Money Tips for College Grads

Graduate of 2013


Guest post by Nico Leyva
Nico Leyva writes for Nerdwallet, a consumer finance website that promotes financial literacy and looks for the best ways to save you money.

Congratulations! You’re just about to graduate or already have graduated from college and are now officially an adult ready to embark on a journey into the real world. Unfortunately, you now have a whole new set of responsibilities and commitments. You are starting to become, or have become, financially independent, which brings with it a number of potential pitfalls and difficulties. You may be expected to support yourself with a job, pay your own rent, pay for a car, and pay for various other cost-of-living expenses, including food, health care costs and student loans. Keeping up with your finances is probably starting to seem a bit daunting. Don’t fret! We have some tips to help college grads stay financially healthy.

Don’t Overuse Your Credit Card – A credit card can be a great option to help you manage your expenses. But don’t start charging everything, because your account could become unmanageable as your amount owed increases. Credit cards tend to have higher interest rates for younger consumers, and bills can quickly spiral out of control. Unpaid bills or late payments will negatively affect your credit score and, in turn, your ability to receive loans and credit in the future.
Do Establish Credit – Managing debt is a very important way to establish credit and build towards better credit. Making sure you pay your student loans on time, and managing monthly personal loan payments or credit card bills will have an immediately positive effect on your credit score. Keep your total amount owed as low as possible and check your credit report (you get one free report each year from each of the three main credit bureaus) as often as possible, to ensure there are no errors. If you need help, schedule an appointment with a GreenPath counselor, a free service provided to members of Members 1st Federal Credit Union.
Keep a Budget – This might be the first time you’ve had to manage a budget on your own, and keeping track of every monthly or weekly expense can be tough to do off the top of your head. Create a worksheet or calendar of all your potential expenses and compare that to your monthly income. Keep it as simple as possible. Try to cut back on unnecessary expenses and focus on needs versus wants. It’s also very important to use online banking or a checkbook to track your transactions, so you know how much money you have and don’t get charged for overdrawing your account.
Start Saving – It’s never too late or too early to start saving. You should have a savings account that you contribute to regularly. It can provide back-up for your checking account, and it will help you be better prepared for future expenses and for life stages like buying a house, or saving for retirement.
A Car: To Buy or Not to Buy? – Cars are a big financial burden. Not only do you have to consider paying off the car itself, you have to account for possible loan payments, insurance payments, gas, and repairs and service when needed. Before considering a car, check out public transportation options in your area. Is there a bus line, subway or metro that runs near your work? Can you bike to work? All of these options will cut down on the amount of money you would be spending on a car each month and free up funds for other uses. Ask Members 1st about their First Time Car Buyers Program that’s available to college graduates.

You have your whole life ahead of you. Make sure you are putting your best foot forward financially. And don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially from your local Credit Union. Members 1st Federal Credit Union has a financial Advice Center to help you with any questions you might have, and you can always call them to speak with someone one-on-one. They’ll help you get on the path to financial success.

Buying vs. Renting – What’s better?

What’s the best bang for your hard earned bucks? Buying or renting?

1st time home buyer

Both have merit depending upon your individual situation. We’re all seeking a comfortable, safe place to call home and it can be difficult to determine whether it’s best to rent or buy a home. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re faced with making that important decision:

Realities of owning your own home:

  • You feel pride of ownership
  • You build equity in your home
  • You have a sense of community, stability and security
  • You’re free to change the decor and landscaping
  • Sometimes you must pay a neighborhood or association fee
  • You’re not dependent on a landlord to maintain your property
  • There is less mobility than renting since you can’t mnove immediately until you sell your home
  • You’re resonsible for property taxes
  • You may receive tax incentives
  • You must mow the loan, clean the gutters, rake the leaves, and remove snow

Realities of renting:

  • You have little to no responsibility for maintenance
  • It’s easier to move, depending upon your lease term
  • You can start investing now since you don’t have to save for a down payment
  • If your rent is low enough, renting could be a better investment than buying a house. You could invest monthly savings in long-term certificates or other savings vehicles.
  • There are no tax breaks
  • You do not earn equity
  • You have no control over rent increases or if the landlord sells the property

If you are thinking of purchasing a new home, meet with one of our Mortgage Specialists. They’ll help you get an idea of how much home you can realistically afford and the types of financing available. It’s also a smart idea to get pre-qualified for a mortgage before you start your home search. Call us at (800) 283-2328, ext. 6026 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For more tips on buying vs. renting, click here.

Cats & Dogs Wanted for our Pet Photo Contest

Dog and Cat photo collage

We’re looking for the “Best of Show-Dog” and “Best of Show-Cat”
to help us promote our newest insurance product, Petplan.

What’s Best of Show? It’s whatever your cat or dog means to you – is he or she the cutest, funniest, best dress/costumed or best furry friend ever? Show us in pictures! This contest is open to members and will run from March 20-April 20.

A $100 Petsmart gift card will be awarded to each top winner in the “Best of Show-Dog” and “Best of Show-Cat” categories. Photo entries will be judged anonymously. In addition to a gift card, the winning pet photos will be used in our future Petplan print and electronic promotional materials and will be featured on our Web site and social media sites.

Pet Photo Contest Rules:
1. Members may submit photos of their dog and/or cat to as an email attachment. Subject line should read “Pet Photo Entry.” The body of your email
entry must contain the following information for your entry to be considered complete: member’s full name, full address, phone number, pet’s name, breed, and approximate age of pet. Entries missing any of the required information will be disqualified. Photos will not be accepted by regular mail or at any Members 1st branch location.

2. A total of two (2) photos may be submitted in each category – dog or cat – per household.

3. Photos must be of dogs or cats and may not contain any humans or other animals.

4. Photo size should be no less than 12 mega pixels or 4000 x 3000. Photos may be horizontal or vertical.

5. Accepted photo file formats are JPG or TIF. Photos may be black & white or color.

6. Submission of an entry/entries grants Members 1st FCU permission to use the photo in marketing materials for Petplan without further compensation.

7. Contest runs from March 20 through April 20, 2013. Winners will be notified by phone and will be announced on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 on, our
Facebook page and blog and in the May-June issue of Avenues.

8. You must be 18 years of age to submit an entry.

9. Photos containing provocative, derogatory, violent, sexual, racially, discriminatory, culturally or socially sensitive material will be disqualified.

10. Copyrighted/trademarked photos will be disqualified.

11. Members 1st FCU is not responsible for any lost, delayed or incomplete entries. All decisions of Members 1st regarding this photo contest are final. Members 1st may change the terms and
conditions or any aspect of this program without advance notice. Members 1st associates, volunteers and family members are eligible to submit entries in the Associate’s Pet Photo Contest.

Protect Your Family With Flood Insurance

Flooded house

Spring flowers bring April showers, which can also bring… flooding!
Be prepared for the next flash flood warning with flood insurance and water/sewer backup coverage.

Flood insurance covers physical loss caused by floods, related erosion, severe rainstorms, flash floods, hurricantes and snow melt. It’s covered under a Federal program called the National Flood Insurance program. Flood insurance can be purchased directly through your insurance agent, the same way you purchase your life or car insurance. You can purchase flood insurance for your home, apartment, business or condo.

You may not live near water, but flooding can still affect you. Almost 25% of all claims occur in low to moderate risk areas. If your home is located in such an area, you may be eligible for a low cost Preferred Risk Policy.

What does flood insurance cover? There are two types of flood insurance coverage. They include building property and personal property, each of which is purchased separately, although you are encouraged to purchase both types.

Building property coverage protects the structure, and generally covers:

  • The insured building and its foundation
  • The electrical and plubming systems
  • Central air conditioning equipment, furnaces and water heaters
  • Refrigerators, cooking stoves and built-in appliances such as dishwashers
  • Permantently installed carpeting over an unfinished floor
  • Permanently installed paneling, wallboard, bookcases and cabinets
  • Detached garages (up to 10 percent of building property coverage)
  • Detached buildings (other than garages) require a separate building property policy
  • Debris removal

Personal property coverage generally covers:

  • Curtains
  • Personal belongings, including clothing, furniture and electrical equipment
  • Portable and window air conditioners
  • Carpets not included in building property coverages
  • Washers and dryers
  • Food freezers and their contents
  • Certain valuable items such as original artwork and furs

There is usually a 30-day waiting period before a flood policy becomes effective and there are exceptions, so speak to your agent. It is important to know that your homeowners’ or business policy does not cover you for a sewer/drain back up or sump pump failure. However, most insurers do offer endorsements or add-ons to their policies, which can cover the cost of damages and cleaning up after this type of event.

If you are interested in purchasing flood insurance and water/sewer backup coverage, contact Members 1st Insurance Services  at (800) 283-2328, ext. 5218 or 5245. Members are eligible for an additional discount with several national and regional carriers through our insurance agency.

Tax Time Made Easy – Turbo Tax Offer for Members

Stressing out over preparing your income tax returns? Get your maximum refund you deserve!
We’re offering a TurboTax deal for our members and
have a special  offer fo our military members.
Take a look:

man with falling money

Our members may receive a $15 discount on various TurboTax Federal products, the easy way to prepare your taxes. When you use TurboTax you receive:

  • Step-by-step guidance with customized questions based on your job, family and life – so you’ll get every penny you deserve.
  • Year-round expert help, so you can get one-on-one answers to your tax questions – free.*
  • 100% accurate calculations* and our guaranteed maximum refund – or your money back.*
  • Audit Support – you’re covered in case of an audit.*
  • Access to E-file – the fastest way to get your tax refund.
  • Feel 100% confident when preparing your taxes when you use TurboTax.
  • See full offer details

Military members offer. TurboTax Military Edition is FREE for E1-E5. E6 to E10 and Officers pay only $19.99. NEW TurboTax Military Edition helps you keep more of your hard earned money with a customized experience that gets you military-specific tax deductions.**

  • Walks you through military-related tax situations including state of residence, uniform deductions and PCS.
  • Get extra help and guidance from TurboTax experts that know the difference between “basic pay” and “combat pay.”**
  • TurboTax calculations are guaranteed 100% accurate* and you’re guaranteed to get your maximum refund – or your money back.**
  • See full offer for details.

*Accurate calculations guaranteed. If you pay an IRS or state penalty or interest because of a TurboTax calculations error, we’ll pay you the penalty and interest. Maximum (Biggest) Refund Guaranteed or Your Money Back: If you get a larger refund or smaller tax due from another tax preparation method, we’ll refund the applicable TurboTax federal and/or state purchase price paid. TurboTax Federal Free Edition customers are entitled to payment of $14.95 and a refund of your state purchase price paid. Claims must be submitted within 60 days of your TurboTax filing date and no later than 6/15/13. Optional add-on services excluded. Cannot be combined with TurboTax Satisfaction (Easy) Guarantee.

**Accurate calculations guaranteed. If you pay an IRS or state penalty or interest because of a TurboTax calculations error, TurboTax will pay you the penalty and interest. TurboTax live tax advice service is free and subject to availability, restrictions and change without notice. Available via telephone or live chat. See full offer details.Maximum (Biggest) Refund Guaranteed or Your Money Back: If you get a larger refund or smaller tax due from another tax preparation method, we’ll refund the applicable TurboTax federal and/or state purchase price paid. TurboTax Federal Free Edition customers are entitled to payment of $14.95 and a refund of your state purchase price paid. Claims must be submitted within 60 days of your TurboTax filing date and no later than 6/15/13. Optional add-on services excluded. Cannot be combined with TurboTax Satisfaction (Easy) Guarantee.

© 2013 Intuit Inc. All rights reserved. State filing charges apply. Limited time offer for TurboTax 2012. Terms, conditions, features, availability, pricing, fees, service and support options subject to change without notice. Intuit, TurboTax and TurboTax Online, among others, are registered trademarks and/or service marks of Intuit Inc. in the United States and other countries. Other parties’ trademarks or service marks are the property of their respective owners.

TurboTax and TurboTax Online, among others, are registered trademarks and/or service marks of Intuit Inc. State filing charges apply. Limited time offer for TurboTax 2012. Terms, conditions, features, availability, pricing, fees, service and support options subject to change without notice.

Let us meet or beat your current merchant processing pricing

Take our $250 guarantee –
We’ll meet or beat your current merchant processing pricing, or we will give you $250.

Merchant services

Accepting electronic payments is a cost-effective way for any business to provide quality customer service and still maintain operational efficiency. If you are a retail business, service, mail-order or Internet business, we can help you process electronic payments and assist you with the ability to accept credit, ATM and debit cards.

Our partnership with The Small Business Authority, powered by Newtek provides you with all of the tools you need to set up merchant payment processing and a way to customize programs that will help drive customers to your door. The Small Business Authority provides competitive processing rates while also offering the highest level of customer service and expertise available in the industry. The Small Business Authority will also assist you with implementing personalized gift card programs, ATM’s and check guarantee services to help maximize your revenues and reduce your costs. And as an added convenience, equipment purchasing and leasing are available.

To learn more about our business services, visit your local branch.  

Newtek, The Small Business Authority will pay $250 to your business if we cannot lower your “true effective rate” from your current merchant processing provider. Rate and price comparisons are based upon the calculations provided by NEWTEK Merchant Solutions. The most recent two (2) month’s credit card processing statements are required to calculate the “true effective rate.” Pricing comparison applies to Visa®, MasterCard®, and Discover Network® credit card processing rates and other normal monthly fees only, and does not include one-time set up, hardware or software fees. Select business types are not eligible for the $250 offer. Ineligible business types include, but are not limited to: travel agents, ticket brokers, airline tickets, debt consolidation/collection services, dating services, online dating sites, financial consulting, recurring billing or continuity merchants, computer software sales, discount clubs, or custom furniture retailers. The $250 will be paid in the form of a check within 30 days. Limit one offer per merchant relationship/business entity. Offer is only available to new NEWTEK Merchant Solutions – The Small Business Authority customers.

** Percent discounts on merchant processing are based on average cost savings experienced by new NEWTEK Merchant Solutions – The Small Business Authority customers. Actual percent discount may vary.

States looking to ban merchants from charging “check out” fees

pink wallet with cards photo

We recently posted information about merchants being able to add surcharge fees on credit card transactions (“Be Aware of Credit Card Surcharges, posted here on 1/10/2013). The following update is reposted with permission from the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association. It originally published in CUNA News Now (February 11, 2013 edition):

MADISON, Wis. (2/11/13)–The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) continues to monitor bills introduced in various states to ban merchants from charging “checkout” surcharge fees on credit card transactions. The state bills now total 11, in addition to two other states said to be drafting similar legislation.

Last week Vermont, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Utah, and Tennessee introduced bills in their state legislatures to ban the surcharges, and an earlier measure banning surcharges made progress in the New Jersey legislature.

Six other states–Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Jersey and Rhode Island–had introduced similar bills earlier. Pennsylvania and West Virginia also are said to be drafting similar bills. Since 10 states already have laws on the books banning the fees, if these states’ measures also became law, a total of 23 would have bans.

However, Maine–one of the original 10 states with a surcharge ban already enacted–is considering repealing that law. Last week legislators introduced a bill seeking to repeal its existing surcharge ban.

The flurry of bills are the result of a provision in a $7.2 billion industry court settlement that merchants negotiated with Visa and MasterCard and banks in an antitrust lawsuit. The settlement allows merchants to charge a checkout fee that must be equal to what the merchant pays to accept the card, which is typically 1.5% to 3% in the U.S. and not to exceed 4%. The surcharge provision of the settlement took effect Jan. 27. The surcharge does not affect debit cards.

CUNA is monitoring the developments because any surcharge on credit card transactions would affect all financial institutions, including credit unions, as well as credit union members. Here’s a rundown on last week’s activities:
• Vermont S.B. 87 specifies “a Vermont merchant in any sales transaction shall not impose a surcharge on a person who elects to use a credit card in lieu of payment by cash, check, or similar means,” said the Association of Vermont Credit Unions (Newslines Express Feb. 8). The ban would take effect in July. A bipartisan group introduced the bill: Judiciary Committee Chair Richard Sears (D), Economic Development Committee Chair Kevin Mullin (R), Committee Chair Timothy Ash (D) and Sen. Philip Baruth (D).
• A New Jersey bill making it illegal to impose a surcharge on credit card transactions passed the full Senate Thursday and the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, said the New Jersey Credit Union League (Daily Exchange Feb. 8).
• The new Missouri bill, H.B. 495, would amend state laws to ban surcharges “on a cardholder who elects to use a credit card in lieu of payment by cash, check or similar means.” Its sponsor is Rep. Randy Dunn (D-Kansas City).
• Utah S.B. 67, sponsored by Sen. Curtis S. Bramble (R-Provo), does not make the distinction between credit cards and debit cards but “prohibits sellers from imposing a surcharge on a transaction paid for with a financial transaction card.”
• Tennessee’s H.B.0897, sponsored by Rep. Jason Powell (D), prohibits sellers and lessors, as well as “any entity issuing credit or charge cards” from imposing a surcharge on credit card payments.
• News Now also verified state laws prohibiting credit card surcharges have been introduced in Kentucky (HB 256 and HB 259) and in South Carolina (H. 3477), but details were not available.

The 10 states with laws already on the books are: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas.

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