Buying a car can be overwhelming. Once you decide on a make, model and year, you have to decide on options, and even then, you’re still not done. You have to negotiate for the best possible price and then decide on how to pay. With that in mind, here are some tips for making the car buying process as easy as possible.
Let us get you pre-approved.
Before you even start looking, call us and get pre-approved for your loan. Not only do we offer the lowest rates around, but this keeps the negotiations at the dealership simpler and removes some of the stress. It also ensures you don’t get taken in by 0% APR offers. Typically, dealers can offer 0% APR because manufacturers run factory-to-dealer cash incentive programs to encourage sales, so the dealership passes the savings along in the form of a 0% APR loan. Most times, however, a 0% financing offer may not be your best option, which is why it is always important to calculate which alternative is better. Additionally, as a result of slow auto sales, manufacturers have been offering larger than usual consumer rebates and secret factory-to-dealer cash incentives to sell cars.
Find your trade-in value.
It’s important to know how much your current car is worth. Many times dealers will give you extra discounts on your new car and then make up for it by giving you less for your trade-in. Knowing the value of your current car before you go shopping, helps avoid this. Web sites such as Kelly Blue Book (www.kbb.com) and NADA (www.nadaguides.com) will give you an idea of your car’s worth. The value will be based on different factors such as the age of the vehicle, mileage, condition and other options. On these sites, you’ll want to focus on the wholesale or trade-in value; the retail value is what you would pay for the car at a dealership.
Get competing price quotes before buying.
Once you find what you want, shop around to make sure you are getting the best possible price. Tell the dealer the exact make, model and options you want and ask for their lowest out-the-door price. Don’t discuss trade-in or financing terms at this point. It’s OK to let them know that you are shopping around and will go with the dealer who offers you the best price. Or we can do the work for you! Our free Carcierge Auto Buying Service can help you purchase a vehicle on your terms. We literally tackle the challenge of finding the ideal car on your behalf. This helps eliminate the high pressure of the negotiation process while getting you everything you want.
Final thoughts to keep in mind.
- Don’t negotiate around a monthly payment. This gives a salesperson too much room to manipulate figures to the dealer’s advantage, especially if you have a trade-in.
- Don’t buy unnecessary extras. This includes things like corrosion protection, paint sealant, fabric protection, and window etching of the VIN. You usually don’t need these services or can get them for less money later.
- Don’t drive the car home before the financial paperwork is completed. This can result in issues with the terms of the financing.
- Do be prepared to walk out if you don’t feel comfortable with the negotiations or treatment. Sometimes, your willingness to leave is your most effective negotiating tool.
Buying a car doesn’t need to be painful, especially when you follow these easy steps!
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Many aren’t aware of this, but your credit score can affect everything from whether or not you are able to get a loan and how high your interest rate will be, to your ability to get car insurance, a job, or even rent an apartment. Lenders can use one of many different credit-scoring models to determine your credit worthiness. Different models can produce different scores. Below are some tips on how credit scores are determined and how to maintain a good score.
What you need to know about your credit score
Your credit score is a tool used by creditors to determine your ability to repay your debt. Scores range from 300 to 850 with the vast majority of people having scores between 600 and 800. Your credit score is calculated based on factors such as payment history, outstanding debt, length of credit history and number of inquiries.
You can repair bad credit!
Life is unpredictable and situations can arise that inhibit you from paying your bills on time. Unfortunately, this could cause your credit score to suffer. The good news is it can be fixed.
- Pay your bills on time.
- Reduce the amount of debt you owe.
- Keep balances low on credit cards and other revolving credit.
- Pay off debt rather than moving it around.
- Don’t close unused credit cards as a short-term strategy to raise your score.
- Don’t open new credit cards that you don’t need, just to increase your available credit.
- If you have missed payments, get current and stay current.
A wide variety of misconceptions float around about what you should and shouldn’t do to manage your credit. It is important to keep the following in mind:
- Your score will drop if you check your credit – It won’t.
- Credit bureaus know your income – They don’t!
- Credit repair companies can fix your credit – They can’t – They only make it worse.
- Paying off credit cards and closing the accounts will help your score – It doesn’t!
- The credit agencies use the same criteria for determining a credit score – They don’t.
Check your credit report often
Your credit report contains the data used to calculate your score and you want to ensure it is accurate. In particular, check to make sure that there are no late payments incorrectly listed for any of your accounts and that the amounts owed for each of your open accounts is correct. If you find errors on any of your reports, dispute them with the credit bureau and reporting agency. You can get a free credit report three times a year – One from each credit reporting agency – Transunion, Equifax and Experian. Just visit annualcreditreport.com – freecreditreport.com is NOT free!
Understanding your credit score and what factors impact it, managing and taking responsibility for your debt and fixing errors in your credit history (if they exist) will help you maintain a good credit standing.
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Did you start the New Year off with plans to pay down your debt, save money or get on the right financial track? Have you lost your way?
Here are a few easy tips to help you with your financial goals.
Make Small, Manageable Goals
One reason why we lose focus on our financial resolutions is because we end up making them harder than they need to be. If your goals are unattainable, it will be difficult to stick with a plan to achieve them. Focus on making several small, short, achievable financial goals. By setting smaller goals and achieving them one at a time, you’re more likely to stay on track.
Stay on Top of Your Credit
It’s federal law that all three major credit reporting agencies give you a free copy of your credit report each year and provide a process through which you can resolve errors. To obtain that, you just need to visit annualcreditreport.com – freecreditreport.com is NOT free! It’s important that you get to know what is reported on your credit report and dispute any inaccuracies to make sure what’s being reported is correct.
Understand What Your Debt Is Really Costing You
High interest rates make it nearly impossible to pay down the principle of your debt especially if you’re just making minimum payments. You can make debt more manageable by consolidating you’re credit cards and loans. We have many options for you to do this- from our low APR VISA® Credit Card to our Moneyline of Credit. Regardless of how you pay down your debt, you need to know what it’s costing you. Paying only the minimum amount each month will keep you on the credit hook and it could potentially cost you thousands of dollars in interest.
Get on a Savings Kick
Make saving money fun! Participate in our 52-week savings challenge. Week 1 save $1, week 2 save $2, week 3 save $3 and so on. The largest deposit you will have to make is $52 and when the year is over you will have $1,378. It’s not a ton of money, but it’s something. At the end of the year, you can use the money for holiday gifts, a vacation, a large purchase, or you can leave it there, and restart the challenge in the New Year. Go into any one of our branch locations and ask to open a Savings Challenge Account. You can also open this account online through our website!
You can do this. Stay focused. Sometimes you may get off track with your goals. If you find this happening, sit down and think about what you really want to do and what you need to do to get to that point.
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John Holt : January 21, 2014 4:58 pm : President's Blog
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a wonderful 2013 and you’re all ready for 2014! I’m excited about what we have in store for our members in 2014, but before I tell you about our plans, I want to re-cap what we did for you in 2013 to maximize your member benefit.
2013 was a record year for the credit union in many areas! Our net income was $2.6 million even with economic challenges, NCUA assessments, and the overall dismal job growth in the state of Connecticut. We welcomed over 4,300 new members to our family, and as of the end of the year, our total membership was at a record high of 33,000 members. Our loan portfolio grew by about 5% to just over $249 million and deposits grew by a modest 2% to $307 million even with interest rates at historically low levels. Our loan portfolio continues to grow as we focus on being the premier auto loan lender in the state, adding business loans to our portfolio and continuing to be a leader in real estate lending. Our core deposit growth (checking and savings products) continues to show impressive growth at over 5% as we aggressively marketed our “More Than Free Checking” account to those individuals who bank with the “big” financial institutions like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Webster. This checking account is free and offers cash back rewards when members have direct deposit, an electronic statement and make 15 debit transactions a month. We remain one of the strongest credit unions in the state of Connecticut if not in the country with our capital ratio standing at about 13%. This number signifies our financial strength and is well above the minimum required 7%.
With our focus being on convenience and experience for our members, in 2013, we added two new branch locations – one in the Cromwell Walmart and the other in the Bristol Walmart Neighborhood Market, totaling 9 branch locations throughout the area. We also added 9 new FREE ATMs bringing our personal ATM network to 21. This is in addition to over 40,000 FREE ATMs we offer throughout the United States through our partnership with the SUM and CO-OP networks. Another convenience was the addition of instant issue debit cards. All 9 of our branch locations can now instantly issue a new debit card or replace a lost or stolen card while you wait. Our loan process has also never been easier. If you can’t make it to a branch to get a loan, you can apply for a loan online or call our Contact Center. Once we process the application, we will send the loan documents to your e-mail address for an electronic signature. After that, the money is placed into your Nutmeg account – it’s as simple as that!
Technology is important to our future and will allow us to provide you with quick and easy access to your account information in a safe and secure manner. Additionally, our goal is to have redundant systems in place in case of a natural disaster or an unexpected failure of essential IT equipment. With our combined investments in this area in 2013 and planned investments in 2014, we will be in a place to have a strong network that provides you with the reliability and speed you expect. Additionally, in 2014, we are planning a major upgrade and overhaul to our Mobile Banking app and online banking portal. We are leveraging technology to deliver tangible solutions that we are confident you will use over and over again. We want it to become an integral part of how you manage your financial life.
We will also persist in providing exceptional service at every point of interaction. I say it over and over again, but member service is and will always be a top priority. In fact, I am so passionate about this that you now have the ability to e-mail me directly if an issue isn’t resolved to your satisfaction. My e-mail address is posted on our Web site within my CEO Corner. We continue to seek your feedback on how we are doing, and use a mystery shopper program that evaluates how our frontline staff interacts with you; some of our members are even involved with this program! In 2014, we will send you more frequent membership questionnaires to gauge your level of satisfaction. I encourage you to provide your feedback to us whether positive or negative.
I would like to thank the employees and our Board of Directors for their hard work and dedication. More importantly, I would like to thank you for your continued support and trust in us. Nutmeg had a busy 2013 and we have an even busier 2014.
Thank you for banking with us!
President and CEO
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John Holt : December 19, 2013 4:11 pm : President's Blog
In light of Target’s massive credit and debit card breach, I wanted to once again reiterate the importance of doing everything you can to be proactive about ensuring that you are protecting yourself from being a victim of identity theft.
Unfortunately, even if you are already careful about shredding your documents and protecting your personal information, sometimes, as in the case of what occurred with Target, the situation is out of your control. It is for this reason that we have systems in place that ensure we are doing everything we can to prevent a compromise to your personal information.
In the unlikely event that a large scale attack like Target’s causes fraud on your account, we have multiple layers of protection for your accounts and your credit and debit cards. We have fraud detection systems in place that monitor your credit and debit activity. If your cards are used for a purchase that triggers an alert, you will be contacted by our Transaction Review Department and asked to verify the purchase. The caller will only ask that you confirm the amount and location of the purchase, no other personal information will be requested. Common fraud alert triggers include making large purchases at online sites and purchases made outside of the state that you live. The alerts are customized to each member’s individual spending habits in order to maintain the highest level of security for everyone. Please note: It is always important that we have your most up-to-date contact information on file, so that if we need to get in touch with you, we can.
We also have an Identity Theft Recovery Program in place to help you get your identify restored in the event that it is stolen. If you detect fraudulent activity and you are enrolled with us for this service, all you need to do is contact us and we will refer you to a personal Recovery Advocate. The Recovery Advocate assigned to your case will:
- provide a customized recovery plan within 72 hours
- alert the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion)
- work with all necessary government and law enforcement agencies
- complete all forms and follow-up on your behalf
If you are not enrolled or are not sure if you are enrolled in this program, please contact us to find out more information. This program covers all your bank accounts and credit cards, not just Nutmeg accounts. This service has helped many members who have been the victim of identity theft recover their identities and repair the damages done. We encourage you to take advantage of this added protection.
Other options for tracking and monitoring your account include our e-Alerts and e-Banking. With e-Alerts, you can track spending and catch unauthorized usage by scheduling transaction notifications to be sent to your e-mail address or mobile device. You can customize these notifications according to your need. With e-Banking, you can log in to you bank account any time day or night and monitor your activity.
We’re here to help so please contact us any time for further assistance. Thank you for choosing to bank with us!
President and CEO
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We recently asked you to complete a survey in order to solicit feedback that assesses our current satisfaction levels. We do this at least yearly to a random sample of our membership in order to continually improve our products, service, and the support we provide.
Your time and efforts to complete this survey were very much appreciated, and we will use your feedback to improve the service and support you receive from us. As members, you deserve answers to any concerns you may have, which is why I’d like to use this blog post to address and alleviate some of the concerns that you expressed.
We pride ourselves on our reputation for exceptional member service and strive for accuracy and efficiency in all our member transactions. We’re not perfect. Things happen… and when they do, we ask that you please let us know, so that we can fix it.
When it comes to check holds, we fully understand that it is not a black and white situation; we honestly try to make determinations based on relationship and the check being presented. We promise to continue to be flexible and accommodate you as much as possible regarding this particular policy. Our goal is to make your experience the best, so we will always take the time to assess each situation individually.
Debit Cards Take Too Long to Receive
Our Rocky Hill, Manchester and New Britain branches now have the ability to provide you with a debit card instantly while you wait. We’ll give you your card, and within 24 hours it will be fully functional. By the end of this year, the rest of our branches will have this capability as well. In addition to this, we are working on a solution for early next year where you will be able to use your card as soon as it is issued. So if you lose your card or need a one you can go to a branch, get issued a new card and begin using it immediately.
Interest on Savings Accounts
We understand your frustration with low rates on savings accounts, but this the nature of our current economic market. Conversely, loan rates are also low. When the rate environment shifts, our rates will also shift. Each week we do a rate survey and compare ourselves to other financial institutions in the market, and we are among the highest for savings, unless another financial institution is running a special promotion. At anytime, we’re happy to review your relationship with us and potentially provide higher rates on specific CD terms. We’re also happy to sit down with you, review the competitions rates and provide side by side comparisons.
I’ve talked about this before in a previous blog post. Our goal is to provide you with exceptional service. It is our key strategy and main focus. We want to understand your needs and exceed your expectations at every interaction, whether in person, on the phone or online. Every change that we’ve made thus far and every individual that we’ve hired has been with this in mind. We hire people with positive attitudes and those that are committed to providing you with a great experience.
One of our main focus areas for 2014 is technology. Our goal is to make our e-Services more streamlined and easier to use. We know that you rely on the convenience of our electronic services to do your banking, which is why we are always looking for ways to improve. For example, as a result of your recent feedback regarding our Mobile app, we will redesign it in the coming months. We will also continue to upgrade our e-Banking service to provide more ease of use. Technology is and will continue to be a top priority for us.
Add More Branches and ATMs
We currently have nine branch locations. This year alone we opened two new ones – one in the Cromwell Walmart, which is our first in Middlesex County, and the other in the Bristol Walmart Neighborhood Market. Additionally, we have our Mobile Branch, which makes it possible for us to be every where you are. Our e-Branch is also open 24/7, which makes it so that you don’t need a physical branch near you to bank with us. As for ATMs, in addition to the 21 FREE Nutmeg State Federal Credit Union ATMs available to you, we offer access to over 40,000 free ATMs through our partnerships with the SUM and Co-Op Networks.
We continue to expand our internal Contact Center in order to respond quickly and accurately to any question or concern you may have. Staffed with friendly, knowledgeable Nutmeg staff, the Contact Center is ready to assist you with all of your banking needs. They’re available Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
We are serious about service, and if you feel as though you can’t get something resolved, I want to hear from you. I am listening to your feedback and will continue to respond to any concerns you may have. Please feel free to e-mail me at any time.
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This Friday officially begins the holiday shopping season. The National Retail Federation (www.nrf.com) reports that holiday sales in 2012 increased 3.5% to $579.5 billion, and expects sales this year to increase 3.9% to $602.1 billion. It’s easy to over spend this time of year, and with this in mind, I put together the following holiday shopping tips to help you save time and money, avoid scams, bypass extreme post-holiday debt, and find the best prices.
Know Your Limits and Shop with a Budget in Mind
It’s best to establish a comfortable spending limit before heading out to shop. If you use credit cards, make sure you don’t go beyond your limits and that you can afford to repay the debt after the holidays. It’s also important to keep in mind that using up 50% or more of your available credit can adversely affect your credit rating. Spend smart so that once the holidays are over you are able to comfortably meet your monthly payment obligations; and make a plan to pay off the money you’ve spent once the New Year arrives.
Make a List of Who You’re Buying Gifts for and Set Spending Limits
Before you head out shopping, determine who is on your gift list and which gifts you plan on buying for them. Be sure to include everyone, even teachers, coworkers, and neighbors. By knowing exactly what you are going to buy in advance, you avoid buying more than you budgeted for. It’s also a good idea to figure out how much you actually want to spend on each person. By creating a list and an advance spending plan, you’re keeping yourself accountable, which is key to ensuring that you don’t overspend.
Comparative Shop and Always Look for Discounts
Do some comparative shopping before setting out to buy gifts. Visit online retailers to see what kind of deals they have and which site offers the lowest price. Many stores even provide printable coupons or online discount coupon codes that further help reduce your holiday spending (sometimes by up to 20%). Google search the item you plan on buying and the word “coupon.” If a discount code or printable coupon is available, it will pop-up in the search. A lot of stores will even price match in order to ensure they get the sale. There’s nothing worse than buying a gift at full price, only to see that another retailer has it for less. So, before you go shopping, compare prices – from newspaper ads to online shopping that offers free shipping and other holiday deals, do your research.
Be Selective with Your Information
Only sign-up and share your information with reliable shopping apps and Web sites. Provide the minimum required personal details and ask yourself if the company really needs your birthday or access to your current location. Because people are shopping online in record numbers during the holiday season, there are increases in fraud and a risk of permanent damage to your credit history. To prevent holiday shopping fraud in the form of having your identity stolen or your bank accounts hacked, it’s important to remember the value of information privacy.
Give a Gift Card
If you’ve had trouble finding the perfect gift or you simply run out of time, give the gift that everyone’s sure to love – a Nutmeg VISA® Gift Card. It truly is the gift for anyone on your holiday shopping list. You can even register the Gift Card to protect it in the event that it’s ever lost or stolen – something you can’t do with a holiday card filled with money.
We wish you all a happy holiday season! Thank you for choosing to bank with us.
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John Holt : November 14, 2013 4:13 pm : President's Blog
Unfortunately, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. It can create problems with your credit, finances, employment, and even your personal assets. With the holiday season upon us, I want to remind you that it is more important than ever to be careful with your personal information. I also want to provide you with some easy “best practices” for avoiding ID Theft.
- Review Credit Reports at Least Once a Year. The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles consumers to a free credit report once a year from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies. This means you can get a free credit report three times a year – One from each credit reporting agency. You can receive reports by contacting the credit reporting agencies directly or by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. Also… it’s important to know that annualcreditreport.com is the only place you can get your credit report free – freecreditreport.com is NOT free!
- Monitor Financial Statements and Online Banking Regularly. You should get into the habit of checking your statements and periodically reviewing your account transactions and online activities. This will help you identify unauthorized account activities early, preventing potential losses to your personal accounts.
- Shred Documents with Personal and Financial Information. Financial statements, credit card offers and billing statements are examples of documents you should be shredding.
- Look Out for Scams Involving Your Personal Information. Never give any credit card, financial institution, or social security information to anyone that has contacted you over the telephone or Internet. When you contact a company, make sure you are comfortable with the company and the representative before providing any personal information. Legitimate organizations never call you directly and ask for sensitive information over unsecured communication channels.
In addition to all this, we do our part to ensure you are protected by offering an Identity Theft Program that will help fix the damage that is done if your identity is stolen. In the event that you are a victim of ID Theft and you are enrolled with us for this service, you would give us a call and we would refer you to a Recovery Advocate, who would be assigned to your case until your identity is restored. Our program also:
- provides a customized recovery plan within 72 hours;
- alerts the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion);
- works with all government and law enforcement agencies to restore your identity;
- completes all forms and follow-up on your behalf.
We are always happy to answer any questions you might have about your accounts, identity theft, or any other financial concerns. Please contact us immediately if you suspect tampering with any of your accounts. Our job is to work with you to stop unauthorized use of your accounts, and help you get things back to normal should you be a victim of identity theft.
Thank you for banking with us!
President and CEO
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Our goal is to provide you with exceptional service at every interaction. It is our key focus. We want to understand your needs and exceed your expectations at every interaction, whether in person, on the phone or online. Every change that we’ve made thus far and every individual that we’ve hired has been with this in mind. We hire people with positive attitudes and those that are committed to providing you with a great experience. I am so committed to this strategy that I want to know directly if you have a bad experience or an unresolved issue. If you contact me, I will need the details of your issue and the person(s) that you were dealing with. I also appreciate emails that talk about the good job our people are doing! I like to pass those emails on to the employees that helped you with a rewarding experience. My email address is email@example.com.
We’re growing and we need to in order to stay competitive with the many banks and credit unions that serve Connecticut. We’re adding branches, improving our technology and creating products and services to fit your needs, but we will NEVER lose the personal touch that you deserve. All of our staff is required to go through extensive training so that they are equipped to handle all your requests and answer any questions you may have regarding your account. No matter how much we grow, our dedication to building strong relationships and creating members for life will never change. I hope you agree!
As we wind down 2013, I want to thank each and every one of you for your loyalty and dedication to this credit union. We’re proud of what we’ve done over the past few years and feel confident that the plans we have for 2014 will make doing business with us even better and more convenient.
Lastly, I want to thank our employees and our Board of Directors for their support and hard work. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to continue to make your experience even better!
Thank you for choosing to bank with us. I look forward to hearing from you.
President and CEO
P.S. Look for my newest message next month where I’ll talk about our plans for 2014!
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John Holt : September 16, 2013 10:15 pm : President's Blog
By now you know we make it possible for you to bank at your convenience, whether in one of our nine branch locations or 24/7 from your computer or mobile device. We want your banking experience to be seamless regardless of how you choose to manage your finances.
We understand that people have different needs when it comes to accessibility. Convenience remains a top priority for us. We’re not only doing this by adding new technology, but we are also adding more branches – as you know, we opened two new branches this year – one in the Cromwell Walmart and the other in the Bristol Walmart Neighborhood Market. Both branches offer extended hours during the week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Our Newington Price Chopper branch also has convenient hours. These branches are full service branches. While doing your shopping, you can apply for a loan or mortgage, open an account, or simply make your deposit. We’re even open on holidays such as Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day.
And if one of our nine locations is not convenient, you can use our e-Branch or our mobile app to bank any time day or night. Whether you need to open a new account, deposit a check, transfer funds, view account balances, view a past statement or pay a bill, it’s all possible through these channels. We’ve also expanded our Contact Center Hours. You can now reach us by phone Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. As an added convenience, we are happy to take your loan application over the phone!
Our goal is to make it easy for you to do business with us. We want to make your experience BANKING AWESOME at every interaction. Our commitment to service is and will always be a top priority. We are dedicated to building strong relationships with you and delivering exceptional service at every interaction whether in person or through our electronic delivery channels.
We measure our success by how well we meet all of your needs and by delivering products and services that are simple to use and create positive experiences that you will never forget!
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