The world of money has its own language. Here are a few key terms to know.
|Account||A fund established at your credit union in your name, with which you can withdrawal or deposit money. An account keeps a complete record of all your financial transactions.|
|Annual Percentage Rate (APR)||The total yearly cost of a loan, expressed as a percentage. APR calculates interest, fees and any other charges such as insurance.|
|Annual Percentage Yield (APY)||What you earn (total dividends, expressed as a percentage) on your deposits during one year.|
|Automated Teller Machine (ATM)||A machine at a credit union branch or other location that lets you do basic banking transactions, such as get cash, check your balance, or even make a deposit. Because the machine is automatic, it is often available even when the credit union is closed.|
|Balance||The amount of money in an account at a specific time. Also often called an “account balance.”|
|Budget||A detailed plan of how much money you should save and spend each month, based on your income, in order to meet your needs and goals.|
|Certificate Accounts||A special type of savings account (sometimes called Certificates of Deposit at other financial institutions) offering higher dividend rates, in exchange for depositing your money for a fixed amount of time.|
|Checking Account||An account that lets you write checks to make payments using the money deposited in the account.|
|Credit Card||A plastic card that lets you pay for items using a temporary loan. The card is swiped through a special machine at a store, and the amount of the purchase is added to the loan balance. At the end of each month, the user is expected to make a payment toward the balance of the loan.|
|Credit Score||A standardized measurement of your credit history, included in your credit report. Your credit score analyzes your history making loan payments on time, responsibly using credit cards, renting a home, and more, and decides if you can be trusted to pay back a loan.|
|Debit Card||A plastic card that lets you make purchases electronically using your checking account. Instead of writing a check, you swipe your debit card through a special machine, and the amount of the purchase comes out of your account right away.|
|Debt||The amount of money a person owes to other people or companies.|
|Deposit||Money you put into your credit union account.|
|Direct Deposit||A service that lets your employer deposit your paycheck directly into your credit union account--without giving you a paper check.|
|Disclosure||The “fine print” details of an account or loan, outlining complete details, risks and more.|
|Dividends||The rate (as a percentage of your balance) a credit union pays you for depositing your money. Sometimes called interest at other financial institutions.|
|Down Payment||A small part of the purchase price (usually of a car or home), paid in cash up front. A down payment lowers the amount of the loan or mortgage needed to make the purchase.|
|Individual Retirement Account (IRA)||An account used to save money for retirement. People with IRAs set aside money each year, and cannot withdraw the money until they are age 59 1/2 or older.|
|Interest||The fee (as a percentage of your balance) charged by a credit union to borrow money.|
|Loan||Money borrowed by a member from a credit union. The borrower agrees to repay the money, plus interest, over the course of a specific timeframe.|
|Mortgage||A loan used to purchase real estate (a home), with specific terms, payment periods and interest rates.|
|Online Banking||A web-based system that lets you perform certain transactions on your credit union accounts over the Internet.|
|Overdraft||A negative account balance, caused by having withdrawals greater than your deposits.|
|Savings Account||An account at a credit union that pays dividends, but cannot be accessed by writing checks.|
|Terms||The specific conditions and details required to establish a credit union account or loan.|
|Withdrawal||Money you remove from your credit union account.|
by Jean Chatzky
Part of being a smart consumer is managing your credit history and your credit score. Your efforts will be rewarded – a good credit score gets you lower interest rates, thus saving you money. It’s also particularly important now, because the recession tightened lending requirements. What used to be considered an excellent credit score may now be only good. Generally, if your score lands above 740 (on the FICO score range of 300 – 850) you’re in great shape.
So how do you keep on top of things? By getting your credit report regularly. Luckily, it’s free. Several years ago, the three major credit bureaus came together to create and host a website, annualcreditreport.com, that allows you to pull one copy of your credit report from each bureau every single year. That’s three free copies total within a one-year span, and I suggest spreading them out throughout the year. Pulling one every four months means you can stay on top of your file and spot any suspicious or inaccurate activity quickly.
Once you have your report in hand, you have to know how to read it. Start with your personal data. Are there any mistakes? You’re looking for red flags like names you’ve never gone by, addresses you’ve never occupied, or errors in your Social Security number’s digits. If all of that information is correct, move on to your accounts. Make sure that they are all ones that you’re aware of, and that the information is accurate right down to the credit limit, account status, balance, and payment history. If you have any negative information on your report, you need to check the accuracy of that too. Make sure that if you’ve declared bankruptcy, all debts included in your filing are noted on your report, and if you’ve settled debts, they should be listed as such.
Finally, you want to look at your inquiries. Every time you apply for credit, whether it’s a new credit card, an increase in your credit limit, or a loan, the lender takes a peak into your credit file. Make sure that the inquiries listed on your report are ones that you are aware of—in other words, you applied for that loan or credit card, and no one was trying to apply in your name without your knowing.
If you find an error, it’s up to you to dispute it. If it’s just a simple mistake—like an address that needs updating—you can contact the creditor and ask them to fix it. They will send an update to each credit bureau, so follow up to make sure they do. If your creditor is unable to make the correction, you need to dispute it with the credit bureaus by sending a notice to each one. All three bureaus allow you to dispute information online, but where you can, you should also send a written letter. List all mistakes with a description of why the information is inaccurate and how it should be updated. Include any back up information, such as your account records, for proof, as well as your phone number and social security number. Give the bureau 30 days to investigate. If you don’t hear back (you should receive a letter detailing what was updated on your credit report, or an email if you submitted your dispute online), follow up and keep a paper trail.
Unfortunately, you can’t access your FICO score for free. You can buy one of your scores for $19.95 from myFICO.com (you have two FICO scores, one based on information in your Equifax report and one based on information in your TransUnion report. Experian split from FICO a couple years ago – you can buy their score from experian.com for $14.95). Your scores between bureaus will vary slightly, but they should be relatively similar.
I can see you scratching your heads. You listen to the radio. You see those commercials on television— they say you can get your score for free. Those deals generally require you to sign up for a credit monitoring service, which will cost you in the neighborhood of $15 a month. You do that, and they’ll give you a free score. Is it worth it? Sure, if you cancel the monitoring service before you incur any charges.
You can also get a free approximation of your score from our website. But if you’re going to be applying for a major loan (car, mortgage), I’d shell over the cash for a FICO score six months or a year before you apply
by Jean Chatzky
If you own a home, you’re familiar with the home equity line of credit (often called a HELOC). But maybe you have some questions – you don’t understand the difference between a HELOC and a home equity loan, or you don’t know how to get your hands on either. Consider this your crash course.
First, let’s tackle the difference between these two products, starting with how they’re similar: Both are secured loans, which means you’re putting up your home as collateral for the money you borrow. Both offer fairly low interest rates, particularly right now, and allow for a tax deduction. And both require equity in your home. Essentially, these products are second mortgages: You’re borrowing the equity in your home to use the cash.
The difference is that with a home equity loan, you receive a lump sum and pay it off on a monthly basis over a set period of time, generally between five and 15 years, although lenders may offer terms as long as 30 years. The interest rate and monthly payment will be fixed for the life of the loan. You may want a home equity loan if you need a large chunk of money at once – to consolidate credit card debt (only a good idea if you trust yourself not to run the cards back up once you’ve cleared the debt off of them) or make home improvements, which is the original purpose of this kind of loan.
A HELOC is a little more complicated. It’s a pot of available money that you can draw on as you need it. Sort of like a checking account or, more accurately, a credit card, because you pay interest on the money you borrow. You’ll be given a debit card or check book to access the money, and a maximum amount you can borrow, but you don’t have to use it all, and you won’t pay interest on the portion you don’t tap. The interest rate on a HELOC is generally variable, which means your monthly payment will vary as well. If you want some money in your bank pocket in case you ever need it – sort of like an extra emergency fund – you may be a good candidate for a HELOC. They also tend to be good for someone who has an ongoing home improvement that he’ll want to borrow for in increments over an extended period of time.
If you’re interested in a HELOC or home equity loan, you need to consider the following things:
by Jean Chatzky
It’s hard enough to scrape together money to save. It can be even harder to figure out where to put it – is this particular $100 for college? Retirement? Emergencies? Your next vacation?
Over the years, I’ve come up with some rules to follow where savings are concerned. I call it my Hierarchy of Savings Needs, and it’s the method I follow myself. I hope it will help you make the big decisions.
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times. You need at least six months of living expenses – in cash – just in case. When you first start to have money to put away, it’s important to fill up this bucket first. That way, you have cash to fall back on when the roof leaks or the computer breaks and you don’t have to reach for the credit cards. Put this money in a boring old savings account, where you may not earn much interest but you can get at it if you need it.
After you satisfy your emergency needs, you can start putting away money for other, longer-term goals. Any money that gets matched comes next on the list for the obvious reasons – the returns are big, instantaneous and guaranteed.. You’re most likely to get your hands on these through your retirement plan at work, like a 401(k). nother place you may see matching dollars is your state’s 529 plan, which is a retirement savings tool. It’s rare, but not unheard of, particularly for lower income residents: Colorado’s Direct Portfolio College Savings Plan offers a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $500 for lower and middle income residents. Kansas has a similar program, matching contributions above $100 and up to $600 per year. To see what’s available in your state check this out.
Once you’ve maxed out your ability to grab matching dollars, saving in tax-advantaged accounts is your next best move. Some of these offer you a tax break for putting the money in (as with 401(k)s, traditional IRAs, some 529s). All let the money grow tax-deferred while it’s in the account. And the Roth IRA, though you are taxed on contributions, lets the money grow tax free forever and doesn’t require you to start taking it out at a particular time. All are great advantages when it comes to growing your savings.
So what happens when you’ve funded your emergency cushion, grabbed all of your matching dollars, maxed out your ability to contribute to retirement and other tax-advantaged accounts, and still have money to save? By all means, save! If we’re talking about money for a short-term goal put it into an account where a) you won’t lose it (that means no stocks) and b) you can access it when you need it (no long-term cds). If it’s for retirement or something else further down the road, put it in a brokerage accounts and buy some mutual funds that give you the opportunity for growth.
Debit cards are a safe and convenient way to get cash at an ATM and make purchases. The funds are deducted from your checking account so you don't pay interest and won't get a 'bill' in the mail.
Use it instead of writing a check. Make purchases at any store displaying the MasterCard symbol. Simply swipe it like a credit card and choose 'credit', sign the receipt and you're done!
By choosing 'credit' (signing) v. 'debit' (PIN), you'll have Zero Liability,* an extra layer of protection provided by the MasterCard network which means you won't be liable for unauthorized purchases that you promptly report.
Get cash. You can use your California Coast debit card at any one of thousands of ATMs worldwide including 30,000 fee-free California Coast or CO-OP® ATMs and any bearing the MasterCard®, Maestro®, Cirrus®, or PULSE® Network logos.
Pay your bills. Pay one-time or recurring bills such as utilities, gym membership and cell phone. Use your debit card number to set up the process with the merchant or provider.
California Coast's Debit MasterCard® comes free with our checking accounts and is a fast and safe way to get cash or make purchases. Simply use it at any California Coast or CO-OP ATM to get cash or swipe it at a store.
Don't have a Debit MasterCard? Give us a call (877) 495-1600 or stop by a branch.
*Does not apply to PIN based transactions, unauthorized purchases must be reported promptly
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