CREDIT CARD FRAUD IN 5S

Financial Self Defense against Credit Card Fraud

An image of someone typing in credit card information into the computerWhodunnit? When we’re talking about credit card fraud, everyone’s pointing fingers at everyone else. Consumers tend to blame the credit card issuer, but the vulnerability usually lies with the point-of-sale terminal.

Tampering with a credit card reader takes just a few minutes and can be done with an inexpensive device that’s available on Amazon. There are lots of other ways your information can be skimmed, too. However, none of that points to a security deficiency with your credit union or credit card company.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent and recognize credit card fraud before it happens. Read on for all you need to know about credit card fraud.  

5 ways your card can be frauded 

  1. It’s physically lifted from your wallet.
  2. A restaurant or bar server skims it while it’s in their possession.
  3. A terminal you use is compromised.
  4. An online breach puts your information on the black market.
  5. Your computer has been hacked. 

5 signs a terminal’s been compromised 

  1.    The security seal has been voided. When the pump is safe to use, the label has a red, blue or black background. A breached seal shows the words “Void Open” in white.
  2.    The card reader is too big for the machine.
  3.    The pin pad looks newer than the rest of the machine.
  4.    The pin pad looks raised.
  5.    The credit card reader is not secured in place. It should fit tightly and not be easily rattled. 

5 times you’re at high risk for credit card fraud 

  1. You lost your card.
  2. You’ve patronized a business in an area that’s unfamiliar to you.
  3. A company you use has been breached.
  4. You shared your information online with an unverifiable contact.
  5. You downloaded something from an unrecognizable source. 

5 ways to protect yourself against credit card fraud 

  1. Check all card readers for signs of tampering before paying.
  2. Never share your credit card information online unless you’re absolutely sure the website is authentic and the company is trustworthy.
  3. Check your monthly credit card statements for suspicious activity and review your credit reports on a frequent basis.
  4. Use cash when patronizing a business in an unfamiliar area.
  5. Don’t download attachments from unknown sources. 

5 steps to take if your credit card’s been frauded 

  1. Lock the compromised account.
  2. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
  3. Consider a credit freeze.
  4. Alert the FTC.
  5. Open new accounts. 

At Section 705 Federal Credit Union, we’ve always got your back! Call, click, or stop by today to ask about steps you can take to protect your information from getting hacked. 

SOURCES:

https://www.thebalance.com/how-credit-card-skimming-works-960773

https://www.thebalance.com/more-at-risk-of-credit-card-fraud-960780

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/credit-card-fraud-works-stay-safe/

http://gizmodo.com/home-depot-was-hit-by-the-same-hack-as-target-1631865043

6 Times A Bargain Is Not A Bargain

SaleIn the words of writer Franklin Jones, “A bargain is something you don’t need at a price you can’t resist.” And we couldn’t agree more. 

With the biggest spending season of the year looming ahead, it’s time to brush up on your shopping smarts. Don’t get caught springing for something you can’t afford! This year, give yourself the gift of an intact budget and a credit card balance that doesn’t haunt you for months or years to come. 

Here’s when that steal of a deal you can’t wait to show off to your friends is not such a bargain after all. 

  1. When you don’t need it 

The price might be right. But, if the heavily marked-down item is one you don’t need, you’re not getting a bargain at all. You’re just blowing money you could be using to put into savings or purchase stuff you actually do need. 

Those flashy signs and hyped-up ads are enough to blind the most discerning shopper, so think carefully before plunking down your money on sale items. If an item is marked down 75%, ask yourself: Would I ever buy this item at full price? Would I buy it if the price was slashed just 30%?

  1. When it’s a faulty product

Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to be cheap. If an item is retailing at a ridiculously low price, inspect it carefully. Hold it up to this checklist to determine its quality and durability:

  •   Where was it manufactured? If the product bears a designer label, but also has a “Made in China” tag stuck on it, you’re likely looking at a cheap knockoff that isn’t such a bargain after all.
  • Are there any noticeable defects or missing parts? 
  • Does the item appear to be worn out? You don’t want to be buying someone else’s heavily used returns.
  • Is the material cheaply made? Some clothing will start attracting lint and will sport unsightly “pimples” while still in the store. Unless they’re giving it away free, such poorly made clothing is hardly worth the price.
  1. When it’s going to go bad before you can use it 

Costco, we’re looking at you! Sure, that gigantic package of peanuts that looks like it can feed a herd of elephants is insanely cheap, but who are you kidding here? We both know there’s no way your family can eat it before they start going bad. And there’s no money saved when half of an item gets chucked into the trash. 

Before buying in bulk to snag a great deal, be sure the food won’t go rancid or get stale before you can eat it. 

  1. When the “sale price” is the highest the item’s ever been sold for at this location 

Retailers often use underhanded strategies to attract consumers. One of these tactics is featuring an item’s price as a “sale price” when, in reality, the store has never sold it for more than the tagged amount. 

Sometimes, the store operators will be basing their sale price on an inflated Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). But if the MSRP was artificially inflated from the start, you’re not really getting a bargain, are you? 

Other times, the item will come with a pre-marked-down MSRP. The manufacturer’s label might read: “Original price: $49.99. Our price: $39.99.” Of course, the item was never sold at $49.99 and the retailer is just playing games with you. If an item is really marked down, you’ll see a new price tag slapped on top of the manufacturer’s label with the newer, lower price. 

  1. When you need to mail in a rebate to get the discount 

Rebates are a retailer’s best friend. Most of us are just too lazy or forgetful to mail them in. So, we instead end up paying the full price with the retailer getting the last laugh. For instance, in one TiVo subscription promotion that included a mail-in rebate deal, a whopping $5,000,000 was never claimed.

If you’re the super-responsible type who doesn’t know the meaning of procrastination, enjoy those rebate deals. But, for the rest of us mere mortals, it only pays to pick up a rebate item with an instant at-the-register rebate. Otherwise, consider the item as being marked at its regular price.

  1. When it’s part of a liquidation sale 

Avoid liquidation sales like crime-ridden neighborhoods. While shoppers sometimes snag great deals at these sales, liquidation events are ripe with rip-offs. Retailers post signs claiming “Everything Must Go!” – but that’s where the honesty ends. The “Rock Bottom Prices” they advertise are often as high as the original MSRP – or even higher. The store owners are depending on shoppers to assume that all items are bargain-priced just because they’re at a liquidation sale. Don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes! Stay away from liquidation sales or proceed with extreme caution.

Sometimes a bargain is just that. But too often, what we think is an incredible deal is just another item we don’t need with a perfectly ordinary price. 

Want More Financial Tips and Tricks? Connect with Us on Facebook or Instagram!

SOURCES:

https://www.fnbn.com/3199-2/
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2012/03/03/beware-sometimes-bargain-sales-are-no-bargain/amp/
https://www.consumerreports.org/shopping/why-a-sale-isnt-always-a-sale/
https://www.google.com/amp/s/lifehacker.com/5695886/how-to-figure-out-when-a-sale-isnt-really-a-sale/amp
https://www.section705fcu.org/borrow/loan-products/

7 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Making A Large Purchase

Considering a Large Purchase? Make a Plan!

You’re convinced: You really want that Coach handbag. Or maybe you just know that gigantic entertainment center will transform your weekends. So you swipe your card and the dream item becomes yours. You’re thrilled! 

That is, until a few weeks later when the credit card bill comes, and buyer’s remorse hits. You can’t help wondering: Was it really worth the price? 

Don’t get sucked in again! Before you say “yes” to a large purchase, ask yourself these 7 questions: 

1. Do I have cash to pay for this item? 

woman coming out of a store after purchase a television

This question will help you determine if you can really afford the purchase. You need to have liquid funds that can cover the cost of your item. Putting it on credit means you’ll be hiking up the price once interest is tacked on, and you’ll be reminded of a possibly regrettable purchase for a long time to come. 

2. Is this the best price? 

 

When making a large purchase, it’s important to comparison-shop by checking several online listings and some brick-and-mortar shops as well. Visit coupon sites like CouponCabin.com for automatic savings. Also find out the best season for buying this particular item and wait for a sale if it makes sense to do so. Finally, consider purchasing a previously owned item for less.  

3. How many hours of work will you need to do in order to pay for this purchase? 

 

Calculate the total number of hours you’ll need to work to pay for this “must-have” item. Is it really worth the price? 

4. How else can I spend this money? 

Think about the money you’re about to spend on this single item. What else can that money buy? A few weeks’ worth of groceries? A year’s worth of monthly dinners out? Take some time to think of other ways you can spend this money before making a final decision. 

5. Have you splurged recently? 

 

If you can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with an occasional pricey indulgence. But, when luxury purchases become a habit, it can spell disaster for your finances. If you picked up a designer handbag just last week, you may be best off waiting a bit before buying the one that’s caught your eye today. 

6. How often will I use this item? 

Yes, it seems essential today, but looking ahead, how often do you think you’ll really use this item? If you can see yourself only using this purchase a few times a year, you may want to re-think your decision. 

7. How much will this money be worth if I put it into savings? 

You have the funds for this purchase, but how much would that money earn if you saved it? Check out this investment calculator to get that magic number. The results might leave you pleasantly surprised. 

Here at Section 705 FCU, we have several long-term savings accounts that can help your money grow. Give us a call or stop by, and we’ll help you choose one that’s perfect for you! 

SOURCES:

https://www.frugalrules.com/questions-to-ask-before-a-large-purchase/ 
https://www.makingsenseofcents.com/2016/08/what-to-do-before-a-large-purchase.html 
https://www.thebalance.com/before-you-make-large-purchases-2385817 
https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.businessinsider.com/sc/things-to-consider-before-major-purchase-2016-10 

KICK OFF A SAFE AND HEALTHY SUMMER

girl eating watermelonMemorial Day is the traditional start of summer in the U.S., and for many of us that means time spent outdoors, swimming, picnics and travel. Here are some tips to help keep your family healthy, happy and far from the ER this summer.

Not Looking Forward To Swimsuit Season?

If you’re wanting to lose weight, according to Lisa Lillien of the Hungry Girl website, don’t go overboard with crash diets. Instead, “make a few healthy tweaks to your eating habits.” Spend some weekend time prepping proteins and veggies, for instance. Then, when you want a freshly cooked meal, just throw the ingredients in a pan.
 
And have smart snacks around: jerky, protein bars, packs of nuts, fresh fruit. Eating more often might seem counter intuitive, but it can save us from making poor decisions at mealtime.
And on the topic of food: At picnics, make sure salads with mayonnaise stay in the shade. If they’re brought directly from refrigerator to table, help yourself. But don’t let them sit more than 15 minutes in the hot sun or you’re courting problems.

Water Inside

Hydration is always important, but with hotter weather, it’s even more important. Drinking lots of water is great for overall body function, and it keeps you from feeling unnecessarily hungry. Eight 8-ounce glasses of plain water every day will maintain moisture balance, but if you’re a big fan of caffeine, you should triple that amount.
 
Bonus: staying hydrated gives your skin a healthy glow.

Water Outside

We all remember being told “You’ll drown if you go into the water right after eating.” That’s too strong, but Sue Leahy, president of the American Safety and Health Institute, says that when we’re digesting food, “There’s less blood flow in your body and this takes away from strength. So if you really had to use your strength for undertow, you might have a problem.” Best bet is to wait half an hour after you eat, just like mom said.
 
Children pose different problems. The National Safety Council says more than one in five drowning victims are 14 or under. Be sure to find age-appropriate swim lessons for your child, and don’t rely on lifeguards; never leave your child unattended.

Be Good to Your Skin

No one wants to look like a peeling tomato, but it’s not about appearances: just one blistering sunburn doubles your risk of melanoma. And it isn’t enough to just apply sunscreen – you have to apply the right kind (SPF 15 or higher) and frequently (every two hours). Studies show that most people don’t apply nearly as much protection as they should. That means a teaspoon for the face, and for the body, about enough to fill a shot glass.
 
If you forgot your sunscreen, or didn’t use enough, apply cooling botanicals generously, preferably at the first sight of a pink glow. The damage is done, but this will reduce peeling and inflammation.

Be Good To Your Eyes

At work or at play, when outdoors, wear sunglasses that block at least 99% of ultraviolet A and B. Sunglasses can help prevent cataracts, as well as wrinkles.

Watch For Heat Stroke

This is a big problem for outdoor workers who can’t take a break, and for older people who are in apartments with no air conditioning. But it can happen to anyone.
“The first sign is cramping in the legs,” says Sue Leahy. “Cool off and drink fluids until it goes away. Cramping – especially in the leg – is a sign the body is losing salt and electrolytes, and you should heed it.”

Get Debugged

Bugs love summer, too – all that exposed flesh. But they can transmit Lyme disease, West Nile, Zika and other illnesses. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using insect repellants containing DEET (10% to 30%), except on children younger than 2 months.

Move It But Don’t Lose It

The summer months are mobile ones, and not just in SRVs and station wagons. If your child travels by bicycle, skateboard or scooter, he or she needs to wear a helmet that meets CPSC safety standards. So do you, since children learn best by observing adults. Set the example. Never let children ride near moving traffic.
Children who are too young to have a driver’s license shouldn’t be allowed on riding lawnmowers or off-road vehicles. Children are involved in about 30 percent of all ATV-related deaths and ER injuries.

Fireworks

The Fourth of July is one of the biggest events of the summer, but emergency rooms brace for the upsurge in injuries every year. Fireworks can cause severe burns, blindness, scars or worse. Even sparklers, which you might think are safe, can reach temperatures over 1000 degrees. And they can start fires. The National Safety Council says that in a recent year, fireworks caused an estimated 15,500 reported fires, including 1,100 structure fires. Families should attend community fireworks displays run by professionals rather than using fireworks at home.

Need a little help to make this the best summer ever? Learn more about our Vacation Loan Special!

 
SOURCES:

SAVING ON MOTHER’S DAY

8 Mother’s Day Ideas that Will Save You Big Bucks!

woman reads Mother's Day cardQ: I love showing Mom how much she means to me, but with the money spent on a pricey bouquet, a nice gift and dinner out, I’m looking at an awful lot of spending! Is there any way to give Mom a Mother’s Day to remember without it costing a small fortune?

A: If you find yourself overspending on Mother’s Day, you’re not alone. The average American will spend close to $200 this month, all aimed at making Mom feel special. It’s wonderful to show your love and appreciation, but you don’t need to blow your budget to make that happen.

Read on for some low-cost ways to show Mom how much you care. 

Give Mom a stay-cation

Give your mother a day off – at home! Make arrangements for her to be completely free of all housework on her special day. There’s no laundry, cooking or cleaning for her today! Offer to assume the responsibilities of all her daily chores, being sure to tidy up as per Mom’s standards and to prepare all her meals. You can create a homemade gift card entitling the bearer to one full day of all household chores, and present it to Mom in the morning.

Give your mother a small vacation – she deserves it!

Go out – for free

Search your neighborhood forums for local attractions that don’t have an admission fee. You might get lucky with an interesting museum or a beautiful overlook point that’s just a small drive away. Otherwise, you can prepare a picnic lunch, bring along some balls and Frisbees, and spend the day at a scenic park together with the whole family. Pack a portable grill and some hot dogs to make it a full-day event!

Make some memories

Celebrate Mother’s Day with the most enjoyable trip of all: down memory lane. Spend some time gathering and editing the best home video footage you can find. Include major family milestones and memorable events and/or vacations. Put it all together and present your gift to Mom on her special day. Then, sit back with the rest of the family and reminisce togethelr about the good old times.

On a similar note, you can give Mom the gift of priceless memories by creating a family scrapbook. Use patterned cardstock, your best family photos, ticket stubs and other fun mementos to help Mom remember old times. If Mom’s a grandmother several times over, you can even have each family member – or each grandchild – design their own page for Grandma.

Look for bargains online

If you can’t get around spending money on Mom’s gift, search for seasonal discounts online before spending a penny. You’ll find excellent Mother’s Day deals on Amazon, Coach, Kohl’s and other major retailers, sometimes as steep as 84% off retail price.

Best Buy puts a twist in the discount game by rewarding you for money you spend on Mom. Choose something from the site’s “Top Tech for Mom” section and you’ll get a savings coupon that’s valid until late June – just in time to help you save on a gift for Father’s Day.

Have a family movie night

Spend a relaxing day at home binge-watching Mom’s favorite movies together. Prepare lots of fresh popcorn and all of Mom’s best snacks, pour her a glass of her favorite drink, and get comfy on the couch. Remember: Mom is in charge of the remote! It’s her day, after all.

Look for restaurant deals

It’s always cheapest to eat your own home-cooked food, but if you know your mom is looking forward to a dinner out, look for local restaurant deals before deciding on a place to eat. Lots of eateries offer special Mother’s Day deals or even free menu items just for moms.

To keep costs down while still enjoying takeout food, order your dinner in. You’ll save on beverages and service fees without the hassle of preparing your meal. Be sure to set the table with Mom’s best china – and to do the dishes when you’ve finished eating.

Go easy on the flowers 

Flowers are always appreciated, but they can cost a bundle! Save on Mom’s bouquet by shopping around for the best Mother’s Day deals. Save even more by purchasing your flowers in the supermarket and arranging them in a vase or pitcher you already have in the house.

Game night

For a fun family activity that puts the focus on Mom, turn your favorite games into Mother’s Day material. Love trivia? Put together a list of random questions about Mom’s life, hobbies and daily schedule and play a super fun game of Trivial Pursuit. Pass around the most hilarious pictures you can find of Mom and let everyone take a stab at guessing when and where they happened. Get creative and host the family game night that Mom will always remember.

Showing Mom how much she means to you doesn’t have to strain your budget at all. With a bit of research and proper planning, you can give Mom some priceless memories she’ll cherish forever.

Want more ideas like this? Connect with Section 705 FCU on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube!

SOURCES:

http://www.frugalfanatic.com/save-money-on-mothers-day/
https://www.google.com/amp/amp.timeinc.net/fortune/2016/05/08/mothers-day-deals
https://www.grandparents.com/money-and-work/saving-and-investing/monday-money-savers-mothers-day

7 Ways to Spring Clean for Extra Cash

a women going through her book case to donate unwanted books

Spring Clean for Cash!

When that first delightful spring breeze starts blowing, you know it’s time to get your house in shape.

The warmer weather and the brilliant sunshine pouring through your windows can fill you with boundless energy. You’re going to banish those dust bunnies! Every piece of useless clutter must go! You are on a mission to turn your home into a sparkling palace that is completely free of junk. 

But there’s more than just a neat house awaiting you at the end of all that hard work. Here’s how you can spring clean your way to riches – well, almost. You won’t become a millionaire from your junk, but you’ll put some spare cash in your pocket just by taking a few extra steps while clearing out the clutter. And that’s always a good thing! 

1.) Trade in your electronics 

Don’t throw out that digital camera or printer just yet! Gather all the old gadgets and devices you no longer use and bring them to your local electronics store. They’ll likely offer you a gift card for your treasures. 

Some larger chain stores, like Best Buy, even run a retail-collection program to help you responsibly dispose of your old electronics. You’ll earn a gift card that can help you save money on your next purchase.  

2.) Get cash at the consignment store 

Your outdated clothing from the ‘90s might just be someone else’s idea of high fashion today. We’re looking at you, neon jeans! Instead of filling your local dumpster, bring your old clothing to the neighborhood consignment shop and see what they’re willing to take. If you’re open to traveling a bit, you can search for consignment chains that might be a little further out, like Plato’s Closet for teens and 20-somethings; Clothes Mentor which resells designer clothing for all ages; and Once Upon a Child, a chain that specializes in children’s clothing and toys. 

You can also look up consignment shops online, like ThredUp, Tradesy or Poshmark. And if all else fails, there’s always eBay! 

3.) Trade in your video games 

If you’ve got a serious gamer at home who always needs the latest and greatest, consider trading in your old games at GameStop. You’ll get a store credit that will help support this relatively costly habit and you’ll get rid of that huge pile of video games at the same time!  

4.) Sell old books 

Books take up lots of room, and if no one’s reading them, why not get rid of them for good? Look up your closest Half Price Books locations and bring your collection over to them in exchange for a tidy sum. 

If you’ve got a stack of textbooks lying around, earn back some of the money you shelled out for them by selling them online on BookFinder, Cash4Books or eCampus. 

5.) Sell your expensive electronics 

If you’ve got some older smartphones or laptops that are in decent condition, they should be able to fetch you a pretty penny. Try selling your stuff on Gazelle.com. They offer free shipping, and once your item is officially logged by the company, you’ll get paid via check, gift card, or PayPal. It’s an easier, faster option than selling on Craigslist or eBay. 

6.) Get cash for unused gift cards 

Do you have a pile of gift cards you will never use? It’s time to get rid of the whole lot – and make some money on the side! There are loads of sites that offer a gift-card exchange service, and though you may not make back the full amount, you’ll usually land a decent offer. Besides, if these cards were originally given to you as gifts, any money you make off them is extra. 

Try your luck with your gift cards at giftcard.com, giftcardgranny.com or tradya.com to fatten up your wallet with greenbacks instead of useless cards. 

7.) Donate to charity 

Donating unused clothing toys, or electronics to charity might be the easiest way to get rid of clutter. You’ll be helping out a worthwhile cause and making someone else happy with your belongings. As an added bonus, donating goods to charity will earn you a tax deduction, so long as you keep your receipt. Thrift shop chains like Goodwill and the Salvation Army will happily accept clothing that’s in decent condition, all kinds of housewares, used furniture, toys, gadgets and more. 

You’ll be making someone else’s day and earning a tax break at the same time. 

Spring cleaning is a chore that’s gotta be tackled with lots of energy, time, and hard work. With a bit of extra planning, you can earn some cash in return for the work. 

Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.gobankingrates.com/making-money/spring-cleaning-tips-ways-make-money-already-have/amp/
https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/articles/2016-03-02/5-ways-to-make-money-off-your-spring-cleaning
https://www.frugalforless.com/make-money-cleaning/

6 COMMON TAX MISTAKES TO AVOID

Image of Uncle SamIt’s Tax Time!

It’s that time of year again! Get ready to break out the calculator and pencils; dig out the enormous pile of receipts, tax forms, and pay stubs, and get to work. Whether you choose to go it alone, use a tax-prep computer program or hand it all over to an accountant, start with checking out our handy list of common mistakes people make on their tax returns.

1.) Faulty math

One of the most common errors on filed taxes is math mistakes. A small miscalculation can throw off all your numbers and get you into trouble with the IRS. However you choose to prepare your taxes, be sure to triple-check the math before filing.

2.) Name changes and misspellings

When preparing your taxes, you’re thinking about numbers, but don’t forget to pay attention to everything else on your form! If you use a name that’s different than the one the IRS has on file for your Social Security number, or even if you spell it wrong, that can mean trouble for you and your taxes. If you’ve recently changed your legal name, be sure to let the Social Security Administration know.

3.) Omitting extra income

Many people neglect to include secondary sources of income on their tax forms. This may include freelance work and any other side work they may have done throughout the year. If you’ve taken any side jobs in 2017, fill out a 1099-MISC and file it along with your taxes.

4.) Deducting funds donated to charity

Charity laws are complicated! First, only donations given to an organization with a tax-exempt status can be deducted from your taxes. Second, if you’ve donated food items or used clothing, they had to have been in decent shape to be eligible for a write-off. Finally, calculate the value of your non-monetary donations according to what they would be worth if you’d sell them now. Don’t forget to include those charity tax receipts when you file!

5.) Using the most recent tax laws

The current administration has made some major changes to the tax code. While most of these changes won’t take effect until you file your first taxes for 2018, there are some changes that are effective for this year, including the following:
  • The standard deduction increased to $6,350 for single, $9,350 for head of household, and $12,700 for married filing jointly.
  • The maximum earned income tax credit increased to $6,318.
  • The maximum income limit for the EITC increased to $53,930.
  • The foreign earned income deduction increased to $102,100.
  • Annual deductible amounts for Health Savings Accounts increased for individuals only, to $3,400.

6.) Signing your forms

If you’re filing through the USPS, be sure to put your signature wherever necessary, and get a mailing receipt. If filing online, you can use a PIN instead. Most places that require a signature will need to be dated as well.
 
Check your forms for errors before submitting and file with confidence.

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Energy Saving Tips When Buying New Appliances

Limiting Household Appliances’ Energy Use Can Save You Big Bucks!

Ecologists are always searching for ways to save our environment. Focusing on energy-efficient appliances is one aspect of this endeavor.
washing machine and dryer

Photo Credit: http://ow.ly/SQGS30j5gio

In fact, 30% of the charges on your electric statement stem from your appliances. That’s why the government and many appliance manufacturers are replacing standard devices with new energy-saving models.
 
Is one of your appliances on the blink? Before running out to purchase a new model, consider if it’s worth contacting a technician to fix your machine. Since prices for electrical appliances have decreased over the years, it might be worthwhile to buy a new model. Besides, the costs of a new part for your old apparatus and the technician’s visit can be high.
 
Also, remember that the new energy-efficient appliances will save you money on a monthly basis.

What Does Energy-Efficient Mean?

In simple terms, this means the process that is used to make the appliance function is using less energy.
Now that you decided to go with a modern, energy-efficient refrigerator, how can you be sure you’re getting the best product at the most cost-effective price?
 
Here are some tips to guide you in your search:
 
1. Determine the total cost. The first thing to consider is the operating cost. This amount, along with the actual purchase price, should give you the real cost of the appliance.
 
2. Check the energy rating. There are several reliable rating services that provide information about appliance energy consumption. The federal government uses the Energy Star Standard sticker to inform consumers of the operating cost and the annual energy consumption of each appliance.
 
3. Select the right size appliance. Running a large machine – even the most energy-efficient one – uses more electricity than a compact one.
 
4. Look for economy choices. Many dishwashers and washing machines offer a variety of different cycles. If you find one with an economy cycle, you’ll save money when you only need to wash a small load of clothes or dishes.
 
5. Stay Simple. When it comes to choosing a refrigerator, go easy on the add-ons. Top-to-bottom fridge/freezer models are more energy efficient than side-by-sides. Features like water dispensers, ice-makers and auto-defrost use lots of extra electricity. This holds true for self-cleaning ovens, too.
 
6. Contact your utility supplier for the latest ways to save on utility charges. With today’s smart devices, appliances can be programmed to use less energy at certain times of the day.
 
7. Check out your home. Hire a home assessor to identify ways you can save on your overall energy and water costs.
 
8. Comparison shop. Never buy the first model you see. Household appliances are not cheap, and to find the most energy-efficient one at the best price, you’ll need to comparison shop. Don’t pay for the name in a specific model; compare the details of each machine.

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3 Steps to Strong Passwords You Can Remember

Passwords are the house keys to your online accounts, and when they’re hacked, intruders can break in and wreak havoc.

Women typing on computer

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To create strong passwords, you have to strike a balance between making them difficult for others to guess and making them easy enough for you to remember. Many people favor simple ones at their own risk: “123456” and “password” have remained the two most common passwords for six years, according to password security company SplashData.

Unlike many other security measures on websites, a password is one you have full control over. And given that over 1,000 data breaches happened in 2017 alone, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, it might be time to strengthen your passwords. Here’s how.

How to make a foolproof password

1. Start with a sentence

Despite the “word” in “password,” it’s better to think of starting with multiple words. Some websites require only six or eight characters for passwords, but that doesn’t mean it’s a recommended length.

» MORE: How to make online banking more secure

When it comes to passwords, “longer is better,” says Richard Crone, a payments expert and CEO of Crone Consulting LLC. “And the way to do that is to use a sentence structure.”

Pick a sentence that’s memorable but doesn’t have details that relate too closely to you. Avoid using birthdays or the names of pets or family members, and feel free to be creative. Here’s an example: “cats do not like cucumbers.” Then, take out the spaces, “catsdonotlikecucumbers.”

“It’s really the length and the unrelatedness that gives you the best protection,” Crone says.

2. Avoid using real words

Change how your sentence looks by removing all the vowels, or only use the first one or two letters of each word. Don’t use dictionary words, which makes your password easier to guess.

The previous example becomes “cadonolicu” if you’re using the first two letters of every word in that sentence.

3. Mix in numbers, symbols and uppercase letters

Bring in a variety of characters to your password. Some websites have minimum requirements so you need to use at least one capital letter, one lowercase letter and a number. You might have to add a symbol like a period or exclamation point, too. As you mix it up, don’t repeat letters, numbers or symbols right next to each other.

By capitalizing some letters, replacing the “l” with an exclamation point and turning an “o” into a zero, the sample password becomes “CaD0No!icU.”

Use a password manager

The steps above help when you’re creating one really strong password, but remembering a dozen or more such passwords might make your head spin. That’s why you might want to consider using a password manager such as LastPass or Dashlane. There are free options, but some features are available only for purchase.

Think of a password manager as a bank vault that creates and stores long and complex passwords so you don’t have to. The only password to know is the one that unlocks the vault. Once you type that one, you can log into whatever online accounts you decide to keep on the password manager.

If you don’t use an online password manager, consider writing down complex passwords and storing them in a safe place such as a locked cabinet at home or in an encrypted file on your computer. These passwords should be difficult to access as well as to guess.

A password is “like scrambled eggs,” Crone says. “The more you fluff it up and spice it up, the better.”

The article 3 Steps to Strong Passwords You Can Remember originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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Why Do I Need To Get Preapproved For A Loan?

 
Q: I’m in the market for a new home, and everyone I talk to, from friends to financial advisors, suggests I get preapproved for a mortgage before I start house hunting. Why is this so important?
house with sold sign

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A: You’re actually on the receiving end of great advice. When looking to take out a large loan, whether it’s for purchasing a home or buying a car, having that preapproval in hand before you start your search is crucial.

Depending upon the type of loan, the process of getting preapproved for a loan can take time. The lender will begin by asking for your financial history and other personal information. If you have a co-borrower, the lender will need this information about them as well.
 
You’ll be asked to provide your Social Security Number (SSN) and for permission to allow the lender to access your credit report. If the information you provide is satisfactory, as is your credit report, the lender will begin constructing the details of your loan. When they have determined how large of a loan you will be eligible for, they will grant you a preapproval letter. The letter will also detail your estimated interest rate on the loan, though that will sometimes also depend upon the specifics of your purchase, such as the year and condition of a car or appraisal on a home.
 
Having your preapproval letter will shorten the loan process significantly when you’re actually ready to take out the loan. However, that is only a small benefit of getting preapproved before you start “shopping.”
Here are some other advantages of getting preapproved for a loan:

1.) You’ll know what you can afford

Your preapproval will tell you exactly what you can afford. This way, you’ll avoid being disappointed later when you have your heart set on a certain home only to be told you can’t swing it financially. Knowing how large a loan you’ll qualify for will simplify your search and get you into your new home or car sooner.
Be sure to calculate other monthly costs, such as property taxes, home insurance and increased auto insurance rates when determining the actual amount of money you’ll need to shell out each month.

2.) Don’t get taken for a ride

Picture this scene at a car dealership:
 
Salesperson: So, you’re here to buy a new car! What are you looking for?
You: Well, I want something with a smooth ride and –
Salesperson: Got it. And how much of a monthly payment can you afford?
You: Weeelll, I think I can swing up to $200 a month, but I’d rather something closer to $150 if you —
Salesperson: Step right this way please! Let me show our new line of Camrys at just $205 a month! They have the most luxurious feel and the ride is smooth as butter!
 
What happened here is, quite simply, a salesperson looking to make the most money out of a customer. When you’re unsure about how much you can spend, the dealer will capitalize on your uncertainty and try to sell you a car that just barely skims the maximum amount you’ve decided you can afford.
 
Also, when you name a monthly payment you can manage, the dealer will work with that number instead of talking about the price of the car. They may try to inflate the payment with charges and fees just because they fit within your named payment amount.
 
In contrast, when you show up at the dealer with a preapproval in hand, the salesman will have to show you cars with price tags that fit within your loan amount.
 
Don’t get taken for a ride; get your preapproval before you set foot in the dealer shop!

3.) Be taken seriously

A car dealer will take you a lot more seriously when you wave that preapproval in their face, since having that information in hand shows you’re ready to buy.
 
When purchasing a home, the same rule holds true. A realtor will be able to assist you more efficiently when you know exactly how much house you can afford. They may also give you better service since you’re showing that you’re serious about buying a home. In fact, many realtors refuse to show homes to buyers who don’t have a preapproval in hand.

4.) Know you have financing you can trust

When you show up at the car dealership with a preapproval from your credit union, you know the deal is in your best interest. Many auto shops have access to several financing options and they’re almost always going to put customers into financing options that are in their own wallet’s best interests.

5.) Purchase your dream home

A preapproval makes you a valuable customer. It also helps you stand out from the pack. If you’re looking to buy a home in a competitive market, you may be competing with several other buyers for the same house. Having your preapproval will give you a leg up on bidding wars. A seller will be more eager to work with someone who’s already started the mortgage process. You can end your search sooner with a preapproval!
 
In the market for a new home or car? Don’t forget to call, click, or stop by Section 705 Federal Credit Union to hear about our fantastic rates on mortgage and auto loans!

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