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Monthly Archives: October 2022
Should you use your credit card for holiday shopping?
The holiday season is rapidly approaching—to get ahead of tight wallets due to rising inflation, holiday shopping is starting earlier than ever. Despite many people being cash-strapped, many retailers are still optimistic that customers will be ready to spend. When used responsibly, your credit card is the ultimate tool to reap the benefits of holiday shopping—below are a few reasons why you should use your credit card to take care of your gift-giving this holiday season.
Earn rewards while you shop
The most obvious benefit of using your credit card for holiday shopping is reward points. For most cards, you’ll earn around one point for every dollar charged. But there’s potential for even more—some cards offer extra rewards for specific categories or retailers. So, depending on where you shop, you can earn up to 5% cash back on your holiday spending—benefitting you in the long run.
Take advantage of introductory offers
Most credit card companies push introductory bonuses during the holidays to encourage spending and entice people with generous offers. If you’re already planning to purchase gifts with a credit card, consider opening a credit card with an introductory offer to use for holiday shopping. Depending on your budget, you may meet the requirements for a credit card’s introductory bonus just by checking off your holiday shopping list! Georgia’s Own is offering up to $150 cash back (19,500 Flex Reward points) when you open a new Visa Signature® or Platinum contactless credit card and spend $1,500 during the first 90 days.*
Protect your purchases
Another fantastic thing about using credit cards is the purchase protections offered. Unlike debit cards, many credit cards offer various protection programs to ensure your purchases are safeguarded from theft, damage, and more—something crucial during the holidays.
Extended warranty protection
Your credit card may offer an extended warranty program. Manufacturer warranties only go so far. You’ll have peace of mind knowing if you purchase gifts using a card that offers extended warranty protection, you may still be reimbursed for repair or replacement costs. Or, you could even have the original purchase cost reimbursed after the manufacturer warranty expires.
Some credit cards also offer buyer’s protection, which acts as insurance for eligible purchases made with your credit card. Buyer’s protection ensures your purchases are covered against theft or damage within a certain period after purchase. While they sound similar, this is different than extended warranty protection, which offers more comprehensive damage protection. Buyer’s protection provides more coverage against theft or damage.
Porch Piracy Protection
Another fantastic perk some credit cards provide is Porch Piracy Protection, which covers qualified purchases against theft. Let’s say you order gifts online to make holiday shopping easier. You get the long-awaited delivery notification—only to see your porch is empty. If you made those purchases with your eligible credit card, you could be compensated for the total purchase price, up to a certain amount per claim.
The holidays are prime time for scammers—shop worry-free knowing you’re protected in the event of fraud, as you typically aren’t held liable for unauthorized purchases. For example, if your credit card information is stolen, you don’t need to worry about checks bouncing or automatic payments being declined for insufficient funds, as fraudulent purchases won’t come directly from your checking account.
Redeem your points for gifts
If you’re tight on cash this holiday season or want to keep money in your wallet, you can redeem your credit card rewards points for gifts. Use your points to purchase gift cards, merchandise, travel, and more. Or, if you find yourself visiting family this holiday season, you can even redeem your points on travel, like airline tickets, rental cars, or hotels—saving you some cash.
Make the most of your holiday shopping this year with a Georgia’s Own Visa Signature® or Platinum contactless credit card. You’ll enjoy fantastic features, including no annual fee, enhanced fraud controls, and Flex Rewards** to redeem for cash back, gift cards, and more. Don’t have a Georgia’s Own Visa? Click here to make your holiday shopping count.
*Promotional period begins January 1, 2022 and ends January 31, 2023. Open a new Georgia’s Own Visa Signature® card and spend $1,500 in the first three months of account opening and earn 19,500 points, which can be redeemed for $150 in cash back. Open a new Georgia’s Own Visa Platinum or Student Visa® and spend $1,000 in the first three months of account opening and earn 13,000 points, which can be redeemed for $100 in cash back. Points will be applied within three billing cycles if the account is in good standing. Offer may be withdrawn without notice.
**Georgia’s Own Credit Card points will expire five (5) years from the date earned. Points, including any rollover points or points transferred from an existing Georgia’s Own Credit Card, will not expire before May 31, 2023.
5 money conversations to have in a relationship
Money is an important topic that couples tend to avoid discussing—and it’s also the number one issue most couples fight over. While you don’t need to lay out your five-year financial plan to every person you meet on the street, it’s a crucial step in a relationship. Having appropriate discussions about money, your budget, or your spending habits are a few ways you can ensure you and your spouse or partner are on the same page financially. Below are five money conversations you need to have at some point in your relationship:
1. How you’ll tackle debt
According to a study by Ramsey Solutions, nearly two-thirds of marriages start off in debt, and 86% of couples married for five years or less start marriage in the red. That’s already a rocky start considering nearly 50% of marriages end in divorce. Discussing debt with your significant other or spouse should be one of your first major money conversations. That includes talking about credit cards, student loan debt, or even taking out a mortgage.
Couples need to be on the same page when they take on debt. Some questions to start the conversation can include:
- Do you use a credit card for emergencies? Or, do you put all your purchases on your card to rack up points?
- Do you carry a balance on your credit card? Or, do you pay your statement in full each month?
- Do you have any student loan debt? If so, how much, and how do you plan to pay it off?
- Should depreciating assets (like cars) be financed, leased, or paid with cash?
2. Creating (and maintaining) a budget
Having a budget is one of the most basic finance necessities—but few people actually create (and stick with) one. Budgeting isn’t a fun task, but it’s necessary to understand your financial situation. Even if one of you makes more money, you should jointly decide how your funds are allocated.
The first thing you’ll need to figure out is what bills need to be paid each month (and how you’ll pay them) and whether you’ll open a checking account for expenses or keep individual accounts. Another thing you’ll want to address is what purchases need to be discussed in advance.
There’s also no right or wrong way to allocate your money. For example, if you both have a passion for traveling, you can make that one of your priorities for saving—and maybe allocate less spending money toward clothes. Or, if you both are foodies, you can have a generous dining-out budget and spend less elsewhere.
3. How you’ll work out wage differences
You and your partner probably won’t make the same amount of money, and that’s okay. But, it’s necessary to know where any gaps will be filled based on who makes what. Regardless, you both should feel like you have equal control over finances.
It’s also vital to discuss how finances were modeled to you while growing up and how that impacted you: who made the most money, and who controlled the finances? How did that make you feel? You should also consider each other’s feelings: how can you ensure that both of your financial contributions feel valued, regardless of earning power?
4. Your attitudes on saving versus spending
One person in a relationship is the saver, and the other is the spender. Another money conversation you need to have is examining your attitudes on saving versus spending to avoid any surprises down the road. If you feel like it’s impossible to start saving, you still need to set money aside—even if it’s a small amount.
Consider establishing an emergency fund to have the recommended three to six months’ worth of expenses in case one of you experiences job loss or an illness. You’ll also need to determine how much of your income you should set aside. If you don’t have an account to set aside your emergency savings, consider opening a joint savings account.
5. How you’ll meet financial goals
As individuals, you may have your own goals you want to achieve, both personally and financially. However, it’s just as necessary to have goals you’re working towards as a couple. You may want to save for a down payment on a house or a wedding. Or, you may want to start a family or launch your own business. Whatever your goal is, discuss it and determine what it will take to achieve it. If you’re not aligned with each other, it may hinder your ability to meet those goals.
Another life event to save for is retirement. One of you may have an employer-sponsored 401K, and the other may not have started saving for retirement at all. A financial advisor could help determine your needs and develop a course of action. At Georgia’s Own, you can meet with a financial advisor at no cost and no obligation to discuss your retirement plans.
Whether you’re newlyweds or have been married for some time, it’s never too early (or too late) to begin financial planning. The more you both communicate with each other, the better off you’ll be—and avoid any financial stress. If you can tackle this, then you can handle anything that life throws your way.
Certificate of deposit: What is a CD and is it right for you?
Why do people invest their money? It’s likely because they’re saving for something—a trip, a home, a child’s college education—or simply because they don’t want to work until they’re 108. People earn money by working, but putting your money to work through investments, like CDs, is also an excellent way to build wealth and help you afford the things you want in life.
Investing is the most effective way to grow your money long term, but risking what you already have for the prospect of something more in the future can be scary. Couple that with the complexities of the financial markets, and it’s easier to stuff some cash under your mattress.
The truth is investing doesn’t have to be complicated. Some conservative options can help you earn extra cash without pushing you beyond your comfort zone. Seasoned and novice investors can benefit from safer, simple choices.
What is a CD, and how does it work?
A certificate of deposit (CD) is a promissory note issued by a bank or credit union. It comes with a future maturity date and a fixed interest rate. When you invest in a CD, you, as the investor, agree to loan your money to the issuing institution for a specific period of time and a predetermined rate of return.
When you purchase a CD, you give up access to your funds until the maturity date. For forfeiting your liquidity, you earn compensation in the form of interest. Once it matures, the bank refunds your initial investment (the principal) plus your earned interest.
CDs are issued for different terms. Long-term CDs typically offer a higher rate of return compared to short-term CDs. Why? Because your restricted access to the funds is for a longer timeframe, and the longer you’re required to hold your investment, the higher level of risk and uncertainty you assume.
How risky are CDs?
On the spectrum of risk and return, CDs are considered conservative investments. The Federal Deposit Insurance Company (FDIC) backs federally-insured bank CDs, and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) guarantees credit union-issued CDs. Even if the issuing institution collapses, your investments are protected.
The risk that you assume with CDs is interest rate risk. When you invest in a CD, you agree to a specified rate of return. As the financial markets fluctuate in response to economic and political factors, you want your CD’s rate of return to remain competitive. If rates rise, your current investments could be locked into a lower rate for an extended period. While you don’t risk losing your investment and earned interest, you could miss the opportunity to earn more money than with your current CD.
One way to reduce that level of risk is called laddering. You can stagger maturity dates among several CDs so that matured deposits can be reinvested at potentially higher rates, and you can gain periodic access to cash if necessary.
How is it different than a Money Market or savings account?
Like a savings or Money Market account, CDs allow you to save towards a goal, like a down payment on a house, a car, or a vacation. Unlike CDs, savings and Money Market accounts allow you to vary your balance by making additional deposits plus a maximum of six withdrawals per month. CDs, however, require only one deposit that stays in the account until its maturity date—whether it’s six months or five years from now. Because you give up access to your funds, they generally offer a higher rate of return versus traditional savings accounts or Money Market accounts.
When should I open a CD?
CDs are advantageous in certain situations. If you have a stockpile of cash that you don’t need now but want in the future, maybe for a house or a car, a short-term investment like a CD is helpful. You don’t run the risk of losing money if you were to invest in something like the stock market. They’re also beneficial if you tend to lean more conservatively with your investments.
If you notice your checking account balance is running low, it can be tempting to dip into your savings account. If you lack the discipline to not touch your savings account, the fixed period of a CD—and penalty for early withdrawal—can provide a deterrent to frivolous spending.
What happens when my CD matures?
When your CD matures, you typically have a few options. Your bank or credit union will notify you of your choices one to two months before its maturity date. You can roll over to a new CD with the financial institution, typically into a term that is similar to the one you already have. You can also transfer the earned funds to a checking or savings account or a Money Market account with your bank or credit union. Lastly, you can transfer those funds to an external account or receive a paper check.
What if I withdraw my funds early?
As with any investment, familiarize yourself with the fine print. A common concern with CDs is penalties for early withdrawal. If you experience hardship and have to withdraw cash from your CD, it could significantly affect your earned interest or even your principal. Most financial institutions assess an early withdrawal penalty (EWP) before your funds are distributed based on the agreement set upon when you initially deposited funds. EWPs are typically charged as a certain number of months’ interest. For example, you may have three months’ interest deducted if you withdraw from your 12-month CD before it matures.
Every bank or credit union has different EWPs, so it’s best to check with your financial institution’s policy. There are also specialty CDs like penalty-free CDs, Bump Up or Raise Your Rate CDs, and IRA and Jumbo CDs.
If you’re considering an investment, speak with your financial advisor to determine which options will meet your individual needs—in the short and long term. You can schedule a meeting at no cost and no obligation with a financial advisor at Georgia’s Own to discuss your investment plans.
What is multi-factor authentication?
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) (also known as two-factor authentication or two-step verification) is a security measure that requires anyone logging into an account to navigate a two-step process to prove their identity. MFA makes it twice as hard for criminals to access an online account and obtain personal or financial information. It’s an easy protective measure that increases your security, whether it’s for your social media accounts or online banking.
How does multi-factor authentication work?
By adding a step when logging into an account, multi-factor authentication greatly increases the security of your account. Here’s how it works: Just like logging into your account, the first step is giving your password or passphrase. The second step is to provide an extra way of proving your identity, like entering a PIN, texting/emailing a code to your mobile device, or accessing an authenticator app.
What does multi-factor authentication include?
There are various ways online organizations implement two-factor authentication. Some of the most common methods include PIN or verification codes, security questions, or biometrics—below is a list of popular types of multi-factor authentication:
- An extra PIN (personal identification number)
- The answer to a security question like, “What’s your favorite pet’s name?”
- An additional code, either emailed to an account or texted to a mobile phone
- A biometric identifier, like facial recognition or a fingerprint
- A unique number generated by an authenticator app
- A secure token, which is a separate piece of hardware (like a key fob that holds information) that verifies a person’s identity with a database or system
What type of accounts offer MFA?
Not every account offers MFA, but it’s becoming more popular. It’s seen on many accounts that usually hold either valuable financial or personal information, like banks and financial institutions, online stores, or social media platforms. Any place online that is storing your personal information (especially financial information) or any account that can be compromised and used to trick or defraud someone else should be protected with MFA. You should use MFA everywhere you can!
What are the pros and cons of multi-factor authentication?
Multi-factor authentication was introduced to make it harder for hackers to access systems or applications and protect users from fraud. While the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, there are cons to multi-factor authentication. The downside is that some users often forget answers to security questions or may lose their tokens. Below are some additional pros and cons of MFA:
Pros of MFA
- Adds layers of security
- Uses one-time passwords that are randomly generated in real-time, making it harder for hackers to crack
- Allows for easy setup
- Can reduce security breaches by up to 99%
- Mitigates password risks, like duplicated passwords
Cons of MFA
- A phone is needed to access text message codes, and phones can easily be lost or stolen
- Hardware tokens can get lost or stolen
- MFA can fail if there is a network outage
- Phishing is still an issue, as hackers can create phishing emails that mimic MFA texts or emails
Following the above steps is essential to securing your personal and financial information. This is the third in a series of cybersecurity education posts to help you stay safe online. Over the next few months, we’ll share greater insight and tips on other ways to safeguard your online presence. In the meantime, we offer additional resources to brush up on your financial education with ACHIEVE for consumers and small businesses. Click here to start learning today.