Why You Should Use Your Credit Card When You’re on Vacation

Summer vacations may have you traveling a lot. Whether you are headed to your cabin or on a cross-country road trip, it is important to think about protecting yourself while spending on vacation. Here are the reasons using your credit card to make purchases when you are out of town is the best way to keep your money safe.

Credit Card Protection

The protection your credit card provides when spending away from home is unparalleled. While you might be inclined to reach for your trusty debit card, a credit card is the wiser choice. By law, your credit card must protect you from fraudulent charges, capping your liability at only $50. Your credit card might also offer purchase protection, extended warranties on purchases (up to two extra years), reimbursement for theft of your purchase, or purchase cost refunds if you cannot return products to the merchant. You would be amazed by all the things your credit card protects you from that you never knew about!

Theft and Fraudulent Charges

TopLine Platinum Credit Cards offer some of the best theft protection out there with Visa’s Zero Liability Program. Experiencing theft on your debit card can be a disastrous ordeal. The thief can wipe out your savings, leaving you with no money to pay bills until your dispute for the fraudulent charges clears and your bank gives you the money back. With a credit card, you are covered. There is no requirement for how quickly you dispute the fraudulent charge and there is no liability beyond $50. The microchip in our Platinum Credit Cards is the most secure way to pay. Each time your card is used to pay for something, the card chip creates a unique transaction code that cannot be reused, allowing for better protection from fraud.

 

When traveling on summer vacation, it is always wise to use your credit card as it offers protection on your purchase and fraudulent charges. You never know when your card information might be stolen, so it is best to avoid using your debit card while out of town. Learn more about our TopLine credit cards here!

 

The Benefits of Improving Your Credit

Having good credit is essential to a healthy financial well-being. This is due mostly to the fact that obtaining loans is a necessary part of life, and the availability of these loans is based on having a good credit score. Having a good score will help you buy a car, purchase a home, get lower interest rates – even obtain certain jobs.

Building Your Credit

So, how do you build good credit? If you don’t have credit, one of the easiest ways to start is to open a credit card. Search around and find one that doesn’t have a service fee and has a lower APR. At TopLine, we not only offer credit cards with tons of features, but they also come with many perks! Both the Platinum and Platinum Rewards VISA cards are loaded with benefits:

  • Screenshot (301)Low variable APR based on your credit history
  • No annual fees
  • No over-the-limit fee
  • Free eStatements
  • Free online account access
  • Automatic payment options
  • Cash Advances
  • VISA’s Zero Liability Program
  • Worldwide travel and emergency assistance
  • Free auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Warranty Manager Service

Calculating Your Credit Score

If you already have credit, it is important to know where you stand. Before you request copies of your credit report, make sure you know how your FICO Score is calculated. That will help you understand how to read your reports and what each score means. Here is a breakdown of the ranges of credit and what they mean:

  • Excellent Credit: 750 +
  • Good Credit: 700-749
  • Fair Credit: 650-699
  • Poor Credit: 600-649
  • Bad Credit: Below 600

The steps to find your credit score are as follows:

  1. Obtain a credit report – you are able to have one free copy per year. Make sure that you get a credit report from each of the credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
  2. Compare and contrast the reports to find any discrepancies.
  3. If you find some that are inaccurate, be sure to dispute them right away. The longer they remain on your credit report, the more they bring down your score.

Improving Your Credit

Whether your credit report looks to be in good shape or needs improvement, it is important to consistently stay on top of it. The two easiest ways to do that is to reduce the amount of debt you owe as fast as you can and to set up payment reminders so that you don’t default. One of the fastest ways to pay off debt is to use the Debt Snowball Method. People have paid off tens of thousands of dollars in the matter of a few years with this strategy. You can also check out consolidation options to make payments easier and to lower interest rates. At TopLine, we offer personal loans as a form of debt consolidation.

Extra tips for how to improve your credit can be found here.

There are many benefits of having a good credit score – it simply makes life easier. You will see the benefits of lower interest rates and more financial opportunities open up for you like never before – good credit opens doors. Don’t go another day not knowing where you stand or having a bad creditor further lower your score.

Teaching Your Kids to be Financially Literate

Teaching Your Kids

April is Youth Financial Literacy Month, so we thought we’d share why we find financial literacy among our youth so important.

As parents, we want our kids to be successful and to make the right choices. We try our best to teach them all that we know, so how has financial literacy escaped conversation at the dinner table? If we’re not talking about money and finances with one another, how do we expect to teach our kids to become financially stable?

The Child Development Institute lists some good ideas of how you can teach your kids the value of money. The main points are:

 

  • Provide an Allowance. They’ll need somewhere to start. Give your kids a weekly or monthly allowance, or provide chores around the house for them to complete to earn some spare cash.
  • Lead by Example. Teach your kids to separate their funds into pools or pots. One can be for savings, one for a new toy or goal they want to achieve, one for a gift for their parent/grandparent/sibling, and so on. Show them one of your utility bills and make a goal of lowering it for the next month. This will teach them the effect using every-day utilities has on monthly bills and income.
  • Provide Practice. Play games with your kids that teach them the value of a dollar. Monopoly is the most common and popular for this, but can be difficult for younger kids. Check out Kids.gov to find alternative, age-appropriate games.
  • Give Feedback. Support your teachings and lessons with praise and encouragement — include rewards in exchange for good financial decisions. Also, give your children suggestions and direction for better financial decisions if they seem to be getting off-track.

 

TopLine’s Get Smart with your Money program
We believe that it’s never too early to talk with your kids about money, which is why we have the program Get Smart With Your Money — a financial education enterprise that encourages conversation about money among your family. There are three different age-specific groups that tailor to the needs and understandings of your children:

Building Dreams (ages 5-8)

  • This is a baseline course about the concepts of spending, saving and sharing. It will involve storytelling, worksheets, and other fun activities.

Dollar Power (ages 9-13)

  • Inspired by the National Endowment for Financial Education and the Money Smarts curriculum offered by the National Association of Federal Credit Union, this course teaches the difference between needs and wants, planning and goal setting, saving and paying yourself first, spending wisely and gift cards. Kids will be given real-life scenarios and asked questions about the importance of saving and spending wisely.

Dollars & Sense (ages 14-18)

  • This course digs deeper into the concepts that were taught in Dollar Power and expands further on sound money management, checking accounts, debit and credit cards and the significance of credit. Again, students will be taught by example with real-life scenarios and thought-provoking questions.  

These sessions are offered Saturday, April 23 and Thursday, October 18 at 11:30 AM. They will be held at TopLine’s Maple Grove Learning Center located at 9353 Jefferson Highway.

For more information, give TopLine a call at 763-391-9494 or you can register online.

 

Financial Education Seminars Presented by TopLine Federal Credit Union

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TopLine Federal Credit Union takes pride in giving back to the public by holding financial education seminars throughout the year.

People often have questions about money and areas that they can use a little help. Whether you’re curious about saving for college or planning to buy a home, you can’t help but be a little stressed.

If you need some assistance, maybe one of our seminars can help! Each seminar is held at our Maple Grove branch at 9353 Jefferson Highway. All the seminars are free, but reservations are required. To reserve your spot, please call us at 763-391-9494, send an email to RSVP@toplinecu.com or click the ticket tab above to learn more about the seminar at Toplinecu.com/seminars.

Be sure to include names of all attendees in your email response. Please feel free to extend our invitation to others you know who may have interest. Family members and friends are all welcome to attend. Here is a look at our seminars throughout the year:

Teen Driver Seminar (March 15 & September 20)
Is your teen ready to get behind the wheel? Are you ready for your teen to get behind the wheel? This seminar covers tips both you and your teen should know for safe driving and insurance coverage.

Join the TopLine Insurance Agency for a seminar to learn how to insure your teen driver, how adding a teen driver will affect rates, which discounts are available, top safety picks for cars and insurance rates, and safe driving tips to being ready for the unexpected. Plus, we’ll walk through a live auto insurance quote, and you’ll walk away with your free Parent-Teen Contract.

Improve Your Credit Score (March 22)
Learn how to obtain, understand and improve your credit and credit score. In this workshop, you will learn:

  • How to get and read your credit report
  • How your credit score is calculated
  • How to increase your score
  • How to correct errors
  • How to improve negative credit and build good credit
  • Your FCRA rights

Money Lessons from the Movies (April 19)
Americans of all ages love movies and there are valuable lessons about money that can be learned in fun, memorable ways.

This workshop teaches timeless principles of financial decision-making using film clips and group discussions looking at money situations from classic Hollywood, Disney, horror and children’s movies.

First-Time Home Buyer’s Seminar (April 21, May 19, June 23)
Attendees will hear from a TopLine mortgage advisor with insights and individual advice on home buying, including market specifics and inventory, how and what to buy, available home loans that are best for individual needs, what you can expect during the loan process and possible tax qualifications.

Free Youth Financial Literacy Seminars (April 23, October 13)

  • Building Dreams (ages 5-8) 9 AM: Explore the concepts of spending, saving and sharing. Kids will share in a story about saving entitled “Just Saving My Money.” Other activities include age-appropriate discussions and worksheets.
  • Dollar Power (ages 9-13) 10:15 AM: Explore the concepts of needs versus wants, planning and goal setting, saving and paying yourself first, spending wisely and gift cards.
  • Dollars & Sense (ages 14-18) 11:30 AM: Explore the concepts of needs versus wants, planning and goal setting, saving and paying yourself first, sound money management using checking accounts and debit cards, gift cards and using credit wisely.

Lively, thought-provoking questions and real-life examples will get everyone thinking about the importance of balancing needs versus wants and how planning and saving today can really pay off down the road.

Keeping the Cabin in the Family (May 4, September 14)
Concerned with what may happen to the family cabin as it is passed on to the next generation? Learn the importance of estate planning in this seminar.

Road Map for a Happy Retirement (September 27)
Part of success in retirement is the economic security of having retirement savings. Join LSS Financial Counseling and TopLine for a workshop to learn tips to help you with big financial decisions and avoid common mistakes, planning ahead, and holistically, for your time and happiness in this next chapter of life.

Defend Yourself Against Identity Theft (October 18)
Learn about the ways identity theft can happen to adults – or even children. Find simple, effective steps to prevent identity theft, gain confidence in online safety and financial interactions and know the resources to turn to if identity theft happens to you.

Five Consumer Protection Laws You’ll Love to Use (November 8)
Personal finance can be intimidating, but these laws make insurance, banks, mortgage lenders, debt collectors and credit bureaus play fair.

Join LSS Financial Counseling and TopLine for a workshop to learn five consumer protection laws you’ll love to use.

Creating a Savings Plan for the Year

Creating a

January is coming to a close, and with it, many people’s New Year’s Resolution hopes. Each year, the top resolutions are about losing and saving: losing weight and saving money. Both can seem like daunting tasks, and although we aren’t experts on weight loss, we do know a thing or two about saving money.

Make Financial Goals
Saving for something special this year? Planning on making a major purchase or home improvement? Sending kids off to college soon? Setting goals for yourself is the first step in making a yearly savings plan. Setting a financial goal for yourself sets your destination in view and creates a timeframe to fulfill it.

Set a Budget
The most important aspect to setting a budget for a savings plan is to be reasonable and realistic. Base your budget on your income and monthly bills — and be sure to keep it flexible, if only at first. People can be overly optimistic about money before their plans are put into practice, and can become discouraged about getting on track.

Cover Small Debts First
This goes along with being realistic; smaller debts are easier to overcome than larger ones, and you don’t want to be paying more interest than you need to. Prioritize your loans into manageable payments and resolve to pay off smaller ones first.

Save for a Rainy Day
According to gobankrates.com, 36 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. No one knows what the future will bring. You best line of defense is being prepared for the worst. Start a savings account and add to it each month. Even if it’s as little as $20, it’s better than nothing. Save your change in a jar and deposit it at the end of the month, cut back on superfluous spending, turn your thermostat down a couple degrees — whatever you decide, small savings do add up, and they get you in the mindset to build a nest egg. Thesurvivalmom.com has a fantastic savings plan you can use or reformat to fit your budget.

It’s not hard to put a little money away each month — the difficult part is making a reasonable plan and achievable goals, especially a long-term plan for savings. TopLine Federal Credit Union has a ton of savings options to help you reach your goals. Our savings account rates are calculated daily to ensure you the best possible account earnings.

Don’t be another end of January statistic; start your savings off on the right foot, and by the end of the year, you’re sure to see that your dedication -— quite literally — pays off!