Five Star Advice Blog

Teach Kids to Shop Responsibly

Impulse buys can wreak havoc on even the most carefully constructed budget. Retailers know this – that’s why the checkout counters are packed with dozens of things you may not really need. It’s important to teach kids that impulse buys are why you come home from those stores having spent more than you had planned.
Learning to curb those impulses is a constant struggle. Here’s a strategy you can employ to teach your kids that turning down those small impulses will mean big saving and helps your money to grow.
Choose a store you and your child visit regularly. It can be Target, Walmart, the local grocery, or even a dollar store, so long as it has its fair share of tempting impulse purchases that your child usually begs for.
Before you set out though, implement the following system:
  • Give your child a designated amount of cash for a treat. The amount can be chosen at your discretion and should range anywhere from fify cents to five buck. You don’t have to do this every time you go to a store with your child; it can be just once a week or even once every two weeks.
  • Tell your child that they are going to be in charge of purchasing their own treat this time, using the money they’ve been given.
  • Here’s the kicker: If your child doesn’t spend all their allotted money at the store, you’ll let them keep the cash and match the amount when you get home! And then they can do whatever they want with that money. They can choose to use it the next time you go to the store, they can add it to their savings, or just put it away for a rainy day.
Make sure your child is clear on the idea that turning down an impulse purchase today means letting it grow into big bucks tomorrow. Your child is learning to use self-control, and at the same time, discovering the basic principles of investing. How’s that for one small trip to the grocery?

Seven Tips to Make Your Thanksgiving Affordable

Between your turkey, ingredients for the holiday meal and décor to set the ambiance, hosting a Thanksgiving dinner is not cheap.
If you’re looking for ways to cut back without compromising on quality, read on for seven easy ways to save on Thanksgiving costs this year. 
1.) Set your guest list
Get an accurate head count of your dinner guests to make sure that those that are invited are indeed planning on showing, and only then begin planning your menu.
2.) Find out what your guests like
While making your invitation list, find out your guests’ individual tastes and diets. Be sure to ask about particular foods. If something on your menu isn’t very popular with your guests, skip it – even if you think it’s “obligatory” for a Thanksgiving table.
3.) Consider a potluck
Cut your spending and your stress in one step by answering an enthusiastic “yes!” to every guest who asks if they can bring something. Don’t just say “anything’s fine,” consider creating a Google Sheet with your planned menu and let your guests input what they’d like to contribute.
4.) Serve on smaller plates
Most people will load up their plates to capacity, regardless of the plate’s size. Curb the wasting at your table by using smaller dinnerware. They can always go back for seconds.
5.) DIY décor
You can set a beautiful holiday tablescape without blowing your budget with a little imagination. Shop the local dollar store for discounted décor that still packs a punch, like colored vases, fake flower arrangements and other centerpieces. Look for easy, inexpensive DIY ideas online.
6.) Shop the sales
Supermarkets tend to run specials on Thanksgiving staples starting as early as Halloween. Plan your menu in advance so you can take advantage. You can also keep your menu flexible until you see the circulars and then base your dishes on the ingredients and produce that’s cheapest. Also, be sure to shop around for your turkey! Grocery stores tend to have the best deals on the birds, with some even running free turkey deals when you spend a specific amount on other groceries.
7.) Cook from scratch
Most everything is less expensive – and tastes better – when it’s homemade. Start your cooking well enough in advance so you don’t find yourself relying on too many convenience foods.
You don’t need to spend a fortune in order to create the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. All it takes is a little planning!

Watch your money grow

Now is one of the best times to move your money to Five Star. In August, Five Star raised its deposit rates for certificates of deposit. You can now make as much as 2.05 percent annual yield (APY) on a 48-month certificate of deposit with a minimum balance*. If you prefer a smaller minimum balance, the deposit rates are still very good at 1.50 percent annual yield**.

To get the best rate available, you will need to be a Five Star level member. It’s pretty easy to achieve that status. Open a checking and savings account with 10 transactions per month, along with at least one of either a direct deposit, debit or credit card spending of at least $500 per month, e-statements, or a certain type of loan. This will qualify you for a .25 percent bump on the annual percentage yield.

Let’s do some math to show you how you can make some serious money on your certificate with Five Star. Let’s say you take out a 48-month certificate of deposit for $100,000. If you are a Five Star level member, you will get a 2.05 percent APY rate for 48 months. You will make $8,544.09. That is some serious return on your investment. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the volatility of the stock market. This is safe and secure.

Five Star has the most competitive rates around. If you want to make the best return on your hard earned money, deposit it at Five Star. By becoming a Five Star level member, you are rewarded with a quarter percent bump on your rate. Don’t get frustrated, get happy and watch your money grow at Five Star.

*For a 2.05% APY, a $100,000 minimum deposit is required, as well as being a Five Star level member.

**For a 1.50% APY, a $500 minimum deposit is required, as well as being a Five Star level member.

New Year, New Scams

Gas, electricity and water are necessities that usually aren’t thought about a lot.  However, in the winter they can be prime vehicles for scams. If someone called to say Utilities scam alertyour account was overdue and that your service would be shut off – it’d be frightening. You would do whatever they say to avoid the consequences which is exactly what scammers hope.

The Department of Consumer Affairs warns of a new scam targeting utility customers. A scammer calls claiming the consumer is overdue on a utility bill, and that someone is coming to turn the power off. The scammer will instruct the victim to buy a prepaid debit card. The scammer asks for the number on the card and then takes its whole value. Transactions on these cards are difficult to trace, which means recovering the money is nearly impossible.

If you’re targeted by one of these scams, do not comply. Here’s a few things to remember.

Know your rights

A utility company representative would not tell you that your service will be shut off in minutes unless you pay immediately. There are regulations that govern how and when service can be turned off. The company is required to send a notification of termination, a letter identifying the reason, the date, and how you can prevent this shut-off. This process is cumbersome, so most companies won’t send one until you’re more than two payments behind.

Turning your service off is expensive, so utility providers will first make several attempts to contact you. If you are called, ask for a record of past attempts at contact. A utility company will gladly provide this information; a scammer will hesitate when questioned.

Pay it right

Utility companies process hundreds or thousands of payments every day using established procedures. They will never insist on a specific means of payment. Always choose a secured means of payment, like your credit or debit card. These cards offer fraud protection and limit your liability if something goes wrong with the transaction.

If you’re not using online banking, Five Star offers automatic bill payment to make paying your bills simple. You can access it through www.fivestarcu.com.

Stay ahead

If you’ve run into payment trouble with utility companies in the past, work to get ahead on your utility payments. If money is the issue, there are federal and state programs designed to help. One such program is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides utility payment credits for low-income individuals.

If you are called by a scammer, use the procedures above to ensure you do not become a victim.

Don’t get scammed this holiday season

happy-holidaysThe holiday season can be beautiful time spent with family. So many memories are made not just at Christmas but the weeks leading up. With the holiday season, comes scams. It’s an unfortunate part of the holidays. There are a few practical things you can do to ensure that you are not taken advantage of or have your Five Star account compromised.

Before we got any further, always remember that your account is our utmost priority. We take great pride in keeping it and all of your information as secure as possible. But, scammers are everywhere and they are more sophisticated today than they were this time last year. The old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Always remember that when shopping online and through Craigslist or Facebook marketplace. They will simply copy a picture from the internet and post it when they don’t really own the product. It’s always good to ask specific questions about the product before you buy.

Another scam that happens a lot during the holidays is the email scam. You receive an email from FedEx, Amazon, or UPS stating that there is a problem with a delivery. Even though you did not order anything, they will try to make you think you did. They ask for personal information or credit card numbers to clear up the problem. Remember, large companies will never ask you to divulge sensitive information in an email or through a text. They will always ask you to update your account information on their actual website. Look closely at the email reply address and it is usually not affiliated with the major company. The big retailer also appreciates when you alert them that their name is being used in a scam.

Finally, be smart when you purchase online and have the packages delivered. Thieves will drive through neighborhoods looking for packages on doorsteps. If you are going to be out of town or working, alert a neighbor to be on the lookout for you package. Another idea is to have the package delivered to your work address; assuming that is allowed at your workplace. Some simple ideas can help ease the stress of the holidays by not having to take extra time to talk to the police or your financial institution about being scammed.

The holidays are a wonderful time. The smarter your are while making purchases the less likely scammers are to be successful.

Don’t Let Debt Crush Youblogdept
One of the more common questions Five Star gets is, “How can I pay down debt when I have so much?” This can be one of the most stressful things in a person’s finances and especially marriages or young earners. There are a few steps that you can take to help reduce debt and get control of your finances. It will take some work at first, but it will be worth it.

First start out by figuring out how much you owe, to whom you owe it, at what interest rate you’re paying it back, plus any other fees, penalties or costs that go with any of your debts. This gives you a snapshot of how much debt you have. Sometimes it’s hard to look at it, but that’s the first step to paying it down. Next, lower your interest rate, if possible. A higher interest rate can sometimes eat up a lot of your payment. This is usually the best way to climb out of credit card debt.

A second way to begin climbing out of debt is by consolidating debt into one loan. Make sure the interest rate is lower. This will mean more of your payment will pay down the principle debt. If your car loan interest rate is high, look to refinance the loan to get a lower interest rate. You might also consider selling the car to get one that is cheaper while you get out of debt. This way you can put more money toward existing debt.

Five Star can help you put a plan together to get out of debt. Five Star is offering 0% interest on balance transfers until June 2018. There is a 3% transfer fee, but it will most likely save you money in the long run. You can also get a 5.99% balance transfer with zero transfer fees for life. Check out your options at your local branch or have a Five Star professional call you and get you started on transferring those large balances.

Whose Fault Is Fraud?
blogfraudFraud is more prevalent today than any other time in our country’s history. With so much business being transacted online, it’s inevitable it will happen. Five Star goes above and beyond to keep your accounts and debit/credit cards safe. If you don’t know how these transactions work, it is basically you tell a merchant you’d like to buy something, the merchant tells Five Star to pay money from your account, and then Five Star asks you to authorize the transaction. It’s quick and easy.

However, if something goes wrong in that process, you assume it’s the fault of one of these three parties. That’s not necessarily the case. Fraud can happen at the Point of Sale (POS) terminals which is the systems that process credit and debit transactions. POS systems have other vulnerabilities, from PIN tracking keypads to miniature cameras. Always be watchful for small modifications in the keypads and other devices. If something looks suspicious, back out of a transaction or ask for another register to use.

Some businesses keep costs low by using third-party payment-processors, which tally up the day’s transactions of a merchant, bill the appropriate entity, and pay the merchant. In exchange, they take a tiny percentage of each transaction. There’s lots of competition in this niche and that can mean that companies cut costs to stay profitable – often by cutting corners with security. When shopping at unfamiliar places, be extra cautious by using a pre-paid debit card, cash or another form of non-electronic payment. Don’t be afraid to use an ATM – they’re usually maintained by organizations with in-house processing, thus limiting the steps your data goes through.

The last stage in this chain is the clearing house – external organizations that transfer funds, acting as the intermediary for the merchant’s payment-processor and the credit organization. There’s a wide network of American Clearing House (ACH) payment centers. Most of them smoothly process millions of dollars worth of transactions every day. However, occasional mistakes happen and some transactions are processed improperly. Clearing houses are insured against losses and they quickly correct mistakes.

Every payment system has potential for fraud. Electronic payment processing is among the most secure forms of exchange possible, and its failures are fixable. Swipe with confidence, knowing your liability is limited thanks to the strong trail of protection offered by electronic payment processing. Five Star takes fraud seriously and works every day to ensure your account will not be compromised. Take a few seconds before every transaction to make sure the machines and businesses are also taking fraud seriously.