Trim Your Monthly Expenses

Monday, June 19 at 10:20 AM
Category: Personal Finance
It comes as no surprise summer is a great time to get in shape. But, do you realize there's an easy way to get in great shape without having to put on workout clothes or sneakers or even breaking a sweat? It's called getting into financial shape. And you can accomplish that fairly easily by doing one simple activity — trimming your monthly expenses.
 
Here are some suggestions for losing that extra financial baggage this summer:
  • Get rid of higher-interest debt. If you have credit card debt, you may be wasting a significant part of your monthly budget on interest fees. Try to pay off any debt you can or at the very least, to consolidate higher-interest debt to lower-interest credit cards. To avoid credit card debt in the future, pay for purchases in cash.
  • Lower your cellphone bill. Most of us can't live without our cellphones. We can, however, do without those expensive monthly bills, which can be budget busters. Take some time to review your bill to determine your usage and to see if you can move to a less expensive plan. Or if that's not possible, shop around with other carriers.
  • Share the ride. Gasoline and car maintenance can take a big portion out of your budget. One way to reduce your automobile expense is to carpool with others. Or, if you live close to work, consider walking or riding your bike.
  • Dine in. There is a lot to love about dining out. You don't have to worry about what to cook or spend your valuable time cleaning up. But, dining out frequently can be very expensive. By preparing and eating your meals at home, you may be able to save hundreds of dollars each month. Also, if you work outside your home, pack a lunch and be sure to brew your own coffee.
  • Save energy at home. Put some energy into reducing your utility costs by using energy-efficient light bulbs, turning off lights, and conserving water.
  • Reduce your cable bill. Spending too much on cable? Examine your bill and see if you can get rid of premium channels. Or consider, eliminating cable altogether and using subscription services.
  • Get rid of your gym/club memberships. If you belong to a gym and don't get there often, cancel your membership. It's only worth it if you use it.
The best method for determining ways to save is to record and review your monthly expenses. Then, once you cut your expenses, take that extra money and put it in a savings account. In no time at all, you'll see that you look a whole lot better with trimmer expenses. 

Tags: Credit Cards, Debt, Financial Education, Savings
 

As Credit Cards Enhance Rewards, Consumers Advised to Comparison Shop

Wednesday, March 22 at 09:15 AM
Category: Arvest News

Did you know 25 million credit card holders have held the same credit cards for at least a decade?

LOWELL, Ark. – Consumers routinely search for the best price or the best deal when making a long-term financial commitment – from automobiles to cable companies to phone carriers. They don’t, however, tend to comparison shop once they have committed to a credit card.

A report by creditcards.com* shows that some 25 million credit card holders have held the same card for at least a decade, and another 20 million have never switched to a different creditor. This, despite the emergence of rewards programs that offer consumers robust benefits. 

Among the most popular perks offered through reward programs are cash-back options and bonus rewards. When offered, cash-back and other reward options can put extra money in the pocket of cardholders. Cash-back benefits can be applied as a credit on a future statement or deposited electronically in the customer’s bank account. 

Some financial institutions offer bonus opportunities such as providing customers with as much as triple rewards during certain times throughout the year, when they spend a particular amount on their card or when they charge specified items such as groceries or gas. 

More than half of consumers who did switch to a new credit card made the change because of a better rewards program, according to a creditcards.com* survey from 2015.

A rare and competitive offering among a handful of institutions is a rewards program that touches every level of credit cards. From a classic card to the platinum level, a rewards program could be in place, though the rewards may vary.

In addition, card issuers are becoming increasingly competitive by eliminating various fees, such as annual rewards program fees and balance transfer fees, and increasing the amount of control cardholders have at their fingertips.

One factor that will always get the attention of cardholders is interest rates. An individual’s improved credit score could mean they are eligible for a lower rate on their credit card. That provides another option for saving money and another reason to evaluate and compare programs. 

The Federal Reserve anticipates additional increases in interest rates later this year. With that change, every percentage point and every rewards option could affect consumers’ wallets in one way or another.

The bottom line for consumers is that, with the emerging new benefits programs offered by credit card issuers and the expectation of a rising rate environment, comparison shopping for the best credit card for their particular needs is becoming more important than ever.

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

Tags: Arvest Flex Rewards™, Credit Cards, Financial Education
 

Planning a Honeymoon – Save Now or Pay More Later

Monday, February 13 at 10:20 AM
Category: Personal Finance

If a honeymoon is in your plans, you should consider the financial aspects along with all the details of your trip. Those issues are how much the honeymoon is going to cost and how to pay it.

Costs of the Honeymoon
The actual costs will depend on the type of trip you plan. But, probably at a minimum you will have transportation (airfare, car rental or public transportation), accommodations (hotel), meals, activities and souvenirs. 

Save Before You Go or Pay
More Later
The actual cost of your honeymoon will depend on where you go and what you do on your trip, and those decisions are up to you and your soon-to-be spouse. One of the best decisions you can make is to save the money you will need before you go. That way you can enjoy the trip without financial worry.
 
Here is a simple chart showing how much you need to save monthly so you will have what you need before the trip.



Start Your Automatic Savings Today
An easy way to save is with an automatic savings plan. Set up a recurring automatic transfer with your financial institution to transfer the amount you need to save each month into a separate account. You can also have your employer deduct the amount each month directly from your paycheck and deposit it into the account of your choice. 

Paying More Later by Using Your Credit Card 
As tempting as it may be to just charge your entire honeymoon to your credit card, there is a cost to doing so. Weigh those costs with advantages you may have by using your credit card. Benefits could include earning rewards points with every purchase, bonus earning periods like two times points on purchases, and travel benefits such as complimentary auto rental insurance. Rewards points can often be redeemed as cash back towards your credit card statement or towards hotel deals. 

Here is a chart showing what your monthly payments would be to pay off the honeymoon.
 


Conclusions
Your honeymoon should be fun and carefree. Saving before you go can provide the peace of mind knowing that the cost is covered and help you save a bit of money. However, if you use a credit card be sure to understand your rate, understand your payment plan and maximize benefits such as rewards earning opportunities. Consider the following:
  • If you are planning a $7,500 honeymoon and save for 12 months, your total cost will be $7,392 because you will earn some interest.
  • If you return from your $7,500 honeymoon owning that amount on your credit card and pay it off over 12 months, your total cost will be $8,232.
  • If you decide to use your credit card as a financial solution to plan a $7,500 honeymoon and it offers one point for every $1 spent, you would receive 7,500 rewards points. Depending on your credit card rewards rate, this could be equal to at least $75 in points possibly redeemable for cash back or statement credit.  
The decision is yours, but factoring in total costs and benefits will help you minimize honeymoon planning regrets in the long run.
 
Tags: Credit Cards, Financial Education, Savings
 

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

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