Manage Student Loans to Avoid Trouble

One of five U.S. households has student-loan debt, with the biggest burden falling on the young and poor, according to USAToday.com. The economic downturn adds to debt among recent college grads, who often don’t find full-time jobs after graduation. The lack of a consistent paycheck goes hand in hand with the inability to pay back loans.

Follow this advice from Credit Abuse Resistance Education, Alexandria, Va., to help manage student loans:

Know loan details. Know how much you owe on all student loans, as well as the interest rates, monthly payments, and when the loans need to be paid off.

Stay in touch with your lender. Let your lender know of any contact changes such as a new address, email, phone number, or name change as soon as possible.

Know grace periods. After finishing school, you have a grace period before you must start making payments. Grace periods vary from loan to loan. Stay on top of this detail to avoid fees.

Be conscious of loans while in school. If possible, try to pay down student-loan debt while you’re still in school. You won’t have such a big chunk to pay after graduation.

Consider consolidation. Consider consolidating student loans to help manage payments. This could save you a lot of money in the long run, but be certain you can handle the combined payment before you consolidate.

Ask at Hopewell Federal Credit Union for advice about managing your existing student loans. Our professionals can offer guidance for your situation. Stop by or call us today at 740.522.8311.

Fees Happening at a Checkout Near You

A court settlement between retailers and the payments industry allows retailers–brick-and-mortar stores and onine merchants–to pass their credit card acceptance costs on to consumers in the form of a fee. Retailers can decide whether or not to charge this fee, according to the Electronic Payments Coalition, Washington, D.C.

Here are steps you can take to avoid checkout fees:

• Shop around. Merchants are allowed to charge a fee equivalent to what they’ll pay to accept your card, typically between 1.5% and 3% of the total purchase. Some merchants won’t charge fees for using a credit or charge card. Before you get to the cash register, look for in-store signage or ask a sales person if you’ll be charged a fee. If you will, consider shopping elsewhere.

• Know your rights. By law, merchants can’t surprise you with fees at the last minute, try to hide fees, or overcharge you. Retailers must provide clear disclosure of fees with signs at the store entrance, at the point of sale, and on the customer’s receipt. Receipts must list the amount of the fee, a statement saying the merchant is imposing a fee, and reassurance that the fee isn’t more than what it will cost the merchant to accept the card. Online merchants must disclose fees on their homepages.

• Request a discount. Don’t hesitate to ask merchants that charge a fee for a discount.

Checkout fees remain illegal in 10 states. Consumer Action recently published an online guide with information about checkout fees and a list of these states on its knowyourcard.org website.

Just as you should shop around for merchants who don’t charge fees, you also should shop around for credit cards offering low rates and fees. Check out Hopewell Federal Credit Union’s low-rate credit card. Stop by or visit us online at http://www.hopewellfcu.org.

Thwart ATM Skimmers

Every year sophisticated thieves steal millions of dollars from consumers by “skimming” their personal account information. Skimming, sometimes called “card cloning,” involves a thief installing a magnetic card reader, or skimmer, over the actual card reader at an ATM or gas pump.

When you swipe your card, the skimming device steals the information and transmits it to a remote computer. At the same time, a tiny, concealed camera reads your PIN as you key it in.

The camera often is in a bar the thief has affixed to the machine that looks the ATM’s trim. Criminals usually ensure their counterfeit equipment matches the machine’s color scheme. Their methods are growing more sophisticated, including keypads that fit over the machine’s real keypad, eliminating the need for the camera.

Luckily, you can take steps to avoid becoming a victim:

• Use the same ATM as often as possible. Memorize how it looks, so you will know if anything about it looks fishy.
• Inspect the ATM. If anything looks unusual—cracked, loose, scratched, or taped—don’t use it.
• Avoid ATMs in popular tourist locations, as they’re common targets. When possible, use indoor ATMs, which are harder for thieves to tamper with.
• When entering your PIN on the keypad, cover the keypad with your free hand to block the view of a spying camera.

Check your account often. If you notice unusual activity, contact us at Hopewell Federal Credit Union immediately.