5 Best Money-Sending Apps

picture of person sending funds electronicallySend money easily with these convenient phone apps
In the modern economy, most financial transactions are entirely digital, which makes sharing money between individuals something of a dilemma. Luckily, there are a number of convenient phone apps available that facilitate this process with no physical cash required.

Facebook Messenger
One of the most prolific mediums of communication available is social media. Digital Trends and Quicken point out that Facebook Messenger allows its users to send money by simply asking users to link a debit card. To complete a transaction, the money sender just needs to tap the dollar sign and enter the amount being sent, which turns into a hyperlink that the receiver can click. Payments can take up to five days to process, but the app makes up for that time with its convenience compared to other methods like finding an ATM.

Google Wallet
Recommended by both Digital Trends and Quicken, Google Wallet acts, as the name implies, as a virtual wallet. Money can be sent and received within the United States via an email or a phone number. Once the money is in the Google Wallet account, it can then be used at retail stores that accept tap-to-pay or debit Mastercards.

PayPal
As one of the oldest names in the digital financial industry, PayPal offers the ability to transfer funds to other users. PayPal is one of the few apps to allow transfer of funds to people outside of the United States. While PayPal tends to take between five and 10 days to process, it also offers the ability to pay for purchases at a variety of establishments.

Square Cash
Gizmodo recommends Square Cash as one of the easiest-to-use money-transfer apps available. Square Cash doesn’t require the recipient have an account; instead, users just need an email address. It is free to use for most individuals, though businesses and those using a credit card must pay a fee. Standard deposits typically appear the next day; same-day deposits are available with Square Cash, but require a small fee.

Venmo
Venmo is recommended unanimously by Quicken, Digital Trends and Gizmodo, with Digital Trends even calling it the best money-sending app on the market. This app is intended for easy money transfers to and from friends and family, and although it requires that both parties have the app, debit transactions are free. Venmo is structured like a social media network for payments (including the ability to like and comment on specific payments) and is becoming well-known enough to have created the phrase, “Venmo me.”

Using these apps, sending money digitally has become easier and more accessible than ever before.

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

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Should You Save Your Credit Card Information Online?

How to protect your information when shopping on the internet
Woman using a tablet to make an online purchase using a credit card
It seems all too common these days to hear about major breaches at retailers that leave consumers’ credit card numbers and personal information vulnerable to identity thieves. In perilous times, it feels tenuous enough using a credit card to complete purchases in-store, let alone online. If you shop online frequently, the question of whether it is safe to store credit card information online for the purposes of faster and easier check outs is a valid one that can be approached a number of ways.

Assume the worst
In an April 2014 article on NerdWallet entitled “Should I Save My Credit Card Payment Information on Retail Websites?”, website contributor Lindsay Konsko states the obvious in a blunt fashion: “[Y]ou must understand that anything you put on the internet should be considered completely unsafe and available to the public. No matter how much a website boasts about its security, it may still be vulnerable.”

You can save your credit card information with retailers if you shop there frequently enough that it might warrant it, but you should only do so fully understanding the level of risk involved. Some retail outlets like Amazon.com provide two-step authentication to protect your information and help you spot when someone might be attempting to access your account, but even then, it is not entirely protected from the possibility of data breaches.

Consider the alternatives
CNET Senior Editor Lexy Savvides recommends protecting yourself from the possibility of having your credit card information stolen from an online retailer by considering instead the option of shopping online with a prepaid card. According to Savvides, prepaid credit cards are advantageous in that they can help curb impulse shopping and can easily be reloaded (for a small fee), but arguably the biggest advantage that they provide online shoppers is that “even if the card’s details are compromised somewhere along the chain, there is a limit to the amount of money that can be taken.”

Be proactive
The reality, as unfortunate as it may be, is that there can be no guarantee of the complete safety of your credit card information. Having said that, it is within your power to determine how much risk you face. Savvides notes that you should only enter credit card information when checking out online if the website has an https connection and “a padlock or another digital security certificate to ensure that you are only entering your details on a site that encrypts the transaction end-to-end.”

Savvides also recommends being attentive when it comes to monitoring transactions. Konsko notes that most credit card companies offer fraud protection and low or zero liability for fraudulent charges, but it is not always guaranteed that a credit card company will notify you when a charge goes through even if it is unusual. As such, frequent or even daily monitoring of your balances and transactions can be key to shutting down identity thieves before they have an opportunity to do any major damage.

Savvides notes that credit card companies like MasterCard and Visa offer secondary levels of security to protect your credit card information by requiring a private code or password before completing a purchase. Before deciding whether you feel comfortable storing your credit card information with a retailer online, make sure that your credit provider will protect you in the event of having that information compromised. When it comes to credit, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

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

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!

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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.