devices was 21% higher than it was in the first 6 months of 2016. Don’t let your card be next!

Here’s where you may not want to use your debit card:

1.) At the pump

Card skimmers at gas stations are on the rise. By choosing to use your credit card instead of your debit card at the pump, you’ll have an added layer of protection against fraud. You can also choose to use cash. It’s the safest way to pay (so long as you watch out for pickpockets!).

2.) At an isolated ATM

The ATM at Destinations Credit Union? Definitely safe to use.  We check regularly for signs of tampering.

The one at the crowded pharmacy? Probably OK.

The machine in a secluded corner of an empty convenience store? Very possibly tampered with.

Isolated ATMs in locations with very little security and sparse foot traffic are prime targets for hackers. It’s best to give these machines a wide berth and pick up your cash at Destinations Credit Union.

3.) In an unfamiliar location

When on vacation, it’s important to think before you swipe. You don’t know the area and you can’t be certain which clerks are to be trusted. You’re better off paying with a credit card or with cash so your purchases are protected against fraud.

Also, a large charge in an area you never frequent might cause your purchases to be flagged as fraudulent. Let your credit union know about your trip and be careful how you swipe!

4.) For large purchases

If you’re springing for a new entertainment center or another big-ticket item, you’re best off using your credit card. It’ll offer you dispute rights in case the product doesn’t turn out how you expected, and you might be granted an extended warranty just for using a credit card.

5.) Restaurants

Can you really trust the servers at your favorite restaurant with your personal financial information? When you hand them your debit card at the end of the meal, that’s exactly what you’re doing. The server has more than enough time to clone your card and then use it for any purchases they’d like to make. Unless your restaurant has a tableside payment system, you’re better off using a credit card or cash to pay for your meal.

Look out for skimmers

Always use caution when using your debit or credit card. Check the payment processor for anything that looks out of place, such as a newer keypad on an older machine, or a hard-to-use slot for your card. Don’t forget to cover the keypad with your hand when inputting your PIN.

Stay ahead of hackers by using your debit card with caution!

Your Turn: Was your debit card ever compromised? Share your experience 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/10-places-not-to-use-debit-card-1271.php
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

4 Ways To Bring Your Dream Kitchen To Life

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where we spend many hours whipping up workman placing counter in kitchendelectable dishes to please every palate and food plan. It’s where we catch a quick morning chat over coffee and linger over dinners together in the early evening.

The kitchen is where it’s at.

It’s also the area of the home that sees the heaviest usage. All that food prep – and all that eating! – has your countertops, table, floors and appliances pulling full-time duty for hours each week. It is these reasons, beauty and practicality, that make kitchen renovations incredibly popular among homeowners. Give your kitchen a makeover, and you’ll almost feel like you’ve got a brand-new home.

Wondering how to make that happen? We’ve got you covered! Whether you’ve still got an avocado-green fridge, circa 1978, or your kitchen looks like it sprang out of a magazine and just needs a quick touch-up, we’ll show you how to give it a facelift on a budget.

Here’s 4 ways to bring your dream kitchen to life.

1.) Know your budget

Before picking out your new countertops and appliances, sit down and crunch some numbers. You’ll have to scrimp and save a while, dip into existing savings or take out a loan to cover the costs of your renovations. A complete kitchen remodel can run you as much as $40,000, but there’s lots you can do on a smaller budget. When you’ve figured out how much you can spend, here’s what you’re looking at:

  • With $5,000, you can give your kitchen a superficial touch-up that can pack a big punch. You’ll be able to spring for a fresh coat of paint, replace the faucets, pick up a new light fixture, reupholster or change the fabric on your chairs and windows and spruce up the area with some modern accessories.
  • With $15,000, you can do all that plus a whole lot more. You’ll be able to buy a new appliance or two, replace your countertops and even install new and budget-friendly cabinets.

If you’re planning on spending more, you might be able to re-do your entire kitchen.

When determining how much to spend, though, remember that kitchen upgrades can pay for themselves. Experts say that recently remodeled kitchens usually return between 80 and 105 percent of their cost when a home is sold.

And until you decide to sell, you’ll be the one enjoying your updated kitchen!

2.) Choose your cabinets

Cabinets can monopolize the visual wall space in a kitchen, making them a first choice for an upgrade. Here’s what you need to know about your cabinet options:

  • Cabinets with wood or plywood panels and solid wood frames are sturdy, budget-friendly, and fashionable.
  • Porcelain-tile cabinets are a fantastic new option that look almost exactly like wood for half the price.
  • Laminate is your cheapest option for cabinets. It’s durable, easy to clean and comes in a variety of colors and patterns.
  • Refinish the outside of your cabinets instead of replacing them for a new look that doesn’t bust your budget.
  • Install wall-mounted shelves to add storage space to your kitchen without splurging on new cabinets.

3.) Make a splash

Don’t forget your sink when upgrading your kitchen. Replacing the faucets, bowl or hardware can modernize your kitchen without costing much.

When changing your faucets, make sure you know the ins and outs of your options. Want to go with the flow? Brushed nickel is the most popular choice for faucets, largely due to its durability. If you hate scrubbing those fingerprints and water spots, you’ll be happy to hear that nickel conveniently hides dirt and grime.

Short on cash? The least expensive faucet finish is chrome. For a long-lasting material that won’t cost a pretty penny, go with brass instead.

If you’re looking to change your sink’s bowl as well, there are three main styles to consider:

  • Farmhouse bowls are super-large and deep and are the perfect choice for people with numerous dishes to wash on a daily basis. On the flip side, their large size means they might require a customized base cabinet for installation.
  • Top-mount bowls have a “drop-in” rim that keeps the sink in place on the countertop. This makes installation simple, but creates a prime place for dirt and grime to accumulate.
  • Undermount sinks are trendy and look sleek, but can take double the time and work to be installed.

4.) Choose your countertops

This is where you chop, dice, measure and mix your ingredients. Your counters need to be durable and easy to clean – and help finish off your kitchen’s upgrade. The trending countertop choices are granite, quartz and stone. These materials are beautiful, easy to maintain and can last for years and years.

If these options are not in your budget, consider engineered stone instead. It will give you a similar look for a cheaper price. For something more budget-friendly, you might want to go with ceramic tile. It’s durable, comes in almost any imaginable color and is a fraction of the price of stone.

Another great option that is just as cheap is laminate. It’s easy to install and also comes in a large variety of patterns and colors. Lastly, consider going with solid wood. You can have it sanded and treated to give it an extra long life, and it will give your kitchen a warm, hearty finish.

Longing for an upgrade and short on savings or cashflow? You can still have your dream kitchen. Call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union today to learn about our Personal Loans, and Home Equity Lines of Credit.

We’ll help turn your dream into reality!

Your Turn: Did you recently remodel your kitchen? Tell us what money saving options worked for you in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.marthastewart.com/1083498/7-steps-your-dream-kitchen

https://www.hgtv.com/design/rooms/kitchens/how-to-get-a-to-die-for-kitchen-without-killing-your-budget
https://clark.com/homes-real-estate/budget-diy-kitchen-remodel-for-less-than-15000