Donating to Charity through a Credit Card–Does it Pay?

Affinity credit cards are a popular way for charities to raise money and for credit card issuers to gain market share.

What are affinity cards? They’re credit cards linked to a charity, public education institution, environmental organization, children’s causes, alumni association, or an animal organization. The organization receives a small percentage of every purchase or transaction a consumer makes. Don’t confuse affinity cards with cobranded cards, which give perks and discounts to the user, not to an organization. Sounds like a convenient way to donate to charity and make you feel good about yourself, right? They could be too good to be true.

According to Bankrate.com, the average amount nonprofit organizations receive is .05%, or half a penny for every dollar spent. If you charge $100, the credit card issuer gives 50 cents to charity—charge that amount every month for a year, and you’ll donate $6 to charity. Is that enough to make you feel good about yourself? Probably not.

You may feel even worse after you find out what your annual percentage rate (APR) is on an affinity card. The average affinity card APR is generally 20% or higher, and many affinity card issuers charge annual fees. You, and the charity, likely are better off if you make a direct contribution to the charity. Your deduction might even be tax-deductible.

Affinity cards often are more costly for consumers to use than standard credit cards such as Hopewell Federal Credit Union’s credit card options. To find out more, stop in, call us at 740.522.8311, or visit us at http://www.hopewellfcu.org.

You’ve Been Phished–Now What?

Even the most tech-savvy people can be victims of phishing attacks. Despite being educated and prepared, you still can be fooled into giving out your personal information. If you’ve been phished, assume that you’ll probably become a victim of credit card fraud, bank fraud, or identity theft. This advice will help you if you’ve given out sensitive information:

Credit, debit, or ATM card information
* Report the theft of this information to the card issuer immediately using the toll-free, 24-hour service number.
* Cancel your account and open a new one.
* Check your statements closely after the attack.
* Federal law limits your liability to a maximum of $50 for any unauthorized use of your credit card. You have zero liability if your credit card number, but not the card itself, has been stolen.
* Liability for ATM or debit card charges depends on how quickly you report the loss. If you report the loss before a thief uses it, your liability is zero. If you don’t report it within 60 days after your bank statement containing the unauthorized use is mailed to you, you risk unlimited loss.

Account information
* Call your affected financial institution to report the loss right away.
* Cancel your account and open a new one.

eBay account
* If someone is using your account to bid, leave feedback, or list auctions, contact eBay by clicking on http://pages.ebay.com/securitycenter/.
* If there are fraudulent auctions, you can use the hotline options to request an investigation of a current listing for possible fraudulent activity.
* You also can try to sign in and change your password. If you can sign in, change your password and hint. Consider using a password manager, which will generate and “remember” your passwords. Also, delete any auctions, contact bidders, and sellers that the hacker set up.

Personal identification information
* Contact the three major credit reporting agencies–Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion–and request they place a fraud alert and a victim’s statement in your file. Also ask that they remove inquiries and fraudulent accounts opened after the theft. At the same time, request a free copy of your credit report. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) requires each major credit bureau to provide one free credit report annually to consumers who request a copy. Request the reports from annualcreditreport.com.
* Contact your financial institution and have it flag your account so you are notified if there is any unusual activity.
* File a criminal report with your local police.
* Report the theft to the Social Security Administration’s Fraud Hotline.
* Alert the passport office to watch for someone ordering a passport in your name.
* File a complaint with the Internet Fraud Complaint Center.

Fraud Alert

The Key to a Successful Budget Is Minimalism

The easiest way to abandon your budget? Make it complicated and tedious.

Resembling a beautifully spare modernist home—all clean lines and uncluttered spaces—a minimalist budget can help you clarify your financial goals, provide you guidance on how to meet them, and allow you the freedom to spend a little on yourself.

To keep your budget from growing too unwieldy, try these three methods:

* Set up a modern envelope system. Most online banking platforms allow you to open multiple accounts and give them names that correspond with the different categories you’re budgeting for—an update of the tried-and-true method of putting cash in different envelopes earmarked for specific expenses. Having multiple accounts allows you to easily shuttle money back and forth between them;

* Have a “spend on whatever I want” category. Agree on a set amount you get to spend on whatever you want each month. As long as you’re setting aside enough for expenses, savings, and needs, this gives you some financial freedom and allows you to indulge “guilty pleasures” without the guilt; and

* Keep the budget simple. If you’re just starting out with a budget, making it as simple as possible will help you stick to it. In her book “All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan,” now-U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recommends allocating your paycheck—assuming taxes and retirement savings have been automatically deducted—accordingly: 50% to needs (bills and groceries), 30% to wants (clothes and entertainment), and 20% to saving or paying down debt.

These guidelines can help making budgeting easier and feel less punitive, but they also assume you’re doing relatively OK financially and have a steady income. If you’re drowning in debt or your income is irregular, your priorities will need to adjust accordingly. (Remember to visit Hopewell Federal Credit Union if you’re having trouble wrangling your daily finances.)

Otherwise, keep your budget simple and uncluttered, and you might find yourself actually using it.