28 May

What to Do with Your Stimulus Check

By now, most of you have probably received your stimulus check of up to $1,200 per adult (and $500 per child) as part of the federal coronavirus relief package. This money is meant to help U.S. households withstand the coronavirus pandemic and pump some extra cash into the economy by encouraging consumer spending.

Depending on your financial situation, the best use of your stimulus check will be different. If you’ve been laid off from your job or experienced a loss of work hours or other income loss due to the COVID-19 crisis, then you’ll probably use this stimulus check to help meet your immediate financial needs. If you are still employed and receive your usual paycheck, this stimulus money could potentially help you to shore up your savings or invest for the future.

Here are some ideas on how to use your coronavirus stimulus check to get the most value, based on your financial priorities.

Cover Basic Essentials

Have your hours been cut because of the coronavirus, or has your employer reduced a certain percentage of salaries? Use this money in your paycheck to patch a hole. Depending on how much money you’ll be missing, you may be able to break up the stimulus check funds to help you get a “full” paycheck for a few months. Hopefully, you have already been able to sign up for the latest extended unemployment insurance if you’ve been laid off or furloughed from your work. But even if you get unemployment, your stimulus check will still be useful to pay bills.

If you’re unemployed, you should be strategic about how to use the stimulus check funds is important. Since the stimulus check is a one-time payout, and your unemployment benefits continue for a while, you might want to set aside the stimulus check as a temporary “mini-emergency fund.” You could use this mini-emergency fund for a few different financial goals during the next few weeks or months.

The stimulus check can also be divided to help you make partial payments on your rent or mortgage. If you are unable to make a full rent or mortgage payment, talk with your landlord or lender as soon as possible.

Pay Down Debts

At a time when so many lenders and credit card issuers are offering relief and forbearance to borrowers, it might seem strange to talk about using your stimulus check to pay off debt. But paying down debt also can be a good option for your stimulus cash, depending on your situation and goals.

For example, what if you owe just a few more payments on your car? $1,200 could potentially pay off a few months’ worth of car payments and save you some money on interest.

What if you have some debt that, for whatever reason, you don’t want to refinance, renegotiate or ask for loan relief for, such as medical debt, student loans, or a long-delayed credit card balance? If the $1,200 stimulus check will help you have peace of mind by paying off debt, go ahead and do that.

Paying off debt is almost never a bad financial move. But think carefully about how to prioritize your debt payments. Even in these uncertain times, it’s usually a good idea to pay off the highest-interest debt first, such as credit card debt.

Don’t feel like you have to be in a hurry to put all your stimulus money toward paying off debt. Look at your options for forbearance or payment deferrals first; many banks are offering relief to borrowers. If you can get some relief on your debts for a few months, you can hold on to that stimulus money and decide how to use it later.

Boost Your Emergency Fund

You may want to put some or all of your stimulus check into an emergency fund if you don’t have debt or if your debts are manageable, and you don’t have an adequate cash emergency fund in the bank. In times of uncertainty, by having cash in the bank, a lot of people feel an extra sense of calm and confidence.

If you don’t have any immediate bills that threaten to go unpaid, you might just want to put your stimulus check into a high-yield online savings account and let it accrue interest for now.

Invest for the Future 

What if you already feel pretty stable financially, even in the middle of this crisis? You will want to use your stimulus check to save for the future if you already have an emergency fund of three to six months’ expenses, you do not have urgent debts, and your work is safe.

RMLEFCU is here to help our members. We are offering our services to help you and your family during these uncertain times and encourage you to contact us if you need financial help. If you have any questions, please call us at 303-458-6660 or email us at lending@rmlefcu.org.

21 May

Top 5 Ways Fraudsters Can Steal Your Money

Phishing succeeds because it looks like the real thing, and when you’re not expecting it, it catches you off guard. Scammers are getting more and more creative in their attempts to get your money or personal information. Scams target people of all backgrounds, ages, and income levels across the United States. There is no one group of people who are more likely to be the victim of a scam, and at some point, all of us may be vulnerable to them.

You may be familiar with email phishing, but it’s not the only type of phishing you could experience. We’ve compiled the top five ways fraudsters can steal your money so you can identify and stop such scams. Be careful and protect yourself from being scammed by following these tips and safe practices.

Phone Call Phishing

Voice phishing is a form of criminal phone fraud that uses social engineering over the telephone system to gain access to private personal and financial information for financial reward purposes. It makes use of fraudulent phone calls to trick people into giving money or disclosing personal details.

Warning signs to look out for:

  1. A phone call from “your credit card company” or “financial institution”, typically from someone who works in the “Security and Fraud Department”
  2. You are told your card has been flagged for suspicious transactions and you need to prove that you have the card in your possession.
  3. You are asked to provide the three-digit security code on the back of your payment card, a one-time passcode that was just sent to you, or your PIN.

Email Phishing

Phishing emails might look like they’re from a company you know or trust. They may look like they’re from a bank, a credit card company, a social networking site, an online payment website, an app, or an online store.

Warning signs to look for:

  1. Spelling and grammar errors in the subject line or body of the email.
  2. Sometimes scammers will include a deadline and threaten account suspension to add urgency to override your normal sense of caution.
  3. The email address doesn’t match the organization.
  4. The email does not address you by your name.
  5. No contact information. If something feels suspicious, contact your financial institution directly using the phone number on the back of your card.
  6. Suspicious request. Visa, like other financial institutions, does not contact cardholders to request their personal account information.
  7. Suspicious hyperlinks. Avoid clicking on hyperlinks if possible. A single click can cause your computer to become infected with malware.

Text Message Phishing

Text message or SMS phishing happens when scam artists use misleading text messages to induce customers to include their personal or financial information. Scam artists who send text messages often impersonate a government agency, bank, or other company to lend legitimacy to their claims.

Warning Signs to Look Out For:

  1. There’s a link instead of a phone number to call.
  2. The text you receive may not contain the name of the bank or any other information.
  3. The text requests that you log in to your bank account to verify a transaction, enter your PIN, or provide your 3-digit CVV code.

Website Phishing

Phishers are getting more and more creative in creating their fake websites, take these steps if you think you’ve been phished. There’s no surefire way to know if you’re on a phishing site, but here are some tips that can help you discern a legitimate website from a phishing site:

  1. There’s something slightly off about the web address or the actual page. Look for misspelled words, substitutions, or dated logos.
  2. An unusual pop-up on the site that requests that you enter your account information.
  3. There are HTML links that don’t match their destination.

Social Media Phishing

There are multiple ways scammers use social media to get your personal information. Here are a few:

  1. Fake Profiles

Social media has changed the way customers interact with brands and tend to go directly to social media channels for customer support. Fraudsters were quick to take advantage of this online relationship to launch fake accounts that impersonate major brands.

  1. Fake Comments

A current news article or famous post appears to attract a lot of likes and comments. Fraudsters can make the most of this large audience by adding their own comments to the posts with links to other attention-grabbing headlines. As soon as users click the button, they will be directed to the phishing website or their device will be infected with malware.

  1. Fake Bargains

It’s hard to resist the lure of a cheap online deal, but these are usually too good to be true! The scammers often create a fake page that imitates a big brand name, then pretend to offer a real promotion. These scams are also explicitly designed for the collection of user data and may involve the input of personal information.

In-Branch Closures RMLEFCU Effective March 16th

How to Protect Yourself

Here are some ways you can protect yourself from phishing:

  1. Find imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government official, a family member, a charity, or a company that you do business with. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unwelcome request — whether it’s text, phone call, or email.
  2. Perform web searches. Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with terms such as “analysis,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a term that fits your situation, such as “IRS call.” You can also search for phone numbers to see if other people have identified them as scams.
  3. Don’t trust your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.
  4. Don’t pay upfront. You might be asked to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offerings, mortgage assistance, or a job. They might even say you won a prize, but you have to pay taxes or fees first. If you do, they ‘re just going to take the money and vanish.
  5. Consider how you pay. Credit cards have built-in significant fraud protection, but some methods of payment do not. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s almost impossible to get your money back. This is also valid for reloadable cards (like MoneyPak or Reloadit) and gift cards (like iTunes or Google Play). Government offices and honest companies will not require you to use these payment methods.
  6. Talk to someone. Speak to someone you trust before you give up your money or personal information. Con artists want you to make your decisions in a hurry. They might even be threatening you. Slow down, check out the plot, search online, consult an expert — or just tell a friend.
  7. Be skeptical about free trial offers. Some businesses use free trials to sign up for goods and charge you every month before you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy. And always check your monthly statements for charges that you don’t recognize.
  8. Don’t deposit checks and wire money back. By law, banks must make deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. If the check that you have deposited turns out to be a fake, you are liable for paying the bank back.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call RMLEFCU at 303-568-6660 or email us at members@rmlefcu.org.

07 May

How to Set up Mobile Payments

Contactless Payments

Thanks to the contactless approach and current events, mobile payments are becoming increasingly common. Contactless payments are a simple way to make your purchases more secure and private — in fact, it’s as easy as a few taps to your smartphone or tablet.

RMLEFCU supports Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, and Visa Checkout on several devices. Not only are your purchases more secure, but you can also add membership and loyalty cards, and have a shot at other great rewards!

It not only limits the need to always bring a bulky wallet, but it also curbs the need to use your card (or cash) and punch your PIN in. That means less chance of coming into contact with germs — something that these days is all the more important.

Multiple Ways to Pay

Once you’ve set up your digital wallet, you have a lot of options to pay. You can hold your phone up to an in-store terminal instead of swiping your card. Some online shopping sites let you select your digital wallet as your payment option instead of entering your card information. You can also use your digital wallet for in-app purchases, and you can pay quickly and still get the benefits offered by many retailer-specific apps.

Your Information is Secure

Mobile payments have enhanced security features. Once you set up your digital wallet, your account details will not be stored on your computer. Each card is assigned a virtual card number that is only connected to the digital wallet and mobile device that you use. Don’t worry if you lose track of your phone — all digital wallet transactions require authentication that you set up, such as fingerprint scanning or an entered password.

More Ways to Pay

Digital wallets make shopping more seamless and also let you send money to almost anyone with a US mobile number or email address, no matter where they bank. Learn more about how to transfer money to friends and family in the US through the RMLEFCU mobile app.

How to Set Up Your Mobile Wallet

With these free services, instead of using your actual credit and debit card numbers for purchases, a unique “device account number” is assigned, encrypted, and securely stored.

When you make a purchase, the device account number, alongside a transaction-specific dynamic security code is used to process your payment. So, your actual credit or debit card numbers are never transmitted or shared with merchants.

In addition, paying is private — the cashier never sees your name, card numbers, or security code.

Setting up Your Mobile Wallet

How to add a card to Apple Pay:

  • On your iPhone, launch the Wallet app.
  • Tap the “+” symbol to add a new card.
  • Tap “Continue.”
  • Take a picture of your card or enter your card details manually.
  • Tap on “Review the Terms and Conditions” and tap on “Agree.”
  • Select method to verify your card.

How to set up a default card on Apple Pay:

  • Launch the Settings app.
  • Select “Wallet & Apple Pay.”
  • Select “Default Card.”
  • Select the card to use as your default.

How to add a card to Android Pay.

  • Launch the “Android Pay” app.
  • The app shows the cards already associated with that account.
  • Tap on the card you wish to add and follow the confirmation prompts.
  • To add a new card, tap the “+” symbol or “add a credit or debit card.”
  • Follow the activation prompts on the screen.

How to set up your mobile wallet on Android Pay:

  • Select the card you want to make your default.
  • Tap on “Set as default card.”

How to add a card to Samsung Pay:

  • Launch the “Samsung Pay” app.
  • Tap “Add.”
  • Tap “Add credit card or debit card.”
  • Take a picture of your card or enter your card details manually.
  • Review the terms of service and tap “Agree to all.”
  • Select an option to verify the card.

Setting up a default card on Samsung Pay:

  • Samsung doesn’t have the option to set up a default card.
  • When you open Samsung Pay, the most recently used, viewed or an added card will display.

Using mobile payments is quite simple and can save you loads of time. Plus, you don’t have to worry about handing your card over to a stranger or inserting it into a pin pad that could potentially have a card skimmer on it. Check out RMLEFCU’s digital banking services. Call us at 303-458-6660 if you have any questions about digital banking, mobile wallets, or your account!

06 May

An Action Plan to Beat Financial Stress

The last thing you need in times of uncertainty is financial stress. Here are some tips, guidance, goods, resources, and financial assistance programs to help you save and access money, and help you handle some of the financial and emotional challenges that may occur in periods of instability like the COVID-19 outbreak.

Work Up an Action Plan

Your first step is to come up with an action plan to move forward with confidence, starting with these three points:

  • Remain calm. Don’t make irrational or short-term financial decisions that can actually do more harm than good. Examples include withdrawing large amounts of cash or selling stock at the bottom of a crash.
  • Reduce expenses to a minimum. If you are having trouble making a payment, RMLEFCU understands what law enforcement officers and their families have to go through. We will work with you to the best of our ability to help come up with sensible financial solutions.
  • Keep investments for the long term. If you are an investor, don’t check the markets daily and take caution against making decisions on the basis of media headlines. These fluctuations may seem concerning now, but over a longer period of time they will average out.

Re-examine Expenses

It’s not often in life that we re-examine our financial expenses. Here are a few practical things you can do to make the best of these times.

  • Re-examine your bills. Gather all your bills and find out the amount you need to pay every month for essential expenses. Then prioritize your discretionary expenses and see what you can cut out during hard times… and rethink their necessity when things return to normal.
  • Re-examine subscriptions. Subscriptions are easy to stack up and forget about. Our blog has a great guide to help determine which are worth keeping and which you can do without; you can find it at https://rmlefcu-blog.org/cancelyour- subscriptions/
  • Create a plan for the future. Think about how to improve the way you spend your money: what are the things you should spend money on that make you and your family happy, and what are the things you spend money on that don’t make you happy? When you consider these things, you’ll be able to build a realistic strategy for healthy financial investment.

Help with Housing Payments and Utilities

If paying rent and utilities are creating a challenge, ask your landlord or utility provider if it is possible to seek an extension on full or partial payment. See if they’re willing to help you get on a payment plan. It never hurts to ask, and they’re most likely amenable to helping out when there is transparent communication.

You can also go to your credit union for assistance in the form of a low rate personal loan or the ability to skip a payment.

Finally, it could be a good time to pick up a side job in an industry that is booming right now, like food delivery or grocery stores, to make a little extra cash.

01 May

Is it Still Safe to Keep Your Money in a Credit Union?

Every financial crisis comes with its share of conspiracy theories and false news. There’s a misconception that credit unions aren’t as safe as banks, and, sadly, it’s something people continue to believe.

This can cause people to take drastic measures, such as removing all their money from their savings (and sometimes their 401(k) plans) and putting it somewhere they think is better, like their mattress.

This isn’t a good idea. No matter how afraid you are of a recession, the fact is that credit unions are the best places you can store your money and they provide incentives you won’t get if you hide your money in your mattress.

Credit Unions are Insured

The best reason to put your money in a credit union or bank is simple — they’re insured. In the case of credit union accounts, assets are covered by the National Credit Union Administration or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which is backed by the U.S. government.

What exactly does this insurance policy guarantee? You have insurance if there is a failure of the credit union. RMLEFCU is covered by the FDIC. The FDIC is liable for taking stock of bank assets and selling them in order to settle its debts. This covers compensation for bank deposits, and deposits in excess of the $250,000 insurance limit if needed.

Credit Unions and Banks Pay Interest

When you keep your money in your savings account, the money is going to gain interest. That interest is what a financial institution is paying you to keep your money with it. Though you’re not going to get rich off interest, you’re probably going to get more cashback from your savings account than your mattress.

Online Payments Are More Common

Nowadays, most people aren’t using cash or checks to make payments and person-to-person mobile payments are becoming increasingly common, particularly among young adults.

Like it or not, cashless transactions will always be here. When you combine this with the fact that physical money can easily be infected with bacteria and viruses, it’s not hard to see how cashless transactions are more commonplace than ever before. However, if you want to use cashless transactions, you would need to have a checking account to process mobile payments.

Keep Your Money Safe with RMLEFCU

When the world is going through a recession and markets are uncertain, wanting to feel like your money is secure is only normal, particularly considering how many banks collapsed during the Great Recession. However, financial services are by far a better option than squirreling the money away. Want more information? Reach out to us. We’re here to help.