If you are traveling to see family or just get away this holiday season, we have some tips to help you save some money!! Yasmin Young, host of the 2 to 6 Takeover (2-6PM, M-F), talks with Kawanza Humphrey, VP of KeyBank give you some tips!!

  • How to Save Money During Holiday Travel

    Holiday Travel Tips for Saving Money

    • The holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year, but they’re also one of the most expensive. On top of food, gifts and decorations, many of us have to travel to visit family and friends. All of those costs can quickly add up. But traveling during the holidays doesn’t have to empty your wallet. Use these holiday travel tips to save.
    • Search Airfares Early: Airlines change prices all the time. Find a price that fits your budget by searching early and often. That way, as soon as you see a price you like, you can book it. Sites like Kayak and Airfarewatchdog allow you to set alerts for your routes, letting you know when prices change. Remember to also search your route on multiple websites as different sites often have different prices.
    • You also might want to consider clearing the cookies on the browser you’re using. While it’s still unproven and largely considered a myth, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests airlines might be tracking your activity online and displaying higher seat prices when they think you’re ready to buy. You can easily check if this could be happening to you by double-checking prices on a different browser or clearing your cookies before and after you search.
    • Just don’t wait too long to book: According to Expedia flight data, travelers who book zero to six days before Thanksgiving pay more than 20 percent above the average ticket price. You can also try booking two one-way flights since sometimes one airline may have a low price for one direction and another airline may have the lowest price for the other. Compare flights with connections to nonstop flights, and don’t forget to look at nearby airports. For example, instead of flying to Boston, see if flights are cheaper to Providence.
    • Travel on Unconventional Days: Find the cheapest rates on flights by using a flexible travel search. Many sites allow you to see the lowest prices to travel during a given month or show you the price difference between your desired dates and leaving a few days before or after. Sometimes airfares are cheaper if you travel on the actual holiday.
    • The same goes for driving: Hitting the road on the day of a holiday may help you avoid the traffic and chaos that usually plagues the roads the day before. Traffic app Waze analyzed its data and found that for Thanksgiving, the busiest days to travel are the Wednesday before and the Sunday following the holiday.
    • Look Beyond Hotels: Airbnb and other vacation rental sites can help you save on accommodations, especially when you compare the prices to hotels. You can often find lower nightly rates, as well as properties that have kitchens, allowing you to save even more by cooking instead of dining out.
    • If you feel comfortable, you can swap or rent your house. Of course, depending where you live, finding a temporary tenant can take time. Sites like HomeExchange make it easy to meet other home swappers and provide an easy-to-use platform with a support team to help you with the process.

    Additional online resources from KeyBank:

    Smart Flying Tips to Travel on a Budget

    6 Tips for Cheap Road Trips

    (This material is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual tax or financial advice. Please consult with legal, tax and/or financial advisors. KeyBank does not provide legal advice. KeyCorp 2017. KeyBank member FDIC.)

  • Protect Yourself From Fraud While Shopping Online

    Online Shopping: Safety Practices

    • With cybercrime on the rise, it’s more important now than ever before that consumers be vigilant about protecting their information online in order to preserve their financial wellness.

    • If you plan to do some of your holiday shopping online this year, there are some best practices you should follow to ensure your personal information is kept safe in the process.

    • Use secure and private internet connections

    o You shouldn’t make purchases on an open Wi-Fi network because your information could be visible to others. Some criminals even set up fake Wi-Fi networks in order to access sensitive information, such as your credit card number.

    o Use encrypted Wi-Fi networks and looks for URLs that have an “s” after the “http”, which indicated the website is secure.

    • Protect your devices

    o Make sure all of your devices are equipped with up-to-date anti-virus software. That means not only your computers, but your tablets and smartphones as well.

    • Use strong passwords

    o A strong password will include upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols arranged randomly. Many people use easy and common passwords for convenience – but that makes it much easier for others to hack into their accounts.

    o If it’s an option, use two-factor authentication for added security.

    • Set up and pay attention to fraud alerts

    o If your account offers an alert if suspicious activity is detected, be sure to take advantage of that.

    Additional online resources from KeyBank:

    KeyBank Security Alerts - Beware of online identity thieves.

    You Really Can Have Less Stress This Holiday

    Free Online Security Webinar

    (This material is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual tax or financial advice. Please consult with legal, tax and/or financial advisors. KeyBank does not provide legal advice. KeyCorp 2017. KeyBank member FDIC.)

  • Investing in Certificates of Deposit

    A Certificate of Deposit Gift: Money + Savings Lessons = One Great Idea

    • If you’re in the market for a unique present that can teach important financial lessons, have you considered a certificate of deposit gift or U.S. savings bond?

    • These gifts can also be launching pads for conversations about the importance of saving or having a rainy day fund. And, since both have penalties for withdrawing money early, there are lessons to be learned about waiting: Patience truly is a virtue with certificates of deposit, also known as CDs, and savings bonds.

    • A CD is a type of savings account that generally guarantees a fixed rate of interest over a designated term that can be as short as a week or as long as several years. After a CD reaches its term, its owner can withdraw the funds, renew the CD or move the money to a different CD. Many have a penalty for withdrawing money before the maturity date.

    • When researching CDs, consider the minimum deposit requirement, term and annual percentage yield (APY), which measures the actual interest earned per year and is helpful when comparing CDs of various interest rates and compounding frequencies. This CD calculator can help.

    • Make sure you have all needed information on hand before you head to the bank. You’ll likely need some personal information about the intended recipient, including their Social Security number.

    • Savings bonds, which are U.S. Treasury securities backed by the government, are quite different financial products. They’re designed specifically as longer-term investments but can be purchased for as little as $25.

    • There are two kinds of savings bonds to choose from: Series EE bonds, which pay a fixed interest rate, and Series I Savings Bonds, which earn interest based on the combination of a fixed rate and an inflation rate. The Treasury sets rates each May and November.

    • EE bonds issued through October 31, 2017, earn an annual interest rate of 0.1 percent. They’re guaranteed to at least double in value in 20 years and earn interest for up to 30 years. Be sure to check on current interest rates when you buy your savings bond.

    • The composite rate for I bonds issued through October 31, 2017, is 1.96 percent, applicable for the first six months of bond ownership. The rate can change because a portion is tied to an inflation rate set every six months. These bonds also earn interest for up to 30 years.

    • Savings bonds are primarily sold through the TreasuryDirect website in electronic form, although you can buy paper I bonds with your IRS tax refund.

    Additional online resources from KeyBank:

    Certificate of Deposit Calculator

    Certificates Of Deposit (CDs) | Short Term, Tiered & Jumbo CDs

    (This material is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual tax or financial advice. Please consult with legal, tax and/or financial advisors. KeyBank does not provide legal advice. KeyCorp 2017. KeyBank member FDIC.)

  • Using the Snowball Method to Pay off Debt

    Debt Snowball Method: Slay Your Debt Swiftly and Simply

    • If you’ve found yourself facing various debts, it’s easy — and completely normal — to feel overwhelmed. Where do you even begin on your journey toward debt-free living?

    • The debt snowball method is here to help. Simple and speedy, this debt pay-down strategy can deliver a much-needed sense of accomplishment as you watch your debts disappear one by one. Now that’s something to smile about.

    • What Is the Debt Snowball Method?

    • Popularized by personal finance guru Dave Ramsey, the debt snowball method of repayment focuses on paying off small balances first. How Can I Use This Debt Pay-Down Method?

    • Here’s a simple method of getting yourself moving on “snowballing” your debts:

    o 1.Make a list of all your debts in order of balance, from lowest to highest.

    o 2.Next to each debt, be sure to note the minimum monthly payment.

    o 3.Calculate your cash available once you’ve met your monthly living expenses — rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, food and so on.

    • Now, with your cash available, be sure to stash a few dollars a month away into savings. A good rule of thumb is to hold off on using the debt snowball method until you have at least $1,000 in an emergency savings account. Once you have that, you can work towards the recommended 6 months in take-home pay in emergency savings while working on paying off your debt.

    • Once you’re ready, use your extra cash to make the minimum monthly payments on all of your debts except your smallest balance. With the money left over, make an extra payment towards that smallest balance.

    Additional online resources from KeyBank:

    Snowball Debt Elimination Calculator

    Pay Off Credit Card Debt Calculator

    Five Smart Steps to Pay Off That Debt

    10 Steps to Eliminate Debt

    (This material is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual tax or financial advice. Please consult with legal, tax and/or financial advisors. KeyBank does not provide legal advice. KeyCorp 2017. KeyBank member FDIC.)

  • How to Repay Student Loans the Smart Way

    How to Repay Student Loans the Smart Way

    • According to Forbes, college students who graduated in 2016 had an average of $37,172 in student loans. No matter how much you have in loans or whether you’re in school, covered by a grace period or facing repayment, the question of how to repay student loans is sure to be top of mind. Use these five steps to manage and pay off your loans.

    • Set Goals

    o Don’t wait until the repayment period to develop a repayment plan. In fact, making loan payments during a grace period or during deferment or forbearance periods can lower the total amount you pay over the lifetime of your loan. The more you pay down on the principal balance, the less you pay in interest.

    o If you already know what you can afford to put toward your debt each month, see if there are any expenses you can cut — such as cable TV, eating out or gym memberships — that will allow you to contribute more. Reevaluate your goals every few months or as your financial situation changes, and use this Repayment Estimator to find the plan best suited to your situation.

    • Pay More Than the Minimum

    o Every little bit you can chip off your principal goes a long way toward paying off your loans faster. If you receive a bonus at work or any other unexpected financial gifts, consider splitting the proceeds in two, with half going to your emergency savings and half going to pay down your loans. Set up automatic payments to avoid wavering on paying extra each month. Or try adding payments. Instead of sending a check once per month, send one every two weeks, as your finances allow.

    • Refinance

    o Refinancing your loans can save you money — and help you pay off loans faster. When you first applied for your loans, you likely locked in at a set interest rate. The goal of refinancing is to combine several of your current loans into one new loan with a lower required payment and interest rate. You don’t want to refinance loans if you can’t find a better deal. But if you can, consider continuing to pay the same amount you were required to prior to refinancing.

    • Find Forgiveness

    o Some companies offer loan repayment as an employee benefit. For an outside-the-box approach, there are 77 counties in Kansas that will pay a resident’s student loan debt off, up to $15,000.

    o Under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, certain government and nonprofit jobs qualify for forgiveness of federal student loans, too. Each branch of the military has its own repayment program, and many teaching jobs come with loan forgiveness options. Other circumstances may qualify you for cancellation or discharge of your loan.

    Additional online resources from KeyBank:

    Education Planning: Student Loans, Tuition Payment Plans

    Making College More Affordable

    Student Loans, Paying for College

    (This material is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual tax or financial advice. Please consult with legal, tax and/or financial advisors. KeyBank does not provide legal advice. KeyCorp 2017. KeyBank member FDIC.)

  • Tips for Financing Home Improvements

    Is Financing a Home Addition Right for You?

    • If you’re looking for a pragmatic home improvement project that could add value to your home, a bonus room may be just what the realtor ordered.

    • But don’t measure the drapes for your new room without doing your due diligence. First ask these questions to determine whether financing a home addition makes sense for you.

    • First, determine whether it’s actually feasible to build an addition on your property. Start by identifying the place you’d be most likely to put it. Common options include the second-floor space above an attached or detached garage, a first-floor space outside the home’s existing footprint, a newly finished basement or a newly weatherized porch or sun-room area.

    • Next, assess the cost and legalities of building your desired addition. Does your home’s layout or construction constrain your options or render your proposed project unrealistically expensive? Do your plans violate local zoning codes, requiring a variance to proceed? If your proposed room is too much for your budget or too impractical for your property, it’s best to table the idea. There are plenty of other value-boosting home improvement projects to choose from.

    • The versatility of bonus rooms is a core component of their appeal. Still, you want to have a plan before you start knocking out walls. Some common uses include:

    o An entertainment room or theater

    o A spare bedroom for guests

    o A full-time bedroom for older or adult children who live at home or stay for extended visits

    o Living quarters for an aging parent or grandparent

    o A home office or computer room

    o This isn’t an exhaustive list, and there’s no “wrong” way to use a bonus room. But it might not be a cost-effective choice for your home if its best and most likely use is storage and the occasional catnap.

    • Finally, take a hard look at your financing options. If you have sufficient equity in your home, consider a home equity loan, home equity line of credit or cash-out refinance. If you’re purchasing a fixer-upper with big plans to make it your own, a Federal Housing Administration 203(k) renovation loan might be your best bet. If you have limited savings and equity in your home, you can look into personal loans or credit cards that give you cash back — though remember that your credit score and history will affect your qualification and interest rates.

    Additional online resources from KeyBank:

    Which Home Improvements Pay Off?

    Home Improvement Loans | Apply for a Loan |

    Home Equity Loans & Home Equity Lines of Credit

    FHA, Fannie Mae & VA Home Loans | KeyBank

    (This material is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual tax or financial advice. Please consult with legal, tax and/or financial advisors. KeyBank does not provide legal advice. KeyCorp 2017. KeyBank member FDIC.)

  • Managing Paying Your Bills

    How to Manage Bills: Simple Ways to Automate Your Monthly Expenses

    • Are you stressed over managing your bills? After all, you’ve got a lot going on in your day-to-day, and the last thing you want to do is get hit with late fees for missing payments.

    • Setting up automatic bill payments for everything from rent and mortgages to utilities and even those few bucks you borrowed from mom can save you time, stress and (most importantly) money. Avoid late fees and keep your credit report healthy with these savvy tips on how to manage bills with easy automatic payments.

    • What Is an Automatic Payment?

    • Automatic payments are payments that you can set up either through your bank or directly with the companies sending you bills, like your car loan provider or the electric company.

    • It’s easy to set up automatic payments for your monthly bills. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making sure you get all your monthly bills automated through bill pay at your bank.

    o 1.Make a list of all your monthly bills and credit card payments.

    o 2.Explore your bank’s bill pay options. Many offer valuable rewards programs where you can earn points for each bill they pay for you every month. Most bill pay programs are free. If you need a next-day payment plan, such as Pay It Faster, that can usually be arranged for a small fee.

    o 3.Gather the account information for each bill and credit card: account number, mailing address, monthly payment amount and due date.

    o 4.Enroll the bill or credit card in automatic payments, designating the account that will be used to pay the bill each month.

    o 5.You’re done! Sit back and relax.

    Additional online resources from KeyBank:

    Bill Pay | Online Bill Payment Services

    Bill Pay Guarantee

    Touch ID | Online Bill Payment Services

    Online Bill Pay Video

    Android Pay

    (This material is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual tax or financial advice. Please consult with legal, tax and/or financial advisors. KeyBank does not provide legal advice. KeyCorp 2017. KeyBank member FDIC.)

  • Tips for Improving Your Credit

    Tips to Improve your Credit Score

    • Figuring out how to improve your credit score in anticipation of a major purchase like a home or car is a smart move. The better your credit score, the lower your cost to borrow money to make that purchase.

    • While credit scoring companies weigh a variety of factors in evaluating your credit history, your credit payment record is the most important component on the list. The surest way to boost your credit score is to consistently pay your bills on time.

    • Bill payment history accounts for 35 percent of a FICO score, according to MyFico, the consumer website of the most widely used U.S. credit scoring company. FICO scores typically range from 300 to 850 points. An excellent rating, earning the lowest rates on loans, is 760 or higher. Even one missed payment to a creditor can slash a decent credit score by more than 100 points.

    • One way to avoid having your credit score dinged for late payments is to create and stick to a budget that prioritizes credit payments above discretionary spending like eating out or adding to your wardrobe. It also might help to put all your payment due dates in your calendar — whether digital or the old-fashioned paper kind. Set up automatic payment for your bills, which can help ensure you won’t get your credit dinged by a little absentmindedness.

    • Not paying your bills on time will put a serious dent in your credit score. The good news is that even if you have a few late bills in your past, you can earn points for good bill-paying behavior going forward.

    Additional online resources from KeyBank:

    How to Start Building Credit: A Beginner's Guide

    Credit Card Basics

    Credit Card Frequently Asked Questions

    Tips & Advice

    Tips to Improve Your Credit Score | KeyBank

    (This material is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual tax or financial advice. Please consult with legal, tax and/or financial advisors. KeyBank does not provide legal advice. KeyCorp 2017. KeyBank member FDIC.)

  • Tips for Saving Money While Changing Your Name For Marriage

    Wedding Planning: Budgeting for a Name Change

    • While you may change your name at any point in life, many people encounter name-change hurdles around a wedding. The cost of changing your name isn’t necessarily a consideration until you’re knee-deep in paperwork, so make some room in your wedding plans (and budget).

    • While you may change your name at any point in life, many people encounter name-change hurdles around a wedding. The cost of changing your name isn’t necessarily a consideration until you’re knee-deep in paperwork, so make some room in your wedding plans (and budget).

    • Step one is to obtain proof of your legal name change, whether it’s a marriage document or court order. According to CostHelper, copies of a legal marriage certificate cost between $3 and $15. You’ll want to order several, as many agencies require them.

    • For a wife taking her partner’s last name or adding it to her own (with or without a hyphen), the name change can take place via the marriage license. For a husband wanting to take his partner’s name — or a couple choosing a new name — it’s more complicated. Most states require a legal name change, involving additional paperwork and court filing fees that can cost more than $200.

    • Updating your Social Security information: You’ll have an easier time updating your name on other documents. The process is straightforward: Mail or take your application and documents to your local Social Security office. You’ll need proof of your legal name change. That’s where copies of your marriage certificate come in handy. Updated Social Security card in hand, head to your local Department of Motor Vehicles. If you request your name change less than one year after your passport was issued, there is no fee to update it. Otherwise, you need to pay the adult renewal applicant fee.

    • For those changing a name because of a marriage and traveling abroad for a honeymoon, you may want to wait to change your name. Cost: $110 for an updated passport book with another copy of your marriage certificate or proof of name change to get a new license.

    • Banking: Remember to change your name on your checking and savings accounts. You’ll also need to update your retirement accounts, including IRAs, mutual funds or employer-backed 401(k)s. This way, your creditors will notify credit bureaus, ensuring that your credit history under your old name isn’t erased or changed. It’s also a great time to change your beneficiaries and order new checks. If you’re combining bank accounts, consider whether you’ll add your spouse as an authorized user to help them build credit or apply for a new card together so you both have equal responsibility. Cost: Generally free for updated cards, cost of checks varies

    Additional online resources from KeyBank:

    The Six Financial Mistakes Couples Make

    The Great Divide: Divorce and Finances

    Splitting the Retirement Accounts

    Marrying Your Financial Lives

    (This material is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual tax or financial advice. Please consult with legal, tax and/or financial advisors. KeyBank does not provide legal advice. KeyCorp 2017. KeyBank member FDIC.)

  • Tips for the Most out of Your HSA

    HSA Contribution Tips

    • Now is the time of year when most people are making choices about insurance and healthcare. Have you put money in your health savings account (HSA) recently? If you have an HSA-eligible high deductible health plan, consider putting HSA contributions at the top of your to-do list. HSAs offer even more tax advantages than retirement accounts and can be a big help when you have medical bills.

    • Contributing to an HSA cuts your taxes in a few different ways. First, you get a tax deduction for the amount you contribute, up to the maximum set by the IRS. Then, you can invest the money in your HSA — and you don’t owe taxes on the investment gains or any interest earned on the account.

    • Withdrawals to pay for eligible medical expenses are also tax-free. So you pay less in taxes while building up savings that you can use in the future to pay for doctor visits, prescription drugs, hospital bills or other qualifying medical expenses. Perhaps best of all, the money in your HSA never goes away. Any funds left over at the end of the year roll over and are ready for you to use whenever it’s needed.

    • If you forget to bring your HSA debit card to your appointment, never fear. You can pay with your regular credit or debit card and be reimbursed out of your HSA funds later.

    • To figure out if you should contribute the maximum, first ask yourself how equipped you would be to cover unexpected non-medical expenses in the near future. If you don’t have an emergency fund, then you should split your savings between your HSA and a more liquid savings account. That’s because you’ll have to pay a penalty to withdraw from an HSA for expenses that aren’t health-related, though unexpected medical bills are one of the most common emergency expenses.

     

    Additional online resources from KeyBank:

    Health Savings Account: Frequently Asked Questions

    Contributing to a Health Savings Account

    About Health Savings Accounts | Open an HSA | KeyBank

    Workplace and Employer Solutions | Health Savings Accounts

    (This material is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual tax or financial advice. Please consult with legal, tax and/or financial advisors. KeyBank does not provide legal advice. KeyCorp 2017. KeyBank member FDIC.)