Friday, December 11, 2015

Tips for Managing Your Finances When You Travel

Are you traveling over the holidays? Sometimes planning gets so chaotic, people forget to keep their finances in order. Add a few financial management items to your packing checklist to prevent frustration down the road. 

Tell your bank you'll be traveling.

To protect customers against fraud, most banks monitor your normal spending habits. (including geographic location.) If out-of-area purchases suddenly show up on your account, the bank may flag or block those transactions as potentially fraudulent. Also keep the 800 numbers for your credit cards on hand in case you need to report a lost or stolen card.

Double-check your accounts.

Make sure you have enough funds set aside for emergency money during your vacation. Set up automatic or early payments for any bills that will be due while you're away. Don't miss any payment dates because you're gone. That only results in unwanted late fees. 

Make sure you have a way to check in while you're away.

With services like online banking, text alerts and mobile banking  you can watch your account balances even while you're away. You'll likely be making withdrawals from unfamiliar ATMs and making purchases at new places. Carefully watching your accounts while on vacation is a good idea. This will keep your spending in check and help you catch any fraudulent activity right away. 

Carry a variety of payment options.

Take along several credit cards, a check book and a debit card. Then, if one payment method fails, you'll still have access to your funds. Carry a small amount of cash for small purchases and souvenirs. Use several wallets. If one gets lost/stolen you still have options.  Have to make currency exchanges? Talk to your bank about the most cost-effective method for your situation.

By following these tips, your vacation should go much smoother.  

Peoples State Bank, Member FDIC

Friday, December 4, 2015

Protect Yourself from ATM Skimming

Traveling over the Holidays. Pulling out extra cash for gift shopping. Grabbing cash for a last minute grocery run. ATMs are used very frequently this time of year. 

You might know the basics of protecting yourself from identity theft. You shred documents with sensitive information, check your credit scores and protect your social security number. 

But, are you aware of another common financial scam that can severely impact your bank accounts? ATM skimming. 

What is ATM skimming?

ATM skimming is a crime in which thieves attach a device to an authentic ATM in order to capture the information stored on the magnetic strip on your bank card. (having a chip card will help prevent this) 

A hidden camera is often installed on or near the ATM to record your PIN number as you enter it. The external device used for skimming is normally only installed for a few hours before the thieves remove it and extract the data it collected. 

The criminals then combine the PIN numbers obtained on the video with the stolen data to make online purchases or withdrawals at other ATMs using the bank card information.

You can protect yourself.

The crime depends on consumers using a compromised ATM, so inspect the ATMs you use most often. Watch for signs of tampering, such as new scratches, discolored keys, flashing lights and visible wires. Using the same ATMs on a regular basis will help you notice changes more easily.

If you must use a strange ATM, use extra care when inspecting it for signs of skimming. If you suspect an ATM is compromised, notify the bank immediately.

Using ATMs located inside bank branches is also safer, due to the increased security compared to ATMs on the street. 

Another good habit to get into is shielding your PIN as you enter it. You'll be protecting your PIN from video cameras and potential onlookers, as well. The best protection for your PIN is to change it every few months and avoid using numbers like your birthday, anniversary and your spouse/child's birthday.

Use our MobiMoney app to turn off any features of your debit card that you rarely use. For example, out-of-state purchases or online purchases. 

What if you've been a victim of ATM skimming?

You should monitor your accounts for suspicious activity. Online and mobile banking let you view your account as often as you wish. If you notice withdrawals or purchases that you didn't make, notify your bank right away. 

Check with your bank to see if they offer a service that will notify you via text or email of unusual purchase activity. 

In many cases, the sooner you notify the bank there is a potential problem, the more likely you are to be refunded the stolen money.

Peoples State Bank, Member FDIC

Friday, November 27, 2015

Buy Nothing Day

I know, it's BLACK FRIDAY! Why would this day be chosen to challenge people to buy nothing? Buy Nothing Day was founded in Vancouver, Canada by artist Ted Dave in1992 and is a protest against the consumerism.

According to, Adbusters, the company responsible for the initial promotion of Ted Dave’s idea for Buy Nothing Day, states that the day “isn’t just about changing your habits for one day” but “about starting a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and producing less waste.”

Whether you decide to celebrate Buy Nothing Day or Black Friday is up to you. Either way, we hope you just stay safe and responsible with your finances while you're at it!

We learned about Buy Nothing Day from, visit their site for more information.

Peoples State Bank, Member FDIC

Friday, November 20, 2015

Holiday Budgeting Tips (plus 2 bonus tips for giving great gifts!)

'Tis the season for holiday shopping! Presents, family meals and decorations all put a strain on your wallet. Creating a holiday budget and sticking to it can help keep you on track. Here are some budgeting tips for the busiest shopping season of the year:

Don't just budget; track your spending, too!

While setting a budget is a good first step, it won't help you save money in the long run if you don't track your spending to see if you stuck with the original budget.  List your spending categories, such as gifts (be sure to list them), decorations, holiday cards, gift wrapping supplies, etc. Set practical spending goals for each of these categories, and then be sure to track how much you actually spend. 

Get the inside track for sales.
You can get access to special deals and sales by following retailers on social media. Whether you use Facebook, Twitter or simply subscribe to an email newsletter, many retailers will thank you for your loyalty with discounts and coupons that are not offered to the general public.

DIY (Handmade gifts)

If you are a crafty person or enjoy making things, it doesn't mean your gift won't be as meaningful! People love getting personalized, handcrafted gifts. Think about your talents and how you can utilize them. Are you into photography?  Find one of you best photos (maybe a flower or scenery shot) and create wall decor with it. Do you love woodworking? Try creating decor by painting a quote on a board or create a bird house or shelf or stool. Enjoy sewing? A personalized bag or apron or throw pillows are great gifts. Baking or cooking? Brownie mix, cookie mix, and soup mix are especially good for those who might live on their own or don't enjoy cooking. Layer them in a decorated mason jar for a festive look!

Avoid impulse buys.
Holiday sales can be especially tempting (Black Friday and Cyber Monday for example), but the fantastic deals on these days can also lead to impulse buys. If an item isn't on the list of planned purchases from your budget, wait at least 24 hours. After you've slept on it, if you still want the unplanned item, see if you can work it into the budget without straining your other financial obligations.

Save your budget for next year.
After the holidays, don't throw away this year's holiday budget. Save it and use it as a model for next year's shopping. Make notes of where you deviated from the original budget, so that next year's is more accurate. You can also use the gift lists from year to year. If you know well in advance what items you want to buy, you can shop for them during the season when they're cheapest, rather than during the holidays.


If you are stuck trying to think of the right gift to buy someone, here are two ideas to try. 

Think of any hobbies that person has or what he/she enjoys doing. Then, just think about the hobbies one at a time and write down anything that would accompany the hobby. For example, if your friend loves hiking, your list might include water bottle, Nike socks, fit bit, backpack, cliff bars, homemade protein bars, headbands, and workout clothing. If you can't think of anything, try searching the Internet for ideas. For example, type 'hiking accessories' in your search bar and see what comes up! 

If you have Pinterest, find your friends on there and see what they have pinned. It's like a personalized wish list right there for you to choose from! 

Friday, November 13, 2015

World Kindness Day

Kindness Day was born on November 13, 1997 and it is celebrated by countries all over the world.

To celebrate World Kindness Day, you don't need to fly across the globe and provide homes for everyone in need or give thousands and thousands to your local food pantry. While those would be wonderful things to do, this day is about little things.

What is one thing you can do today that would make someone else smile? Here are a few ideas:
  • Send someone in the military a card
  • Make an effort to smile more today
  • Encourage/compliment a friend or co-worker 
  • Write a handwritten note to a parent/grandparent
  • Stop by a nursing home and visit with 3 people
  • Say 'thank-you' and really mean it
  • Text 3 people just to say how awesome they are
  • Go on a walk and pick up litter
  • Invite someone over for dinner and cook them something fun (or just dessert?)
  • Volunteer an hour of your time

Do you have more ideas? Share them with us! 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Counterfeit Credit Card Fraud Increasing - How Will it Affect Consumers?

If you're wondering what that new gold chip is on your credit or debit card, you are not alone. If you don't have it yet, you probably will soon. It is a tiny piece of technology called an EMV chip that will make a big difference in card security. Paying with a chip card instead of a magnetic stripe card brings added security for your in-store transactions (unfortunately, it doesn't add any protection to shopping online). 

At the end of 2014, approximately 120 million chip cards had been issued in the U.S. 
However, the criminals who steal card data and manufacture counterfeit cards know this. Banking experts are reporting an increase in counterfeit card fraud in Wisconsin, which most likely means many criminals are stockpiling their counterfeit cards before everyone has chip cards. Experts predict this trend will only increase over the next few months. While banks are already taking steps to counteract this sudden swell in criminal activity, what can consumers do to protect themselves during this surge in counterfeit card fraud?

1) Protect Your Card

Counterfeit cards are made by loading legitimate credit or debit card information onto a fake card. Protect your card's information by watching carefully for devices such as skimmers and by never writing down or giving out your PIN. If you shop online, be sure to only used trusted websites that have "https:" (not "http:") in the front of their URL. In addition, never access any website that transmits sensitive information (including shopping, online banking, etc.) from an unsecured Internet connection, such as the public Wi-Fi at a coffee shop.

2) Monitor Your Accounts

The other key to minimizing the damage caused by counterfeit card fraud is for consumers to monitor their accounts. Check purchases made on your card using online banking or your mobile app frequently. If you only ever check your statement, you're only going to catch fraudulent purchases once per month. A better practice is to look every other day to see if someone has accessed your credit card information and used it to made fraudulent purchases.

If you do notice suspicious activity on your card, notify your bank and credit card company immediately. The quicker you react, the sooner the bank can stop the fraud and ensure that you don't lose any money. Call the number on the back of the card and use the number you have on your statement for the bank, not a number you may have received via email or text message (which is a common scam technique). 

Consumers can also visit to learn more about how EMV cards offer better security and how to use them.