Posts Tagged ‘ debit card fees ’

Lose Some Debt Weight in 2015


So many bills!

 

Do you have multiple department store or gas cards that you never use? Do you pay annual fees for cards that never see the light of day?  Maybe it’s time to clean out your wallet and lose a little debt weight this year. Here are some tips:

PAY. If you have numerous credit card balances, tackle the one with the highest interest rate first and pay the minimum amount required on all of your other balances. When that one
is paid off, consider rolling that amount into the next highest credit card balance (old amount plus the minimum payment required).

TRANSFER. Consider transferring your higher rate credit card balances and loans to a Members 1st VISA®, which could save you money! Take advantage of our 1.90% APR VISA® Balance Transfer option. Call (800) 283-2328, ext. 6040, visit a branch or log into Members 1st Online » Card Services » VISA® Balance Transfer. This offer is available on balance transfers received through June 30, 2015.*

CHOOSE. Figure out which card you’ve had for the longest amount of time. Make sure to keep this card open, since lenders often see borrowers with short credit histories to be riskier than those with long credit histories. Determine one or two cards to utilize regularly and leave the rest at home. If you have a card that has a low-interest rate or offers rewards, it may be best to keep it open. It’s alright to close those credit cards that you’re no longer using, as long as they don’t have balances and you have other cards.

FOLLOW UP. If you choose to close a credit card, make sure to send a letter to the issuer sharing your decision. Double check your credit report to see if the card is reported as “closed.”

*The 1.90% Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on Balance Transfers using the specific form or online submission is a “Discounted” rate that will be in effect from the time of the posting of the balance transfer to your card account for six consecutive billing cycles afterwards, which will be considered the promotional period expiration date of that specific balance transfer. After the expiration of your “Discounted” rate the remaining unpaid portion of the original balance transfer request will be subject to your normal APR as outlined on your monthly statement based on the specific Members 1st FCU credit card selected. Consumer Cards (Business Cards are ineligible) may have up to 10 individual balance transfers open at any given time period. If you default through becoming 60 days or more delinquent we may increase your APR on the balance transfer and other balance amounts as defined within the cardholder agreement and disclosure, which is provided upon card issuance and available online at http://www.members1st.org. All payments received on your account in excess of your minimum payment requirement will be applied first  to the highest rate balances, secondly to the lowest rate balances and finally  to new purchases. All rates are effective as of January 1, 2015 and this offer may be withdrawn at any time. Other restrictions or conditions may apply. You may not pay off your current Members 1st loans or lines of credit by using this balance transfer option. For current rates, fees and other cost information, please reference the Visa Balance Transfer disclosure or contact the Members 1st FCU Card Services Group at (800) 283-2328, ext. 6035. We do business in accordance with the Federal Fair Housing Law and Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

 

5 Financial Resolutions for 2014


financial goalsAccording to a Marist poll, a whopping 44% of Americans make some sort of New Year’s resolution. If you’re one of the 12% that are setting new financial goals for 2014, the tips below offer practical, sustainable changes that can substantially transform the weight of your wallet. Since these activities are effective even as short-term goals, they should help you maintain your resolutions long after January 1. Read on to get started.

Set aside at least 10% per paycheck
It’s easy to get swept up in spending spree fantasies when you receive your paycheck, but don’t forget to set apart a percentage of your income for your savings account. The key word is percentage. If you save in proportion to your income, your savings can adjust to any sudden changes in pay—for better or worse. This takes the pressure off of having to save a set amount each month.

Try to make your savings contribution as seamless as possible. Some direct deposit options allow you to send a certain percentage of your income straight to your savings, before you have a chance to see it. If you don’t have that option, set aside money manually. To do this with discipline, it helps to think of your real income as your paycheck minus savings. If it helps, start at a modest 10%—which is the minimum generally recommended—and over time steadily increase the percentage of your paycheck you contribute to savings.

The key is to let the savings build—set up a special savings account if you need to remind yourself not to dip into them.

Pay high-interest debt first
Look over your loans and credit card bills and sort them out in order of interest rate. Paying more than the minimum on the debt with high interest will save you incredible amounts in uncharged interest. Even if your other balances continue charging you interest, so long as you make the minimum payments and maintain the low interest rates, you’ll be ridding yourself of the fastest-growing debt.

In addition, when you finally free yourself from the worst of your debts, you’ll not only have fewer payments to make, but you’ll feel fantastic knowing you avoided extra debt. Confidence from your previous success will make paying off small-interest debts that much easier and bring you one step closer to financial freedom.

Consolidate your credit
Another way of securing lower interest rates (and paying less in the long run) is by consolidating your credit card and loan bills. Consolidating means combining your outstanding debts, or transferring outstanding balances, onto a new loan or credit card with a lower interest rate. The main benefit of debt consolidation is that you can exchange the high interest rates of your previous loans or lines of credit for the lower rate of the new one.

However, keep a sharp eye out for any deals that seem too good to be true. Sometimes, lenders will initially give you fantastically low rates, and then jack up the interest as soon as the promotional period expires. Be careful to read the fine print, or consult a professional, before committing to a loan consolidation.

Learn more about the balance transfer options at Members 1st Federal Credit Union.

Automate and synchronize payments
Automating your loan and credit card payments can help you avoid those pesky late-payment fees or hiked up interest rates. Late payments reflect badly on your credit score, so anything you can do to avoid missing the due date helps. Automated payment services like online bill pay or direct debit are easy to set up and require little to no maintenance.

Keep in mind that we have the biggest tendency to overspend when we forget our debts and think of only the positive number in our accounts. Timely, regular and synchronized credit card payments will keep your brain (and your eager, spending heart) in check.

Get your free credit report
If you use credit, it’s always helpful to have a credit report on hand. A credit report tells lenders all the details about your past credit use, payment history and total credit available under your name. It’s best to know exactly how your credit is doing in what areas, so you can make specific changes in your faulty credit habits. Luckily, through the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you are entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.

To get a better sense of how your credit is doing throughout the year, order one of your free credit reports every 4 months.

Last word
The best thing about these resolutions is that they are each practical enough to start immediately—even today—yet, they also promise to significantly improve your finances in the long run. Half the battle of keeping resolutions is your ability to feel good about what you’ve accomplished in the short-term, and these changes allow you to hit rewarding milestones along the way to accomplishing your bigger, long-term goals. With a little prioritization, effort, and discipline you can proudly make 2014 your best financial year yet!

Note: Members 1st offers free access to money management and financial education services through GreenPath, a financial management program. Through comprehensive education and exceptional service, GreenPath has been assisting individuals for more than 50 years. As a member, you can receive assistance with:

  • Personal and family budgeting
  • Understanding your personal credit report and how to improve your score
  • Personal money management
  • Debt repayment
  • Avoiding bankruptcy, foreclosure, and repossession

Guest blogger: Nico Leyva of NerdWallet

 

 

 

 

Is a department store credit card worth it?


woman shopping

We’ve all been there: you’re at a department store standing in line to make a purchase and the cashier offers you a chance to save a few extra dollars by opening a store credit card. While saving money is almost always an appealing option, you may be wary of opening another line of credit.

Store credit cards aren’t always bad. However, they’re certainly not always good either. Whether or not you choose to open one should depend on a number of factors, the most important being your own financial situation and the specific terms and conditions attached to the card.

The main pros associated with department store credit cards include:

  • Special Discounts: Department stores often provide perks to store credit card holders, including special discounts, free shipping and tickets to special events. If you frequently shop at the store anyway, signing up for a credit card could help you to save a lot of extra money. However, it’s important to look very closely at the rules surrounding the discounts first, to make sure you’re getting a good deal. For example, some stores require you to charge a significant amount before you get access to savings perks. On the plus side, other stores offer cash back right at checkout, which can really add up. Always be sure to read the fine print.
  • Establish Credit: If you don’t have much of a credit history or are trying to repair a damaged one, opening a store credit card can help to raise your score. Department store credit cards are typically much easier to obtain than traditional credit cards. As long as you shop responsibly and pay the balance off each month, it will look good on your credit report.
  • Fund Major Purchases: Some store credit cards offer a zero percent interest rate for the first six months or a year, which can help you finance major purchases when you need them, instead of waiting until you can save up the cash. However, it’s important to finish making payments before the interest kicks in or you’ll owe some serious extra money.

While opening a store credit card can have its benefits, there are also many drawbacks. The biggest cons of department store credit cards are:

  • Lower Credit Score: If you have a good credit score already, opening too many department store cards per year can lower it. Even if you only open the card to take advantage of the initial discount, pay it off, and cancel it, that doesn’t remove the inquiry from your credit report. As a general rule of thumb, don’t open more than one or two lines of credit per year.
  • High Interest Rates: Department store credit cards may have much higher interest rates than you’d find with a traditional credit card. Confirm the interest rate before you sign up for the card.
  • Low Credit Limit: As department store credit cards are typically much easier to obtain than traditional credit cards, you usually won’t get too high of a spending limit. While this can be a good thing, it can also be annoying if you have the money to do some pricey shopping, but can’t put your entire purchase on the card.

Making the decision to open a new credit card is a big deal. You should never rush into something that can have such a huge impact on your finances. While it can be tempting to sign up for a store credit card on a whim to save a little extra money at checkout, don’t do it. Take the time to read the fine print and really think about whether the card is a good fit for you.

There are other credit card options that offer you low interest rates, no annual fees, and reasonable limits. Some cards also allow you to make purchases and reap rewards from purchases outside of a single store. If after weighing your options you decide a store credit card is for you, open an account on your next trip to the store.

 Guest blogger: John Gower, NerdWallet

International Travel Made Easy with our NEW VISA Re-loadable Pre-Paid EMV Chip Card


Feel like going international? Make sure you get our new International VISA Re-loadable Pre-Paid EMV Chip Card  (EMV= Eurocard, Mastercard and VISA) before you cross the US borders.  Our International VISA Re-loadable EMV Chip Card is the perfect traveling companion for anyone visiting locations outside of the United States.

Designed with the latest technology in a fully reloadable card product, the card features an embedded microchip that aids in reducing the chances of unexpected transactional inconveniences such as transactions being denied or rejected because of lack of merchant training; the use of chip-only unattended subway and vending terminals; and the fact that some overseas merchants do not want to accept the magnetic stripe cards because of risk.

It also delivers full debit card functionality at the point-of-sale, ATM access, cash advances and may be used online. This card product is specifically designed for our Credit Union members who are working, traveling, living or studying in Canada, Europe and other regions of the world where EMV Chip Card technology is the preferred method of payment.

“This step into EMV Chip Card technology has two objectives for us – first to serve our international traveling membership and ensure smooth transactional experiences abroad; and second to deliver greater levels of security and risk mitigation tools within our card programs including our pre-paid programs and standard debit and credit cards,” explained Jim Heile,  our Assistant Vice President of Card Services. “While we’re doing all that we can to protect our members from fraud, account security risks and identity theft, we don’t have control over what others are doing elsewhere. This puts that extra layer in place in addition to the added convenience when a member is outside of the US border.”

In a recent study completed by VISA, it was reported that the decline ratio in international locations throughout the world has reached 10.7% because of the lack of EMV Chips and international merchants being reluctant to accept older magnetic stripe technology.

The EMV Chip Card also allows a member to travel without having to obtain foreign currency prior to the trip. The Card can be used to make purchases at millions of VISA debit locations worldwide and to obtain cash at any VISA ATM worldwide. Even merchants in countries who only accept cards with a Chip will be able to approve the transaction. However, note that some unattended kiosk terminals outside the U.S. such as luggage cart rentals, parking garages, even transit terminals may decline an International Prepaid Card due to the way the authorization is sent.

George Nahodil, our Executive Vice President of Retail Delivery, Public Relations and Marketing, believes our members will appreciate this new product. “We’re definitely excited about being able to add this product to our Card mix. If there is any way we can make our members’ experience positive, be it here or overseas, we’ll find a way to do just that. We’ve found that the United Kingdom, Italy and France are the top three countries where members are beginning to experience major changes at the point-of-sale. Even our neighbors in Canada are in the midst of a major migration to EMV Chip Card point-of-sale terminals at merchants. This Card is perfect for business travelers as well as students who may be studying abroad as well as the casual traveler,” he said.

 “We not sitting back watching what others are doing, we’re very much involved in the future today and EMV Chip Card technology is just the beginning,” said Heile.

How do you get your International VISA Re-loadable Pre-Paid EMV Chip Card? First you have to be a member of our Credit Union. This card may be purchased by any member at one of our conveniently located 51 branches or through www.members1st.org. For more information about obtaining an International VISA Re-loadable Pre-Paid EMV/Chip card, interested individuals may call (800) 283-2328, ext. 6035 or visit www.members1st.org; click “Products & Services”, followed by “Card Services”.

Your voice counts in so many ways


The customers of one big name financial institution spoke. Their voice was loud and clear. And that collective voice made the cookie crumble – at least for a while. In case you haven’t heard, Bank of America (BofA), one of the nation’s largest financial institutions (JPMorgan Chase is number one according to a recent article in the New York Times), has decided to abandon its plan to charge its customers a $5 fee to use their debit card for purchases.

Imagine – big business listening to the people who keep it in business. Why the change of plans? Could they not handle the outpouring of complaints? Maybe the looming Bank Transfer Day planned for Saturday, November 5 had something to do with it.  Perhaps Molly Katchpole, the 22-year old from Washington who used Change.org to organize a 300,000+ signature collection platform had a bit of influence. Maybe BofA customers were upset with their bank’s decision to cut thousands of jobs to allegedly save money but yet chose to add yet another fee. One thing is certain, BofA and the others (Wells Fargo, SunTrust, JPMorgan Chase, Regions Financial) will have something else up their sleeve that they’ll spring on their customers once this debit card fee dust settles. You don’t have to be a savvy, degreed financier or Wall Street analyst to know that they’ll have to make up for lost income somehow.

The media – social and mainstream – will let us know in due time. For now, there’s a lesson to be learned here. Don’t ever think your voice doesn’t matter. It does matter. In fact it’s one of the most powerful tool you can use. Remember the old shampoo commercial from the 1970’s? The lady in the commercial told 2 friends about how great the shampoo was. And they told 2 friends. And they told 2 friends. And so on and so on. Good news travels fast. Bad news travels even faster. Fast-forward to 2011 — all you need to do is update your status on Facebook, post on your blog, tweet, text, rant in a YouTube video, or start a grassroots campaign on Change.org and voila, you’ve just told hundreds or thousands within a fraction of time. Your voice becomes the enabler of change.

Your voice can make a huge difference and companies should be willing to listen. Voices indirectly pay their salaries. That’s why at Members 1st we listen.  We make channels available to you to let us know what you want, need, and how you feel about the way we conduct ourselves as a member-0wned organization. Your voice drives what products and services we offer. Your voice drives the changes in how we deliver those products and services. Your voice counts as we lack stockholders but have a volunteer board of directors who come from our membership (if you don’t have an account with us, you can’t be a board member).  Bob Marquette, our President & CEO, strives for nothing less than our delivering to you what he calls an “unparalleled experience” at all times and all of our associates are expected to serve you in that capacity.

Don’t ever think your voice doesn’t matter in business, banking, or any other realm. Someone once said, “If we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.”  So if your bank isn’t taking care of you, come see us.

Big banks, big fees – not here


Big banks such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase have either started charging their customers monthly fees to use their debit cards for purchases or are in the testing phases of such. Bank of America is set to charge its customers a $5 monthly fee, according to recent articles in the New York Times and USA Today. Wells Fargo and Chase are testing $3 monthly debit card fees.  Regional banks such as Regional Financial and SunTrust are looking at $4 and $5 monthly debit card fees, respectively.

This new round of debit card fee changes are the result of the Durbin amendment, a critical part of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law and is making for hot news across the country. This amendment essentially caps fees that can be charged to a merchant for accepting debit card transactions at the point-of-sale.  As merchants are forced to pay more fees in order to accept debit card transactions at the point-of-sale (i.e., when you type in your PIN), they may try to influence the way in which you conduct your transaction (“Would that be debit or credit? Press X for credit or hit the Y button and type in your PIN.”) How you decide to route your transaction (typing in your PIN or selecting credit) determines behind-the-scenes costs for the merchant. Merchants are charged fees by their financial institution. Banks make money from those merchants from the way in which debit card transactions are routed (determined by your selecting “credit” or typing in your PIN). Those behind-the-scenes costs translate into fees passed on to the consumer (you) so that big banks can make big money (hence those fees mentioned above).

You, as the consumer, have the right to decide how you want your transaction routed when using your debit card. If a merchant attempts to charge you a fee for using your debit card or denies you from using your card based on a specific dollar amount minimum, you need to bring it to someone’s attention wherever you currently do your “banking”. If you are a member of our Credit Union, we encourage you to report this to our Card Services Group.

Our Debit Card Pays You! Our Debit Card offers an exclusive nationally recognized “Swipe 5” benefit. We pay you to use our debit card! For every qualified transaction, you earn 5 cents and receive a monthly rebate based on the total number of qualified transactions. A qualified transaction is one in which you select CREDIT at the point-of-sale and isn’t an ATM or PIN-based transaction. By selecting credit, you benefit from not only earning 5-cents per qualified transaction, but also don’t lose the right of dispute or chargeback in the event there is some sort of problem down the road. You also are protected from fraud when you use your card as “credit” (you are not protected on “debit”/PIN-based transactions).

Our paying you to use our Debit Card is just one of the ways that make credit unions, particularly Members 1st Federal Credit Union, stand out from the pack. If you’re not a member of a credit union, now is a really good time to consider it.

Get your Members 1st Debit Card today and as an added feature, we also offer personalized debit cards. Say goodbye to big banks and big fees and make the switch to a credit union today.

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