Customer Question: “What is a merchant card data breach?”

Thursday, December 29 at 01:30 PM
Category: Personal Finance
Customer Question: “What is a merchant card data breach? Is it safe to use my debit card?”

A merchant data breach is when an unauthorized party accesses a merchant computer network and steals cardholder data. In these types of breaches, the impacted cardholders are those who used their cards at the breached merchant. They typically impact cardholders at multiple banks.

Unfortunately, merchant data breaches are becoming more common with 974 publicly disclosed data breaches in the first half of 2016 alone, according to the Breach Level Index*. 

Arvest, along with other banks in the region, is seeing some fraudulent transactions on less than one-half of one percent of our debit cards as a result of a merchant data breach at one or more merchants. This is NOT an Arvest security breach and includes cards from other banks. 
Please know our teams regularly monitor our debit card activity watching for fraudulent transactions. If unusual activity is observed, we will contact you immediately.
As a reminder, you should also regularly monitor your accounts for any unauthorized transactions or suspicious activity and report it immediately. If you see suspicious activity on your Arvest account, please contact Customer Service at (866) 952-9523 or visit your local branch.
It is important for U.S. Visa consumer debit and credit cardholders to know they are protected against fraudulent purchases with Visa’s Zero Liability Policy*.  
Remember to practice good financial security by monitoring your accounts and reporting suspicious activity to your card issuer immediately.
Thank you for this question.
If you have a question you would like answered, please submit it using the Ask Us Anything tool on the right side of the blog page.  

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution. 

Tags: Credit Cards, Customer Question, Debit Cards, Financial Education, Fraud Alert

Tips for Shopping Online

Monday, November 21 at 01:05 PM
Category: Personal Finance
With the holidays right around the corner, you’ll probably be taking advantage of online shopping. Use these tips to help you be smart about what sites you make purchases from.

Know who you're dealing with.
Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name. Confirm the online seller's physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems. If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for your financial information while you’re browsing, don't reply or follow the link. Legitimate companies don't ask for information that way.

Know what you're buying.
Read the seller's description of the product closely, especially the fine print. Words like "refurbished," "vintage" or "close-out" may indicate the product is in less-than-mint condition, while name-brand items with bargain basement prices could be counterfeits.

Know what it will cost.
Check out websites that offer price comparisons and then compare "apples to apples." Factor shipping and handling into the total cost of your purchase. Do not use money transfer systems you cannot find credible information about or have experience with.

Check out the terms of the deal, like refund policies and delivery dates.
Can you return the item for a full refund if you're not satisfied? If you return it, who pays the shipping costs or restocking fees, and when will you get your order? A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rule requires sellers to ship items as promised or within 30 days after the order date if no specific date is promised. Many sites offer tracking options, so you can see exactly where your purchase is and estimate when you’ll get it.

Pay by credit card.
If you pay by credit or charge card online, your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Under this law, you can dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates them. In the event someone uses your credit card without your permission, your liability generally is limited to the first $50 in charges. Some companies guarantee you won’t be held responsible for any unauthorized charges made to your card online; some cards provide additional warranty, return and purchase protection benefits.

Keep records.
Print or save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and the emails you send and receive from the seller. Read your credit card statements as you receive them; be on the lookout for charges you don’t recognize.

Protect your information.
Don't email any financial information. Email is not a secure method of transmitting financial information like your credit card, checking account or Social Security number. If you begin a transaction and need to give your financial information through an organization's website, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a URL that begins "https" (the "s" stands for secure). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some fraudulent sites have forged security icons.

Check the privacy policy.
Really. It should let you know what personal information the website operators are collecting, why and how they're going to use the information. If you can't find a privacy policy — or if you can't understand it — consider taking your business to another site that's more user-friendly.

Following these tips can help you shop online with peace of mind.

Information courtesy of Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information. 

Tags: Credit Cards, Financial Education, Privacy and Security

Turning Caution into Credit for Millennials

Monday, September 12 at 10:20 AM
Category: Personal Finance

The key for Millennials, and any cardholder, is to manage credit responsibly. 

LOWELL, Ark. – The Millennial generation witnessed the damage the Great Recession caused on their parents’ finances, and that lasting impact has caused many of them to exercise great caution in applying for and using credit cards.

A recent survey by NerdWallet shows as many as one-third of Millennials, often defined as those between the ages of 18 and 34, have never even applied for a credit card. This effort to protect their finances, however, could have the opposite effect of depriving them of a much-needed credit history.

Credit history is necessary because good credit scores help secure mortgage, auto and business loans – potentially at lower rates. They also are a factor in rental agreements and obtaining employment.

A financial resume of sorts, these scores are a reflection of consistent responsibility. Not having that history – for whatever reason – can reflect negatively on consumers of any age.

For young adults who are just entering the workforce, credit also is often used as a short-term safety net or as emergency funding. Many card issuers offer reward programs, making the benefits two-fold; while building a good credit history, the consumer earns rewards for use on products, services, travel and lodging.

The key for Millennials, and any cardholder, is to manage credit responsibly. NerdWallet showed that more than 30 million Millennials have bad credit scores – 600 or below – that could result in higher credit rates and fewer options when it comes to housing or auto loans. The process for improving a low score, demonstrated by consistent credit and payment performance, takes place over years.  

It’s important to begin building that history before it’s needed, and it will be needed. Scores take months – often years – to reach a level that will reward the consumer with loan approvals and lower rates.  

Millennials have a different, more frugal mindset than the generation before them that will likely have many benefits for them over time, but building a solid credit report and score, despite their caution toward credit products, is an important step that needs to be taken.

Tags: Credit Cards, Credit History, Credit Score, Financial Education, Press Release

6 Ways to Get the Most from Your Credit Card

Tuesday, September 06 at 09:30 AM
Category: Personal Finance
Credit cards are a tool, and you need to know how to use them properly to get the most benefit from them and not accidently hammer your thumb, so to speak. 
  1. Pay on time. Paying your credit card account on time helps you avoid late fees and penalty interest rates applied to your account and also helps you maintain a good credit record. A good credit record leads to a higher credit score, which helps you qualify for lower interest rates. Know the date your payment is due. If your bill is due at an inconvenient time of the month -- for example, if it's due on the 10th and you get paid on the 15th -- contact your credit card company to see if they will change your billing cycle to fit your cash flow. You may also consider setting a calendar alert to remind you before your bill is due for payment.
  2. Stay below your credit limit. If you go over your credit limit on your card, your card issuer could charge a fee and increase your interest rate to a higher penalty rate. To avoid this, keep a record of your spending or check your balance online. Also, be aware that some merchants (for example, hotel and car rental companies) put a "hold" on your credit card based on their estimate of the amount you will charge. This can reduce your available credit until the final charge is processed. 
  3. Avoid unnecessary fees. Credit card companies not only charge late payment and over-the-limit fees but can also charge fees for cash advances, transferring balances, and returned payments. Some companies charge a fee when you pay your bill by phone. Pay attention to the transactions that trigger these fees. If you need a cash advance, withdraw enough so you don't have to take a second cash advance - -and incur a second fee -- later in the month. Read your credit card agreement to learn more about the fees your credit card company charges.
  4. Pay more than the minimum payment. If you can't pay your balance in full each month, try to pay as much of the total as you can. Over time, you'll pay less in interest charges, money that you will be able to spend on other things, and you'll pay off your balance sooner. 
  5. Watch for changes in the terms of your account. Credit card companies can change the terms and conditions of your account. They will send you advance notices about changes in fees, interest rates, billing, and other features. By reading these "change in terms" notices, you can decide whether you want to change the way you use the card. For example, if cash advance fees increase, you may decide to use a different card for cash advances. If you have a card with a variable rate or if you have an introductory rate that is ending, be aware that credit card companies are not required to send you a notice about raising your interest rate. Interest rates are listed on your monthly bill. Read your bill carefully and take note of any changes.
  6. Look for rewards. Many credit cards have a rewards program that allow you to earn rewards in various forms like cash back, statement credit and travel discounts.  
With the knowledge to use the credit card in your tool belt effectively, you’re now equipped to get the most from your spending. 

Information courtesy of Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Blog edited by Blog Admin 9/29/16.

Tags: Arvest Flex Rewards™, Credit Cards

When Does the Travel Bug Bite?

Thursday, August 25 at 10:25 AM
Category: Personal Finance

When does the travel bug bite you? It has become the American standard to cram vacations into the summer season when the kids are out of school and the sun beckons. Not everyone agrees. There’s another smaller portion of our population that considers travel enticing in the fall. 

Summer crowds have thinned and the formerly blazing summer temperatures have dropped a bit. Some go into the great outdoors in weather conditions perfect for adventure. Others appreciate the quiet roads and now-attainable restaurant and hotel reservations as the tourist hustle and bustle dwindles. Search your favorite online travel reservation site, and you may be surprised to see offers for amazing packages and discounts at this off-peak time of the year. 

How can businesses afford to offer these deals? With the close of summer vacation season since school is in session for the year, families can’t travel. People are also saving up for the holidays and don’t want to allocate any disposable income towards a vacation. This is an opportune time for people to get away from it all; there’s less demand and more availability. 

Destinations that are primarily leisure getaway locales like the Caribbean are very sensitive to these low seasons. They look to this time to market their accommodations and experiences to those who would otherwise look away. By giving you incredible deals and unique experiences at a time when their establishments would be empty otherwise, their goal is to convert you into a loyal, repeat customer. 
Frances Liu, who specialized in luxury vacation offerings for a major U.S. airline, said, “Don’t look just at price; consider the quality of the services and caliber of the establishment to get the most for your money. You could be upgraded to a suite or nicer room, gifted a travel credit, or offered restaurant discounts and vouchers.” 
Sometimes all you have to do is ask! They want you to have that magical vacation experience so you will come back. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Before you pack your bags, make sure your wallet is ready too. Look into the travel benefits of your credit card as they vary from each provider and can include coverage such as worldwide acceptance of your payment method, travel and emergency services, auto rental insurance at no additional cost, and generous automatic travel accident insurance. 

Avoid payment issues by letting your bank and credit card agencies know you are traveling. Many offer the convenience of a virtual travel alert form within your online account to easily check that off your to-do list. For example, Arvest Flex Rewards™ credit card offers an online card manager site with your own unique login created when you open the account. This allows you to safely and instantly track your charges, schedule bill pay, and now let your bank know when you are traveling with the quick functionality of a simple virtual form. 

If you don’t have a credit card that gives you these types of benefits and more, check out Arvest Flex Rewards™ credit cards. Be sure to tell your friends at Arvest about the vacation deals you find! Happy hunting!

Blog edited by Blog Admin 9/29/16.

Tags: Credit Cards

Advantages and Responsibilities of Credit Card Use

Monday, August 08 at 09:00 AM
Category: Personal Finance

Credit cards offer many advantages. There is the convenience of being able to buy needed items now and the security of not having to carry cash. You also receive fraud protection and in some cases rewards for making purchases.

With these advantages also come responsibilities. You need to manage credit cards wisely by understanding all of the card's terms and conditions, staying on top of payments and realizing the true cost of purchases made with credit. Using a credit card is like taking out a loan. If you don't pay your card balance in full each month, you'll pay interest on that loan.

Choose Wisely
The best way to maximize the benefits of credit cards is to understand your financial lifestyle – your money needs and wants. Once you determine how you'll use a credit card, it's important to understand all of the card's features including:
  • Annual percentage rates (APRs) and whether rates are fixed or variable
  • Annual, late and over-limit fees
  • Credit limit on account
  • Grace periods before interest begins accruing
  • Rewards including cash back, statement credit and travel discounts
Understand Your Rights
Credit cardholders are entitled to protections:
  • Zero liability means you are not responsible for fraudulent charges when you report them promptly.
  • In some cases, you have the right to dispute purchases with merchants for unsatisfactory products or services.
Follow the 20-10 Rule
This general "rule of thumb" helps you understand how much credit you can afford. Credit cards are loans, so avoid borrowing more than 20 percent of your annual net income on all of your loans (not including a mortgage). Payments on those loans shouldn't exceed 10 percent of your monthly net income.

As you responsibly use credit cards, you’ll feel the advantages of this alternate payment method. 

Blog edited by Blog Admin on 9/29/16.

Tags: Arvest Flex Rewards™, Credit Cards

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