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HHFCU News
  • Beware of Holiday Scammers!

     

    The Holiday Season is a busy time for everybody. But when you’re busy, you’re more vulnerable to scammers who will try to trick you into giving away your money. Telephone scams are especially popular this time of year. Telephone scams always sound a little unbelievable—until they happen to you. Con artists are very persuasive and most people naturally let their guard down in the privacy of their own home. You may not think there is anything anyone could say to convince you to give away personal information or credit card numbers, but it happens every day.

    Types of Phone Scams and Telemarketing Fraud

     

    Utility Company

    The caller claims they work for a local utility company and there is a problem or balance due with your account.  The caller will claim an immediate over the phone payment by credit or debit card is needed or the service will be suspended. The best way to deal with this is to say that it isn’t a good time to talk so you need to get off the phone, and ask for a call back number. This will scare the perpetrator and get you off the phone.

     

    Jury Duty

    The caller claims to work for the local court and says that you’ve failed to report for jury duty and a warrant is being issued for your arrest. When you claim you never received a notice to report to jury duty, the caller asks for your social security number and birth date and possibly even a credit card number to verify your identity and stop the warrant. This is a situation where urgency is being used to pressure you, but do not start to panic. No matter how nervous this makes you, remember to ask questions. What is the name of the person calling? What is their position within the court system? What date were you supposed to appear in court? These questions will show the scammer that you’re not going to be fooled easily and will deter their fraudulent efforts.

     

    Charitable Giving

    Requests for donations to help fund research to save children with cancer or feed war refugees may pull at our heartstrings but should not make us open our wallets. Highly emotional pleas are designed to evoke feelings of guilt that would make us send money or give credit card numbers to an unknown source. Instead, ask the caller to send information by mail and investigate the charity before making a donation.

     

    Free Gifts, Prizes or Vacations

    If the offer is truly free, then the caller shouldn’t need your credit card number. Do not give your credit card number to cover shipping, or hold or register for your free gift or vacation.

     

    Unsolicited Offers

    Offers for investments, unbeatable deals and special savings just for you all sound enticing. But unsolicited offers are often combined with high-pressure sales tactics and one-time-only opportunities that will result in you getting nothing for your money. The best course of action for this type of scam is to just say no, or say you need to talk to your spouse before committing to anything, or just hang up. Do what it takes to get off the phone so they can’t pressure you into doing anything you wouldn’t normally do.

     

    Emergency Calls in the Middle of the Night

    Many telephone scammers will call in the early hours of the morning so that they wake you up and catch you when you’re confused and easily coerced. These scammers may know details of your life, maybe pretending to be your sister, your son, or even your dad, saying there has been some type of emergency and they need to borrow some money. These calls are particularly scary because it makes the victim worry about the safety of their loved ones. The best thing to do in a situation like this is to hang up and call a known number for the family member or friend in question to confirm if there is a real emergency.

     

    Avoid Becoming a Victim:

    • Never give personal information including credit card numbers, your social security number, or birth date over the phone unless you initiated the call.
    • If you feel uneasy about the call, hang up!
    • If you do want to make a purchase, ask for a catalog or other information to be sent to you by mail.
    • Never allow yourself to be hurried into decision.
    • If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
    • Check out unsolicited offers with the Better Business Bureau, your local consumer protection agency or state Attorney General’s office before sending any money.

    If you are a victim of telemarketing fraud, beware of offers to help you recover your money. Scammers will sometimes contact the victim again, offering to help in an attempt to steal more money.

     

    To file a complaint about fraudulent or deceptive business practices with the FTC, call 1-877-FTC-HELP.

  • 3 Ways to Grocery Shop for a Healthier Waistline and Wallet

    As food prices go up, many families are struggling to cover the cost of meals. Some shoppers may opt for low-cost foods with little nutritional value. But being a frugal gourmet need not harm your health. The following tips can help protect your wallet AND your waistline.

    Step One: Know Your Numbers
    Determine your food budget for one month. Then divide that number by four, and you’ll have an idea of how much you can spend per week on food. By keeping this number in mind, you’ll be less likely to splurge on restaurant dining and impulse grocery purchases. Compare price differences between brands and clip coupons for items you use to make your budgeted dollars go further.

    Step Two: Plan Ahead
    How often do you grocery shop? A few times a week? Every day? The more often you shop, the more likely you are to go over budget. Instead, plan a full week’s worth of menus in advance. Take stock of the groceries you already have on hand in order to avoid unnecessary purchases. Make a list of the items you will need, and when shopping, purchase only the items on your list to drastically cut the cost of impulse buys.

    Planning ahead also allows you to cook a large amount of food and freeze part of it. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy future heat-and-serve options that are just as convenient as frozen or packaged meals, yet less expensive and more healthful.

    Step Three: Don’t Fall Prey to Mind Games
    Shopping on an empty stomach or when you’re low on energy makes you more susceptible to impulse purchases; avoid shopping when hungry or tired. In addition to factoring in your mood when grocery shopping, consider store geography. Frequent the perimeter of the grocery store, where fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat and fish are typically found. Avoid the store’s center, where processed and junk foods are more commonly found.

  • NCUA Warns of Text Phishing Scam

    Recently, the NCUA has received consumer calls about a suspicious text message claiming to come from the agency. The message reads: “National Credit Union Administration Alert for (recipient’s phone number). Contact 844-234-5445.”

    “This is not a communication from NCUA. The agency does not seek personal information through the internet or on the telephone,” a press release from the agency stated.

    The NCUA urged consumers to contact NCUA’s Consumer Assistance Center at 1-800-755-1030 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Time for those receiving one of these messages. NCUA also recommended members contact their credit union, local law enforcement or the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center.

    NCUA operates an online Fraud Prevention Center that offers information about avoiding frauds and scams on its MyCreditUnion.gov website.

  • 5 simple ways to help the planet

    Sometimes it feels like trying to help the planet can be overwhelming, but as with most problems, every little bit helps. Start with these five small tips, and ask your friends to do the same, to make a big difference.

    1. Drive thoughtfully

    Consider walking or biking to destinations nearby, which is great for the environment and has the added bonus of being healthy exercise. When possible, take public transit or consider carpooling to share the carbon footprint. When you do need to drive, ensure your tires are correctly inflated and commit to proper engine maintenance to improve gas mileage.

    1. Eat your veggies

    Meat, dairy and eggs require many more resources to produce than plant-based foods. But, you don’t have to become a full-time vegan to reduce your impact on the planet. A May 2009 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that replacing a single meat-based meal with a plant-based meal can save 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses.

    1. Bring your own shopping bags

    Americans throw away almost 100 billion plastic bags a year. As an oil-based product, plastic bags do not biodegrade and therefore persist in the environment, as well as rely on carbon production. Consider switching to reusable bags for your shopping. These bags can be made in a sustainable way and used many times before naturally degrading.

    1. Change light bulbs

    Replace traditional incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). These newer bulbs are more energy efficient, reducing the strain on our planet and saving you money over their lifetime. Compact fluorescent bulbs produce about 75 percent less heat also, making them safer to operate and reducing cooling costs.*

    1. Take advantage of online banking

    If you’re still using paper mail for bills and statements, consider going digital. Not only can you ditch the envelope and stamps, but also many financial activities that used to require driving to the credit union can now be done from home. With online banking at HHFCU, you can reduce your carbon footprint. To learn more, visit our website at hhfcu.org or call us at 845-561-5607.

    *Source: Energy Star, www.energystar.gov.

  • 3 steps to avoid buyer’s remorse

    You know the feeling, you see something in the store, and you think you have to have it. You buy it, you bring it home, and you think to yourself, “I spent all that money on this?” It happens to all of us. Thankfully, it can be avoided.

    The 3-D method — determine, distract, delay — is recommended by “Lean Body Fat Wallet” authors Ellie Kay and Danna Demetre. It can be an easy-to-remember way to shop smart without overindulging and having buyer’s remorse.

    1. Determine

    It’s vital to know what you need before shopping. Make a list of not only the items you need to purchase, but the stores you will visit. This can help you steer clear of wandering into impulse shopping territory. You may also want to set a time limit to help you get in and get out of stores.

    1. Distract

    Have a tough time saying no to your children when shopping together? Ask them to help you create the list before shopping, then they too can focus on what you need instead of finding things you don’t.

    Be mindful of your long-term goals when something that’s not on the shopping list catches your eye. Carrying a picture of your family or a vacation destination in your wallet may help you pause and rethink before adding a “want” rather than a “need” to your cart.

    1. Delay

    Some financial experts recommend waiting a week to see if you still want an item, others suggest 24 hours. It’s likely you’ll forget all about the cute shoes or computer gadget that was tempting you.

    Another technique is to use cash and leave credit cards at home. You may want to even go as far as literally freezing your credit — by freezing your card in a block of ice. If something is really worth it, you’ll be willing to go home and chip away at your credit card to use it.

    Stay on track

    With Online and Mobile Banking from HHFCU you can easily keep tabs on your accounts. Using iCliq and iCliqToGo lets you view your account history, move money from checking to savings, pay bills and more. See all the ways we can help you save time and money at hhfcu.org.

     

    Financial management help from HHFCU

    Budgeting and money management may not be everyone’s cup of tea. That’s why we have partnered with BALANCESM. With BALANCE, you have access to free and confidential financial education and counseling. It can help you take charge of your finances and build better financial habits. Contact us to learn more about these great resources or visit hhfcu.org/balance.

  • 7 Ways to Be a Thrifty Chef

    Looking to save some dough by dining in? Shop, chop and sauté your way to better savings by following these money-saving tips:

    1. Plan a menu for the week before you go shopping. Select dishes with similar ingredients, and get the best deals by planning your menu around grocery store circulars.
    2. Select fruits and vegetables that are in season.
    3. Divide and freeze meat in family-size portions. You can thaw only the amount you need, and it won’t spoil in the fridge before you can use it all.
    4. Wash produce right before you use it – or be sure to dry it thoroughly. Moisture can cause produce to mold in the refrigerator.
    5. Replace half the meat in a recipe with pasta or a vegetable.
    6. Stock up when items you use often are on sale.
    7. Buy in bulk. Flour, rice, dried beans and pasta often cost less per ounce when purchased this way.

  • 5 things young adults should know about money

    Whether you’re in school, working or exploring your options, you’ll need to get your finances in order. Get started with these tips.

    1. Set goals.

    Are you paying for college, hoping for a new car or dreaming of a backpacking trip across Europe? If you know what you want, it may be easier to sacrifice now for the payoff later.

     

    1. Start saving early.

    Strive for 10 percent of your earnings, but if that’s not doable, save as much as you can. If you’re working, be sure to participate in your employer-sponsored retirement plan, if offered (especially if there’s a company match). If you have earned income — even from part-time work — you can open an individual retirement account. With decades until you reach retirement age, even small amounts can reap big benefits. For example, suppose you are 18 years old and will retire at age 67. If you put aside just $50 a month for 49 years in a tax-advantaged retirement account earning an average of 7 percent a year, you could have a quarter million dollars when you retire.*

     

    1. Avoid debt.

    If you do use a credit card, pay off the balance each month. According to a recent survey, the average college-age millennial has $559 in credit card debt.** If you pay only the minimum each month on a store credit card with a 21 percent interest rate, it could take 29 months to pay off that amount and cost $156.40 in interest charges.***

     

    1. Protect your personal information.

    Keep identity thieves from stealing your information. Use strong passwords and change them regularly. Avoid using public Wi-Fi for online banking. Protect your personal identification number (PIN), and shield the keypad from view when using an ATM. Review your financial statements each month to make sure there are no fraudulent transactions.

     

    1. Seek advice.

    Studies show that individuals who seek financial advice tend to make better financial decisions. At HHFCU we’re committed to helping young people on the path to financial security. Which is why we’ve partnered with BALANCE, which offers free and confidential financial advice. Call 845-561-5607 or visit hhfcu.org/balance today to learn more.

     

    * Rate of return is provided for information only and is not intended to represent the return of any specific investment. No taxes or fees are taken into account.

    ** Source: TDAmeritrade’s 3rd Annual Generation Z survey, press release, Sept. 11, 2014, amtd.com.

    *** Assumes minimum payment of 3.5 percent of balance or $25. Source: Minimum payment calculator,creditcards.com. Based on a $559 balance at a 21 percent annual percentage rate.

  • Canceling your card: Good idea or big mistake?

    You’ve finally paid off that credit card balance that’s been hanging over your head for far too long. Your immediate urge may be to cancel the card. But, before you grab a scissors consider these facts and how it may affect your credit score.

    Your average length of credit history may be lowered by closing an account. Part of your credit score is determined by how long you have been borrowing. If you close a credit account that you have had for years in favor of newer credit accounts, this average length of credit history will likely be shortened.

    You may raise your debt to credit ratio. One major factor in how lenders view your creditworthiness is the ratio of your balances on revolving accounts to your overall available credit. If you close a credit account, you reduce your overall available credit, likely causing your debt-to-credit ratio to rise.

    Closing an account doesn’t undo any damage. If you have any red marks related to your credit card — late payments, overspending, charge-offs — closing the card does not remove these from your credit records. Most negative entries will, however, fall off your report in seven years.

    Consider whether your card has an annual fee. If your credit card comes with an annual fee you may be able to call the credit company and have it waived. Otherwise, if you don’t want to pay annually for use of your card, cancel it.

    Don’t assume a creditor will simply close your account if you stop using it. Cutting up your card or stopping use does not automatically cancel your card.

    If you’re looking for a new credit card with great low rates, contact HHFCU at (845) 561-5607 or apply online at hhfcu.org/loans/visa.

  • Increased Debit Card Fraud

    Financial institutions have seen an increase of debit card fraud within the past few weeks. Because of this, HHFCU is recommending that for the time being, our members to use their PIN for all debit card transactions. When you use your debit card without your PIN number, you are missing a key layer of security that can help protect you from fraudulent purchases on your debit card.

    As always, please continue to review your account(s) and as a best practice we recommend reviewing your account(s) on a daily basis. Any fraud on your account(s) should be reported immediately.

     

    If you have any questions, or would like to report fraud on your account, please contact our Member Service Center at (845) 561-5607.

  • Shred Days are coming your way!

    Keep your information safe; what is the best way to dispose of sensitive documents? Shred them! HHFCU wants to help protect your information. Which is why we offer FREE shred days at our branches. That’s right, you can shred your documents for FREE at HHFCU! On our designated Shred Days, come visit the selected branch to safely dispose of sensitive paperwork. Get excited! We have shred days scheduled all summer long!

  • 5 Steps to Creating Financial Serenity

    Let HHFCU help you create a budget!

    Are you tired of avoiding your checkbook? Is your debit card ready to shred itself? Maybe it’s time to create a budget. A budget is a useful tool to help you keep track of, as well as analyze your finances. You may find unexpected opportunities to save money or payoff your loans faster. Grab paper, a pen, and a cup of joe. Let’s get started.

    Creating a Budget:

    STEP 1: Write a list of your standard monthly expenses. If they have concrete due dates and payment amounts include them in your list. Phone bills, mortgage payments and utilities bills may fall into this category.

    STEP 2: Jot down a list of unexpected expenses per month. These can include, but are definitely not limited to: flat tires, doctor appointments, data overages, gifts, etc.

    STEP 3: Create a spreadsheet. If you prefer a notebook, go for it. Both methods will work. The chart’s columns will include:

    • Company
    • Description
    • Amount owed
    • Due date
    • Amount paid
    • Date paid
    • Reference or check number

    As long as you have all of these columns, the order doesn’t matter. You can also add a comments column if you deem it necessary for your records. Save it with a catchy name, like monetary mysteries, vacation impediments, or monetary distributions. The important thing is that you remember what you name it. As long as you can find it, that is all that matters. We included an example template for your reference.
    HHFCU Budget Template

    STEP 4: Fill in the chart with your standard monthly expenses. As bills come in, enter them in your spreadsheet. As they are being paid, fill in the rest of the payment information, such as amount paid, date paid and reference or check number. You can use the last column for the references numbers given when payments are made online or for the check number. You may want to add a comments column just in case there was an issue with processing the payment or additional one-time fees that were included in this payment.

    STEP 5: Add up your expenses for an average month and compare it to your monthly income. This will give you an idea on how much you can spend on that new Keurig or new couch. You could even save up for your next vacation!

    Budgeting Tips:

    • Dedicate one person to manage the billing and the budget. No one likes it when things are paid twice.
    • Pay yourself first. Save up for a vacation to Hawaii or pay your relatives a visit in Florida. Have an automatic deduction from your paycheck into a savings account. You can’t miss what you never realize you had. Use your budget and how much time you have until the trip to figure out how much money you need to save.
    • Commitment is key. Keeping a budget is something that has to be constantly updated. It doesn’t take long, but it does take commitment.
    • Analyze where you could save money. What are you spending the most on each month? Are there any expenses you would want to cut? Try looking into other companies who offer the same type of product. Instead of paying for cable, a satellite option maybe cheaper.

    Creating a budget may seem like a lot of work, but it will be worth it once the initial chart is complete and you created your own process that works for you. For now, just take a deep breath and think about what you would like to accomplish with your budget. If you get stuck or have questions, Hudson Heritage FCU offers BALANCE™ FREE Financial Counseling to all of our members. Keep your budget up-to-date and you’ll be in Cabo before you know it!

  • Raise Your Goals to New Heights

    If you are like most Americans, at least a few of your New Year’s resolutions had to do with money. Hudson Heritage wants to help you go from wishing in January to succeeding in December. These five steps can help turn your financial resolutions into realities.

    Step 1: Identify your goals.

    Your goal should be tangible, so you can track progress. There are three basic goal types: short-term (under a year), mid-term (one to three years), and long-term (three-plus years).

    Step 2: Look at the numbers.

    Understand your financial options by examining your income and expenses. After that you can determine how much you can save each month.

    Step 3: Assign a time frame.

    Mark your calendar with the projected achievement date. If the goal is mid or long-term, allocate progress points (i.e. “$500 in my IRA account by June 5th, $1,000 by December 12th). Keep yourself motivated by flipping to those dates often. Reward yourself when reaching a milestone in a small way. Treat yourself to ice cream or a movie.

    Step 4: Design a savings strategy.

    Have the allocated savings sum automatically deducted from your paycheck or checking account and deposited into a separate savings account. It’s easy, and you’ll never miss what you don’t see.

    Step 5: Be flexible.

    Didn’t make your goal? Don’t get discouraged! If you can’t put the $150 into your vacation fund this month because your transmission blew, don’t panic. You may be able to make it up over the next couple of months. Or change your achievement date slightly.

    Nothing is more rewarding than pursuing – and achieving – your financial goals. Sometimes all you need is a little help — which is why HHFCU has partnered with BALANCE Financial Fitness Program. Their team of money management experts can help you clarify your objectives, and then develop a plan to achieve your goals. Call them toll free at 888-456-2227, or  click here for more information.

     

    Copyright © 2012 BALANCE

  • Types of Financial Scams

    Please be aware of the following types of financial scams.

    This is not a complete list of scams as new scams appear everyday.

    Power of Attorney Fraud

    By obtaining a Limited or Special Power of Attorney this gives specified legal rights to manage the funds in the account.  Once the rights are given, the perpetrator uses the funds for personal gain.

    Advance Fee Fraud or “419” Fraud

     Named after the relevant section of the Nigerian Criminal Code, this fraud involves a multitude of schemes and scams – mail, e-mail, fax and telephone promises that the victims will receive a percentage for their assistance in the scheme proposed in the correspondence.

    Pigeon Drop

    The victim puts up “good faith” money in the false hope of sharing the proceeds of an apparently large sum of cash or item(s) of worth which are “found” in the presence of the victim.

    Financial Institution Examiner Fraud

    The victim believes that he or she is assisting authorities to gain evidence leading to the apprehension of a financial institution employee or examiner that is committing a crime.  The victim is asked to provide cash to bait the crooked employee.  Cash is then seized as evidence by the “authorities” to be returned to the victim after the case, however there is no restitution as the scammer has moved on to the next victim.

    Inheritance Scam

    Victims receive mail from an “estate locator” or “research specialist” purporting unclaimed inheritance, refund or escheatment.  The victim is lured into sending a fee to receive information about how to obtain the purported asset.

    Financial Institution Employee Fraud

    The perpetrator calls the victim pretending to be the security officer from the victim’s financial institution.  The perpetrator advises the victim that there is a system problem or internal investigation being conducted.  The victim is asked to provide his or her Social Security number for “verification purposes: before the conversation continues.  The number is then used for identity theft or other illegal activity.

    International Lottery Fraud

    Scam operators, often based in Canada, use telephone and direct mail to notify victims that they have won a lottery.  To show good faith, the perpetrator may send the victim a check.  The victim is then instructed to deposit the check and immediately send (via wire) the money back to the lottery committee.  The perpetrator will create a “sense of urgency,” compelling the victim to send the money before the check, which is counterfeit, is returned.  The victim is typically instructed to pay taxes, attorney’s fees, and exchange rate differences in order to receive the rest of the prize.  The lottery solicitations violate US law, which prohibits cross-border sale or purchase of lottery tickets by phone or mail.

    Fake Prizes

    A perpetrator claims the victim has won a nonexistent prize and either asks the person to send a check to pay the taxes or obtain the credit card or checking account number to pay for shipping and handling charges.

    Internet Sales or Online Auction Fraud

    The perpetrator agrees to buy an item for sale over the Internet or in an online auction.  The seller is told that he or she will be sent an official check (e.g., cashier’s check) via overnight mail.  When the check arrives it is several hundred or thousand dollars more than the agreed-upon selling price.  The seller is instructed to deposit the check and refund the overpayment.  The official check is later returned as a counterfeit but the refund has already been sent.  The seller is left with a loss, potentially of both the merchandise and the refund.

    Government Grant Scams

    Victims are called with the claim that the government has chosen their family to receive a grant.  In order to receive the money, victims must provide their checking account number and/or other personal information.  The perpetrator may electronically debit the victim’s account for a processing fee, but the grant money is never received.

    Spoofing

    An unauthorized website mimics a legitimate website for the purpose of deceiving consumers.  Consumers are lured to the site and asked to log in, thereby providing the perpetrator with authentication information that the perpetrator can use at the victim’s legitimate financial institution’s website to perform unauthorized transactions.

    Grandparent Scam

    The fraudster calls a grandparent pretending to be a grandchild or the attorney for the grandchild in trouble; the fraudster may even know the grandchild’s name. The fraudster may be crying or muffle their voice making it hard to recognize the grandchild’s voice or name. The fraudster pleads for the grandparent to immediately send a Money Gram and not to tell family members for fear of upsetting the grandchild’s parent. The grandparent will immediately jump to the assistance of the grandchild and won’t ask questions until later. The fraudster also knows many older people will have experienced a hearing loss and won’t detect any difference in their grandchild’s voice, or they may attribute the differences they do here to the stress of the situation.

    Phishing/Vishing/Smishing

    Technology or social engineering is used to entice victims to supply personal information (i.e., account numbers, login IDs, passwords, and other verifiable information) that can them be exploited for fraudulent purposes, including identity theft.  These scams are most often perpetrated through mass e-mails, spoofed websites, phone calls or text messages.

    Stop Foreclosures Scam

    The perpetrator claims to be able to instantly stop foreclosure proceedings on the victim’s real property.  The scam often involves the victim deeding the property to the perpetrator who says that the victim will be allowed to rent the property until some predetermined future date when the victim’s credit will have been repaired, and the property will be deeded back to the victim without cost.

    Alternatively, the perpetrator may offer the victim a loan to bridge his or her delinquent loan payments, perhaps even with cash back.  Once the paperwork is reviewed, the victim finds that his or her property was deeded to the perpetrator.  A new loan may have been taken out with an inflated property value with cash back to the perpetrator, who now owns the property.  The property very quickly falls back into foreclosure and the victim/tenant is evicted.

    For further information regarding scams, please visit one of our branches.

  • How to Prevent Elder Abuse

    Seniors and their families lose billions of dollars each year to heartless fraudsters. Learn about ways to protect yourself and your loved ones. Read the full Consumer Reports Article here.

  • Can No Limit Credit Cards Limit Your Credit Score?

    If you are familiar with the way credit scoring works, you probably know that avoiding being “maxed out” on your credit cards and other revolving accounts generally impacts your score in a positive way. You might also be aware that the FICO score – the most popular model – dedicates 30% of its score calculation to how much of your available credit you are using. The lower percentage of available credit you are using, the better your FICO score will be. It would seem then that logic dictates that a no-limit credit would be the best possible solution for this part of your FICO score calculation, since you theoretically have an infinite amount of available credit. But this is one place where logic fails.

    The potential issue

    The possible problem stems from the fact that, like other popular credit scores, FICO generates your numerical credit rating based on the information that is in your credit file. One of the numbers the mathematical formulas look for is the credit limit on your revolving accounts, which includes credit cards. Depending on how the account is reported by the issuer of the credit, the credit scoring model may either completely disregard this your utilization percentage or it may do something much, much worse for your score: it may use the high balance on the card as the limit in lieu of a stated limit. For example, let’s say you don’t use your no-limit credit card all that much and you’ve never charged more than $100 on it, but your car recently broke down and you put the repairs on the card. If a particular scoring model uses the high balance on the card in your score calculation, the $1,000 for the car-related expenses looks like not only your balance, but also your credit limit. In other words, you appear to be using 100% of your available limit on that card. According to FICO, this will have a major negative impact on your score.

    The solution

    As alluded to above, the way the account is reported can make a big difference in how information from a no-limit card is factored into your credit score. Traditional credit scores can only generate a number based on what is in your credit file and what is in your credit file comes from companies that report financial information for you. So to make sure you don’t have any credit score problems with a no-limit credit card, you need to go to the source of the information. Here’s how:

    1. Call the company who provided you with the no-limit card (or line of credit) and ask them to report a limit for the card to the credit reporting agencies. It may seem that the card issuer doesn’t have any limit in mind, but if you try to buy a luxury jet with the card, you will find out that there is indeed a limit!

    2. If the creditor claims they are not able to report a limit for this type of account, ask them about options for transferring your balance to an account with a limit. The optimal solution is to have your account history transferred to the new account since the age of the account and any on-time payments can help your score.

    3. If you are not able to transfer the account history to a new account, consider paying down this particular card and/or not using it at times when you need your credit scores to be he high, like when you are applying for any type of financing.

    4. If you are able to get a balance reported for your previously no-limit card, make sure to dispute the credit limit for the account with Equifax, Experian, TransUnion via their websites (find each site by tacking “.com” onto the end of the credit bureau’s name). This is the best way to make sure this information gets updated accurately. After you have done this, it’s a good idea to get copies of your credit reports by calling 877.322.8228 or visitingwww.annualcreditreport.com to check for yourself that the information is now correct.

    Ironically, no-limit credit cards are often marketed with the idea that they are automatically great for your credit scores because you will never be maxed out or over the limit. However, it’s important to understand just how the card is being reported to the credit bureaus to truly know how the card is impacting your credit score.

     Copyright © 2014 BALANCE

  • Five Steps to Tame Financial Stress

    Do you sometimes lie awake at night thinking about bills that need to be paid? Does it feel as though you’re drowning in debt? If this describes you, you might take solace in the fact that you’re not alone. A recent report released by the American Psychological Association (APA) showed that 72% of adults feel stressed about money at least some of the time, and 22% said the amount of stress they experienced was extreme.1

    The bad news is that stress can be responsible for multiple health problems, including fatigue, headaches, and depression. And, over time, stress can contribute to more significant health issues, including high blood pressure and heart disease.2 The good news is that there are some simple steps you can take to reduce or eliminate some of the financial stress in your life.

    1. Stop and assess
    The first step in reducing financial stress is to look at your situation objectively, creating a snapshot of your current financial condition. Sit down and list all of your financial obligations. Start with the items that are causing you the most stress. For debts, include the principal due, the applicable interest rate, and the minimum payment amount. If you’re not already doing so, review your bank account and credit-card statements to track where your money is going. The goal here is not to solve the problem; it’s to determine and document the scope of the problem. You might find that this step alone significantly helps alleviate your stress level (think of it as facing your fears).

    2. Talk to your spouse
    If you’re married, talk to your spouse. It’s important to communicate with your spouse for several reasons. First, you and your spouse need to be on the same financial page; any steps you take to improve your situation are going to be most effective if pursued jointly. Second, not being on the same page as your spouse is only going to lead to additional stress. In fact, the APA report showed that 31% of spouses and partners say that money is a major source of conflict or tension in their relationship.3 Additionally, your spouse or partner can be a valuable source of emotional support, and this emotional support alone can lower stress levels.4 If you’re not married, family or friends might fill this role.

    3. Take control
    First, go back and take a look at where your money is going. Are there changes you can make that will free up funds you can save or apply elsewhere? Even small changes can make a difference. And exerting control over your situation to any degree can help reduce your overall stress level. Start building a cash reserve, or emergency fund, by saving a little bit each paycheck. Think of the emergency fund as a safety net; just knowing it’s there will help reduce your ongoing level of stress. Work up to a full spending plan (yes, that’s another way of saying a budget) where you prioritize your expenses, set spending goals, and then stick to them going forward.

    4. Think longer term
    Look for ways to reduce debt long term. You might pay more toward balances that have the highest interest rates. Or you might consider refinancing or consolidation options as well. Beyond that, though, you really want to start thinking about your long-term financial goals, identifying and prioritizing your goals, calculating how much you might need to fund those goals, and implementing a plan that accounts for those goals. Having a plan in place can help you with your stress levels, both now and in the future.

    5. Get help
    Always remember that you don’t need to handle this alone. If the emotional support of a spouse, friends, or family isn’t enough, or the level of stress that you’re feeling is just too much, know that there is help available. Consider talking to your primary-care physician, a mental health professional, or an employee assistance resource, for example.

    A financial professional can also be a valuable resource in helping you work through some of the steps discussed here, and can help direct you to other sources of assistance, like credit or debt counseling services, depending on your needs.


     

    The most important thing to keep in mind is that you have the ability to control the amount of financial stress in your life.
    1,3,4 American Psychological Association, “Stress in America™: Paying with Our Health,” www.stressinamerica.org, February 4, 2015
    2 Mayo Clinic Staff, “Stress Symptoms: Effects on Your Body and Behavior,” www.mayoclinic.org, July 19, 2013
    Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2015.

  • Deposit Checks from your Smartphone!

    Remote Deposit Anywhere (RDA) is a free service enabling you to deposit checks using your smartphone with Hudson Heritage Federal Credit Union’s iCliqToGo Mobile Banking App. It’s convenient, easy, and safe. To use, simply take a picture of both sides of your check and deposit directly into your account.

    • Save yourself a trip to the bank by depositing checks from your smartphone anytime, anywhere!

    • Submit deposits until 8:00 p.m. for same day processing.

    • Receive a confirmation email when your checks are deposited successfully.

    Getting Started:

    Click here to enroll in iCliq online banking if you are currently not enrolled.
    • Download the Hudson Heritage FCU iCliqToGo mobile app for your Android or iPhone.
    • Enroll the account(s) you wish to deposit checks via Remote Deposit. (Please note: You must enroll the accounts you want available through iCliq online banking before you can use RDA.)

    How to use RDA:

    For more information and how to enroll, please click here.
    For FAQs on this product, please click here.

  • It’s Time to Start Thinking About Long Term Care

    It’s not something we like to think about: what happens if at some point I cannot care for myself and I need help from others because of an illness, injury or the effects of old age?

    WHAT IS “LONG TERM CARE?” What we are referring to is “Long Term Care.” But, it may not be what you think. Often, when we think of “Long Term Care,” we think of being elderly and being in a nursing home. While that is sometimes the case, more often than not it is NOT the case; that is, we need help with everyday tasks and we are not necessarily elderly and we are not in a nursing home.

    According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, approximately 70% of people over age 65 will require Long Term Care services in their lifetimes¹. But, a relatively low percentage of care is actually received in the one place we most often think of, and the last place most of us want to be – a nursing home. And, you might be surprised to know that while 63% of people who need Long Term Care are over the age of 65, 37% (more than one in three) are ages 64 and younger².

    In fact, of all the Long Term Care that is received in the U.S. 79% of that care is received is received in a home or community based setting, rather than a nursing home³. And, you might be surprised to know that while 63% of people who need Long Term Care are over the age of 65, 37% (more than one in three) are ages 64 and younger^4.

    To be clear, we need to define what “Long Term Care” actually is. Long Term Care is often defined as “a continuum of medical & social services designed to support the needs of people living with chronic health problems that affect their ability to perform everyday activities.” Those activities consist of things like the ability to dress and feed oneself, and to be mobile, among others. If we can’t do them ourselves, we need help, and that’s where Long Term Care services come in.

    HOW DO WE PAY FOR IT? The problem often becomes, without family or friends to provide that care, how will I pay for it?

    Many people think we can rely on government funds to pay for our care. Unfortunately, that’s often not the case. Medicare typically pays only for skilled care that is received and intended to improve my condition (Long Term Care, by definition, is generally care for a chronic condition that is not expected to improve, at least any time soon). Medicaid, while paying a fairly high percentage of LTC costs in the U.S., generally requires that I spend down my assets to certain levels and spend my own income on my care before it steps in as a payment source.

    That’s where Long Term Care Insurance (LTCI) comes in. LTCI steps in at the time when it’s needed most, and can pay for care in the most popular care settings – including at home, in an assisted living facility, while attending adult day care and, as is sometimes the case, a nursing home.

    Traditional LTCI policies allow the policyholder to customize the benefit to suit individual needs and budgets. While ancillary benefits vary from product to product, an LTCI purchaser can choose the right daily benefit amount (how much of the cost of care do you want the policy to pay?), benefit duration (how long do you want the policy to pay?), length of time before policy benefits begin once on claim (how long are you willing to pay out of pocket before your policy starts paying?) and whether and to what extent inflation protection is included (do I want the policy benefits to increase automatically each year, or only when I purchase additional coverage?).

    SO, HOW DO I FIND OUT IF LTCI IS FOR ME? LTCI is not for everyone. Some people may not qualify for the coverage (there is a health qualification process) and some may feel the premiums are unaffordable (although that is often a misconception remedied by the flexibility in designing coverage).

    To find out if it’s right for you, meet with an LTCI specialist who can walk you through the underwriting process. Then you may be able to tailor a policy to meet both your needs and budget. If nothing else, you’ll at least know if LTCI is even an option for you.

    The Hudson Heritage Federal Credit Union will be offering a free seminar to teach about Long Term Care insurance at the Rykowski branch on Wednesday, June 10 at 6 PM. Please contact the branch or Melvin Mills at mmills@moneyconcepts.com or 845.481.3635 to sign up.

     

    1 2014 Medicare & You Medicare Handbook 
    2 Who needs long-term care? Fact Sheet, Long-Term Care Financing Project. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2003 
    3 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality – 2000 
    4 Who needs long-term care? Fact Sheet, Long-Term Care Financing Project. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2003 

     

     NOW is the time to plan for Long-Term Care Needs! By: Bob Vandy. CLU, ChFC, LUTCF, CLTC 

  • Identity Protection

    What is Identity Theft? Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, such as your Social Security Number, to commit fraud or other crimes. Over 12 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014, costing over 26 billion dollars annually.

    Protect Yourself Become more defensive against fraud during everyday activities by following these simple prevention tips:
    • 5 Ways to Protect Your Checking Account
      From the Federal Reserve Board
    • Designate a password for your VISA® debit card with Verified by VISA®
    • Memorize Personal Identification Numbers (PINs). Don’t keep them in your wallet/purse, on your card, or in your checkbook.
    • Choose a PIN that is hard to guess. Don’t use personal identifying numbers, such as birthdays, phone numbers and Social Security Numbers.
    • Don’t leave your purse or wallet in your car.
    • Carry only the personal identification and credit cards you need. Store others in a secure location at home or in a safe deposit box.
    • Don’t carry your Social Security Card. Store it in a secure place.
    • Be wary of Internet or email hoaxes, spoofs and scams. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
    • Check with the Better Business Bureau before doing business with unknown companies.
    • Follow safe ATM etiquette. Be alert; look for anything suspicious (tampered machine, overly helpful bystanders). Keep “shoulder surfers” from observing your PIN when you enter it.
    • Change your daily routine. Don’t be too predictable.
    Online Shopping Protection Hudson Heritage participates in an online authentication system called Verified by VISA® . This program helps to protect your VISA® debit card from online fraud by enabling you to establish a password. Participating online merchants use your password for authentication at the time of purchase.

    Register now:
    Activate your password by registering online at the Verified by VISA® website. Register while you shop: If you have not already activated your debit card at the time of purchase, you will be prompted to do so before completing your purchase.Reporting Identity Theft Unfortunately even the most careful precautions are not foolproof. If you believe you’re already a victim of identity theft, follow these easy steps to report the crime. You have the opportunity to prevent misuse of your personal information, if you detect it and take action quickly.  
     
    Detecting Misconduct
    • Monitor your accounts. According to the FTC, 52% of identity fraud victims discovered they’re victims this way.
    • Follow up with companies if you receive bills for merchandise you did not purchase.
    • Follow up with businesses or institutions if you fail to receive an expected bill.
    • Request a copy of your credit report if applications for credit are turned down for no apparent reason.
    Reporting Steps1. Contact the fraud departments at each of the three major credit bureaus to request a “Fraud Alert” on your file and order FREE copies of your credit report.

    2. Contact the security departments at the financial institution where you hold accounts or loans that have experienced fraudulent activity.

    3. File a report with your local police.

    4. Complete an Identity Theft Affidavit, so you don’t become responsible for debts incurred by the identity thief.

    5. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, using their online form.

  • Managing Your Checking Account

    When you use your debit card or write a check, do you know if you have enough money in your checking account to cover the transaction? Managing your checking account can keep you on top of your spending. Not knowing can cost you. If you write a check for more than your checking account account balance and do not have overdraft privileges, the check will bounce and you can be charged a non-sufficient funds fee. If you can overdraw, but do not have overdraft protection, you can be charged an overdraft fee for every transaction you make while you are in the red.

    Following a few simple steps can help you avoid these expensive fees:

    Check your account balance: If you know your account balance, you will know if you have enough money for a particular transaction. You can check it any time of the day by calling (845) 561-5607  or visiting hhfcu.org Don’t forget to subtract from the balance the amount of any automatically paid bills that will be deducted before your next deposit and outstanding checks.

    Have a balanced budget: If you regularly find yourself short on cash and need to overdraw to pay for essentials, look for ways to reduce your spending and/or increase your income. Overdrawing can provide immediate relief but will probably only create more difficulties next month, when you are facing the same cash flow shortfall plus you have to pay back the amount you overdrew.

    Use overdraft protection: It is best to avoid overdrawing or bouncing checks completely, but if you feel that may be difficult, consider overdraft protection. It deducts or charges any amount you overdraw from a savings account, credit card, or line of credit linked to your account. [If applicable: There is a fee for this service, but it is less than a bounced check or overdraft fee.]

    Want more advice on managing your checking account? HHFCU has partnered with BALANCE to provide you with free financial education and counseling. Call 888-456-2227 or visit www.balancepro.net for more information.

    Courtesy of Our Friends at BALANCE
    Copyright © 2010 BALANCE

  • Fall Back In Love with Your Home

    Many of us reach a point where we begin to feel a little blah about our home, but moving is not always an option. Here are some tips on how you can get a “new” home without a new mortgage. Here are a few ways to fall back In love with your home.

    Little Changes can have a Big Impact

    Painting walls, changing light fixtures and knobs, and adding curtains and plants can give your home a completely different look for only a few hundred dollars. Rearranging furniture, artwork, and knick-knacks can also freshen things up, and the only cost is a little time.

    Expand

    Converting an unfinished attic or basement can be a great way to get extra space at a fraction of the cost of building an addition. Adding a deck is another fairly simple way to increase your space. If you are hiring a contractor, be sure to get quotes from at least three and check their references.

    Make the Most of What You Have

    If expanding is not an option, you can still make your space seem bigger. Clean and throw away, donate, or sell anything you don’t need. If you have a little cash to spare, you can buy organizational tools, like shelves and hooks, and furniture that provides extra storage space, such as a coffee table or bed with drawers.

    Want more financial advice? As a benefit of belonging to HHFCU, you have access to BALANCE, a free financial education and counseling service. Their certified counselors can answer your questions, review your credit report, and help you create a budget. Call 888-456-2227 or visit www.balancepro.net for more information.

    Copyright © 2012 BALANCE

  • What Does Your Credit Score Say About You?

    What Does Your Credit Score Say About You? Whether you are looking to buy a car, refinance a mortgage or rent an apartment for the first time, your credit score can tell a lot about your financial history. Your FICO® score is a rating based on your credit history. It helps lenders evaluate your credit risk. Several factors go into your score, including payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history and types of credit used.

    What’s a Good Credit Score?

    A good credit score is rated on a scale of 300-850. A high score means a better credit rating that can help you get better rates on car loans, mortgages and credit cards. To improve your credit score, follow these tips:

    • Keep current on all your payments. This is the best way to boost your credit score. Pay your bills on time each month.
    • Avoid closing old accounts. It lowers your total available credit and can lower your score.
    • Don’t open new accounts. This can look like you plan to borrow a lot of money, which could stretch your finances too thin.
    • Settle all fines and tickets. An outstanding library fine or parking ticket can reduce your score if a collection agency gets involved.
    • Check your credit report for errors. Your credit score is based on the information included in your credit report, so review it for inaccuracies. You are entitled by law to a free copy of your report once every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus.

    Need more help? Stop by any branch or call 845-561-5607 for a Free Credit Score Check from HHFCU.

  • How Does an Overdraft Affect My Account?

    Daniel and Susan were busy getting ready to leave town for a fall weekend getaway. Each of them had a separate “to-do” list, so Susan wasn’t aware that her husband decided to replace his old luggage with a new set just when she was using their debit card to buy a portable GPS unit to make their trip easier. Together, the unexpected purchases overdrew their checking account.

    Protection from Unintentional Overdrafts

    Sometimes life throws a few financial surprises your way and overdrafts occur. HHFCU’s overdraft protection services are designed to save you from the inconvenience and embarrassment of finding insufficient funds in your account.

    At HHFCU, we help our members avoid uncomfortable situations like the couple above in the following ways:

    • Standard overdraft practices that come with your account. This includes our authorization and payment of overdrafts caused by checks or automatic bill payments. You will be charged a fee of $32 each time we pay an overdraft.
    • Overdraft protection plans. Two options include: 1) having your checking account set up to transfer funds from a savings account to cover overdrafts for a small fee of $5, or 2) establishing an overdraft line of credit.1

    Add Overdraft Protection to Your Accounts

    Almost everyone is capable of an overdraft mistake once in a while and HHFCU is here to help you make the most of your finances – even when you’re busy, running behind or distracted. Visit us at www.HHFCU.org, call 845-561-5607 or stop in and see us today to set up overdraft protection for your accounts.

    1 Subject to credit approval.

    See a Credit Union Representative for more details.

  • 5 Steps to Planning for the Future

    1. Set goals. Identify your short- and long-term goals, outlining how much you want to accumulate for each goal and when you will need the funds.
    2. Create a budget. Financial goals can’t come tofruition without a plan to reach them. Analyze your sources of income and tally up your expenditures (fixed and variable) to see where you stand. Cutting back on expenses and adding more to your savings column will help you reach goals faster.
    3. Contribute to your employer-sponsored retirement plan. Consider contributing the maximum amount allowed or at least enough to receive any employer matching contributions (if available through your plan).
    4. Use your retirement plan’s automated features such as rebalancing and auto escalation, if available. These convenient tools help you keep your original asset allocations on target and keep retirement savings a top priority.
    5. Consult a financial professional. It’s a smart move to have a financial advisor review your goals with you and help you fine-tune your plans to reach them. Your advisor will take into account your financial goals, investment timeline and risk tolerance.

     

  • Helping You Save for What’s Important

    High unemployment, salary freezes and a poor job market have been tough for many Americans. Despite challenging economic times, people are making greater efforts to save money. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the personal savings rate is holding steady at more than 5% (back in 2005, it was around 1%).*

    It’s an important lesson of the recession: Financial security is valuable. At HHFCU, we want to help you save money and reach your financial goals – from building an emergency fund or saving for higher education to affording a new car or paying for a special vacation.

    We offer products to help you save:

    • Share savings accounts
    • Certificate accounts
    • Money market accounts
    • IRA share savings accounts
    • Holiday and vacation savings accounts

    Your Money, Your Decisions

    When you feel in control of your finances, you’re more likely to have a better outlook about day-to-day money management as well as future financial needs. HHFCU provides tools to help you make smart decisions that can improve your quality of life.

    Direct deposit and automatic transfer allow you to pay yourself first and deposit funds into your savings account painlessly.

    Online and mobile banking give you 24/7 access to your accounts so you can keep close tabs on your funds, even when you’re on the go.

    Online bill payment makes it easy to set up and pay recurring bills so you never have to worry about late fees.

    While we offer convenient online services at www.HHFCU.org, we are also available to help you in person. Let us know what’s important to you. To learn more about our savings products and the services to make managing money easier, we’d be happy to talk with you by phone or can meet with you at any branch.

    *Source: www.bea.gov, August 22, 2014.

  • What’s Your Definition of Financial Success?

    Paying for Junior’s college education? Affording a vacation home? Retiring at age 55? Getting a good night’s sleep?

    A recent survey found that 39% of Americans define financial success as being debt-free.* Although that’s an admirable goal, it’s important to also focus on saving for long-term goals, such as education and retirement.

    Start by defining what financial success means to you.

    Financial freedom. Being debt-free certainly delivers its own level of financial freedom. But building and maintaining a solid credit rating through borrowing and repaying money can also lead to financial success. For example, a good credit score may help you get approved for a lower, more affordable interest rate on a mortgage to achieve the dream of homeownership. Making room in your budget for investing allows you to benefit from the long-term effects of compounding your savings in order to secure a financially fit retirement.

    Peace of mind. If your idea of financial success includes sleeping peacefully at night without worrying about debt or your investments’ volatility, being true to your tolerance for risk comes into play. Consider taking a risk tolerance quiz to see where you stand.

    Worthwhile goals. Building up a hefty rainy day fund, starting a successful business, paying for your children’s higher education and saving for retirement are all important financial goals signifying success when achieved.

    A Successful Arrival

    Need help getting started? We can help you define your goals and provide tools you need for success. Contact us today.

    *Source: TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation.



 
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