Banks vs. Credit Unions

Banks

Banks

Does it really make a difference whether you conduct your financial affairs at a bank or a credit union? A lot of people seem to think it does. Believers report that credit unions offer the lowest interest rate around for banking, credit cards and loans.

What is a credit union?

A credit union differs from a bank by the fact that it is owned and directed by its members. Members of the Credit Union elect their usually volunteer Board of Directors through a one person one vote system. The definition provided by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) says credit unions are not-for-profit cooperative institutions. Credit unions are generally smaller institutions than most banks.

How do credit unions differ from banks?

Banks in the United States typically have $1.53 billion in assets as opposed to credit unions which on average have only $93 million in assets. Most credit unions do offer the same types of services offered by banks such as savings accounts, checking accounts, credit cards, loans, certificates of deposit and online banking. Some credit unions call these banking functions by different names such as share accounts, share draft accounts and share term certificates. In general, only members of a credit union can use their services. You must be eligible to join a credit union.

Banks are for profit shareholder owned companies that are regulated by state regulators or the federal government. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures banks. The purpose of banks is to make money for their shareholders.

Advantages of credit unions

Credit unions are not publicly traded corporations so in general they can offer lower rates on credit cards, banking, savings accounts, and loans. Though not insured by the FDIC credit unions do have a federal insurance program called the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). Most credit unions are profitable but this money is used to lower loan rates, and fees when possible. Since members are also owners of the credit union, some credit unions will offer bonus checks to members when there are particularly high earnings.

Customer satisfaction

In financial surveys credit unions almost always outperform banks in terms of customer satisfaction. This may come directly from feeling a part of the institution, an owner rather than a customer. When an organization’s primary focus is not on making a profit but on making the members more financially secure this could translate into more satisfaction with the whole financial experience. If you like small financial institutions credit unions are smaller and you are more likely to get to know the employees.

Advantages of banks

The strengths of credit unions may have you rushing to open an account with your closest credit union but banks do have their strong points too. Larger banks may be able to offer the best rates around for financial products. Do some comparison shopping before opening an account anywhere. Banks in general offer more products and services than available at a small credit union. Banks may also have more online banking services and 24 hour customer service phone lines than credit unions. Again compare options when opening an account.

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The $9.84 Charge Scam

BBB

BBB

Following the widespread credit data breach that affected Target customers (as well as customers of other major retailers) over the holiday period, the Better Business Bureau has now issued a new safety warning, and there is a possibility that this warning is related to the holiday data breach.

Reports are emerging that consumers are finding unauthorized charges on their statements. In most cases this charge is $9.84, categorized on the statement as a ‘Customer Support’ charge with one of a number of fake websites.

When victims visit the website levying the charge, they are provided with a telephone support number and an email address. After getting in contact, they are told that the charge will be removed and the amount credited to the affected account. It is not certain whether this information is fake, and whether getting in contact will actually lead to the account being reimbursed.

We recommend that all affected consumers DO NOT get in contact with these fake websites. There are a number of recommendations provided by the BBB to help consumers protect themselves:

–       If you suspect fraud, get in contact with your card issuer.

–       You should destroy your current card and request a new one.

–       Place a fraud alert on your credit file (visit the Federal Trade Commission Website ftc.gov)

–       Be vigilant with all of your existing accounts

Investigators are still determining whether this scam has anything to do with the data stolen over the holiday period.

The ‘One Ring’ Return Call Scam – DON’T RETURN THE CALL!

Fraud Alert

Fraud Alert

The BBB is also warning consumers about another scam, which appears to be unrelated to the holiday-period data breach and the $9.84 charge scam. As of writing no complaints have yet been filed, however the president of the BBB Steve J. Bernas has stated that this scam is spreading across the U.S. very quickly and it is only a matter of time before complaints are filed.

In this scam, malware is used to infect personal computers, which then make thousands of calls to random telephone numbers. Each call only lasts for one ring before it disconnects, hence the name.

The purpose of the scam is to tempt people with missed calls on their phones to return the call.  When they do so, they are charged $19.95 for an international call fee. Victims have reported that the calls are coming from various international locations, mainly foreign British territories.

If you have been affected by this scam, you should immediately alert your cell phone carrier and watch your bill carefully. The earlier you report the fraud, the better chance you will have of having the charges partially or fully reimbursed.

The BBB states that the best way to protect yourself from this fraud is to not answer or return calls for any international numbers that you do not recognize.

For more help and information, visit the Better Business Bureau website bbb.org.

Be Vigilant,

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Watch Out! Target Credit Card Breach

Target

Target

If you have shopped at Target recently with a credit card then it is important that you check your credit account. The major US retailer was recently the victim of a major payment data breach, so if you are a Target shopper or have been in between certain dates, then you’ll want to pay attention and see if this affects you, no matter how many transactions you have made or how much you have spent.

The Target Breach

While the exact details of the breach are unclear, a picture is slowly emerging. Attackers managed to install malignant software onto payment desk computer systems in over 1,800 Target store locations It is not yet known how the attackers were able to successfully achieve this across so many stores.

Between November 27 and December 15, 2013, this software stole information from credit or debit cards that were used by customers to make payments at brick-and-mortar Target stores. This has allowed the attackers to gain access to customer names, credit card numbers, CVV security codes and expiration dates (with debit cards as well as credit cards).

This is proving to be a very serious and widespread security breach.  The security of up to 40 million credit/debit cards may have been compromised. Not long after the breach, credit card issuers began to report fraudulent activity across the U.S.  Target is now being sued by numerous customers for the breach, which could amount to millions in damages being paid out.

Am I At Risk?

The attack took place between November 27 and December 15, 2013, so if you paid for your purchase by credit or debit card at a U.S. brick-and-mortar Target store during this time then you should assume that you are at risk. Data gained from your card’s magnetic stripe could be used to create counterfeit payment cards. This was not a server data breach, so you are not at risk if you shopped online with Target.

If you have been a victim of this massive fraud, please comment below and share your experience to help others who may be similarly situated.

What Can I Do To Protect My Account?

Unfortunately there is not a great deal that you can do to prevent the attackers from exploiting your details if they have managed to get hold of them already. In this case your only real option is to remain highly vigilant. The best thing to do is to keep a very close eye on your credit card statements, and to get in contact with your provider immediately if you see any fraudulent activity.

Account alerts can be set up with online credit card management services, and fraud alerts can be registered with each of the major credit reporting agencies. Your credit card issuer or bank may also be helping to keep an eye on things for you. For example, JP Morgan Chase has temporarily lowered daily spending limits for vulnerable cards, while other banks are tightening security and keeping a very close eye to spot fraudulent activity.

Target has stated that they would offer free credit monitoring for any of their customers that have been affected by fraud. If you used a credit card at Target during the aforementioned period, the only fail-safe way to protect yourself would be to cancel your account and have your credit card issuer issue a new card.

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Credit Card Payment

Credit Card Payment

Credit Card Payment

Credit card holders should carefully monitor their credit card payment. Are you aware your minimum MasterCard credit card payment is rising?

A new govt. program working to get USA citizens out of credit card debts are pushing MasterCard issuers to raise minimum standard payments. If you are an American, your minimum monthly MasterCard payment may shortly be doubling.

Who’s Raising Your Monthly Minimum MasterCard Payment? Whose concept was it to extend card minimum standard payments? The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a bureau of the U.S. Treasury Office which has become more concerned with ruling in the abuses of MasterCard corporations.

BOA has been asking for the higher monthly minimum amount. MBNA, Citigroup (a.k.a. Citibank), Discover, and Chase (on some of its cards) have been breaking the news to their card owners . How Much Will Card Minimums Increase? For many visa cards, eg MBNA and B of A, the new rates mean that monthly lowest payments will double. At this time, the monthly minimum amount is only 2 percent of the balance on the majority of these cards. The new rate will be around 4% (the particular number may vary greatly from card provider to card company).

This indicates that if you’ve got the average American Visa card balance of approximately $10,000, your minimum regular payment will go from $200 / month to $400 / month. Why the MasterCard Minimum Amount Increase? You’re probably wondering why any person would wish to make you pay a higher minimum standard payment. The basic reason for making you pay more is: for your own good.

Credit Card Payment Tips

According to Mike Peterson, founder of American Credit Foundation, by doubling the sum you pay each month towards credit card debts, you may ease back on what you pay towards interest by much more. Look: Old monthly minimum amount of two percent of balance, $2,000 bank card arrears at 18% % interest:

  • Time to repay debt in full: about thirty years.
  • Interest paid: about $5,000 two and a half times what you first borrowed! New monthly minimum amount of 4% of balance, same debt:
  • Time to pay down debt in full: about ten years.
  • Time saved vs. Old payment: twenty years.
  • Interest paid: about $1,100slightly over half what you originally borrowed. Total saved versus. Old payment: $3,900.

Tips for Paying Double Simply How does one pay off your new, higher card balance?

Stop Charging

Yes, you will need to make major sacrifices to cease using your ATM card. If you have difficulty resisting the enticement to charge, these are some solutions that have really worked: * Give your MasterCard’s to a chum or relation to hold in safe keeping. * Freeze the cards in a block of ice. * Never carry more than one Visa card with you. Economize on the Tiny Things According to Michael Peterson of the North American Credit Foundation, even little savings truly add up when talking of debt. His favorite example is the Cola example: * If you purchase one Cola a day at $1 / day that is $365 / year. * If you instead invested that one greenback a day at ten percent interest (the average annual return on major stocks during the last half century), you’d be a millionaire inside fifty six years. * Naturally, with cards, this logic works in reverse : if you are sufficiently fortunate to be paying only ten percent interest, 50 years of charging Cola to your MasterCard will mean you have lost the same quantity, not just in interest paid, but in the lost chance to save and invest. One greenback a day is $30 / month, 15% of the average $200 increase in Visa card minimum regular payments.

So as to get that complete $200 increase out of your daily budget, you would just have to save $200 / thirty or less than $7 a day. OK, perhaps you are not drinking 7 Diet Cokes a day.

Saving weekly instead of daily, $200 / month works out to about $45 / week, or the price of an eatery meal for a tiny family–another luxury you may want to skip till you are debt-free. Larger Savings * Taxes. Most US citizens could pay tons of bucks less tax every year if they just took all of the discounts they were suitable for up front, instead of waiting to get a repayment in April. By April, you’ll have spent an enormous piece of cash on interest on debt that you would not have spent if you would had the cash to hand. * Pleading. Call the card firms and ask if they can permit you to set up a repayment schedule, or at a minimum supply a transient extension. Simply calling and informing them you have not forgotten about them can help in keeping you out of the worst difficulty. * Credit counseling. Credit advisors can talk with MasterCard issuers to help get a repayment agreement you can stay abreast of. They can also open your eyes to untouched income sources you never knew you had, like kicking the $1,000,000 Cola habit. With only a modest amount of planning, you can make the higher minimum standard payment work to your benefit, just as the policy’s writers intended.

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CenterPoint Energy Bill Pay

CenterPoint Energy

CenterPoint Energy

Need to pay your gas bill online CenterPoint Energy? Use this guide to understand your payment options and make the right decision. Online payments are available – follow the link to the CenterPoint Energy login page. To make a payment online or manage your account, follow the link provided below on this page to the CenterPoint Energy bill pay credit card login. You will also find useful “pay my bill” information such as the credit card customer service number, payment mailing address, and billing phone number below.

Pay My CenterPoint Energy Bill

CenterPoint offers gas to customers in Arkansas, Houston, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. With a range of payment options you can be sure of a quick and convenient gas bill payment.

Pay My Bill Online: All customers in all service areas can register for the CenterPoint online account service My Account Online. With this service you can make one-time payments, set up recurring payment plans, enroll in paperless billing, view and print your recent bills and more. Credit card and debit card payments are supported. Payments are posted to your account immediately. To make your CenterPoint Energy bill payment online click the “Pay Online” button below to login, register, view your bill or manage your account online.

Pay by Mail: The CenterPoint Energy payment mailing address is: CenterPoint Energy, PO Box 4671, Houston, TX 77210-4671. This address is the same for customers in every service area. Please include your CenterPoint Energy account number on your check. Your account number is located on your statement. To ensure your CenterPoint Energy payment is received on time it is recommended that you mail your payment at least 5 business days prior to the due date shown on your monthly billing statement.

Pay in Person: CenterPoint Energy is partnered with a number of payment merchants to offer bill payment centers. Payments made at one of these locations before 5PM will be posted to your account on the next business day. To find a payment location in your service area, visit the CenterPoint Energy website and enter your city or ZIP code.

Automatic Payments: CenterPoint Energy offers an automatic payment service. Under this service your monthly bills are deducted automatically from your chosen checking or savings account. You can enroll with your paper statements or online with My Account Online.

Payment Assistance

CenterPoint Energy offers a number of programs to help customers pay their bills when they are facing financial hardship. The company states that any customers facing difficulties should not wait until their service is disconnected – call straight away. Services include payment extensions and low income home energy assistance programs.

Opening & Closing Accounts

Start New Service: You can start a new service with CenterPoint Energy quickly online. Follow the link to the website and fill in the customer information form to begin.
Transfer/Stop Service: You can stop or transfer a service via the online account service, or with the forms provided at the CenterPoint Energy website.

CenterPoint Energy Contact

Arkansas Customer Service: 800-992-7552

Natural Gas Leak Hotline: 888-876-5786

Houston Customer Service (Gas): 713-659-2111

North Louisiana Customer Service: 866-275-5252

South Louisiana Customer Service: 800-477-0177

Minnesota Residential Customer Service: 612-372-4727; 800-245-2377

Minnesota Commercial Customer Service: 612-321-4939

Mississippi Customer Service: 800-371-5417

Texas Beaumont Customer Service: 800-376-9663

East Texas Customer Service: 800-259-5544

South Texas Customer Service: 800-427-7142

Oklahoma Customer Service: 866-275-5265

About CenterPoint Energy

CenterPoint Energy is a large utility company based in the United States. Formed after the split of Houston Lighting & Power in 2003, CenterPoint Energy is a Fortune 500 provider of electric and natural gas to Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Minnesota. The company’s vision is to lead the nation in the delivery of reliable energy, good value and rewarding customer services.

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CPS Energy Bill Pay

CPS Energy

CPS Energy

Learn your CPS Energy bill payment options and pay your bill the right way with this payment guide. Information on the company, contacts and services are also provided to help new and existing customers. If you want to pay your CPS Energy bill online, follow the link on this page to the CPS Energy login page. To make a payment online or manage your account, follow the link provided below on this page to the CPS Energy bill pay login. You will also find useful “pay my bill” information such as the credit card customer service number, payment mailing address, and billing phone number below.

Pay My CPS Energy Bill

CPS Energy offers a variety of payment options for both residential and commercial customers.

Online Payments: You can pay your CPS Energy bill online with Manage My Account. It only takes a few seconds to enroll for this service, and once enrolled you can pay your bills by bank account, credit card or debit card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover). Additionally you can view your bills online and up to 12 months of previous bills. Payments made from a bank account are processed at no charge, however payments made by credit/debit card are subject to a $2.35 fee. To make your CPS Energy bill payment online click the “Pay Online” button below to login, register, view your bill or manage your account online.

Mobile Application: The CPS Energy mobile application offers simplicity and convenience for account management and bill payments. The app offers billing statements, payment options and due dates.
Mail Payments: CPS Energy bills come with pre-addressed envelopes, however if you have lost this envelope you can still mail a payment in a blank envelope to: CPS Energy, P.O. Box 2678, San Antonio, Texas 78289-0001.

Phone Payments: CPS Energy is partnered with Chase to offer the option of phone payments. You can pay over the phone by VISA, MasterCard, Discover, ATM debit card or personal check. Call (877) 257-1172. Be aware that there is a processing charge of $2.35 each time you use this service.

Pay in Person: There are many locations where you can pay your CPS Energy bill in the Greater San Antonio area. There are four customer service centers which are open Monday – Friday 7:30AM – 7:00PM, and additional payment locations including Money Box, Exxon, H-E-B and Woodforest National Bank.

Pay Your Bills Automatically: As an energy customer it can be a good choice to set up an automatic payment schedule. CPS Energy Autopay gives you convenience and the security of knowing your bills will be paid on time. Visit the CPS Energy website for more information.

Start or Stop Service

Whether you want to start a new service, change an existing service or stop receiving your natural gas or electricity from CPS Energy, you can do so easily online with online forms available at the CPS Energy website. For questions regarding any of these requests call customer services at (210) 353-2222.

CPS Energy Contact

Customer Care (Services and Billing): (210) 353-2222

Emergencies: (210) 353-HELP (4357)

About CPS Energy

CPS Energy is the largest municipally-owned energy utility in the United States, delivering both natural gas and electricity to the city of San Antonio and the surrounding areas. Today the utility services over 740,000 electric customers and 330,000 gas customers. Combined bills rank among the lowest when compared to the other largest U.S. cities, making CPS Energy a popular choice amongst price-conscious customers.

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