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How to Consolidate Your Debt - April 17, 2015 by WWFCU

Are you trying to figure out how to consolidate your debt?

1. Check your credit reports and get your credit score.

You can get your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies for free once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. It’s a good idea to review them so you don’t end up in the situation Norma found herself in, getting denied due to a mistake or negative items you weren’t aware of on your credit reports. Your credit report should also list most, if not all, of your debts, which will help you with the second step.

You can check your credit score for free using Credit.com’s Credit Report Card. It will show you what factors in your credit are strong and what may need some work. You can also find out whether your credit is excellent, good, or not so hot.

2. Take an inventory of your debt.

Make a list of the balances you owe on each of the cards or loans you want to consolidate, the interest rates and the monthly payments. This will help you identify the debts that are most important for you to consolidate. For example, in Norma’s case, while both of her interest rates are high, she should try to consolidate the balance at 29.99% first, since it is so high.

3. Research debt consolidation options.

You may be able to consolidate with a loan from your local bank or credit union, an online lender that offers personal loans, or by transferring a balance from a high-rate credit card to a low-rate one. If you get a consolidation loan online, be sure to deal with reputable lenders as there are scammers who will take the information consumers submit with applications and use it fraudulently.

Before you apply, try to find out if the lender can provide you any information about its credit requirements. Some lenders, for example, may require a minimum credit score or won’t extend credit to those with bankruptcies listed on their credit reports.

4. Apply for a consolidation loan.

Once you’ve narrowed down the field of places to get a consolidation loan and learned as much as you can about their lending requirements, it’s time to apply for a consolidation loan. In most cases, you can get an answer almost immediately. If that answer is “yes,” you can move onto the next step.

If the answer is “no,” take a careful look at the reasons you were turned down. If you think those answers don’t really apply, try calling the lender and ask to be reconsidered for the account. If you are turned down due to the debt you are carrying, for example, but explain that you are going to use the new loan to consolidate that debt, you may have a shot at getting the loan. It doesn’t hurt to ask!

If you can’t get approved for one of these loans after trying a couple of lenders, you may want to talk with a credit counseling agency. These agencies can often help clients lower their interest rates or payments through a Debt Management Plan (DMP). If you enroll in a DMP, you’ll make one payment to the counseling agency which will then pay all your participating creditors, so even though it’s not technically a consolidation loan, it feels like one.

5. Consolidate your debt.

If you are approved for a consolidation loan, you can then use that new loan to pay off other debts. If you don’t get a new credit line large enough to consolidate all your debt, focus on paying off your higher rate loans or balances first.

6. Pay your loans off as fast as possible.

If you can add a little extra to your monthly payments, you’ll be able to pay off your new loan faster. Even if you don’t, you’ll want to do your best to avoid the temptation of tapping the credit lines you have just paid off. After all, your goal with debt consolidation should be to dig out of debt — not to dig the hole deeper!

H/T Source: YahooFinance.com

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What is a Certificate of Deposit (CD)? - April 9, 2015 by WWFCU

Sold by banks, certificates of deposit (better known as CDs) are low-risk –- and relatively low-return — investments suitable for cash you don’t need for months or years. If you leave the money alone during the investment period (known as the “term” or “duration”), the bank will pay you an interest rate slightly higher than what you would have earned in a money market or checking account. All gains from CDs are taxable as income, unless they are in a tax-deferred (IRA) or tax-free (Roth IRA) account.

CDs are among the safest investment a persona can make. The interest rate is determined ahead of time, and you’re guaranteed to get back what you put in, plus interest once the CD matures. What’s more, if the bank goes belly up, your deposit is probably insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000.

Here are the most common types of CDs:

Traditional CD: You receive a fixed interest rate over a specific period of time. When that term ends, you can withdraw your money or roll it into another CD. Withdrawing before maturity can result in a hefty penalty.

Bump-Up CD: This kind of account allows you to swap your CD’s interest rate for a higher one if rates on new CDs of similar duration rise during your investment period. Most institutions that offer this type of CD let you bump up once during the term of your CD and keep the interest rate for the remainder of the original CDs term.

Liquid CD — This kind of account allows you to withdraw part of your deposit without paying a penalty. The interest rate on this CD usually is a little lower than others, but the rate is still higher than the rate in a money market account.

Zero-coupon CD — This kind of CD does not pay out annual interest, and instead re-invests the payments so you earn interest on a higher total deposit. The interest rate offered is slightly higher than other CDs, but you’ll owe taxes on the re-invested interest.

Callable CD — A bank that issues this kind of CD can recall it after a set period, returning your deposit plus any interest owed. Banks do this when interest rates fall significantly below the rate initially offered. To make this type of CD attractive, banks typically pay a higher interest rate. These accounts are typically offered through brokerages.

Brokered CD — This term refers to any CD offered by a brokerage. Brokerages have access to thousands of banks’ CD offerings, including online banks. Brokered CDs will generally carry a higher rate of interest from online and smaller banks because they’re competing nationally for depositors’ dollars. However, you’ll pay a fee to purchase the account.

H/T Source: The Wall Street Journal

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Guide to Your 401(k) - March 30, 2015 by admin

1. A 401(k) offers three compelling benefits.

A 401(k) represents a way to reduce your taxable income since contributions come out of your pay before taxes are withheld; many plans include a matching contribution from your employer; and the money you save benefits from tax-deferred growth, which lets your money compound more quickly than it would if it were taxed yearly.

2. The federal limit on annual pre-tax 401(k) contributions is on the rise.

In 2013, the maximum contribution is $17,500, or $23,000 if you’re 50 or older.

3. Matching contributions are “free money.”

If you can’t afford to max out your 401(k), contribute at least enough to get the matching contribution, a.k.a.. free money. The typical match is 50 cents on the dollar up to 6% of your salary.

4. Taking money out of a 401(k) before retirement is expensive.

Loans must be repaid with after-tax money plus interest. And, with few exceptions, if you withdraw money before age 59-1/2 you must pay income taxes plus a 10% penalty. What’s more, lost time for compounding will substantially shrink your nest egg.

5. When setting up your 401(k) investments, figure out what your mix of stocks and bonds should be.

Two factors influence this decision: your time horizon until retirement and your risk tolerance.

6. You’re limited to the investments your employer chooses for your 401(k) plan.

If you don’t like many of the selections, keep your choices simple by investing, for example, in a broad-based index fund. Don’t boycott the plan altogether. If you do, you lose out on tax-advantaged compounding and a matching contribution.

7. When you change jobs, you’ll often have three choices: leave your 401(k) money where it is, roll it into an IRA or another 401(k), or cash out.

If your account balance is less than $5,000, your employer may insist you take it out of the plan, but cashing out is like shooting yourself in the foot financially. Even small amounts can grow large with time and tax-deferred compounding. You’d be better off rolling the money into another retirement account.

8. When you do roll money into an IRA or 401(k), make it a “trustee-to-trustee” transfer.

That is, have the check made out to the custodian of your new account, not you. Otherwise, you risk possible penalties if you fail to execute the rollover properly.

9. IRS rule 72(t) provides one way to take early 401(k) withdrawals without penalty.

You must take a fixed amount of money out for five years or until you reach 59-1/2, whichever is longer. The annual withdrawal amount is based on your life expectancy.

10. Some employers let you leave money in your 401(k) account when you retire.

Find out what rules, if any, the employer imposes on when and how you must start taking distributions. If there are none, you may leave the money untouched until you’re 70-1/2. That’s the age when Uncle Sam insists all retirees begin withdrawing money from traditional IRAs and 401(k)s.

Why invest in a 401(k)?

Uncle Sam doesn’t offer many gifts, but a 401(k) is one of them.

If someone offered you free money, would you refuse it? Probably not. But that’s just what you’re doing if you don’t contribute to your 401(k). The more you contribute, the more free money you get. Here’s why:

Contributing part of your salary to a 401(k) gives you three compelling benefits:

  • You get an immediate tax break, because contributions come out of your paycheck before taxes are withheld.
  • The possibility of a matching contribution from your employer — most commonly 50 cents on the dollar for the first 6% you save.
  • You get tax-deferred growth — meaning you don’t pay taxes each year on capital gains, dividends, and other distributions.

The federal limit on annual contributions has been increasing gradually, and will be $17,500 for the 2013 tax year. If you’re 50 or older, you may contribute an additional $5,500.

Keep in mind, however, that while federal law sets the guidelines for what’s permissible in 401(k) plans, your employer may set tighter restrictions. Plus, it will take time for the administrators of your plan to implement the changes.

What’s more, there are other federal non-discrimination tests a 401(k) plan must meet, one of which applies to “highly compensated” employees. So if you make more than $115,000 a year, you may not be permitted to contribute as high a percentage of your salary as some of your lower paid colleagues.

For all its tax advantages, the 401(k) is not a penalty-free ride. Pull out money from your account before age 59-1/2, and with few exceptions, you’ll owe income taxes on the amount withdrawn plus an additional 10% penalty.

Also, be aware of your plan’s vesting schedule — the time you’re required to be at the company before you’re allowed to walk away with 100% of your employer matches. Of course, any money you contribute to a 401(k) is yours.

H/T Source: CNN Money

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Home Equity Loans - March 23, 2015 by admin
House model resting on money - Andrew Unangst/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images


Andrew Unangst/Photographer’s Choice/Getty Images


A home equity loan is a type of second mortgage. Your “first” mortgage is the one you used to purchase your home, but you can add other loans to borrow against the property if you have built up enough equity.

Benefits of Home Equity Loans

Home equity loans are attractive to both borrowers and lenders. Here are a few of the key benefits for borrowers:

  • Home equity loans typically have a lower interest rate (or APR)
  • They are easier to qualify for if you have bad credit (sometimes)
  • Interest costs on a home equity loan may betax deductible
  • Borrowers can qualify for relatively large loans with this type of loan

Most of those benefits (except for the tax deduction) are available because home equity loans are generally safe loans for banks to make: the loan is secured by your house as collateral. If you fail to repay, the bank can take your property, sell it, and recover any unpaid funds. What’s more, borrowers tend to prioritize these loans over other loans because they don’t want to lose their homes (faced with the choice of missing a mortgage payment or a credit card payment, you might skip the card payment).

Of course, banks have to be careful not to lend too much (as they did in the housing crisis) or they risk major losses. To protect themselves, lenders try to make sure that you don’t borrow any more than 85% or so of your home’s value – taking into account your original purchase mortgage as well as any home equity loan you’re applying for. The percentage of your home’s value available is called the loan to value ratio, and may vary from bank to bank.


When you get a home equity loan, you get a lump-sum of cash, and you repay the loan over time with fixed monthly payments. Yourinterest rate is set up-front, and each payment reduces your loan balance and covers some of your interest costs (it is anamortizing loan).

If you don’t need all of the money at once, you can also consider a home equity line of credit (HELOC). That option provides a pool of money that you can draw from if and when you need it, and you only pay interest on any money that you’ve actually borrowed. However, be aware that banks can close or cancel a HELOC before you’ve had a chance to use the money, and the interest rate on a HELOC generally changes over time.

Common Home Equity Loan Uses

You can use a home equity loan for anything you want. However, they usually get used for some of life’s larger expenses because homes tend to have a lot of value to borrow against. For example, you find that a lot of borrowers want to:

  • Remodel, renovate, or otherwise improve the house and property
  • Pay for a family member’s college education
  • Fund the purchase of a second home
  • Consolidate high-interest debts

Pitfalls of Home Equity Loans

Before using a home equity loan for any purpose, you should be aware of the risks of using these loans. The main problem is that you can lose your home if you fail to meet the payment schedule required by the loan.

Because these loans can provide a lot of cash, it’s tempting to use your home as an ATM. Be sure to use your home’s equity only for the most important expenses; things that will improve the value of your home or improve your income are good examples.

Another common pitfall of home equity loans is that scammers have found plenty of ways to cheat homeowners out of their most valuable asset (or at least get a lot of cash out of the deal). Be sure that you know who you’re doing business with. If something smells fishy (like a high-pressure sales pitch or a reluctance to put things in writing), then take a step back and make sure the deal is legitimate.

How to Find the Best Home Equity Loans

Finding the best home equity loan can save you thousands of dollars – at least. In order to get the best loan, I recommend that you:

  • Shop around. Try a variety of sources (banks, brokers, and credit unions)
  • Manage your credit score and make sure your credit reports are accurate
  • Ask your network of friends and family who they recommend
  • Compare your offers to those found on websites and advertisements

Additional Tips

Before you borrow, pause and make sure that this type of loan really makes sense. Is a home equity loan a better fit for your needs than a simple credit card account or anunsecured loan? If you’re not sure, figure it out before you put your home at risk.

Also, make a detailed plan of your income and expenses (including this new loan payment) ahead of time. These large loans can come with large payments.

Review and consider insurance to cover the payments if something happens. You may or may not need insurance, and nobody can force you to use it. If you’re going to include insurance as part of a home equity loan, go with monthly premium payments – not up front – so that you only pay for what you use (assuming the insurance is just for the home equity loan).

H/T Source: BankingAbout.com

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Protecting Your Home From Foreclosure - March 16, 2015 by admin

Don’t ignore your mortgage problem.

If you are unable to pay–or haven’t paid–your mortgage, contact your lender or the company that collects your mortgage payment as soon as possible. Mortgage lenders want to work with you to resolve the problem, and you may have more options if you contact them early. Call the phone number on your monthly mortgage statement or payment coupon book. Explain your financial situation and offer to work with your lender to find the right payment solution for you. If your lender won’t talk with you, contact a housing counseling agency. You can find a list of counseling resources at NeighborWorks  and on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) website or by calling (800) 569-4287.


Do your homework before you talk to your lender or housing counselor.

Find your original mortgage loan documents and review them. Review your income and budget. Gather information on your expenses, including food, utilities, car payment, insurance, cable, phone, and other bills. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your lender, contact a housing or credit counseling agency. Counselors can help you examine your budget and determine the options available to you. They may also advise you about ways to work with your lender or offer to negotiate with your lender on your behalf.


Know your options

Some options provide short-term solutions/help, while others provide long-term or permanent solutions. You may be able to work out a temporary plan for making up missed payments, or you may be able to modify the loan terms. Sometimes, the best option may be to sell the house. For information on different options, visit HUD’s website or Foreclosure Resources for Consumers for links to local resources.


Stick to your plan.

Protect your credit score by making timely payments. Prioritize bills and pay those that are most necessary, such as your new mortgage payment. Consider cutting optional expenses such as eating out and premium cable TV services. If your situation changes and you can no longer meet your new payment schedule, call your lender or housing counselor immediately.


Beware of foreclosure rescue scams.

Con artists take advantage of people who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments and who face foreclosure. These con artists may even call themselves “counselors.” Your mortgage lender or a legitimate housing counselor can best help you decide which option is best for you. For tips on spotting scam artists, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website, Foreclosure Rescue Scams. Report suspicious schemes to your state and local consumer protection agencies, which you can find on the Consumer Action Website.

Several options are available to you. Some options provide temporary solutions for short-term problems, such as being one or two months behind in your mortgage due to illness. Other more permanent solutions address long-term financial difficulties, such as job lay-offs or long-term unemployment. If you have an FHA-approved loan, special loan modification programs may be available to you–ask your lender about them. Unfortunately, in some cases, keeping your home may not be possible–options for handling that situation are available as well.

Temporary solutions for short-term financial problems:

  • Reinstatement: Lenders are often willing to “reinstate” your loan if you make up the back payments in a lump sum by a specific date. A forbearance plan may accompany this option.
  • Forbearance: Your lender may be able to provide a temporary reduction or suspension of your mortgage payments for a short period, such as 3 or 4 months. After this time, your lender will work with you to create a repayment plan for the loan. You may qualify for forbearance if you have experienced a reduction in income (for example, if you have become unemployed) or an increase in living expenses (for example, higher medical bills). You must provide information to your lender to show that you will be able to stick with the new payment plan.
  • Repayment plan: Your lender may agree to a plan that includes your regular monthly payments plus a portion of the past due payments each month until your payments are caught up

Long-term solutions or adjustments to your loan:

  • Loan modifications: Your lender may be willing to rewrite the terms of your original mortgage loan to address your financial situation. A loan modification is designed to make your monthly payments affordable. Changes to your loan may include extending the number of years to repay and changing the interest rate, including changing an adjustable rate to a fixed rate. You may have to pay a processing fee to obtain a loan modification.
  • Partial claim: If your mortgage is insured by a private mortgage insurance firm, your lender might help you file a claim. Some insurers provide a one-time, interest-free loan to bring your account up to date. The interest-free loan is due when you refinance, pay off your mortgage, or when you sell the property.

If keeping your home is not an option, you may want to consider these alternatives:

  • Sale: Your lender will usually give you a specific amount of time to find a buyer and pay off the amount you owe on your mortgage. Your lender may require you to use a real estate professional to help you sell the property.
  • Pre-foreclosure sale or short sale: If you can’t sell the property for the full amount of the loan, your lender may accept the amount you get for the selling price, even if it is less than the amount you owe. You may owe income taxes on the difference between the amount you owe and the amount you are able to pay back. Check with the Internal Revenue Service for tax information.
  • Assumption: A qualified buyer may be allowed to assume (take over) your mortgage. Ask your lender whether this option is available to you.
  • Deed-in-lieu of foreclosure: You may be able to “give back” your property to the lender, who then forgives the balance of your loan. Again, there may be income tax consequences, so check with the IRS. This option will not save your home, but it is less damaging to your credit rating. Some lenders impose certain restrictions on taking back property. For example, they may require that you try to sell your home at a fair market value for at least 90 days.

H/T Source: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

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Five Tips for Keeping Your Checking Account Safe - March 9, 2015 by admin

We live in an express-line society: we want money, goods, and services to be quickly and easily accessible. Conveniences like debit cards and online accounts can seem like the lifelines which make this all possible, but they can also come at a price. You need to protect yourself–and your checking account–by knowing some of the realities of identity theft and bank fees.

Your Money Is Big Business

You may not think of yourself as especially wealthy, but taking money from average people is big business. For example, there are some eight million cases of identity theft per year–and 10% of those victims lose $1,200 or more. While many scams are targeted at senior citizens, an unwanted bonus of the economic recession is likely to be that criminals will cast a wider net.

Then there are the legal rip-offs, in the form of excessive and/or hidden bank fees. With the recent financial crisis, you have to worry about your bank on two fronts: whether or not it is fundamentally stable, and whether it will start making up for lost revenue by jacking up fees on accounts like yours.

Five Ways to Protect Your Checking Account

Given the current environment, the following are steps you should take to protect your checking account:

  1. Look for FDIC insurance. Verify that your institution is covered, and manage your accounts so you don’t exceed the limits on this insurance. Also, keep in mind that while your principal is covered, interest on things like money market funds or market-based CDs with no guaranteed interest rate may not be.
  2. Beware of bankers bearing rewards. Sometimes, there is a fine line between a good deal and a gimmick designed to lure new customers. Just because something is free now doesn’t mean the bank can’t start charging once you are hooked into the account. Also, some added features may expose you more to identity theft. The lesson is, if there are special account features you want, by all means get them, but if all you need is a basic type of account, then don’t let the bank layer on unwanted features and services, even if they are free in the beginning.
  3. Protect your information. Account information and other personal data (especially your social security number) should be closely guarded. Never provide this information in response to incoming phone calls or e-mails–always contact the bank yourself via a phone number or e-mail address you have independently verified.
  4. Review your account regularly. Check each transaction, and make sure the account balances. Report any discrepancies to the bank immediately, and follow up in writing to document it.
  5. Minimize the amount in your checking account. Since checking accounts have the most transactions, they have the biggest chance of being compromised. You and your spouse may even want to consider separate accounts rather than a joint account, so you don’t have too much money in one place.

Practice can turn these steps into habits that will keep you protected.

H/T Source: MoneyRates.com

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Should You Get a Personal Loan? Tips to Find a Cheap Unsecured Loan - February 28, 2015 by admin
If you need money to meet basic expenses, fund your wedding or take a vacation, you’ve probably considered getting a personal loan – a loan where you don’t put up any collateral, such as your house or your car, that the lender can repossess if you default. Because the lender has no guarantee for the loan other than your own reputation, you’ll have a higher interest rate than you would with a collateralized loan.

Personal loans are rife with pitfalls. Used correctly, they can save a significant amount compared to payday loans, overdrafts and pawnshops. However, there are many unscrupulous lenders who may try to bleed you with fees and high interest rates. Here’s how to find the best personal loans without paying too much.

What’s my credit score?

Since you aren’t putting up any collateral, the loan terms will be based on your creditworthiness – your credit history, your income and what other debts you have. Be sure to check your credit history and score for any inaccuracies before applying.

Pro tip: If you don’t know your credit score, check it for free by signing up for a credit monitoring service and cancelling during the grace period.

If you have good credit, you can probably get a personal loan at a decent rate with your current bank. If you have less-than-perfect credit, don’t be tempted by “no credit check” offers. Payday lenders often charge exorbitant rates and can often be avoided.

Where should I get a personal loan?

You can get personal loans from any number of institutions:

  • Banks
  • Credit unions
  • Payday lenders
  • Peer-to-peer lenders
  • Credit building groups

Your best bet is probably your local credit union. Because they’re not-for-profit, they can charge lower rates than for-profit banks; federally chartered credit unions have limits on the rates they’re allowed to charge. Even if you have less-than-perfect credit, credit unions can help: many have payday loan alternative programs that provide loans at the lowest price to people who’d otherwise be denied.

Another good option is peer-to-peer lending groups like LendingClub and Prosper. While the rates might be a bit higher than those at credit unions, you may find it easier to qualify. Remember that these companies are for-profit, compared to not-for-profit credit unions. If you’re really in dire straights, consider a credit building nonprofit that will get your finances back on track. The Credit Builders Alliance can help you find a program in your state.

Pretty much all personal loans require income verification (such as a W2 or pay stub) and identification (such as a passport or driver’s license); some ask for bank statements or tax returns.

Finding the lowest rates

Here are a few tips to finding the best loan.

Compare your options. Is a personal loan cheaper than a low-interest credit card? If you have good credit and can pay off the loan in 12-18 months, you can probably get a credit card that has 0% interest on purchases for a year or longer. Take a look at credit unions, too, before going with banks.

If you have bad credit, find a co-signer. Having a co-signer with good credit allows you to piggyback off of their creditworthiness and potentially get better rates. However, use this option only if you trust the co-signer completely, as any mismanagement goes on your record as well as his.

Consider a secured loan instead. If you have a house, consider using it as collateral in order to get lower rates. A home equity loan or home equity line of credit can often be cheaper than a straight-up, unsecured personal loan. Keep in mind that using your home as collateral means that if you default, you could lose your home.

Pay off as much of your credit card balance as you can before you apply. The outstanding balance on your credit card – even if you pay it off at the end of the month and never pay interest – counts against you when a lender runs a credit check.

Borrower beware: What to watch out for with personal loans

Unsecured lending can attract unsavory players, but even with the squeaky-cleanest of lenders, it pays to keep an eye out for gotchas.

Prepayment penalties. When a lender tries to estimate how much money they’ll make off your loan, they usually assume that you’ll pay interest until a certain date. Paying off the loan too soon – and therefore limiting the interest you pay – screws up their calculations. In order to keep their numbers straight and pockets lined, some charge a fee for paying off the loan before a certain date. Such fees are called prepayment penalties or exit fees. Be sure to look for the words “no prepayment penalty” on your loan term when you apply.

“Optional assistance” and other fees. If you grant the lender permission to withdraw from your checking account, they might take out so-called “optional” feesthat you never heard of. The lender can automatically deduct them from your account, potentially causing your checking account balance to go negative.

Accidental overdrafts. Again, if you link your loan to your checking account for automatic payments, you might be in danger of an overdraft. Overdraft fees can run $35 a pop, and they can quickly add up. It’s harder to know that you have a low balance in your checking account if the lender deducts your payment behind the scenes. To avoid this, consider:

  • Opting out of automatic payments
  • Setting up a low balance alert with your bank
  • Signing up for a third-party service like Mint that offers low balance alerts

Scam artists. Though many lenders are honest and goodhearted, a look through literature will show that usury has been around since man walked upright. Payday loans, in particular, tend to attract the bottom of the humanity barrel. Before you sign up for any loan, particularly online, check out the Better Business Bureau and Federal Trade Commission to make sure the organization is legit.

H/T Source: NerdWallet, Inc.

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How to Save Money Using Online Bill Pay - February 26, 2015 by admin

Many people use online banking to check their account balances or to transfer funds between accounts. But if you’re not using your online bank account to consolidate and pay your bills, you’re missing out on the best part!

How Does Online Bill Pay Work?

How online bill pay works is pretty simple: You enter a person or company you want to pay and the service sends your funds electronically or prints out a paper check and mails it to the payee. You can receive, view, and pay an unlimited number of bills for up to a year in advance of the due date on one web site. I’ll discuss more about the security of paying bills online in just a moment.

Most large companies—like lenders and insurers—are set up for electronic payments, so your funds can be received in a day or two when you use online bill pay. But if you’re like me, you also need to pay small companies or individuals who don’t accept electronic payments. That’s no problem because, as I mentioned, the bank’s bill pay service actually cuts a check, puts it in an envelope, and mails it to anyone in the United States for free! Since paper checks take 3 to 5 business days to arrive, the system prompts you to enter the day you want the check to be received so there’s enough time for processing and delivery.

How Online Bill Pay Saves Money

When you use your bank’s online bill pay, they cut a check, put it in an envelope, and mail it to anyone in the United States—for free!

I can’t say that using online bill pay makes paying bills fun, but it sure makes it easy! You never have to write a check again—you just click a few buttons instead. Plus, you save money by eliminating the expense of paper checks, envelopes, and stamps—not to mention the time that you save paying bills from one place online. Imagine spending just 10 or 15 minutes each week to pay bills instead of toiling away for hours.

Manage Your Money Using Online Bill Pay

In addition to paying bills, most bill pay services offer the following 5 features to help you stay organized and manage your money better:

  1. Aggregating e-bills: You can have electronic copies of your bills sent directly to your bill pay center instead of to your email inbox, which centralizes your information.
  2. Alerts: For each biller that you set up, you can create customized email alerts that inform you when a bill has arrived or remind you about the due date. That’s a handy way to make sure your bills are paid on time so you eliminate late fees and boost your credit score.
  3. History: At a glance, you can see all your pending online payments and the payment history for each biller in your system.
  4. Multiple accounts: You can choose to pay a bill from multiple accounts that you might have with the bank, like a checking or a money market deposit account.
  5. Automatic payments: For bills that you pay on a regular basis, you can automate them by setting up recurring payments. Just be sure that you have a good handle on your available funds so you don’t overdraft your account.

How to Get Started Using Online Bill Pay

If you’re ready to get started paying your bills online, the first step is to make sure that your bank or credit union offers it. If not, I recommend that you switch to a high-yield, FDIC-insured checking account that charges absolutely no fees and comes with free online bill pay. You can find one of these great bank or credit union accounts at sites like checkingfinder.com and depositaccounts.com. Once you’ve created your online banking account you can register for the bill pay service and get started.

To set up the companies and people you want to pay, you enter their name, mailing address, and your account number, if you have one. There’s no need to enter all your payees at once—simply enter each paper bill or e-bill as you receive it. Once you save this information in the system, all you have to enter is the amount to pay and the date you want the biller to receive your money.

Is Online Bill Pay Safe?

When I discuss any type of online money management, people always want to know if it’s really safe. It’s crucial to understand that most identity theft doesn’t occur due to computer hacking. In fact, most cybercrime happens when a thief steals your wallet, your trash, or reroutes your incoming mail without you knowing.

One of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft is to stop sending and receiving paper documents through the mail that have your confidential information, like checks, bank statements, credit card statements, and bills. When you switch to e-bills and e-statements, you’re in control of your sensitive information and can password-protect your computer or mobile device.

Banks use the highest levels of security and guarantee protection against unauthorized transactions. Additionally, you can give yourself an added layer of protection by logging on to your bank’s web site using a secure Internet connection only. Never access your financial accounts from an open wireless network, like in a coffee shop or a library. By monitoring your account activity and setting up strong passwords that you change on a regular basis, you can reduce the likelihood of fraudulent activity.

Online bill pay can simplify your financial life by eliminating expenses, reducing the amount of paper you have to handle, and saving time—so you can spend it doing something you enjoy.

H/T Source: Quick & Dirty Tips

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5 Mobile Banking Security Tips - February 25, 2015 by admin

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It wasn’t that long ago that an account deposit or withdrawal required a visit to your bank to complete the transaction. Banking was inconvenient and time consuming. Today, we have lots of options when it comes to financial transactions. Mobile banking is an increasingly popular way to monitor and manage your money.

But how secure is mobile banking? Could a thief sniff out your bank account information digitally? Is it safe to make financial transactions using an app or text messaging, or by visiting a mobile Web site?

The good news is that mobile banking is somewhat secure just because there are so many variations of banking apps and methods in the market. A thief has no way of predicting which method a potential victim might use. If there were only one standardized method the story might be different. Even so, there are certain rules you should follow to make sure your banking information remains safe.

5. Don’t Follow Links

You may have heard the term phishing. Phishing refers to the practice of tricking someone into revealing private information. Fishing and phishing are similar concepts — there’s bait involved with both. With a phishing scheme, that bait might be as simple as a text message or e-mail. It may be as complex as a fake Web site designed to mimic your bank’s official site, which is called spoofing.

You should never follow a banking link sent to you in a text message or e-mail. These links could potentially lead you to a spoofed Web site. If you enter your information into such a site, you’ve just handed that data over to thieves. It’s always a good idea to navigate to a Web site directly. Enter your bank’s Web address into your phone and bookmark it. This will help you avoid bogus Web sites.

On a related note, you should never send your account information or password via text message or e-mail. It’s a common phishing scheme to send out bogus requests for such information. Don’t fall for it!

4. Avoid Banking While on Public Networks

5-mobile-banking-security-tips-3Many mobile devices allow you to connect to different types of networks, including Wi-Fi networks. You might be tempted to check your balance or make some transfers while you grab a quick drink at a coffee shop. But before you log into your account, make sure you’re not connected to the public network.

Public connections aren’t very secure — most places that offer a public Wi-Fi hotspot warn users not to share sensitive information over the network. If you need to access your account information, you may want to switch to another network. If you’re using a smartphone or other cellular device, disabling the Wi-Fi and switching to a cellular network is a good solution. You never know who might be listening in over the public network.

3. Use Official Bank Apps When Possible

Many banks now offer official applications in smartphone and tablet app stores. In general, these apps tend to be more secure than sending information by SMS message or e-mail. Most banks go to great lengths to make sure any information sent across a network by an app is encrypted.

Make sure your bank sanctions the app before you download and install it. Most banks will include a section on their Web sites to let you know about the official app. Once you’ve verified the app is official, it shouldn’t be difficult to download and install to your device.

2. Be Careful of What You Download

While there aren’t as many examples of malware out in the mobile device market as there are on traditional PCs, the fact remains that mobile devices are just specialized computers. That means it’s possible for someone to design an app that could try to access your information. One way this could happen is if the app hides a keylogger.

A keylogger is a program that records — or logs — keystrokes. Every letter or number you enter into your phone could be recorded. If a hacker pairs a keylogger with some code that either sends off an e-mail or text message at certain times of the day, you might be sending all your keystrokes to someone anywhere on the globe.

For the moment, mobile devices are less prone to malware attacks than computers. But you should still be careful when downloading apps — not just your banking app, but all apps. Do a little research before you download that next widget or game to make sure the app developer has a good reputation. And if you’ve jailbroken an iPhone or you’ve sideloaded unapproved apps, be aware that your data could be vulnerable.

1. Keep Track of Your Mobile Device

5-mobile-banking-security-tips-2Perhaps the biggest risk is also the reason why mobile banking is so popular — mobile devices are easy to carry around everywhere we go. They can contain everything from passwords to contact lists to our calendar appointments. Information like that can be dangerous if your mobile device falls into the wrong hands.

Apart from tethering all your gadgets to your body or scrapping all electronics and turning into a luddite, there are a few things you can do to minimize your risk. If your device has a digital locking mechanism you should use it. Some devices require you to trace a pattern or insert a PIN. While it might slow you down to have to enter a PIN each time you want to use your phone, that layer of security might be enough to keep a thief from accessing your bank account before you can report your phone as missing.

Don’t be scared off from using your mobile device to access your bank accounts. Just be sure to practice good, safe behaviors and keep track of your gadgets. With a little common sense and attention, mobile banking can be both convenient and secure.

H/T Source: HowStuffWorks

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Tips for Getting the Best Rates on Secured Loans - February 13, 2015 by admin

If you are planning on applying for secured loans in the future, no doubt you will want to be sure that you can find the best rates possible. The rates that you get on your loan are very important and getting lower rates can save you a great deal of money over the life of your loan. The following are some great tips that can help you to get the best rates possible on your secured loan.

Clean up Your Credit

One tip that can help you get the best rates on secured loans is to clean up your credit. The rates that you pay on your loan are very dependent on your credit rating, and having a bad credit rating can cost you a great deal more in interest rates. If you take the time to work on your credit and make sure that you keep it in excellent shape, you will be able to get much better rates on your secured loans.

Offer Excellent Collateral

Another important tip to keep in mind when you are trying to get the best rates possible on secured loans is to offer excellent collateral for your loan. It is important that you have collateral that is actually worth more than the amount of money that you want to borrow. You want the lender to know that you are serious about the loan and that they will get their money back if you are not able to pay.

Compare Various Lenders

One of the best things that you can do to find the best possible rates on secured loans is to compare the rates of various lenders. The market for loans is very competitive, and you should never for the first loan that you find. Take the time to do your research and find out the rates that various companies have to offer. When you are comparing their rates, also make sure that you compare their terms as well. A little research on your part can help you find the best rates possible.

Analyse Your Needs

Lastly, you will need to analyse your needs before you try to take out a secured loan. The higher your loan is, the more you may end up paying in interest rates. Make sure that you only take out the amount of money that you actually need so you do not pay interest charges on money you are not really in need of. The smaller the amount is that you need to borrow, the easier it will be to get better interest rates for your loan.

These are just a few tips that can help you find the best rates possible on secured loans. Remember that the interest rate is important, and even getting a rate that is just a bit lower can save you a great deal of money. Use these tips and you will be able to find the best rates available on secured loans.

H/T Source: Streetdirectory.com

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