Shopping In Store vs. Online

Deciding between taking a ride or going online
Are you the kind ofOnline Shopping person who enjoys perusing store by store at the mall in the hopes of finding what you need? Or do you prefer to sit at your computer or tablet in the comfort of your own home, filling virtual shopping carts with items?

The truth is, there’s no right or wrong; it’s purely whatever floats your boat. However, there are certain items that you may be better off purchasing from a good old brick-and-mortar store, and ones that you may benefit from buying online. Next time you’re in the market for one of these items, you may want to consider the venue in which you buy them.

Books – Best to buy: Online
Why: Independent bookstores such as Barnes & Noble or local booksellers sell most of their products at full retail price. But at e-commerce stores such as Amazon or Half.com, you can typically save a staggering 30 to 50 percent. Plus, when you’re ordering a book, you know exactly what you’re getting (whereas with something such as clothing, it could look different in the picture). You can buy a book online anytime you’d like, new or used, and most of the time, sellers will offer free shipping or shipping at a minimal fee, (which is usually still less than what you’d pay at a retail bookseller).

TVs – Best to buy: Online
Why: More often than not, online prices will be lower than in store (unless the store is one to match the online price, which is becoming more common). And while stores typically have a range of TVs where you can evaluate its pictures, you can also use Consumer Reports TV Ratings to get an accurate picture quality assessment. Additionally, many retailers often set their TVs to a retail or store mode, which heightens brightness and color in a way that looks perfect under fluorescent lights. Do some research before you buy, and that way, the right TV for you can be delivered directly to your door.

Party supplies – Best to buy: Online
Why: When buying décor for a birthday party, bridal shower or other celebration, you’re likely looking for products that fit a specific theme, and that can be hard to come by or take up a lot of time when searching by walking the aisles in stores. When you shop online for party supplies on sites like Amazon or eBay, or retailers such as Oriental Trading or Party City, you can easily sort through the products and find exactly what you’re looking for. Another plus: Many online stores that specialize in party supplies offer promotions, discounted items and even free shipping offers on select orders.

Clothing – Best to buy: In store
Why: Ever bought a shirt or pair of pants online, happily opened the box when it arrived at your home, only to be disappointed in the look and fit? Buying clothing online is risky; you never know fully if the sample picture is off or if sizes vary store by store. Plus, even when you return clothing after buying online, you typically won’t be refunded the shipping costs, and some retailers’ return policies may not be ideal.

Cell phones – Best to buy: In store
Why: Despite how many reviews you read about phones, you won’t get a true depiction until you hold it in your hands. Everyone’s different, and the features on a phone are important to one person may not be as necessary for another.

Food, beer, wine – Best to buy: In store
Why: While online food and beverage shopping may seem like a time saver, in the end it can actually cost you more money than going to a traditional grocery store. Many products sold at online stores can be marked up to prices similar to those of a convenience store. And, many online retailers don’t take coupons, which limits your ability to save in that respect. It’s also rare for an online store to practice price matching, which is a practice many stores are executing now. And don’t forget about shipping costs — a price you won’t have to incur at a supermarket.

There’s always a bargain if you do the research, so take your time and you’ll be on your way to extra savings in no time.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

The End of the Wallet as we Know It?

Smartphone payment apps allow you to leave your card at home

For years, consumersaofcu_pic_003047337 have had the capabilities to use apps on their smartphones to pay for items in the modern-day marketplace. Recently, this technology has begun catching on, with Internet start-ups and financial institutions scrambling to capitalize on this revolution.

“Every device will become a commerce device,” said Gary Flood, president of global products and solutions for MasterCard, to the Boston Globe. “Technology is opening up the potential to do things in a different way around the world.”

A recent survey found that more than 60 percent of people expect that mobile devices will soon replace cash and credit cards. There are many different smartphone apps that offer the abilities:

Google Wallet
This app allows you to e-mail money via gmail and link your phone to your credit and debit cards and checking account to use anywhere contactless payments are accepted. Positive aspects of Google Wallet are the ease of set-up — it takes about five minutes to create a secure PIN number and enter your personal information, including account info — and the inclusion of Google Offers, which informs you of deals and coupons at nearby places at which you may be shopping. The PIN safeguards your account from breaches, and the software’s cloud connection allows you to shut down your Wallet from a computer if your smartphone is lost or stolen. There is a fee for using credit and debit cards through Google Wallet, but checking account payments are free.

Square Cash
This app only works with debit cards, with no fee involved, and you don’t even need an account with Square to accept money this way. This makes it ideal for splitting a bill with friends, for example, or chipping in for rent. Pay with Square is an app that allows you to pay simply by saying your name. Through the app, you can find Square-enabled businesses nearby, which utilizes your phone’s GPS, and before you head into one of those stores, you hit “Open a Tab.” From there, you go into the store, grab what you want, and tell the cashier your name. The only problem is that you’re often identified by pictures in this case, and online photos can be blurry which can lead to potentially costly confusion.

Venmo
This popular app helps friends to pay each other, but it is a pay-by-text service. Checking and debit options are free with this app, but there is a fee for credit card transactions. Set-up is quick and easy, with a text confirmation for extra security, and you can connect to the service through your Facebook account as well. This will help you find friends that are also signed up for the service. Venmo’s connections with Facebook don’t end there. The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern explained the service’s fun social qualities.

“As soon as you open the app, there is a Facebook-like newsfeed of your friends’ transactions — hotel rooms, Indian food and cab rides are just a few things my friends seem to be paying for with Venmo,” she said. “You can then comment or ‘like’ the update. Fortunately, the amount paid isn’t public and you can disable the sharing features on each transaction.”

To use Venmo, you just enter the amount you want to pay, identify the recipient by name, phone number or e-mail, and click “Pay.” There is a limit, however, on much you can send per week and per month.

LevelUp
This app allows you to link to your debit or credit card, while also linking to various stores’ loyalty cards. The app offers built in discounts and says its users save around $25 a month by using its service. Like many of the above options, set-up is simple by just entering your card number. Scanning your card with your phone’s camera doesn’t always work, said CNN Money’s Laurie Segall, who tried out all of these applications for a 2012 story.

To pay, on participating merchants’ LevelUp-provided devices, you just scan a code displayed on your phone after you hit “Pay.” It all works within seconds.

Paypal
This is probably the most well-known of all of these, allows you to completely scrap your phone altogether and pay with just a phone number and PIN. You must remember to first go into your Paypal account and enter your mobile number. Even if there is already a number on file, the mobile number needs to be specified. Then, at the payment device, all you have to do is enter your number and the PIN. For extra safeguards, Paypal texts you after every transaction to let you know there was a purchase. Paypal is great because it is a commonly used service that most people already have for shopping online or for international transfers. But beware of the fees, they are charged for every service (credit and debit) except for the checking account.

Store loyalty cards are a widely used option among retailers that allows you to prepay money or attach an account to them while also accumulating points or perks. Over a quarter of Starbucks customers either pay with a digital or plastic loyalty card, the company disclosed. That also means that Starbucks has reduced its cost of processing purchases by 25 percent. Typical merchant fees for a regular debit card transaction are around 4 percent, while use through loyalty cards and apps like those above can reduce the fees to 2 percent or even make them disappear altogether.

A similar option to those mentioned previously includes the Tango Card, which allows consumers to securely store gift cards and then generate a barcode for their use at the register. Also, Uber is an app that enables a user to pay for a town car or a taxi through its technology linked to credit or debit accounts. Many parking garages, parking meters and vending machines across the country have gone the “touchless payment” route as well.

Going forward, technology will be making even greater strides. NXT-ID, Inc. is developing a means to replace all the cards in your wallet with no smartphone required. The Wocket™ is its own device; it will work anywhere credit cards are accepted, and only with your biometric consent. See an official presentation about the Wocket here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2zPNB5i9CA.

All of these technological advancements are not without their problems, however. Security really is not a concern, as most of the aforementioned services are more protected than your own actual wallet! The main issue with digitized payments is that the systems are not synchronized. One app doesn’t work everywhere, or with every point-of-sale device. But that, too, may be a problem of the past. Scvngr, the operator of LevelUp, is working on a single POS that will allow merchants to accept any mobile payment app.

“Until you solve that particular problem, you can’t really drive much widespread consumption,” said Will Graylin, founder of ROAM Data, a premier mobile application and payment services company.

As Graylin indicated, it will be a while before there is extensive adoption of the mobile wallet, but be aware of increased spending when this future is upon us. These apps and devices certainly increase convenience, as software can track spending and balances with the push of a button, but they also increase sales, with GPS tracking helping to notify you of sales and discounts near you. Individually, these technologies have their own pros and cons; each is best used in different places and under varying circumstances. Therefore, it’s solely up to your discretion if next time you go shopping, you want to leave your wallet at home.


Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser
Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

You could WIN a tablet or thousands of other prizes!

MAKING YOUR LIFE EASIER HAS NEVER BEEN THIS EXCITING!

In October and November, every time you send money using the Popmoney® personal payment service, pay a bill with ePay online bill pay or request an eBill in ePay, you’ll be entered for a chance to WIN!*

LEARN MORE


Popmoney is a registered trademark of Fiserv, Inc., or its affiliates. Terms and conditions apply. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. OPEN TO INDIVIDUAL LEGAL RESIDENTS OF THE 50 UNITED STATES (D.C.) 18 YEARS AND OLDER. Business account holders are not eligible to participate. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Runs 10/1/14 through 11/30/14. For Official Rules, alternate method of entry, opt-out procedure, prize descriptions and odds disclosure, visit https://fiserv.promo.eprize.com/thousands/. Sponsor: Fiserv Solutions, Inc., 4411 East Jones Bridge Road, Norcross, GA 30092.
Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

Benefits of MyBranch Online Banking

Being eCount members, we’re pretty certain that you’re comfortable doing things online. If you haven’t done so already, you should head over to our site and get your account set up on MyBranch. MyBranch is our free online banking portal. From there, you’ll be able to see what’s going on in your account 24/7. Get started with MyBranch here.

The other benefit that getting set up on MyBranch offers is that you can start using the rest of our online tools, such as our mobile app, ePay, Popmoney® and $napshot. All of these tools will give you more access to, and control over, your account, which can be really important when you’re on the go.

Mobile App
Our mobile app will give you access to your account over any app-enabled smartphone. Check balances, transfer funds, use ePay to pay bills or Popmoney to pay other people, even deposit paper checks, all through your mobile phone. Visit www.aofcu.com on your mobile device.

ePay
ePay is a great tool if you have at least a few bills that you pay regularly every month. ePay lets you pay a bill electronically, even if your recipient doesn’t accept electronic payments. Most vendors like cable companies, retail stores or utilities are already set up to accept electronic payments, and those payments go through as quickly as the very next business day. For others that don’t have an electronic payment processor, such as a small doctor’s office, for instance, an actual paper check is cut and mailed for you, free of charge when you use ePay. These won’t get there the next day, as they do have to be mailed, but you don’t pay for the check, the stamp or the envelope.

Another big plus to ePay is that it allows you to pay all of your bills from one site. No more logging into 15 different websites to pay your various bills, set them up once in ePay and you’ll never have to visit each individual site just to pay a bill. From now on, you’ll simply log into ePay, and there you’ll see all of the billers you have set up, as well as pending payments and payment histories for each one. Want to know how much the last cellphone bill was and when you paid it? ePay has that info at your fingertips, 24/7. You can even schedule payments in advance once or on a recurring basis. All from one safe, secure, easy to use site.

Probably the best part of ePay is that all of your payments are guaranteed. ePay guarantees that the recipient will receive payment by the guaranteed date, assuming you have the funds in your account, of course. If ePay doesn’t get the payment there by the guaranteed date, ePay covers the cost so there are never any late fees for you. Knowing when the payment will come out of your account and knowing that it will get there on time, every time is a nice bit of security. So stop spending money on stamps, envelopes and paper checks and start using ePay.

One final thing to be aware of regarding ePay is that it is free, but only if you use it. I know, that sounds odd, so let me explain. The credit union incurs an expense to provide the service to our members, and we’re fine doing that so long as the service is used. So, as long as you make at least one payment every 30 days using ePay, we continue to provide it to you free of charge. If you don’t use it, however, there is a $2 charge per month to have the service. Just make sure to use ePay if you sign up for it. We think it’s a really great service, but we don’t want you incurring any fees unnecessarily. You may also cancel ePay at any time, simply call us and cancel the service. Find out more about ePay here.

Popmoney®
Popmoney is a complementary service to ePay. Where ePay lets you pay bills, Popmoney lets you pay other people, request funds from others and even receive funds, all over your app-enabled smartphone. Ever been short on cash to pay back a co-worker for lunch? Popmoney solves that issue. Simply send the money straight from your account to theirs using Popmoney. You can read more about Popmoney in this article or on our website

$napshot
Finally, with MyBranch access, you get full access to our free, personal money manager, $napshot. The single nicest feature of $napshot is that it lets you bring in accounts from your other financial institutions so that you can keep track of all of them in one place. What ePay does for your bills, Snapshot does for your accounts.

Set up spending budgets, and saving goals easily. Track investments or accounts at other credit unions or banks. $napshot lets you keep track of all of it, quickly and easily. $napshot uses a cool tag-based system, so you can label your expenses in ways that make sense to you. And the best part is, $napshot is 100% free of charge. Check out $napshot here.

The ABCs of E-Payments

The Internet has brought about a world of convenience. You can chat with people from around the world; search and apply for jobs; and, of shutterstock_73863952course, purchase goods and services with just a few clicks of the mouse. As the popularity of purchasing goods and services online continues to grow, so too do the number of methods people are using to pay for them. Though debit and credit cards are still the most popular types of electronic payments, or e-payments, other payment methods have been developed:

Electronic money (e-money)
You can’t go into a pharmacy or retailer today without noticing gift cards, which can be used online. These gift cards are examples of e-money. Another type of card is a stored-value card. These types of transactions are common with public transportation passes or telephone cards. Note that some stored-value cards can be “reloaded” at cash machines or by the merchants, while others are simply thrown away after their use. Some of these cards may also be “smart cards,” which means you can use them as either credit cards or debit cards.

E-wallets
According to the FTC, “some Internet-based payment systems allow value to be transmitted through computers.” These are called e-wallets and are usually for making small online purchases, such as coffee or magazines. Transactions made with e-wallets may be accessed via stored value or through an online account.

Protect yourself
As with any type of electronic banking, it’s important to take steps to ensure that your money and your personal information are protected. The FTC offers these tips:

  • Deal with businesses you know and trust: And make sure you’re entering personal or financial information where it should be – on an order form.
  • Read the merchant’s privacy policy before you make any payment: This will help you determine what information they will need and how it will be shared with others. If you are uncomfortable with a policy, don’t make the purchase.
  • Guard your personal information: Be careful when giving out your address, telephone number, Social Security number, account number or e-mail addresses. Remember that some scam artists may pose as merchants you do business with and ask for this information online. Before giving out information, contact the merchant by phone or via the website to verify that the merchant is requesting your information.
  • Check your browser: Is your computer’s Internet browser, which encrypts information you send over the Internet, up to date? Be sure to check with the creator of the browser and download the latest version. Also, every time you purchase something online, watch for the lock symbol and the letters “https” in the URL of the website. These show that you have a secure connection.
  • Read the fine print regarding returns and shipping: This type of information should be available on the merchant’s website.
  • Never give out your password to anyone online: Also don’t choose passwords that are easy to guess, such as your address or phone number.
  • Do not download files from strangers or click hyperlinks: These may contain viruses or programs that capture information in your computer.
  • Watch your account activity: By monitoring your accounts, you’ll be able to detect fraud. If you notice an unauthorized transaction, report it immediately. And if your card is stolen, report it immediately.

Know your rights
According to the FTC, the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) offer protection from the following:

  • Charges or transfers that you or anyone authorized to use your account have not made
  • Charges or transfers that are improperly defined or have the wrong purchase amount or date.
  • Mathematical or similar errors
  • A creditor’s failure to properly reflect payments, credits or electronic fund transfers
  • A creditor’s failure to deliver credit billing statements to your current address, provided you sent written notice of your address 20 days before the billing period ended
  • Credit charges or electronic fund transfers for which you have requested an explanation or documentation due to possible error

Learn more
If you have any questions about your account activity or making online payments and purchases, give us call – we’d be happy to help


Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser
Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Popmoney = Convenience

The Popmoney® personal payment service is our new eService that lets you send, receive or request money from friends, family or just about anyone with an email address or mobile number*. Popmoney is integrated directly into ePay, our online bill payment service, to let you move money from your bank account to theirs safely and securely, with ease. You can move money right from your MyBranch home page! And Popmoney is easy for your friends and family to use at their bank or at Popmoney.com, too. Click here to visit our page and see how to set up Popmoney on your account. And if you want to view even more information on Popmoney, you can visit them on their home page here.

*Terms and Conditions Apply. **Popmoney® personal payments services offered at  http://www.popmoney.com are provided by CheckFreePay Corporation, a licensed money transmitter, and CheckFreePay Corporation of New York, which is licensed as a Money Transmitter for payment services by the New York State Department of Financial Services.