5 Cringe-Worthy Credit Mistakes

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You don’t need a special news alert to know…

…we’re all human.

Being human means we’re all bound to make a mistake or two when it comes to making credit decisions. Here are 5 of the most common credit card mistakes. See how many you’ve evaded.

Applying for every credit card under the sun (and being approved). Having a little buying power is great, but too much power can lead to a mountain of available credit and plenty of potential to begin mounting debt. This looks risky to a lender. Stick with one or two and be sure they’re the best card you can carry.

Misplacing your magnifying glass—you really do need to read the fine print. Within that tiny print lies the answer to whether you’ll be paying more to have that credit card in your wallet and how long. Do your homework–there are plenty of companies out there with annual fees, short introductory rate periods, difficult repayment terms, fees to transfer balances and more.

How does your card rate? Low, we hope. When applying for a credit card, you probably didn’t opt to be tied for life to its balance. Not shopping for the best rate can mean paying down a balance for much longer than you might realize. Save yourself some time, money and stress and search for the best rate you can get. The lower the rate, the faster the balance will be paid off.

Don’t listen to mom—less isn’t always more. When it comes to paying off high-interest credit cards, making the minimum payments may seem innocent enough, but it leads to bloated balances. To keep balances low and easy to maintain, don’t charge more than you can pay off within a month or two and be sure to make more than the minimum payment. Your future self will thank you.

Fashionably late or just bad credit karma? Though there isn’t a specific formula to follow for A+ credit, one thing’s for sure: making your payments on time, every time, is the best thing you can do to keep your credit score up. Be the life of your own credit party—be fashionably on time with your payments.

When you’re ready to begin building your own credit or make the switch to a card that’s in your best interest, look to MembersFirst to provide a reasonable solution to your credit needs (even for those who’ve thought ‘guilty’ after each of the 5 cringe-worthy mistakes above.) Visit membersfirstga.com for a list of solutions and details on our various credit card programs and promotions for anyone, at any age and any stage.

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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Staying Financially Sound During A Job Loss

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Planning. It’s singlehandedly the best thing you can do for your budget. It allows room to allot funds for retirement, unexpected bills such as an increase in a utility bill, a veterinary or ER visit and even room to budget for entertainment and family weekend activities.

But does your financial outlook include a plan for an unexpected job loss?

You may be making plans for the funds coming in each pay period, but if those funds cease to find their way into your checking account, you’ll likely be forced to access savings, or worse—available credit. Looking ahead and planning for a loss such as this is just good practice. As you may consider setting aside a portion of your income each pay period for unforeseen circumstances, putting away a little each month in the event you or someone in your household loses income will assure you’ll stay financially sound as you search for another job.

In the September issue of Consider This, a publication issued by Georgia Credit Union Affiliates, a recent poll suggests close to 31 percent of respondents stated they would not be able to cover even a month’s expenses after a loss of income.

Though the unemployment rate is down to 6% from 10.5% in 2010, the rate at which Georgians have experienced a job loss or loss of income still has a great impact on our economy and the financial choices we make.

When creating your financial plan, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Begin contributing funds to an emergency funds account. A minimum of 6-9 months is suggested. MembersFirst offers special savings accounts with no fees that you may use for any purpose.
  • Even a little income is better than not at all. If having difficulty finding another job that’s right for you, consider working in a temporary or part time position to continue bringing in an income. Contact the Department of Labor for assistance if needed.
  • Stay diligent. Should you experience a lay off or termination, try to get ‘back in the game’ as soon as possible.
  • Borrow funds from a current investment. If you find yourself out of work for an extended period of time, avoid accessing lines of credit – this could cost much more in the long run.
  • Evaluate and reevaluate. What are you spending money on that could be cut from your budget temporarily? Try lowering your cable or cellular plan to the minimum until you’re back on your feet.
  • Consolidate your credit cards into a fixed-rate loan. Making one payment to one financial institution at a fixed rate is better for your credit (which a new employer may check) than missing payments.
  • De-Fee Yourself. Are you paying unnecessary fees for banking services? Open a no-fee checking, like our No Fee Checking account at MembersFirst.
  • Consider making a Credit Union your primary financial institution. Credit Unions, in general, charge less in fees on products and services, such as checking and savings account, and less interest on loans than a traditional bank.
  • Talk to a Member Advisor. Let one of our team members help you identify the best way to maintain financial calm as you search to replace lost income.

 

Do you have a plan in the event you have a loss of income? Which unnecessary expenses will you plan to remove temporarily? We’d like to know–weigh in on the discussion.

For more on how you can reduce fees and keep more of your hard-earned money, stop by one of our locations, visit us online at MembersFirstGA.com or give us a call at 404-978-0080.

Keeping Identity Thieves at Bay

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When more than just you is concerned with your money.

Remember our post about safe mobile browsing and shopping?  We hope you had a moment to read it and consider the dangers of using a mobile device without following safe web-browsing practices.

But, what about when you’re not coffee shop bound, sipping a latte and checking out the latest technology steals and deals?  Maybe you’re sitting at work or with friends catching the latest Hunger Games installment.  Your cell is likely tucked away in your pocket or purse.  Think your money and personal info are safe?  You may want to think again.  There could be others digging for your personal information and you may not even realize it.

Identity Theft — You’ve heard the term, but do you really know just how easy it could be for someone to steal your identity? Mistakes like using the same password for multiple logins, not shielding your credit card numbers and pins from Nosy Ninas and oversharing on social media are just a few ways you’re putting yourself at risk for financial woes.

In this second installment of Fun Financial Ed, Jen learns just what she’s doing right (and wrong) to protect her identity.  Check it out.

Can’t access the video?  No problem.  Check out the info below.

Looking to make the switch to a Credit Union that understands the unique needs of its members?  Join today and discover what over 24,000 others already have!  We’ll make the process simple and convenient.

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Make the switch to simplify your life and your finances today!

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5 Identity Theft Jackpots (and How You Can Safeguard Against Them)

Identity theft is nothing new, and yet it still manages to cost its victims billions of dollars (yes, that’s billions with a “b”) globally each year—not to mention the time and hassle involved in recovering a stolen identity.

The good news is that there are tons of things you can do to deter identity thieves. The bad news is that many of us do little beyond choosing a decent password—and some people don’t even bother doing that! Here are the top 5 information jackpots for identity thieves, along with helpful tips on what you can do right now to protect yourself.

  1. Your Trash Can

Even if you’re really careful about the information you put online, your trash bags and recycling bin can still be an easy target for identity thieves. Dumpster diving may sound old school, but it’s still an easy way for identity thieves to get access to your personal information.

Get a shredder (a basic model will run you $20 to $30 at a big-box store) and use it!

Get into the habit of shredding things before throwing them out, especially things like bank statements, expired credit cards, utility bills, cellphone bills, paycheck stubs, old boarding passes and travel itineraries, and ATM receipts.

Don’t forget to check your envelopes! Anything with your name and address on it needs to be shredded, too.

  1. Your Phone

Odds are that you’re carrying a lot more in your phone than just your contact list. With smartphone theft on the rise, protect yourself:

Have a password-protected lock on your home screen. This is a standard feature on all smartphones for a reason, so take advantage of it! Bonus points if your smartphone also has location tracking (also known as the “find my phone” feature).

Public Wi-Fi networks are not secure, so avoid checking your bank accounts or doing your online shopping from the local coffee shop or during your layover at the airport.

Do not store sensitive information on your phone—storing passwords or login information in a note-taking app is bad news.

  1. The PIN Pad

It seems like every few months a new point-of-purchase scheme emerges—skimming devices, keystroke loggers, ATM hacking… the list goes on! Here are some good practices for when you’re out and about:

When making a purchase, keep your debit or credit card in sight at all times.

Use your hand to block the buttons when entering your PIN number, even if there’s no one immediately behind you—a camera can always be watching.

Choose a good PIN. Avoid PINs derived from your personal information, like your telephone number, address or birthday. Avoid an easy-to-guess PIN, like the dreaded “1234.”

Change up your PIN, especially if you use the same combination for your debit card and for unlocking your cellphone.

  1. Your Mailbox

Like the trash-picker approach mentioned above, mail tampering is a low-tech but relatively easy way for identity thieves to compromise your personal information. Here’s what you can do:

Familiarize yourself with your billing cycles. A late credit card statement or a bill that never shows up could be a sign of mail tampering.

Identity thieves will sometimes request a change of address to illegally reroute your mail to a different location. If you suddenly stop receiving mail, check with the post office to make sure this isn’t the case.

Use a mailbox with a locking system to deter thieves.

  1. Your Computer

You would think that this one would be common knowledge by now, but every so often a virus or scam comes along that trips us up. Stay one step ahead of scammers:

Keep your firewall, anti-virus and operating system software up-to-date. No matter how new and fast your laptop is, it still needs protection.

Enable spam filters on your email accounts.

Look out for sketchy links and emails. Ignore any suspicious password reset requests, unexpected tracking numbers or anything that asks for your personal information via email.

Don’t overshare on social media. Do your Facebook friends really need to know what year you were born? Can people tell when no one is home based on your Instagram feed? Keep your accounts private and make sure you’re not accidentally broadcasting sensitive information.

By being aware of the top 5 information jackpots and by implementing these simple strategies, you can keep identity thieves at bay.