Archive for the ‘ credit cards ’ Category

Credit Scores Explained in (Exactly) 250 Words


What credit scores are: Three-digit numbers expressing the likelihood you’ll repay someone who lets you use their money (like a loan or credit card).

Who has a credit score: People who have been listed on an account that was reported to any of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. An account can be a student loan, car loan, credit card, credit-builder loan or maybe rent. It represents something you are obligated to pay.

Where the number comes from: Data is collected by the credit bureaus, which get the information from lenders, credit card issuers and public records. Then it is weighted to produce a score, typically on a 300 to 850 range. Higher is better. There are hundreds of scoring models, so most consumers have many credit scores.

How do I get started?

  • If someone with good credit makes you an authorized user on an account that’s reported, that can help.
  • Student loans and sometimes car loans can be relatively easy to qualify for.
  • Credit-builder loans and secured credit cards are made for people building credit or re-establishing credit.

What should I do to boost my credit?

  • Pay all bills on time, every time.
  • Use your credit cards lightly — that is, don’t use more than 30% of your credit limit on any card.
  • Keep old accounts open unless you have a good reason to close them (like high fees).
  • Apply for credit sparingly.
  • Consider having both installment (level monthly payments for a set period) and credit cards.

The article Credit Scores Explained in (Exactly) 250 Words originally appeared on NerdWallet.


Understanding your credit score doesn’t have to be difficult. For additional information regarding credit scores, click here.

Members 1st is here to help you to achieve your financial goals and assist you through all of life’s 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.

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.

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.

7 Banking Tips for Young Millennials


Once you start receiving your first paychecks after graduation, knowing how to spend or save your money wisely can be tough. While you may be able to do your banking with just a few taps on your phone, managing money well is much more complicated. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

1. Budget using apps

Tracking how much you spend weekly and monthly shows you where your money goes and how you can save more. You can use a budgeting tool or app that tracks your cash automatically or one where you enter information manually. Choose an app that lets you spend as little or as much time on budgeting as you want. From there, you can identify your total fixed expenses, such as rent and car payments, and more-flexible costs such as shopping and dining out.

2. Set up automatic transfers to savings

When you have a rough idea of how much you can save regularly, create a recurring transfer from your checking account to a savings account. By making savings automatic, you can get used to spending “below your means” and never have to worry about remembering to transfer.

3. Avoid overdrawing your checking account

Before you pay rent or spend any other big chunk of money, take a look at your checking account’s available balance. This can prevent you from spending more than you have in your account. If you overdraw, you may be charged a fee.

4. Establish credit

Student loans and credit cards can help you build good credit — as long as you stay current on monthly payments and don’t overuse your cards. Your credit score, which shows how responsible you are with credit, is an important factor that lenders check before approving car loans and mortgages. The better your score, the lower the interest rate you may be eligible for.

5. Repay debts strategically

If you have debts from multiple credit cards and student loans, pay the minimum on each and then contribute more to your higher-interest debts. By making those a priority, you can reduce how much interest you’re paying faster than by treating all debts the same.

6. Start an emergency fund

Being financially prepared in case of health emergencies or unexpected unemployment can save you from going into debt. Have a separate savings account just for this purpose; don’t mix it up with your regular savings. A good rule of thumb is to save enough to pay three to six months’ worth of living expenses.

7. Set long-term savings goals

Consider saving for retirement in an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan or individual retirement account. When you start saving early, you take advantage of compounded returns to make more money off your contributions overall.

From smart budgeting to setting goals, make good money choices now. Since time is on your side, you can benefit from building credit and saving early to be ready for big financial decisions in the future.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


Let Members 1st help you achieve your financial goals with our Goal Savings accounts. Use these accounts to save for different wants and needs. Choose what you are saving for and name your account. Set the dollar amount and target date for your goal. Save, track and reach your goals! For more information visit our website.

How to Be a Money-Smart Graduate Student


Whether you’ll be pursuing a master’s degree in English literature or a Ph.D. in chemical engineering this fall, life as a graduate student likely will require a good deal of thriftiness. But that doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to a steady diet of instant noodles and cereal for the foreseeable future.

Here’s a look at several sustainable ways that grad students can maximize their stipends or other income and cut costs in the process.

Find a roommate

Sharing a house or an apartment with others may have taken some getting used to as an undergraduate. By now, though, you’re probably a seasoned veteran. And that’s a good thing, since finding a roommate is still one of the best ways to save money.

As well as being able to write a smaller rent check every month, you may also want to divvy up utilities and split groceries. Consider using an app like Roomi to find someone who has similar attitudes toward noise and cleanliness, which can reduce tension down the road.

Catch the bus

Unlike your first college stint, you probably won’t be running back and forth between the far corners of your school’s campus to get to class. In grad school, you’ll probably spend most of your time in one or two buildings. A car, therefore, may not be essential. Instead, use a bike or hop on public transportation. Many schools offer subsidized transit passes to lighten the load on students’ finances.

Use student discounts

It can be disheartening to create a budget only to find that there isn’t much money left over for meals out or nights at the neighborhood bar. But if you take advantage of student discounts — and memorize that bar’s happy hour schedule — having a good time doesn’t have to put a major dent in your wallet.

From movie theaters to museums, many places offer student discounts. Although saving a couple of bucks may not seem like much, it’ll make a difference over time. This extra cash can then be put toward your future, either by eliminating debt or saving for retirement.

Tackle debt, save what you can

Only about 1 in 10 millennials say they feel “very confident” that they’ll have enough cash for retirement, according to a recent survey. If you’re worried about running out of money during your later years, consider starting to set aside some of your income now. A good amount to shoot for is about 10% of your monthly earnings.

You’ll also be doing your future self a huge favor by slashing as much credit card or student loan debt as possible. Also, do your best not to rack up any new consumer debt. Use your plastic only in emergencies.

The bottom line

Pursuing an advanced degree can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but not financially, at least not right away. It’s therefore essential to take advantage of all the breaks you can get, such as subsidized transportation passes and other student discounts. That way, the only thing you’ll graduate with is more knowledge, and not mountains of credit card debt.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


For more information about Graduate Loans and other student loans, visit the our student loans web page or our Student Choice website.

Understanding Mobile Payments


What once seemed a fanciful or even silly idea — that instead of cash or a card we’d use our phones to pay for stuff — is becoming the norm. Mobile-based payments in the U.S. are projected to reach $142 billion in 2019.

While that’s a lot of growth, mobile payments still make up a tiny fraction of retail commerce. In 2015 they accounted for only 0.2% of in-store sales in the U.S. And that might be because the technology is still somewhat new and perhaps confusing.

Here’s a quick look at mobile payment: how it works, who the major players are and how secure these transactions are.

How it works

Mobile payments really took off in 2014 with the introduction of Apple Pay®. Since then, a number of competitors have popped up, including Samsung Pay® and Google Pay®.

As their names suggest, these mobile payment services are tied to specific devices. Apple Pay works only on newer iPhones and the Apple Watch, and Samsung Pay requires later Galaxy and Note models. Google Pay requires an Android device.

With mobile payments, your smartphone acts as a proxy for your credit card, debit card, loyalty card or metro card. The card info is read into the phone either by taking its picture or by manually entering the number and expiration date.

Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay all make use of near field communication (NFC). NFC enables two electronic devices, one of them typically mobile, to communicate via close proximity – say, by tapping the phone to a credit card/phone reader.

Samsung Pay also uses a technology called magnetic secure transmission, which makes it compatible with existing card readers that are not NFC-enabled.

What about security?

Mobile payment systems use a host of security measures to protect transactions from hackers. Each card registered on your phone is assigned a token, usually a string of numbers that represents your 16-digit credit or debit card number. This means your card number is never transmitted or revealed; the token is used to process the payment. It’s similar to how EMV or “chip” cards work, if you’ve come across those.

To complete a transaction, you will also need to input a PIN, use a fingerprint scan, or sign, depending on the particular payment service and the sophistication of the terminal at the checkout counter.

The risk with mobile payments ultimately lies with your accounts, not the payment devices. For example, some financial institutions don’t always have the best procedures to verify that the person adding a debit or credit card to a mobile payment service is the account holder. That makes it possible for thieves to use stolen account information in their own mobile payment app.

Cases of fraud have also been reported in connection with so-called peer-to-peer payment systems that were developed primarily to allow friends and family to send and receive money. In the case of Venmo, a division of eBay’s PayPal, users have reported unauthorized withdrawals that apparently took place as a result of weak authentication controls that let hackers take over accounts.

Many of us already carry our phones everywhere we go, and as more Americans embrace the technology, it’s likely more retailers will install mobile payment readers. Knowing the ins and outs is important before you jump in as well.

Source: NerdWallet, Inc.


The Visa® credit and debit cards offered by Members 1st Federal Credit Union are globally accepted and feature built-in chip (EMV) technology to provide you with an enhanced level of security. Our cards are also compatible with Apple Pay®Google Pay and Samsung Pay® on select smartphones, which means you don’t even have to pull out your Visa card when paying for purchases at the checkout terminal.

To learn more about the Members 1st Mobile Wallet, click here.

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