Archive for the ‘Your Money and You’ Category

Get Ready for Tax Time

Tax-Saving Planning Tips

As tax filing season begins for 2016 we are reminded how we could have effectively lowered our taxable income. Start your 2017 tax planning with some helpful tips.

Donate to your Favorite Charity

Along with helping others, charitable donations are a great way to lower your taxable income. Take the time to sort through old clothes, and other belongings that you no longer use or need. Clean out your food pantries and find some local food drives. Make sure you keep your receipts; they will be needed for tax purposes.

Health Savings Accounts

Individuals under age 65 and covered by a high deductible health plan may establish an HSA (Health Savings Account) which allows participants to save money for the payment of health care expenses on a tax-preferred basis. HSA distributions are generally tax-free if they are used to pay for qualified medical expenses. Distributions made for any other purposes may be taxable. Please contact your health care provider for more information about high-deductible health plans and HSA accounts.

Annual Gift Tax Exclusion

Consider gifting to reduce some tax burdens. In 2016 you could have gifted up to $14,000 to each person, and to as many individuals as you want, without triggering the gift tax. That amount stays the same in 2016. In addition to the annual exclusion amounts, you can also give charitable gifts, gifts to a spouse, gifts of educational expenses, and gifts of medical expenses without triggering the gift tax.

Retirement Savings One of the best ways to lower your tax bill is to reduce your taxable income. You could have contributed up to $18,000 to your 401k or similar retirement savings plan in 2016, which remains the same for 2017. Money contributed to the plan is not included in your taxable income. If you don’t have a retirement plan at work, you can invest in an IRA. You can contribute up to $5,500. Depending on your income, you may be able to deduct some or all of your IRA contribution.

Who Can Help Me?

With the overall objective of minimizing your taxable income, there are some great tax planning tactics that can help you for 2016.
Take this time to speak to a financial professional along with your tax advisor to help minimize your tax burden in the coming years.
You have many choices when searching for help in reaching your goals. In particular, the financial professionals here at your credit union will work closely with you to clarify your retirement goals, help you develop and implement a plan, and provide ongoing advice in pursuit of those goals.

Interested in Learning More?
Contact Tiffany Yee at (626) 441-7151 ext. 241 or explore the Retirement and Investment Services Website

* Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (“CFS”), a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS: are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. ‘The Credit Union’ has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to credit union members.

Source: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/five-simple-steps-to-start-preparing-for-tax-season/

Your Money is Safe at PFCU

5stardec16webNotice of a Change in Coverage:

Your peace of mind is important to us. Prior to 2008, an individual account was insured up to $100,000 by the National Credit Union Share Insurance (NCUSIF) and the Credit Union purchased an additional $250,000 coverage through a private insurance company, American Share Insurance (ASI). The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, signed into law on October 3, 2008, increased federal insurance coverage through NCUSIF on individual accounts to $250,000. On July 21, 2010 the coverage was made permanent. After analyzing the effects of this increase on the total membership less than 1% were not adequately covered under NCUSIF. As a nonprofit cooperative we strive to serve the needs of the membership and use funds entrusted to us wisely. The low percentage of accounts uninsured doesn’t justify the cost to continue the additional private ASI excess insurance coverage. Therefore effective January 1, 2017 this coverage will end.

The good news is there are many vesting options to add additional insurance coverage to your account that we would be happy to discuss with you. The NCUSIF fund is backed by the full faith and credit of the US government, just like the FDIC fund for banks. It is just a separate fund.

PFCU remains strong and well-capitalized. We continue to receive 5 Stars (highest rating) from Bauer Financial at www.bauerfinancial.com. Your money is safe at PFCU.

What You Need to Know About Your EMV Chip Card

emv-credit-marketing-guide-1

 

Does your Credit or Debit Card look a little different?

PFCU recently began sending out EMV Chip Cards to our members with VISA® Credit Cards, and will soon begin issuing them to our members with Debit Cards. Just what are these cards, and how do they differ from the cards we’re all used to? One big advantage is a decrease in risk from data breaches like those that occurred at Home Depot and Target recently.

 

 

Check out this helpful video.

Here is some helpful information on the cards from our Ann Davidsom, VP of Risk Consulting at our partner, Allied Solutions:

Chip Card Facts for Consumers

• For cardholder protection, the mini computerized chip on the card uses a dynamic card verification value (dCVV) that changes with each transaction. This will help prevent fraudsters from being able to perform a subsequent card authorization.
• Make your chip card the payment of choice to help reduce the risk of card fraud.
• Protect your card or card number from unauthorized activity and don’t let your card out of your possession.
Using Chip Cards
1. Check to confirm your card has chip technology.
2. If your card has a chip on it, don’t swipe the magnetic stripe if the point-of-sale device is chip enabled.
3. Look for the card insert below the PIN pad on the card reading device to insert your chip card into.
4. Once your card is inserted, do not remove it until the sales associate or the machine says it’s approved.
5. If you were assigned a PIN with your chip card, enter your PIN after you have inserted the card. Remember, do not pull your card out until the transaction is approved.
6. If a PIN is not assigned to your chip card, insert your chip card and allow the sales associated to perform an authorization.
7. Swipe the card on the card reader if the merchant’s device is not chip enabled.

As new technology is introduced, PFCU will integrate it into our products and services to keep our members safe.

We’ve been doing it since 1935.

When to Say “Debit” or “Credit”

applestoorangesWhen your PFCU ATM card has a VISA® logo on it, it is referred to as a “Debit Card”. The money comes out of your PFCU Checking account and not a line of credit attached to the card (Unless you have a PFCU Overdraft Line-of-Credit, which will kick in if you run short on funds.) An actual Credit Card is a loan with specific terms, interest rates, and fees, which you can access as-needed by using your plastic card. Here is where the terms “Debit” and “Credit” can get confusing, though. It’s not quite apples and oranges. When using their PFCU Debit Cards, members are often asked “Debit or Credit”? While the transaction goes through either way, one requires a PIN and the other a signature. An actual Credit Card is always processed as a “Credit” transaction and is usually processed using a signature rather than a PIN. A Debit Card can be processed as “Debit” or “Credit”. Choosing “Credit” can bring you extra protections on your purchases, such as a greater ability to return items. Remember, though, that places like hotels, gas stations and rental car companies may place a security hold on a good portion of your funds, which can tie up your checking account for days. For this type of transaction, an actual Credit Card is usually best. Also, when you are traveling, it is good to use your PIN a few times in a new area to establish that you are there. Our stringent security system sees signature-based transactions in a geographical area where you don’t usually transact as red flags. You can also call us at (626) 799-0882 to let us know you will be traveling. We’ll note your account for our security team.

So, even though you might choose “Credit” when completing a Debit Card transaction, you are really only choosing to have VISA® process it rather than the ATM network. See a companion article “Millenials Rethink Credit Vs. Debit” for another angle to this discussion.

The Truth is: ARMs Differ and Can Have Great Value.

ARMHome buyers often focus on obtaining the lowest possible rate on a 30-year loan, but most mortgage loans are used for only three. Cash out transactions for improvements, additions, repairs, weddings, tuition and major purchases occur with great frequency. If you think you might refinance for any reason anytime in the next seven years, read on. 

Lower Rates, Flexible Terms – Today, most Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) are “hybrids.” They start out at a fixed rate for the first 3, 5, 7 or even 10 years. During this time, you save on interest cost, and even though your payment is less, you still pay more toward principal. 

Inside Information – Lenders give you a discounted rate up front because they know the rate will float with the market later on. If you sell your home or refinance again prior to that happening, it’s their loss. You have the advantage here because you control the timing of your next step. 

Managed Risk – One way to prepare for the possibility of a higher rate and payment later is to pay extra principal each month to reduce your balance faster. If the rate ultimately adjusts up, your balance will be lower and the payment change will be less as a result. As well, you would already be accustomed to paying more. 

The Bottom Line – A fixed rate loan provides the certainty that it will never change. A hybrid ARM provides a guaranteed savings but for a limited period of time. The best way to decide is to balance your expectations for using any particular loan with the peace of mind that can come from being assured of stability, even if your time frame changes. 

Either way, we’re here to help you explore the pros and cons and to come to a conclusion that’s uniquely right for you.

Whether you are purchasing or refinancing a home, call us now at (626) 799-0882 or 1-800-445-PFCU to get started on the best mortgage loan solution for you.

 

ATM Robbery Reminds Us to Take Precautions

There are many ways to stay safe at an ATM

Occasionally, stories hit the news about robberies at ATMs, such as this one which occurred in Arcadia, CA.   PFCU cares about our members’ safety.  We all love the convenience the machines provide, but we urge everyone to use precaution when using any ATM.

The following suggestions may be helpful:

• Prepare your transactions before arriving at the ATM

• Protect the secrecy of your personal identification number (PIN)

• Never enter your PIN at any ATM that does not look genuine, has an unusual device attached, or is operating in a suspicious manner

• Use your body as a shield when entering your PIN

• Resist the temptation to write down your PIN or share it with a friend.   You may be liable for transactions done with a PIN you share.  Stop by our branch and select a PIN you can easily remember, but which could not be guessed-no birthdates, addresses or sequences like 1234.

• At night, be sure the ATM, walkways and parking area are well lit

• Don’t display your cash, instead stuff it into your pocket or handbag as soon as the transaction is completed

• When using a drive-up ATM, make sure all the car doors are locked and windows are closed. Keep the engine running and remain alert to your surroundings

• Be very cautious of anyone loitering around the machine, especially at night

• PFCU offers 30,000+ surcharge-free ATMs, including those located in 7-Eleven, Costco and California Walgreens Pharmacies.  By using a machine inside, you are reducing the risk of being robbed.  Many of these locations even have security guards onsite.

• Consider getting cash back from your debit card at a grocery store.  There is no fee and you are receiving the funds from a cashier.

• Choose ATMs with visible security cameras or which are in high traffic areas.

• Stay alert.  Look around you as you transact.  Criminals generally like to prey on unobservant individuals.

• If you are with friends or family, encourage them to walk to the ATM with you rather than staying in the car.

• Plan ahead.  Most merchants and restaurants take credit and debit cards, so perhaps you don’t actually need cash to begin with.

 

In addition to the stores mentioned above, you can use your PFCU Debit or ATM card at Bank of the West ATMs and more than 30,000 surcharge-free Co-Op ATMs.  You’ll see details, maps and whether or not the machine takes deposits (many do not).  You can also text an address, zip code or intersection to 692667 (MyCoOp) for ATMs near you.

You can also walk into more than 5,000 Co-Op Shared Branch locations nationwide to transact safely in a branch.  You’ll need to have your ID and PFCU account number with you.

Check out the locations tab of our website for information on convenient phone apps for finding branches and ATMs and even making deposits and transfers on some Smartphone models.

The Safety and Security tab of our website is full of great information and is updated regularly.  We also Tweet and post alerts on our Pasadenafcu Facebook page as they occur.  We’ve been standing strong for our members since 1935.  Your money is safe at PFCU.

 

Maintain a Healthy Skepticism Online

There are constant variations on how cyber thieves are trying to access and exploit the confidential information of people innocently maneuvering the web.  It makes sense to be skeptical of any e-mail, posted link, private message or inquiry.  Cyber thieves aim to gain your trust and get you to let your guard down.  This allows them to place spyware and malware onto your computer, learn important data about you that lets them access your accounts and private information, and trick you into unintentionally giving them money.  Attachments such as .zip files are notorious for acting like a Trojan horse to deliver malicious files to your computer.  Make sure you know what you are clicking on at all times.  Just because an e-mail appears to be from a well-known company, don’t assume it is.  Inspect the URL closely for variations in the name, or contact the company by typing in the correct website yourself, or calling them at the number you have on file for them.  A little diligence can go a long way. 

Be sure to “Like” our Pasadenafcu Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, check our PFCUandyou.com blog, and check the Safety and Security tab of our website for info on the latest scams.  Don’t enter personal information such as passwords, social security number, account numbers, answers to security questions and financial information into e-mails you receive.  Go to the website YOU have for the organziation or call them.  E-mails that would ask for information like that are most certainly “phishing” for ways to exploit your trust.  In this case, healthy skepticism can save you headaches and more.

Don’t Let a DDoS Attack Cut You Off From Your Money

DDoS attacks are mentioned more frequently in the news these days, but what are they?  The initials stand for “Distributed Denial of Service” and refer to cyber attacks which are performed by harnessing thousands of personal computers through spyware and malware and instructing them to navigate to a specific website, overloading the server and resulting in the website being inaccessible to legitimate users. 

While there may be any number of motives for such attacks, the goal is to render the targeted website useless for as long as possible.  When there are hints of a pending  attack, it is best to be proactive.  Internet rumors have indicated that a possible large-scale DDoS attack on American financial institutions might occur on Tuesday, May 7, 2013.  As a precaution, anyone who transacts business on financial institution websites is encouraged to refrain from doing so on that day.  Plan ahead and schedule online transactions in advance if possible. If you need to transact on that day, consider physically going to a branch or calling the institution.

Generally, it is not a good idea to wait until the last minute to schedule an online payment or transfer.  Always look ahead and schedule transactions well in advance to give yourself a cushion in the event of unforeseen roadblocks.  You’ll also have peace of mind, which is a great benefit of thoughtful planning.  PFCU’s Online Banking and Bill Pay, for example, allow you to schedule one-time or recurring future payments and transfers and have options for all sorts of convenient reminder texts or e-mails.  The internet is a valuable tool in communication, organization, and information-gathering.  Just be careful not to rely on it to the extent that you can be affected by temporary interruptions in service.  Always have a backup plan.

There are more Safety and Security blog articles here.  To get fraud alerts as soon as we communicate them, “Like” our PasadenaFCU Facebook Page and/or follow us on Twitter @Pasadenafcu.  The Safety and Security tab of our website is a great place to read up on internet safety, too.

Online Fraud Can Come Wrapped in Holiday Bows

Don't let cyber Grinches steal your Christmas cheer

With the success of cyber Monday, more retailers than ever are offering great deals exclusively online.  Unfortunately, many cyber thieves are set to make Santa’s “naughty” list as they prey on unwary, bargain-hunting shoppers with a variety of scams.  Here are some ways you can keep these Grinches from stealing your Christmas:

  • Purchase and install a firewall and anti-virus software before making online purchases.  If you already have protective software, be sure to keep it updated.  You should receive notices when updates are available.
  • Don’t click on links that advertise “free” items, gift cards, holiday gifts or employment.  If interested, go to the website of the company purported to be making the offer (don’t get the web address from the e-mail) and verify the legitimacy of the offer.  If you don’t see the offer, try calling them. 
  • Free cell phone app offers can be tempting, but if you are interested in one you learn about in a text, social media or e-mail, look for it in a recognized App store.
  • Be very careful of electronic greeting cards-they may contain spyware or malware, thus installing trouble on your device in a pretty package!
  • Resist the temptation to click on “Free” offers on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Follow the safety tips on online auctions like ebay and Craigslist to prevent paying for an item you never receive.
  • It’s wonderful to give to charities at the holidays, but be wary of phone or e-mail solicitations for donations.  You want to ensure that you are actually giving to the charity of your choice and not an imposter.  Look up their website and contact them on your own to arrange a donation. PFCU has dozens of non-profit community partners we work with that would be worthy recipients.  The Federal Trade Commission also has a Charity Checklist.
  • Watch your accounts online for fraudulent activity so you can shut it down quickly.  Our online banking is free and easy to initiate at www.pfcu.org.  You’ll find demos for both Online Banking and Bill Pay. You can even set up text and e-mail alerts so you know right away if specific types of items hit your accounts. 
  • Look for secured sites that have https in the web address.  The “s” stands for “secure” and represents additional security to give you peace of mind. 
  • Check out McAfee’s “Avoid the 12 Scams of the Holidays
  • Bookmark and check frequently the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) Online Security Tips

 

With these tips, your holidays should be “smooth sledding”.  The additional assurance these tips bring will make your holidays much more enjoyable.

Outsmart Malicious Social Media “Friends”

Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In and other social media sites have profoundly impacted society in many ways.  They have facilitated reunions of old friends, helped people with similar interests find one another, allowed groups to organize more effectively and have helped businesses like PFCU grow.  Many of our new members found us online.  There has been a lot of talk about what to share and not to share online. Have you thought about that question in terms of answers to your security questions for our free Online Banking and Bill Pay services, as well as those of your other online accounts?  You should.

Multi-factor authentication, as we have discussed elsewhere, is an important way of staying a step ahead of identity thieves.  In an effort to share information with your friends on social media sites, however, you may be giving the answers to some of your security questions away.  In school, teachers punish students who get caught cheating but online if you unwittingly give the answers away you could get punished by financial loss or headaches with cleaning up the very real mess of fraudulent use of your accounts. 

Often people want to share their hometown on Facebook or other sites so that individuals they knew in childhood can find them.  That seems innocent enough, but often one of  your security questions will be “What city were you born in?”  One way around that is to determine alternative answers to those questions to use when setting up multi-factor authentication.  The trick here is not to forget those answers.  As it is, we often get phone calls from frustrated members who have forgotten the way they input the answers and find themselves locked out of their accounts.  Try to use the same combination of capital and lower case letters all the time in case-sensitive data fields, and don’t make that combination obvious.  For example, Pasadena might become pa$aDena.  Notice that we used a dollar sign instead of a letter ‘s’ and put the capital in an unusual place.  Someone born in New York might, instead, list the city that is home to their favorite sports team or the city their parent was born in.  As long as you remember, you will not tip off a criminal.  One woman who wanted to make sure her recently-divorced spouse could not access her accounts listed her mother’s maiden name as “freedom”.  A humorous answer like that may make it easier for you to remember how you answered the question. 

Often people will post their favorite foods, movies, performers or songs on social media sites because they enjoy those things.  Since many of those items may show up as security questions in the account set up process online, make sure you give different answers to ensure that you won’t hand your account over to thieves. 

While taking a few moments to review the answers to your account authentication questions may seem inconvenient, it is nothing compared to the hassle of cleaning up identity theft.  Since you’re already online, why not go through your accounts and make sure you haven’t revealed information thieves can use to steal from you?  That way you can enjoy the benefits of social media and rest easy about your online security.