News From Our Blog

Traveling Abroad? Consider a Chip-and-PIN Credit Card

Foreign countries have different cultures, different customs, different languages - and, to top it all off, some countries have different styles of credit cards.

Rather than using the familiar cards, which feature a magnetic strip at the top of the card, several countries have transitioned to “chip-and-PIN” credit cards, better for consumer safety. While some foreign vendors will continue to accept your traditional magnetic strip cards, some may not.

So, what’s the difference?

Chip-and-PIN cards are embedded with a computer chip that contains the information that would normally be contained in the strip along the top of the card. In addition to this chip system, users are required to enter in a PIN code, much like as would be required for a debit card.

The cards offer greater consumer protection, as it is harder to clone the payment information when a chip is being used, thus reducing identity theft. In France, chip-and-PIN cards have been responsible for a 50 percent reduction in payment fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The cards are increasingly being made available for U.S. residents, and before traveling, officials suggest you check with your credit card company to see whether chip-and-PIN cards are available. If not, they suggest that you carry a little extra cash, in case foreign vendors refuse to accept your current credit card.

Learn more about using chip-and-PIN cards on European travel.

By law, you are entitled to receive one FREE copy of your credit report per year, from each credit agency. Find out how to get your report.

Check Your Credit Report for Free

You are entitled to a FREE credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once every 12 months. You can request all three reports at once, or space them out throughout the year.

Why It’s Important

It’s important to ensure that your personal information and financial accounts are being accurately reported and that no fraudulent accounts have been initiated in your name. Errors on your credit report can negatively affect your credit score.

What To Do If You Find Errors

Follow instructions on the credit report that explain how to dispute errors. If errors have not been corrected after you’ve disputed them with the credit reporting agency, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Get more information about disputing errors on your credit report.

Facing the Financial Capability Month Facts

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April is Financial Capability Month. You probably won’t find any greeting cards celebrating that fact, but don’t let that stop you from taking a closer look at your personal economic situation.

It’s always fun to see how we stack up against our peers, and the NFCC’s hot-off-the-press 2013 Financial Literacy Survey is a great way to do that.

This year’s survey results provided somewhat of a mixed message. More than one in four respondents indicated they are spending more than last year, yet 77 percent admitted to having financial worries, listing insufficient savings as their top financial concern. Yes, you read that correctly. Americans (that means you) are spending more, but at the same time are worried about a lack of savings.

Taking a closer look at consumers’ top financial concerns, check out the following. (Respondents were allowed multiple responses, so don’t worry about the percentages not adding up to 100.)

  1. Not enough savings – Overall, 57 percent of Americans indicated they are worried over a lack of savings, including 43 percent who are concerned about not having enough “rainy day” savings for an emergency, and 38 percent concerned about retiring without having enough money set aside. Although fairly evenly divided, the data suggest that having enough money to resolve daily emergencies takes precedence over the longer term retirement planning.
  2. Not being able to pay financial obligations – A total of 26 percent of those responding, or roughly 61 million people, were worried about servicing their debt commitments, including concerns around paying credit card debt (13 percent), repaying student loan debt (8 percent), an inability to make monthly vehicle payments (7 percent), and not being able to pay off existing medical debt (6 percent).
  3. Health insurance – One in four (25 percent) are worried about health insurance – either not being able to afford it (19 percent) and/or not having any (17 percent).
  4. Credit – While 19 percent were worried about their credit score and/or lack of access of credit overall, 16 percent were anxious about their score, with 9 percent concerned over their lack of access to credit, suggesting that consumers continue to realize the importance of credit in their lives. However, most adults have neglected to review their credit report (65 percent) or score (60 percent) in the past year.
  5. Job loss – Eighteen percent, or more than 42 million Americans indicated fear of job loss as a major concern, a number that is disturbingly high.
  6. Foreclosure – As the least of consumers’ concerns (among those listed), a comparatively small 4 percent of Americans are worried over losing their home to foreclosure, undoubtedly a positive signal for the housing industry and the economy as a whole.

The good news is that 20 percent of U.S. adults indicated they do not have any financial worries, a strong sign of consumer confidence.

Remaining stubbornly consistent over the past three years, 40 percent of adults gave themselves a grade of C, D, or F on their knowledge of personal finance. How would you grade yourself? Should you put yourself in financial time-out?

Based on this poor report card, it is not surprising that nearly four in five (78 percent) agree that they could benefit from additional advice and answers to everyday financial questions from a professional.

Know that there is ample opportunity for you to improve your level of financial literacy and take steps to resolve any financial problems. Not surprisingly, most adults indicated that if they were having financial problems related to debt, they would first turn to their friends and family for assistance (28 percent). A similar number (27 percent) also said they would reach out to a professional nonprofit credit counseling agency for help, demonstrating a high level of confidence in the value of credit counseling.

So, how did you fare? If any of this data hits too close to home, take action. Ignoring a financial problem rarely solves it, and looking the other way only makes the problem harder to solve. To get started, consider renaming April My Financial Capability Month and resolve to make positive changes that will move you into a more stable financial future. Then start planning your Financial Capability Month 2014 party!

How to Identify and Dispute Errors on Your Credit Report

A recent study on credit report accuracy found that 1 in 5 of the participating consumers had an error on at least one of their three credit reports.

Why Do Credit Report Errors Matter?

Errors on your credit report can negatively affect your credit score, which is used to evaluate your applications for credit cards, loans, jobs, housing, insurance, and more.

What Can You Do?

Check Your Credit Report
Check your credit report with all three credit reporting agencies at least once a year. You are entitled to one FREE credit report annually from each agency (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax).

Checking your report will help you identify and correct errors that could be affecting your credit score and help protect you from identity theft.

Dispute Errors
If you find an error on any of your credit reports, follow instructions on the report that explain how to dispute errors. If errors have not been corrected after you’ve disputed them with the credit reporting agency, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Get more information about disputing errors on your credit report.