Are You Still Paying For Christmas?

Note with words pay off debt concept.We have a question.

Are you still paying for Christmas?

If you’re like millions of Americans, the answer is yes – you are still paying for the joy and excitement of this last Christmas morning and maybe even a few before it.  Allowing credit card debt to add up is a common mistake and, sadly, reducing debt is always a lot harder than allowing it to accumulate.

If you want to pay off your credit card but aren’t sure where to start, we have some basic steps to get you on the right track.

  1. Face reality – How much do you really owe? Do you have one credit card? More than one? Add up those balances and keep that total in mind.
  2. Make a budget – No one enjoys the ‘B’ word but a budget or a spending plan is the most effective way to get your financial house in order. Not sure how to budget? We wrote this guide a few years ago.
  3. Study up to lower expenses – Study your budget and consider how you spend your money. Are you living within your means? Are you spending too much on impulse shopping or on weekend entertainment? Are there big ticket items like car insurance that you could save on with a little comparison shopping? Save money where you can and apply the savings to your debt. Click here to read about saving money even when you think there’s nowhere to cut. 
  4. Be timely – Each time your credit card payment is late, you face a late charge. Pay at least the minimum payment on time to avoid those charges.
  5. Pay extra – With online payments, it’s easy to make an extra credit card payment. So if you have a windfall –some unexpected overtime, a tax refund or some garage sale earnings – make an extra payment.
  6. Stop adding more debt – This should go without saying but you’ll never pay off that card if you keep adding to the balance. If you must use it, be sure not to charge more than you can pay off that month.
  7. Stay motivated – Staying focused on a budget and debt payoff is hard work. Look for inspiration anywhere you can find it. Hang a debt payoff thermometer on the fridge, read success stories on Pinterest or talk to like-minded friends who are also focused on financial goals. Another great motivation tool? Dream about how good it will feel to not have credit card debt hanging over your head.

 

VCNB Tools That Save You Time

Do you ever look at the clock and wonder where the time went? Do you ever look at your bills and wish you didn’t have to spend so much time paying them? Do you ever wish you could cut a couple of errands out of your week? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to keep reading.

Since it feels like time is moving faster every day, here at VCNB we work hard to give you tools that will help minimize your banking chores and free up time for things you really want to do. Here are a few ways you can manage your time better through easy banking with VCNB Mobile and VCNBfamily.com.

Direct Deposit
With direct deposit, your paycheck is automatically deposited into the account of your choice. No need to pick up your check at work and make a trip to the bank.  Need cash? Grab cash back at the register or at an ATM. Not near a VCNB ATM? No problem! Now VCNB customers can use MoneyPass, an ATM network that gives customers access to over 32,000 surcharge free ATMs across the country. Click here to visit MoneyPass and find an ATM near you! 

Mobile Deposit
Deposit a check using the bank’s app, VCNB Mobile, and the camera on your mobile device! Intrigued?  Learn more here! 

Online Bill Pay
Online Bill Pay is a hassle free way to manage your monthly bills. You can use it to pay a single bill or you can set up auto pay for a number of bills. You choose the date the bill is paid and the amount you pay and let us take over from there! It also allows you to receive your bills electronically and set up payment reminders to ensure your bills are paid on time.  No stamps or checks required! This is a free service as long as you use it at least once every month but there is a $3 monthly charge for months that you do not use the service.

Auto transfers
Trying to save money for your child’s education or a family vacation? If you have a hard time remembering to save, set up automatic transfers! You choose the amount you save, the account the funds come from, where it goes and when the transfer takes place. Best of all, you can change any of this at any time.

Mobile app
With VCNB Mobile, you’re essentially carrying a banker in your pocket 24 hours a day. Use the app to set up those automatic transfers, to pay bills, view balances, review transactions, deposit checks and more!  Search for VCNB Mobile in the app store on your device. Now you can change your password in the app and can even set it up to log in using Touch ID.

Mobile Payment Options
VCNB offers Google Pay, Apple Pay® and Samsung Pay, allowing customers a secure, easy way to pay on the go with their VCNB debit or credit card. Learn more here! 

Finding Money To Save (Even When You Think You Can’t)

expenses cut.jpgIt’s that time of year when we all resolve to put a lid on our spending and save more money. The internet is full of articles like “Five Ways To Save $1,000 This Year” and advice for folks to save $30 just by cutting back to eating out just three days a week.

But what if you don’t eat out every day and you’re sure there’s not hundreds of dollars in savings to be found in your budget? We don’t claim to have all the answers in this one little story but we do have some things for you to think about and maybe kickstart your way to savings this year.

Think About Your Spending
We all spend money on things we don’t need and sometimes on things we don’t really want. The first thing you need to do is study how you’re using your money. Do this however you like. An easy way is to save your receipts and keep a slip of paper to jot down every time you drop a few bucks in the work vending machine because you’re craving Diet Coke and Peanut M&Ms. Then study your habits and think about ways to cut costs or change behaviors. If you’re buying candy and drinks every day, it might be smart to bring a snack from home.  This is an easy behavior change that could save several dollars a week.

Once you know what you’re spending money on, ask yourself some questions. What are you buying that you don’t need or that you buy out of habit? Are you actually using what you buy? Is it truly a need or a want disguised as a need?

When our bankers visit third graders to talk about spending and saving money, they typically understand the difference between a need and a want. For example, you need shoes but you want Nikes. However, when we talk to teens, we find they think they need Nikes and that no other shoes will do. What do you truly need?

Food is a major money leak for many American households as so much of what we buy spoils before we use it. If you find yourself throwing away most of the celery every week, it might be time to ask yourself if you’re buying celery because you like it or because you always buy it (or because it just looks good in the cart).

Plan, Plan, Plan
Planning is half the battle when it comes to spending and saving. How many times have you gone to the store and couldn’t remember what you need to buy so you just buy a bunch of stuff that sounds good? Whether it’s school clothes, groceries or holiday shopping, make that list and stick to it.

Also, be sure to research your purchases ahead of time. Find out what’s right for you, what’s most economical and what’s most likely to last so you’re not buying a replacement next year.

Planning a purchase also may involve delaying a purchase. In this world that delivers up to the second news and overnight packages from across the country, delayed gratification is becoming a lost art. Do your research and think about how badly you really want or need what you wish to buy. How many hours must you work to pay for it? This question alone may impact your views.  Sleep on it and revisit the purchase later. You may find you were more excited about buying something new than you were about the thing itself.

Don’t Overlook The Big Stuff
You need homeowners insurance but when was the last time you read your policy or comparison shopped? You need a car but can you afford your car when you consider the cost of insurance, maintenance and monthly payments? You need a place to live but could you downsize or find a more affordable neighborhood?

These changes may seem drastic but if you’re serious about saving money, the effort could be worthwhile.

Once you’ve found ways to plug those money leaks, both big and small, be sure to actually have a plan in place to save that money and make sure your budget reflects any changes in spending. If you are saving $50 a month on your insurance, why not set up an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings account?

Saving money isn’t always about the obvious advice to avoid the expensive cup of coffee. It also involves some thinking, research, planning and maybe even a little soul searching to figure out what’s best for you and your finances.

Do you have tips to share? How are your savings efforts working out in this new year? Tell us about it in the comments below!

VCNB Introduces New Business Checking Experience

JCBC Billboard - Not Your Average (BUSINESS CHECKING) - (Jackson Digital)

Here at VCNB we have been serving businesses both big and small since 1867. That experience has taught us a thing or two about business customers and their needs. For one thing, we understand that every business is unique and that literally no two are alike. We also believe that there’s no such thing as an average business customer and that our customers shouldn’t have to settle for an average business checking account.

That’s why we have developed a new kind of business checking experience with Business Rewards Checking and Business Rewards Checking Plus. Both accounts allow you to earn UChoose Reward® Points for purchases made with a registered debit card and for other types of banking habits. These reward points can be redeemed for cash back to your checking account.

A number of features come free with both accounts including Business Mobile Banking and Bill Pay, Basic Business Online Banking, Account Alerts, Electronic Statements, Telebanc Services, Charge Orders, Sage Payroll Services powered by Paychoice®, Merchant Services and Lock Box Services.

Earning rewards is easy with these accounts! For example, earn one point for every $3 spent with your Business Debit Card. Earn 200 points for 21 or more purchases per cycle as well.  Also earn one point for every dollar spent with a VCNB Business Visa® Platinum credit card. One time sign up bonuses are offered for a number of products including Positive Pay, Remote Deposit Capture and Sage Payroll Services Powered by Paychoice.

And now for a limited time, open a Business Rewards Checking Account or Business Rewards Plus Checking Account and earn 10,000 bonus points. Open a Visa Business credit card and earn an additional 10,000 points. Offer ends 12/31/2018.

Want to learn more about these new business accounts, a VCNB Business Visa Platinum credit card or about this limited time special offer? Click here for information. 

View full terms and conditions here.

 

Kids and Money: Seven Tips

As community bankers we frequently visit classrooms to talk about banking and money management.

For the little kids we focus on the difference between needs and wants and on the importance of saving money. For the teens we talk about more complex topics like how banks and credit works. We talk to them about what happens when you borrow money, why everyone needs a checking account and what credit scores mean.

We do this because we believe financial education is important and we are happy to provide this service to youngsters and young adults in our communities. However, we hope that parents will spend some time educating their kids about these topics as well. Here are seven tips to get you started.

Teach them about saving. Whether it’s a piggy bank, a clear glass jar or a passbook savings account, teach your kids to save money and to be excited about seeing it grow. Talk to them about how saving money means they’ll have funds for something they really want or need in the future.

Talk about the difference between needs and wants.   This is a lesson that a lot of adults could use as well. In talking to third graders with our Teach Kids To Save program, we find that they have an excellent grasp on what they need and what they want. They need a pair of shoes. They want the kind that light up when they walk. By the time they’re in high school, we find it’s often harder to get them to admit they don’t need the latest iPhone.

Talk about the cost of things. As you’re grocery shopping or making decisions about purchases, initiate a conversation about why you are buying the off brand canned goods or how buying in bulk saves money in the long run. Help them understand that even the small purchases call for decision making.

Give them a chance to earn money – Whether to give allowance or pay for chores is a personal decision each family must make. We will say that there is wisdom in providing kids with the opportunity to manage money they had to earn. Modest pay for chores or allowance gives them the chance to learn about responsible spending and saving. If you have teenagers, encourage them to take on a part time job or to do odd jobs in the neighborhood.

Help them open a Student Checking Account. They will need one eventually and learning to manage an account now will help them later in life. Click here to learn more about how Student Checking at VCNB works.

Discuss Debt. This is a good subject for everyone but especially for teens who have their eye on car ownership. Talk to them about things they might need to borrow money for – like a car, college education and house – and about saving money for a down payment. Also talk about how to manage a credit card responsibly and why they should avoid charging more than they can pay off in a month.

Talk savings. Teach them about the three most important kinds of savings for adults: personal, emergency and retirement. While retirement savings may not seem like a priority to a teenager, it will be important in a few years once they’re starting out in their career.

Your kids are going to learn about money from someone. Wouldn’t it be better coming from you?

Get Smart About Credit

The American Bankers Association sponsors a program called Get Smart About Credit. We take this program into several local high schools throughout the school year, hoping to educate young people about how credit affects all aspects of their life.

Since October 18 is Get Smart About Credit Day we thought it would be a good idea to provide a crash course in credit for our readers by debunking some common myths.

MYTH #1 – I don’t use credit cards so I don’t need a credit score.
Your credit score is enormously important to your financial health and impacts more than just your ability to get a credit card. In fact, your credit rating affects many aspects of your life that you may not consider. Your ability to get a job, to insure a home, to borrow money and to get a cell phone contract are impacted by your credit score. With a mediocre or poor credit score, a consumer may be able to borrow money but may only qualify for a higher interest rate than a consumer with good credit.

MYTH #2 – Credit is tied to how much money I have.
Credit has nothing to do with how much money you have in the bank. A consumer who earns $35,000 a year has the same ability to earn an excellent credit rating as someone who earns $350,000. It’s not about how much wealth you have but it is about how you manage your credit usage.

MYTH #3 – Debit cards will help my credit
A debit card is attached to your checking account. That means you are simply accessing your own funds rather than borrowing money like you would with a credit card. Using a debit card will not improve your credit score.

MYTH #4 – Closing a credit card will help my score.
Closing an unused credit card will not help your score. In fact, it could actually hurt your credit score because closing a credit card lowers your total available credit. Since credit utilization and the debt-to-credit ratio are big factors in your credit score, lowering your available credit is detrimental to your credit health. In other words, it reflects more favorably on a credit report to use $500 worth of $3,000 in available credit than to use $500 of $1,000 in available credit.

MYTH #5 – Once a credit score is bad, it cannot be rebuilt
Fortunately, credit can be rebuilt over time. A credit report is really just credit history. It keeps a record of all credit opened in a consumer’s name and whether each item is closed, active or inactive. Rebuilding credit isn’t always easy but it can be done with easy tasks like paying bills on time and playing close attention to the amount of debt carried each month.

What questions do you have about credit? Tell us in the comments!

Free Credit Freezes: Time to Rethink Your Protection?

The days of paying to protect your credit files are coming to an end.

Credit freezes and unfreezes with the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — will be free for everyone by federal law starting Sept. 21. Fraud alerts, which always have been free, will be extended from 90 days to a year. Credit locks, a product promoted by the credit bureaus, will continue to be free at two bureaus and offered as part of bundled services at a third.

How will these changes affect which you should pick? Consumer advocates continue to recommend freezes, and not having to pay to freeze or thaw credit makes the case even more compelling. But some people instead may want locks for the convenience; they can be done using the credit bureaus’ smartphone apps.

At the very least, everyone should set up fraud alerts, which require businesses to take reasonable steps to ensure that a person applying for credit in your name is actually you.

If you want to block access

Credit freezes offer the strongest protection against an unauthorized person opening an account or getting credit in your name.

Credit locks, which the bureaus voluntarily offer, do much the same thing as freezes: They make your credit records off-limits to potential lenders and credit card issuers.

Here’s a breakdown:

Credit freezes are:

  • Mandated by federal law to be made available.
  • Free from each credit bureau, without special conditions.
  • Placed and lifted online or by phone, requiring a PIN to change status (taking minutes).
  • Potentially time-consuming; if you lose your PIN, you may have to request a new one via U.S. mail.

Credit locks are:

  • Offered voluntarily by each credit bureau.
  • Offered free from Equifax; offered free with an agreement to receive marketing emails from TransUnion; and offered for a fee as part of a monthly monitoring service by Experian.
  • Placed and lifted with an app (taking seconds).
  • Relatively quick and easy to regain access to if you forget a password.

Another issue is legal rights, depending on the credit bureau and what service you use.

With credit locks at Experian and TransUnion, you give up the right to sue the companies in class-action lawsuits. Freezes and Equifax’s lock don’t require you to sign such a waiver.

What the experts choose

So which is better? Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center, says it’s the freeze, hands-down.

“A freeze is something that is now mandated by federal law,” she says, “whereas the lock is a voluntary feature, and so if something goes wrong … there’s really not much recourse, except for maybe contract law.”

Her credit reports are frozen.

But credit expert John Ulzheimer made a split decision. At Equifax, “the practical difference between a lock and a freeze is negligible in my eyes,” he says. He chose the lock because it’s more convenient.

He froze his accounts at the other two bureaus because he was unwilling to pay for a lock or to accept marketing emails in exchange for a free lock.

Fraud alerts: added security

Both Wu and Ulzheimer say no one should be without at least a fraud alert.

“There’s really nothing wrong with obligating a bank to at least call you and say, ‘Hey, John, are you really the one who is standing in front of a finance manager at a car dealership trying to get an auto loan right now?’ I think that’s just smart credit management,” Ulzheimer said.

Ulzheimer has fraud alerts in addition to his freezes and lock. “People tell me it’s redundant, like putting a safe inside of a safe,” he says, but he likes having the extra protection.

More From NerdWallet

Bev O’Shea is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: boshea@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea. The article Free Credit Freezes: Time to Rethink Your Protection? originally appeared on NerdWallet.

 

Banking Has Changed, But Criminals Haven’t — Here’s How To Protect Your Money

This year marks a decade since the global financial crisis. Although the biggest financial institutions still dominate the landscape, banking has undergone some changes. The proliferation of smartphones means mobile banking now plays a significant role in how we manage our money. A 2016 Fed survey found that over half of smartphone users with bank accounts used their devices to access their money.

What hasn’t changed since 2008? Con artists.

» 10 years after the Great Recession: Tips and advice to prepare for bad times and to prosper — any time

Ten years ago, identity theft was the No. 1 complaint logged by the Federal Trade Commission. Today, the number of complaints is 20% higher than in 2008. The research-based advisory firm Javelin Strategy & Research identified a record high of nearly 17 million victims of identity fraud last year. And many of today’s fraud and identity theft breaches involve mobile devices. The rise of mobile banking in the past decade means it’s easier and more convenient to keep up with your bank accounts, but it could also make it easier to be scammed.

Financial institutions invest in technology and cybersecurity expertise to fight back, but your bank or credit union needs your help. Here are ways hackers try to access your bank information and how you can avoid swiping your money into a criminal’s trap.

How hackers work

Phishing. This happens when hackers use websites, emails or other means of contact to trick customers into submitting personal information. The practice isn’t new, but it has gotten more sophisticated.

“Ten years ago, phishing was rudimentary. Fake sites were not authentic looking. There were a lot of typos,” says Adam Levin, founder of Cyberscout, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based cybersecurity company. “Now, the criminals have gotten much more sophisticated and the sites look real.”

According to the not-for-profit Anti-Phishing Working Group, phishing attacks increased by a whopping 5,700% over the 12 years ended in 2016, and the latest data suggest attacks continue to increase.

Keylogger software. These programs may install on phones via apps that aren’t secure, such as one that’s not from your device’s approved app store. The software records keystrokes, such as when you enter a bank username or password on a website, then sends a record of what was typed to the hacker.

How to protect your accounts

Ask your bank or credit union about security. The safest banks for consumers use the latest cybersecurity protocols to protect your accounts from breaches and large-scale identity theft. “You’ll want to make sure your bank is up to par,” Levin says. If not, it may be time to switch to another institution. Make sure your bank provides the following — and use these services:

  • Two-factor authentication.When you attempt to log on to your bank’s secure online webpage, the bank or credit union will contact you through some other means — by sending a text, for example — to ask you to confirm the login request. Not every bank has two-factor authentication. But if you choose one that does, your accounts have an extra layer of protection, says Neal Stern, CPA and member of the American Institute of CPAs’ National Financial Literacy Commission.
  • Transaction alerts.Sign up for these alerts, which are generally text or email messages your bank sends to your mobile device when large purchases are made on your account or if your balance drops below a certain amount. (For a deeper look at transaction alerts, here are five mobile banking alerts that help fight fraud.)
  • Fraud monitoring.Many banks monitor transactions to detect unusual spending patterns. The bank might send you a confirmation text if it detects an odd purchase attempt, such as an online purchase worth thousands of dollars from a vendor you’ve never used before. You would have to reply before approval of the transaction.

Keep mobile device software up to date. Your device provider likely sends periodic updates. Some of them may help stop the latest hacker attempts, so it’s important to install updates.

Have a rock solid sign-on. When it comes to logging on to your bank’s website, use “long and strong passwords” that are hard to guess, Levin says. That way, even if you lose your phone, the next person who picks it up won’t be able to figure out how to log in to your bank accounts. In addition, lock your mobile device screen and use a different password to unlock it. (Read more about how to create passwords that are hard on others but easy on you.)

Be careful with other contacts. Fraudsters may try to trick a customer by calling and saying an account has been compromised, then asking for sensitive information, such as a password or Social Security number, to confirm their identity.

“Why would you need to authenticate yourself to someone who contacts you?” Levin says. If you’re unsure about whether a call is legit, hang up and try to reach the bank or credit union at a number you’re familiar with.

Today, customers can deposit checks, transfer money between accounts and pay bills from the convenience of their smartphones. But with convenience comes risk. Take steps to eliminate the risk of identity theft by partnering with your financial institution to protect your hard-earned money.

Margarette Burnette is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: mburnette@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @Margarette. The article Banking Has Changed, but Criminals Haven’t — Here’s How to Protect Your Money originally appeared on NerdWallet.

 

What Is An HSA?

Healthcare image.jpegAs you’re navigating the world of health insurance you likely have encountered the term HSA. Do you know what HSA means?

HSA stands for Health Savings Account and this is an easy way for folks who have high deductible insurance to save for medical expenses and to reduce their taxable income.   If you are enrolled in a high-deductible insurance plan as defined by the government, you can qualify for an HSA. This year, to be eligible for an HSA, you must have an annual deductible of at least $1,350 for an individual and $2,700 for a family. This is set by the federal government and is subject to change in future years.

Each year you will decide how much to contribute to your HSA account although your annual contribution cannot exceed government mandated maximums. For 2018, the contribution limit for an individual is $3,450 and the contribution limit for a family is $6,900. Adults over 55 can add up to $1,000 more.

These contributions are tax deductible and the distributions are tax free when used for qualified medical expenses.

At VCNB, you will receive a debit card and a monthly statement with check images. Your first order of checks will be free and you will have unlimited checking writing. There is an initial $25 set up fee for the account. This fee will be waived for customers who present this coupon.

There is also a $3 monthly fee which will be waived for customers who select eStatements.

Want to learn more or open an HSA online? Click here and look under the Savings Accounts tab.

You can also seek more information or open an HSA in any of our seventeen locations.