Should I Lend Out My Credit Card? 

Q: Some of my friends keep asking to borrow my credit card and I’m wondering if this iswoman with credit card a good idea. Should I be lending out my credit card?

A: While circumstances vary, lending out your credit card to friends and family is generally not a recommended practice.

Here are six reasons to say no when a friend, partner or family member asks to use your credit card:

  1. You’re making yourself vulnerable to fraud

While it is not against the law to lend out your card, you are likely breaking the rules of your credit card contract by doing so. Worse, you’re opening yourself up to unprotected fraud.

Federal law puts the cap on credit card holders’ liability for fraudulent charges at $50. In addition, many credit cards offer extra protection against fraud to keep you covered; however, none of these laws and stipulations apply if you’ve willingly lent out your card and fraud ensued. If your friend lost your card, was irresponsible with keeping its information secure or was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and your card was hacked through no fault of their own, you’ll have to bear the brunt of that fraud. Even a zero-liability policy will not protect you if you’ve performed an act of “gross negligence”-which includes lending out your card.

  1. It can hurt your credit score

If your friend, partner or family member is asking to use your credit card for a purchase, there’s a good chance their own credit is shot. If your credit is still in good shape, why risk hurting your score by allowing someone who has proven to be an irresponsible spender to use your card?

  1. You’ll enable bad habits

The borrower is likely in the position of needing to borrow a card because of a reckless lifestyle and a buildup of irresponsible habits. You might think you’re being a good friend by helping them out in their time of need when, in reality, you’re only enabling them to continue on their path of self-destruction. You’ll be a truly good friend by showing some tough love and saying no.

  1. Payback time trouble

What happens when it’s time to pay that credit card bill and it’s a lot bigger than usual thanks to your friend’s spending spree? You might chase after your friend, asking for payment, only to have them respond by claiming you only need to pay the minimum payment right now, so they don’t need to pay it all back now. They may argue that you need to make that payment each month regardless of their spending, conveniently forgetting or playing dumb to the fact that interest is accruing on their purchase until it’s paid off.

This can go on for months as they continue procrastinating. They’ll reassure you that they haven’t forgotten the loan-they’re only waiting to land that dream job, get that raise they’ve been chasing or win the lottery. But until that happens, you’re left holding the bag.

It gets even stickier. Your friend may not understand that spending money on a credit card can mean paying back a lot more than the actual cost of the purchase. A prolonged balance on a credit card collects cumulative interest. Who’s responsible for paying that interest, you or your friend? While it’s your card, your interest expenses can increase a lot due to the large outstanding balance created by your friend.

However, if your friend believes they’ve only borrowed the amount they used to make their purchases, you’ll essentially be paying for the privilege of lending money.

  1. You’re putting your relationship in jeopardy

If you value your relationship with the person asking to use your credit card, you’ll turn down their request. By agreeing to let them use your card, you’re taking the risk of putting an unpaid loan between you and this person in position to ruin the relationship you share. You’ll feel awkward asking your friend to repay the loan yet again, and your friend may avoid your company when you’ve asked to be repaid one time too many. Why ruin a valuable relationship over a request you should have refused?

  1. You’re opening yourself up to repeat requests

Once you’ve gone down the road of lending out your credit card, it’ll be difficult to retrace your steps and learn how to say no. The original borrower may make a habit out of asking you to lend out your card, and other friends or family members who’ve heard about the arrangement may ask you to grant them the same privilege. Be strong and firm the first time you’re asked to lend out your credit card and you’ll better avoid facing the uncomfortable predicament of needing to turn down family and friends.

Your credit cards are personal objects marked with your own name. When friends, partners or family members ask to borrow your cards, just say no!

Your Turn: Do you think there’s ever a time to lend out a credit card? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.moneycrashers.com/why-you-should-not-lend-money-to-friends-and-family/

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-is-why-you-should-never-lend-someone-your-credit-card-2018-03-10
https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/sandberg-lending-credit-card-relative-responsible-1377.php

How To Recognize And Protect Yourself From Scams   

Scammers are always trying to con victims out of their information and money. They are,woman looking at tablet sweepstakes scam unfortunately, often successful. Scammers are expert impersonators, using sophisticated technology and their best acting skills to convince you they represent a business, institution or government agency you may trust. They also tend to prey on the most susceptible victims, including those who are down on their luck or are exceptionally naïve and trusting.

Here at Destinations Credit Union, our biggest priority is your financial wellness, and that includes keeping you and your money safe. To help you achieve it, we’ve put together this guide about recognizing the signs of fraud and protecting yourself from scams.

Five red flags of scams

While the details surrounding the way a scam plays out can vary greatly, most follow a similar theme. They try to get victims to share personal information or to pay for a service or product that doesn’t exist. Here are five ways to spot a scammer:

  1. They demand detailed information before agreeing to process an application. A favorite ploy among scammers is asking for sensitive, non-public information like your date of birth, Social Security number and login information for online accounts. They will typically do this before processing any application for an alleged product, service or job.
  2. They insist on a specific method of payment. If an online seller or service provider will only accept payment through a wire transfer or a prepaid debit card, you’re likely looking at a scam.
  3. They send you a check for an inflated amount. Another favorite trick among scammers is to overpay a seller or “employee,” and then ask the victim to return the extra money. In a few days’ time, when the original, inflated check doesn’t clear, the victim realizes they’ve been conned but it’s too late to get back the “extra” money they returned.
  4. You can’t find any information about the company the caller allegedly represents. A scammer representing a bogus business can easily be uncovered by doing a quick online search about the “company.”
  5. You’re pressured to act now. Scammers are always in a rush to complete their ruse before you catch onto their act.

Who are the targets?

Scammers usually cast a wide net to ensnare as many victims as possible. However, lots of scams focus on a subset of highly vulnerable targets. Here are some of the most common targets of scams:

  • The unemployed. The internet makes it easy for scammers to learn that you’re looking for a job. If you’re job hunting, be careful not to respond to any emails offering you a “dream position” you never applied for or even knew about.
  • The aging. Older people are another favorite target for scammers. Retired individuals often spend lots of time online, making them more vulnerable to scams. Also, as relative newcomers to the online world, they may be less aware of the dangers lurking on the internet.
  • Children. Sadly, the youngest members of society are another huge target pool for scammers. Children are naturally trusting and will more readily share information with strangers, which can then be used to steal their identity. Small children will likely not be checking their credit for years, which means a stolen identity can go unchecked until the child grows into a young adult. By that time their credit can be wrecked, almost beyond repair.

What do scams look like?

Here are some of the most common scams:

  • Cyberhacking. In this scam, hackers gain remote access to your computer and proceed to help themselves to your personal information.
  • Phishing scams. Scammers bait you into sharing personal information via a bogus job form, an application for a service they allegedly provide or by impersonating a well-known company or government agency.
  • Mystery shopper. A bogus company will “hire” you to purchase a specific item in a store and then report back about the service experience. Before you get started, though, you’ll have to pay a hefty fee, which you’ll never see again.
  • Job offers. Scammers “hire” you for a position and then scam you by sending you an inflated check, as detailed above.
  • Sweetheart scams. A scammer pretending to be an online lover will con you into sharing your personal information and/or sending them money and gifts.
  • Fraudulent investments. Scammers reach out to potential investors with information about lucrative investments that don’t exist.

10 ways to protect yourself from scams

Keep yourself safe by following these rules:

  1. Never share personal information online.
  2. Don’t open unsolicited emails. If you already have, don’t click on any embedded links.
  3. Never send money by insecure means to an unknown party.
  4. Protect your devices by using the most up-to-date operating systems, choosing two-factor authentication and using strong, unique passwords for every account.
  5. Choose the strongest privacy settings for your social media accounts.
  6. Keep yourself in the know about the latest scams and learn how to protect yourself.
  7. Educate your kids about basic computer safety and privacy.
  8. If you have elderly parents who spend time online, talk to them about common scams and teach them to protect themselves.
  9. Don’t take the identity of callers at face value, even if your Caller ID verifies their story. If a government agency, utility company or financial institution reaches out to you and asks you to share personal information, tell them you’ll contact them on your own and then end the call.
  10. Never accept a job or agree to pay for a purchase or service without thoroughly researching the company involved.

Above all, remember the golden rule of scams: If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.

Once an individual falls prey to a scam, there is very little that can be done to mitigate the loss. Full financial recovery can take years. It’s best to protect yourself from scams before they happen by educating yourself and asking [credit_union] for help.

Your Turn: How do you keep yourself safe from scams? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes/investment-fraud

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2019/02/romance-scams-will-cost-you
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0053-mystery-shopper-scams
https://www.wisebread.com/the-comprehensive-guide-to-identity-theft-everything-you-need-to-know

6 Ways To Keep Your Finances Intact This Holiday Season   

‘Tis the season to shop until you drop-or until you go broke. But you don’t have to woman shopping on computeroverspend.

There’s no need to rack up a huge credit card bill or go into debt just to cover your holiday expenses. Enjoy a stress-free season by keeping your spending in check with these six tips:

Create a detailed list of all your expenses

Don’t leap into your holiday shopping armed with nothing but a credit card. Before you hit the mall or start browsing, sit down and draw up a complete list of every holiday expense you can anticipate. Include all gifts, holiday décor, travel expenses, charitable donations and food costs. Try to keep this list as trim as possible by cutting out any non-essentials and using stuff you may already have in storage from previous years. Bonus points for any homemade gifts!

Determine how much money you can spend

Once you have all of your expenses written out, work on finding a magic number that will cover everything on your list and that you can realistically afford. Ideally, this money should come from funds you’ve set aside just for this purpose.

Divide and conquer

Next, assign specific amounts of money in your budget for each expense category and for every person on your gift list. For example, you can decide to spend $300 on your preteen daughter’s gifts and to donate $100 to charity this season. Again, make sure your numbers will work from both a financial and practical perspective.

Track as you shop

You’re ready to hit the mall! As you shop, keep a careful account of exactly how much money you’ve spent for each person and in each expense category. It’s best to use cash or a debit card when shopping, and to review your budget often to make sure you’re staying on track. This way, you’ll know how much you’re spending and you won’t be hit by awful “Santa shock” come January when you need to pay those credit card bills.

To make this job easier, use an app designed for this purpose. A common favorite is one called Santa’s Bag. The app allows you to set a budget for each person on your list and then makes tracking the amount you spend super simple. It will even warn you when you’re nearing your preset spending limit or when you’ve gone over budget.

Shop smartly and spend less

Keep your spending to a minimum by following these hacks:

  • Use shopping apps, like the Coupons App and Shopular, to get your favorite retailers’ best deals and coupons delivered right to your phone.
  • Follow the 24-hour rule. Before purchasing anything on the expensive side, wait 24 hours. Sometimes, after sleeping on it, you’ll find that you don’t need to buy that pricey gift after all. Or, you might find the same item somewhere else at a lower price.
  • Shop online on Tuesday morning. Research shows this time of week is when you’ll find the hottest online deals.
  • Shop with a friend. Take advantage of BOGO sales by splitting the cost of a single item with a friend and each of you taking one item home.
  • Shop late. Everyone likes to get an early start on holiday shopping, but prices actually drop in the weeks leading up to Christmas as retailers seek to clear out their holiday inventory.

Let Destinations Credit Union help

If you’re having trouble covering your holiday expenses, or you want to get a head start on next year’s costs, let [credit_union] help! Here are three ways we can take the financial stress out of the holiday season:

  • Skip-a-Payment. We get it. The holidays are crazy expensive. That’s why we allow qualifying members to skip one payment on a loan each November without hurting their credit or defaulting on their loan. It’s extra breathing room, just when you need it most! Although it is too late for this year, keep it in mind for the future.
  • Holiday Loan. If you can’t come up with the funds you need for the holidays, consider taking out a Destinations Credit Union Holiday Loan. Our fantastic terms and affordable rates make it a no-brainer!
  • Holiday Club Account. Spread the cost of the holidays across the year with an account created just for that purpose. You’ll set aside a little bit of money each month into your Holiday Club Account, and next year, when the holiday season rolls around, you’ll have all the funds you need on hand.

Don’t let financial stress ruin your holiday cheer this year. Follow our tips to keep your spending down, and stop by [credit_union] to see how we can help!

Your Turn: How do you get through the holidays with your finances intact? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-stick-to-your-holiday-budget-2385688

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/08/speding-holiday.asp
http://mentalfloss.com/article/516568/8-ways-make-sure-you-stick-your-holiday-budget

9 Germy Places To Avoid (Or Disinfect) This Winter

As Old Man Winter settles in for his yearly stay, it’s time to brush up on your disinfecting coule cleaning kitchensmarts.

Cold and flu viruses can fly up to six feet through the air, says Joseph Rubino, former director of microbiology at RB, the creators of Lysol. Harmful bacteria and viruses can lurk in places you’d never suspect, and knowing those places inside and outside the home, can help you avoid getting sick this winter.

Here’s a list of the germiest places you might encounter this winter and how to keep yourself safe.

At home

There are microbes all over our homes, but most are perfectly benign. Unfortunately, though, there are also many harmful ones, including cold and flu viruses, salmonella, listeria, mold, staph, fecal matter and E. coli. And no-these microbes are not found primarily in the bathroom. We tend to be the most germophobic about our toilets and clean them regularly, but it’s actually the kitchen that is home to most of these germs.
Here are the places in your home that are hotspots for germs and how to disinfect them properly.

Kitchen sink

You might want to sit down for this: According to microbiologist Charles Gerba, or “Dr. Germ,” there is more fecal bacteria in your kitchen sink than there is in your toilet after flushing it. In fact, your toilet-slurping dog has the right idea; that water can be cleaner than the water coming out of your kitchen faucet!

Gerba recommends regularly scrubbing your sinks with bleach, or with a kitchen cleaning product that contains bleach. You can make your own solution with 1 tablespoon of bleach to a gallon of water, or try finding a more environmentally safe option through the EPA website. For best results, allow the cleaning solution to sit for a bit before wiping, or use kitchen wipes for a more targeted cleanup. Be sure to clean the entire sink, including the drain, faucet and handles, because those bacteria love to spread their joy. It’s also smart to wipe down all nearby surfaces, like your counters or anything you have on display.

Kitchen sponge

Your dishwashing sponge can hold many more germs than you’ll ever want to think about. Most people know to wash their hands after handling raw poultry and meat, but these same people will wipe down germy surfaces with their kitchen sponge-and then use that same sponge to wash the dinner dishes.

A 2017 study found 362 different species of bacteria living in used kitchen sponges. And, a total of 82 billion bacteria were living in just one cubic inch of space! And here’s the kicker: Microwaving those sponges had no effect on the bacteria.

To keep the germ party out of your sponge, wash it down after each use with hot water and dishwashing soap and replace your sponges every week.

Refrigerator

There’s another bacterial meet-up happening both inside and outside your refrigerator. The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) found that 36% of tested refrigerator meat compartments contained salmonella and E. coli, while 36% of vegetable compartments tested positive for salmonella and 14% contained listeria. Gerba adds that refrigerator door handles can also be germ-infested, as home cooks regularly touch them after handling raw meat and poultry.

Use the same bleach cleansers for wiping down the inside and outside of your refrigerator on a regular basis.

Cooking equipment

According to the NSF, 36% of tested rubber spatulas and pizza cutters contained E. coli. And cutting boards fared no better.

“Recent surveys of homes found more fecal bacteria on a cutting board in the average home than a toilet seat,” said Gerba. “It’s actually safer to make your sandwich on a toilet seat than a cutting board.”

If you’ve just lost your appetite, the solution is simple: Wipe down all cooking equipment after each use with the same diluted bleach solution you’re using for your sink. Rinse off the kitchen gadget with a mild dishwashing solution when you’re done disinfecting it to make sure you’re not eating bleach.

In restaurants

Dining out can be great fun, especially when the weather rules out barbecues and picnics in the park. Unfortunately, though, restaurants can be fertile breeding grounds for germs. Here are the surfaces to be wary of when dining out this winter.
Tables

It’s a good idea to look at how tables are being cleaned. If they’re not being sanitized with a bleach solution, ask for extra napkins to keep from putting silverware directly on the tabletop.

Restaurant menus

They’re handled by hundreds of diners, and rarely cleaned; so it’s no wonder they’re full of germs! It’s fine to flip through the menu as you choose your entrée, but be sure to wash your hands after placing your order.

Lemon wedges
That iconic slice of citrus fruit on your water glass? It may just be your gateway to illness.
According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health, nearly 70% of lemon wedges on the rims of restaurant glasses contain disease-causing microbes like E. coli and other fecal bacteria.

When dining out this winter, tell your server you’ll skip the fruit on your glass. It’s just not worth the risk.

Condiment containers
You might be careful about washing your hands, but can you say the same for the diner who ate at your table before you? Condiment containers in restaurants can spread germs from one diner to another, so you may be walking out of a restaurant with a whole bunch of souvenirs you can really do without.

Holding that ketchup bottle with a napkin won’t help; napkins are too porous to act as a barrier for microorganisms. Instead, wipe down the condiment container with a disinfectant wipe or hand sanitizer before using.

In public places

Shopping carts
Shopping cart handles can be the worst germ offenders in the winter. To keep yourself from bringing home the germs from the dozens of shoppers who used your cart before you, wipe down the handles with a disinfectant wipe (offered in many grocery stores) and wash all produce well before eating.

The waiting room at the doctor’s office
If there ever was a place germs love hanging out, it’s the doctor’s office. While the exam room will hopefully be as sterile as possible, you can’t say the same for the waiting room. If you need to visit the doctor this winter, try to keep at least two chairs between you and other patients and to pack your own tissues. If you’re bringing children along, it’s best to bring your own books and toys to keep them occupied.

Here’s wishing you a healthy, happy winter from all of us here at Destinations Credit Union!

Your Turn: Which germ-infested place did we miss? Tell us about another bacterial hotspot in the comments.

Sources:
https://www.pinnaclehealth.org/wellness-library/how-to-stay-healthy-during-winter/
https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/07/health/germs-home-wellness/index.html
https://www.prevention.com/life/g20488512/8-germiest-public-places/

8 Ways To Beat Holiday Stress

‘Tisgirl sitting in front of fireplace looking stressed the season to be merry-except sometimes, it’s not.

While the entertainment industry would have us think the holidays are always full of good cheer, lots of laughs and warm feelings, the reality can, unfortunately, be otherwise.

Sometimes, all that frenzied consumerism, party-hopping and crazy schedules can bring out the worst in the people we love. Other times, a challenging life situation, such as a recent divorce, death in the family or financial struggles, are painfully magnified when everyone around you seems to be in such wonderfully high spirits.

No one wants to be the Grinch on Christmas. So, if you tend to feel stressed or down when the holidays roll around, here are eight tips to help you turn that frown into a genuine smile.

1. Watch the buck

Nothing kills the holiday cheer like a mountain of debt. Stick to a budget when doing your holiday shopping and only spend what you can actually afford. Be extra careful not to overspend as the holidays draw near, and you’re experiencing pressure to finish your shopping in time. If you find yourself running low on funds, consider arranging a gift exchange, like a Secret Santa, or giving some homemade presents this year.

2. Give back

The holidays can sometimes leave us feeling down because of all that emphasis on the perfect gifts. Opening up a present is always a thrill, but giving to others creates lasting joy. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, one of the best ways to reduce stress is to give back to your community.

Beat the stress this season by sharing holiday cheer with those who are less fortunate. There are so many ways to spread joy! You can bring some toys to the children’s ward at the local hospital to brighten up a sick child’s holiday. Use your time off from work to volunteer at a soup kitchen. Dress up your family in their ugliest Christmas sweaters and holiday hats before visiting the closest nursing home to put a smile on the residents’ faces.

When you give, you always give most to yourself.

3. Stick to a schedule

Part of the holiday experience is enjoying late nights and/or early mornings. Sometimes, though, all that lazing around and lack of quality sleep can make stress levels soar. There’s no need to be a stickler for your regular routine on the holidays, but it’s a good idea to keep some sort of schedule. Make sure you’re getting enough shut-eye, and if a physical workout is part of your daily routine, don’t neglect it over the holidays. You’ll always feel better when you’re taking care of your body. And, if you’re mindful about your habits, you may not even have those extra pounds to work off in January!

4. Party smart

Cheers! Can I pour you another glass of … soda?

If you like to party, you can end up getting sick over the holidays. All that heavy drinking and loading up on refined carbs can really do your body in. Do yourself a favor this year and watch what you imbibe. Enjoy a glass or two of your favorite alcoholic beverage, but try to keep the drinking to a minimum. Similarly, it’s OK to break your diet over Christmas, but it’s best not to go overboard. You don’t need to feel bloated and sick to enjoy the holidays. Keep the stress out by treating your body well.

5. Delegate

Are you hosting a crowd this Christmas? Guests can be great fun, but all the extra work can bring your stress levels through the roof. Here’s the good news: You don’t have to do it all! There’s nothing wrong and there’s everything right with asking for help. Don’t feel bad about having your guests and family members pitch in with cooking and cleaning. They’ll feel better, too, when they’re sharing the workload. Plus, everything is easier when there are more hands on deck.

6. Take some “me” time

Whether you’re a closet introvert or you just need some time alone each day, the nonstop partying and a house full of guests can get to you after a while. It’s always a good idea to take care of yourself, and in the chaos of the holidays this need is often neglected. Consider running out to get yourself a manicure, taking a solitary half-hour walk or just locking yourself in your room after a long and loud day to savor the peace and quiet. You’re not being an antisocial snob if you need your “me” time; you’re just being human.

7. Give up the guilt

If you tend to over-analyze every interaction you have with family and friends, you can really beat yourself up over the holidays questioning everything you’ve said. Try to relax and to let go this season. So long as you’re reasonably pleasant and agreeable, you can give yourself a break.

8. Lower your expectations

A common cause for holiday stress is unrealistic expectations. It’s best not to build huge castles in the air by keeping your expectations to a minimum. There will probably be some minor, or even major, stressors this holiday, and not everything will turn out exactly as planned. All of that is OK. If you don’t expect perfection, you won’t be struggling with mountains of disappointment this holiday.

Beat the blues and put the cheer back into the holidays this year!

Here’s wishing you Happy Holidays from all of us here at Destinations Credit Union.

Your Turn: How do you beat the holiday stress? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

Sources:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/life-without-anxiety/201212/10-tips-surviving-the-holidays
https://www.symptomfind.com/health/holiday-stress-management/
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/holiday-stress-tips_b_790222
https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/parents-holiday

Should I Buy A House During The Holidays?

Q: I’m in the market for a new home and wondering if I should push off my search until door with holiday wreathafter the holidays. Is it a good idea to buy a new home during Christmas?

A: While spring and summer tend to see the highest volume of home sales, it doesn’t mean they’re the only time to buy a house.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the myths and lesser-known facts about timing the purchase of a home and explore the pros and cons of buying during the holidays.

The myth about buying in the spring

Contrary to popular belief, springtime can be the worst season to purchase a home. While the longer daylight hours do make it easier to check out the exterior, shopping for a new house during the hottest real estate season can mean facing all kinds of drawbacks and difficulties.

First, and most importantly, sellers tend to mark up their prices when they see heightened demand for their homes. Also, the flooded market can lead to expensive bidding wars with buyers who are also interested in the same property. Plus, if your search is successful and you find a new home during the spring, the closing process can drag out much longer than necessary as title companies, inspectors and movers may not be able to service you in a timely manner during their busiest season of the year.

Why Christmas can be a better time to buy

Shopping for a home during the winter, and especially during the holidays, offers the following advantages:

Homes are priced to sell

Most of the houses you’ll find on the market during the late fall and early winter will be holdovers from the spring and summer season. At this point, homeowners may be desperate to sell and get their property off their hands. Alternatively, the houses may have just been put on the market because of the owner’s sudden and urgent need to relocate due to unforeseen factors like a job change, divorce or another life-altering event. In either case, the owner is looking to sell quickly, and will likely be more willing to compromise on their original asking price than homeowners selling in the spring and summer. In fact, according to The Wall Street Journal, home prices can drop to a 12-month low in December.

Holiday spirit makes people more agreeable

People tend to be in a more generous frame of mind around the holidays. Let this factor work in your favor by shopping for a home during the holiday season. You can walk away with a dream home at a dream price, and you may even be able to negotiate some extras, like furniture or a fresh coat of paint, into the selling price.

Fewer buyers on the market

With more people looking to relocate during the spring and summer months, you’ll have less competition when house-hunting around Christmas time. This will give you an edge in bidding wars and it will make it easier for you to negotiate to bring down an asking price on a home.

Professionals of the field are more available

December is usually the slowest month of the year for home sales. This can work to your advantage if you choose to buy a home around the holidays. Your real estate agent will likely have plenty of time to show you around since fewer other people are looking to buy during this season. The various professionals you’ll need to hire during the home-buying process-including an attorney, home inspector, underwriter and mover-will likely be able to service you promptly as well.

Before you go house hunting

While buying a house during the holidays can be a great idea, keep these factors in mind before you give your agent a call:

  • Daylight hours are short during the winter, giving you a small window of opportunity to search.
  • You won’t be able to see a home’s property in its full glory during the winter months.
  • Some sellers may not be too keen on throwing their homes open to viewers during the holidays.
  • Unexpected inclement weather may delay some parts of the home-buying process, like the inspection or even the closing.
  • You’ll have fewer homes to choose from when house-hunting during the winter, as a cooler real estate market means slimmer pickings.

Shopping for a new home during the holidays may not be conventional, but it can mean finding your home sweet home quickly, easily and for a far better price.

If you’re in the market for a new home, make sure to stop by [credit_union] to ask about our home loan options. We’ll help you move into your dream home with the most favorable terms.

Your Turn: Have you bought a home during the holidays? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://fitsmallbusiness.com/best-and-worst-time-to-buy-a-house/

https://www.thebalance.com/when-is-the-best-time-to-buy-a-home-1798329
http://www.freddiemac.com/blog/homeownership/20170129_pros_cons_buying_home_in_winter.page
https://loans.usnews.com/articles/reasons-to-buy-a-house-during-the-holidays
https://blog.nationwide.com/best-time-to-buy-a-house/
https://www.thebalance.com/selling-your-home-during-the-holidays-1799068
https://realestate.usnews.com/real-estate/articles/should-you-consider-buying-a-home-during-the-winter

All You Need To Know About Home Loans

Here at Destinations Credit Union, we provide a variety of products and services to meetimage of a mortgage application your specific financial needs and in the most ideal ways possible. One such example is our home loans. Let’s take a closer look at this product and how its application process works.

What is a home loan?

A home loan, or a mortgage, enables you to purchase a home without having to foot all the cash out of your pocket when purchasing. You will, however, need to make a down payment, which is typically between 3.5-20% of the home’s appraised value, along with closing costs and some other fees. The lender then finances the rest of the purchase. You’ll repay the loan, along with interest, over the course of (generally) 15 to 30 years.

Are all home loans alike?

Before you get started, you’ll need to choose a mortgage type. A conventional loan will necessitate a 5-20% down payment on the home.

There’s also an FHA loan, which only requires a down payment of 3.5%, but necessitates mortgage insurance. If you’re a military veteran, consider obtaining a VA loan, which lets you buy a home with zero down payment.

Once you’ve chosen the kind of loan which is best for your scenario, you may be given a choice of repayment arrangements for that loan.

Here are the three common types of mortgages:

  1. 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. The interest rate on this 30-year mortgage will remain fixed no matter the changes to the national rate.
  2. 15-year fixed-rate mortgage. This mortgage will also have a fixed interest rate, but the term lasts just 15 years. The monthly payments will be higher, but the overall interest paid over the course of the loan will be significantly lower.
  3. Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).  An ARM gives the borrower a lower interest rate in the early years of the loan, and then a gradual increase (adjustment) in rate over the rest of the life of the mortgage if rates are going up.

What do I need to know before applying for a home loan?   

A home is likely to be the largest purchase you will ever make. To qualify for one, you will need to prove that you are living a financially responsible life and that you can afford the monthly payments.

The primary way lenders gauge your financial responsibility is through your credit score. This number is like a grade that tells lenders how you’ve handled your past credit card accounts and other debts. It will include the length of time you’ve had your credit cards and loans open, the timeliness with which you’ve made your payments, the trajectory of your debt and the amount of available credit you might use. Most lenders will only grant a home loan to borrowers with a credit score of 650 or higher. You can check your score for free on Credit Karma. You might also consider ordering a free credit report from all three major credit bureaus once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

During the time leading to your mortgage applications, make sure to pay all your bills on time, don’t open new credit cards and work on paying down overall debt. A higher credit score will help you get approved quicker and it will net you a lower interest rate on your loan.

Another crucial factor in determining your eligibility for a mortgage is your debt-to-income ratio, or your DTI. Lenders want to know how big your collective outstanding debt will be in relation to your income if you receive the home loan. Most lenders will only allow a maximum DTI of 36%.

When should I apply for a home loan?

While you won’t need the loan until you are ready to close on a house, it’s a good idea to start the process before you begin house-hunting. Your lender will let you know whether you can expect to be approved for a loan and will provide you with an estimate of how much house you can afford so you don’t face disappointment later.

When initially applying for a home loan, ask your lender for a letter of pre-approval. This letter confirms you are pre-approved for a home loan up to a specific amount. Having this letter in hand shows real estate agents and sellers that you are serious about buying. Most pre-approvals are only good for 60-90 days, so make sure you’re ready to start house hunting before you get yours.

How do I apply for a home loan?

To apply for a home loan at Destinations Credit Union, visit our First Mortgage Center online – you can get information, speak to a Loan Officer or apply online. Make sure all of your financial paperwork is in order and hold onto all important financial documents in the months leading up to your application.

To make it easier, we’ve created a list of the information and documents you’ll need:

  • Name of current employer, phone and street address
  • Length of time at current employer
  • Official position/title
  • Salary including overtime, bonuses or commissions
  • Two years’ worth of W-2s
  • Profit & loss statement if self-employed
  • Pensions and Social Security check stubs
  • Proof of child support payments
  • Copies of alimony checks
  • Statements for all checking and savings accounts
  • Investments (stocks, bonds, retirement accounts)
  • Proof of any gifted funds from relatives
  • Car loan information

You will also need to explain any blemishes on your financial record; including bankruptcies, collections, foreclosures and delinquencies.

If you’re ready to apply for a home loan, visit our First Mortgage Center online.  We’re completely committed to your financial success.

Your Turn: How did you prepare for a home loan application? Share your tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.thebalance.com/before-you-get-a-mortgage-315700

https://www.rubyhome.com/blog/mortgage-loan-process/
https://thelendersnetwork.com/what-is-mortgage/

Don’t Get Scammed By Santa!

Someone’s been naughty this year-and we’re not talking about you! Those awful santa looking in mailboxscammers don’t take time out for the holidays, and if you don’t know what to expect you can be their next victim.

One of the oldest holiday scams, which is even more prevalent in the age of the internet, is the letter-from-Santa scam.

Here’s all you need to know about this Christmas-themed scheme.

How it plays out

In this ruse, scammers set up bogus websites where parents can order legitimate-looking letters from Santa for their children. The cost is less than $30. All they need to do is share some details about their child along with their credit card information, and the letter is supposedly as good as mailed.

Except that it’s not. Unfortunately, anyone who follows the instructions detailed on the site has just fallen prey to a scam. They’ll never see that promised letter, or the money they paid for the privilege of receiving a note from Santa. Worse, the ring of scammers now has the children’s information and their parent’s credit card details.

This set of circumstances can have all sorts of unhappy endings, from identity theft to emptied accounts. Sometimes, the scammers will go after the child’s credit, which will likely go unchecked for years. When the children are grown and try to open a credit card or take out a loan, they may find that their credit score has been destroyed by these scammers over the years, all without their knowledge.

Some sites will even offer to send the letter at no cost. All you need to do is share some details about your child, like their full legal name, date of birth and home address. Of course, this is also the work of scammers looking to steal your child’s identity.

How can I tell it’s a scam?

There are legitimate websites where you can order a letter from Santa for your child at no risk of identity theft or a ruined credit history. But how can you weed out the phony sites from the authentic services?

We’ve made it simple. Look for the following red flags, which should alert you to the fact that a site is created by scammers:

  • The fruadster reaches out to you repeatedly. Promotional emails and ads are one thing; targeted marketing that is so aggressive it borders on harassment is another thing entirely. If a company doesn’t stop sending you emails or alerts about its services, you may be dealing with a scam.
  • The site is not secure. As always, check for the lock icon and the ‘s’ after the ‘http’ in the URL; both indicate a site’s security. Also, look for security badges on the bottom of the webpage and click on them to see if they’re actual links to the security company they allegedly represent. Scammers often post static images of well-known security badges, which do fool people into thinking the site is safe.
  • You need to answer too many questions. Yes, a service sending your child a letter from Santa will need to know your child’s name and mailing address. They may even ask your child’s age so they can send an age-appropriate letter. But there’s no need for them to be privy to your child’s exact date of birth, and certainly not their Social Security number. If the questions in an online form are making you uncomfortable, opt out.
  • You can’t reach a representative by phone. Most websites will have the company’s toll-free contact number on the site’s homepage. If you suspect fraud, try the number. If the company is bogus, the number will likely be a fake.
  • You can’t find any positive reviews about the company online. An online search on a legitimate service should bring up basic information and some positive reviews about the service. If a search turns up empty, and of course, if it turns up any reports of past scams, the “company” is run by crooks.

If you’ve recognized a company as a scam, be sure not to click on any links that are embedded in their emails. Flag their emails as spam, and delete every email, message and alert it sends you.

You can still send your child a letter from Santa. Try a legitimate site like Portable North Pole or or better yet, create and send one yourself!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a letter-from-Santa scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/watch-out-for-the-letter-from-santa-scam-121214.html

https://news.yahoo.com/beware-the-santa-claus-letter-scam-155343661.html;_ylt=AwrEePCUWYJdWQkA6BsPxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTByZnU4cmNpBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwM5BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg–
https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2018/protection-from-holiday-scammers.html

Take Caution Before You Borrow Someone’s Charging Cable

You know the feeling. It’s like a bona fide coffee addict running low on caffeine, or like a young man charging phonehiker almost out of drinking water. You’re travelling and your phone is running low on juice. Frantic, you’re searching for a place to plug in and recharge. The last thing you want is to be completely stranded in a strange place with no way to order an Uber or pay for your dinner. In one last desperate move, you search through your bag for the charging cable you always keep there – and then you remember you lent it to your friend and never got it back.

What to do?

And then, like an angel, a stranger appears out of nowhere with a friendly smile on their face. They’re holding a wonderful, beautiful charging cable in their hands.

“Do you want to use this?” they ask.

What do you do?

A.  Smile your thanks, grab the cable and plug in your phone.
B.  Say “No, thank you,” before walking away, dead smartphone and all.

If you chose B, you made the right decision. Cybersecurity experts are warning against using a stranger’s charging cable or even borrowing one from an airport official or front-desk concierge at a hotel.

“There are certain things in life that you just don’t borrow,” says Charles Henderson, global managing partner and head of X-Force Red at IBM Security. “If you were on a trip and realized you forgot to pack underwear, you wouldn’t ask all your co-travelers if you could borrow their underwear. You’d go to a store and buy new underwear.”

Henderson heads a team of hackers that clients privately hire to break into their computers to identify vulnerabilities before blackhat hackers do. Henderson’s team will often send clients a compromised iPhone cable in the mail to see if the client will plug it in or if they’ve learned to be more cautious by discarding the charger instead.

Henderson warns that cyberhackers can easily implant charging cables with malware that can be used to hijack mobile devices and computers. This can spell complete disaster for the desperate traveler who graciously accepted the spare cable from their fellow passenger and plugged in their device.

At the annual DEF CON Hacking Conference in Las Vegas, a hacker known as MG showed the attendees how he had modified an iPhone lightning cable to serve as a hacking device. MG used the cable to connect an iPod to a Mac computer and then remotely accessed the cable’s IP address to take control of the Mac. These compromised cables are available on the Darknet for just $200 each.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that charging cables left over by previous guests in the front desk of the hotel are any better than a cable offered by a stranger.

“If the front desk had a drawer full of underwear,” says Henderson, “would you wear those?”

Unlike most scams aiming for as wide a target base as possible, using a charging cable to hack a victim’s device can only be pulled off on one victim at a time. Lucky for us, this means the charging cable hack isn’t as popular or widespread – yet. Henderson warns that the relatively inexpensive technology required for the hack and the fact that it is so easy to make the cable look completely innocent could mean an upsurge in these scams in the near future.

For now, it’s best to be aware of this threat and to practice caution when travelling.

Henderson adds that using public USB charging stations is currently a larger threat than compromised cables. These stations can easily be compromised and open your device to all sorts of malware and vulnerabilities. It’s best to use your own charger at all times.

“In a computing context, sharing cables is like sharing your password,” says Henderson, “because that’s the level of access you’re crucially conveying with these types of technology.”

To avoid falling victim to this hack, always pack an extra charging cable in your handbag. If you forgot to take one along or you can’t seem to find it, purchase a new one to use while you’re away. You can find charging cables in almost any convenience store for under $10 – a small investment for your safety.

The next time you’re running low on juice and a stranger offers you the use of their charging cable, make the safe choice!

Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by using a borrowed charging cable? Tell us about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/suzannerowankelleher/2019/08/15/why-you-should-never-borrow-someone-elses-charging-cable/amp/

https://www.headtopics.com/us/why-you-should-never-borrow-someone-else-s-charging-cable-7654695
https://frnews.ng/why-you-should-never-borrow-someone-elses-charging-cable/

What Is The Prime Rate And Why Does It Matter?

Q: What exactly is the “prime rate?” How does it affect me as an individual?Symbols of percent on falling red cubes

A: The prime rate is the current interest rate that financial institutions in the U.S. charge their best customers. These customers have excellent credit, and are eligible for this optimal rate because their loans carry the lowest risk for their financial institutions.

The prime rate is also referred to as the prime interest rate, prime lending rate or simply prime. You may hear this term thrown around a lot in the financial news or when reading up on loans and mortgages. That’s because the prime rate affects every level of the economy.

We have answers to all your questions on the prime rate.

How is the prime rate determined?

The prime rate is based on another rate, which is set by the Federal Reserve Board. It’s an interconnected system starting with the government and ultimately impacting each of us on some level.

The prime rate is determined in three steps:

  1. The Federal Reserve System, which is the central bank of the United States, sets the federal funds target rate, or the interest rate, it thinks is best for financial institutions to use when lending each other money.
  2. When financial institutions lend each other money to maintain their reserve requirements, they base the interest rates they charge each other on the federal funds target rate.
  3. The Wall Street Journal surveys the largest financial institutions in the country to determine the rate they are using and then publishes this rate as the prime rate. This number is generally 3 percent higher than the federal funds target rate.

The fed’s target rate, and consequently the prime rate, changes often. In fact, the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets the federal funds target rate, meets a minimum of eight times a year to discuss possibly changing the target rate.

The prime rate reached its peak of 8.25% in the second half of 2006 and then steadily decreased to a low of 3.25% at the start of 2009. It has increased over the past few years. You can check out the changes in the prime rate at Federalreserve.gov.

How does the prime rate affect the average individual?

There are two ways the prime rate affects you.

First, the interest rate on nearly every loan, including mortgages and credit cards, is affected by the prime rate. Financial institutions and large lenders will base their interest rates on the prime rate, generally establishing their current rates at an amount that is higher than prime to cover their larger risk of default. If the prime rate rises, the interest rates on your loans and adjustable-rate credit cards will rise as well.

Second, the prime rate affects liquidity in the financial markets. When the rate is low, liquidity increases. This means funds are more readily available because loans are less expensive and easier to qualify for. This, in turn, generates a growing economy as businesses expand.

Conversely, when the prime rate is high, liquidity is low and loans are hard to come by, thus slowing the economy down.

Is the prime rate the only factor used to determine individual interest rates?

While the prime rate is the starting point that financial institutions and large lenders use in determining an interest rate for a loan, it is by no means the only factor they’ll consider.

Your credit score plays a vital role in the interest rate you’ll be granted for a large loan. The higher your score, the lower interest rate you’ll earn. Keep your score high by using your cards responsibly and paying your credit card bills on time.

Here at Destinations Credit Union, we also consider your credit history and the general state of your finances when determining your interest rate on a loan. If we see that you’re moving on an upward trajectory and working toward paying down your debts, we’ll be more likely to grant you a favorable interest rate on any loan we offer.

Also, keep in mind that as an institution devoted to your success, we are always striving to help you achieve and maintain financial wellness. To that end, we offer our members a starting interest rate on all loan products that is currently lower than the interest rate offered by most banks in the U.S. While your specific interest rate may vary due to personal circumstances, you’ll know you’re always getting the best possible terms here at Destinations Credit Union.

The prime rate is an important element in the overall state of the U.S. economy and in your personal finances as well. While you have no control over the rate’s rise and fall, you can do your part in keeping your interest rates low by maintaining a high credit score, living with financial responsibility and taking advantage of the excellent rates on products offered at Destinations Credit Union.

Your Turn: How do you keep your credit score high and your interest rates low? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/primerate.asp

https://www.thebalance.com/prime-interest-rate-3305956
https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-cards/i/prime-rate/
https://www.federalreserve.gov/