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Important Update about your EMV Chip Debit Card

When you use an EMV chip-enabled debit card to make a payment, most merchants that are equipped with EMV chip card terminals give you the option of paying as either “Debit” or “Credit.” Either option may require you to enter your PIN.  Always inform the cashier "you want to choose credit.”  You might encounter the two options - US MasterCard or International MasterCard, always choose International MasterCard; and your transaction will be completed as a credit transaction.  You may also see US MasterCard and MasterCard, choose MasterCard and your transaction will be completed as a credit transaction.  Please note, you may still be required to enter a PIN, but as long as you select credit, International MasterCard or MasterCard, the transaction will be processed as a credit transaction and not Point of Sale (POS).  If you don't see these options, the merchant you are shopping with has decided for you; and they will only route it through US MasterCard as a POS transaction.

Many members who make purchases with their debit cards at certain retailers, no longer have the option of choosing “Credit” when making their payment. Unfortunately, some stores have made the business decision to require their customers using a debit card to use the “Debit” option and enter their PIN, thus making the “Credit” option unavailable. When your purchase, if over $50, goes through as a pin-based POS debit transaction, it will incur a nominal 50 cent fee.

If a retailer does not permit you to select “credit” at the sale terminal, you have the following options:

  • Complete the transaction and pay a 50 cent fee
  • Cancel out of transaction; and pay with a First Service VISA Credit Card instead
  • Cancel out of the transaction and pay with a check or cash

Let your voice be heard!  If a retailer tells you that you no longer have an option on how to pay for your transaction – we encourage you to call or write the store. Let them know that as a consumer, you want them to bring back your choice on how you pay for your purchases.

5 Ways to Improve Your Credit

Hardly a day goes by without hearing about credit scores in TV and radio advertisements. As tempting as it is to just ignore this old subject, that can be a big mistake. Here’s why credit scores matter and how to improve yours.

Why is credit such a big deal?
When you apply for financing, whether it’s to buy a car or for a credit card, lenders check your credit. The results not only determine approval, but top scores can also bring lower interest rates and, oftentimes, lower fees. In short, better credit equals stronger borrowing power.

As if this wasn’t enough reason to boost your scores, lenders aren’t the only ones taking your credit into account. Employers and landlords often run credit checks as well, so poor credit could mean missing out on jobs and apartments. Credit scores may also affect your insurance premiums, which mobile phone plans you have access to, and whether you’re required to make a cash deposit for utility hook-ups.

How to improve your credit
The power to build great credit is yours when you understand how the scoring works. To earn top scores:

1. Pay all bills on time, without exception
Virtually all credit card companies report your payment habits to the credit bureaus. To ensure that late payments don’t derail your credit, consider setting up automatic electronic bill payments or text alerts as reminders for due dates.

2. Build credit history if you have none
It’s hard to get credit without a history of on-time payments, but a secured credit card gives you a good shot at getting approved with no prior credit. With a secured card, you deposit an amount that’s equal to the credit limit you want; the deposit serves as collateral if you don’t pay off your balance. As you make payments each month on purchases that you’ve made, your financial institution reports that to the credit bureaus, allowing you to build up your credit.

3. Mix it up
The credit bureaus actually favor a mix of debt, so in addition to credit cards, consider other types of financing for something you’re already planning to purchase. Mortgages, auto loans and computer loans, available at competitive rates through financial institutions like First Service Federal Credit Union, all work well to create this diversity.

4. Keep balances low
Keeping your balance way below your maximum available credit keeps the credit bureaus happy. For a credit utilization ratio that benefits your scores, avoid carrying a balance higher than 20% to 30% of your available credit. If you have the discipline to keep from overspending, one effective strategy is to ask creditors to raise your limits in order to put even more distance between your balances and your credit limits.

5. Monitor your credit
Clerical errors and ID theft can damage the best of credit, which is why it’s critical to monitor credit regularly to correct problems as early as possible. You’re legally entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus annually. Order yours at www.AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 1-877-FACTACT.

Improving credit takes time and patience, but with knowledge, discipline and good habits reaching your goal is possible. Before too long, you’ll enjoy all the financial and personal advantages that stellar credit brings.

Roberta Pescow, NerdWallet
© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Additional online resources:

  • ConsumerU is Your Online Financial Library - We invite teachers, parents and members to bookmark these helpful sites for their consumer financial research.

  • MyCreditUnion.gov - Financial tools and calculators, including college savings, student loans, mortgages and retirement savings. Users also have access to a personal budgeting worksheet.
  • Pocket Cents - A financial literacy tool for all age groups which provides personal finance lessons and tips for groups including youth, tweens, teens, young adults, families, seniors, parents, educators and service members.

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