How to Plan a Vacation Without Getting Into Debt


Whether you’re planning a trip to a country across the globe or packing the car for a weekend road trip to a local campground, you can have a debt-free vacation with some careful planning.

It’s easy to see how a vacation can blow up even the most carefully planned budget: In NerdWallet’s 2018 Summer Spending Report, parents surveyed by Harris Poll planned to charge an average of $1,019 to credit cards for summer vacations.

To ease the stress of a vacation on your budget, start with a clear idea of your trip’s scope — identifying expenses from the time you leave your home to the moment you return — and create a realistic spending limit. Then get creative to trim costs along the way.

1. Save over time

Play the long game when planning and saving for a vacation. Put a portion of every paycheck aside to build up a reserve of cash for your trip.

Even saving $25 or $50 a month will help make your trip more affordable. Make sure the amount you’re setting aside will provide you with enough vacation cash, too.

Consider opening a separate savings account and automating regular transfers to help you save without thinking about it.

If you’re more of an impulsive traveler, work to contribute to this travel fund regularly so you can have that weekend getaway without having to pull out your credit card.

2. Make a friendly budget

Think of your budget as another companion on your trip.

Just as with any travel buddy, make sure you and your budget set good expectations for each other. Make a spending plan. Account for everything from flights and lodging to entertainment and shopping. Your budget might not take you to every museum or restaurant you want; work to find a compromise that makes both of you happy.

If you run the numbers and find you can’t swing that vacation without overspending, think about shelving the trip for a few months and saving more money in the meantime.

3. Make the most of your credit cards

Have a travel credit card or a cash-back card sitting in your wallet? You can take advantage of it before and during your trip. If you don’t have one yet and your trip is six months or more away, consider looking into cards with a sign-up bonus that could cover flights or lodging.

Card in hand, spend smart. Say you have a card that gives you cash back on groceries; determine what you spend on groceries annually and earmark those rewards points for your vacation budget.

The key is having a plan to pay off your charges every month, advises Joe Cheung, a travel hacker and blogger at As the Joe Flies.

“Everything starts out with a commitment to not having any credit card debt,” says Cheung. “With that principle in place, that opens up the possibility to earn credit card rewards without going into debt or paying interest.”

You can also use a rewards card to cut your travel costs. Your card may get you free rental car insurance, or baggage fees or foreign transaction fees waived.

4. Watch hotels like a hawk

Lodging is one of the most costly parts of a vacation. Shop strategically to lower your hotel costs, including monitoring prices and booking rooms during off-peak periods.

Cheung recommends booking your reservation, but waiting to pay. That way you can continue to monitor hotel prices and change your booking accordingly.

“Sometimes prices will drop by just $10 or $20, but sometimes it’s pretty drastic,” Cheung says. “I once had a hotel for $250 a night, then it dropped to $160 a night.”

You also can check prices at the hotel where you’ve made your initial reservation and price-compare with hotel price aggregator sites to see if you’re getting the best deal.

5. Use apps to find cheap flights

Price-tracking apps and websites can do the work of price hunting for you.

With the smartphone app Hopper, for example, you can enter the general parameters of your itinerary, and it will track prices over time and alert you when the cheapest flight is available. The more flexible your travel dates, the easier it will be for you to find a low price. Google Flights provides a similar service.

One drawback to these services: They don’t include prices for every airline. So monitor a few sources to get the best price.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press. 

The article How to Plan a Vacation Without Getting Into Debt originally appeared on NerdWallet.


Ready to plan the vacation of your dreams? We’re here to help! Check out our Vacation Club or Goal Savings accounts. These accounts allow you to designate savings specifically for the trip of a lifetime!

Want to get more out of your vacation? We also offer multiple credit card options with features you will love!

Members 1st is here to help you through all of life’s most important moments and milestones. If you have any questions, please call Customer Service at (800) 237-7288, visit our website, or visit one of our various branch locations.

6 Tips for Holiday Shopping


The holidays can be an extremely stressful time, especially if you don’t plan ahead. Consider our 6 simple tips to ensure that you make the most of your money this holiday season.

1. Make a list

Be sure to make a list of each person you will need to have a gift for. Once you have finalized your list of gift recipients, go through the list and add what you think you will give each person. You may already know what you want to get someone, or they may have asked for something specific. Either way, add some sort of gift idea next to each recipient’s name on your list.

2. Set a budget

The term “budget” can be intimidating, but it’s easy to start with something simple. Your budget for holiday gifts should come from either disposable income, savings that you already have set aside, or a combination of both. If you’re worried that your holiday shopping budget won’t be enough, try to cut back on extra expenses such as takeout food, movies, or specialty coffee drinks.

3. Plan for other expenses

Holiday shopping doesn’t necessarily mean just shopping for gifts. There are many other expenses associated with the holiday season that are important to keep in mind. Consider costs such as gas for transportation, food for gatherings and parties, and shipping costs for items you purchase online. These costs can add up quickly, so be sure to factor them into your budget.

4. Take advantage of sales

Everybody loves a good deal, right? Keep an eye on specific items that you’re planning to purchase, as they will likely go on sale at some point. Many people wait until Black Friday for sales, but often better deals are available early in the holiday season. Comparison shop for your gifts from different stores and on their websites as this ensures that you get the best deal possible.

5. Get an early start

An early start to holiday shopping sets the tone for the season. The earlier you start your shopping, the better you’re able to stretch your money. If you wait until the last minute to do your holiday shopping, you’ll be faced with overwhelming expenses all at once. If you establish a plan to shop a little bit at a time, it will save you from too much stress in the long-run.

6. Use a mobile wallet

Using a mobile wallet will simplify your holiday shopping. Mobile wallets allow you to access your debit and credit cards digitally and make purchases without using a physical card. Mobile wallets are extremely secure and unique tokens are assigned to each card, which means that your actual card number is never exposed. Mobile wallets can be used in stores or online and can make your holiday shopping a whole lot easier!

Pro Tip: Don’t be fooled by store credit cards

Most shops and stores these days offer their own credit card. Opening one of these cards can be tempting, as there is often an initial discount on your purchase if you choose to open one. However, these are usually one-time discounts, and cannot be taken advantage of again. Store credit cards generally have high interest rates, which can end up being costly if you don’t pay off your balance immediately or fall behind on payments.

Instead, consider a credit card with options like rewards points, cash back, or a low rate. These types of benefits will be better in the long-run, and will help you be less stressed post-holiday season. Compare our Visa® credit card options here, and find the best fit for you.


Members 1st is here to help you through all of life’s most important moments and milestones. If you have any questions, please call Customer Service at (800) 237-7288, visit our website, or visit one of our various branch locations.

Defending Yourself Against Identity Theft


As technology advances, you can be sure that identity thieves are not far behind. Here are some common methods cyber-thieves use to steal your personal information and how you can increase your security while shopping or banking.

Phishing/vishing

Your email messages may not be quite what they appear to be if you’re targeted by a phishing scam. Phishing is the act of sending fraudulent emails that seem to come from familiar businesses. These messages contain links to phony websites designed to steal personal information either directly or through malware and key-loggers. Often you’ll see a problem referenced with a request to click on the link provided to correct it. Once you’ve entered your information, ID thieves can access your accounts.

Vishing is the telephone version of phishing. Callers are sometimes bold enough to suggest the victim call back to verify authenticity. But the vishers don’t actually hang up; instead they play a recorded dial tone to make the victim believe he’s making a call.

Debit and credit card fraud

Most shoppers love the convenience of plastic, and identity thieves use this to their advantage whether it involves skimming, phishing, vishing, malware, mail theft or just looking over a victim’s shoulder to steal account numbers. Someone running up debt in your name can ruin your credit score. When debit cards are compromised, it’s particularly alarming because fraudulent purchases drain your checking account instantly.

BEC scams

Business email compromise, or BEC, scams have cost companies more than $1.2 billion. A phony email from a CEO requesting that funds be transferred per attached instructions is sent to an employee. Because the email appears to come from the employee’s superiors, and because the message so closely resembles requests this employee receives regularly, the transfer is often made without question. The money then ends up in overseas accounts that are almost impossible to trace.

Tips to protect yourself

To even further reduce fraud risk:

  • Install the latest editions of anti-spyware, antivirus, firewalls and browsers to all devices, and password-protect them.
  • Use strong passwords for all accounts and change them frequently.
  • Monitor accounts and credit reports to detect fraud early
  • Don’t use public Wi-Fi networks for financial transactions.
  • Keep cards away from public view, and shred personal documents before discarding.
  • Opt in for two-factor authentication on accounts.
  • Turn off Bluetooth and near-field communication when not in use.
  • Don’t click on email links. Type full web addresses to access business websites.
  • Never share sensitive information in response to an unsolicited call or email.
  • To verify calls, hang up for at least one minute to ensure the first call is disconnected. Call the customer service number listed on your bank’s website or the back of your credit card, not a number provided by an unsolicited contact.
  • To protect your business from BEC scams, use a two-step verification process for all money transfers. Verbal confirmation is also wise.

Staying informed and adopting smart fraud prevention practices will go a long way toward protecting your identity. Between your efforts and your bank’s security, you should be able to stay a step ahead of identity thieves.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


Set up Members 1st Mobile Card Controls to control how, when and where your payment cards are used. Real-time transaction alerts and controls will provide you with a method to protect your payment information.

Members 1st is here to help you through all of life’s most important moments and milestones. If you have any questions, please call customer service at (800) 237-7288, visit our website, or visit one of our various branch locations.

4 Forms You’ll Fill Out at Your First Job


Nothing’s easy about finding your first job: not the internet scouring, not the resume tweaking, not the interviews. When you finally are hired, you should experience some relief — but the sheer number of things you have to learn in the first few weeks can make you feel just as harried as the search process itself.

We can’t tell you how best to do your job, but we can prime you for the paperwork. Here’s a breakdown of how to handle it.

Direct deposit forms

As soon as you can, sign up for direct deposit — an electronic transfer of your salary from your employer directly into your bank account. It might not go into effect until after your first payday, but once it does, it’ll make your life much easier. Your wages will be harder to steal, and you’ll be able to access them more quickly. Checks can take a few days to process.

Setting up direct deposit is easy: You just need your bank account number and your bank’s routing number, both of which appear on your personal checks. If your employer doesn’t have a direct deposit form, your bank can provide one.

Health insurance sign-up forms

Most people get health insurance through their employers. Those who don’t must shop for a plan through private exchanges or the public marketplaces created under President Barack Obama’s health care law — or pay a penalty for forgoing coverage.

Whichever route you take, there are a few facts and terms you should know when evaluating plans:

  • Your premium is the amount you pay for insurance. If you receive coverage through your employer, it’s usually deducted from your paycheck.
  • Your deductible is is how much you are expected to pay per year for medical services your plan covers. After you “meet your deductible,” you will only be responsible for a percentage of the cost of service, a copay or a flat fee, depending on your policy. If you have a higher deductible amount, you often have lower monthly payments and vice versa.
  • A copayment or copay is the small fee — say, $10 or $20 — you pay every time you visit the doctor, get a prescription filled or generally receive health care. These payments go toward your deductible.

There’s much more involved in choosing a health insurance plan, including understanding the alphabet soup of plan types, such as HMOs, PPOs, EPOs and POS plans. Read any plan details carefully to decide which type of insurance is best for you. (And if you’d rather stay on your parents’ health insurance plan, you can do so until you turn 26.)

Retirement and 401(k) deferral forms

You’re just starting your first job, so the time when you can stop working probably seems like it’s eons away. But now is exactly when you should start saving for your retirement.

Your employer might offer a retirement savings plan, such a 401(k), which lets you divert a portion of your pay into a tax-advantaged account. Your employer might also match some of your contribution. If you can, take advantage of the full match amount — it’s essentially free money.

Other retirement savings options include individual retirement accounts and brokerage accounts, but one thing is constant: The earlier you start saving, the more you’ll have when you retire, thanks to compounding interest.

Tax paperwork

You’ll probably notice very quickly that having a $50,000 salary doesn’t mean you’re actually taking home $50,000 per year. A portion of your check pays your federal and state taxes, as well as deductions for Social Security and Medicare.

Before you receive your first paycheck, you’ll have to fill out a W-4 form, telling your employer how much tax to withhold from it. If you’re single and have no dependents, it’s pretty straightforward. And even if not, the IRS has a helpful calculator. Depending how much you have withheld, come next April you could have a big refund coming, or you could owe the government a lot of money. If you don’t like how things shake out at tax time, you can file a new W-4.

Questions? Ask your human resources department

Just as there’s probably someone at your office who will train you and show you where the restroom is, there are probably also people who can help you make sense of all these forms — the human resources department. If you have a question about your benefits or how you get paid, talk to them. It’s their job to help, and they’ve been at it longer than you have.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


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What’s your money script?


Man using laptop in a domestic kitchenMost discussions about personal finance focus on cutting back, saving and planning ahead.

Not many address attitudes and the emotional relationship people have with money.

According to Dr. Brad Klontz, a clinical psychologist and financial planner who wrote the book “Mind Over Money,” financial mental anguish and self-destructive behavior affect the ability to effectively manage money more than outside economic factors.

Klontz says it’s a reflection of four “money scripts” we tell ourselves can hurt our relationship with money. A healthy attitude about money has a foundation in flexibility, he added.

Here are the four money scripts Klontz identified in his book. Which ones have been holding you back from achieving your financial goals?

Money avoidance: A deep belief that you don’t deserve money or that money is bad, and you’re a bad person if you want it. The feelings associated with money revolve around fear, anxiety or even disgust. People are torn between wanting more money in their lives and self-sabotaging their success because they believe money corrupts or is the root of all evil. They hold themselves back from growing wealth because they believe it keeps them honest, grounded and real.

Money worship: This is where money is the silver bullet to every problem. It’s the “if I could just win the lottery, my life would be amazing” assumption. Klontz said people with this attitude tend to carry revolving debt. For many people, money worship stems from growing up in an extremely frugal environment.

Money status: This one means that our self-worth is directly tied to our bank balances and investment portfolios. No money means no status. Money priorities are more focused on self image than prudent and strategic decisions. For example, did you choose your car or neighborhood because it’s practical or fits your lifestyle, or did you choose it for status?

Money vigilance: These are the people who watch every dollar, have solid savings and retirement budgets, but it’s never enough. They always worry that they are on the verge of going broke. There’s a lot of anxiety and guilt about actually spending their money. They are financially secure but are unable to enjoy their money.

Self-destructive financial behaviors aren’t driven by rational, thinking minds, Klontz stressed. They stem from subconscious beliefs usually developed in childhood. The key to overcoming them is to openly and honestly explore your relationship with money. That’s the most important step, he said.

Source: FinancialFeed.com


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Getting Hitched Doesn’t Need to Mean Marrying Finances


Marriage generally implies that two homes and lives become one. Should it also involve a complete merging of earnings, assets and expenses? With money arguments being one of the leading causes of failed marriages, combining finances can be scary. For some couples it’s the right approach, but there are several other options.

The traditional approach

Just a few generations ago, one spouse was generally the breadwinner who paid all the bills. Although today most marriages involve two people who work, the traditional approach isn’t entirely obsolete. It can be effective when one partner is a stay at home parent or full-time student, or one spouse earns much more than the other. It’s also appropriate for couples choosing to bank on one income to save for shared goals, such as a down payment for a home. Single breadwinner couples may merge assets or maintain separate accounts.

This type of arrangement works best when both partners have similar financial styles so that no one ends up feeling like a child having to ask for spending money or resenting the other for spending too much.

The share-everything approach

With this option, couples completely merge financial assets and responsibilities. All investments and debts are in both names and bills are typically paid from one joint account. Sharing everything works particularly well for couples that enter marriage with similar incomes and limited assets. As with the traditional approach, it’s vital that spouses have compatible styles to avoid feelings of resentment or deprivation.

The four-accounts approach

Sharing is beautiful but sometimes it’s also nice to have a little something of your own. With this arrangement, both partners contribute equally to a joint checking account used to handle household expenses and joint savings to reach shared goals. Their remaining income is deposited to individual accounts to be saved or spent at each partner’s discretion. This approach makes sense for couples with comparable incomes and debts, or when one partner is much more frugal than the other, since it lets both manage money as they see fit without straining the relationship. In cases where one spouse earns substantially more than the other, couples may want to contribute a percentage of their income as opposed to a fixed monthly amount to the joint accounts.

The what’s-mine-is-mine approach

Some couples may simply be more comfortable maintaining totally separate assets and liabilities. With this approach responsibility for household expenses may be split equally, divided according to ability to pay, or each spouse may pick which bills to cover. Keeping finances separate may make sense if one partner has a much larger income, net worth or debt than the other. When entering into marriage with vastly different financial positions, it’s also a good idea to consider a prenuptial agreement, whether or not separate or joint accounts are maintained.

Which way is best?

Whether and how completely to merge finances is ultimately a matter of individual style. With honest communication and trust, any of these vastly different approaches can work, giving those who choose what feels right a good chance at avoiding the bitter money conflicts that plague so many married couples.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


Members 1st is here to help you through all of life’s most important moments and milestones. For more information regarding checking accounts, savings accounts, or goal savings accounts, visit our website.

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