Wednesday, July 19, 2017

5 Benefits of Using Credit Cards vs. Cash

Does anyone pay with cash anymore? According to Bankrate.com, nearly one in 10 Americans no longer carry cash with them on a regular basis. While paying with cash can help people avoid the temptation of accumulating debt, there are also some major advantages to ditching it and using credit cards on a regular basis.

Convenience 
There is no doubt about it that paying with credit cards is convenient. The convenience of being able to swipe your credit card instead of running to the ATM or having to count out the exact amount is pretty obvious. Credit cards can also help streamline your budgeting process since you’ll have a detailed list of everything you’ve spent money on throughout the month.

Security
When it comes to protecting your money, the advantages of using credit cards compared to cash are numerous. Most credit cards these days have built-in security features like EMV chip technology to help prevent phishing of your card info. If someone fraudulently uses your card, call the number on your statement or the back of your card immediately. In most cases, you won’t be held responsible for any charges if your card or account number has been stolen. For example, Community Financial’s credit cards are backed by MasterCard®’s Zero Liability Program.

With a Community Financial MasterCard, you can also sign up for Quick Launch Text Alerts to receive a text or email when your card is used. Learn more at cfcu.org/cardinfo.

Credit History 
One of the main advantages of using a credit card is that it can positively impact your credit score when you use it responsibly. Regular use and prompt full payment of your balance is one of the better ways to build a solid credit history. This also lets creditors know that you can be trusted to lend to. Not using credit can dramatically hurt your credit score. If you don’t have a history and don’t use credit on a regular basis, your credit score may be pretty low.

Options 
World traveler? There’s a card for you. Willing to ditch the rewards in favor of a lower interest rate? There’s a card for that too. Community Financial now offers 4 different MasterCard options, including fixed-rate cards so your payments won’t increase even if Federal interest rates do. Check out cfcu.org/cards to find the right credit card for you!

Rewards 
If you choose a reward-based card, one of the best parts of using your credit card is reaping the rewards! Since you are already spending money on everyday items like gas and groceries, why not earn rewards? Community Financial members can earn Choice Rewards on their purchases.

And now through September 6, you can earn 2X Rewards on your Platinum Rewards or World MasterCard when you make back-to-school purchases! *

So while some still might prefer paying with cash, there are plenty of reasons to ditch it and take out the plastic. What do you think? Are we headed towards a cashless society?


*Cash advances and balance transfers do not earn Choice Rewards. Points awarded on net purchases; qualified transactions must post to your account by September 6, 2017.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

6 Ways to Save On Your Summer Vacation

The open road is calling and your dream vacation awaits! But first, you need to work out the financial details. How are you going to pay for your getaway? Ideally, a plump vacation fund is the way to go. Unfortunately, though, many of us don’t think about how we’re going to pay for vacation until it’s a few weeks away.

Be proactive in planning your vacation by saving up for it in advance. Forgo some luxuries in the months or weeks leading up to your vacation and put the extra cash aside for your getaway. When you’ve got the money saved up, create a realistic vacation budget. These six vacation saving tips will help you plan a perfect getaway without busting your budget.

1.) Timing is everything 
There is an ideal window for buying everything, and booking airline flights is no exception. Flight prices generally fluctuate until departure day, but experts say the sweet spot is 54 days before your travel date.

2.) Clear your cache 
Hotel and airline sites use cookies to determine what you’re shopping for – and then raise their prices accordingly. Beat the system by clearing your cache before every new search so they can’t access your browser history.

3.) Sweet-talk your way to savings 
Ask for an upgrade at check-in. About 78% of hotel guests who request an upgrade at the front desk actually receive one. Also, by 6 p.m., most hotels know which rooms will be filled for the night. If you check in later in the day, you’ll have a better chance at getting the room with the incredible view – for an economy-class price.

4.) Never pay full price 
Check sites like coupondivas.com, entertainment.com, and Groupon.com for deep discounts at local eateries and entertainment centers. You can also find cheaper tickets to nearby amusement parks by looking for sellers on Craigslist.

5.) Freebie fun 
Challenge yourself to enjoy one day of your vacation without spending any money. Search local sites and blogs for write-ups about free things to do. You might find a charming farm, a fun splash pad for the kids or a scenic hiking trail. Don’t eat out on this day either. Many hotels include a continental breakfast – so take full advantage. For lunch, make a picnic on sandwiches. Dinner can be something effortless that you brought from home, like hot dogs cooked on a travel grill or omelettes fried in a sandwich-maker.

6.) Save your mega event for the last day 
End your vacation on a sweet note by saving your most exciting event for your last day away. If you’re unsure of how you’re going to fund your getaway, call or stop by Community Financial to ask about taking out a personal loan or open a savings account. We’re here to make your dream vacation come true!

Your Turn: How do you save big on summer vacation? Share your best hacks with us in the comments!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Independence Day Celebrations, Yesterday and Today

Do you know exactly what happened on July 4, 1776? What do our Fourth of July celebrations commemorate, and why?

The Reason We Celebrate July 4 
July 4, 1776, is the date written on the original Declaration of Independence, even though it wasn’t signed until Aug. 2 of the same year. July 4 was the day in which the Continental Congress officially agreed and approved the final edits to the document that Thomas Jefferson wrote. It declared the words that would establish a new nation, independent of Great Britain’s control.

Thirteen American colonies were already at war over oppressive taxation, but residents weren’t consistent in their opinions and their efforts until the words of the Declaration united them and gave them a foundation for the Revolutionary War victory in 1783. Because the Declaration was also understood to be the first formal statement by any group of people asserting a right to choose their own form of government, it was a significant document for all citizens of the world, not only for the colonists.

Although it was called Independence Day as early as 1791, the Declaration of Independence wasn’t always celebrated on July 4 with a vacation from work and fancy fireworks. In fact, the United States Congress didn’t make it a holiday for federal employees until 1870, nor did lawmakers pass additional legislation to make July 4 a paid federal holiday until 1938.

During the Revolutionary War, July 4 was commemorated with 13-gun salutes (representing the 13 colonies), official banquets for the Continental Congress and their families, and parades and shows for the troops. Ships at sea were draped with red, white and blue while in port and at sail, and General George Washington reportedly ordered a double ration of rum for his fighting men to celebrate.

One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence was John Adams, who wrote the following in a letter to his wife, Abigail: “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

Celebrating July 4 at Home 
Today, we certainly have our modern pomp and parade, shows, games, sports, guns, bells and bonfires to celebrate July 4. But we also have jet fighter salutes at airshows and choreographed fountains and fireworks exploding over lakes, rivers, and harbors throughout the country. John Adams probably could never have imagined the majestic displays we take for granted now.

Whether you are enjoying a road trip with your family or staying home to barbecue by the pool, have a fun and safe holiday!

Your Turn: How are you celebrating July 4th this year?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Newlyweds: Don’t Let Financial Stress Take the Cake

Of all the things to discuss before marriage, finances are the least exciting. Statistically, money is the top reason couples argue and financial arguments are among the top predictors of divorce. So, how can you avoid becoming a statistic? Here are some ideas from the experts:

Talk to Each Other 
A 2013 poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found 68% of engaged couples have negative attitudes about discussing money. To 45%, it’s “necessary but awkward,” and 7% say it’s “likely to lead to a fight.” 5% predict it would call off the wedding. The result? Couples don’t talk finances. A Fidelity survey found that over one-third don’t know their partner’s salary, of which 72% think they communicate “very well” about finances.

It’s not surprising: What’s romantic about debt, budgets or taxes? Nobody can ensure newlywed happiness, but experts agree: Don’t wait. Discuss taxes now. If you’re both employed, the “marriage penalty” may cost you more; consider marrying in January. But if one spouse earns the majority, you’ll enjoy a “marriage bonus” and a December wedding might be wise. Whether you talk money weekly or monthly, agree on a system and stay open to change.

Get Started 
Start easy: “What’s your first money memory?” “How did you spend your allowance?” Then, go further with these questions:
  • “Are you a spender or saver?” – If one saves and one spends, create a budget considering both styles. Studies show that men and women spend differently. Women tackle daily expenses (groceries, utilities, clothes); men make larger purchases (TVs, cars, computers). Amounts might be equal, but perceptions differ. About 36% of partners don’t discuss big purchases; that’s a recipe for disaster. 
  • “Are you in debt?” – Your spouse’s debt doesn’t become yours, but it affects your choices. Heavy credit card debt complicates home buying. Make reducing debt a priority. A TD Ameritrade survey found 38% of partners unaware of the other’s debts. 
  • “What are your financial goals?” “Where do you want to be in five or 20 years?” – Goal-oriented people progress toward savings and investing targets faster. Decide on the targets: buying a home, starting a family, being debt-free. List your goals, then share and plan together. 
Know what’s important to each other: things or experiences? Saving for a house or for retirement? Clarify these values early on in the marriage.

Trust Each Other 
Be honest with your partner. If you made a foolish purchase, own up to it. Some 40% of partners have lied about the price of a purchase. Lying about money has huge repercussions. Support one another; finger-pointing or retreating won’t help. Instead, work together on a plan.

You’re Still Individuals 
Celebrate differences. Your bargain-hunter should do the spending while you invest the savings. Choose a monthly amount each can spend, no questions asked. Money claims the average is $150.

A joint bank account has pros and cons. SmartMoney found 64% of couples put all their money in joint accounts; 14% kept everything separate. Many newlyweds choose both: yours, mine, and ours. Calculate shared living expenses and then contribute your portion of those costs. The key is to take action now to ensure money won’t prevent your wedded bliss.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Kick Off A Safe And Healthy Summer

Since June 21 is the official start of summer, meaning outdoor time, swimming, picnics and travel, here are some tips to keep your family happy and healthy.

Not Looking Forward To Swimsuit Season? 
If you want to lose weight, says Lisa Lillien of the Hungry Girl website, don’t use crash diets, just make healthy choices. Spend weekend time prepping proteins and veggies. Then for a hot dinner, just throw the ingredients together. Have smart snacks around: jerky, protein bars, nuts, fruit. Eating more often seems counter intuitive, but prevents overeating at mealtime. More about food: At picnics, keep mayonnaise salads cool. Enjoy them straight from the refrigerator; don’t let them sit more than 15 minutes in the sun.

Water Inside 
Proper hydration is important, especially in hotter weather. Drinking enough water improves body function and keeps you from feeling unnecessarily hungry. Eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily will maintain moisture balance, but if you’re a caffeine drinker, triple that. Bonus: Staying hydrated gives skin that healthy glow.

Water Outside 
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 during digestion, “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 to wait half an hour after you eat. Children pose different problems. The National Safety Council says more than one in five drowning victims are 14 or under. Find age-appropriate swim lessons for your child, and don’t rely on lifeguards; never leave your child unattended.

Be Good to Your Skin 
Just one blistering sunburn doubles your risk of melanoma. You have to apply the right kind of sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher), frequently (every two hours), and enough: a teaspoon for the face, and about a shot glassful for the body. If you forgot, apply cooling botanicals generously at the first sight of a pink glow to reduce peeling and inflammation.

Be Good To Your Eyes 
To help prevent cataracts, as well as wrinkles, wear sunglasses that block at least 99% of ultraviolet A and B.

Watch For Heat Stroke 
This is a big problem for outdoor workers and older people in apartments without air conditioning, but 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 can transmit Lyme disease, West Nile, Zika, and other illnesses. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend insect repellents containing DEET (10% to 30%), except on children under 2 months.

Move It But Don’t Lose It 
If your children travel by bicycle, skateboard or scooter, they need helmets that meet CPSC safety standards. Never let children ride near moving traffic. Don’t allow children too young to have a driver’s license on riding lawnmowers or off-road vehicles. Children are involved in 30% of ATV-related deaths and ER injuries.

Fireworks 
The Fourth of July is a big summer event,and emergency rooms brace for the injuries. Fireworks can cause severe burns, blindness, scars or worse – even sparklers can reach over 1000 degrees and can start fires. The National Safety Council says that in 2010, fireworks caused about 15,500 reported fires, including 1,100 structure fires. Families should attend professional community fireworks displays rather than using fireworks at home.

Your Turn: What’s most important to you about summertime safety? Have you had any close calls? Tell us what you do to keep the family happy and healthy in the hotter months.

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