5 Car Finance Gimmicks and Tricks to Beware Of

Auto Loans — the offers are everywhere.  Some are greater than others while others just seem like a great deal, but are they really?

“0% for 6 months!” “No payments for 90 days!” “Cash back up to $3000!” “We’ll give you more for your trade!”

How do you know which great deal is really, well…a great deal?

While some could prove to work in your favor, here are a few auto finance gimmicks and deals to be mindful of.

  1. Too-Good-To-Be-True advertised discounts and rates.  Not all dealers are created equal.  Some use lower-than-usual rates and price discounts to draw buyers in.  The deal could be on one particular vehicle that may or may not still be available.  Be sure to get all the details before sitting down in a finance chair.
  2. Don’t be bullied by special discounts and offer time limits.  If you’ve been quoted a price with a substantial discount which also comes with a fast-approaching expiration date, don’t feel you need to make a hasty decision without time to consider.  The expiration date of a promotion should be clear and upfront and shouldn’t make you feel rushed into making a decision to buy.
  3. Focusing on the payment vs. the purchase price and terms.  While it’s important to make sure your payment falls within your means, don’t get caught up in what you would prefer to pay each month and neglect the details of the purchase price and finance terms.  Paying less each month, but stretching the terms longer to afford a higher-priced vehicle could prove to cost a lot more in the long-run.
  4. Substantial offers to pay off your trade.  You know what your trade is worth—so does the dealer.  If you’re offered much more than your trade is typically worth, be sure the overage hasn’t been retrofit into the finance side of the deal.  Traditionally, less is offered for your trade than its worth, so research the value before signing on the dotted line.
  5. Offers of 0% vs. Cash Back.  One way or another, a lender is going to profit from the sale of a vehicle.  0% offers usually work for the dealer by increasing the sales price of a vehicle.  Cash back deals are usually contingent upon the rate you pay or the price of the vehicle—sometimes both.  Give a good look to the fine print of these deals and consider traditional pricing and financing before these.

Get a quote from your credit union before finalizing a loan with a dealer.  Your credit union is here for you with one goal – to help you afford life.  It doesn’t matter where you find the car you choose (we do have some great friends at local dealers as well!), we will always check the values against the asking price, we’ll always give you a fair rate and we will ask for a copy of the vehicle title to avoid unnecessary hassle when it comes time to register your vehicle. Our GAP and Warranty programs are very affordable and save you from hidden dealer fees. You can protect your family and yourself in the event of unfortunate circumstances with our Optional Credit Life or Credit Disability Protection.  We share a financial relationship built on trust and value your membership as we work to fit your needs. You’ll always see the terms and conditions of our offers up front and receive fair pricing and rates on all the products and services we offer. With that in mind, you can feel comforted knowing an auto loan through MembersFirst is a great decision.

Ready to purchase your next vehicle?  Check with us first!  We have loan programs for everyone, in every stage of life.  Whether you’re just starting out on your journey to build credit, doing just fine or need a fresh start, look to MembersFirst!  Visit membersfirstga.com, give us a call at 404-978-0080 or stop by your local office to get the process started today. 

And, if you’re ready to start looking for a fantastic car, take a look at some of the services offered through MembersFirst:

Member Showroom:  A Car-Buying Service, Powered by TRUECar
Enterprise Car Sales:  A great pre-owned car-buying experience in your area

Goal Diggers: This one’s for you.

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We talk often about that stress-inducing ‘B’ word (budgeting…), but why do we concern ourselves with building a basic budget and focusing on putting money in savings anyway?

One word.  GOALS.

Whether you’ve never given it much thought or voiced yours aloud, to your spouse, your mom or even to your barista, we all have financial goals.  Much like snowflakes, no two goals are exactly alike.  Your version of financial freedom may be freeing yourself from credit card debt while your BFF’s view could be paying cash for their next vehicle.

Regardless, you can’t quite get to the point of knowing how to get somewhere without defining where you’re going.  So, let’s take a moment to think on that topic:

“What do I want?”

Before the panic sets in as you realize you’re not quite sure what you want or maybe you feel you want too much and none of it feels attainable–we have good news.  Here’s a simple goal setting worksheet that helps you get it all down on paper and even helps you define the ‘why’ of it as well as suggests some next steps for tracking and rewarding.

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Goal Setting Worksheet

A few things to keep in mind when setting your financial goals.

1.  No goal is too small.  Believe it or not, your small goals help you build toward your larger goals anyway, so think small as much as you’d like.  Essentially, you’re testing the waters with a small goal so you can see and feel how the process works.  You’ll soon see how each of the saving/spending choices you’re making become easier.

2.  How do you eat an entire cake?  Bite by bite.  Yes, we threw a cliché out there (kinda).  But, it’s true… don’t become overwhelmed with the magnitude of your financial big picture.  Just like anyone else, you’ll be breaking each goal down into bite-size pieces that make sense for you.  Eventually, you’ll see it all coming together.  For some, that’s major motivation to keep pushing themselves to take more bites, or steps, toward their bigger goals.

3.  The only mistake is not starting to begin with.  You really only have two choices when it comes to reaching goals:  you can choose to work toward reaching them or choose to do nothing.  Even if you jot down your goals on scrap paper (note napkins count, too) and get started with a burst of enthusiasm and motivation then fall off the bandwagon (oops, another cliché) a quarter of the way through, well, at least you started.  Just don’t forget to restart.  You may have to pick yourself up and reassess, but you’re already miles ahead.  The bottom line is… it’s ok to mess up every now and then.

4.  Be lazy.  Yep.  Be lazy.  Make reaching your goals as easy on yourself as possible.  Use the tools available to you to make transitioning from a not-so-savvy to a super-savvy-saver simple.  Once you’ve set a budget to determine the amount you can comfortably save, go ahead and set up an automatic transfer to savings.  Or, even better, set up a payroll deduction from your paycheck to savings.  If you don’t see the cash entering and leaving your checking account, you’ll miss it less (if at all).

5.  See it and believe it.  For the visually inclined, personal vision boardsor tools which use images to help you better define and focus on a specific goal, are growing in popularity.  You can make yours as detailed or simplified as you’d like to help you stay on top of your goals.  For instance, if saving enough money to pay for your child’s future education is part of your plan, you may have photos of your child, images of colleges, books or school logos, along with inspirational quotes about growing up pinned, stapled, taped or glued to a poster board, corkboard or even a blank wall in your home.  Each time you pass these vision boards, they help you remember why you do what you do each day, especially when having to make a tough financial decision.

Gather your own inspiration from our “Vision Board” on Pinterest here.

6.  My goal is (not) better than your goal.  Who’s to say your financial goals are less important or exciting than anyone else’s.  You do you.  You know what works for you.  You know what’s most important to you.  Don’t worry if it seems your ideas of financial soundness aren’t aligning with your peers’; not everyone wants the same things.  In the end, what matters is you’re happy with your outcome.

Talk to us.

If you need a little push in the right direction, let’s talk.  You can drop by and talk with one of our Member Advisors a little bit about your goals, find out which tools you can use to make it easy on yourself and get a little guidance on where your focus should be.

And don’t forget that ‘note napkin’ or your Goal Setting Worksheet.  When someone asks you what your goals are and why, you’ll be ready to talk it through with them and work up a plan that best fits your budget and means.

Good luck, Goal Digger.

Download the Goal Setting Worksheet.

 

Equifax® Data Breach: How to Protect Your Financial Identity

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By now, it’s safe to assume most of us have heard about what Equifax is referring to as a ‘cybersecurity incident’. For those of us who haven’t, here’s a quick recap:

  1. Hackers took advantage of a weak area in an Equifax application between May and July 2017.
  2. Information that may have been stolen included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birthdates and driver’s license numbers for close to 143 million U.S. customers.
  3. You will need to take action to protect your information and credit by first visiting equifaxsecurity2017.com to find out if you were included in this data breach.
  4. Equifax is offering one year of free credit monitoring to those effected.
  5. In addition to the breach of personal information, some 209,000 credit card numbers and 182,000 dispute documents containing personal information may also have been stolen. Equifax will alert those affected via U.S. mail.

Also, while it’s true we have the word ‘credit’ built into our name, it’s important to understand your credit union was not breached and your account information with the credit union remains safe.

What this breach could mean to you.

Thieves could use the stolen information to pretend to be you and open accounts like credit cards, auto and personal loans in your name. This could be harmful to your chances of being approved for loans and accounts you are actually applying for in the future. Landlords, utility companies, cellular service providers, employers and others also use your history when deciding to hire, grant you credit, lease a home to you, provide you with internet and other services necessary for daily life. If someone else has taken your good credit on a joy ride, it’s likely they won’t plan to also make the corresponding payments, thus, leaving you with raised debt ratios and poor pay history. All this adds up to lowered credit scores and one big mess to clean up once you’ve discovered they’ve taken advantage of your hard work.

So how, then, do you protect yourself?

The good thing to know is you do have options which could prevent the above scary situation. Some experts suggest a complete ‘freeze’ of your credit file while others suggest a ‘lock’. The two seem the same; however, there’s a difference in how to go about adding and removing the freeze or lock.

According to TransUnion, a major credit reporting agency, locking your credit file puts you in control of preventing lenders and others from accessing your credit. When you lock your credit yourself, there’s zero waiting period, need for a PIN number and no fee is charged. TransUnion suggests enrolling in their credit monitoring program, TrueIdentity, which gives you the ability to lock and unlock your credit anytime while providing free monitoring alerts for critical credit information changes.

Freezing your credit, however, means you’re turning over control to credit reporting agencies to remove and control access to your credit file. You initiate the request to freeze and unfreeze, reporting agencies do the rest. A few things to keep in mind with a credit freeze:

  • There are fees associated with freezing and unfreezing your credit and you must initiate the request with each of the major credit agencies separately. These fees can range from $3 – $10, depending on your state, per request.
  • You may not be able to immediately freeze and unfreeze your credit file. Keep this in mind if, for instance, you’re out and about car shopping and decide to have your credit pulled for loan approval. In some cases, it can take up to 48 hours and may require a fee to unfreeze. Patience is a virtue, but in a world where instant gratification often reigns, it can feel like an eternity.
  • A PIN is required and must be provided when applying for new credit. If you forget your PIN, you’ll have to take in-depth steps with one or more of the credit bureaus to verify your identity and reset your PIN. As this breach is related to personal identifying information, identification processes may be strenuous. If you choose this option, be sure to choose a PIN you will remember.

Clark Howard made it even easier for all by providing links to freeze or lock your credit with each of the 3 main credit bureaus (thanks, Clark!)  You can visit the page by clicking here.

As credit card info for 209,000 cardholders across the U.S. and possibly another 182,000, we encourage you to take advantage of Remote Control Card services by logging into mobile banking using our FlexTeller app and turning your debit cards ‘on’, or active, and off, or ‘disabled’ as you need to use them.  If you have questions about this service, let us know!

Is there such a thing as ‘too much’ protection?

In this case, it’s not possible to be overzealous in protecting your financial identity, especially since it’s important to remember you may not immediately see false accounts or trade lines on your credit report. Identity thieves are patient…this breach happened in May – July 2017 and it’s possible, if your information is misused at all, it may not be evident for a long time. If you do not choose (and even if you do) to block or freeze your credit, you should be diligent in monitoring your financial accounts and credit report for any suspicious activity. You can do this by requesting your credit report from each of the three major credit agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, at no charge, once per year. To request a copy from one or each of these agencies, visit annualcreditreport.com. Some may choose to enroll in other credit monitoring services like Credit Karma. If so, understand these services are not the ‘be all, end all’; combine the info you see with these services to what you see on the credit reports you request.

Still, despite all you can do to help yourself, we’re here for you as well…working to calm the concerns you’ve expressed to us when calling, emailing and stopping by one of our offices. You should know we take this breach very seriously and have taken steps to ensure your member advisors are working to protect you and your information. Just as we’ve always done, we’ll continue to ask you to verify your account and contact information by asking several questions when you call. This will continue to be consistent across the board and we ask that you be patient while we complete this process as it’s truly in your best interest. A few extra seconds spent verifying your identity could prove to save you hours of frustration in the long-run should identity thieves attack the security of your information.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 404-978-0080.

What’s your money persona?

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Personality.  It’s what makes us all a bit different.  Sometimes we relate to someone a little better than another based on how eccentric, laid back or direct they are.

Have you thought about how you’re treating your financial relationships?  Are you taking care of your nest egg, so to speak?  Believe it or not, the way you spend cash says a lot about your personality–well, your money persona, anyway.

So, in between all those really important quizzes we take online to determine who our BFF is or what song best represents our lives, why not take one to help determine whether your money-spending (or hoarding) choices are something to be worked on or shared with the world.

With the help of her friend, Lucy, Jen learned a little about her own money persona.  Watch the video, then take the quiz below.


(Pssst…you may want to grab a pen and scratch paper for this one.)

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So, how did you do?  Were you surprised to learn what your money persona is?  Maybe you fell in multiple categories.  Whatever the case may be for you, you can rest easy knowing there are tons of solutions to help you save, invest, make smarter choices with and even spend your money smarter.  You might try checking out our affordable and convenient savings solutions.

We want to hear from you.  Drop us a comment below and let us know how you did.

 

Living On Your Own: Are you prepared?

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When you take a look at your finances — what’s coming in, what’s going out — do you approach each bill or expense as a surprise item rather than an item you’ve prepared for?

Let’s look at it this way… you’ve finished school, you’re ready to move out of your parent’s basement and you’ve got money to burn.  What’s your plan?

If your first thought is more I want a sweet, high-rise apartment, downtown with a view of the city and less I have XX amount available to me each month…what can I afford on that budget?, you might want to rethink your strategy. Take a look at this spending ratio. Try your own.  What can you afford?  Does your dream apartment on the upper west side become a reality or did you just have a reality check?

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Just like you had to prepare a budget at some point so you’d know how much pizza and ramen noodles your budget could take (oh, and those pesky cellphone, internet and insurance bills you may have been forced to pay while living at home), living on your own has its own category of expenses you may not have even thought of.

If you hear the words “renter’s insurance” and your first thought is yes, I’d like someone to ensure that I will obtain rent, then read on a little further, my friend.  While you may have thought as far as what your monthly rent might look like and maybe even where you’d like to live, don’t forget these one-time expenses.

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If you’re lucky, you might have a few friends you can pay in pizza and soda that will help you move.  You might even have the packing materials and a few staple pieces of furniture to help get you started.

Unfortunately, living expenses won’t stop there.

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It’s important to also consider the location you’d like to live and do a little research on monthly rental averages.  A suburban apartment or home may dole out a much more affordable scenario than a renter’s monthly expenses in a more city-like environment.  On top of that, the average rental expense increases and decreases by the area.  Look at your budget… then take a look at this.  Is your budget more Manhattan- or Tucson-friendly?

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So… are you rethinking your strategy for living on your own?  How many household expenses did you budget for?  Is there something you’ll have to give up in order to live comfortably?  Let us know!  Comment and share below.

For more on rent and living on your own, stay tuned.  We’ll take a look a rental agreements–what to look for and what to avoid–and dig a little deeper into your budget to make sure you’re maximizing your income while still being able to enjoy and afford life.  After all, that’s why MembersFirst is here.

Ready to make the switch to a financial institution interested in seeing you at your financial best?  We’re ready when you are.

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