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7 Bad Financial Habits You Need to Break Right Now

Human beings are habit-creating machines, craving any mental or physical shortcut that lets us focus on higher-level thoughts, such as what’s for lunch or developing theories about Netflix dramas.

Bad money habits are more difficult to steer out of than other automated behaviors like driving a car. Why? Financial peace of mind is a much more subtle reward than the satisfaction of navigating a half-ton piece of metal through city streets without death or injury.

Still, every person who is good at money learned good habits, which means you can, too. “What we know from lab studies is that it’s never too late to break a habit. Habits are malleable throughout your entire life,” Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” told NPR.

Here are seven financial habits you should break before you go broke.

1. Stop spending more than you earn

Who do you think you are, the U.S. government? America’s fiscal deficit is projected to be $559 billion in fiscal year 2017, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

How is your own personal deficit? About one in five Americans spend more than they earn and 38% break even, research from the National Financial Capability Study shows. Your goal must be to join the 40% of Americans who spend less than they earn.

2. Stop ignoring your bills

Here’s how not to handle your obligations: When a collection agency calls, you pay the bill. This kind of financial firefighting only guarantees you’ll veer from crisis to crisis as your credit score burns.

Payment history carries huge weight on your financial future; more than one-third of your credit score is judged by your ability to pay your power bill, car insurance and credit cards on time. If you can’t, work out a payment plan with your creditor before it goes to collections.

3. Stop using your credit cards like free money

Credit cards are a weapon in your financial arsenal. Like all armaments, they can be used in strategic defense or to shoot yourself in the foot. Too often, it’s the latter — the average U.S. household with credit card debt has $16,748 of it.

That plastic in your pocketbook is the greatest enabler of bad money habits, allowing you to spend on a whim and forsake all budget plans. Sticking to a budget should be your most faithful money habit.

4. Stop thinking you’re not smart enough

Today, consumers must take control of their own financial lives, whether it’s understanding health insurance or guiding their own 401(k) plans to invest for retirement. Even so, during the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, many consumers struggled to understand basic health insurance terms such as “deductible,” a survey by the Kaiser Foundation found.

Learn the lexicon of finance to manage your money better.

“I used to catch myself saying, ‘Investing is hard. I just don’t understand it.’ This gave me permission to avoid learning how to invest,” wrote Ann Marie Houghtailing, author of “How I Created a Dollar Out of Thin Air.” “Now I say, ‘Investing is a skill. You just have to start small.’”

5. Stop making it hard to save

Old habits die hard, and one of the oldest habits is using checks to pay bills or make savings deposits. “Personal finance habits take longer to change than the way you might switch from one smartphone to another. That’s because money is so important to us,” Fred Davis, a professor of Information Systems at the University of Arkansas, told Marketplace.

Set up automatic transfers for bill payments. Also automatically have 10% or more of your paycheck sent directly to your savings account. These two steps will go a long way toward building good money habits and credit scores with little effort.

6. Stop complaining about your paycheck

Whatever energy you’re spending complaining about the size of your paycheck takes energy away from finding ways to improve your bottom line. Think you’re being underpaid? Negotiate a raise or at least talk with your boss to understand what’s needed to see a bump in pay. If you’re valued, your supervisor will see the implicit threat that you may leave for a higher-paying job. Start looking for that more lucrative gig while you’re at it.

In the meantime, investigate ways to build other streams of income and seek ways to improve your skills.

7. Stop thinking more cash brings happiness

OK, money does bring happiness, but only to a point. Purchasing experiences and giving to charity have a much longer shelf life for our well-being, research suggests.

Replace bad habits with good ones

Breaking your go-to financial routines will take time and effort. Subbing in habits that improve your bottom line — paying bills on time, using technology and increasing your income and savings — will be worth the work in the long run.



The article 7 Bad Financial Habits You Need to Break Right Now originally appeared on NerdWallet.


Ways to Spend your Tax Return

It's Tax Time! Do you know how you are going to spend your tax return this year? As tempting as booking a vacation may be, we know that a strong financial future doesn't build itself! Here are some alternative ways to spend your tax return that will benefit you.

1. Pay off Loans and Credit Cards

Outstanding loan and credit card balances affect your credit score. If you want better interest rates to save yourself money in the long run, keep that credit score high. If you have multiple loans and credit cards, we recommend throwing your tax return at the one with the highest interest rate first.

2. Retirement

Saving for Retirement is extremely important in your long-term saving plan. Without adequate retirement funds, people nearing retirement will struggle when trying to meet their financial needs. When it comes to saving for retirement, the earlier you start, the better! Consider investing your tax returns, or at least a portion, into jump starting your retirement. 

3. Save for Emergencies

It is recommended to save at least six months of living expenses in case of emergencies and unexpected costs like job loss, divorce, or health issues. If you live paycheck to paycheck and find it hard to start saving, our Build it! Certificate allows members to open a 12-month Share Certificate (or CD) for just $25—(regularly $500). This certificate has a higher interest rate than our normal 12-month certificate so dreams can be built faster; savings can grow higher. After direct deposit is established, you can open a Build it! Certificate. The money will be deposited into the certificate with each direct deposit. To create a healthy savings plan, a minimum of $40 a month must be deposited. Little by little, the Build it! Certificate adds up to big savings. The members can add money at any time; there is no need to wait for direct deposit to come in and there is no maximum a member can deposit. Contact us today to get started!

4. Needs vs. Wants

We get it. Minnesota winters are long, cold and harsh and that tax return gets deposited into your account when spring fever is in full force. As tempting as it may be to book your spring break trip, consider using that money to invest in things that will give you a better return on your investment like making home improvements or additional payments on your mortgage. If you swap out 20 of your standard lightbulbs for LED lighbulbs, you can save almost $200/year if you use them an average of 6 hours per day. Making additional payments may save you money by decreasing the total amount of mortgageinterest you pay over the life of your home loan.


Before you book your next vacation or buy the newest iPhone, consider letting your tax return work for you. It's one step close in Building a Strong Financial Future!



Safeguard Your Cash and Personal Info


How to Safeguard Your Cash and Personal Info at ATMs


An ATM can be a lifesaver when you're on the go and need some fast cash. But as helpful as these machines can be, they're also magnets for fraudsters who are out to make a quick buck. In fact, criminals stole data from magnetic-strip debit cards at ATMs at the highest rate in over 20 years during the first several months of 2015, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Here's a closer look at what you can do to stop these criminals and ensure that your money stays where it belongs: in your wallet.

Keep an eye out for skimming devices

Performed by hackers around the world, card skimming is the tried-and-true method of copying the information from magnetic-strip credit and debit cards by inserting a device on top of a card reader slot. This gadget scans and stores card information, which fraudsters use to produce duplicate plastic to make unauthorized purchases or withdraw money from your account.

To make sure your ATM hasn't been tampered with, take a quick but careful look at its card reader. Consider using only those machines that are in densely populated places and that are monitored by security cameras. Criminals might be less willing to place skimming devices into these types of machines. That also makes it a good idea to stay away from ATMs located at gas stations and other remote places where cameras aren't used.

The new microchip-embedded EMV cards are designed to foil this type of counterfeiting. They encrypt your account information and also generate an authentication code that's required before in-person purchases are approved. Even if a scammer were able to steal your data and make a counterfeit card, the fake plastic wouldn't work without the required microchip. We strongly encourage you to use your EMV compliant cards and to shop at merchants who are EMV compliant. 

Avoid loitering

After confirming that the ATM isn't rigged, try to withdraw your cash as quickly as possible. That way, you'll reduce your chances of attracting unwanted attention. It will also help to initiate the transaction knowing exactly how much money you want to withdraw.

Have your plastic's personal identification number, or PIN, memorized and use your hand to shield the keypad as you enter it. If it's late and you're alone, consider waiting until you're inside a locked car or other safe place to count your money. Keep a copy of your receipt in case you received less cash than you requested.

Monitor your checking account

Although good judgment and common sense will go a long way in ensuring safe ATM withdrawals, you can make sure fraudsters aren't using your card info by regularly monitoring your online checking account. Star Choice Credit Union provides online banking as well as a Mobile App to allow you to monitor your accounts 24/7.

If you happen to notice an ATM transaction that you don't remember making, call Star Choice Credit Union immediately.


We have an application available to stop fraud at the source. MobiMoney is an application that put you in control of your card. It allows you to turn your card on/off, receive instant alerts for card activity, and restrict/enable card usage based on location, type of merchant, type of transaction, and threshold amount.

Learn more about MobiMoney here:


The Takeaway

The continued use of card skimmers means consumers must be vigilant when using magnetic-strip cards at ATMs. In a rush to get cash, it can be easy to forget the basics, such as covering the keypad and making sure that there aren't any suspicious individuals lurking nearby.

By making the aforementioned moves, you'll be doing everything in your power to protect yourself and your money. And don't fret if you spot a strange transaction in one of your statements. Stay cool and contact SCCU immediately.


© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Tips for Avoiding Credit Card Fraud


Tips for Avoiding Credit Card Fraud

With nearly 38,000 complaints logged in 2015, credit card fraud ranks as the second most common form of identity theft, behind only tax- or wage-related fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

It can take many forms, including:

  • Scammers who try to sucker you into giving up credit card info over the phone.
  • E-mail phishing.
  • Skimmers – devices hidden in the mouths of card slots at gas pumps, ATMs and even restaurants to copy card information.

Nothing but healthy skepticism can save you from falling for a slick hustler. But advances in technology are designed to better protect consumers against credit card fraud when making purchases in person.

EMV cards

Though they've been used widely for years overseas, EMV cards are relatively new in the U.S. They still have the thick black band on the back, so they can continue to act like the “magstripe” cards that people have been carrying in their wallets and purses for decades. The brainy component is the chip embedded in the card, indicated by a gold- or silver-colored foil square on the front.

When inserted into an EMV reader, the chip generates a unique, encrypted transaction code, or token. When the token reaches your bank, it is decrypted to verify your account and authorize the payment. Since the token changes with every transaction, a stolen token can't be reused.

By comparison, the information on a magstripe is unchanging, meaning it's easily cloned. In the U.K., where EMV has been in use more than a decade, the switch cut in-person credit card fraud by more than two-thirds.

Bear in mind that EMV chips are no safer than magstripes when you're buying online or giving credit card info to someone over the phone. And for now, most gas pump card readers aren't EMV-ready. Star Choice Credit Union encourages you to use your EMV ready credit card and shop at merchants who are EMV compliant.

Mobile payment services

“Mobile wallets” or “e-wallets” use the same kind of token technology as EMV cards. The difference is that instead of pulling out your card, you tap or scan your smartphone at retail checkout terminals.

Depending on the smartphone pay system, you may need to enter a PIN or scan your fingerprint to complete a transaction. With Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay, you're assigned a substitute card number that's unique to the phone and tethered to your credit card number.

Using your smartphone or tablet adds another layer of security, because a hacker would need to have both the device and its password.

Monitor your credit card statements

It's a good idea to check your accounts regularly. If you see charges you know you didn't make or otherwise don't recognize, contact the card issuer to clarify and, if necessary, dispute them. You may also want to set up a fraud alert or request a credit freeze. 

Online transactions

If you're buying online, make sure you're on a secure site before you enter sensitive information. Look for the https:// or a padlock at the start of the web address.

It's also wise to avoid accessing bank or personal finance sites using public Wi-Fi, which can are wide open to hackers.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Debit Card Fraud


How Debit Card Fraud Happens — and How to Avoid It

For many people, debit cards are the perfect plastic. They offer most of the conveniences of credit cards with no risk of accumulating debt.

But like credit cards, debit cards are vulnerable to rip-off artists. And debit card fraud is particularly scary because thieves can withdraw money directly from your checking account.

Here's how debit fraud happens and how to protect yourself.

How identity thieves operate

Debit card fraud can be sophisticated or old-school. Thieves use techniques including:

  • Hacking. When you bank or shop on public Wi-Fi networks, hackers can use keylogging software to capture everything you type, including your name, debit card account number and PIN.
  • Phishing. Be wary of messages soliciting your account information. Emails can look like they're from legitimate sources but actually be from scammers. If you click on an embedded link and enter your personal information, that data can go straight to criminals.
  • Skimming. Identity thieves can retrieve account data from your card's magnetic strip using a device called a skimmer, which they can stash in ATMs and store card readers. They can then use that data to produce counterfeit cards. EMV chip cards, which are replacing magnetic strip cards, can reduce this risk. Star Choice Credit Union provides you with EMV chip cards and encourages you to shop at merchants that are EMV compliant.
  • Spying. Plain old spying is still going strong. Criminals can plant cameras near ATMs or simply look over your shoulder as you take out your card and enter your PIN. They can also pretend to be good Samaritans, offering to help you remove a stuck card from an ATM slot.

Smart ways to protect yourself

Adopt these simple habits to greatly reduce your odds of falling victim to debit card fraud:

  • Be careful online. Shop and bank on secure websites with private Wi-Fi. If you must shop or bank in public, download a virtual private network to protect your privacy.
  • Monitor your accounts. Review your statements and sign up for text or email alerts so you can catch debit card fraud attempts early.
  • Don't ignore data breach notifications. The majority of identity theft victims received warnings that their accounts might have been breached but did nothing. If you get one of these messages, change your PIN and ask your provider to change your debit card number. You can also ask one of the major credit card bureaus to place a fraud alert on your file.
  • Inspect card readers and ATMs. Don't use card slots that look dirty or show evidence of tampering, such as scratches, glue or debris. And steer clear of machines with strange instructions, such as “Enter PIN twice.”
  • Cover your card. When using your debit card or typing your PIN at an ATM, block the view with your other hand. Go to a different location entirely if suspicious people are hanging around the ATM, and if your card gets stuck, notify the financial institution directly rather than accepting “help” from strangers.

Even if you've taken precautions, debit card fraud can still happen. If your card gets hacked, don't panic. Tell your bank or credit union right away so you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved