Credit unions offer more free services, and banks are more likely to charge service fees, according to Bankrate’s 2013 Credit Union Checking Survey.
Bankrate, a consumer financial services company that surveys around 4,800 financial institutions each year for bank rates and other metrics, surveyed the top 50 credit unions in the United States in January. While free checking has dropped 6 percentage points since 2010 to 72 percent of credit unions offering free checking accounts, the number of banks offering free checking dropped over a quarter from 65 percent in 2010 to just 39 percent in 2012. The 72 percent also doesn’t tell the whole story. Bankrate also noted that 96 percent of credit union checking accounts are either free with no conditions or free when certain conditions are met.
One of the key differences between credit unions and banks are that credit unions, which are not-for-profit cooperatives, pass benefits on to members while banks typically reserve profits for shareholders. Bankrate.com also highlighted several other areas where credit unions have lower fees than banks:
- Overdraft fees. The average fees for nonsufficient funds are an average $26.74 at credit unions compared to $31.26 at banks.
- ATM Fees: When using ATM’s belonging to other financial institutions, a third of credit unions do not charge fees or waive one fee per week. The fees are between $1 and $1.50 at credit unions compared to $2 at banks.
At Ball State Federal Credit Union, we charge no monthly service fees and check writing is unlimited. If you haven’t already opened up an account with us, visit us to learn about the advantages of setting up a personal account at Ball State Federal Credit Union.
You are a victim of auto insurance fraud and you may not even know it. If you have car insurance, you are paying extra because of auto insurance fraud.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), auto insurance fraud increases individual insurance premiums by as much as $200 and $300 a year. While there is little you can do to escape paying for the increases caused by general fraud, there are steps you should take to protect yourself from individuals seeking to make you a participant in their insurance fraud scheme.
It is important to understand the source of these false insurance claims. Fraudulent or exaggerated auto injury claims are common with individuals claiming sore backs, whiplash, strains, and sprains. They may seek treatment from physical therapists, chiropractors, and other medical professionals to bolster claims which may be difficult to medically counter. Claimants may also overstate damage to the vehicle, pad repair estimates, or cause damage to his or her own vehicle. More dangerous yet are those who conspire alone or with others to stage an accident that forces you into causing an accident.
The NICB gives the following advice to prevent becoming a victim.
- Don’t tailgate and keep enough distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. Common schemes include the “panic stop” by one vehicle and the “swoop and squat” involving trapping a victim between two vehicles and forcing a rear-end collision.
- Keep a camera, smartphone, or video camera available in the occasion of an accident. Document thoroughly the damage and the reactions of the occupants of the other vehicle. Also, record other people who show up to the scene of the accident and who might also be involved. Take written descriptions, collect names, phone numbers, addresses, license plate numbers and insurance information. Jot down any suspicious activity.
- Call the police, obtain a copy of the police report, and report to your insurance company. Compare the details in the report with your notes and pictures.
- Obtain detailed bills from those involved in the accident, including auto repairs all medical services to help protect your family and fight back against insurance fraud.
Online banking has proven to be a time-saver, a convenience and an effective way to monitor your transactions and those you may not have authorized. It also introduces a higher level of risk than banking within brick-and-mortar edifices. While many of these are commonsense precautions, a refresher may serve to remind you to remain vigilant as we may become lulled into a false sense of security with routine online banking on our laptops, tablets or smartphones.
Prevention begins with your password. Many people make it too easy for hackers to figure out their passwords. Imperva, a Data Security company, released a report that stated that “password” is the fourth most common password used. The top ten include a straight number sequence, 123456; number and letter sequences, abc123; iloveyou, princess, and rockyou. Like many sites today force you to do, mix up your passwords with numbers, upper and lower case letters, and symbols. Change your password several times a year and do not use the same password on different websites.
Only login and access your bank information with secure Internet connection. The best place to bank online is at home where your router connection is password protected and where only a limited number of people can access your wireless network. Even better, you could use a computer at home that connects online via an ethernet cable. If you must connect to your bank in a public location, don’t do so using a public WiFi hotspot at a fast foot restaurant, the library, or coffee house. And never connect to random open connections where you don’t know the source no matter what you do online. If you must make a transaction in public, it is better that you use a cellular connection with your smartphone.
Fortify your computer’s defenses. Always use strong antivirus software and don’t delay accepting antivirus updates. Make sure your computer’s firewall defenses turned on and you can also invest in firewall software. Also, scan email attachments before downloading and only download programs from proven reputable sources. If you do use a computer for general use on a public WiFi hotspot, be sure to turn off file sharing on your computer and log into sites that are fully encrypted. Password protect your computers, phones, and tablets and be sure not to leave unprotected documents on these devices with private information such as social security numbers.
Be careful what you share online. Even if hackers cannot figure out your passwords, they may be able to figure out your security questions if you reveal too much information about yourself online or in social networking sites like Facebook. The names of pets, your mother’s maiden name, your children’s names, your first car, your birth date, your high school, the street you grew up on, or key interests could allow a person enough information to figure answers to your security questions. Always guard your social security numbers and bank account numbers and never give those out in an email or anywhere that is unsecured. Only give social security information on https.
Be smart, stay informed, and monitor your personal accounts.
Both smartphones and tablets have already surpassed the personal computer in sales. And in less than two years analysts expect more Americans to connect to the Internet using these mobile devices than desktop and laptop computers.
Online banking on mobile devices has been around for years but while younger customers have embraced banking on their smartphones, Americans over 35 have have been slower to adapt. According to a survey conducted by research and consulting firm AlixPartners, 55% of mobile banking users are between 18 and 34.
One of these reasons for the slower adoption by older Americans is concerns about security. It may be counterintuitive, but banking by smartphone might actually boost your financial security and is in many respects safer than using a personal computer. Here are some reasons:
- People are generally more careful when using their mobile phones than when using their PCs.
- Hackers have more experience hacking into PCs than smartphones and it is more difficult to introduce malware to phones as devices like Apple’s iPhone, which only allow the installation of applications through their app store. Connections with bank servers are much more secure and it is more difficult for hackers to send users to rogue servers.
- If your phone is stolen, it is easier to eliminate data remotely with a smartphone than from a PC. Also, it is easier to track down a missing phone that is GPS enabled than a laptop.
- If your account is compromised, smartphones are easier for people to track their account activity since users nearly always have their phones on their person. You can set up bank alerts to that identify fraudulent transactions.
Security should always be a concern no matter where or how you do your banking. When using your smartphone to connect with your bank, use a cellular connection and not public Wi-Fi connections. Be aware of people in your vicinity and make sure nobody is able to steal information by eavesdroping or shoulder surfing. Also, have strong passwords and install antivirus software on your phones, tablets and computers.
There is no technology that will absolutely protect you from account hijacking. Cautious use and continuing education are always your best defenses.
“… And if you are paying more than zero on your car loan, then you are paying too much” goes the familiar refrain. “Zero Zero Zero!”
Zero percent financing for cars, furniture, electronics, other high-priced items and credit cards sounds like a good deal but frequently these pitches are too good to be true. Buyer beware. You may be lured to the showroom only to find your choices are limited, and you may even end up paying more.
Many who follow the promise of zero percent financing are disappointed. Not everybody will qualify for zero percent financing. A blemish on your credit score may be all it takes for your application to be rejected and the dealership may be less than forthcoming about what credit scores you must have to be accepted for these rates. Also, not all items feature the deal. You may go to a dealership on the promise of a zero percent financing and find the rate is not offered for the model you want. Once in the door, however, the product can seduce customers who find a way to justify the purchase despite their original plans.
Another secret of zero percent financing is that you may end up paying the full interest amount or may end up paying more for the product. The realtors, auto dealers, or electronics store may inflate the price of the product to make up the difference for what they would have lost in the deal. Also, the fine print of the agreement may include an accrued interest clause, which is only good during the agreement period. If you delay payment by even one day, you could be charged the entire deferred interest amount. This is frequently the terms of no-interest credit cards. Another approach is to present the loan as a monthly payment and then add accessories or extras that you may be willing to buy when framed as a monthly payment but may not have been willing to buy faced with the total cost.
If you decide to go forward with an interest free deal, be sure to first read the fine print and study the details before going forward. Be aware of any penalties and work to pay the balance within the agreement period or earlier.
Keeping your mortgage payments manageable is vital to your financial health. As a mortgage is likely the largest debt you will have, a loss of control with your mortgage could impact other areas of your life. Following are some ways to maintain control of your mortgage and your finances.
Reduce the risk of your rates going up. Some loans have more risk than others. Variable interest or balloon loan can cause your monthly payments to rise or fall when market interest rates increase or decrease. Rates are still at historic lows and you might consider a fixed rate mortgage that will lock your rate at these levels. Also, if you haven’t refinanced recently you might ask Ball State Federal Credit Union to review your rate and see if they can find some savings.
Keep your mortgage payments below 35 percent of your take home pay. Some financial advisors recommend bringing the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio lower. People who let their mortgage consume 40 or 50 percent may find themselves unable to pay health insurance, utilities, phone bills, car payments. These people may feel vulnerable in the face of a personal or family emergency. Ways to reduce your DTI include increasing your monthly payments to lower your overall debt more rapidly, budgeting so you increase your savings, avoiding unnecessary large purchases, take an extra job or work extra hours to bring in more income, and tracking your ratio frequently to motivate you.
Write a financial plan and budget monthly. Having a financial plan and goals will go a long way toward helping you pay down your mortgage, keeping your personal or family finances under control, and investing wisely. It can be difficult at first to follow a plan and budget but taking control of your spending will put you on track toward achieving your goals. Daniel Stallings, a licensed independent financial adviser at Ball State Federal Credit Union, can work with you to avoid pitfalls and invest in your future.
When an individual is in the position to open a checking or savings account, there are two types of financial institutions from which to choose. Most people would likely think a bank is the obvious choice. Before making a decision the individual should compare the similarities and differences between a bank and a credit union, sometimes referred to as a banking cooperative.
The most important difference to consider is who benefits most if the financial institution is profitable. When someone opens an account at a credit union they are automatically a member. They share in any profits with the availability of lower fees and interest charged on loans, and higher interest earned on their deposits. On the other hand, if the same person opens an account at a commercial bank, any profits realized by the bank are passed along to their shareholders in the form of dividends.
While many credit unions do have branches in more than one city, they are typically more available to address the needs of their depositors. Banking cooperatives offer most of the same services that a commercial bank offers, but they are able to serve their customers on a more personal level due to a relatively smaller size. A credit union is likely to be more concerned with local issues than a commercial bank because most of their members live within the community. Credit union members are offered the opportunity to vote for the directors of the union, and are even eligible to seek election to the board themselves.
The advantages of joining a credit union rather than using a bank for your financial needs are many, but the fact that members have a voice in the operation of the institution is a powerful deciding factor.
Your monthly budget, finances and online banking resources are all taken into account when choosing to open a Credit Card or Visa Check Card. There are features that you will find useful on each product. Understand the differences and you can become empowered with when one or both cards may be useful given your need and usage parameters.
Understanding the Products
Monthly budgeting, financing, balancing and online banking resources can all be done using an ATM Credit Card. There are several features of the BSFCU’s Credit Card. A BSFCU Credit Card offers significantly lower rates and fees compared to those incurred from a typical bank credit card. It also provides the ability for customers to charge practically anywhere in the world.
You will find two options to choose from on the credit card when applying. Platinum option 1 offers a 9.9% APR while Platinum option 2 offers an 11.9% APR along with a points program. Both card options have around the clock online credit card account access, no annual fees, a 25-day grace period, and the same structure for fees.
Visa Check Card
BSFCU’s Check Card product is accepted like a check without writing a check. The money is taken out of the checking account, and there are no additional or annual fees.
The Check Card allows you to experience the convenience of a credit card, while only allowing you the ability to pay with dollars you have placed in your checking account.
Things to Remember
Benefits of the Credit Card
•Being a part of the By choosing the Members Choice reward program (also known as the points program) you will earn points every time the card is used, eventually providing a choice of cash back or gift cards.
•Offers low rates.
•Doesn’t charge annual fees like you might incur from a traditional bank card as a result of high card usage.
Benefits of Visa Check Card
•You don’t have to write a check.
•There are no fees.
•Provides access to your checking account at any Visa merchant.
Both BSFCU Visa Check Card and Credit Card can be used to help manage your family’s monthly budget, finances and online banking resources. Connect with us today!
College is expensive, and whether you consider it an investment in the future or a necessary expense, saving for college early will help keep the impact of its cost to a minimum. Saving now for your child’s education will also help ensure the money for tuition is there without having to rely on outside resources like scholarships and loans. Basic financial resources are available for anyone who wants to set money aside for college, or any other use.
A simple resource for money saving is using savings accounts. BSFCU recommends utilizing a combination of a basic savings account, and perhaps an all-purpose Club 9 account. You can deposit money at any time into an account and know that the interest rate is growing your money to help you get ready for your child’s college education.
Another option when saving for college is buying a CD (Certificate of Deposit) and reinvesting the interest it earns. The interest will be higher than a traditional savings account, which will help you increase savings more quickly. Just remember that when you increase the interest rate you earn by purchasing the CD you are agreeing to keep the money in the account for a specified amount of time.
Your best option for identifying a college savings strategy is to talk to a representative at BSFCU. He or she will be able to help match your needs with what’s available at the credit union to ensure you have enough savings for your child’s post high school education.
It’s true that college is a large expense; however, by utilizing your financial resources, you can make sure that you’re prepared for the investment in your child’s future.
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Buying your first home is a major turning point in your life. There are many real benefits to be gained by becoming a homeowner, but there are also many challenges. Take the time to do some research before you meet with realtors, and begin house shopping. Being well prepared will take a lot of the stress and worry out of the home buying process.
Before you look at your dream house, you need to look a little closer to home. Getting a mortgage in today’s credit environment requires being firmly in control of your finances. Check your credit history and take an honest look at your income and expenses. The last thing you want to do is buy your first home, and then discover that you really can’t afford it!
Consider drafting a financial statement and list all of your personal obligations like auto loans, credit card balances, financing arrangements for your education, or commercial purchases like furniture. A qualified mortgage lender can use the information to help you get a loan that will fit your needs. Talk to one of our experts at Ball State Federal Credit Union and they will walk you through a pre-qualification process that will help you to know what price range a home will comfortably fit into your household budget!
It is also important that you understand how home buying and the financing elements work together. This is something that you learn in the process of pre-qualification. Understanding how the home buying and financing processes work, will make the process much more comfortable and satisfying in the end!
Owning your own home is a gratifying experience. It increases your wealth, bolsters your credit worthiness, and provides the satisfaction of being completely in control of your home. No lease clauses, no landlords, and no unexpected increases in rent. Learn what it will take to get into your first home; a qualified Ball State Federal Credit Union mortgage professional can get you started today.