Archive for the ‘ Personal Finance ’ Category

WooHoo! Contest

WooHoo CONTEST

We’re Giving Away $1,500 in Prizes!

1 – $500 Visa Gift Card

10- $100 Visa Gift Cards

We’re introducing WooHoo! Banking® and with that comes our exciting WooHoo! Contest! Every 2 weeks, from September 5, 2017 to December 31, 2017, Citizens Bank Minnesota will post a new WooHoo! question on our website, and also have the question and answer forms in our lobbies.

Simply submit a correct answer via the electronic question or on the paper form to be automatically entered to win! You have the opportunity to be entered up to 9 times if you answer all questions correctly!

All of the answers can be found on the corresponding product page of our website, or come into any of our locations and our employees will give you an answer card that explains the WooHoo! product for that question.

Are you ready to play?  Click here for official rules and to PLAY NOW!

I Bought What?! Enroll in Text Alerts!

shutterstock_387607450Don’t get caught off-guard by fraudulent activity on your debit card! With Citizens Bank Minnesota’s MasterCard Debit Card, you can enroll to receive FREE* smsGuardian text alerts for your card activity! This is a great tool for fraud prevention and detection.

*Message and data rates may apply

 

Enroll in smsGuardian Text Alerts today!

Enrollment must be completed for each card number.  If at any time your debit card number or cell phone number change, you will need to re-enroll with updated information.

Alerts will be sent for the following:

  • Out of state transactions
  • International transactions
  • Card not present and online purchases
  • Authorizations greater than $300.00
  • 8 or more transactions in 24 hours
  • Declined authorization attempts

If you receive an alert for a transaction or attempt that was not initiated by you and you believe to be fraudulent, reply to the text with the code provided in the alert and your card will be shut down immediately.  If you have questions regarding the alert or need additional information, contact our Citizens Connection Department at 1-800-549-0194 available Monday thru Friday 7:30am – 5:00 pm and Saturday 9am – 12pm.

By: Melissa Bergeman, Citizens Connection Manager/Complaint Resolution Officer

How to Cure Your Post-Holiday Financial Hangover

Ask anyone you know, and everyone seems to have a cure for a hangover. Some of the more traditional fixes include aspirin or ibuprofen, lots of water, coffee and lots of food. Then there are more unusual remedies, like drinking pickle juice. But how do you cure a financial hangover? You overspent before the holidays, and now the balance on your credit card bills looks terrifying in the sobering light of January.

At least with a typical hangover, if your attempts to alleviate the pain don’t work or you simply don’t fight it, the misery will end sooner rather than later. Doing nothing when you have a financial hangover can make your situation worse (i.e., your debt will grow), and even if you try to immediately cure it, the effects can last for months (i.e., the debt may be gone, but money may still be tight). So if you spent a little too much leading up to the holidays – or went way overboard – here are some options to help you undo the damage.

Return some items. This may not be much of a solution since you can’t very well go to your friends and family and ask for your gifts back, and you certainly don’t want to suggest to your children that Santa might want to repossess a few presents. Still, it’s a strategy worth a few seconds of consideration. If you got carried away and made some expensive purchases for yourself in December, keep in mind that most stores have at least a 30-day return policy.

Utilize your credit cards. Yes, your credit cards may have gotten you into this mess, but they may be able to help get you out of it. Randy Hopper, vice president of credit cards at Navy Federal Credit Union in Vienna, Va., suggests a balance transfer. That is, if you have a credit card with one of those low- or zero-interest deals, many of which are up to 18 months, and you can transfer the balance of your other credit card, you’ll have a place to put your debt, with low to no interest, while you try and pay it off. But Hopper warns: “Be mindful that once the initial balance transfer period is over, the interest rate will jump to a higher rate.”

Avoid shopping. Try to steer clear of the post-holiday January sales. “I would encourage people not to accumulate additional debt,” says Clare Levison, a Blacksburg, Va.-based certified public accountant and a member of the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “Even though winter stuff might be on clearance, which seems crazy with the temperatures we’ve been having, try to resist going after the bargains.”

Do your taxes now. If you have a big, fat refund coming, Levison points out that it could be the cure to your post-holiday hangover. “And anything you have that’s left over, I, of course, have to suggest that you should put into savings,” Levison says.

Bring in some extra money, creatively. It may not solve all of your problems, but you could try to raise some extra income quickly, suggests Andrew Johnson, spokesperson for GreenPath Debt Solutions, a nationwide nonprofit headquartered in Detroit that helps consumers with credit card debt, housing debt and bankruptcy. “Look for unused items around the home than contain scrap materials that can be sold quickly, like iron or brass. My mother sold a roll of copper screen on her own that she found in her basement, and made some quick cash,” Johnson says. He also points out that you could try selling or pawning unwanted items.

Use this moment as the catalyst to start budgeting. If things are really bad and you want to fix your finances so this never happens again, “you’ve got to make changes,” says John McFarland, a personal finance professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. “The good news is that these same changes might lead a to a financially healthier holiday season next year if you make them permanent instead of temporary.”

While you examine your budget and decide where to make changes, McFarland suggests doing what you would do if you had binged on food or alcohol. “Unless you’re an addict, you lay off for awhile. Let’s do the same with money. Put away the credit cards, pay everything with cash except for your regular bills and begin to understand your baseline financial position,” he says.

Incorporate your debt into your other resolutions. This is a time of year when you may be resolving to lose weight or exercise. “So that makes it a great time to cut your budget in eating out and entertainment,” Levison says. “If you eat at home more often, it’ll save you dollars and calories and you can use that money to go toward your holiday bills instead.”

You could even try to convince yourself of this: All of this holiday debt you’re wallowing in could be the best thing that ever happened to you if you use the experience to make positive changes in your life, like eating less fast food or becoming better at budgeting.

As financial hangover cures go, “that is a more positive spin on things,” Levison says.

And at least you don’t have to drink pickle juice.

Article courtesy of: Geoff Williams via money.usnews.com

Giving Just Got Easier!

Citizens Bank Minnesota is giving away $500 from our Holiday Relief Fund!

Simply use our online payment features from November 14th – December 31st and you could WIN 1 of 5 – $100 Visa Gift Cards!* Keep reading to learn more!

Are you an Online Banking user but don’t use the Bill Pay feature?  Did you know that Bill Pay is:

  • FREE
  • Easy
  • Convenient
  • Unlimited

Save time, money and frustration by paying all your bills from one secure website!

Learn more about Bill Pay!

Do you know about our other great payment features? Giving just got easier!

  • Gift Pay – Have a ‘hard to buy for’ person on your holiday gift list? Send them a Gift Check with our easy to use Gift Pay feature!
  • Donation Pay – It’s easy to send a charitable donation check personalized by you directly from your account!
  • Person-to-Person Payment – This convenient feature allows you to send a person-to-person payment via email to anyone you choose, such as a landlord, babysitter, relative or more.

Learn more about these great payment features!

Try any of these features for FREE!**

*Enter for your chance to win 1 of 5 $100 VISA Gift Cards at any Citizens Bank Minnesota location. You will automatically be entered into the drawing every time a bill payment, gift payment, donation payment, or person-to-person payment is processed using Citizens online bill payment service. The payment must be scheduled to occur between November 14 and December 30, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. CST. Drawing to be held on January 3, 2017; winners need not be present to win. No deposit required. Do not need to open an account or be a customer to win. Any payments made using online bill payment, Gift Pay, Donation Pay or Person-to-Person Payments that are made payable to yourself will be disqualified from promotion. May only win one VISA Gift Card per online banking account. Member FDIC.
**Citizens Bank Minnesota’s online bill payment services of Gift Pay, Donation Pay and Person-to-Person Payments will be free for all initiated payments for both new and existing users between November 14 and January 3, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. CST. After 2:00 p.m. CST on January 3, 2017, these product’s fees will revert back to the original amounts which are Gift Pay ($2.99), Donation Pay ($1.99) and Person-to-Person Payments ($1.00).

9 Best Ways to Save Money During the Holiday Season

holiday-saving1

Before you hit the mall or organize a big party, it can help to have a comprehensive plan in place so you know exactly where your money is going this holiday season – that way, you can ring in the new year with celebration rather than panic. Here are several ways to keep your spending under control this December.

1. Make a Budget

There are a couple different ways to set a holiday budget. You might want to establish a general spending cap, or try allocating a specific amount to each person on your gift list. Be aware, though, that while making a holiday budget is great, it can go sour in one of two ways:

  • Setting a Budget That’s Too Tight. While setting a tight budget always starts with good intentions, an unrealistic one can do more harm than good. Without a little wiggle room for last-minute purchases or enough cash allocated for your mom’s gift, you can end up very frustrated. In fact, you might get so frustrated that you just toss your budget out the window. To prevent this from happening, look over your numbers. Do you really need to spend $50 on wine, or can you cut back in order to allocate more money to gifts instead? Don’t just pick numbers out of thin air – really think things over to ensure that you make the right decisions.
  • Forgetting the Little Things. Gift giving is a huge expense during the holidays, but don’t forget the other costs you incur throughout the season. Parties, travel expenses, charitable donations, and holiday-themed activities can all add up to destroy a budget. If possible, add some money into your budget for unexpected costs so you’re not left scratching your head.

The way you create your budget is up to you, but one thing’s for sure: you need one. Create yours before the season hits full steam, and revisit it often to make sure you’re spending within your means.

2. Track Your Spending

Your budget does no good if you don’t effectively track your spending. Personally, I keep a separate Christmas fund in a dedicated bank account. This makes it easier for me to separate holiday spending from regular, day-to-day expenses. I also have my bank’s app on my phone, which allows me to check my balance and track my spending anytime, anywhere – even in line for the cashier.

Spreadsheets are also an excellent and accurate way to track your holiday expenditures. By establishing a budget and entering your real expenses, you can easily keep yourself on track. Just be sure to remain diligent. I find that if I can track my expenses in real-time, I’m much more effective than if the receipts are lying around for days before I input them into my system.

3. Cut Back on Extras

Getting lattes piled sky-high with whipped cream, splurging on a pair of shoes for yourself, paying for a photo with Santa – we’re all guilty of indulging a little more than we should simply because it’s the holiday season. However, you can’t get stuck in a trap where constant spending on “extras” eats into your budget.

Cutting back on those extras can have a big impact on your bottom line. For example, if you purchase a $4.50 pumpkin spice latte three times per week throughout December, that’s $162 you’ve spent on pricey drinks. That money could have paid for a few Christmas gifts, enough gas to get to Grandma’s house, or a generous donation to a charity of your choice. Before you splurge on a little treat or “extra” for yourself, be sure it’s really worth the price.

4. Use the “Secret Santa” Method

I have four brothers and one sister-in-law on my side of the family, and three brothers-in-law and three sisters-in-law on my husband’s side. Add in the 11 nieces and nephews, and buying for the family becomes a huge expense – not to mention a major drain on my schedule. Instead of buying for each member of the family or even pulling names out of a hat, we’ve decided to funnel our resources into a Secret Santa experience instead.

Our local church decorates a tree with ornaments, each decoration with the age, gender, and specific Christmas wish of a child in need. Instead of buying presents for my own family members, we choose to purchase gifts for the anonymous beneficiaries. The best part is that each individual family chooses as many ornaments as they can afford – some can buy for an entire family, while others can pick one or two ornaments to fit their budget. In the past, my kids and I have had fun picking out toys, clothes, and books for children of a similar age.

Not only does a Secret Santa experience help relieve some of the stress and financial burden of exchanging gifts with every member of my family, it gives us a chance to talk about the importance of service and giving during the holidays. I love that my kids get a break from the “gimmes” and get to focus on someone less fortunate.

Some other ideas for charity during the holidays include the following:

•Toy drives
•Volunteer work
•Baking treats for neighbors
•Assembling care packages for shelters, hospitals, or the armed forces
•Coat drives
•Donating to charity

Funneling what you would have spent on family gifts to those in need is a great way to give back, have a charitable experience with your loved ones, and relieve holiday stress.

5. Choose Cheaper Traditions

Traditions are what make the holidays so special, but they can be a financial burden. If your traditions include holiday travel, paying for a special attraction, or surprising your kids with extravagant gifts, you might find yourself going significantly over budget in the name of family.

While traditions are important and admirable, they don’t have to be expensive to be memorable. In fact, you might find that your kids prefer the cheap stuff to the grander gestures. So many activities and traditions are inexpensive, or even free – you just have to know where to look. By making cheaper events and traditions part of your celebration, you can save money without skimping on the festivities and memories.

Here are some of my favorite cheap activities:

•Touring neighborhood Christmas lights
•Watching a movie with hot chocolate at home
•Sledding
•Seeing Santa at the mall
•Making Christmas crafts
•Baking together
•Reading favorite Christmas stories
•Seeing a high school production, such as a play or choir performance
•Caroling
•Checking daily deals, such as those on Groupon or LivingSocial, for discounts on local attractions

Teach your kids that traditions aren’t about what you spend, but the time you spend together.

6. Embrace Potluck

We host Christmas Eve for our extended family every year at our home. I love prepping, cooking, and having everyone together for Christmas – but you know what I don’t love? How expensive all the food, decor, and activities always are. Buying food for 30 people is seriously pricey, and if not for potluck assignments, I’d be spending most of my Christmas budget on food and drink.

Now, I’ve learned my lesson – if you’re hosting an event, embrace the idea of potluck assignments. Let everyone know you’re going to make the main dish, but that you’d appreciate help on sides, appetizers, desserts, and drinks. I simply send out an email a few weeks in advance letting everyone know what their assignments are to ensure we don’t end up with five vegetable trays and no dessert.

I also assign Christmas games and activities to some of my teen nieces and nephews. They love being involved, and I don’t have to stress about keeping guests entertained.

7. Take Care Around Sales

Holiday sales can be an epic opportunity to save money – but be careful. Not all deals are created equal, and some may not even be truly discounted, as some stores keep prices the same but simply mark items with a “sale” sign.

Always comparison shop before you purchase an item during a sale. I use the ShopSavvy app – it allows me to scan the bar code of any item and see prices at nearby stores and Internet retailers to make sure I’m getting the best deal. Or, if you tend to fall victim to the festive atmosphere of a store and make unwise purchases, try shopping solely online. You can snag great deals and use coupon codes to get a lot more for your money.

Of course, you never save money by spending, no matter how significant the discount. Sales are great, but they don’t mean much if the money isn’t in your budget. If necessary, bring a printout of your budget so you can check your spending in real-time and avoid being swayed by a screaming deal.

8. Know When to Stop

When your list is finished and you’ve checked it twice, it’s time to stop shopping. Know when you’re finished, and avoid stopping by the mall “just to see what they have” – this can lead to making poorly planned purchases and blowing your budget.

I typically get the itch to shop a few days before Christmas, so I specifically save shopping for stocking stuffers until the last minute. That way, I’m still operating within my budget and purchasing something I actually need while fulfilling the urge to be part of the holiday hustle and bustle. By planning purchases and stopping when you’re done, you can be spared that holiday hangover come January.

9. Get a Head Start

The period right after the holidays is the perfect time to check over your budget and make plans for the new year. How did you do? Did you stay within budget? Were there places you could have cut back?

This is also the time to start planning a credit card payoff strategy if you used plastic to finance your festivities. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have put anything on your credit card that you couldn’t pay off in a month, but if you went overboard, commit to a payment plan that eliminates your balances within the next three or four months.

If you’re really savvy and have the storage, the days following Christmas are also ideal for getting a jump-start on purchasing decor and wrapping goods for next year. Of course, that’s only if you’ve budgeted accordingly.

Article courtesy of: Jacqueline Curtis via MoneyCrashers.com

SAFETY TIPS FOR MOBILE DEVICES

cyber-security

Stay #CyberAware While On the Go

Your mobile devices – including smartphones, laptops and tablets – are always within reach everywhere you go, whether for work, travel or entertainment. These devices make it easy to connect to the world around you, but they can also pack a lot of info about you and your friends and family, like your contacts, photos, videos, location and health and financial data. It’s important to use your mobile safely.

The 1st step is to STOP. THINK. CONNECT.

STOP: make sure security measures are in place. THINK: about the consequences of your actions and behaviors online. CONNECT: and enjoy your devices with more peace of mind.

PERSONAL INFORMATION IS LIKE MONEY. VALUE IT. PROTECT IT.

  • Secure your devices: Use strong passwords or touch ID features to lock your devices. These security measures can help protect your informa on if your devices are lost or stolen and keep prying eyes out.
  • Think before you app: Information about you, such as the games you like to play, your contacts list, where you shop and your location, has value – just like money. Be thoughtful about who gets that information and how it’s collected through apps.
  • Now you see me, now you don’t: Some stores and other locations look for devices with WiFi or Bluetooth turned on to track your movements while you are within range. Disable WiFi and Bluetooth when not in use.
  • Get savvy about WiFi hotspots: Public wireless networks and hotspots are not secure, which means that anyone could potentially see what you are doing on your mobile device while you are connected. Limit what you do on public WiFi and avoid logging in to key accounts like email and financial services on these networks. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) or a personal/mobile hotspot if you need a more secure connection on the go.

    KEEP A CLEAN MACHINE:

  • Keep your mobile devices and apps up to date: Your mobile devices are just as vulnerable as your PC or laptop. Having the most up-to-date security software, web browser, operating system and apps is the best defense against viruses, malware and other online threats.
  • Delete when done: Many of us download apps for specific purposes, such as planning a vacation, and no longer need them afterwards, or we may have previously downloaded apps that are no longer useful or interesting to us. It’s a good security practice to delete all apps you no longer use.

Article courtesy of StopThinkConnect.org

Created by the National Cyber Security Alliance

Made possible in whole by a grant fron the Digital Trust Foundation

5 Ways to Spot a Lottery Scam

lottery scam

According to the FBI, in 2014 consumers lost more than $8 million to solicitation scams promising instant wealth and grand prize earnings. These scams, commonly referred to as the “advance fee,” “lottery” or “sweepstake” scam, involve fraudsters issuing counterfeit checks and fake award letters to consumers who have allegedly won a lottery or sweepstake raffle. The consumer, who most likely never entered the alleged drawing, is issued a check worth more than the amount owed and instructed to pay taxes and fees before receiving their lump sum payment. Unfortunately, the check — in addition to the raffle — is bogus.

Consumers fall victim to lottery and sweepstake scams at alarming rates. It’s extremely important for them to recognize the red flags associated with this type of fraud before they deposit any check they weren’t expecting or send money to an unknown recipient by check or electronic wire.

Before you participate in any lottery or sweepstake, Citizens Bank Minnesota encourages you to keep these tips in mind:

  • Don’t be fooled by the appearance of the check. Scam artists are using sophisticated technology to create counterfeit checks that mirror the appearance of legitimate checks. Some are counterfeit money orders, some are phony cashier’s checks and others look like they are from legitimate business accounts. The companies whose names appear may be real, but someone has dummied up the checks without their knowledge.
  • Never ‘pay to play.’ There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back or send you more than the exact amount —that’s a red flag that it’s a scam. If a stranger wants to pay you for something, insist on a cashier’s check for the exact amount, preferably from a local bank or one with a local branch.
  • Verify the requestor before you wire or issue a check. It is important to know who you are sending money to before you send it. Just because someone contacted you doesn’t mean they are a trusted source.
  • Ensure a check has “cleared” to be most safe. Under federal law, banks must make deposited funds available quickly, but just because you can withdraw the money doesn’t mean the check is good, even if it’s a cashier’s check or money order. Be sure to ask if the check has cleared, not merely if the funds are available before you decide to spend the money.
  • Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately. Bank staff are experts in spotting fraudulent checks. If you think someone is trying to pull a fake check scam, don’t deposit it—report it. Contact your local bank or the National Consumers League’s Fraud Center, fraud.org.

For more information about fake check scams and how you can avoid them, go to fakechecks.org.

Article courtesy of the American Bankers Association

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