Posts Tagged 'shopping'

Gift card tips for the holidays

If you still have gifts to buy this week, you may be thinking about gift cards.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers tips on purchasing gift cards – especially considering new rules passed this past summer.

The FTC notes that gift cards must now show their expiration date (if there is one), cards can only charge inactivity fees after one year, and the money on a gift card cannot expire for at least five years.

There’s also a difference between retail gift cards, offered by stores and restuarants, and bank gift cards, which are offered by Visa, MasterCard, and American Express for you to spend like a debit card.

The new gift card rules are supposed to help protect consumers – which is good news for anyone who gets a gift card in their stocking this holiday.

Store cards hurt more than help

With all the Christmas shopping, you might be tempted to save 10 or 15% on your store purchases by signing up for a store credit card.

The drawbacks, as the New York Times puts it, may outweight that one-time benefit:

As one expert put it, if you strip away the store discounts and brand names that come with these cards, many are essentially the same products marketed to subprime borrowers, or individuals with tarnished or fairly new credit histories. Would you really choose a card with an interest rate of say, 25 percent, or about 9 percentage points higher on average than many other credit cards?

You may save on that initial purchase, but gotchas like a higher interest rate, a lower credit score, or spiking rates after a promotion are some of the harmful effects of signing up for store-brand cards.

To learn more about how big bank credit cards can “get ya,” visit our Operation: Your Best Interest site.

Tips when using SimpleLoan checks


Let’s say you get pre-approved for an auto loan with American 1. You’ve got your amount all set, we’ve cut you a SimpleLoan check, and you have an idea of what kind of vehicle you want.

Now what?

Since we don’t want to send you out without the proper preperation, here are some tips to keep in mind when shopping for a vehicle with your SimpleLoan check.

First, do some research on what you want to buy. If you have a vehicle in mind, see what it’s available for in the area. Do you want used? New? Hit the auto classified section of your newspaper to see what’s selling for how much. This kind of information is extremely powerful later in the process.

If you have a trade-in vehicle, do some research to see how much you can get for it. Sites like NADA and Kelly Blue Book aren’t always 100% accurate, so ask around. And check out sites like eBay Motors and Auto Trader to see how much you vehicle is going for in your area.

Negotiate for your vehicle without letting the dealership know you have a SimpleLoan check. You should first negotiate the price of your vehicle with all the options. Once you have a price you’re willing to pay, then you can work on payments and whatever else with us at the credit union.

Pretty soon, the conversation will turn to financing. Tell the dealership you have your financing taken care of. Let them know that you are writing a check, and that you don’t need any help finding financing. The secret is that you’ve already been pre-approved with American 1, and you’re armed with your SimpleLoan check.

Don’t let them know your pre-approval amount. If the dealerships knows that amount, they’re more likely to add extras to drive up the price to your limit. This also gives you walk-away power. Remember – with that SimpleLoan check and a pre-approval amount, you’ve got the negotiating power. Don’t be afraid to walk away if you don’t get the deal you want.

When you know the price, and you’re set to finance, then you can start talking about your trade-in vehicle. By now you’ll know what your trade-in vehicle is worth. Don’t be afraid to negotiate on your trade-in vehicle’s worth to get the maximum value.

Since you’ve settled on the vehicle you want, the price you can afford, the financing is set to go, and you’re getting a decent deal on your trade-in vehicle, you can write your SimpleLoan check right then and there.

For more auto buying tips, visit our Auto Loan Experts page, or browse through other articles here on our blog.

Christmas Club $250 deposit winner

Christmas Club winner

Congratulations to Nicole Fausz of Jackson – she wins the $250 deposit into her Christmas Club.

Nicole won by opening up a club account in February and making automatic deposits into it with her paycheck.

“It’s an easy way for me to save for my two kids’ Christmas,” she told me.

Way to go, Nicole!

Americans tighten their spending belts

A New York Times article by David Leonhardt, “Buying Binge Slams to a Halt,” makes note of something interesting:

For decades — from the 1950s through the 1980s — Americans spent about 91 percent of their income, on average, and put away the rest. In the last few years, they have spent close to 99 percent and saved only about 1 percent. This simply cannot continue.

It turns out that, at least in the short-term, that spending spree won’t continue. Americans are stocking away more money now that economic conditions are iffy.

Leonhardt says that consumer spending is down as the market and the economy goes down, which makes sense considering rising unemployment numbers and lower consumer confidence.

What does that mean for the average American? It probably means it’s a good idea to save more than 1% of our income for rainy days. It also means that this holiday shopping season might not be a big one.

After all, if you’re out looking for a job and trying to pay the bills, a Christmas present doesn’t seem all that important.

American 1 has a few saving options available for members. Club accounts, like our Christmas Club, let you set money aside just for holiday shopping. Long-term saving options, like certificates and money market accounts, let you save up for an emergency fund. But even the plain ol’ saving account can be your best friend, if you learn to keep your hands off that money until you really need it.

Another way to save: refinancing an auto loan or transferring a credit card balance. If you can save a bit of money each month on your debt payments, why not refinance now that interest rates are competitive?

No matter what happens with your spending or saving plans, just know that American 1 can help you out. Stop in to any branch and talk with a Member Service Specialist to learn about your saving options.

Earn extra holiday money this fall

Need to earn some extra money for the holiday season? The Frugal Village offers 15 great tips on how to do chores for others to earn some extra pocket money, including cleaning out gutters, hanging Christmas lights, babysitting, selling stuff on eBay, and working a seasonal job in retail.

American 1’s Christmas Club account is a great way to save up for holiday shopping over the year. Are your spending habits changing this holiday season? How do you save for Christmas shopping?

Prepare for the Expo by picking up this magazine.

The talented folks over at the Jackson Citizen Patriot just released a fabulous new magazine, Uniquely You (above), that caters to womens’ issues and needs.

And guess what? They gave us a little section in the middle to highlight our Fall Women’s Expo, taking place this Saturday.

Uniquely you interviews several local women to find out about fashion, shopping, and fitness. Not that we’re biased, but it’s a good read. And it’s free, so you can’t beat that. Pick up a copy at any one of our branches this week, and read all about our growing expo!

American 1 Federal Credit Union