How to be a savvy shopper during the sales season

With the sales season dawning upon us, here are six tips on how to be a savvy online shopper to save money and being vigilant.

1. Research, research, research!

Even though various websites give you Black Friday offers, sometimes these may not be the best deals that are out there. Always do your own research by comparing prices and see if you get the value for money before you spend.

2. Make a shopping list and budget and stick to it

Before any of the sales, make a shopping list before the Black Friday weekend so that you have ample time to do your research.

Make a note of what you are willing to spend on each item. By making a budget, this will help you avoid impulse buying.

3. Only spend on what you can afford

If you are already struggling financially, avoid spending money that you don’t have. Sticking to a budget helps with this. Also, ask yourself, “Do I need this, do I REALLY need this?” If you can think of three valid reasons why you need it and there are no cheaper alternatives, then put it on a wish list for next time.

**Remember tip number two…**

4. Protect yourself

Be as safe as possible when shopping online. Look out for websites that have ‘HTTPS’ at the start of their URL or a padlock sign in the browser. This shows that the website that you are purchasing from are more secure.

5. It’s about quality over quantity

Before making a purchase, check the reviews about a product to ensure that you buy the best for the value for your money.

Even though an item appears to be cheap, if the item breaks easily or spare parts are expensive, it’s not worth it.

That’s why you should always research before making your purchase, ahead of the sales season to ensure that you get the best value for your money.

6. Read the small print

  • Check for hidden costs such as delivery costs
  • Look at the returns policy and the ease of returning an item
  • Make sure you know whether you’ll be able to return the item as sometimes the item could be a final-sale item which means that once you’ve bought it, you won’t be able to return it.

Nine ways to protect yourself from fraud

Fraud can happen to anyone. With the rise of fraud cases, we thought we would share some information about fraud and how to protect yourself from falling victim.

How to identify a fraudster:

  • They try to gain trust by claiming to be from a well-known business or impersonate a known contact
  • Will suggest their own verification procedures, including redirecting you to websites they have created or calling numbers they provide to you
  • Know how to tap into your emotions to get what they want
  • Create a sense of urgency to get you to make hasty decisions without much thought.

9 ways to protect yourself from fraud and theft:

  1. Don’t click on any links in an email or text that you think is suspicious. If it’s a trusted financial institution, always type the name of that institution into the address bar of your browser or log into your financial provider’s app to check for any messages that may have come through
  2. Fraudsters try to create a sense of urgency within the message for example: “Your account has been suspended and requires verification. Please follow the link now. http://verifycreditunion.co.uk.”
    Don’t rush – take your time and think about what the message is telling you to do and consider whether it’s real. If you are still not sure, get in touch with the person/business who contacted you to find out if there were any issues. Sometimes they may not be aware of the situation and could have been a victim of fraud as well
  3. Memorise your security details and securely destroy anything that contains these details, once you’ve memorised them
  4. Always set or change your security details to something that can’t be guessed easily
  5. Never write down or record your security details
  6. Never allow anyone else to use your security details
  7. Always monitor your accounts and see if there are any unusual transactions or activity that you don’t recognise
  8. Inform us straight away if you suspect or discover that someone has your security details, your information has been misused, or in doubt of communication received from us. Please get in touch with us by calling our customer experience team on 020 8756 3868 or email office@hertsavers.co.uk
  9. If someone gets you to share your sensitive details via suspicious communication, such as usernames, passwords or account details you can report it to the police.

Be safe with us

At Hertsavers Credit Union, we would like to reassure you that your data is safe with us. Here are some of the ways that we do this:

• We are constantly upgrading our fraud protection software and changing our operation to make your details secure from fraudsters
• We now use R Post for electronic signatures that are fully safe and protected
• We have security checks for ID, physical and email address as well as mobile phone numbers.

Example of how we handled a fraud case
Recently, one of our members had their email account hacked and the hacker tried to order an expensive watch using credit union funds. Fortunately, due to our safe and secure systems in place, they didn’t get anything and were reported to the police.

If you suspect unusual activity to your Hertsavers account or receive suspicious communication, please get in touch with us on 020 8756 3868 or email office@hertsavers.co.uk.

Healthy Start Vouchers scheme – are you eligible?

Image source: Healthy Start

Did you know that there are over 5,000 Hertfordshire families who are missing out on £100s of food and milk vouchers?

According to the latest NHS figures, there are 8,700 Hertfordshire families who should be getting Healthy Start Vouchers and less than 3,400 are.

If you are at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old you could be entitled to Healthy Start Vouchers worth £3.10 per child per week, to spend on milk, plain fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, and instant formula milk. You can also use them to buy pulses and canned fruit and vegetable as long as they have no fat, salt, sugar or other flavouring added. The vouchers can be redeemed at local retailers.

If you are entitled to Healthy Start Vouchers you will also get free vitamins designed to help pregnant and breastfeeding women and growing children.

Pregnant women and every child over one and under four years old can get one voucher every week. Children under one year old can get £6.20 per week.

To be eligible you should be in receipt of certain means-tested benefits. Check your eligibility here.

For example, a parent with a new baby and a three-year-old could get vouchers worth almost £500 a year.

You can still receive the vouchers if you live with your partner and they receive one of these benefits or you are the dependent child of someone who receives them. If you are pregnant and under 18, you do not have to be in receipt of any benefits to qualify.

Take-up of the vouchers is very low, around 40 percent, so check you are entitled as soon as possible to prevent missing out. You can pick up an application leaflet at your GP’s or baby clinic. Alternatively, you can phone for a form on 0345 607 6823 or download and print one here.

Due to COVID19 restrictions, the form does not need to be signed by a health professional.

You can also use the benefit-checker on the County Council’s website, and access free information about benefits that you might be missing out on. www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/benefits

You can get more information about Health Start on their website.

How to manage your financial wellbeing during Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has left many of us feeling fearful about the risks to ourselves and loved ones. Even more so, it makes us anxious to think about what implications it will have on our financial future based on jobs, everyday life and income.

At Hertsavers Credit Union, we have our members’ best interest at heart. Therefore, we’ve put together some ideas that would encourage you to pay extra attention to your financial wellbeing during this pandemic as well as for the future.

1. Think about your financial goals – you can use the Money Skills App tool to add your goals.

2. Open a savings account with us – have a look at our range of savings accounts that can suit your needs here.

3. Set up a standing order to transfer money into your savings straight after each payday.

4. Visualise the holiday that you are saving for and decide not to buy one item today and instead put it towards one of your goals.

5. Review one of your payments such as your mobile phone bill or car insurance quote and try and reduce it. For example, try and use price comparison websites where possible.

6. Take a challenge and buy your weekly shop as cheaply as possible – make a shopping list and stick to it. Look out for offers and/or vouchers online.

7. Set or review your budget via the Money Skills app – by setting a budget, you’ll know how much you can spend and where you can save money.

8. If you have an expensive debt or payday loan, talk to us, Hertsavers Credit Union, about taking out a cheaper loan.

9. Be aware of loan sharks. Read our tips on how to spot a loan shark here.

The Money Skills App can help you set and manage all your goals and budget therefore helping your financial wellbeing during this period. Download the free app today.

REFERENCES:

Moneyskills app website

https://www.asklion.co.uk/

Birmingham City Council website

What are the benefits of a credit union?

A credit union, also known as co-operative, is a not-for-profit organisation which is set up by members that have something in common – whether it is the area they live in or work.

Here are seven benefits of choosing a credit union:

1. Credit Unions encourage you to save regularly with a variety of savings accounts and by doing so enable you to keep on top of your finances and access affordable credit.

2. Credit unions offer loans with affordable rates of interest that are way lower than payday and doorstep lenders. This is because they aren’t profit-focussed but just need to cover their operating costs.

3. If your employer is in partnership with a credit union, you can save and repay your loan directly from payroll.

4. Credit unions make saving regularly easy. In addition, their rate of return on savings accounts is higher than at a bank.

5. As credit unions are co-operatives and run by their members for their benefit, any profits that have been made will be shared as dividends on their savings. The dividend is agreed at the credit union’s AGM each year.

6. Credit unions often offer loans to those who may struggle to secure one from other mainstream lenders.

7. All money saved in a credit union is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) of up to £85,000 per person and may never be lost.

Next steps:
Become a member of Hertsavers Credit Union today.
Already a member? You can refer a friend and earn up to £50 per referral. Find out more

References:
https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/loans/credit-unions/
https://www.findyourcreditunion.co.uk/about-credit-unions/
https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1211/6-benefits-of-using-a-credit-union.aspx
https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/what-are-the-benefits-of-a-credit-union/

Tackling loan sharks through our payroll deduction scheme

Hertsavers Credit Union has teamed up with Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) to promote their Payroll Saving and Loan Plan across Hertfordshire to ensure that employees who work in organisations, that are part of our Payroll Deduction Scheme, have a safe and reliable place to save and be protected from loan sharks.

Did you know that:

  • 53% of loan shark victims are in employment
  • The average loan shark loan is £3,500
  • 38% of victims have a household income of over £20,000
  • 79% of loan shark victims are perpetually worried or stressed about their loan.

In order to protect the employees from illegal money lending, we request that staff be allowed to save with us through a deduction from their payroll which is already available to: DHS staff; many police forces; postal workers; firefighters; NHS staff and many other employee groups.

If you or someone you know has been intimidated into taking an illegal loan from a loan shark, please get in touch with us on office@hertsavers.co.uk.

What is a credit union?

A credit union is a “friendly society” which is more commonly known as a co-operative. Credit unions are not-for-profit organisations which are set up by members that have something in common to benefit their community.

Credit Unions have a proven track record

In the UK, credit unions have been in existence for more than 50 years. They have continued to grow to provide loans and savings to over one million people across the England, Scotland and Wales. Currently, there are about three hundred credit unions in the UK. In fact, globally, there are 217 million credit union members in 105 different countries. This shows that credit unions are highly reputable (findyourcredit.co.uk, 2020).

Your money is safe

All credit unions are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and regulated by the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
All money saved in a credit union is protected up to the value of £85,000 by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). Therefore, you can be reassured that your money is safe.

Who are credit unions for?

Credit unions are for everyone where they provide a financial community. Credit union members are required to save regularly and after which they are able to borrow loans from the pool of savings.

In terms of management, credit unions have a Board of Directors who offer their services and advice on a voluntary basis. They are elected at an Annual General Meeting by members of that credit union.

To become a member of a credit union, you need to share a ‘common bond’ with other members. This could either be through working or living in the same areas.

For Hertsavers, our common bond is Hertfordshire.

Join us today.

References:
Money Saving Expert

Find your Credit Union

Beware of Loan Sharks

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) encourages people to join credit unions, in order to save regularly or enable them to obtain legal, affordable loans, when emergencies arise. They have launched a pilot scheme, Stop Loan Sharks, that helps in educating people about loan sharks and support those who have fallen victims of illegal money lending.

Here are six tips to help people spot the signs of illegal money lending and avoid falling victim to loan sharks:

1. Do not borrow loans from people who you speak to you in a public place including pubs, at the school gates or in your workplace.

2. Loan sharks look like ordinary people. However, this is how you can spot them:

  • You won’t get any paperwork like a credit agreement or record of payments
  • They will offer you a loan in cash or bank transfer
  • They may add a huge amount of interest to the loan
  • They will threaten you if you fall behind in your payments
  • You may be forced to hand over your passport, bank card, benefit card or driving licence as security on the loan.

3. You can call the 24-hour confidential hotline (0300 555 2222) for advice, if you or you know someone who has fallen victim of a loan shark. You can also report a loan shark using their confidential online form or by email.

4. You are under no legal obligation to repay the debt so don’t worry!

5. To find out if someone is an authorised lender, you can visit the FCA register online.

6. If you do need to borrow a loan from a reliable and reputable organisation, then look no further than a credit union. A credit union works to benefit their members, helping to provide communities with affordable loans and savings products. At Hertsavers Credit Union, we provide affordable rates with no hidden costs. What’s more is that we are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority which means that we have a set of rules that we maintain, and which set out how we are managed.

To find out more about the ‘Stop Loan Sharks’ Scheme and the IMLT, you can visit their website.

Manage your money and reach your financial goals

In these difficult times, people have either become accidental savers with fewer expenses or finding their debts escalating out of control. While some factors affecting financial well-being are beyond an individual’s control, understanding financial knowledge and money management can help people through difficult times or times of prosperity.

Therefore, we would like to recommend the MoneySkills app which has been created by researchers from the Centre for Business in Society (CBiS) at Conventry University. The app combines practical tips and step-by-step guides to help you manage your money and reach your financial goals.

It has the following features:

• Goals tool that will help you set and track your financial goals
• Ezines that are short and easy to read
• Explainer videos that will teach you how to budget, set goals, save money and more
• Interactive budget planning tool

What’s more, this app is FREE and is available to download from the App Store or the Google Play Store.

For more information, you can visit their website.

Key worker loans now launched

At Hertsavers, we believe in building a community and appreciate all the effort, dedication and hard work that has been carried out by our key workers.

To express our gratitude, we have introduced a new loan, the Key Worker Loan, for all key workers including NHS, Council, Emergency and School staff.

The Key Worker Loans of £1,000 is repayable over up to 60 months at just 0.5% per month interest (6.3% APR). Loans are subject to affordability and credit checks.

New members joining and saving through payroll deduction can get up to £2,000 unless they are a homeowner in which case, they can borrow £3,000.

New key worker members joining and saving through a standing order, will be restricted to loans of £1,000.

Key Worker Loans may be added to existing loans providing affordability checks are satisfied. Any combined loan will attract the new loan rate of 0.5% (6.3% APR).

To apply, complete the form.