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Valentine’s Day on a Budget: How to Find Love & Laughs for Less

When it comes to the topic of Valentine’s Day, public opinion seems to be split. Some people love everything about it. Hearts, roses, candy, flowers, Cupid—you name it, they’re here for it! On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find Valentine Scrooges who consider February 14th a day like any other. They’re convinced the celebration and fanfare are nothing more than Hallmark-sponsored money grabs. To be fair, these positions are extreme.

If you’re like most people, you probably enjoy spending the romantic holiday with your special someone, but you prefer to celebrate without spending a ton of money. Good for you. There’s nothing more attractive than someone who plans a financially responsible Valentine’s date. OK, maybe a few things—but you get the point. If you’re looking to create an inexpensive, fun-loving Valentine’s experience you’ll remember for years to come, we have a few suggestions you might enjoy.

  • Dress up and dine in.
    At first, this suggestion may seem like complete nonsense. Why would you go through the trouble of getting dressed up if you’re not going out in public? Because there’s a strange, yet undeniable appeal to doing something that doesn’t make sense to anyone else, that’s why. So, go ahead—go big. Glam it up. Suit and tie. Gown and heels. The more overdressed, the better. Whether you cook for yourself or order your favorite takeout, the food choice isn’t nearly as important as the fact that you’re both ridiculously overdressed for the occasion. And that’s the point.
  • Dress down and hit the town.
    Like the previous idea, this one involves an unexpected combination of date attire and meal selection—but with a completely different twist. Before the big date, you and your date head to the nearest thrift store (you can shop together or separately) and buy a complete outfit for the other person, spending no more than $10 in the process. The clothing selections can be as tacky and outrageous as you please—the tackier, the better. The only catch is that you both have to wear the outfits to dinner at a nice restaurant, no questions asked. If you play this one right, not only will you save money and enjoy your date, everyone around you will probably get a kick out of it as well.
  • Dollar store gift challenge.
    You and your date can play this one a couple of different ways. The first approach involves heading to the closest dollar store and seeing who can find the single best/craziest/funniest/most ridiculous gift for the other person. The second option involves setting a spending limit and seeing who can rack up the most entertaining gift collection. (No need to go above $10. After all, it’s still a dollar store.) For a little additional fun, take some selfies with your newfound treasures, and share your pics on social media using the hashtag #DollarStoreScore. After your adventure, head out and grab some dessert. Since you did your Valentine shopping at the dollar store, you’ll have plenty left to cover a sweet treat or two.

 

Whether you use the tips above or come up with a clever idea of your own, being smart about your Valentine’s spending goes a long way towards ensuring your day is filled fun-loving memories instead of expensive mistakes. And when you’re wondering what to do with all your savings, don’t forget to stop by and see us – We’re happy to help you find ways to make that money work for you. And let’s be honest, long-term financial stability is sweeter than a $10 box of chocolates could ever be!

Throw a Super Bowl Party That Doesn’t Break the Bank!

Now that Christmas and New Years are behind us, it’s time to plan for the next big holiday. That’s right—Super Bowl Sunday is just around the corner! As the NFL’s top two teams prepare to battle at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the festivities leading up to the game will clearly show that the NFL has spared no expense in trying to make Super Bowl LIII the greatest championship game in history. When it comes to planning your Super Bowl party, we suggest taking a different—and slightly more sensible—financial approach.

8 ways to throw a budget-friendly Super Bowl party

If you’re looking for some ways to host a Super Bowl party that’s as frugal as it is fun-filled, here are a few of our favorite suggestions.

  1. Start with a financial game plan.  Sounds better than “make a budget,” doesn’t it? Since Super Bowl parties are all about football, it makes sense to prepare like a coach. Setting a spending limit before you shop will help you stiff-arm the creative displays and impulse items at the grocery store. To quote Super Bowl-winning QB, Russel Wilson, “The separation is in the preparation.”
  2. Team up with a co-host. Since football is a team sport, why not recruit a co-host to help you plan your party? Not only can the two of you share the cost of food and decorations, you’ll be able to split the stress of planning as well. Sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it?
  3. Digital invites over classic invitations. Sure, Pinterest is packed with clever ideas for intricate Super Bowl invitations, but you know which detail those posts forget to mention? Postage costs. Rather than sending out old-school invites, create a Facebook event and share it with your friends or jump over to Evite.com, where you can design and send online invitations for free!
  4. Downplay the decorations. Let’s face it, even though extravagant decorations might make impressive Instagram posts, people aren’t coming to your Super Bowl party to marvel at your elaborate sandwich stadium and coordinated team napkin displays. Don’t overdo it with the decorations. Dollar store party supplies are perfect.
  5. Generic snacks: The Real MVP. Your guests will probably be snacking from the pre-game festivities to the post-game trophy presentation. What they won’t be doing is critiquing the subtle flavor undertones of your chips and pretzels. So rather than springing for brand name snack foods, grab the store-brand counterparts, serve them in a giant bowl, and kick back knowing you have money left in your food budget.
  6. Encourage crowd participation. Food and drinks are usually the most expensive part of a Super Bowl party—especially if the beverages are of the adult variety. A pot luck meal plan and BYOB policy are great ways to ensure refreshment costs are divided evenly and everyone is guaranteed to have at least one dish they’ll enjoy.
  7. Save big with Super Bowl promos. If you decide to provide all the food for your party, you might as well look for the best deals. Keep an eye on your local grocery store flyers, as they routinely run special sales on traditional party food. If you’re trying to stay out of the kitchen, our credit union is proud to support many restaurants and businesses in the local community, and many of them offer money-saving party promos. Feel free to ask us for recommendations!
  8. Make post-game meal plans. You plan, prepare, and present a spread of tasty food for your guests. Then, when the game’s over, you have to figure out what to do with the leftovers. Fortunately, game day favorites like burgers, chili, and sandwiches can make delicious meals for a few days after the big game. This makes meal planning easy and lunch costs less expensive.

 

With a little creativity and some careful planning, it’s entirely possible to throw a great party without throwing away money in the process. Whether you use all these ideas or just a few that work for you, following these tips will help you host a winning party without spending more than you should.

Fact vs. Fiction: What Really Impacts Your Credit Score?

A white“Facts matter” pin on a black backpack on a person's back

When it comes to credit scores, it can seem like everyone’s an expert. Ask a random group of people what factors affect your score the most, and you’ll likely get a different response from each person. And the most frustrating part is they’ll probably all be right—and wrong.

Credit scores are calculated based on a variety of factors, so they tend to feel like a secret code. Fortunately, this code is easy to crack. All you have to do is separate fact from fiction. Once you understand the specifics of how your score is determined, it will be easier to sort through all the misinformation.

Focus on the Facts

There are three primary credit reporting bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and Transunion, but the most trusted credit ratings come from the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO). While some lenders and creditors look at a combination of scores from the various reports, the FICO score is widely considered the most reliable. According to FICO experts, your credit score is calculated based on five main categories:

  1. Payment history (35%) – Creditors want to be sure of two things: You pay your bills, and you pay them on time.
  2. Amount owed (30%) – To maintain an ideal credit score, aim to keep your overall debt under 30% of your total available credit.
  3. Length of credit history (15%) – Lenders want to see consistency in credit management. This category looks at how long you’ve had established accounts. The longer, the better.
  4. Credit mix (10%) – Credit scores factor in a wide range of accounts, from credit cards and retail accounts to mortgages and installment loans.
  5. New credit (10%) – Opening new credit accounts isn’t always a bad thing but applying for several all at once can have a negative impact on your score.

 

Six Common Credit Score Myths:

Checking your credit hurts you. – When you apply for a new loan or credit card, the lender runs a credit inquiry. Too many of these inquiries in a short period can cause your score to dip. However, checking your own credit doesn’t damage your rating. In fact, many credit card companies allow account holders to view their FICO scores for free because regular monitoring is an effective way to spot fraudulent activity or identity theft.

Your income level matters. – While your income certainly influences your ability to pay your debts, it doesn’t factor into your score. Credit reports may list your current and former employers, but that information holds no bearing on your score.

Your education or occupation is important. – It doesn’t matter whether you went to an elite university, community college, or dropped out of high school. Your credit score measures your ability to manage debt, not your educational pedigree. Same goes for your job. Gainfully employed, under-employed, or unemployed, you can still build a good credit score.

Closing a credit card will help your score. – Even if you pay off a credit card, closing the account can hurt you more than it helps. If you’re worried that you might misuse the credit, destroy the card—but keep the account open. The available credit and length of credit history will reflect positively and help you in the long run.

Quick fixes can help bad credit. – Yes, it is possible to improve your credit score—but you don’t have to pay someone else to do it for you. Because most credit repair relies on sensible, strategic steps applied over time, you can handle it on your own. Rather than paying a credit repair service, use the money you save to bring past due balances up to date or pay down your overall debt.

Avoiding all debt will help you keep a good credit score. – Your credit score is a metric that measures your ability to manage credit—not avoid it. If you don’t have any credit accounts, there’s nothing to measure. That being said, just because you qualify for credit doesn’t mean you have to max it out. You’ll help yourself more by using your credit strategically and paying off your balance each month.

While this list covers some of the most common credit score myths, there are countless others. By focusing on the facts and ignoring anything that doesn’t line up with them, you’ll find it easier to manage your credit with confidence.

Three Simple Suggestions for a Budget-Friendly Halloween

two skeleton near white concrete building with string lights at daytime

Think back to when you were a kid. What was your favorite thing about Halloween? Was it the costumes? The candy? The spooky decorations around your neighborhood? All the above? Now, think about your little ones. Which Halloween traditions excite them most? There’s a pretty good chance they love the same things you did.

That timeless trio of candy, decorations, and costumes account for more than 80% of Halloween spending. How much do people actually spend on Halloween? According to a National Retail Foundation survey, Americans spent an estimated $9.1 billion in 2017, and the number is expected to top $9 billion again in 2018.

From shopping for the newest costume to overspending on premium candy for trick-or-treaters, it’s easy to get caught up in the fright-filled fun and spend more than you intended. So, how do you give your little ones a Halloween filled with fantastic childhood memories without blowing up your budget in the process? We’ve got a few ideas.

Three Tips for Saving Money This Halloween

By following these tips, you can save money on candy, decorations, and costumes and help your kids enjoy a Halloween that’s a little less trick and a lot more treat:

Candy

Based on the survey mentioned above, a whopping 95% of Americans plan to buy candy this Halloween. If you’re looking for easy ways to save, steer clear of the brand name selections and buy in bulk. If you’re trying to be that house, the one all the kids talk about because you’re the ones that give out the “good stuff,” be sure to scan local sales and be patient. Stores will often discount candy on Halloween morning. A little last-minute shopping can give you the chance to get more for your money.

Decorations

Hosting a Halloween party for your friends? Instead of rushing out to a specialty store and buying elaborate displays and mass-produced trinkets, add a personal touch by letting your kids design decorations of their own. You may not win any neighborhood decorating contests, but your children will love showing off their handiwork to all their guests! Need some suggestions to get your family’s creative juices flowing? The home decorating experts at HGTV can help you scare up a great idea!

Costumes

When it comes to finding great deals on Halloween costumes for your children, thrift stores are your friend. If you shop early enough, many second-hand stores will have a selection of costumes that were only worn once or twice before the previous owners outgrew them. If you’re getting down to crunch time and you don’t have your kiddo’s costume figured out, Pinterest is a great place to find creative DIY ideas. And if your costume design project doesn’t turn out as perfectly as you hoped, don’t worry—nobody will notice because trick-or-treating happens in the dark!

Now, before you get carried away with crazy ideas about how to spend all the money you saved this Halloween, remember, Halloween savings can help ease the financial stress of Christmas shopping. That’s right, Christmas shopping. Once Halloween is over, there are only 54 shopping days until Christmas. Now, THAT is scary!

Financial Fitness Helps More Than Just Your Money

Woman in work out gear stretching her right shoulder.

When you hear the word “fitness,” what comes to mind? Gym memberships? Weights and treadmills? Lean, muscular athletes? Credit unions? If that last option seems out of place, it’s probably because your brain automatically equates fitness with optimum physical health. When you consider the global health and wellness industry generated more than $3.4 trillion last year, it’s easy to understand the tendency to think that way.

According to dictionary definitions, fitness refers to the ability to accomplish a specific task or purpose. With this perspective, it’s clear that physical fitness and financial fitness have some commonalities after all. Both types of fitness provide a wide range of personal benefits. Accomplishing goals in either area requires consistent effort, experienced guidance and efficient tools.

Consistent Effort — Fad diets and miracle cures will never lead to lasting physical fitness. Taking definitive steps toward an established goal is the key. This principle applies to finances as well. From budgeting to saving to investing, following healthy financial habits on a consistent basis leads to long-term success.

Experienced Guidance — Have you ever gone to a gym for the first time and wondered how to set your goals or structure a quality workout plan? If so, you know how valuable an experienced coach or trainer can be. That’s where Great Meadow FCU comes in. With our team of experts, it’s easy to find a financial coach who can help you set goals and create a plan to accomplish them. And the best part? We don’t charge for it like the gym does.

Effective Tools — When you’re working toward a physical goal, the right equipment can make all the difference. If you’re trying to increase your flexibility, a basic yoga mat should be enough. If you’re trying to improve your bench press, you’ll need a barbell and bench.

Depending on your financial situation, your needs might range from budgeting help and savings accounts to business solutions and investments options. GMFCU offers the perfect blend of products and services to help you accomplish your goals.

On the surface, physical fitness and financial fitness may seem like separate subjects. But science has shown that being balanced and healthy in one area affects the other areas of your life. Thanks to this overlap effect, there are benefits to your physical well-being when you are financially healthy. Start enjoying the benefits.

Uber Looks to Change the Travel Game. Again.

man driving vehicle with GPS system turned on

Visiting new places is fun. Feeling like a tourist is not.

With the upcoming release of the Uber Local service, Uber is doing all it can to help you feel at home no matter where you travel. The popular ridesharing service has been solving transportation challenges across the world since 2009, and now they’re stepping up their game to help travelers feel more like locals when they’re away from home.

Real-time data enables personalized service.

When you consider the fact that Uber boasts more than 40 million monthly riders, you quickly realize the company compiles massive amounts of travel-related data. Pick-up points. Drop-off locations. Commute times. Time of day. Average mileage. The list goes on. But rather than being content to let all that information sit in a server and gather figurative dust, Uber Technologies Inc has decided to leverage the data and help riders find current hot spots and popular points of interest.

In a recent interview, Alex Otrezov, Uber’s Head of Search and Experimentation, explained the goal of Uber Local by stating, “We use real-time data of our trips, obviously in an aggregate way, to show the hot spots to show where most Ubers are dropping people off. Whether points of interests or restaurants, whatever it may be, we want to make sure that we share that data with our users.”

Make your Spring Break even better with Uber.

With Spring Break just around the corner, you might be one of the millions making plans to get away for a few days. Whether you’re heading to the big city or the beach, there’s a good chance an innovative product like Uber’s personalized operating system would make it easier to find local points of interest that used to require knowing someone who lived in the area.

Once Uber Local officially hits the market, you won’t need to “know a guy” to find trendy NYC restaurants or track down the hottest events in Daytona Beach. All you’ll need is Uber. By utilizing mountains of transportation data and the latest A.I. technology, the world’s most popular ridesharing service will deliver a user-friendly service that tracks shifting trends, provides up-to-the-minute recommendations, and lets you travel like a local. 

Teach Your Kids to Make a Stand—a Lemonade Stand.

Lemonade sign and lemons

Long before Beyoncé transformed it into a cultural touchpoint, lemonade was the commodity of choice for childhood business ventures. Perhaps you had a lemonade stand of your own, or maybe you just knew someone who did. Either way, the memories of ice-cold refreshment probably ride on a warm wave of nostalgia. If your enterprise was especially successful, you might even hear a faint “cha-ching” as you reminisce. 

Fast forward a decade or two, and now you find yourself juggling the demands of family, friends and career. Thanks to the latest technology, it’s easy to let your kids spend their weekends drifting along on a digital stream of Snapchat streaks and Fortnite marathons. You have a perfect opportunity to shake up your child’s routine with a little old school entrepreneurship. It’s time to bring back the lemonade stand. 

Let your kids in on the fun.

When you were young, running a lemonade stand didn’t feel like a job – it felt like freedom. So, don’t worry that encouraging your children to work will somehow rob them of their weekend fun. The venture can be fun, and the lessons they learn from operating a small business can last a lifetime. What lessons? Glad you asked! 

Goal setting

Believe it or not, this one comes pretty naturally to kids. If you ask them what they want to do with the money they earn, they’ll probably have at least one goal already in mind. It may be a video game, a bike or new clothes, but whatever it is, their motivation won’t be hard to find. When they finally save up enough to buy what they want, the sense of accomplishment will be something you can build on for the rest of their life. 

Entrepreneurship

Operating a lemonade stand is an excellent way to help your children learn that it costs money to create something. After all, lemons and sugar aren’t free. Understanding economic concepts like cost of goods and profit margins will give your kids a valuable perspective with real-world applications. As they plan their drink prices, let them decide what to charge. Positive or negative, the lessons they learn from experience will help them with future planning. 

Responsibility

Like many things in life, lemonade stands are super fun at the beginning! But after a few hours sitting in the sun, there’s a pretty good chance your little entrepreneur will want to close up shop. While it may be frustrating (for you and them), this scenario provides an excellent opportunity to teach them that you can’t just walk away when you get bored. And let’s be honest, we can all use this reminder from time to time, can’t we?

Creativity

Challenge your child to think about how to separate themselves from their competition. (Of course, this may be hypothetical competition since modern-day lemonade stands are few and far between.) Depending on their age, your little one may focus on colorful sign design at first. This focus is understandable, since making the sign is half the fun. But beyond that, feel free to offer creative suggestions. Could they provide a sugar-free alternative? Maybe offer an iced coffee alternative to appeal to more customers? How about spreading the word with a social media post? Should they accept payment through Venmo or PayPal? Like a child’s imagination, the options are limitless. So is the fun! 

At this point, you may feel like opening up a lemonade stand whether your kids are interested or not! Channel that excitement and energy into helping them see the fun-filled potential of the idea, and don’t be afraid to get in there and help them when they need it. The time spent together will be even more valuable than the money earned and the lessons learned.

5 Staycation Ideas to Save Your Summer

woman lying down

Let’s face it; summer looks a lot different than it did when you were a kid. You used to spend the entire school year counting down the days until the carefree fun of summer vacation. But now that you’re a responsible adult with a grown-up job, summer just means your daily work commute is hotter than usual 

OK, maybe the situation isn’t quite that bleak. But if you’re not careful, summer will come and go before you get a chance to enjoy it. Even if you can’t take a week off for vacation this year, it only takes a little creativity and last-minute planning to map out a staycation worth remembering. If you need a little spark of relaxation inspiration, these five suggestions may be just what you’re looking for: 

Book a night at a fancy hotel in town. Yes, luxury has a price tag, but hey—it’s just for one night. Sometimes it’s worth the extra money to pamper yourself. And since you’re staying close to home, think about all the money you’re saving on gas and travel expenses! Want to make the most of your five-star staycation? Check in as early as possible and take advantage of every complementary service the hotel offers. 

Take a tasting tour of your city. It’s easy to settle into a routine of dining at your favorite restaurants, so why not break out of that rut and spend an entire day expanding your palette? The beauty of this culinary adventure lies in its flexibility. You can plan your itinerary or play it loose and go wherever your taste buds take you. Start with an early breakfast and end with a late-night snack. And if you want to include mimosas, aperitifs, and after-dinner drinks in your tour—that’s why they created Uber, right? 

Spend all day in bed. How many times have you started the morning by cursing your alarm clock and wishing you could stay under the covers all day long? Here’s your chance to make those lazy dreams a reality. Stack your favorite books and magazines on the nightstand, queue up your Netflix watchlist, and keep your favorite takeout restaurants on speed dial. You’re about to take your day off to the next level. 

Rent a convertible and take the scenic route. Sometimes you want to answer the call of the open road, but it’s hard to make travel exciting in the same car you drive to work every day. So, add a little fun to your staycation plans by renting a sports car (preferably a convertible) and cruising around for the day. If you have a specific destination in mind, that’s great. If you don’t, that’s even better. The magic is in the journey. Not sure where to find scenic routes near you? Download the Round app for expert recommendations. 

Unplug and get off the grid. We saved this one for last because, depending on who you are, this suggestion can be exhilarating or terrifying. Since we’re talking about shutting off your mobile phone and unplugging from social media, we understand you may need to start slowly. Use a resource like AllTrails.com to find the nearest hiking or walking trails, leave your phone at home (or at least in the car), and spend the day exploring the great outdoors. The fresh air, exercise, and lack of email will do wonders for your body and your mind. 

Whether you pick one of these ideas, find a way to do them all, or come up with a fresh staycation of your own, the most important part is permitting yourself to have fun. Even if they’re only for 24 hours at a time, vacations (or staycations) offer benefits that can make every area of your life more enjoyable.

 

5 Ways to Throw a 4th of July Blast on a Budget

fireworks

5 Ways to Throw a 4th of July Blast on a Budget

Like the rockets responsible for the legendary red glare, 4th of July business is booming!

According to a National Retail Federation report, Americans spent more than $7 billion on Independence Day celebrations last year. That figure is pretty steep—especially when you consider that Americans only spent $151 million (approximately $2.4 billion when adjusted for current inflation) on the Revolutionary War itself.

With our country’s birthday quickly approaching, you may be wondering whether it’s possible to show your star-spangled spirit without overspending on the festivities. We’re happy to report it’s entirely possible, especially if you follow these five tips:

  1. Use DIY or dollar store decorations. Thanks to your Pinterest page and local dollar store, it’s easier than ever to stretch your decoration dollars. Before you spend your hard-earned money on red, white, and blue decorations from big box stores or trendy boutiques, see if you can give the holiday a personal touch with some simple DIY projects. If you don’t have enough time to get crafty, swing by the dollar store and load up your patriotic cart for less.
  2. Host a BBQ potluck. There’s nothing like celebrating the 4th with family, friends, and food. But just because you’re the one hosting the party doesn’t mean you should foot the entire food bill. If you’re going to grill out, consider providing the main course (burgers, hot dogs, chicken, etc.) and asking your guests to bring their favorite fixings and sides. While everyone gets to show off their individual tastes, you get to hang on to more of your hard-earned cash.
  3. BYOB. If your gathering is going to include adult beverages, there are a few great reasons to adopt a BYOB policy. First, when everyone brings their own beverage, they’re sure to have something they enjoy. Second, unlike kid-friendly sodas and juice boxes, grown-up drinks can be pricey. Just like buying a round at the bar, providing beer or wine for all your cookout guests can put a serious dent in your budget.
  4. Do not BYOF. Not familiar with this abbreviation? BYOF stands for “Buy Your Own Fireworks.” And if you’ve ever experienced the sticker shock that happens in a fireworks store, you know exactly why purchasing your own explosives can be dangerous to your wallet (not to mention your health). Check your local news outlets and social media accounts for information on community fireworks shows instead.
  5. Plan for next year. One of the best things about 4th of July festivities is that the theme is always the same. That means you can score some incredible deals on Independence Day trinkets and decorations by shopping on July 5th and beyond. Since most stores don’t want to hold holiday inventory for an entire year, they often offer drastic discounts that will let you pick up next year’s decorations for pennies on the dollar.

However you choose to commemorate our nation’s birthday, a little creativity and advanced planning can help you celebrate in style—and within your budget.

How Can You Steer Clear of Financial Fraud?

Card lock

How Can You Steer Clear of Financial Fraud? 

With the rising popularity of online banking, mobile apps, and digital payment services like PayPal and Zelle, financial transactions are easier than ever. Bills can be paid online. Recurring payments can be automated. Funds can be transferred with just a click. The convenience of cashless commerce is welcome, but the reduction in physical exchanges can lull us to sleep when it comes to protecting ourselves against potential fraud. 

Financial fraud is nothing new. In fact, we probably hear the warnings so often that we hardly notice them anymore—and that can be a problem. In a Washington Post article detailing the vulnerability of credit card users, Kate Silver noted “Last year, analytics firm FICO found there was a 10 percent increase in the United States in payment cards that were compromised at ATMs and merchant card readers—following a 70 percent rise in 2016.” Statistics like these point to the fact that while security measures are improving, enterprising criminals are stepping up their games as well. 

Keep a close eye on your cards.

Much has been written about security advances within the financial industry, and rightfully so. EMV chip technology and digital wallet services like Apple Pay and Android Pay are dramatic improvements that go a long way towards foiling information theft. But with all of the focus on innovation, old-school credit and debit card activity still leaves many of us at risk. Card skimmers, hardly more than an urban myth in 2002, have evolved from clunky contraptions to barely perceptible devices that scan and record sensitive card data. If we’re not careful, mundane tasks like buying gas or getting money from an ATM can put our financial information at risk.

Safety can be simple.

The good news, according to Silver, is that commonsense precautions can significantly increase financial protection. Shielding the keypad when entering a PIN, making ATM withdrawals on weekdays (when the machines are inspected on a daily basis) instead of weekends (when they’re not), and only using gas pumps with security cameras and security tape are just a few practical steps we can take to protect our financial data. While all of these steps reduce the chances of theft happening in the first place, credit unions are making impressive strides towards safeguarding their members if their information is compromised. 

Credit unions are stepping up account security.

With convenient tools like online banking and mobile apps, credit unions make it easy for members to monitor their account activity—an essential step for early detection of fraudulent activity. Many institutions are also lessening the risks associated with physical card transactions by offering a two-pronged approach to security. Since most debit cards and check cards are issued in partnership with VISA or MasterCard, the first protective measure consists of security enhancements like chip technology and a Zero Liability policy for fraudulent transactions. 

Avoiding financial fraud doesn’t have to be difficult. Implementing personal precautions and teaming up with a trustworthy credit union, like Great Meadow, are simple, yet effective ways to ensure maximum protection. Even if it requires us to take additional steps and exercise a little more caution than we’re used to, preventing fraud is always easier than recovering from it.