Month: April 2018

gems

Six Powerful Financial Gems

In the Marvel film Avengers: Infinity War, a team of superheroes must try to stop the evil Thanos from finding and collecting the six infinity stones: space, mind, reality, power, time & soul. Each of these gems has a special power that gives the holder certain gifts. And if all the gems are combined on the Infinity Gauntlet, the wearer will be virtually unstoppable.

Therefore, in the spirit of comic book lore, here are six financial gems you can wield to gain ultimate power over your money.

Space

In the comics, the Space stone allows the user to teleport themselves anywhere in the universe. In this article, the Space gem translates to being frugal in your travels. Pack some lunches on your next road trip instead of eating out. Visit tourist locations during their off-season. Use public transportation or split the cost of a rental car with your friends. Savvy travelers save money on the necessities so they can spend a little more on the fun stuff.

Mind

The Mind gem lets those in the Marvel universe access the thoughts of other people. In the financial realm, this gem refers to pondering purchases before making them. Impulse buying is a quick way to spend more than you have. Plan your grocery shopping list in advance and stick to it. Give yourself a waiting period for larger purchases. Your mental efforts will pay off in monetary rewards.

Reality

When Thanos uses the Reality stone, he can defy scientific laws and create alternate realities. In our world, this gem simply refers to being realistic with your finances. Don’t spend more than you have. Living within your means will give you a sense of freedom. Additionally, don’t plan a budget that sets you up for failure. Set realistic goals and keep them on the forefront of your mind to ensure success.

Power

The Power gem increases the strength of any character that holds it, and it boosts the power of the other gems as well. You can increase your buying power by improving your credit score. In order to improve it, however, you first need to know it. You can view your FICO® score at any time by logging in to free online banking from America First. After that, paying your bills on time, reducing your debt and correcting any errors you find on your credit report will slowly, but surely, increase your score.

Time

In the movies, Dr. Strange uses the Time stone to travel to the past and the future. While we can’t predict the future, investing your money in a certificate account is a safe and easy way to grow your funds. And the longer you set the terms of your certificate, the better the rate of return will be. It takes patience to leave funds untouched for an extended period, but the benefits of compound interest are worth the wait.

Soul

The elusive Soul stone gives Marvel characters control over other people’s lives. In real life, donating your money to charitable causes lets you influence others’ lives and help the world be a better place. Additionally, there are financial benefits that come from donating to charity. Donated cash, as well as the value of clothing, furniture, vehicles and more can be deducted from your tax return.

Once you have acquired all of these financial gems, you may not have all the power in the universe, but you’ll find that you have much more control over your money. You’ll be spending less, saving more and feeling much more confident about your decisions.

stolen

Here’s What to Do If Your Credit Card Is Stolen

If your credit card is stolen, don’t go into a panic. It’s normal to feel angry or vulnerable, but keeping a level head and acting quickly will lessen potential financial injury. In fact, America First members have zero fraud liability if you quickly let us know about the situation. Here’s what to do if your credit card is missing.

See if you can find it

First, determine if you’re the victim of theft or you just misplaced your card. Retrace your steps and think of the last place you used it. Log in to your account and look at recent transactions. Pat down recently worn outfits, check under couch cushions, call any stores or restaurants you visited, and ask your spouse about it. Because when you report a card as stolen, it will be deactivated and replacing it may take a few days.

Turn It Off

If you have free Card Guard® mobile security from America First, you can turn off your Visa® as soon as you notice it’s missing. That will give you time to search those couch cushions one more time. If you find it, just press a button and turn your card on again. If your Visa doesn’t turn up and it’s off, whoever has it can’t use it.

Contact the card issuer

When you determine that your card is lost or stolen, contact your financial institution immediately. Have the following information ready to speed up the reporting process:

  • Your name
  • Which card was stolen
  • When it was stolen/lost
  • When and where it was last used

If your PIN was compromised, report that as well. Once reported as stolen/compromised, your card/PIN will be cancelled and new items will be issued. As previously mentioned, creating & delivering replacements can take a couple days, so be prepared to use another card or cash until then.

Review & update

Look over your monthly statement for unauthorized charges. If any appear that weren’t previously reported, let your institution know. Under federal law, if the transactions occur after the card is reported stolen, you cannot be held liable. And for those that took place before then, the maximum liability amount is $50.

And finally, when your new card is in your wallet, make sure to update your payment information for automatic transfers, such as your Netflix or cable bill. Not doing so can interrupt your movie, which could also induce panic attacks in some people.

tax refund

Five Wise Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

If you’re expecting a tax refund, it may be tempting to blow it all on hats or a gold-plated gadget, but there is a better use. After all, this isn’t a bonus from your company; it’s your money that the government borrowed and they’re giving it back to you. Using these funds wisely can alleviate stress and increase your sense of well-being. Here are five smart ways to make the most of your refund.

Invest

This isn’t limited to stocks & bonds, although it’s not a bad idea to enter the market. Investing in certificate accounts is a safe way to earn higher dividends. And even if you already have a 401(k) plan with your employer, you can start a separate IRA to diversify and create a secondary income stream. Alternatively, you can contribute to a new business or you could invest in people by donating to charitable causes—which can also be tax deductible.

Reduce Debt

There is no feeling quite like being debt-free. Why not use the money to lower your credit card balances? Pay off the one with the highest interest rate first, and if you have some money left over, start working on the next. You can also get ahead on your auto loan, your student loans & your mortgage principal. This may not seem as fun as buying things, but owing less to others gives you more buying power.

Build an Emergency Fund

If you don’t have one yet, a tax refund can help jump start your rainy-day savings. Even $500 can help soften the blow of unexpected costs. If you already have an emergency fund, keep working to save three to six months of expenses. Having this cushion will help if you ever suffer from job loss or medical issues.

Repair & Replace

Complete the maintenance projects you’ve been putting off. Fix broken shingles on your roof. Replace your car’s worn tires. Go to the dentist and take care of the tooth that’s been bothering you. Replace an old, energy-inefficient fridge or a malfunctioning oven. At times, spending a little on preventative care now will help prevent bigger bills down the road.

Make Memories

There’s no harm in treating yourself with your tax refund when your other financial responsibilities are handled. However, many people find that purchasing things isn’t as satisfying as gaining experiences. Take your spouse out to a nice dinner. Enjoy a family vacation. Go somewhere fun with your friends. Create memories that will last, instead of buying that quadcopter drone with GPS—after all, it’s likely to break before the month’s over.

move

Pack it Up: How to Save When You Move

No matter what your plans are, when you move it will always come with a price. If you do it yourself, it’s going to cost a lot more time. When you hire professionals, it means spending more money. It’s important to determine what’s of value to you. Regardless of the method you choose, here are some ways to save.

Getting Movers

Create a budget beforehand. Figure out all the pre-moving expenses and what it will take to get your new place up and running. Check prices online and get quotes from at least three companies. Be sure to clarify if they charge extra for long hauls, packing, assembly, stairs and storage. Talk to friends in the neighborhood and speak with folks at your destination about who they use.

Choose the off-season if possible. Most people move in the spring and summer months, since school is out and the weather is nice. However, some movers charge less between September and May. Scheduling for weekdays can also bring savings, since the demand is higher on the weekends.

Taking it on Yourself

First, figure out how much stuff you want to take. Sell things you don’t want to bring along to help offset the cost. Or use what you earned from a yard sale to help pay for furniture or electronics at your new home. Of course, it’s also less expensive to move fewer items—you won’t need an extra-large truck for a more modest set of belongings.

Carefully select the vehicle’s size. A larger one may come with a higher rate, but it will be less expensive than multiple trips with a smaller van. You can also rent helpful items, such as dollies or furniture pads, instead of buying them. And try to time your move directly from one location to another, instead of renting a storage shed.

Search for free boxes at local stores. You can also go online and look around your neighborhood for packing materials from those who have recently moved. And while you’re at it, ask friends & family to help. After all, you can usually pay volunteers in pizza.

If you’re changing cities for a new job, some employers will cover the relocation. Also, you can deduct certain expenses, so keep all related receipts. Please consult your accountant or a tax professional for details. Moving is never a fun experience, but careful planning and budgeting can ease your financial burden.

Take Control of Your Finances

We all want to improve & maintain our financial health. And with America First membership, you can use the following free services to accomplish that goal:

  • FICO® Scores—check your credit at any time using free online banking
  • Money manager—a convenient tool that tracks spending & saving in one place, even listing accounts at other institutions
  • Account e-alerts—custom notifications regarding transactions
  • Card Guard®—turn your Visa® on and off with this mobile app

No matter what objectives are, let America First help you achieve them. Get started today.

Now Is the Best Time to Benefit from America First Home Loans

With interest rates set to rise, now’s the perfect time to build, buy or refinance your home with America First.

  • Competitive options
  • Flexible terms & schedules
  • All your financial solutions under one roof

Build—with quick & easy financing, you can create the perfect home at your preferred price.

  • Customized to your needs
  • Discounts for bundling construction/home loans
  • Simple & convenient draw process

Buy—when you find your dream home, get hassle-free lending from a financial institution you trust.

  • Perfect for move-in-ready properties
  • Options with no closing costs
  • Step-by-step notifications

Refi—enjoy lower monthly payments while freeing up some extra funds.

  • Fixed rates available
  • Options with no closing costs
  • Flexible terms up to 15 years

Apply today.

Security: Spring Cleaning

It’s the season to de-clutter, upgrade technologies and streamline security—a spring-cleaning project for your digital life. To follow are some tips for getting it done:

  • Go through your computer & devices, discard old files and empty the recycle bin.
  • Organize your media in labeled folders.
  • Uninstall programs you don’t use to speed things up and bock malware potential.
  • Reinstall your operating system.
  • Back up important data.
  • Update security software, including antivirus, anti-spyware and anti-phishing programs.
  • Set up a firewall—major search engines can tell you how.
  • Sort through your email and toss out messages that aren’t relevant.
  • And finally, visit us here to learn more about protecting your information and financial resources.