Finance Your Car With BrightStar!

10 Reasons You Should Finance Your Car with BSCU

There are many advantages when it comes to having a credit union as your primary financial institution. Lower interest rates on loans, higher earnings on savings accounts and not to mention the personalized attention you receive from a community-based business.

As a not-for-profit business we offer lower rates on our auto loans, which means you will be paying much less than if you finance with a dealership. It’s important to do your research before you make such a huge decision, so why not discover benefits of financing your vehicle with BrightStar Credit Union.

  1. Earn Cash Back

You may qualify for a cash rebate just for re-financing your existing loan from elsewhere to BrightStar. Cash that can go towards paying down debts, home renovation, or your savings.

  1. Skip-A-Pay

Now this is a great perk to have. Take a vacation from your loan payment. Members may qualify to “skip” up to 2 payments per loan account in a twelve month period. Does your other lender offer this benefit?

  1. Take a 90-Day Break

You may qualify to make no payments for up to 90 days on your new loan.

  1. Super Low Loan rates

Save money with a lower interest rate from your Credit Union. Our loan rates often beat the competition. Consider this: Datatrac.com has certified that BrightStar’s auto loan interest rates are substantially lower than the average rates in South Florida. Plus, a recent Credit Union National Association (CUNA) report shows that credit union members save an average of $950* when they finance their auto loan with their credit union versus a bank.

  1. No hidden fees on your loan

No pre-payment penalties, just a straightforward loan with no gotchas.

  1. FREE Auto Advisors Service

Our Auto Advisors can locate your next new or used vehicle and eliminate the stress from the car buying process. We may be able to get you a better price and more for your trade-in. Tell us what vehicle you want, and we’ll do the rest.

  1. Save Even More Money

We offer lower pricing on GAP Insurance, Extended Vehicle Warranties and Payment Protection Plans. Some GAP policies cost $1,000 or more. BrightStar policies are as low as $499. Ask us for details.

  1. E-Sign Your Loan Documents

If you prefer, we may be able to close your loan online, saving you gas and time!

  1. Payments made easy

Easily make your payments online via automatic transfers from your BrightStar account, at a BrightStar branch, or at thousands of credit union shared branches nationwide.

  1. We’re your Credit Union

We listen to your needs. Need a shorter term? Need a lower payment? We’re happy to discuss a variety of terms and options to suit your individual needs.

So stop by a branch, give us as a call at 954-486-2728, or apply online today at BSCU.org. Our loan officers are happy to answer any question you have.


Improve your small business!

How Can You Keep Your Small Business Competitive?

If you are a small business owner you must prepare for everything. For the not so profitable months of the year and for the months your product has more demand. You must also make smart investments, keep your small business trendy, and always have long-term and short-term goals. Keeping your small business competitive can be a little challenging. The following tips may help you improve your small business strategies.

  1. Know the meaning of the word “but”
    This seems like an odd tip but this small word can be very powerful. For example, if you charge more than your competitors’ chances are you get a few complaints. The short-term solution can be to change your product prices for a period of time, but that doesn’t solve the actual problem. Plus, if customers are going to you for products (even while complaining) it means it is worth buying. With this in mind, this is how the word “but” can help you. First, acknowledge your high prices, then follow with the word “but” and add a valuable statement.“Yes, it is true our prices are high but we use high quality products that can help save money for our customers in the long run.”By doing this, you are sending the message that you care enough about the quality of your product and to help your customers save money. It gives you a valid reason to keep your prices high.
  2. Invest in advertising
    Paying top price for a product or service can be justified by its benefits. People won’t choose your business unless you invest in getting the word out there.
    Invest on a website with good content and SEO strategies. This will serve as social proof for new customers and it will create a digital convenience for your old customers.
  3. Research the market constantly
    Competitive research should be a part of your business planning, and it should continue until your business is stable. The easiest way to do this now is online. Research competitive businesses near you until you can find the differentiating factors and you can promote your business more efficiently.
  4. Offer products and services as needed
    It is okay to offer a variety of products that can do the same thing and value at different prices. You can offer your premium product and have a backup to become more competitive in case it might be too pricey. It is better to retain a customer who has the potential of returning and purchasing more.Owning your business can be rewarding and challenging at the same time. Continue to improve your business and see how successful it can be.

Credit Check

How to Remove Credit Report Errors

Credit Check
Improve your credit score!

What do you do when you spot an innacuracy on your credit report? Take steps to dispute it. Because of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, cleaning up your own credit report is usually quick and easy. Credit reporting agencies (often called credit bureaus) should only report accurate and current information.

Step one – Obtain your credit reports
To know exactly what is happening with your credit, check the reports from all the major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. The information on each report may vary because not all creditors report to every bureau. You may receive a free report from each company once per year from Annual Credit Report Request Service, or you may obtain them from the bureaus directly for a fee.

 

Step two – Know what can be removed
You can’t rid every negative notation from your file – credit bureaus are obligated to report all credit and debt information as long as it is correct and timely. So what can be removed?

  • Wrong information. If the report lists incorrect information, such as an account you never opened, someone else’s name, or a judgment for a lawsuit you were never a part of, you can have it permanently purged from your record.
  • Duplicate information. While an account can sometimes show up multiple times, you may want to have your report list it just once. This can prevent lenders from believing you have more debt or credit problems than you actually do.
  • Old, negative information. In most cases, negative information, even when accurate, won’t haunt you forever. Your credit report may reflect lawsuits, judgments, liens, foreclosures, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy (from the filing date), late payments, and charged-off accounts for seven years. Chapter 7 bankruptcy will be evident for ten years from the date of filing. Child support arrearage and default notations for student loans, though, can be reported until satisfied.

Step three – Dispute inaccuracies
If you do spot errors or items that should have aged off your report, it is time to take action:

  • File the dispute with the bureau. You may make your dispute on the company’s website, over the phone, or by mail. In all cases you’ll have to provide your personal identification and a description of what is wrong, and what the correct information is. If you have any documents that support your case (such as copies of cashed checks that confirm you paid an account), include those as well.
  • Wait 30 days. After you file your dispute, the bureau has 30 days to investigate the matter, and a dispute notation will show up on your report. The creditor will have this time to verify the information, and if they can’t prove it’s accurate, the bureau will stop reporting it. When the bureau completes the investigation they will send you a written report covering what they found, and an updated copy of your credit report if it resulted in any change.

In the majority of cases, removing inaccuracies is that simple. However, if the investigation results in no change, contact the creditor by phone and/or mail and explain why the information is incorrect and that you want them to report the accurate information. Include copies of supporting documents (a statement showing a zero balance, for example), if you have them. The creditor may not continue to report unproven information.

Finally, if the situation still doesn’t get resolved to your satisfaction (or if the negative information is correct but you have a good reason for why it happened), consider writing a letter of explanation to add to your report. In one hundred words or less, you can explain your side of a credit problem. Write the note clearly, include supportive facts, and send it to the bureaus to be attached to your report. This “100-word statement” could make a positive difference to whoever is reading the report.


How Can You Save on Your Electrical Bill?

Living in Florida has its benefits. You never have to shovel mountains of snow; you never pay an individual state income tax and can enjoy the beach all year-round. However, the never-ending summer leads to the excessive use of air conditioning. Therefore, your electric bill keeps climbing.

If you are looking to reduce your electric bill and save money, our tips will certainly help you.

  1. Never leave your electronics turned on.

Most of you know this, but do you actually turn off your devices before leaving the house?

Computers, TV’s, coffee makers, and gaming devices should be turned off when they aren’t being used. That means you don’t have to keep them on when you are in the house showering, cleaning or sleeping either.

 

  1. Spend time outside.

The more you are outside, the less you will need to use your AC. We are not saying to spend money going out (that will defeat the purpose). You can go to a park with your pets, walk around the beach, or visit a friend. If you aren’t home you don’t need to have the AC on. If you have pets you have an excuse to take them out, and leave it on for them while you are at work.

 

  1. Invest in a smart thermostat

A sophisticated thermostat can help you adjust the temperature of your home according to your individual routines. You can divide your day into blocks and set desire temperatures for each. For example you can adjust your settings to a higher temperature while you’re at work and lower them when you return from work automatically. A smart thermostat can trim cooling cost by 15%.

 

  1. Insulate hot water pipes

According to the Department of Energy, insulating your hot water pipes can reduce your electricity or gas bill $12 annually. Insulating your hot water pipes is inexpensive­­­­­­– especially if you have duct tape at home.

 

Stop overspending in your electrical bill change your habits and start saving money.

 

 


Declutter and Save!

How Can Decluttering Save You Money?

What is the current state of your closet? Is it stuffed to the brim with clothes, shoes, suitcases, cleaning supplies, your high school yearbook textbook, etc., or can you do cartwheels in there? Is every horizontal surface covered in piles and piles of stuff or is almost like a guest room?

A clutter-filled house can lead to increased entertainment costs; you don’t want your friends to see the mess (or are sick of seeing it yourself), so you go out. Duplication is another way that clutter can cost you. Have you ever spent money on something you already had because you had no idea where it was, and did not want to spend hours looking for it?

If the thought of actually having to go through all your stuff makes you sweat, don’t worry. Here are some tips that can help make the decluttering process as painless as possible:

Do a little at a time: You are less likely to get discouraged and give up if you set a series of small goals spread out over time instead of trying to clean up the whole house at once.

Take a picture of sentimental items: Do you have some items that you never use but can’t throw out because of their sentimental value (such as the doll you bought for your daughter who is now 25)? Taking a picture can make it easier to part with. You will have a reminder even if it’s no longer collecting dust in your closet.

Donate or sell: While some of your items may be worn out and only welcomed by the trash bin, there may be many things you can sell to a consignment or thrift store, or donate to charity. Think of your cleaning as putting money in your pocket or helping others, instead of just a chore.

Use the “one in, one out” rule: After you go through all that effort to get rid of what you don’t need, you probably don’t want the house to revert back to its former messy state a few months from now. A good solution is to get rid of something whenever you purchase something new. You buy a new t-shirt at the mall—when you get home, go into the drawers and get rid of an old one.

By taking the time to declutter, you’ll be cleaning all the way to the bank.

 

 


Have fun on a budget!

4 Ways to Avoid Over Spending During the Weekend

If you are smart with your money, chances are you don’t spend much during the week. However, it all gets turned upside down when the weekend comes. You may feel the urgent need to go out, buy new outfits, and have a few drinks with friends, which leads you to spend all you saved up during the week. This is not terrible unless it becomes a habit. Lucky for you, we have some tips that will allow you to have fun during the weekends without overspending.

  1. Make good use of free recreation.

Living in Florida gives you the advantage of having beautiful outside areas where you can have fun, build memories, and relax. Take the beach for example- if you’re smart all you have to pay for is parking. Bring a cooler with some waters from home, food, and a beach ball and enjoy. If you want some drinks, buy them ahead and add them to the cooler. You will be saving a lot more money buying drinks ahead, than buying them at local hangout spots.

If you aren’t a beach person, you can try the same concept at a pool, or even a park. The outdoors can be really fun and not terribly expensive. Take advantage!

  1. Don’t go shopping out of emotion

We know you probably own a million outfits, so that millionth and one is probably not necessary. Get creative! Change accessories, do something different to your hair, make it work. Unless you absolutely need it, try to avoid it. If you do give in, look for sales and make sure it is something you will wear more than once.

  1. Take your credit cards out of your wallet.

Yes, budget yourself ahead of time by planning out your weekend. The rule of thumb is to spend the money you have in the bank only. Not the imaginary money you can have by buying extra with your cards. That is a big NO.

  1. Have a get together at home

If going out to watch the game is where your money goes, try to invite your friends over and watch the game at home. Everyone can contribute food and drinks and you can have just as much fun.

Remember, you can have fun without breaking the bank.  Use your member discount if you can. Have fun, just do it in a smart way.


Don't let your medical bills be a burden!

4 Ways to Manage Medical Debt

Unfortunately, when you get sick or injured, getting better is often not the only concern. Even if you have health insurance, hefty medical bills can hang over your head like an ominous raincloud. Many people feel that they have no choice but to ignore the bills or eventually file for bankruptcy. However, these are not the only options. There are many ways you can make paying your medical bills more manageable.

1. Check the bills
Often people are so shocked over how much they owe when they first open their bills that they forget to look at them in detail. However, since medical bills are frequently inflated, looking over them carefully could save you money. Maybe you were billed for a four-day stay in the hospital when you only stayed two or charged twice for the same medication. If you see that you were billed in error, contact the medical provider to have the charge removed.

If you have health insurance, it is also a good idea to make sure your insurance company paid for everything covered in your plan. If an insurance company denies a claim, the medical provider will just bill you, even if the treatment is covered under your plan. How easy is it to get an insurance company to pay a denied claim? If it was merely a clerical error, it should be simple. If you are dealing with a stereotypical penny-pinching insurance company trying to wiggle out of a commitment, it could be harder—but not impossible. Most insurance companies allow you to appeal decisions, and if you submit evidence to support why the treatment should be covered, like a letter from your doctor, you may be able to have the denial overturned.

2. Ask for a repayment plan
Even after billing errors are corrected, the amount you owe may still seem frighteningly large. However, there is no need to panic if you cannot pay a bill in full. Most medical providers will allow you to make smaller payments until the bill is paid off and, in many cases, won’t even charge interest. Think about how much you can afford to send each month, and let the medical provider know.

If the medical provider does not accept your proposal, should you not send any money? Not necessarily. Few people will actually refuse money, regardless of how small the amount is. That does not mean you are immune from being sued or having the account be sold to a collection agency, but all you can do is send what you can afford to pay. Not paying your mortgage or other important expenses to get more cash for your medical bills is usually not a good idea.

3. Look for assistance
If you have medical bills from a hospital, you are probably well aware of how high hospital bills can be. Luckily, many hospitals get government funds and donations to cover the bills for patients who cannot pay them themselves. (Other types of medical providers typically do not get such funds but may give you a discount if you describe your hardship.) Talk to your hospital’s billing department or financial counselor about its programs. Remember to find out what the application procedure and qualifications are; often assistance programs are restricted to people who owe above a certain amount, have income below a certain limit, and/or have no medical insurance. Even if you ultimately do not qualify, it does not hurt to ask.

Hospitals are not the only places where you can get financial assistance with your medical debt. Many nonprofits provide the same service. Like with hospitals, nonprofit programs are often restricted to limited income and/or uninsured individuals. To find out what programs are available in your area, contact your local United Way or dial 211 (an information referral service available in most communities). You may also be able to get information from relevant disease support groups.

4. Create a plan for the future 
While your current concern may be the bills you need to pay now, chances are, you will have more medical bills to pay in the future. Getting sick is just a part of life. However, if you start saving today, it will be easier to pay whatever bills come your way tomorrow. While you can put your savings in a savings account, you may also want to make use of one of the tax-advantaged accounts available for medical expenses.

If your employer offers it, one option is to set up a flexible spending account. At the beginning of the enrollment period (which if often, but not always, January 1), you tell you employer how much you want withheld from each paycheck and sent to your account. You typically must pay for the costs out of pocket first and then get reimbursed after submitting a claim form. While the money sent to a flexible spending account is not taxed, there is one drawback: you lose any money that is not spent by the end of the year. Thus, you should not contribute more to a flexible spending account than you reasonably expect to spend.

Another option is a health savings account. Like with a flexible spending account, the money contributed to a health savings account is not taxed. However, you do not lose the money that is left over in the account at the end of the year. So, why would anyone choose a flexible spending account over a health savings account? Health savings accounts are not available to everyone. In order to qualify, you must be enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (a plan with higher deductibles and lower premiums than traditional plans). If you have a traditional plan, you are out of luck.

Medical bills can linger long after an injury or illness has been treated. While the amounts owed can seem unbelievably large, remember, there are many things you can do ease the pain of bill paying.


Save money and refinance.

5 Ways to Cut Your Monthly Expenses

Save money and refinance.
Little changes make a difference!

Ever notice how your monthly expenses always seem to equal whatever salary you’re making, even after you get raises? The phenomenon is called “lifestyle creep” and it can keep you from reaching all kinds of financial goals, from paying down debt, to saving for retirement. One way to get lifestyle creep under control is to have any future raises you get direct deposited into savings – like a 401(k) account through your employer, or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). But here are five things you can do right now to cut your monthly expenses.

  1. Make a Budget
    The first step toward cutting expenses is to make a budget, so you know exactly where your money is going. Start with major categories, like rent or mortgage, utilities, transportation, meals, clothing, and entertainment. Then break it down even further to ferret out items that are ripe for reducing. Many people, for example, are surprised to learn just how much they pay for pricey lattes and snacks from restaurants and vendors that would cost a fraction of that amount if they were made at home or purchased at a grocery store.
  2. Lower Your Mortgage Payment
    The biggest monthly expense for many people is their home mortgage. If you haven’t examined that loan since you bought your home years ago, it’s quite possible that you could save a lot of money – both now and over the life the loan – if you refinance at a lower interest rate. To know whether refinancing makes sense, you’ll need to add what you’ll spend on closing costs into the calculation of your new monthly payment.
  3. Get an Insurance Checkup
    If you have a car, you absolutely must have car insurance. But it pays to shop around periodically to make sure you’re getting the best deal. If you have a decent emergency fund on hand in case of an accident, one way to lower your premiums is to increase your deductible. Also be sure to examine your policy for “extras” you may not need. For example, you could be paying for roadside assistance both through your insurance policy and through AAA.
  4. Examine Your Auto-Payments
    Putting your regular bills on auto-payment can be a really smart way to protect your credit rating by ensuring you’re never late with a payment. However, if auto-pay causes you to keep paying for items or services you don’t really need or use, it’s no bargain. A few common culprits include unused gym memberships, subscriptions to magazines that aren’t read, and cable or satellite TV plans that include loads of premium channels that are rarely watched.
  5. Cut the Cord
    If you’ve already ditched your land line, good for you! If not, doing so is one of the quickest and most pain-free ways to trim your expenses. Most all of us have our cell phones with us all the time anyway, and if you really like the feel of a traditional phone in your hand, a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) plan that provides phone service over the Internet is a lot cheaper than traditional land line service.

Is leasing right for you?

Read This Before you Break Your Lease!

Many tenants find themselves in a situation where they need to or want to move out before the end of the lease term. If you are breaking your lease, it is important to keep in mind that a lease is a legally-binding document, and if the remaining months’ rent is not paid, the landlord can sue you and obtain a judgment (which may allow them to garnish your wages or take other collection actions against you). Losing your job, taking a new job in another location, not liking the place, or buying a house does not allow you to be released you from your lease. However, there are a few exceptional circumstances in which you may be able to have your lease invalidated, including:

 

  • The landlord lied about a fact that he or she knew played an important part in your decision to rent the unit, and the fact could not be easily verified by you in advance.
  • The landlord failed to keep the unit in safe and habitable condition.
  • You are a victim of domestic violence or stalking.
  • You or your spouse is in the military and received orders to move or deploy.

 

Rental laws vary by state, so it is a good idea to do research or speak to a lawyer or tenant organization about whether your situation allows you to invalidate the lease before you move out.

 

While breaking your lease does not release you from the responsibility to pay rent, you may not actually have to pay it all. You should talk with your landlord as soon as you know you will be moving out. In most states, the landlord is obligated to look for a new renter for the unit. You can also look for a new tenant yourself. Generally, the landlord cannot refuse to rent the unit to a qualified applicant and still hold you responsible for the rent. Once a new renter is found and starts paying rent, you are off the hook—with a caveat. If the landlord can only rent the unit for less than what you were paying, you can be held responsible for the difference in rent until the lease expires. For example, if you were paying $1,100 a month and broke the lease with 6 months left, and the landlord could only rent the unit for $1,000 a month, the landlord is entitled to $600 from you.

 

Some landlords also allow tenants to be let out of the lease by paying a fee. Landlords are generally only allowed to be compensated for what their actual loss is, so they cannot demand that you pay an arbitrarily-determined fee. However, if your apartment is located in a soft rental market and it is unlikely that a new tenant will be found soon, it may be to your advantage to pay the fee if it is offered. You may want consult with a lawyer or tenant organization before signing a lease-breaking agreement and paying the fee.

 

If you choose to break your lease, you will likely have some financial loss. However, careful planning on your part can help you keep the loss to a minimum.


Establish good credit

5 Ways to Establish Credit

Establish good credit
Establish good credit today!

When it comes to getting a credit card, qualifying is actually one of the easiest parts of the process. Establishing a positive credit record, however, requires dedication and patience.

Whether you are new to credit or are trying to “clean up” past mistakes to reestablish a favorable record, you may encounter a frustrating paradox: you must have and use credit to create a credit history, yet many financial institutions are reluctant to extend credit to someone without an established record. But don’t despair – there are several good remedies for both situations.

A Secured Card
An excellent start is a secured credit card. You are granted a credit line based on a percentage of a cash deposit you make to your financial institution. Because deposits are usually low, so too will be your credit limit. Application and annual fees for secured cards are often higher then those associated with unsecured credit cards.

The Retailer’s Card
Consider a local retailer’s credit card. Their criteria is often less rigorous than larger credit issuers. Be sure they subscribe to the major credit reporting agencies though – if not, you won’t be establishing a credit history.

A Co-Signer
Another option is having someone with a positive credit record co-sign an account for you. This requires a great deal of trust on the part of the co-signer – if you fail to pay, he or she is responsible. You could end up jeopardizing a relationship as well as a credit record.

Review Your Credit Report
Finally, if you have damaged credit, you might need to rectify the past as you’re building your future. Paying old debts and correcting errors on your credit report as soon as possible might be the way to go.

Pay off Your Debts
Once you have a credit line, establish a good history by using it responsibly. Keep balances low, always pay on time, don’t pursue unnecessary credit, and stick with a few good credit instruments of various types.