Store Cards: Seldom the Better Deal

With offers of an additional 10% off your purchase or free merchandise, it’s tempting to apply for credit cards from your favorite retail stores. Think twice, however, before signing up. If you don’t pay the bill in full at the end of each month, you could end up paying much more than you originally would have saved.

That’s because interest rates on retail cards average about ten percentage points higher than credit union credit cards.

Store cards usually offer special incentives for cardholders to increase loyalty and encourage them to spend more. The average household has about seven store-issued credit cards.

If you plan to buy a car or house in the near future, it can hurt your chances to get a loan at a favorable rate if you have many recently opened lines of credit. It’s usually better to have one major credit card that you can use for all items you wish to charge.

Hopewell Federal Credit Union offers credit cards at great rates.  Visit www.hopewellfcu.org to learn more.

Shop at Home for the Holidays

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Does the thought of making your way through crowded malls and shopping at 20 different stores only to wait in long check-out lines have you feeling like the Grinch? Shopping online during the holiday season can save time and minimize stress, but know a few simple rules before you dive into the world of online purchasing.

1. Only buy from familiar companies. Confirm the seller’s contact information in case you have questions or problems in the future. Know exactly what you’re buying. Carefully read the product description. Remember–if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

2. Protect your privacy. Read and understand the company’s online privacy policy and keep any personal information, passwords, or PINs (personal identification numbers) private. Look for these signals indicating that you have entered a secure Web page:
* A screen notice that says you’re visiting a secure site
* A closed lock or unbroken key in the bottom corner of your screen
* The first letters of the Internet address you are viewing change from “http” to “https”

3. Pay safely. After you review all terms of the sale, such as cost for shipping, delivery date, and return policy, you are ready to buy. Credit or charge card payments offer consumers the most protection. Finally, print all transaction records and any other useful information pertaining to your purchase.

Although online shopping allows you to virtually load your sleigh with just a few mouse clicks, practice safe browsing this holiday season.

Deck the Halls Without Much Money

Even in tough times, consumers are expected to spend a total of over $437 billion during the 2009 holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Washington, D.C.

Some people may feel guilty about not spending as much time with their loved ones or friends and will compensate with a special gift. Others may feel they need to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ to match what friends, families, neighbors, and even co-workers are doing. And some simply get swept away in the glitter of the season–overspending before they realize what they’re doing. For all of these reasons, setting a budget and making a list–and matching the two–can be really effective at reining in the ‘over’ part of holiday overspending.

Smart spending

Changing the gift-giving dynamic within your own family is one route to holiday savings, but what about the other people on your list? Brad Stroh, founder and co-CEO of Freedom Financial Network, LLC, San Mateo, Calif., and bills.com recommends:

* Crunch the numbers. Create a holiday budget listing all expenses, including small gifts and “extras,” such as cards, wrapping paper, decorations, and holiday clothing purchases.

* Avoid money matching. Most people feel the stress of the dollar-for-dollar matching competition, so talk with the people on your shopping list about setting limits. Fill in gaps with homemade presents or offer help to the recipient with chores or services.

* Start early. Avoid the last-minute rush so that you’ll have more time to comparison shop. If you’re in a rush to get out of a crowded mall or store, you’re more likely to spend impulsively as a way of escape.

* Get creative. Set up a gift exchange among friends and family. For children with big-ticket items, consider pooling resources with other family members rather than splurging yourself into debt.

* Be a quitter. When you hit your budget limit, stop! Leave credit cards at home and put each person’s budget in an envelope, in cash. When it’s gone, it’s gone–and you’re done.

* Spend within your means. If you run up a big bill to celebrate the holidays and then pay it off at a leisurely pace, next year you may experience financial heartburn–the sour sensation that your holiday overindulgence is taking way too long to leave your budgetary system.

Holiday traditions beyond gifts

The special feeling about the holidays doesn’t always come wrapped in a box and tied with a bow. New York executive coach Alisa Cohn works to help clients live, work, and spend/save in alignment with their values. Here are a couple of ideas:

* Mark the holiday through traditions rather than gifts. Pool efforts with other family members or friends to help out another family in need. Contact churches and other organizations in your community and ask for recommendations. You can unite anonymously to buy food, gifts, and holiday goodies for the family in need.

* Make the holidays special. Talk with your friends and family about what they like and dislike about the holidays. From those discussions, build a plan that decreases the attention on gift giving.

And to avoid going in the red next year, contact Hopewell Federal Credit Union for help in setting up a holiday account to budget for holiday shopping.

Get Smart: Protect Your Smartphone

BananaStock

Did you know smartphone users are about one-third more likely to be victims of identity fraud than others? If you’re not careful about guarding the personal information on your phone, fraudsters have sneaky ways to get it and make phony financial transactions using your name and other info.

Fortunately, you can take simple steps to protect your smartphone from thieves and hackers. Think of your smartphone as a minicomputer, holding tons of information about you. Protect it as you would any computer, or you may be broadcasting your whereabouts and other personal stuff to complete strangers.

You need a strong password for your phone, software to back up your information and wipe it clean if it’s stolen, and security software to prevent malware and viruses. Make sure you only download apps from trusted sources. And don’t access your financial accounts from public Wi-Fi hotspots–they’re a prime target for hackers.

If you do lose your phone, or if it’s stolen, contact your phone carrier immediately. All phone carriers are working on tapping in to a shared database for stolen smartphones, so your stolen device is worthless and thieves can’t reactivate it with another carrier.

Your friends at Hopewell Federal Credit Union care about your safety and privacy. Protect your smartphone and keep talking and texting safely.

Credit Unions Join Forces to Support Breast Cancer Awareness cause

Hopewell Federal and Cardinal Federal Support Volley for the Cure

Hopewell Federal Credit Union (HFCU) recently partnered with Cardinal Federal Credit Union (CFCU) to support Volley for the Cure.   Volley for the Cure is a volleyball match during regular season high school volleyball designated as a awareness and fundraising match.  Fundraising efforts support the Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.  HFCU and CFCU purchased Volley for the Cure t-shirts to assist in fundraising supporting this cause.

In an effort to further breast cancer awareness and the Volley for the Cure program, Hopewell Federal and Cardinal Federal wore Volley for the Cure shirts each Friday in October.  Credit Unions have long been known for being strong supporters of community initiatives and people helping people.   This initiative supports that mission and reminds people that early detection saves lives in the fight against breast cancer.

About Hopewell Federal Credit Union (HFCU):

Hopewell Federal Credit Union, one of the leading credit unions serving Licking County, is a not-for-profit financial cooperative that is owned by its members. They provide a full range of financial services including savings and checking accounts, loan products and business accounts.  HFCU operates with the mission of helping its members get ahead financially and serves anyone who lives, works or worships in Licking County.

About Cardinal Federal Credit Union (CFCU):

Cardinal Federal Credit Union serves school employees in Licking County.  In addition, they offer membership to all persons who live, work, worship, or attend school in Licking County, Ohio. Volunteers in Licking County and family members of current members can also join the Credit Union. CFCU offers its members checking, savings, low interest loans and a variety of convenience services.