Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Take A Bite Out Of Apple Pay     
Q: I’ve heard a lot about Apple Pay lately. I’m an enthusiastic Apple user, so I’m excited to hear about merging my wallet into my cell-phone. What is it, and how can I get in on it?
A: Whether you love Apple’s user-friendly and reliable products, or hate the price tag and the status symbol they represent, you’ve got to admit: they know business. Apple saw the future of finance and the future of technology rapidly merging and figured out a way to cash in on it. The new iPhone 6 comes with a new technology that’s set to change the way you pay for things. They’re capitalizing on that new technology with a payment system of their own: Apple Pay. Apple Pay is taking advantage of two new developments in payment infrastructure to save you time.
First, the technology. Apple’s iPhone 6 comes equipped with a near-field communication (NFC) capable chip. Near-field communication uses very short wavelength wireless technology to share information between appropriately equipped devices over really short distances. It’s like a WiFi network that only has a range of a few feet. While there are all kinds of neat potential applications for near-field communication devices (wireless access control could tie your door locks to your cell phone, for example, and automatically open the door for you when you walk up to your house), the biggest one at the moment is the payment infrastructure.
The release of Apple Pay also corresponds with a new standard of credit and debit card security, the Europay-Visa-Mastercard (EVM) security chip. The EVM chip is a small electronic device embedded into cards that contains a method for generating a unique identifier for encryption protocols. Think of it as a code generator that makes a new PIN for each transaction. EMV technology uses more secure encryption standards to protect financial data at point-of-sale terminals. The increasing urgency of its adoption is brought on, in no small part, by the recent security breaches at Staples, Target, Home Depot, and other major US retailers.
Apple Pay, then, is an attempt to combine both technologies within a device you already carry around. The iPhone 6’s NFC chip is capable of broadcasting an EVM signal. It takes both of these new payment technologies and puts them together to make a more secure payment infrastructure.
Apple will profit from this system if adoption is sufficiently widespread. Apple will charge card-issuing institutions (like Visa or Mastercard) a portion of the fee those companies charge retailers on every transaction. Card companies are hopeful that the increased security of their payment processing system and the greater convenience of pay-by-phone will encourage more people to spend more money, growing their businesses as well. If they’re right, it could result in significant gains for both Apple and the card companies. This profitability also explains the growing competition in NFC payment infrastructure development.
Apple Pay is by no means the only attempt to combine these technologies. Android-based smart phones have had limited success with Google Wallet, although the lack of standardization across Android devices holds back attempts to develop secure payment infrastructure. Wallet, unlike Apple Pay, also requires the download of a separate app, and only the most recent iterations of the Android OS support tap-to-pay.
A group of merchants called the Merchant Customer Exchange, a group that includes CVS, Rite Aid, Target, and Wal-Mart, are working on their own system called CurrentC. CurrentC uses visual barcodes to secure transactions in an entirely different way, and the system isn’t widely used outside those retailers. The group is so dedicated to the project that it is prohibiting retailers that participate in the exchange from accepting Apple Pay.
Apple Pay may be the most successful mobile payment solution in terms of widespread adoption. It will only work with the iPhone 6, because older models lack the necessary NFC equipment. If you already have an iPhone 6, though, you only need to use the pre-installed Passport app. There are simple, on-screen instructions for adding a debit or credit card. 
Early adopters report some hiccups in the payment process, though. The technology is still very new, and delays and payment failures occurred at the first big roll out for the technology. Both AT&T Park and Kauffman Stadium, the sites of the 2014 World Series, were using Apple Pay for transactions around the stadium. In most instances, the process worked as advertised, but, as with any technology, a few glitches prevented people from using Apple Pay consistently. Some people still resorted to credit cards or cash to avoid inconvenience.
The technology to accept Apple Pay payments isn’t everywhere yet. In fact, only about 2.4% of retailers have the facilities to accept pay-by-phone. However, the change is coming. By October 2015, every shop that accepts Mastercard or Visa will have to be using EVM technology, and it’s likely that this upgrade will include NFC equipment. For now, you’ll want to hold on to your wallet, but the future looks bright for this great advancement.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Direct Deposit: Safe, Simple and Convenient

Q: I work for a small company, and my employer recently started offering direct deposit of paychecks. This doesn’t sound secure to me, and anyway, I like getting and depositing my paycheck. Is there any reason to opt for direct deposit?

A: There’s a very short list of things that really haven’t changed in the past 50 years: apple pie, your fourth-grade teacher’s fashion sense and paper checks. Despite the advances that have been made in financial technology, paper checks are really about the same instruments they always have been. In a digital world, they’re increasingly expensive, cumbersome and insecure.

Many employers already have or are moving to an all-electronic system for paying their employees, and at the center of that system is direct deposit. Direct deposit transmits your paycheck from your employer’s business account directly into your checking, savings or pre-paid account(s). You still get a pay stub or an electronic equivalent from your employer that lists the amount of the transfer along with any deductions, like taxes, health care or retirement.

What you won’t have to do is hold on to that check until you can find time to get to a branch. Payroll deposits clear instantaneously, which means the money is generally available in your account the same day.

Direct deposit really is the way of the future. Many large employers and some benefit providers require it, and it’s easy to see why. Let’s look at three reasons why direct deposit is right for you.

1.) Safety

Think like a criminal for a second. A paycheck is the largest check most people see on a regular basis. This makes it a tempting target for theft. Think about how your employer would react to someone picking up your paycheck for you. Someone could pretend to be a spouse, babysitter or friend doing you a “favor.”

While the signature requirement is some protection, many check-cashing establishments don’t look closely for a match. It’s remarkably easy to cash a stolen check and the law provides little protection. Your employer might be sympathetic, but they’re probably not willing to issue you a second paycheck. The burden would be on you to prove the theft before you could get your salary.

With a direct deposit, those concerns are virtually nonexistent. There are no paper checks to keep safe. No one needs to pick up your paycheck for you. There’s no concern that someone else will accidentally be given your check. The whole transaction is handled seamlessly by computer.

2.) Simplicity

Believe it or not, the process of payroll is incredibly complicated for companies. Many of them hire outside firms at great expense to ensure they’re accurately paying their employees in compliance with various state and federal regulations. One of the costs involved in payroll production is the printing of checks. Paper checks must be printed, signed and recorded, all of which requires labor.

The cost of writing, verifying and safeguarding a paper check is about $1 per employee per pay period, assuming no lost checks or pay disputes. The lost time to distributing and depositing those checks is about $2 per employee, so it costs businesses about $3 to print and distribute paper checks. Direct deposit costs about half as much.

These savings may seem insignificant, but they add up quickly. Your employer spending less money on payroll means more money to pay you. Whether those cost savings result in a lower-priced product, more investment in the business or higher wages, you benefit. When your employer comes out ahead, so do you.

3.) Convenience

Obviously, direct deposit saves you an errand every pay period. The stress of fighting rush-hour traffic to make it to a branch office before closing time on payday is considerable. There’s also no need to worry if you got your paycheck deposited in time for same-day processing. Say goodbye to account guessing games.

Beyond the obvious conveniences, direct deposit opens up a slew of other possibilities. You can more easily automate your savings by depositing a portion of each payroll into a savings account and the rest into your checking. You can pay bills more easily online since you get confirmation your funds are available. You may also be able to secure lower fees or a higher interest rate on your checking account!

Paperless payroll saves trees, it saves time and it saves frustration. It does all of this while being safer, faster, and more secure. If you’re unsure about your direct deposit options, stop by or call CORE Credit Union. Our helpful representatives can get you the information you need to set up direct deposit and can even help you organize your deposits to meet your financial goals.

Call, click, or stop by CORE Credit Union today!


Friday, June 26, 2015

12 Ways To Practice Safe ATM Transactions

ATM fraud is on the rise. Here are 12 ways to protect yourself and your account from theft!
1. Look for recent device modifications – bulky keypads, electrical tape, fresh glue, unworn plastic, etc. These can be signs of a PIN capture device being used.
2. Check for cameras – tiny pinholes provide clear views of the keypad and are a prime target for recording PINs. Security cameras designed for safety are obvious and usually mounted further away.
3. Cover the PIN pad with your other hand to keep your transaction safe from prying eyes.
4. Look for people sitting nearby who are using laptops, PDA’s, or cellphones. If they’re sitting there for more than a few minutes, they may be eavesdropping using the device.
5. Do not share your PIN with anyone you don’t want using your card (and that should be a very small circle). If you write down your PIN, keep it in a secure location away from the card. Don’t carry it in your wallet or record it in your phone!
6. Only use ATMs in well-lit, public spaces. Prefer those that offer drive-up service and don’t have buildings or heavy foot traffic nearby.
7. If you have trouble with an ATM, go to the nearest bank branch or use another ATM. DO NOT let strangers “help” you with the transaction.
8. Avoid ATMs in tourist hotspots like shopping malls – these high traffic areas make it easier for thieves to work.
9. Monitor your checking account statement regularly for suspicious or unknown charges.
10. Report any unusual account activity to your credit union right away.
11. Remember that POS terminals, gas station consoles and other payment locations are just as vulnerable as standalone ATMs.
12. Whenever possible, process your debit card transaction as a “credit” transaction so you will be prompted to sign for it rather than enter a PIN that can be seen by the next person in line.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Financially Productive Summer

Q: It’s summer, and the kids are off school. We’ve finally got some real vacation time. I don’t want the next few months to disintegrate into video games and trash TV. How can I use the time off to help my family financially?

Summer vacation is a quintessentially American innovation. Nowhere else in the world do kids have months on end free from school or any other responsibility. On one hand, it’s great to spend more time with them. On the other, how do you keep them entertained without breaking the bank?
Fortunately, there are a few ways to have the kind of summer break that builds memories without building debt. You can use these months to teach your children valuable lessons about financial responsibility, spend quality time together as a family, and save (or make!) a little money along the way. Try activities like these 5 for a fun, financially responsible summer!

1) Have a yard sale!
If there’s one lesson to impart to children about saving, it’s that less is more. It can be hard to impart that lesson with toys from birthdays and Christmases past crowding the closet, collecting dust. Encourage them to find one or two things per day that they could contribute to a yard sale, then have it at the end of the month.
Involve your kids in as many aspects of the plan as possible. Ask them to help you advertise on Craigslist and other social media. Have them tell their friends or their friends’ parents about it. Show them how to do research to price items, and have them work the cash box. All of these are valuable skills that can help them with summer jobs in the future!
When the sale is done, have a conversation about what you can do with the money. It could go toward a family vacation, or into a savings account or college fund. Let them contribute ideas for fun things the family can do with the yard sale proceeds. This can be a chance to teach kids about budgeting while encouraging them not to hold on to things that don’t bring them joy.

2) Start a (very) small business!

One way children learn the value of hard work is to earn a wage for doing a job. Paying your kids an allowance to do a job is one way to do that, but certainly not the only one. Getting your kids to help with a very small business is a great way to let them see the rewards of hard work while making a little money on the side.
Business services will vary, but demand for many services is higher in the summer. Businesses need window washers. Elderly neighbors may need help with weeding, mowing, planting, or other landscaping projects. Many people clean house in the summer and list old furniture for sale, which can be rehabilitated and resold for a profit. Any of these small projects would make a fun way to spend some time together this summer.
The business doesn’t need to make a lot of money to be valuable. In addition to quality time, your children can gain an appreciation for the hard work that goes into making a successful business. This could be a great addition to a college application essay or a resume for a first job.

3) Fix up the house!

There are tons of great, simple projects that you can tackle as a family to improve the efficiency of your home. Some of the easiest, like installing a new front door, can be done in an afternoon and improve the aesthetic appeal and insulation of your house. These are great projects to tackle as a family.
Any repair or upgrade that you’ve been putting off can be a great summer project. Kids can earn a wage for their labor, or they can work in exchange for some privilege, like going to a sleepover at a friend’s house. Doing this kind of work can help them understand how much hard work goes into home ownership.
These little improvements can add up to significant savings. You’ll start feeling the benefits in lower electricity bills in the summer, and continue to feel them all year round. When you sell your house, these improvements will reflect in the higher value of your home.

4) Plant a garden!

Believe it or not, planting a garden is one of the most cost-effective things families can do together. For every dollar you spend in green bean seeds, you’ll get up to $75 back in fresh produce! You can pickle, dry, preserve or can the extras and sell them to friends and neighbors for an even better return!
There are many ways to squeeze additional savings out of a garden. Instead of costly fertilizers, you can compost kitchen waste. You can find reclaimed wood, especially from pallets and shipping containers, to make raised beds. Save seeds from produce, and water with rain collectors.
Planting a garden doesn’t just save money. It can also be a way to encourage your family to eat more vegetables. Tending and caring for a patch of vegetables can be a great way to build responsibility and have fun outdoors this summer!

5) Plan a stay-cation!
The average cost of a family vacation is creeping up. For a family of 4, a week of vacation, excluding travel, costs $1,700! Even if you’re taking a road trip in a reasonably efficient family vehicle, that could easily amount to $2,000 or more.
The best parts of a vacation are the shared experiences, and there’s no need to go too far to get those. Find a local festival or cultural event, and plan a vacation in your home town! Check out local historical sites and museums, eat out at nice restaurants, and come home to your own beds at night.
What’s more, a stay-cation can show your kids the rich culture of their surroundings. Use your stay-cation as a time to visit sites of personal interest, like where you and your partner met, or where their great grandparents went to school. They’ll appreciate the deeper knowledge of where they come from, and you can appreciate the togetherness… and the savings!


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Buying Your Retirement On Amazon.com  


We all know we need live frugally and save money for long-term goals such as retirement, home ownership, or the kids' college fund.  Unfortunately, it can be difficult to figure out how to tie expensive items to everyday savings and keep track of it all.  Believe it or not, you can use Amazon.com, an online retailer with whom you're probably already familiar, to make shopping for everyday goods faster, easier, and cheaper while bringing down the cost of big purchases. You can then use those savings to automatically fund your retirement, vacation or any other goal.


Paying for a chunk of your retirement or any other big purchase on Amazon only takes three simple steps.  First, save money on the items you were going to buy anyway.  Next, pay those savings to yourself in a savings account to earn more on the savings.  Finally, turn your money into a real piece of your retirement while treating yourself along the way.  How quickly the plan can pay for your large purchases depends upon how much work you're willing to put into it, but you can start out easily by saving some money for later without feeling any loss at all.


1.       Use Amazon to save on your budget

Check Amazon before you buy anything that you use on a regular basis.  For example, if you know you need over-the-counter medication regularly, Amazon has generic medicines that are far cheaper than your local pharmacy.  In many locales, you can even sign up to have your favorite groceries shipped to your home as often as you like.  Just add anything you buy regularly to "Subscribe and Save," an Amazon program in which products will be delivered to your door as often as you'd like and they are automatically billed and shipped to you.  If you get more than five subscriptions sent to your home every month, you'll also get a 15% discount on those purchases.  So, if you know you need allergy medicine, buy it on Amazon.  If you know you need that medicine every month, subscribe and get it shipped without having to go to the store for it ever again.


2.       Pay yourself first

Now that you know what you're paying Amazon for the stuff you use every day, you can subtract those costs from what you had budgeted before.  We rarely think to do this when we find a one-time sale, but if you can automate your shopping, then you know what you're saving on those purchases every month.  If you can save $50 per month off the grocery, makeup or hobby supply budget, then you can set up an automatic payment of $50 into your savings account at the credit union.  That kind of money can slowly add up and you won't even notice it's gone, because the same money is going out every month and the same products are coming in.


CORE Credit Union has many ways to put your everyday savings to work toward your retirement. You can set up automatic payments into your savings so you put money in every month. Once that nest egg gets a little bigger, we can discuss other savings options so that you can earn even more.    


If you desire more instant gratification from what you're saving, you can also choose not to save all of that money.  Set up an automatic transfer of half your monthly savings on Amazon and put the other half into an account for buying something nice.  We have Club accounts with competitive rates, as well as savings certificates with terms as short as 3 month.  You can store money for a rainy day, and still save for that vacation.  


3.    Treat yourself

You're going to want to splurge occasionally, and you can use Amazon to make sure you're doing it in a more affordable way.  If you know you want to make a big purchase down the road, such as a new TV or piece of furniture, you can also add it to your "Save for Later" list. Amazon will let you know when the price goes down or email you promotional codes for it.  If you need to buy it this week, just put it in your cart and wait a day or two. Sometimes Amazon will send you a promo code for 20% off. If you want to make sure you're getting a good deal, check out Camelcamelcamel.com, a site that tracks Amazon prices, and lets you know if you're paying too much.


You can also save big money on some products through "Amazon Warehouse Deals," which list quality products in damaged packaging.  Check out "Amazon Outlet" and "Amazon Gold Box Deals" for more sales.



Monday, June 22, 2015

Financial Self Defense

Credit Repair Scams Are Back, Don't Let Them Fool You


Earlier this month, the Better Business Bureau warned the country to keep an eye out for criminals masquerading as credit repair agencies, an old scam that keeps coming back every few years.  The scam is easy to spot if you know what to look for, so here's what you need to know.


How the scam works:

Companies advertise a service that can give customers a "new credit identity" and will immediately fix their credit score.  The scammers charge their customers an upfront fee in exchange for a 9-digit code, sometimes called a "Credit Profile Number" or "Credit Privacy Number." They might say the number protects customers from identity theft, builds their credit or enrolls them into a new government debt-relief program.


The numbers they give to customers are not magic numbers that fix bad credit; they're stolen Social Security numbers.  Not only won't they improve your credit, but anyone who pays a scammer has unwittingly bankrolled an identity thief.


How the scam can hurt you:

If a company sells you a stolen Social Security number and you use it to apply for a loan, you've committed fraud, even if you had no idea that the number was stolen.  If you lie on a credit or loan application, misrepresent your Social Security number or obtain an EIN under false pretenses, you've committed a federal crime.  You could face fines, or in some cases, time in prison.  If you suspect this might have happened to you, seek legal advice immediately.


How to spot a scam:

Credit reporting scams are one of the many kinds of criminal activities built around identity theft. If you're not sure if you're dealing with a criminal, listen for some of these key phrases credit repair scammers use:

·         "We just need a small fee to get started"  - In the U.S. and Canada, credit repair companies can only receive their fee AFTER they've performed a service.

·         "We dispute all of the charges on your credit report, even the ones that are correct.  The worst thing that can happen is that they say 'NO' and you might even get lucky" - Legitimate credit companies will not encourage you to lie to credit agencies because that's a crime.  It is a good idea for you to check your credit report for inaccuracies from time to time, but don't lie to those agencies.

·         "If a loan asks for your Social Security number, put in this code instead" - There is no magical code to fix your credit.  If it seems too easy, proceed with caution.

Remember, some credit repair companies work hard and treat their customers fairly.  They'll write a contract, make their loan rates known and follow the law.  When you call an honest company, you'll know the rates and terms.  Scammers tend to make outlandish promises or omit details, so if a deal seems too good to be true, or if it's hard to find out what you're getting into, you might want to walk away.


What to do if you think you might be a victim:

If you've been the victim of this kind of scam, you have some legal options.  You can sue them for any money you lost, seek punitive damages on top of that or join a class action suit.  Talk to a lawyer immediately.


You can also file a complaint online atftc.gov/complaint


Who can I trust to repair my credit?

If you have bad credit, it can feel like everyone is trying to scam you.  If you need to repair your credit, and you don't know who to trust, come talk to CORE Credit Union.  We can help you make a plan to get out from under your debt, build your credit successfully, and plan for the future.  One of our popular plans is our Score Builder, with competitive rates starting as low as 9.9% even with less than perfect credit.


If you don't have any credit, then CORE Credit Union can help you, too.  Unlike the multinational corporate banks and credit cards, we're local and personal.  You're more than a number to us, and we look forward to helping you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Three Tricks To Retire Rich
The difference between working yourself to death and retiring to live a life of comfort is smaller than you think. We like to believe in the simple caricature that rich people retire rich and poor people don’t retire. The truth is, much of the difference between retiring and continuing to go to work every day comes down to a few simple choices. Let’s take a look at three tricks that separate the successful retirees from the workers who are too insecure to retire:
1.) Timing your retirement
Investment professionals like to tell you that successful investment is about time in the market. Timing the market, they insist, is far less important. That’s true for putting money in. The more time you have to take advantage of the power of compound interest, the better off you’ll be.
When it comes time to retire and start making withdrawals, though, timing does matter quite a bit. Consider identical workers who made the same median income. Each saves 10% over their 35-year careers. Yet, they end up more than $200,000 apart in retirement savings.
How? One retired during the height of the Great Recession in 2009. The other waited four more years until 2013 when stocks had rebounded. It’s not just that stock prices rebounded during that time. It also gave the one who worked longer four more years of buying dirt cheap stocks that shot back up in value.
The lesson here is simple: if the market is down, keep working and investing. Wait another few years for things to rebound and reap the rewards. If our early retiree worked four more years, his retirement savings would have doubled. Market prices tend to even out over time, so prices that are low now will return to normal. Waiting until they do can make your retirement much better.
2.) Don’t over commit, especially when things are good
You may already know you should save between 10 percent and 15 percent of your income. Aim to split your savings between conservative and aggressive investment options. However, many people forget one important part of that split: some part of your aggressive investment needs to remain in cash.
As stock prices rise, you need to be leaving yourself more and more cash on hand. This is so you can take advantage of the inevitable retraction that follows these expansions. “Buy-low, sell-high” isn’t a well-kept secret. But it’s still sound advice for retiring with enough money to support a luxurious post-work life.
How much cash should you keep in your aggressive investment portfolio? The frustrating answer is that it depends on a variety of factors. If you’re not heavily involved in your portfolio, you likely don’t need to keep more than 5 percent cash in your account. If you’re an active participant in your retirement investments, keeping a little more cash on hand isn’t a bad idea. This will let you pick up undervalued stocks and reap the profits of your savvy judgment.
3.) Get professional help
Spectrum Group conducted a survey of households with more than $1 million in net worth. They found that only 20 percent of them see themselves as experts on investing. About 40 percent of respondents are adviser-assisted or adviser-dependent investors. That means they consult with a financial expert before making most of their investment decisions. Another 30% are “event-driven.” They get professional help before major life milestones, like retirement or home-buying.
There seems to be one big difference between millionaire investors and less successful ones. The millionaires recognize their weaknesses and find help to compensate. They devote their effort and energy to what they’re good at: their job or small business.
If you’d like to make a million-dollar decision, you should consider CORE Credit Union for your retirement planning needs. There’s no harm in getting some help for your retirement savings plans. Our knowledgeable representatives are standing by to assist you with opening or funding an IRA, rolling over a 401(k), opening a certificate, or saving money in any one of a dozen other ways. Call, click, or stop by CORE Credit Union today!