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Monthly Archives: August 2023
Congratulations to our 2023 Jump Start Scholarship winners
Left to right, top to bottom: Aiyanna Solomon, Alesia Holmes, Anna Delk, Antonia Butler, Brooklyn Hinson, Candice Price, Holland Jarvis, Israel Hill, Jameriah Wimberly, Joseph Reed, Kayla Sims, Kelsey Woods, Landen Wiggins, Mary Thomas, Meredith Conger, Skyler Love, Timia Mitchell, and Zaria Davenport
Congratulations to our 2023 Jump Start Scholarship winners. We awarded $1,000 to 18 graduating students selected by a panel of judges who considered academic record, school and community service, and an essay telling us their goals for the future. Meet this year’s winners:
Aiyanna Solomon | Fort Valley State University
Alesia Holmes | University of West Georgia
Anna Delk | Georgia Southwestern State University
Antonia Butler | Albany State University
Brooklyn Hinson | Georgia Southwestern State University
Candice Price | University of West Alabama
Holland Jarvis | ABAC
Israel Hill | Mercer University
Ja’Meriah Wimberly | Georgia Southern
Joseph Reed | ABAC
Kayla Sims | Kennesaw State University
Kelsey Woods | Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Landen Wiggins | Georgia Southwestern University
Mary Thomas | Georgia College and State University
Meredith Conger | University of Georgia
Skyler Love | Georgia Southwestern State University
Timia Mitchell | Georgia Southwestern State University
Zaria Davenport | Savannah College of Art and Design
Are credit card rewards points worth it?
Are credit card rewards programs worth the hassle—or the cost? It all depends on you and the rewards you want. For example, airline miles can be difficult to redeem, with blackout dates, limited seats, and inconvenient flight times being just a few of the challenges. Comparably, hotel and merchandise points are relatively easy to earn and redeem, as are cashback rebates. At the same time, it can be easy to get carried away by reward-earning potential while you spend—so it’s important to use your card responsibly. Below are a few tips to consider about your credit card’s rewards points:
Get the right credit card
For example, cash back is a straightforward way to earn rewards on your card. The redemption process is simple—you can redeem cash back for statement credits or direct deposits to your checking or savings account. If you’re a frequent flier, a card that earns you airline miles may be a better option.
Or, if you want more flexible redemption options, a points card is a great choice. You can cash in your points for gift cards, merchandise, travel purchases, like flights or hotels, or other entertainment, like concerts and sporting events.
Finding a card that works best for your spending is crucial to maximizing your rewards.
Understand your credit card
You need a clear and detailed understanding of your credit card’s rewards program. Many programs set minimum spending requirements each month before points can be earned, while others have minimum redemption requirements.
Miles sometimes can only be redeemed on one named airline. Big cashback advertisements may be for a limited time or restricted to specific shopping categories. Each program is different and unique, so heed the small print.
There are also credit card terms to consider. Rewards credit cards typically have a higher APR than a non-rewards card, so make sure you can pay your statement balance each month. If you can’t, the cashback bonus won’t dent the interest you’re accruing. And some credit card companies charge a hefty annual fee.
Don’t be tempted to overspend
If you’re spending money—which you probably are—why not get something in return? Credit card rewards points are an excellent option for consumers who love to travel, can be flexible, and are organized enough to keep track of offers and deadlines. The points that can be redeemed for cash are even better! But it’s crucial to keep your spending in line. While increasing your spending to earn more points may be tempting, remember to spend within your means.
Stick to a budget so you aren’t spending more than you can pay off monthly. Generally, you never want your minimum credit card payments to exceed 10% of your monthly income. You also want to keep your credit utilization below 30%—a high utilization rate shows lenders you may be unable to pay your bills on time.
Maximize the benefits
To make the most of a rewards program, you should plan to use your credit card frequently—you should also try to maximize the benefits. You don’t need to change how you spend. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of your credit card’s rewards categories—especially if you use multiple credit cards.
For example, many travel cards award more points for dining out. You may want to use that card next time you treat your family to dinner or for your morning coffee run to get you closer to paying for your vacation. Some credit cards also offer rotating bonus categories, either monthly or quarterly, so keep an eye out for those, too.
Ask any group of people why they chose a given credit card, and most will say the rewards reeled them in. For some consumers, they work. For others, they sound too good to be true. But understanding the details and your spending habits will help you choose the card that best suits your needs and maximize your reward points.
If you’re looking for a credit card that offers tremendous rewards, competitive rates, and more, then a Georgia’s Own Visa® contactless credit card is for you. You’ll enjoy fantastic features, including Flex Rewards to redeem for cash back, gift cards, and more. Ready to make your purchases count? Click here to start earning now.
8 financial tips for college students
It’s time! You’re finally moving out of your parents’ house and into your dorm to start a new adventure. Whether you’re on your own for the first time or returning for another year, dealing with your finances can be intimidating—especially if you’re paying for school yourself or with loans.
On top of that, you also need to do your back-to-school shopping, which can be even more expensive for those heading off or back to college. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, back-to-college spending has nearly doubled since 2019! Survey results showed that college students and their families are expected to spend an average of almost $1,400 per person, with big-ticket items such as electronics and furnishings, as well as necessities like food, accounting for more than half of the increase in total expected spending this year.
But don’t worry—we’ve got your back! Here are eight tips to help you prepare as you go back to class.
Make a budget and keep track of spending
Before you head off, you’ll want to create both a back-to-school budget as well as a monthly budget. Depending on your current finances, you may choose to start with your monthly budget and then set aside a specific amount the first month for back-to-school needs (or create them separately). While budgets may sound boring, they’re simple to make and can save you a lot of headaches in the long run.
Begin your back-to-school budget by creating a list of supplies needed and prioritize them from most important to least. Even if you can’t stock up on all your supplies right away, creating a list will show you what purchases should be priority. Once you have your list, you can create a budget for your back-to-school shopping. Budgets are personal, so you can set aside what amount you think is best for school supplies, create a category for clothes, and perhaps one for any extra furniture you may need.
To get started on your monthly budget, it’s important to first calculate your annual income; this includes income from your job, scholarships, loans, grants, and family contributions. By doing this, you can estimate your monthly expenses. After that, you can categorize your spending into different categories such as groceries, transportation, and more. As you set up your budget, you’ll want to take note of any monthly school-related expenses, like any club sports teams or Greek organizations, so you can ensure you include those as well. You’ll also want to set money aside for savings, which we’ll cover more in depth below.
Budgeting and sticking to a financial routine may sound pretty limiting in college. But, it’s ok to treat yourself every now and then to dinner out with friends or an extra trip to the coffee shop. Regularly maintaining your finances, like what bills have been paid and what is left for a fun night out, cam help you worry less amd focus more on what matters—like your grades. Apps like Mint can help you quickly track your expenses and place them in budget categories, making budgeting and tracking even easier.
Start saving and build an emergency fund
Saving money now sets you up for a stable financial future. Even putting a small amount of money into a savings account with every paycheck can add up over time. You don’t need to have a specific goal in mind for your savings, either—every time you set money aside, you’re further developing that healthy financial habit. You may also consider signing up for an automatic savings program, like Digit or Qapital, that allows you to automatically (and painlessly!) set money aside.
It’s also important to start building your emergency fund. It’s impossible to plan for an emergency, like unexpected car troubles or a medical emergency. These can eat into your savings or cause you to get into debt. But having an emergency fund helps you to protect yourself when unexpected bills or expenses arise so you can avoid racking up credit card debt. Set up a separate savings goal with your automatic savings program, or manually set aside a small percentage of each paycheck into a separate account for emergencies.
Build your credit—wisely
If you haven’t opened a credit card before, or you’re not lucky enough to have one from mom and dad, this may be a good time to start understanding the benefits and responsibilities of credit. While you want to steer clear of too much long-term debt during your college years, that doesn’t mean you should steer clear of credit completely. Establishing a solid record of credit card payments can help you build credit, making obtaining future auto loans or mortgages easier.
The flip side is to use credit with caution—high credit balances and missed payments can make it harder to feel financially stable after graduation. Poor credit can negatively impact future jobs and even your housing situation.
Take your time to research what options are available and read through the fine print to make sure you totally understand what you’re agreeing to. Look into credit cards designed for college students specifically, like a Georgia’s Own Student Visa® card, as they often include benefits like lower interest rates and cash rewards. Use it sparingly and remember to pay it off in full and on time every month—some cards have high fees for late payments. This way, you’re establishing a solid credit history, and it can benefit you when you look for a new car or your first house
Get a job (if you can!)
College is a lot of work—between a full load of courses and extracurricular activities, there’s not always a ton of free time left over. However, money earned from a part-time job can be helpful in supplementing your college income. Most colleges have work-study programs or assistantships that allow you to create a work schedule around your class schedule, doing things like fundraising over the phone for the alumni fund or tutoring other students. You can also look off campus for jobs with part-time hours, like restaurant or retail jobs. If you work summers, remember to set aside some of your paychecks to use during the school year.
Take a financial wellness class
One of the coolest parts of college is getting to explore various courses and topics. Consider signing up for an introductory finance course and knock out some college credits while learning useful skills. You should also look into any low-cost financial literacy programs your college has in place or contact faculty members about any community programs available to students.
Lastly, students can sign up for a free account at cashcourse.org through the Higher Education Financial Wellness Alliance. CashCourse offers a variety of articles and videos on essential financial skills, like creating a budget and filing taxes.
Take advantage of existing perks
Your tuition and fees often cover extras like meal plans, and you should utilize those often. This is good opportunity to save money and avoid financial waste. Some universities also partner with local restaurants, allowing you to use your student ID for discounts or even your university’s dining funds.
There’re also other resources like the school library and computer labs, which often have electronics like cameras or pricey subscription software available for use. And don’t forget your campus fitness center, where you can find free exercises classes or even rent outdoor equipment like canoes.
And of course, don’t be afraid to ask about a student discount! Many local businesses around college campuses offer student discounts so you’ll want to be sure you always have your student ID card. You’ll end up saving money on a variety of purchases, including clothing, food, entertainment, and electronics.
Keep up with scholarship opportunities
While researching financial aid options for college, be sure to look into scholarship opportunities. Different scholarships may cover some or all of your college costs, and you won’t need to pay them back after graduating which can alleviate the financial burden of repaying student loans. Plus, scholarship opportunities are not a one-time thing when you first apply to college—each semester, you can find new or upcoming scholarship opportunities. Just remember to apply for them by the deadline.
Review and adjust your budget frequently
You should definitely have a budget and start saving, but an important part of their maintenance is regular reviews of your finances. You may discover you need to cut back on non-essential spending or that you have extra money to put into your savings. Or, you may find that you haven’t been doing a great job of sticking to your budget, or perhaps you’ve made a financial mistake—and that’s ok! Reviewing your budget and your spending categories can help you reorganize your funds and get back on track. And on the positive side, if you get a raise at work or get additional scholarship money, you’ll want recalculate your budget as well.
- Before heading off to school or to the store for supplies, be sure to create both a monthly budget and a back-to-school budget to ensure you start off on the right financial foot.
- Consistently and regularly review your finances. This helps you stay on top of your expenses and also allows you to determine if you need to adjust your budget.
- Don’t stress if you make a mistake! The truth is financial mistakes can happen to anyone, no matter your age or experience. Use your mistakes as an opportunity to learn so that next time, you better know how to react, understand, and recover.
There are lots of ways to have fun while on a budget, and you should definitely enjoy your college experience. Just remember too much fun may impact your GPA—and your bank account. Plus, practicing good money habits now will continue to serve you well into your post-graduate life.
Share with care: How to safely enjoy social media
Social media platforms have become an integral part of our lives. Social media is a great way to stay connected with others, but you should be wary about the information you post. Posting too much personal information makes it easier for hackers to access your passwords, steal your identity, or worse. Don’t let that scare you, though! You can still enjoy posting on Facebook or Instagram—just be mindful of the content you share. Below are a few tips to help you safely partake in social media:
Check your privacy settings
When you sign up for a new social media account or download a new app, immediately configure the privacy and security settings to your comfort level for information sharing. Regularly monitor these settings to ensure they are set to your preference. The National Cybersecurity Alliance resource page has a tool that compiles privacy-setting information for most digital providers.
Don’t post personal information
Be cautious about how much personal information you provide on social networking sites. The more information you post, the easier it may be for a hacker or someone else to use that information to steal your identity, access your data, or commit other crimes, like stalking.
For example, you may have seen your Facebook friends posting their answers to surveys with questions like: What’s your favorite color? How many TVs are in your house? Or how many pets do you own? These questions seem harmless. But they’re often similar to security questions used by websites to identify you. Posting your answers to these questions puts you at risk of your accounts becoming compromised.
Watch what you post
Protect your reputation on social networks—what you post online stays online. Think twice before posting pictures you wouldn’t want your parents or future employers to see. According to one survey, 67% of employers use social media to research potential job candidates.
Clean up your social media before applying for jobs. Conduct a digital footprint analysis—review your social content and think about how others may perceive those posts. You should also Google yourself and look through the information that appears to decipher whether any of it will negatively affect your chances of getting hired.
Know and manage your friends
Social networks can be used for various purposes. Some of the fun is creating a large pool of friends from many aspects of your life—that doesn’t mean all friends are created equal. Just like cleaning up your social posts, you should occasionally purge your friend list.
In the past, you may have added people you barely know or have never met before. A lot has changed since the dawn of Facebook, and these days, people tend to keep their circles small. Protect your privacy by scrubbing your friend list and removing old acquaintances, people you don’t recognize, or even an ex you don’t want to be in contact with anymore.
Enable multi-factor authentication
Use two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication (MFA) (like biometrics, security keys, or a unique, one-time code through an app on your mobile device) whenever offered.
When you log in to 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 phone, or accessing an authenticator app. Enabling MFA makes it twice as hard for hackers to access an online account or obtain personal information.
Use long, unique passwords
Length trumps complexity. A strong password is at least 12 characters long and a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember.
If you have trouble remembering your passwords, consider using a password manager. Password managers securely store your online credentials in an encrypted database, giving you peace of mind that your information is safe. It’s also easier to use unique passwords on different sites because the password manager remembers your login information.
Think before you click
Links in tweets, texts, posts, and social media messages are the easiest way for cybercriminals to get sensitive information. Be wary of clicking on links or downloading anything that comes from a stranger or that you were not expecting.
Social media can be a great way to stay connected with friends and family, but it’s important to be mindful of the information you share. By following the above tips, you can safely enjoy social media without risking your personal information.