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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Corn Belt Energy Bill Pay

Corn Belt Energy

Corn Belt Energy

Need to pay your Corn Belt Energy Bill? Check below for your payment options, important information and extra details on the utility. It is fast and convenient to pay online. To make a payment online or manage your account, follow the link provided below on this page to the Corn Belt 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 Corn Belt Energy Bill

With Corn Belt Energy you have lots of ways to manage your utility account and pay your utility bills. The following list contains all payment options available with Corn Belt Energy, but don’t forget you may also be able to manage payments directly with your banking provider.

Pay Online: Corn Belt Energy offers online account management and bill payment options through its SmartHub service. This secure online service gives you an overview of your account, and you can make quick payments to keep on top of your bills. There is an automatic payment feature available. Corn Belt Energy gives you some great incentives to manage everything online: you get $10 for choosing electronic statements, and you also get $10 for establishing an automatic payment schedule. To make your Corn Belt Energy bill payment online click the “Pay Online” button below to login, register, view your bill or manage your account online.

 

Pay by Text Message: This new service makes it simple to pay your current Corn Belt Energy bill. Be aware that, and depending on your data plan, you may be charged a text message rate for using this service.

Pay at the Corn Belt Office: You can make your payment in person at the Corn Belt Energy office. Check below for the address. There is a payment drop box on the premises which you can use for out-of-hours payments. Payments deposited at the drop box are collected the next business day.

Pay at a Pay Station: There are over 20 authorized payment centers situated throughout central areas of Illinois where you can go to make your payment in person. You can pay by check or cash. Be aware that there is a $1.25 convenience fee for paying your bill in person. Visit the Corn Belt Energy website for a map of walk-in locations.

Pay by Mail: The Corn Belt Energy bill payment address is: Corn Belt Energy, P.O. Box 2571, Decatur, IL 62525-2571. Make sure you leave enough time for your payment to clear before the due date. Please include your Corn Belt Energy account number on your check. Your account number is located on your statement. To ensure your Corn Belt 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.

Opening & Closing Accounts

If you are a new customer looking to start a new service with Corn Belt Energy, there is plenty of information available online at the Corn Belt Energy website to help you out. A full overview of rates, programs and services is provided. To begin a new service, call 1-800-879-0339.

Corn Belt Energy Contact

Corn Belt Energy office hours are Monday – Friday, 8AM – 4:30PM. The customer care line can be used to report an outage.

Customer Care (Toll Free): 1-800-879-0339

Customer Care (Local): 309-662-5330

Corn Belt Energy Location: 1 Energy Way, Bloomington IL 61705. The building is situated near the Towanda-Barnes junction.

About Corn Belt Energy

Corn Belt Energy is a non-profit electric cooperative that was founded in the 1930’s. This was the time when many cooperatives appeared in the U.S., to provide rural areas with electricity and to address the disparity in energy provision between urban and rural areas. Corn Belt Energy’s service territory covers parts of 18 counties in Central Illinois.

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First Energy Bill Pay

First Energy

First Energy

Understand your payment options and get your First Energy Bill paid with this simple payment guide. Choose a suitable payment method, or follow the link to the First Energy bill payment login to pay your bill online. To make a payment online or manage your account, follow the link provided below on this page to the First 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 First Energy Bill

From online payments to payments in person, First Energy offers plenty of simple options for your utility account payments. Here are the main ones to consider.

Pay Online: The Online Account Service lets you control everything to do with your account online – including the payment of your bills. You can also use the service to review your billing history, set up alerts for payments and billing, assess your energy usage and much more. This service offers the choice of e-billing, so you can cancel your paper statements and help the environment. To make your First Energy bill payment online click the “Pay Online” button below to login, register, view your bill or manage your account online.

Pay by Mail: Money orders and checks are accepted. Check your billing statements for more information. Please include your First Energy account number on your check. Your account number is located on your statement. To ensure your First 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.

– West Penn Power/Potomac Edison/Mon Power: P.O. Box 3615, Akron, Ohio 44309
– Met-Ed/Penelec/Penn Power/Jersey Central Power & Light: P.O. Box 3687, Akron, Ohio 44309-3687
– Ohio Edison: P.O. Box 3637, Akron, Ohio 44309-3637
– The Illuminating Company/Toledo Edison: P.O. Box 3638, Akron, Ohio 44309-3638

Pay by Phone: The telephone payment service supports credit card payments (Visa, Discover, MasterCard) and ATM debit card payments (Star, ACCEL, NYCE and PULSE) and is available around the clock. Payments made before midnight are credited to your account the next business day. Payments made after midnight are credited to your account within two business days.

Pay Automatically: First Energy offers a checkless payment plan via the online account service. It does not take long to enroll, and once done so you can rest easy knowing that your monthly utility bills will be paid automatically by transfer from your chosen bank account. More information on this service is available online.

Pay in Person: First Energy is partnered with a range of agents across its serviced areas. Payment options and fees vary with each location. To find a location near to you, visit the First Energy website and enter your zip code.

Opening & Closing Accounts

It doesn’t matter if you want to start a new service or close an existing service; your request can be completed with ease online. It takes a minimum of three days for First Energy to connect your electric service once you have submitted your request. Depending on your location and your financial history, you may be required to provide a deposit prior to service connection.

First Energy Contact

Your contact options with First Energy depend on your exact operating company and your customer status. Visit the “Contact Us” page at the First Energy website to find your relevant contact details.

About First Energy

First Energy is a commercial energy company and includes one of the largest investor-owned electric utilities in the United States. Its 10 distribution companies serve 6 million customers across the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions. The company’s generating fleet produces roughly 100 million megawatt-hours of electricity each year.

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