Stay Safe When Using Credit Cards to Shop Online

Helpful security hints you cannot afford to miss

Many of us are accustomed to purchasing products and services online with a credit card. Unfortunately, we can get a little too comfortable with this form of technology and forget important security measures in the process. Do not make this mistake, because credit card scams are big business for criminals.

With sound judgment and the latest technology, you can keep your credit cards safe and secure while shopping online. While some potential security issues may still exist, the following tips will enhance online safety and decrease the chances that you will become a victim to online credit card scams.

Make purchases through secure e-commerce websites. If a website displays the “VeriSign” seal, it means it employs independent website authentication and advanced security measures to provide you a safe shopping experience. Another indicator of a secure website is the padlock icon on your browser window. You should also see an “s” added to the “http” in the website addresses of sites you visit, on any pages where you enter your personal information and/or payment information. The “https” means the site uses data coding (encryption) and other technology to safeguard the information you transmit; without it, your credit card information is more vulnerable and information can be stolen during an online payment transaction.

A secure website page, such as a “checkout” page, will appear like this, for example: https://amazon.com (instead of the http://amazon.com you see on regular product information pages). If you have any doubts, put your credit card away until you have found a website with which you are more comfortable.

Seek out reputable retailers. If you are uncertain about an online merchant, consult Better Business Bureau Online’s Reliability Program, at www.bbbonline.org/reliability/requirement_small.asp, or review websites such as www.resellerratings.com to see if there have been any complaints regarding the company. Some e-commerce sites, including eBay, offer user feedback about shopping experiences.

Read privacy policies. Before giving away your personal information, review the merchant’s privacy policies. Some online businesses may share or even sell your information to other companies, which you would not be aware of unless you specifically checked for this information. If you feel uncomfortable with an online merchant’s privacy terms, try another merchant.

Keep it simple. Use a designated credit card for online purchases. This can make it easier to track fraudulent activity if the situation arises. Print or retain electronic receipt copies, including confirmation numbers and emails.

Remove credit card info from your computer. Do not store credit card information on your computer. Especially do not store credit card information on a laptop that will be used out of the house.

Update your computer regularly. If online shopping is your thing, it is important to have up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Also, update your computer’s operating system and Internet browser(s) frequently. Older versions can be more vulnerable to security breaches.

Be safe on the road. Refrain from paying bills online at a shared public computer. It is also unwise to conduct online transactions over a public Wi-Fi connection, unless you are confident the network is secure.

Electronic alerts act as theft warnings. Some credit card companies offer electronic fraud alerts. If you choose to sign up, you will be notified of any suspicious activity on your account. This is an excellent way to keep abreast of fraud. Be sure to resolve any issues brought to your attention as quickly as possible.

Shopping wisely and safely online can be an enjoyable and efficient experience. By trusting your instincts and implementing these tips, you can avoid becoming a victim of online credit card fraud.

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Open- and Closed-End Leases: Understanding the Terminology

Choosing the right lease is an important step

Automobile leases can be divided into two main types: open-end leases and closed-end leases. Each type comes with its own set of rules, features and benefits. Learning the differences can help you select the right lease type for your vehicle and budgetary needs.

Open-end lease

Open-end leases are most often used by larger companies operating fleets of one to 1,000 vehicles. In an open-end lease, your company or employer takes on the management and leasing of a car for you. All the financial risk in such an arrangement is assumed by your employer.

In an open-end lease, if the vehicle’s market value is less than the residual value (i.e., the expected vehicle value) at the end of the lease, then you, the lessee, must pay any difference. In other words, any loss on the vehicle’s sale is applied to the lessee’s account.

The benefits of an open-end lease are that the residual is set lower, meaning that the risk of a large payout at the end of the lease is reduced. But it also means that the monthly payment will be higher.

Closed-end lease

In a closed-end lease, often referred to as a “walk away” lease, the risk of ownership remains with the lessor, or the institution supplying the lease financing. For this reason, closed-end leases are a popular vehicle lease for individual consumers. At the end of a closed-end lease, the lessee simply returns the vehicle, while the lessor absorbs any differences between the car’s actual value and its residual value.

Keep in mind that most lease agreements have mileage limits. For every mile that you go over the specified mileage limit, you will be assessed a fee, or mileage penalty. The lessee will also be responsible for paying to repair any damage on the vehicle. Since the residual value of a closed-end lease is typically set much higher, however, the monthly payment of a closed-end lease is much lower.

Benefits

Closed-end leases make a lot of sense for individual consumers. First, with a closed-end lease, the consumer is protected against having to pay the difference between the vehicle’s predicted residual value and its actual market value. Secondly, if a consumer is able to stay within the mileage limits – which should be fairly predictable – and keep the car well maintained, a lease can be a way of enjoying a significantly more expensive car for the same monthly payment as buying a less expensive car. Closed-end leases provide consumers with peace of mind, knowing that there will be minimal out-of-pocket expense at the end of the lease agreement. At the end of the closed-end lease, the consumer can simply walk away, provided he or she adhered to the requirements of the lease. Further, with a closed-end lease, the consumer can purchase the vehicle at the end, if he or she so chooses, for the residual value that was established at the beginning of the lease term plus costs like sales tax, etc.

Open-end leases are often chosen by businesses because commercial driving requirements are much more variable, making it difficult to adhere to the mileage limits of closed-end leases. For instance, annual mileage on a commercial lease is typically much higher than the 12,000 miles-per-year average seen on most closed-end consumer vehicle leases.

There are typically no mileage penalties on open-end leases. Open-end leases are attractive to businesses because they can free up capital that can be expended elsewhere, while optimizing cash flow. Accounting-wise, an open-end lease can help you match up depreciation with driving patterns. Further, costs associated with driving a vehicle for a business can be written off as a business expense, but, as always, check with your tax advisor.

Final thoughts

Whether you choose an open-end or closed-end lease, market value fluctuation, expected mileage, cash flow, and wear and tear all play a part in the leasing decision. Either way, we can help you choose the right lease option, or determine whether or not leasing makes sense for you at all. Your local financial institution may offer a financing option that makes an outright purchase affordable.

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Rising Energy Costs Bringing You Down?

Here is some advice to help you conserve.

Today we know a lot more: how important it is to keep costs down and to preserve energy and the planet for future generations. Still, the cost of energy is rapidly rising and putting an even greater strain on our already-strained budgets.

The facts support this. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the typical American family spends about $1,900 a year on home utility bills. And much of that energy, unfortunately, is wasted. But take heart–there are a lot of little things you can do to realize some pretty big savings:

Use compact fluorescent light bulbs with the ENERGY STAR® labels. And look for the ENERGY STAR label on home appliances and products, too. ENERGY STAR products meet strict guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Install a programmable thermostat to keep your house at a set temperature in both winter and summer.

  • Turn off your computer and monitor when you are not using them.
  • Use power strips for home electronics; turn them off when not in use.
  • Take short showers, not baths.
  • Air dry dishes rather than using your dishwasher’s drying cycle.
  • Wash clothes in cooler water, unless you absolutely need to wash on the hot cycle.
  • Use online banking and bill paying. Save money on paper and stamps, and save a few trees, or maybe a whole forest. It is estimated that if everyone in the U.S. went to paper-free bill paying we could save 18.5 million trees per year.
  • Think about anything you print on your home computer. Does it really need to be printed?  Or can you send an email or file documents on your computer for later reference?
  • Try a solar powered cell phone or battery charger.
  • Fix leaky faucets and running toilets.
  • Recycle as much as you can, whether it is paper, plastic or glass. Many communities require recycling now, but even if yours does not, there are centers where you can drop off your recyclables.
  • Make sure your attic is insulated, and use weather stripping in the winter to prevent cold air from coming inside.
  • Walk or ride your bike when you can. The rewards are even greater than simply energy savings – you will get some good old-fashioned exercise.
  • When driving, keep your speed consistent. Speeding and frequent braking and accelerating waste a lot of gas.
  • Use rechargeable batteries.
  • When you leave a room, turn off the lights.

Involve your family. If you have children, teach them the importance of saving energy. Assign one child as recycling manager and another as light monitor to ensure lights are turned off.

These are just some simple steps you can take right now to lower your costs and make a difference. For more advice, you can visit a number of energy websites online.

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Holiday Skip a Payment: Fee Waived

Holiday Skip a Payment

Fee Waived during the months of November, December, or January.

Please fill out the form below to skip a payment for free. Some restrictions may apply. Visit any UCCU branch, mail UCCU (PO Box 1900 Provo, UT 84603-1900), or call 801.223.UCCU or 800.453.8188.

Click on the image below to print.

Skip a Payment 25 fee waived 2011

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Visa Gift Cards

Visa Gift Cards
UCCU offers Visa Gift Cards

Make it easy
Why spend hours at the mall or wrapping gifts? Save time and make it easy on yourself by giving the UCCU Visa Gift Card.
Make it Right
When was the last time you sent the perfect gift? With a Gift Card from UCCU, they can get exactly what they want wherever Visa is accepted.**

Make it special
12 different card designs plus a personalized message embossed on the gift card make it personal.

Gift Card Facts

  • Gift Cards are safer than cash. If the gift card is lost or stolen, the unspent amount can be replaced.
  • Can be used immediately. Unlike a check, which needs to be cashed or deposited, the Visa Gift Card can be used immediately after it is activated.
  • Determine the gift card value-from $10 to $750. It’s that simple. As the gift card recipient uses the card the amount of the purchase is automatically deducted from the card’s available balance. Once the value is used up, the card is no longer valid.
  • The remaining gift card balance can be obtained anytime day or night by simply calling the 800 number printed on the back of every card.
  • No monthly fees until the card has been inactive for 12 months. (cards are sold with a minimum 84 month expiration date).
  • The cost associated with purchasing a gift card is $2.50 for members and $3.00 for non-members.
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