Getting The Best Deal On A New Ride

Getting The Best Deal On A New Ride

image of a red new carWhen purchasing a new or used vehicle, you want to be sure you’re getting the very best deal. The best deal on your trade, the best price for the vehicle you are buying and the best financing, assuring your lowest possible payment.

Let’s face it, dealers will ask probing questions about your trade and payment to make sure they squeeze out every penny of profit for themselves.

How can you tip the scale in your favor? Research is key when buying a vehicle so here are a few tips.

  1. Research your vehicle’s trade in value in two (2) or more places so you have a realistic average trade–in value starting out. Some great resources are kbb.com, nada.com and cars.com.
  2. Once you know the type of vehicle, narrow it down to a couple of makes and models that best suit your needs. Then research the best deals available. Some great resources are TruCar.com, Edmunds.com and Kbb.com.
  3. When purchasing a used vehicle, be sure ask the dealer for a Car Fax report and have a mechanic inspect the vehicle whenever possible. This will help avoid problems after leaving the lot.
  4. Finally, save more by financing your new or used vehicle at E&G Employees FCU. Our rate of 3.99% * and terms up to 84 months for new vehicles and a low rate of 4.49%* with terms up to 72 months for used vehicles, can save you more each month.

E&G Employees FCU helps members get the very best deal every day.

APPLY TODAY! 

* Rate assumes the member is eligible for lowest rate offered. Actual rate is determined by the member’s credit history. Application and approval by loans dept. is required. Call the credit union

Financial Preparation for 2019

Financial Preparation for 2020

Image of woman writing in journal
2020 is almost here. Are you ready?
Remember the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared! A brand-new year, always ripe with resolutions, is the perfect time to reassess your financial attitude, improve, and vow to do more.
“It’s a time of planning for going forward,” shares Sallie Krawcheck, co-founder of Ellevest. “We see a lot of people, often over the Christmas holiday, but certainly in the new year, taking stock of where they are on their personal finances and investments.”
Have you taken any steps to prepare for the financial realities of the coming year?
Here are some tips to get you started.
Tune your budget

It’s a great idea to begin the new year with a plan. A budget is just that-a plan that starts with the income you expect, along with your fixed expenses, such as rent or mortgage costs, homeowners association fees, insurance, utilities and transportation costs. The plan also incorporates your savings goals.

Then, the money remaining is designated for your other expenses. A realistic budget will help you set your financial goals and remind you to stick to them. These last few days in December, as the year draws to a close, is the perfect time to assess last year’s budget or to create a new one if you don’t yet have one in place.

Reviewing where you spent last year’s money will help you make better choices in 2020. If you did not save money for retirement, for example, this can be a new budget item.

While planning for the coming year, make sure to include a method for tracking your spending. You can do this on a spreadsheet or you can simply tag items in your financial account.

Even with a solid strategy in place, there will always be surprises along the way. Losing a job, a leaking roof or an illness can throw off your entire plan. Be sure to build an emergency fund into your budget.

Plan ahead to meet your goals
Next, consider how you will accomplish your goals. You’ll have short-term goals, such as purchasing a new car or home, as well as long-term goals, such as saving for retirement. Each set of goals requires a different kind of planning and saving.
Financial planner, Rachel Rabinovich, recommends setting up a separate savings account for each goal. This way, you can easily track your progress.
Experts suggest working backwards to determine how much you need to save for a specific goal. For instance, if you dream of taking an expensive vacation two years from now, determine the total cost of the vacation and then establish a reasonable time-frame and the amount you’ll need to save each month to reach that goal. Make sure the amount you plan on setting aside each month is doable, or you may just have to move your goal over by six months or more.
Spend mindfully

You can also make your financial future more secure by identifying the difference between your needs and wants. Needs are necessary for your survival, and include items like food and shelter. Wants are things that are not necessary but you would like-such as a luxury car or European vacation.

First, tend to your needs. Then, based on what’s left to work with, consider your wants. This might sound obvious, but for many of us, the line between wants and needs is often blurred. This can lead to awfully tight financial situations, even prompting us to “borrow from Peter to pay Paul.” By clearly differentiating between what you want and what you need, you can avoid this outcome in 2020.

Maximize retirement contributions

Retirement plan contributions can be a valuable source of savings, especially if you have the option of employer-matched funds. If you do, be sure to take advantage of them!

Also, check with your HR contact and your accountant to make sure you are contributing the optimal amount to your 401K and IRA. For the coming year, you can contribute $6,000 to a Roth or traditional IRA, or $7,000 if you are making “catch-up” contributions.

Check your flexible savings account (FSA)
If you have unspent money in your FSA, now is the time to use it. These pre-tax dollars often have to be spent before the end of the year. Do you need a new pair of eyeglasses? Are your teeth in desperate need of a cleaning or repair? This might be a good time to spend that money on self-care and other needs you’ve been pushing off. You don’t want to lose this money, so be sure to use it if you can.
Put the brakes on holiday spending
Avoid going overboard on your holiday spending. Think three times before you pull out your credit card. Going over budget now can mean spending the first few months of 2020 playing catch-up with your credit card bills. Spend less, and start the year off with a clean slate!

Why Choose A Credit Union?

Why Choose A Credit Union?

 

Q: I love my credit union, but I also have a checking account at a bank. Should I move my checking account to a credit union?

A: As a credit union member, you can expect to have a more rewarding experience. Because credit unions are member-owned and not-for-profit, they are more attuned to the needs of their members.

While banks and credit unions offer nearly identical services and account choices, there are some differences.

Let’s take a look at how having a checking account in a credit union differs from a bank.

1.) Image of a woman at the credit union teller lineAccount fees

To the unsuspecting consumer, big banks may not feel like money-hungry monsters. But while they’re happy to hold onto your money, once your account is up and running, expect to get hit with steep maintenance fees. The average bank charges consumers close to $150 each year for having an open checking account.

On the flip side, many large credit unions offer free checking or make it easy to avoid the fees, so you can set up your account and keep it running without it costing a dime.

2.) Overdraft fees

Sometimes, you miscalculate the funds in your account and overspend. If you make this mistake on a checking account at a bank, get ready to cough up those overdraft fees!

These fees usually top $30, and some banks will make consumers pay the penalty for each transaction they make while their account is overdrawn.

Most credit unions will be more willing to forgive the occasional error. While some credit unions do charge an overdraft fee, on average, these fees are a lot lower than what banks demand.

3.) Fewer strings attached

Most big banks won’t allow you to open a checking account unless you have a minimum balance of several hundred dollars. In contrast, 76% of credit unions have no minimum balance requirement at all.

4.) Credit unions are government-regulated

Both credit unions and banks are federally governed. A credit union that’s federally insured, like a bank with federal insurance, covers your accounts up to $250,000.

However, credit unions face more government restrictions on their investments and loans than banks do. This means your credit union has to be super-careful with how it invests your money.

5.) Superior service

When you’re banking with family, you don’t have to worry about overworked tellers, curt managers, or representatives who are indifferent to your individual needs.

When you stop by your credit union, you’ll be greeted with friendly, familiar faces and representatives who actually care. They’re always ready and willing to help you because they only have your best interests in mind – always.

Why choose a credit union for your checking account? With lower fees, fewer strings attached and better service, it’s the best place possible to park your money!

All You Need To Know About Ransomeware

All You Need To Know About Ransomeware

 

Image of dark hoodies with red words, hacker, ransomware, virus, instead of faces Ransomware is evolving like an uncontrolled virus. Don’t be the next victim! Here’s what you need to know about ransomware:

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a subset of malware that isolates a victim’s data and then demands a payment for release. It is often embedded inside seemingly harmless software and applications. It activates as soon as the user launches the program. Devices can also be infected through email links or malicious websites.

How does a ransomware attack work?

There are two primary types of ransomware: locker and crypto.

Locker ransomware locks victims from using important device functions, like accessing a desktop or browsing the internet.

Crypto, the more common form, encrypts files using a unique algorithm and demands a ransom payment.

Cybercriminals usually demand payment in bitcoins. This form of digital currency allows you to pay for goods or services remotely, using a mobile app or a computer. Every bitcoin transaction is anonymous, making it the payment method of choice for cybercriminals.

To pay or not to pay?

Experts are on the fence about this million-dollar question.

Joseph Bonavolonta, the ASA in charge of the FBI’s Cyber and Counterintelligence Program, claims that the FBI often advises people to pay the ransom, explaining that when more people pay the ransom, it keeps ransoms low. He also believes that most scammers keep their word and will decrypt the victim’s files.

However, other FBI officials urge victims not to pay the ransom. They say there is never a guarantee of the files’ return and that paying the ransom encourages more attacks.

Everyone agrees, though, that victims should seek assistance from law enforcement agencies and share the details of the attack. The law enforcement agents will tell them whether they’ve seen this group attack before and whether it tends to decrypt files in return for payment.

If your computer has been infected and you decide to pay the ransom, your payment can be anywhere from $200 to $10,000. Before you pay, though, do a quick search to find out if there’s a decryption tool online.

If you decide not to pay the ransom, shut down your computer and disconnect from your network. Scan your computer with an anti-virus or anti-malware program and let it remove everything on your device.

Prevention

Be proactive. Strengthen your email’s spam filter, don’t ever click on suspicious links, and never download mobile apps from unfamiliar application stores.

Make sure your operating system is protected with a strong firewall, spyware and sufficient, updated anti-virus software.

Finally, back up your files on an external hard drive or on a USB every few weeks.

If the unthinkable happens, contact a law-enforcement agency for assistance and check for a decryption tool online. If you do decide to pay, be sure to take preventive measures against future attacks.

Look Before You Pump! Don’t Get Skimmed At The Gas Station

Look Before You Pump!

Don’t Get Skimmed At The Gas Station

 

Two Young Women with coffee at pumping gas into carGas-pump skimming is an old crime making a comeback, and your card may be at risk. Since skimmer devices are almost invisible, they can be difficult to spot. And Bluetooth technology lets the scammer remotely obtain the info it collects from as far as 100 yards away.

While EMV-enabled cards are more commonplace, gas stations have until 2020 to update their systems, making them vulnerable. Protect yourself against this hack by learning about card skimmers. 

How it works 

Hackers usually outfit the pump farthest from the convenience store with their skimmer. This way, they are out of the range of any security cameras at the shop’s entrance. The hacker places a skimming device on top of the pump’s card reader or inside the pump itself, and then leaves the area. 

Choose your payment method wisely 

You may seek extra protection by using a credit card or cash to pay at the pump. A credit card lets you easily dispute fraudulent charges. And, depending upon your financial institution, a debit card may not have much purchase protection. At [credit union, we . . . ]. 

The safest payment method might be cash, but remember that it cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.

How to spot a skimmer 

If you don’t like the idea of using cash, you can still protect yourself by being on the lookout for skimmers. If something looks suspicious, don’t use that pump! 

4 ways to spot a skimmer: 

  • Use your eyes. Do numbers on the PIN pad look newer or bigger than the rest of the machine? Does anything look like it doesn’t belong? Is the fuel pump’s seal broken?
  • Check the tape. Many gas stations place serial-numbered security tape across the dispenser to protect their pumps. If the tape has been broken, or there’s no tape on the dispenser at all, it’s likely been compromised.
  • Use your fingers. Feel the card reader before sliding your debit card into the slot. Do the keys feel raised? Is it difficult to insert your card?
  • Use your phone. There are several free skimming apps, like Skimmer Scanner, that can scan a card reader for a skimming device and alert you if one is found. You can also check your phone’s Bluetooth for any strange letters or numbers appearing under “other devices.”

General card safety 

It’s always a good idea to practice general safety when using a card to pay at the pump. Choose the pump closest to the store and always cover the number pad with your hand when inputting your PIN. It’s also a good idea to periodically check your account statements for suspicious charges. 

How To Spot an Investment Scam

How To Spot an Investment Scam

 

Image of Lock with the word securityYou’re online, and there’s a contest open to all. You know the answer, and the free gift is enticing. Should you enter?

You go into a shopping mall and are asked to fill out a form to enter a sweepstakes to win a car. You’d love to have the car, and, hey, someone’s going to win it. There’s no purchase necessary, so why not? “Don’t do it!” says Eric Stein, a scam artist who was interviewed (while in jail!) by The Wall Street Journal. He should know. In his interview, Stein provides the following information that will prove useful in avoiding the investment scams you so often read about.

  • Don’t respond to email or snail mail that you didn’t request, no matter how legitimate it looks. Scam artists have become very professional and will produce something slick, glossy and easy to understand. Don’t fall for it.
  • The online contests and car sweepstakes you see in stores are both used by scammers to target names and addresses. Don’t fill them out.
  • Avoid funds that are advertised as “low risk, high return” or “safe,” or promise an outrageous return such as 25% per quarter. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Don’t purchase financial products because a friend or clergy person recommends them. They may have already fallen for the scam without knowing it.
  • Don’t talk to a financial salesperson on the phone if you don’t know him. Don’t be polite – simply hang up. Anyone can call himself a “financial adviser” or a “business consultant.”
  • Buy stocks only from a licensed, registered broker.
  • Don’t buy unregistered securities. Keep your eyes open.
  • Don’t let the fact that traditional investments aren’t giving you the returns you want turn you into bait for scammers.

Five Must-Have Gadgets for College Students

Five Must-Have Gadgets for College Students

Image of College Student with headphones on in front of a laptop

You’ve already got your laptop, tablet and, of course, your smartphone. What more can you need for college?

Check out our list of 5 super-convenient gadgets that every college student should know about.

1.   Smartpen

This is perhaps the most helpful gadget imaginable for students. Livescribe smartpens are incredible. You can use them to capture your notes digitally as you take them during lectures. You can use them in conjunction with your smartphone, laptop or tablet. Not only do these awesome pens capture your writing, but they also record beautiful digital audio that you can use to listen to your professor’s lectures again when you are getting ready to ace your midterms 

2.   Laptop lock

There’s nothing more terrifying than leaving your laptop on a table in the library only to come back a minute later and find it gone. Avoid this nightmare with this quick and cheap solution. Purchase a security cable for your laptop to keep it where it is. You can buy a Ruban’s notebook lock for just $8.99. The cable runs up to 6.2 feet long and will make your laptop immovable for everyone who doesn’t know your four-digit code. 

3.   Google Chrome extensions

All that research can give your Google Chrome quite a workout! Let it do its job swiftly and more efficiently by installing a Google Chrome extension on your laptop. You can download your choice of extension for free – and make your work a whole lot easier! 

4.   Dictaphone

Never miss a word of the lecture again! This is one of those gadgets most college students don’t realize they need until half the semester is over. An efficient Dictaphone can be left at the lectern during a class and serve as the perfect backup to spotty note-taking. Choose a model that is sturdy and solid with a decent battery life for the best performance. 

5.   Noise canceling headphones

You can control your own study habits most of the time, but there’s no way you can control your roomies’ method of dealing with schoolwork. If your roommate loves to party hearty in your room every night while you’re cramming for finals, or you just want to block out the entire world and concentrate on your notes, you need a pair of noise-canceling headphones. You can plug into your favorite tunes while you work, or even wear them without plugging into any device at all! You’ll have that quiet you’re craving and it’ll be just you and your work; you won’t even notice the distractions surrounding you. Study on and go ace that exam!

How Many Credit Cards Should I Own?

How MANY CREDIT CARDS SHOULD I OWN?

 

Hopefully, you’re working hard at keeping that score high by using your cards and paying your bills on time. You may be wondering, though, if more is better. Should you open a few more and get more available credit? Or, are too many cards a liability to your score?  

Read on for the answers to all your questions. 

How your credit score works 

Before we answer the number of cards question, let’s explore the way FICO and other credit scoring agencies, like VantageScore, calculate that all-important credit score. 

Here are the major components of your credit score:

  1. Your payment history. The timeliness – or lack thereof – of your payments comprises 65% of your FICO score, making it the most important factor. VantageScore, another major credit scoring company, doesn’t share the percentages it uses, but it calls payment history “extremely influential” in determining your score.
  2. Your credit utilization. Credit scoring companies look at how much of your available credit you are using. A large amount of available credit – even in aggregate across multiple cards – is not always a good thing.
  3. The age of your credit. Next up on the list of influential factors is how long you’ve had your credit cards open. Lenders want to see a long and active history of credit cards and on-time payments.
  4. The kind of credit you have.  A variety of credit indicates that you are an attractive borrower.

The benefits of having multiple cards

Having one open credit card is not sufficient for achieving a high credit score. In order to give you the best shot at excellent credit, make sure you have several open cards. In the long run, having multiple cards can boost your score in two important areas:

  • Your payment history. When you pay several credit card bills on time instead of just one, this component of your score will go up.
  • Credit utilization rate. FICO likes to see a low credit utilization rate. This means that the more unused credit you have, the higher you will score in this area. Having multiple cards open will automatically increase your available credit. You’ll also be able to spread your credit use across several cards, further lowering your credit utilization rate.

The right number of credit cards

Are you waiting to hear that magic number telling you exactly how many cards you should have in for achieving and maintaining a high score? Well, unfortunately, there is no such “magic” number.

As mentioned, you do need to have several credit cards to increase your credit age and available credit, but there is no specific amount you should have. Instead, let’s take a look at the credit cards of consumers who have excellent scores.

The FICO high-achiever statistics track people with FICO scores that top 785. These statistics find that the average FICO high-achiever has 7 open credit cards. Of these cards, only four have outstanding balances. The average credit account is 11 years old and the most recently opened account is 28 months old.

So, while you may be quick to observe that several cards may be a good thing, consider the age of the cards in the wallets of high achievers. Perhaps lots of NEW cards won’t help you achieve excellent credit. Rather, a proven track record of on-time payments and responsible use of credit is the vital factor here.

When not to open new cards

If you’re planning on taking out a large loan, like a mortgage or an auto loan, within the next year, it’s not a good idea to start applying for new cards. Here’s why:

  • Hard checks on your creditEvery new credit card you apply for means another time your credit history gets pulled. Lots of “hard checks” can negatively affect your score – just what you don’t need before applying for a large loan. It may hurt your chances of approval and/or increase your approved rate.
  • Your credit age will decrease. The age of your credit is determined by taking an average age of all your cards. By opening lots of new cards, you’re bringing that average down and hurting your score.
  • Your credit variety will be lessened. Similarly, opening more unsecured cards with revolving credit will lower your credit variety, because you will suddenly have a much heavier amount of unsecured credit lines and less of other types of borrowings.
  • Too much open credit. While once considered a positive attribute across all credit scoring companies, the recent modifications to the VantageScore have changed all that. Lots of open credit will now negatively affect your VantageScore. This score is used for auto loans and other large loans; though most mortgage lenders currently only consider your FICO score.

Here’s the final word on having lots of open credit cards: If you’re just starting to build your credit and don’t plan on taking out a huge loan soon, it’s a good idea to open a few cards. Pay them on time and try not to go above 30% of your available limit on any of them. But, if you plan on applying for a large loan in the near future, give that card acquisition a rest and focus on using the cards you have responsibly.

Whichever category you fall into, remember to use your cards and pay those bills on time! The easiest way to do this is to make it automatic. Set up each of your credit cards to pay for a monthly bill. Then, set up your credit card bills to be paid automatically as well.

Keeping your credit score strong can have positive effects on your finances for years to come!