Posts Tagged ‘ pre-paid Visa cards ’

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

Be Aware of Credit Card Surcharges


As a result of a legal settlement to resolve claims brought by a group of U.S. merchants, merchants in the U.S. and U.S. territories may add a surcharge to certain credit card transactions starting after January 27, 2013. This surcharge, also known as a checkout fee, is an additional fee that a merchant can add to your bill of sale when you pay with a credit card. U.S. merchants that surcharge are required to limit the surcharge fees to credit cards only, meaning they cannot surcharge debit and pre-paid cards. They must also limit the amount of the surcharge to the applicable merchant discount rate for the credit card transaction surcharged. A cap of 4% is currently in place, but that may vary. Additionally, companies must disclose the actual dollar amount of this surcharge on every receipt and disclose the fact that they charge a surcharge fee at the point of store entry and at the point of sale. Most likely, you will not see this change until February because of the 30-day notification and registration process that is required.

How will you know if a business is charging the surcharge? Merchants may charge this fee at their discretion. When you’re in a store, look for signs or postings when entering the store and at the cash register that warn you of the merchant’s fee. If you see this notification, consider using your Members 1st Visa Debit Card or a Members 1st Pre-paid VISA instead of your credit card. Unlike credit card transactions, merchants cannot charge any surcharge fees on debit or pre-paid credit card transactions.

If you suspect you’ve been hit with excessive surcharges or that your debit or pre-paid card was charged, visit www.visa.com/checkoutfees and complete a “Report a Merchant Violation Form.” Alleged surcharging will be investigated.

This new law only applies specifically to “credit card” products. Continue to use your VISA Debit Card as CREDIT at the merchant – you want to continue to earn your monthly Swipe 5 cash-back rebate. A debit card is a debit card whether you use it as “debit” or “credit.” If merchants attempt to charge you this fee when you are using your debit card as “credit”, they will be in violation and may be subject to a fine. If anyone has any issues with this moving forward, please report them to our Card Services Group at (800) 283-2328, ext. 6035.

Currently 10 U.S. states have surcharging restrictions including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas. Consumers who are subjected to checkout fees in states where those fees are prohibited by law may want to discuss this with the retailer or report the retailer to their respective state’s attorney general’s office. Keep in mind that Members 1st is not the entity charging these surcharge fees on your credit card purchases.

For additional information about payments and surcharging: www.visa.com./checkoutfees or call our Card Services Group at (800) 283-2328, ext. 6035.

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”.

It’s back to school time


Who out there has a college-age child either leaving home for the first time or making a return visit? As your child heads off to school, make sure they packed the right financial aides and supplies to help them manage their money while they’re away.

Today’s students are environmentally conscious. That’s why we offer free online banking, complete with free eStatements and a variety of online services to help them keep track of their spending. Since it’s unlikely to see them without some sort of electronic device in their hand, we offer mobile apps for smartphones, Blackberry™ and other web-enabled devices. Using these free apps will help them know how much money they have or don’t have. Members 1st Online is particularly useful in monitoring our Rewards Checking Account. You can view pending transactions and all cleared transactions including those affiliated with our debit card. 

And don’t forget about the power of plastic – we offer personalized debit cards that work in conjunction with their Rewards Checking Account. Our debit card offers a monthly cash-back rebate and users can earn 5 cents for every qualifying transaction (transactions that don’t require a PIN or are not ATM-related). And, we don’t charge any kind of monthly usage fee like other financial institutions started doing. We also have re-loadable pre-paid VISA cards and of course two VISA Credit Cards to choose from.

We also offer overdraft protection for their Rewards Checking Account and Debit Card transactions.

Those college years are the best time to stretch their financial independence and gain some real-life experience on their own without having any monetary mishaps along the way.

%d bloggers like this: