Source: Balance Financial Guide
With the holiday season approaching, gift givers will be turning to gift cards as an easy, reliable gift. As you probably know, gift cards are debit cards with a prepaid balance. While they can be an easy way to make someone happy without having to guess taste or need, be aware that you could be paying a premium for the convenience if you don’t shop around first.
What they are
There are two basic varieties of gift cards:
So which type should you buy? If you want to make the most of your money, give a store card, since they tend to have no or very low fees. However, if you want the recipient to have maximum shopping flexibility, go for the general-purpose gift card. While they tend to be fee-heavy (which can erode the value of your giving dollars), the shopper isn’t limited to one specific store.
Of course if you are simply stumped over what to get someone, any gift card may be better than a random selection. They are easier to use than paper gift certificates, safer than cash, and more festive than a check. Just figure out how much you want to spend and choose a store or financial institution. All the recipient has to do is shop. In the case of the general-purpose card, the “giftee” can even take out cash at an ATM.
Another benefit is that they can be used as an effective tool to introduce the concept of credit to children and young adults. Since gift cards look and act much like credit cards, if you give one to a minor they will begin to become accustomed to using plastic. There will be no bill to pay at the end of the month, but there is a limit on how much they will be able to spend, so they can learn to be savvy consumers early.
One last advantage is that thanks to the Credit Card Act of 2009, the balance on a gift card cannot expire for at least five years from the date of purchase or last reload.
Both types of gift cards come with a few downsides but because general-purpose cards have more advantages, they also can come with more extensive fees. Be sure to weigh the costs and compare products before you buy one. The terms will be apparent on the application. Fees can include but are not limited to:
While many of the “General Purpose” cards do allow ATM access, the transaction fees can be steep. And if the card is used at an ATM not owned by the issuing financial institution, even more charges will be deducted. Service fees are another consideration. Want to speak to a customer service agent? There could be a fee for that too!
Gift cards can indeed be a great present. But before you buy, shop around for a card with the least amount of fees and restrictions. That way your dollars will stretch the furthest and your loved one will reap the most from your generosity.
When you talk to Jovan Harris you immediately know her top priority ... her beautiful family.
Jovan started working as a Procurement Specialist for MLGW in 2014 and that's when she learned how much LG&W Federal Credit Union could help her and her family and moved from a larger financial institution to the credit union.
"After evaluating banking opportunities," says Jovan, "LG&W Federal Credit Union proved to be the greatest help to me and my family. We take advantage of holiday loans and other low interest loans that make a difference for us."
Jovan also feels that LG&W Federal Credit Union's customer service could not be matched. "Being able to walk into a financial institution and the staff knows your name makes you feel more valued and respected," she said. "The loan officers and bank representatives are truly working on my behalf."
Since joining, Jovan has received holiday loans, a credit card, and other low interest loans from the credit union. "LG&W Federal Credit Union has shown the greatest help to me and my family."
What makes a new car the best new car for you?
With the incredible amount of data available, what specifically should you research? There are pricing and equipment options to consider, but what else should be of concern? Other important facts to discover include information about safety, quality and five-year cost of ownership. These ratings can help you achieve some needed peace-of-mind. Then, follow up by researching owner opinions and expert reviews.
There are two aspects of safety. One is called "passive safety," which concerns itself primarily with protection of the occupants in the event of a crash. For the most part, passive safety is the job of the car, although the occupants have the responsibility to use the seat belts. Features associated with passive safety include airbags, energy-absorbing crumple zones, seat-belt pretensioners, head-protection devices and the like. The other aspect is called "active safety," which concerns itself primarily with not having the crash in the first place. For the most part, active safety is the job of the driver, but certain important features on the car can help the driver avoid a crash. These features include such things as antilock brakes, traction control and stability control. For driving in bad weather or on slippery surfaces, all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive can also be considered as having a positive effect on active safety.
The relative importance of these features may vary based upon your driving style and where you drive. You can also check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Government 5-Star Safety ratings.These ratings will give you an idea of the relative performance levels of various cars and trucks in crashes, and an indication of how your prospective vehicle's safety features compare to those of others. In 2010, NHTSA will release updated, more rigorous safety standards and in 2011, NHTSA will begin promoting crash avoidance technologies as standard features as part of the new Government 5-Star Safety ratings. You can learn more about crash avoidance technologies on NHTSA's website.
An online analysis of how your favorite vehicles rate in quality can be a true eye-opener. Years ago, quality referred only to the absence of defects in a car. Now, research organizations, such as J.D. Power, have expanded their research analysis to cover positive aspects of new cars.
This valuable information is provided in the form of J.D. Power Circle Ratings. On the absence-of-defects side, sometimes described as "things gone wrong," you can find out how the car rates in mechanical, feature and accessory quality and the quality of the body and interior. For positive aspects of quality, known as "things gone right," you'll find ratings for performance, creature comforts and style. There's also a score for the dealership experience based on the J. D. Power "Customer Service Index."
Another way to gain confidence in your purchase is to spend some time reading what the experts have to say about your new vehicle. Reading the opinion of experts before the test drive serves many purposes: You can discover the strengths of the car's performance, see how the vehicle compares in its class and learn how the vehicle rides and performs on longer trips, or what it's like to drive around town.
The opinion of owners is also a valuable resource. With this tool you can discover how owners rate their new cars. A visit to the consumer review section of each vehicle pricing report on kbb.com will give you access to personal ratings and comments. After you purchase your car, you can submit a review of your own to help others make informed decisions.
Finally, don't forget to run a side-by-side comparison of the vehicles you are considering and you will get another level of insight. Seeing horsepower, mileage, seating capacity, headroom, legroom and other specifications side-by-side helps you quickly identify which vehicles meet your specific needs.
It seems like credit card fraud is everywhere these days. The good news is that there are some simple things you can do to make you less vulnerable. Here are a few tips on how to avoid becoming the victim of credit card fraud:
Periodically review your credit reports. There are three main credit bureaus. Order your credit report from each of them at least once a year. Request copies of your credit report from TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. You can also obtain a free copy of your credit report.
Properly discard documents. Cut up, shred, or otherwise destroy credit card statements, bank statements, pre-approved credit offers or any other documents that contain your personal information. Destroy credit card receipts, too.
Limit identification pieces. Carry only essential identification pieces in your purse, wallet, backpack or car. Do not carry your Social Security card or your birth certificate with you unless absolutely necessary.
Limit the number of credit cards you carry. Try to only carry one or two.
Memorize your PIN and password numbers. Do not write them down.
Make and keep copies of account numbers in a secure place.
Guard your personal information. Don’t give out credit card or Social Security numbers to people you don’t know. Do not have your Social Security number printed on your checks or driver’s license
There’s no greater gift for a parent than spending time with family. This Father's Day, take dear ol' Dad on an adventure with you that he'll never forget! We have some ideas on how to spend a memorable weekend exploring with Dad over Father's Day or any day!
For the camper ...
Luckily Memphis is near some spectacular campgrounds for RV or tent camping. Some of our top picks go to:
Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park. This park is the most visited state park in Tennessee and is a quick 20 minutes from Downtown Memphis! Bordered by the Mississippi River and containing 2 lakes, campers can do it all - hike, fish, bike, swim and visit the Meeman Museum and Nature Center.
Chickasaw State Park. Located 80 miles west of Memphis in Henderson, TN, this beautiful campground is a noted bird watching site, but if Dad isn't into birds, there's horseback riding, gorgeous lakes for fishing, a golf course, and all kinds of programming and events all year. The park is undergoing renovations so expect an even better camping experience coming soon.
Natchez Trace State Park. If Dad's a hiker, this park has hiking trails ranging from a one-half mile up to 4.5 miles, and a 40-mile overnight trail. The trails wind through the forest and fields and along the lakeshores and streams of the gorgeous Natchez Park. As an added bonus, there are plenty of historical sites to stop by along the journey there.
For the boater ...
Pickwick Lake. A local favorite, this is the perfect lake if you want to socialize with other boaters and enjoy its landmarks. At about 2 1/2 hours away from Memphis, Pickwick is the perfect getaway to take the family for the weekend and holidays. There are great local restaurants and the convenience of lots ofmarinas to store your boat. If you’re looking for smooth water to wakeboard, ski, or wakesurf, the Tombigbee waterway is the spot to find smooth water at all times.
Sardis Lake, MS: Sardis is located about an hour away from Memphis making it one of the hot spots for the summer. The lake was built for flood water control purposes, but not many of the 5 million people that visit each year know this. The lake has and abundance of bass and is great for watersports and camping.
Greers Ferry, AR: At just over 3 hours, this beautiful, clear-water lake is worth the extra effort to get there. During the summer, the lake turns into a mecca for boaters and fishermen. The cool, clear waters and awesome mountainous scenery make for a great weekend out on the water.
For the ATVer ...
While off-road vehicles aren't allowed in Tennessee state parks, there are nearby privately owned options for those who like a 4-wheeled thrill ride.
Coon Creek Off-Road Park. Located in Dyersburg, about an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Memphis, hills and ravines cover more than 450 acres for lots of action-packed riding. Admission is $10 per day per person.
Sugar Creek Trails. Just outside Millington, this 300-acre trail park has a motocross track, drag strip, mud bog, several trails and a creek. Riders may even camp at the site that is practice grounds for professional motocross team The Sugar Creek Boyz. Admission is $10 per ATV.
The Wilderness Trails. DeSoto County riders looking for riding opportunities to the south can turn to The Wilderness Trails in Starkville. Covering 150 acres, the park includes nearly 10 miles of trails and an open riding area for riders of all skill levels. Admission is $15 per day, $35 monthly or $250 per year.y
Phishing is a form of fraud in which the attacker tries to gain information such as login credentials or account information by masquerading as a reputable entity or person in email, website or other communication channels.
Typically a victim receives a message that appears to have been sent by a known contact or organization. An attachment or links in the message may install a virus on the user’s device or direct them to a malicious website set up to trick them into divulging personal and financial information, such as passwords, social security numbers, account IDs or credit card details.
SAFETY TIPS TO AVOID PHISHING
Delete email and text messages that ask you to confirm or provide personal information (credit card and bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, passwords, etc.). Legitimate companies don’t ask for this information via email or text.
The messages may appear to be from organizations you do business with – banks, for example. They might threaten to close your account or take other action if you don’t respond.
Don’t reply, and don’t click on links or call phone numbers provided in the message, either. These messages direct you to spoof sites – sites that look real but whose purpose is to steal your information so a scammer can run up bills or commit crimes in your name.
Area codes can mislead, too. Some scammers ask you to call a phone number to update your account or access a “refund.” But a local area code doesn’t guarantee that the caller is local.
If you’re concerned about your account or need to reach an organization you do business with, call the number on your financial statements or on the back of your credit card.
Studies show that a high percentage of consumer credit reports contain errors so serious that those individuals could be denied credit.
What are the common errors?
1) Misspelled names
2) Wrong Social Security numbers
3) Inaccurate birth dates
4) Inaccurate information about a spouse
5) Out-of-date address
6) “Closed” accounts listed as “open”
7) The same mortgage or loan listed twice
8) Absence of major credit, loan, mortgage, or other accounts that could be used to demonstrate creditworthiness
These errors may end up costing you big money and more. Lenders use credit reports to determine the interest rates on loans; the more creditworthy you appear on paper, the lower the rate you pay. Many people are surprised to learn that a potential employer turned them down for a job because of negative information on their credit report. Federal law, however, requires that the employer get your permission before pulling your report.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the “big three” credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—to provide you with one free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every
12 months. Go to annualcreditreport.com to request your reports.
Saving money is one of the most important aspects of building wealth and having a secure financial foundation. There are ways to empower the next generation with sound financial advice, and that starts by teaching children the importance of saving from a young age. If you are a parent, here are 5 ways to teach your children about saving money.
START WITH AN ALLOWANCE. Giving a child an allowance, even a small one, empowers them to start making choices about the money that they earn. Make them understand that receiving an allowance is their opportunity to save up for things they want. Consider giving your children weekly or monthly allowances starting as young as kindergarten.
USE SAVINGS JAR. When your kids really want a new toy or trendy clothes, let them know they will have to save up for it. Give them a jar for each of their desired purchases and allot their allowance in a denomination that encourages savings. For example, if you give your child five dollars a week, give it to them in one dollar bills. They can save all their cash for one purchase, or they can contribute to different “jars” for various savings goals.
CREATE A TIMELINE. Create a timeline so that your child can visualize when they will reach their goal. Let’s say you give them five dollars a week and they want to save up fifty dollars. If they saved one hundred percent of their allowance, they’d reach their goal in ten weeks, or roughly three months. Having a chart that they can mark off as they get close to their goals will help them understand how long it takes to save up for special purchases.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE. Children learn by example, so the best way to teach your child about saving money is to save money yourself. Have your own jar of money that you put funds in regularly. When you’re out shopping, show your children how to discern between various prices and explain why buying one item makes better sense than another.
TALK ABOUT IT. One of the most important things you can do is to have open conversations about money and the importance of saving. Money doesn’t have to be scary or a taboo. An innocent question such as “Are we rich?” can be answered in a way that emphasizes family values, such as hard work and responsible spending.
Our BALANCE Financial Guide is dedicated to helping you balance life’s important decisions.