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5 Car-Buying Tips From an Undercover Salesman

Here are just a few of the things they learned and how you can safely navigate the car-buying process.

1. Test-drive your car salesperson

They face long hours, hostility from customers and constant pressure from managers who watch from “the tower,” a raised platform overlooking the car lot. Later, as I used my insider knowledge to buy more than 100 cars for an automotive website, I met many honest, intelligent, helpful car salespeople. But the work of these “good apples” was often spoiled by a rotten batch of uninformed sales stereotypes — not to mention some manipulative and even underhanded dealership managers.

I like to tell people that they should test-drive car salespeople before they test-drive the car. Here are a few things to ask yourself: Are they informed about the cars they are selling? Do they listen well and respond to your questions? Will you feel comfortable negotiating with them?

2. Check the ‘book’ value

It takes only a minute to look up the current market value of a car — and yet many shoppers wander onto the car lot without any idea of what they should pay. This one little data point would provide an amazing amount of protection. But as an undercover car salesman, I had to stand by and watch trusting, ordinary buyers overpay for their new cars.

So take a moment and check a pricing guide such as Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book for the current market value of the car you want. Bring this information with you, or download a pricing app to check prices on the fly.

3. Don’t be a monthly-payment buyer

“What kind of monthly payment are you folks looking for?” This helpful-sounding question is the favorite trick of car salespeople everywhere. And if you answer, it can be a financial disaster for you. While it sounds like the salesperson is concerned about your budget, it’s the opening gambit for a tactic called “packing payments.” If the dealer can get you to negotiate a monthly payment rather than the purchase price of the car, it’s easy to add in — or “pack” — extras and make you overpay.

Getting a preapproved car loan with AllCom Credit Union and telling the salesperson you are a “cash buyer” is an easy way to deflect this trick.

4. Be ready to walk

You could walk into a dealership and have the same high-pressure experience your father had when he bought cars decades ago. Or you could have a mellow, enjoyable shopping experience where you get a fair deal. There’s such a wide range of sales styles and dealerships.

I worked at a “turnover house,” meaning that if one salesperson wasn’t making progress with a customer, the customer was turned over to a different salesperson. If that didn’t work, they brought in a “closer” —  an overbearing, manipulative bully who was determined to make a deal at any cost.

If you see these warning signs, if you get a bad vibe, if you don’t like your salesperson, beat a hasty retreat — instead of going to war, go to another dealership. For example, the second dealership I worked at was very relaxed and didn’t use closers. But high-pressure or relaxed, whichever type of car lot you find yourself on, never take anything at face value.

5. Beware the finance manager

While the salesperson negotiates the price of the car and pretends to be your best friend, the real damage is done after the customer is handed off to the finance and insurance manager. Also called the “F&I guy,” this salesperson assumes the air of a financial advisor, sort of like a friendly banker. But he or she is really there to build even more profit into the deal by inflating the interest rate on your loan and selling you extra products such as extended warranties and anti-theft devices.

Before you go to the dealership, spend a few minutes being your own finance manager by using an auto loan calculator to set up your own deal. Bring these figures with you to the dealership and get the dealer to match or beat them.

Now is the Time to Buy!

Get Pre-approved for an AllCom Credit Union Auto Loan

Shopping for vehicle financing is just as important as shopping for the vehicle itself. Before you shop for your next vehicle, find out why getting pre-approved for an AllCom Credit Union auto loan is the way to go.

Helps you determine how much you can afford.
Getting an auto loan pre-approval helps you know how much you can afford to spend before you even start shopping for a car so you can stick to your budget. If the salesperson tries to sell you a newer, more expensive car, you can feel more confident about declining the offer because you know how much you can comfortably spend and what your interest rate will be on your loan.

Improves your chances of getting a lower rate.
Getting pre-approved is often the best option when you’re trying to finance a car because it can help you get a lower interest rate on your loan, which can save you money over the life of your repayment term. High-interest car loans are like a double-edged sword because while your car is depreciating in value as you use it, you also have to spend several years paying back your loan.

AllCom offers competitive rates as low as 3.49% APR* and terms to meet you financing needs.

Already have an auto loan with another Financial Institution? You may be able to refinance with AllCom and lower your rate or get cash back.

Speak with an AllCom loan officer or apply online today.

 

*Annual Percentage Rate. 3.49% best rate available based on model year, mileage and credit worthiness. 2012-2019 model years, 60-month maximum term. Loan based on payment of $18.19 per $1000 borrowed for 60 months. Other rates and terms available. AllCom reserves the right to rescind this offer at any time. Offer not valid on existing AllCom auto loans. AllCom will finance up to 100% of the purchase price (for purchases) or NADA retail value (for refinances). Actual amount down will depend on model year, mileage, collateral and credit worthiness.

How to Win at Saving for College

The estimated cost of putting a newborn through public college 18 years from now is nearly equivalent to buying a median-priced home today for all cash. Saving that much, especially for more than one child, is impossible for most families. Nobody wants their children to start their adult lives stuck with a crippling amount of student debt. We aren’t told how to begin and it’s often hard to find any room in the budget, particularly when you’re already paying a mortgage (or rent), child care, health insurance — and maybe even a student loan of your own.

Who Should Save?

If you can afford to save something, you should — every little bit can help.  

Don’t think about saving for your child’s future college education if you currently have a pile of high-interest credit-card debt or don’t have any money set aside in an emergency fund. Deal with that first.  

Everyone else who can afford to save something should. 

The debatable part of this question is how to prioritize saving for your own retirement versus your child’s college fund. You can borrow for college, but you can’t borrow for retirement. And if you’re well-positioned after they graduate, you can always help with paying your children’s loans. 

Ultimately, you’ll need to consider how to balance the two goals of retirement and college saving. Financial planners suggest testing varying rates of savings — for retirement and college — to see the impact of dialing one up and dialing down another. You can play around with online retirement and college savings calculators to get a general sense, or pay a professional financial planner for their time for a more precise outlook.

Note: If you believe saving for college will hurt your eligibility for financial aid, you can safely cast those ideas aside. The truth is, when the federal government determines what you are expected to contribute, your income matters far more than your savings.

How Much Should You Be Saving

It’s important to understand your goals, and your current situation, as you plan for the future. 

There are several philosophies on what you should save, but then there’s the hard reality of what you can afford to. There is also no easy way to know exactly what you will have to pay out of pocket.

Once you’ve thought that through, there are several practical ways to put together a savings plan. A well-known expert on all-things college finance, advocates the following strategy: 

  • Save one-third of the costs of a four-year public college in your home state over your child’s first 18 years. 
  • Attempt to pay a third out of your income while they’re attending college.
  • Finance the remainder (with federal loans). 

Other experts suggest variations of that theme, like saving a quarter of the cost, paying a quarter and borrowing the rest split among family members. 

Regardless of what you decide to save, there are big benefits when you save early on: If you start when your child is a newborn, roughly one-third of the savings will be generated from the earnings on your investments. If you wait until high school, less than 10 percent will come from earnings. 

Source: New York Times

Top Credit Card Tips For Students

Getting a credit card as soon as you can is a smart move – after all, credit cards provide an easy opportunity to build credit, which is important when it’s time to buy a car or a house.

Most people start using credit cards regularly for the first time in college, and as with many college experiences, it’s easy to make mistakes. To avoid credit card regret, take a look at the information below for our top credit card tips for students.

  • Pay the bill on time

The point of getting a credit card is to build a positive credit history, but if you don’t pay your bill on time, you’ll end up doing more harm than good. The largest portion of your credit score – 35% – comes from your history with paying your bills on time. This means that if you’re chronically making late payments to your card, your credit will seriously suffer.

Make it a priority to pay your bill by its due date, and if you do forget to make a payment, call your credit card company right away to get back on track. The worst think you can do is let a missed payment linger.

  • Don’t charge more than you can afford to pay off in a month

Many college students fall into the vortex of credit card debt by mistakenly thinking that they’ll be able to pay off the charges when they’ve graduated and gotten a high-paying job. This mentality can lead to thousands of dollars in debt, which will do damage to your credit. 30% of your credit score is determined by your total debt load, so if you’re carry a balance from month to month, you’re setting yourself up to start the rest of your financial life with a less-than-ideal credit score.

Don’t fall into this trap! Only charge what you can afford to pay off in one month, no matter what. This is easier to do if you’re carefully tracking your spending and keeping it in line with your income. Once you hit your limit, leave the card at home. And don’t let peer pressure cause you to overspend – no spring break trip is worth going into credit card debt for – trust us!

  • Avoid getting too close to your credit limit

Even if you’re being careful to pay your credit card bill on time and in full every month, getting too close to your credit limit is also a risky move. The credit bureaus don’t like to see you using more than 30% of your available credit – this means that if your limit on your credit card is $10,000, you shouldn’t have more than $3,300 in charges on the card at any given time.

To avoid utilizing too much of your available credit, keep a close watch on your spending and pay your balance in full every month. Not only will this keep you out of debt (see above) you’ll also avoid exceeding that 30% threshold.

  • Don’t open too many cards

The temptation to open new credit cards is everywhere, but it’s important to avoid the impulse to get a new card every time a store you’re shopping in is offering a deal. Having too many cards makes it difficult to keep track of your spending and payment due dates, and it also provides too many opportunities to get into debt.

When you’re new to using credit, the best thing to do is keep one or two credit cards for your daily spending and stick to just those cards until you’ve gotten the hang of regularly charging your purchases and paying your monthly bills. No need to overcomplicate your financial life before you have to!

  • Avoid fees

With all the great credit cards for students on the market today, there’s no need to pay an annual fee on your credit card. Again, your goal is to build good credit, and there’s no need to pay fees to do so. Shop around for a no-fee card that offers other rewards you’re interested in to make the most of your first credit card experience.

The takeaway: to set yourself up for a positive financial future, it’s important to open a credit card and use it responsibly as soon as you can, preferably in college. Be sure to follow the credit card tips above to avoid turning your good credit dreams into nightmare!

Source: NerdWallet

How to Protect Your Money While on Vacation

Don’t let a fraudster, pickpocket or identity thief ruin your next vacation.

These  financial safety tips will show you how to protect your wallet, your valuables and your financial information when vacationing in America and abroad.

Lighten up your wallet. Only carry the credit cards you’ll be using on your trip and leave the rest at home. Pack an ATM/debit card for withdrawing cash at ATMs.

Use credit cards for major purchases. Most credit cards have zero-liability policies, meaning you won’t pay a penny for unauthorized charges if a card is lost or stolen. Bring contact information for each of your credit cards with you on the trip.

You also can alert your credit card company if you’re unsatisfied with the quality of a purchase that you make with your card or if a credit card purchase gets lost or stolen.

Watch out for bogus ATMs. Getting cash while on vacation is a snap if you pack your trusty ATM card. Be sure the cash machine is legit before inserting your card.

Thieves place phony ATM machines at high-traffic tourist areas. Stick to ATMs that are near banks or in airports or in hotels.

Visa and MasterCard have worldwide ATM locators on their Web sites. It’s easy to scope out legitimate ATM locations in the areas where you’ll be traveling.

Keep a close eye on that debit card. Debit cards are handy for withdrawing cash from ATMs and making small purchases while traveling. You’ll want to keep close tabs on your debit card at all times. It is linked directly to your checking account – if a thief nabs the card, your account could be emptied in no time.

ATM and debit card transactions are protected under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. You’ll need to act fast to limit your liability for the fraudulent transactions.

Keep a close watch on your debit card and contact your bank immediately if your ATM/debit card is lost or stolen.

Tell your bank and credit card companies about your travel plans. Alert your bank and credit card companies of your upcoming travel plans. If you don’t, they may think a thief — not you — is making all those fun-filled vacation purchases and shut down your credit or ATM card.

Make a quick call to your bank and credit card companies before your trip. This is especially important for folks traveling outside the United States.

Protect your cash. There’s a good chance you will need some cash for your vacation travels. Take the cash you need for the day and leave the rest in your hotel safe.

If you find yourself traveling to more remote areas where cash is still king, take some extra precautionary steps.

Stay organized. Sure, you’re on vacation and kicking back a bit, but you’ll want to stay on top of all the purchases that you make. Don’t relax so much that you lose track of a camera, laptop or credit card.

Review your purchases. Upon returning from your vacation, review your credit card purchases, debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals with your bank and credit card companies. Don’t wait for your monthly statements.

If a thief has nabbed your card information, you’ll want to alert your bank and credit card companies as soon as possible.

Source: Bankrate

How to Prevent Identity Theft While Traveling

According to Experian, there are 7 things that travelers should do to protect their identity while on vacation.

  1. Contact Your Credit Card Issuer Before You Head Out of Town – Alert them that you may have charges from elsewhere to help prevent an unexpected decline.
  2. Hold Your Mail- Don’t worry about someone accessing unattended mail left in your mailbox.
  3. Clean Out Your Wallet – Don’t carry extra cards that you don’t need and never carry your Social Security card in your wallet.
  4. Avoid Public Computers – Remember public WIFI’s are open for anyone to use making them easy targets for hackers.
  5. Keep an Eye on Your Valuables- Carry only what you need and keep valuables locked in your hotel safe.
  6. Not all ATMs Are the Same – Look for the most secure ATM locations such as inside the lobby of a bank.
  7. Check Your Statements- Be sure to monitor your account activity to watch for unauthorized transactions.  With AllCom’s mobile banking app and e-statement, it’s easy to stay up to date.

For more information or to read the full article, go to:  https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/7-ways-to-stop-your-identity-from-taking-a-costly-vacation/

Buying a car?  Be prepared!

Make your car buying experience a good one. These handy tips can help you get the right car and the best deal for your needs.

  • Do your research. Have an idea of what kind of car will meet your needs. Something sporty? Multi-passenger for car-pool duties? One with lots of storage space? What features do you want? Research car-buying websites to learn which makes and models fit your needs and your budget.
  • Know your budget. How much can you afford to pay? How long a term makes sense based on the age of the car? What is a comfortable monthly payment? Remember to factor in the cost of insurance, maintenance and gas.
  • Will you be trading-in your old car? Research what it’s worth before you head to the dealership.
  • Test drive the car. Does it handle well? Are the seats comfortable? How accessible are the controls? Will your child’s car seat fit? Is it easy to access the back seat and cargo areas?

Whether you’re looking for a new or used car, start with AllCom Credit Union.  We can help you get the best rate and term for your needs and budget, and you can be pre-approved in minutes. Speak with our loan officer or apply on-line today

Banking Scams:  How to avoid them. Who to notify?

Banking scams involve attempts to access your account. Some of the more common scams include:

  • Overpayment scams – A scam artist sends you a counterfeit check. They tell you to deposit it in your account and wire part of the money back to them. Since the check was fake, you’ll have to pay your financial institution the amount of the check, plus you’ll lose any money you wired.
  • Unsolicited check fraud – A scammer sends you a check for no reason. If you cash it, you may be authorizing the purchase of items or signing up for a loan you didn’t ask for.
  • Automatic withdrawals – A company sets up an automatic debit from your bank account, as part of a free trial or to collect lottery winnings.
  • Phishing – You receive an email message that asks you to verify your bank account or debit card number.

How to Protect Yourself
Remember these tips to avoid being a victim of a banking scam:

Do

  • Be suspicious if you are told to wire funds from a check back to a company.
  • Be wary of lotteries or free trials that ask for your account number.
  • Verify the authenticity of a cashier’s check with the financial institution that it is drawn on before depositing a check.
  • When verifying a check or the issuer, use contact information on a bank’s website.

Don’t

  • Don’t trust the appearance of checks or money orders. Scammers can make them look legitimate and official.
  • Don’t deposit checks or money orders from strangers or companies you don’t have a relationship with.
  • Don’t wire money to people or companies you don’t know.
  • Don’t give your bank account number to someone who calls you, even for verification purposes.
  • Don’t click on links in email to verify your bank account.
  • Don’t accept a check that includes an overpayment.

Report Banking Scams
The proper organization to report a banking scam to depends on which type you were a victim of.

Report fake checks you receive by mail to the US Postal Inspection Service.

Report counterfeit checks to the Federal Trade Commission, either online or by phone at 1-877-382-4357.

Contact your financial institution to report and stop unauthorized automatic withdrawals from your account.  

Forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.gov.

‘Tis the Season to Fight Fraud

According to Statista, online holiday shopping is projected to increase 15.3% in 2018. In 2017, American shoppers spent over $5 billion shopping on Cyber Monday alone. Each holiday season, Americans pull out their cards and shop online to a total of hundreds of billions of dollars in the last two months of the year. These online transactions could put you at risk for fraud. We’ve come up with a few suggestions to help give you peace of mind while shopping.

Use a small number of cards. Make your purchases on one or two cards instead of spreading them out over many. This will not only help you keep track of your purchases, but if anything does get compromised, the impact will be limited to only those cards you used.

Check your statements and keep your receipts. Compare your receipts with your statements once they are available. Fraudulent charges don’t usually show up as large purchases. If you aren’t actively keeping track and you see a small charge on your card that you don’t immediately recognize you may be more willing to think that you simply missed something you bought. Contest any charges that seem suspicious as soon as possible.

Turn on account activity alerts. Most major card issuers are now offering account alerts for their cardholders. Consumers can sign up and choose the notifications they wish to receive. The notifications can be sent for certain dollar amounts or each time a purchase is made without the card being present. During the holidays, when the number of purchases is increasing, these notifications can help you stay on top of any fraudulent transactions.

Watch the URL. Pay attention to the websites you are visiting. There are scams that use fictitious URLs that look like major retailers to gain access to your information. Verify that “https” appears in the URL. These sites offer secure, encrypted transactions. Don’t disclose your credit card information over the phone or online unless you can verify it is legitimate.

Protect your phone. Many Americans use their phones to shop or do other financial business. Password or fingerprint protect your phone and don’t allow your phone to store credit card information. Doing so will reduce the risk of losing confidential information should your phone fall into the wrong hands. You can even equip your phone with security software, similar to that on a computer.

Try mobile wallets. Make purchases using mobile wallet apps (ApplePay, SamsungPay, Google Wallet, etc) is not only convenient, but offers additional layers of security. There are added protections in place like biometrics and tokenization.

Check your credit report. Regular credit report monitoring is important all year long. Check for unauthorized credit inquiries that could signal fraud. This level of vigilance is important in protecting yourself from fraud.

Make sure to follow this tips this holiday season to avoid having credit or debit card fraud ruin your holidays.

Go Fishing, Don’t Get Phished

Safe Banking Tip #2: Go Fishing, Don’t Get Phished

This summer, go fishing, don’t get phished. Phishing is when a scammer uses fraudulent emails or texts, or copycat websites to get you to share valuable personal information, such as account numbers, Social Security numbers or your login IDs and passwords. The information is either then used by the scammer to steal your money, identity or both. Sometimes these scammers also sell this information to another party that then uses the information to the same end.

Scammers also use phishing emails to gain access to your computer or network and then install programs, called ransomware, that can lock you out of important files on your computer.

Scammers create a false sense of security by spoofing familiar, trusted logos of established, legitimate companies or pretending to be or know a family or friend. They utilize scare tactics and make you feel like something bad will happen if you do not provide the information to them. Commonly, they say that your account will be frozen, you will fail to get a tax refund, that a family member will be hurt, or you could be arrested. They tell whatever lies they need to, to get you to give the information.

So what steps can you take to avoid being phished?

  1. Be cautious about opening email attachments or clicking unknown links. Even your friend, colleague or family members’ accounts could be hacked. Files and links can contain malware that can weaken your computer’s security.
  2. Do your own typing. If a company or organization you know sends you a link or phone number, don’t click. Use your favorite search engine to look up the website or phone number yourself. Even though a link or phone number in an email may look like the real deal, scammers can hide the true destination.
  3. Make the call if you’re not sure. Be incredibly suspicious of emails that request personal or financial information. Most of the companies you do business with, will not ask for that kind of information through an email or at all. Phishers use pressure tactics to prey on fear. If you think a company, friend or family members really does need your personal information, pick up the phone and call them yourself using the number on their website or in your address book, not the one in the email.
  4. Utilize two-factor authentication wherever possible. For accounts that support two-factor authentication, the practice that requires your password and an additional piece of information to log into your account make sure you use it! The second piece of information required could be a code sent to your phone, or a random number generated by an app or token. This protects your account even when your password is compromised. As an extra precaution, you may want to choose more than one type of second authentication (a PIN, a secondary phone number or email address, etc.) in case your primary method (such as your cellphone) is not available.
  5. Back up your files to an external hard drive or reputable cloud storage. Back up your files regularly to protect yourself against viruses or a ransomware attack. Be sure to use a reputable device or cloud storage company and ensure that any personal documents are kept private with password encryption or other form of encryption.
  6. Keep your security up to date. Use security software you trust and make sure you set it to update automatically. This will ensure your devices are protected with the latest level of security protection. New malware, ransomware and viruses come out every single day.
  7. Verify a website’s security. Before submitting any information on a website, make sure the URL begins with “https” and there should be a closed lock icon near the address bar. Check that the site’s security certificate is valid as well. You can see this by clicking the lock or information circle in the address bar of the browser window. Always close your browser if you get a message that a site may not be secure or contains malicious files.
  8. Be wary of pop-ups. Pop-up windows often masquerade as legitimate components of a website. However, they are often phishing attempts. Most browsers allow you to block pop-ups and you can allow them on a case-by-case basis where needed. If one manages to slip through the cracks, don’t click on the “cancel” button; such buttons often lead to phishing sites. Instead click on the “x” in the upper corner of the window.
  9. Report phishing emails, websites and texts. It is important to contact the individual or companies that you might experience phishing attempts from to notify them of what is happening. But it is also critical that you report these incidents to the authorities. Forward phishing emails to spam@uce.gov. Your report is most effective when you include the full email header, but most email programs hide this information. To ensure the header is included, search the name of your email service with “full email header” into your preferred search engine. You should also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission at gov/complaint. You can also report phishing emails to reportphishing@apwg.org. The Anti-Phishing Working Group, a group that includes internet service providers, security vendors, financial institutions, and law enforcement agencies, uses these reports to help fight phishing.

To learn more about how you can minimize your risk, visit identitytheft.gov.