Monday, April 25, 2016

4 Tips for Managing Finances After College Graduation

College graduation marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Gone are dorm rooms, awful part-time jobs and asking your parents for money — hopefully. Now it’s time for your first full-time job and paycheck.

Managing that money on your own can be a tricky task, but these four tips can help recent grads master some of the basics.



1. EVALUATE YOUR CHECKING AND SAVINGS ACCOUNTS

Student checking accounts offer great benefits, such as waived ATM and monthly service fees. Those perks may disappear after graduation, though, making it an ideal time to review your checking and savings account options.

Most financial institutions offer a variety of accounts, so try to find one that will maximize the return on your money, and look for ways to minimize fees. A lot of checking accounts will waive monthly service fees if you set up direct deposit, for example.

2. STAY ON TOP OF STUDENT LOANS

Nearly 70 percent of college graduates have student loan debt, and those who take out loans owe an average of $28,950, according to an annual report by the Institute for College Access and Success.

Understanding what you owe, whom you owe it to and what your repayment options are can help make paying off your loans seem a little less daunting.

The National Student Loan Data System is an easy way to view all of your federal student loans. These loans have multiple repayment options, many of which are income-based. Private lenders set their own repayment terms, so it’s best to contact each lender to review your balance and repayment choices.

Setting up automatic payments through your bank or the loan servicer can help ensure you never miss a due date.

3. START SAVING FOR RETIREMENT

Full-time employment can come with a lot of benefits.  One many employers off is a 401(k).

Some companies will match a portion of what you put in, giving you free money toward your retirement. And since it’s a pretax plan, putting money in reduces the amount you’re taxed on each paycheck.

A 401(k) isn’t your only option, though, Traditional and Roth IRAs also come with tax benefits. Start saving now, even just a small percentage, and the money you set aside can build upon itself over time.

4. USE CREDIT WISELY

A good credit score can save you thousands of dollars in interest on mortgages and auto loans. One way to build your score is to open a credit card. 

Look for cards with low fees and interest rates. Rewards such as airline miles or cash back are also a nice bonus. Avoid applying for multiple cards at once, though, as this can harm your credit rather than help it. 

If you open a card, try to use it only for essentials, and pay your balance in full each month to avoid interest charges. Failing to do so can also hurt your credit. 

Following these tips can prepare you for the big financial challenges ahead and help set you up for success in your 30s, 40s and beyond. 

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

What Everyone Should Know About EMV Cards

Americans report billions of dollars in credit and debit card fraud each year. A new technology using microprocessors called EMV chips could help curb future losses.
The chips are embedded on the front of credit and debit cards and exchange information with chip-card readers. Used together, the two make it harder for fraudsters to copy card information and make bogus in-store purchases.
Here's what you need to know about EMV cards.

How EMV works

If you have an EMV card, you'll insert the chipped end into a slot on an EMV-enabled reader, instead of swiping. Leave the card there for a few seconds, while the chip exchanges information with the payment processing system and authenticates the account; then remove it. Depending on the account, you might also sign for the purchase or enter a personal identification number, or PIN, to verify your identity and complete the sale.

How chips protect you

Named for developers Europay, MasterCard and Visa, EMV chips encrypt your information and generate a unique code each time you use your card. Each code can be used only once — so they're useless to hackers.
Traditional cards use a magnetic strip that transmits the same unencrypted information every time you swipe. If someone copies the data, he or she can easily duplicate your plastic and use it to make fraudulent purchases.

Where they're used

EMV-enabled cards are already the standard in parts of Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. In the U.S., where credit and debit card fraud losses have risen steadily over the past few years, retailers and issuers are slowly catching up. Many issuers have sent new EMV cards to customers, and chip-card readers are becoming more common at stores across the U.S.
Banks, credit card companies and merchants in the U.S. picked up the pace of adoption last fall, when new fraud liability standards went into effect. Before Oct. 1, credit card issuers had borne the brunt of fraud losses, but responsibility now could fall to the retailer, if its system is less secure than the card used.

What it means for you

There's a good chance you've already received an EMV card. If you haven't, call your financial services provider and ask for one.
Using an EMV card at a retailer that has a chip-reading system should make your purchase more secure. It will also make it easier to use your card in the myriad countries that already have the technology. Traditional cards can still be used most places too.
Although EMV technology helps you shop more safely, it doesn't thwart thieves entirely. Hackers can still pilfer your card information online or over the phone, or simply steal your card. So it's wise to exercise caution when using your credit or debit card. If your card goes missing or you spot suspicious activity, notify your financial institution immediately.


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