First-Class Vacationing on an Economy-Class Budget

By Lynn Viesti Berube

Are you overdue for a vacation? You know the signs: little problems may easily morph into big ones, you’re making more mistakes than usual, and perhaps your co-workers keep asking if you feel alright.

Taking a vacation might be a great way to reduce stress and freshen your outlook, while experiencing the wonders of the world! But the price tag that comes along with a dream getaway can be enough to scare you back to reality. To keep the cost down, try getting creative about how you allocate your vacation budget.

Here are some tips on how to save money on your next trip.

Catch a red-eye flight during offseason: Timing is everything with travel discounts. If you’re willing to go against the grain, you could be rewarded for your flexibility. Flights at odd hours may be discounted by airlines to make sure their seats fill up. Likewise, hotels may offer lower rates during off-peak season to keep their rooms occupied. Considering that airfare and lodging are two of a traveler’s largest expenses, flexibility can greatly reduce the cost of your vacation.

Visit a grocery store: While stopping for groceries may not be your idea of a fun getaway, it is one of the first things you could do when you arrive at your destination to save money. Enjoying local cuisine is a pleasurable part of the travel experience, but doing so could be costly. Instead, consider dining at the few restaurants you’re most excited about, and preparing the rest of your meals at a fraction of the cost using grocery items. Also, visiting local markets can be a culturally enriching experience in itself!

Get out of the driver’s seat: Depending on your particular destination, you may never need a car to see the sites. So, before booking a rental, consider the proximity of all the stops you’d like to make, and check the alternative modes of transportation available to get you there. Whether by foot, bicycle or bus, you could also experience a broader swath of your locale than you would by car, while saving money. For jaunts that require a car trip, check up on taxi prices and availability before you arrive. If you do need to rent your own vehicle, however, be sure to consider booking it at the same time as your flights and lodgings to get a discount.

If you’re looking to get out of town for a little while, but you’re worried about coming home broke, these suggestions might help to mitigate the biggest expenses to your travel budget. That way, you’ll be able to focus on what really matters: a fun experience that won’t leave you with buyer’s remorse. For more advice on managing your assets, stop by The Milford Bank or visit us here.

Card Security: What’s That Chip Doing There?

by Celeste Lohrenz

Credit and debit cards have become the norm for Americans as fewer shoppers opt to carry cash for day-to-day purchases. Swiping for gas, groceries and even train tickets has become second nature. However, the public’s reliance on this payment method has made card systems a rewarding target for hackers and has led to major data breaches at some of the nation’s largest retailers. Furthermore, hackers and cyberthieves have found ways of directly targeting the magnetic strips on the back of credit/debit cards, through use of scanner devices that allow the theft of card information without the physical card ever having left your pocket.

For those who have recently experienced a card theft or loss, you may have noticed something different about the new card your bank sent as a replacement. Now, new credit and debit cards will no longer transfer personal information through magnetic strips but through an embedded computer chip, called a Europay Master Visa (EMV) chip, on the face of the card, which is expected to be the nationwide standard by 2016.

So what is that little chip doing there anyway? Here’s what you need to know:

• What it is: The EMV chip you’re seeing (or soon will see) on the face of your credit/debit acts as a security vault for your card’s information. Over the years, the technology that card thieves use to tap into magnetic strips became so advanced that end users and merchants alike were at risk of having their private data stolen. To address this problem, major credit card companies like MasterCard and Visa found an alternative in EMV chips, which are not vulnerable to hackers’ current toolsets.

• How it works: As of now, and likely until all merchants have begun to accept EMV chips, cards work both through the magnetic strip and the EMV chip. Rather than swiping your credit card through a card terminal at the end of a transaction, you will insert your chip card into a machine that reads the specially made computer chip throughout the transaction. This new method allows your bank to monitor your card’s “security vault” during the entire transaction, affording it more data resource points for augmenting security.

If you currently have a card with an EMV chip, be sure to use it with merchants that accept this new technology to guarantee the safest transactions. Card holders who have yet to receive a new card with an EMV chip should contact their local card providers to upgrade their security features.

Did You Miss Out—or, Happily, Benefit From—Milford Bank’s Top Five Moments of 2015?

by Lynn Viesti Berube

Do you realize that the bank you rely on for financial services is also tops when it comes to supporting the community? That’s right: Milford Bank is right here, offering a lending hand in a variety of ways, from fundraising for causes close to your heart to providing free financial seminars, to hosting an educational fair with a “green” theme. In case you missed any of the bank’s proudest moments of 2015, we provide the following recap.

Free Small Business Seminars: The Milford Bank partnered with Stratford’s Economic Development Office back in February to sponsor free seminars for small business owners. Over the course of two months, the bank helped lead lectures on starting a business, developing a business plan, obtaining financing and working with the state. The seminars were designed to help grow small businesses in the community.

“Milford Moves” Pirate Day 5K: This event was held on June 14th in conjunction with the town of Milford’s annual Cap’n Kidd Treasure Hunt Pirates Day. That sunny morning, some 200 participants ran The Milford Bank’s first annual 5K. The event was part of the bank’s “Milford Moves” healthy living initiative. The race was the culmination of a 12-week training course that taught participants everything from proper training and equipment to the right diet. The Milford Bank knows that prosperity starts with healthy bodies and, apparently, so did 200 running pirates!

Painting With a Purpose: Also in June, the bank hosted a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club of Milford’s summer program. Bank employees volunteered their time to paint their own interpretations of the bank’s sailboat logo, which were then raffled off at each of the bank’s office locations. Donations were also collected by employees at each branch. At the end of the fundraiser, more than a dozen Milford Bank employees were able to raise $1,100 for the cause, demonstrating not only their generous spirits but a commitment to their employer’s proud heritage of community service.

Green Fair: On November 14th, The Milford Bank hosted its first annual Green Fair at its main office in Milford. The event was free to the public and featured free electronics recycling and document shredding for bank customers (non-customers were asked to make a small donation). Additionally, booths were set up to provide information and entertainment on such topics as saving energy, bottle and can collection, upcycling crafts for kids, and do-it-yourself household cleaners and beauty supplies. All proceeds will benefit a green initiative for the community to be determined in early 2016.

2015 Business of the Year Award: On October 20th, The Milford Bank was honored by the West Haven Chamber of Commerce as the recipient of its 2015 Business of the Year Award. The accolade acknowledges the hard work The Milford Bank puts in each year helping families and businesses with their banking needs while maintaining a strong community presence.

Be sure to join us in the many events we have planned for next year. We can’t wait to see you!

What Will Rate Hikes Mean for Your Family?

by Paul Mulligan

Back in December of 2008, the Federal Reserve instituted a zero interest rate policy in an effort to curtail the effects of what is now commonly called the Great Recession. For the past seven years, borrowers have been able to take advantage of these lower interest rates. But with the economy now improving, the Fed is beginning to raise interest rates once again. This policy change can have a very real impact on American families, including your own.

Here are some of the primary ways that a higher interest rate may affect your family, along with ways to offset the negative and accentuate the positive:

More expensive mortgages: If your family is looking at either purchasing or refinancing a home, now is the time to act. A fixed-rate mortgage will enable you to lock in today’s comparatively low interest for the term of your mortgage. A variable-rate mortgage, on the other hand, is tied to the Fed’s raising and lowering of interest rates, so it will become more expensive if rates go up. New buyers should, therefore, consider taking advantage of a fixed-rate loan. If you own a home, you should consider refinancing for one of two reasons: either you currently have a variable-rate mortgage or your fixed-rate mortgage was set at a high interest rate prior to the zero interest rate policy being enacted. This may be the last chance to capitalize on the Fed’s policies before rates increase. Speak with your banking institution to see if you can benefit.

Higher annual percentage rate (APR) on credit cards: When the Federal Reserve cut interest rates in 2008, fixed-rate credit cards basically disappeared from the market. If your card was issued and your rate fixed prior to 2008, you will not be affected if rates go up. But a large number of credit card owners whose lending rates are variable—and tied to interest rates—may experience an immediate rate increase, including on any existing balances. For credit card holders, the best thing you can do is plan ahead. When working up your monthly budget, be sure to set aside an extra amount relative to the outstanding balance on your credit card. If you’re using a new credit card, try not to overextend yourself before you know what a rate hike will mean for your finances.

Higher returns for savings accounts: There is some good news for consumers when it comes to higher interest rates. Those with money stashed away in savings accounts will see increased returns. In the age of the zero interest rate policy, savings accounts accrued minimal interest. With a rate hike, savings accounts will become more viable savings vehicles again. If you have been able to put money aside in a savings account, keep it there. If you don’t have a savings account, now might be a good time to open one.

While even the brightest financial minds can’t always predict what the Fed will do with interest rates, you can prepare for the ups and downs by reviewing your finances in these three areas. To learn more about how to safeguard your financial interests with a Fed hike looming, call or stop by any office of The Milford Bank.