Sometimes the best way to learn something is through word of mouth. When seeking advice, reaching out to friends or reading reviews to get multiple perspectives is a great way to gather info. But when it comes to your finances, you want trustworthy, factual advice from people who know what they’re talking about. What if you could get that advice before you even know you need it? Our Member Service Reps work with members daily to discuss money, spending habits,products, tools and more. We compiled their best advice for members.
Who Are Navy Federal’s Member Reps?
Our team of Member Service Reps work stateside, all day, every day, answering member calls. Last year alone, they answered 34 million calls. Through personal conversations, they get to know our members— the questions they have and the goals they’re working toward.
Here are some of the top tips, hints and recommendations these front-line folks share with our members. These are real tips, for real life from real people.
Add a Savings Account to Your Direct Deposit
“I recommend having multiple savings accounts for different goals and then adding the savings accounts to your direct deposit so the money goes directly into the account. This keeps me from potentially spending the money for my goals or forgetting to complete a transfer. It also allows me to stay on track within the timeframe I have set to accomplish my goals. This is how I save for emergencies, for building a home and going on a vacation.”
“If you currently live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to save money, a wise idea is to save first after you have budgeted what bills will be paid. If you find it hard to save and feel you have a tendency to transfer funds from savings back to checking, try to take a look at your accounts every day and see how much you have spent that day. If you feel you have spent less that day or think you can afford to do so, make a small transfer to your savings account, even if it’s only $5.00-$10.00. If you start doing that 2 to 5 days a week, it’ll add up. This same method also helps pay down loans and credit cards faster.”
“I opened up a secondary checking account to use for my bills. Each paycheck, I set aside a specific amount of money to cover my bills for that month. This ensures I do not overspend and I know the money left in my primary account can be used for other purchases. I also have 10% of my pay go directly into my savings. Savings is important!”
Open a New Special Rate Certificate
“When Navy Federal offers a great certificate rate, I advise members to go ahead and open it with the minimum so that, in the future, when they have other certificates maturing, if they can't find a certificate with a better interest rate, they can roll the maturing certificate into the one with the special promotion rate. When you see a high certificate rate, pounce on it with at least the minimum so it’s sitting in the wings for future contributions when other certificates mature.”
Stick to Your Budget
"If you're someone who’s constantly waiting on a direct deposit to post to your account because your living check to check, here are 3 simple steps you can take to get a handle on your finances:
- Know your expenses and your income.
- Create a budget.
- Hold yourself accountable.
Combine these 3 simple steps with Navy Federal's MakingCents site, and before you know it, you'll be able to take that dream trip you've been thinking about!”
Round Up Your Savings
“At the end of every week, I like to go through and “round up” all my transactions from my debit and credit cards, and transfer the total into a special savings account. Once that account hits a threshold balance, say $25 or $50, I’ll assess my financial situation, and if I’m able to spare the change, I’ll transfer it into an EasyStartSM certificate. This allows me to keep my “change jar” even though I hardly ever use cash, and gives me a chance to decide whether I can actually afford to “lock away” that money for the duration of the certificate. It's a great way to build your savings if you aren't ready to commit to stashing away larger sums of money, and by reviewing your transactions periodically (weekly for me), it gives you a better overall grasp of your spending habits.”
Pay Yourself First
“I try to advise members to pay yourself first when it comes to saving before you pay any bills. Start with a money market and set aside as much as you can afford, or open a certificate if you don't need the funds right away. That way, if any unexpected life events occur, you won't have to go into debt to pay for them.”
Look for Discounts
“Whether it’s paying bills or buying items, always look for discounts! Many companies will offer a percentage off your bill for auto payments or paperless bills! Sometimes you can find coupons for buying items or selecting a longer shipping time for an item to save a few bucks, if you do not need that item right away. You could also sign up your email with a company to get a discount on an order (you can always unsubscribe later!). Going the extra mile, use the money you saved from discounts and place it into your savings!”
Use Prepaid Cards for Websites With a "Free" Service
“Websites often ask to have a card number on record even though their service is free. I use a prepaid card with only $15.00 loaded on it for cases like that. This way, if I get charged and the fee is more than $15.00, the charge won't go through and I get a notification. I avoid having unauthorized charges on my regular credit card and I can still file a dispute if I must.”
“I personally am always afraid of forgetting to pay my bills. So I created a spreadsheet of all my bills and the order they are due, with their amounts next to them (if they are the same monthly). Each paycheck, I look at my spreadsheet and go through the list to see what’s due and check off everything I have paid that day. I’m not the best at just remembering what I have paid off of the top of my head, but with this spreadsheet, it keeps me on track and I always know that my bills are paid on time. This has really helped me a lot, and I have even had my husband do the same which has helped him as well.”
“You can control your spending with a 30-day rule. If there's something you really want, but it's not an absolute necessity, this is a great rule. Don't buy it! Write down the name of the item, the store, the price and day. Put it somewhere like on your fridge or on your calendar. Think about it over the next 30 days, BUT don't buy it! At the end of the month, if the urge is there, then purchase it. The 30-day period alleviates the desire for unnecessary items that could be saving you money!”
Prepared to Pay
“Establish a "Bills" checking account and calculate the average monthly amount due for each bill. Then, set up auto transfers from your main account to your "Bills" account equal to your total bills. Be sure to jump-start the account with a cushion and monitor the balance monthly.”
Use Your Free Annual Credit Reports
“The federal government gives you access to all 3 of your credit reports once a year. I always recommend looking at one every 4 months, instead of all of them at once. This way, you can check on your credit information throughout the year and make sure everything is correct!”
529 Plans for Education
“I like to make sure members understand 529 plans. I remind members that they’re open for moms and dads to create for their children, but for also anyone (grandparents...hint, hint) to open for a beneficiary or contribute to their grandchild's existing 529.”
Education About Credit Cards Is Key
“Anytime I have a member that’s not familiar with credit cards, I make sure I explain how they work. I help educate them on keeping their balance at 30% or lower of their spending limit, especially if they’re trying to build credit. Also, if a member does a promotional balance transfer on a credit card, it’s a great idea to inform them that if they use the credit card for purchases, they will be charged interest until the card is paid in full—a lot of people don’t realize that until it’s too late.”
Save Money on International Trips
“When using your Navy Federal Credit Card for foreign transactions, you'll avoid any foreign transaction fees. Paying a 1% fee sounds small, but it’ll add up quickly. Don't let your travel funds go to waste!”1
Teaching Your Kids About Spending
“Parents who are trying to establish credit for their children, or anyone for that matter, don’t realize that by adding them as an authorized user, account performance will be reported in all the account holders' and authorized users' names to the credit bureaus. The fact that they can set spending limits on the authorized user’s card or not even give them a card at all helps with this decision.”
A Little Credit Card Knowledge Goes a Long Way
“I like to share that Mom and Dad can use the spend limit to teach their not quite legal age children how a credit card works. Simply add the child as an authorized user, set the limit to a predetermined amount, and share with your child that through their mobile app,2 they can see their own charges and are responsible for making the payment to cover those charges. It may protect the primary cardholder from a $1,000 shopping charge and teaches the child responsibility. Hopefully it opens conversation about financial literacy.”
Automatic Payments for Monthly Bills Can Save Money
“I always recommend setting up your monthly bills on Auto Pay through the biller. It ensures that your bills are paid on time to avoid late fees and potential credit marks. On top of that, a lot of billers may offer special monthly discounts on your bill if you set up an auto draft with them! And, if you use your Navy Federal rewards credit card for your utilities, insurance, etc., you also earn reward points or cash back for paying your bills!”
Protect Your Pre-Approval Loan
“My advice to members and anyone with a pre-approved auto loan—hide your pre-approved loan check until after your car deal is set.
If you walk in with a check saying that you are approved for up to $30,000, then you will suddenly find that $30,000 is the lowest the dealership can go. Whereas, if you walk in and simply state you’ve already been pre-approved for financing, the dealership may bargain with you because they don't know what you are approved for. This is great way to still be able to save money even after you're approved for a maximum amount.”
We hope these real tips from real people make a real difference in helping your reach your financial goals. Ready to learn more? Get the know-how you need to succeed when you visit MakingCents.
1As of 3/1/19, rates range from 7.99% APR to 18% APR, are based on product type and creditworthiness, and will vary with the market based on the U.S. Prime Rate. ATM cash advance fees: None if performed at a Navy Federal branch or ATM. Otherwise, $0.50 per domestic transaction or $1.00 per foreign transaction. $49 annual fee for Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards.
2Message and data rates may apply. Terms and Conditions are available.