Why Every Business Should Offer Gift Cards

eNews-BusinessGiftCards
For the past seven years, gift cards have been the number one most wanted holiday wish list item, according to the National Retail Foundation. The popularity of gift cards has steadily increased throughout the last several years and will culminate in an estimated $100 billion dollars loaded on to gift cards in 2014*.
 
Still not sure if gift cards are right for your business? Here are some incredible statistics:
  • 80.6% of U.S. consumer plan to buy gift cards this year*
  • 64% of consumers spend more than the value of their gift card*
  • 59% visited a store more frequently after receiving a gift card*
  • 41% of consumers visited a store they would not have otherwise gone to because they received a gift card*
Offering gift cards is not only what your customers want, but it’s easy with Merchants Bank! Through our partnership with Valutec, you may begin offering personalized gift cards at your business in as little as 10 days. Simply speak to our Credit Card department by calling (507) 457-1160 or (800)-944-6285 to get started.
 
*All statistics from firstdata.com.

Do You Have a Spending Problem?

How to know and how to fix a spending problem.

How to know and how to fix a spending problem.

If you’ve ever checked your bank account and wondered where all your money went, or how you could possibly have such a small sum, you may have an unintentional spending problem. And that’s harmful because overspending can lead to mass amounts of debt and dissatisfaction with yourself.

But how can you know for sure if you have a spending problem? If you’re surmising the thought, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you having a hard time following a budget?
  • Do you feel the need to shop every day or more than once a day?
  • Do you buy things when you’re sad, angry or other emotion to justify feeling that way?
  • Are your friends and family commenting about your spending or telling you to stop?
  • Are you going over your credit card limit on a monthly basis?
  • Do you ever wonder, “Where did my last paycheck go?”
  • Do you have a hard time finding a place for all the items you buy?
  • Do you avoid looking at your bills?
  • Do you have a range of items you don’t use?
  • Are collectors and creditors on your case about past-due bills?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a spending problem. Follow these tips to take steps toward cutting back on your spending:

Get rid of your credit cards – If you know you use plastic for most of your purchases, it’s advised that you cut them up and only carry cash. Yes, credit cards are convenient, but research shows that you spend less when you only have cash.  According to a 2000 study, consumers are willing to spend more for something when they use a credit card rather than cash. So next time you’re out, test this theory by leaving your credit cards behind and only bringing with you a small amount of cash.

Track your spending – This is especially useful for those who can’t fathom where their money is going whenever they check their statement. Simply jotting down what you spend every day will help you identify patterns. Did you grab a coffee before work? Head to the mall on the weekend? Get a car wash? Every penny you spend should be written down and added up to see how much you’re doling out each day. If you’re a techie, you might like keeping an online diary or downloading a journaling app to your smartphone.

Purge – If it’s clothes that you buy a lot of, go through your closet and dresser drawers and make a pile of all the items you haven’t worn in the last year or those that you don’t like anymore.

“Identify the clothes you love, and get rid of everything else,” says author Donna Smallin. “If you haven’t worn something for a year, there’s something wrong — it’s not your style, or it doesn’t fit right — and there’s no point in holding onto it.” You might find that most of your clothing items are in pristine condition, and if that’s the case, head to a local thrift store, who will offer you money for certain items. You’ll feel better and make a little extra cash in the process. If any of the clothes you want to get rid of are slightly ripped or stained, then you may consider donating them to charities.

Purge — the online version – You know all those daily deal e-mails that are clogging up your inbox — Groupon, RetailMeNot, etc.? Unsubscribe to these. These e-mails are marketed to make you want to spend money, and you don’t need that kind of temptation. Doing this may also help you realize how many e-mail lists you’re on, which can be eye-opening to an overspender who wasn’t sure whether or not they had a spending problem.

Avoid situations that make you spend – If you’re aware of when you spend the most, try to skip those occasions as much as you can. For example, if you tend to overspend when eating out with friends, suggest to the group you’d like to have a potluck dinner party instead. Or, if you dish out money on clothes more than anything else, it’s best to keep away from the mall at all costs.

Seek help – There’s no shame in speaking with a professional about your spending habits. If your spending is too far out of control, then you’ll likely benefit from talking to an expert. Many psychotherapists are trained to help people with compulsive spending.  Also, ask your friends, family or spouse for their help as well. After all, it’s hard to change your ways without support from your loved ones.

Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Top Three Reasons Your Business Should Accept Credit and Debit Cards

Credit card processing can benefit any business

Credit card processing can benefit any business

Should your business accept credit or debit card payments? Big or small, brick and mortar or in-home business, thousands of employees or only two…the answer is yes! Businesses of all sizes can benefit from the ease and versatility of accepting credit or debit cards anytime, anywhere you choose. Here are the top three reasons you should accept credit or debit card payments:

  1. Convenience – Being able to accept major credit cards is expected by most of your customers. In TSYS’s 2013 Consumer Payment Choice Study, over half of respondents preferred a debit card as their overall payment method and 35% preferred a credit card. By using Merchants Bank’s Credit Card Processing, your business can meet customer expectations and provide options for accepting payments that are convenient for both you and your customers. Merchants Bank offers a variety of options for collecting payments including counter-top card readers, website interfaces and mobile card readers.
  2. Increase Sales – Accepting credit or debit cards greatly broadens your potential customer base to customers who no longer carry cash or checks with them. In addition, customers who pay by card can easily make impulse purchases without needing extra cash on hand or writing a larger check. Not offering this type of payment option could result in lost sales opportunities.
  3. Simple Pricing and Local Service – We understand that each business is unique, so we will work with you to determine the credit card processing pricing structure that makes sense for your business. Merchants Bank offers easy to understand, “all-in-one” discount fees based on the average dollar amount of your customer transactions (which is your average ticket size). Equipment costs will vary depending on your needs. As always, you’ll receive service and support from local bankers you know and trust. We promise to work with you to keep your costs as low as possible and customize Credit Card Processing to fit your individual business needs.
To get started with Merchant Bank Credit Card processing, simply contact your local branch to complete a Credit Card Processing Application and include two years of financials, or download the Credit Card Processing application here. Click here for more details on our credit card processing program.
 
Credit card processing is subject to credit approval.

How to Earn More Credit Card Points and More Rewards

Emily Buxengard, Credit Card Assistant

Emily Buxengard, Credit Card Assistant

You could be earning 2x, 3x, 4x or more points on purchases when you use your Visa ScoreCard Credit Card. Did you know that you can earn bonus points by making purchases with your card at participating retailers? “If you have a Merchants Bank Visa ScoreCard Credit Card you are automatically enrolled in our ScoreMore program,” says Emily Buxengard, Credit Card Assistant. “It’s so easy to earn bonus points and there are thousands of retailers participating in ScoreMore.”

Here’s how to find out which retailers are participating and how to activate bonus points:

  1.  Go to www.scorecardrewards.com and sign in to your ScoreCard Rewards account. Or, when viewing your Credit Card account online through www.mycardstatement.com, click on the Rewards Points link at the bottom of your home screen.
  2. Click on the ScoreMore icon on the bottom left of your screen.
  3. Find a retailer by:
    • Using the Search function on the right side of the screen.
    • Clicking View all Retailers and then using the alphabetical retailer index above to browse.
  4. To activate bonus points:
    • For online purchases: Click on See Details under the retailer’s bonus points offer and then on Click here to activate. You will be taken to the retailer’s website where you can browse for products. When you complete your purchase using your Visa ScoreCard Credit Card, bonus points will automatically be added to your account.
    • For in-store purchases: Click on the blue Activate button on the right side of the screen. The button will turn green and show bonus points are active and display an expiration date for the offer. When you complete your purchase in-store using your Visa Scorecard Credit Card bonus points will automatically be added to your account.

To redeem your points for everything from movie tickets to a Caribbean cruise, shop our selection of items at http://www.scorecardrewards.com. For help activating ScoreMore bonus points, contact our Credit Card Department directly at (507) 457-1160. After bank hours, weekends, or holidays, please call 1-800-854-0790. Click here for more information on all of Merchants Bank’s Visa Credit Cards and how to apply today. All credit cards are subject to credit approval.

* Qualifying ScoreMore Transaction shall mean: 1) a purchase transaction made with Your Account; 2) a transaction that takes place at eligible, participating Retailer locations (“In-store Purchases”) or through eligible links to participating Retailer websites accessed via the ScoreMore link on http://www.scorecardrewards.com (“Online Purchases”); 3) a transaction that meets Retailer qualifications as disclosed in the Retailer Offer (“Retailer Offer(s)”) on the ScoreMore web pages. PIN purchases do not qualify for ScoreMore Point earnings. Only signature transactions qualify for ScoreMore Point earnings when made with Your participating Account.

*ScoreMore Points for qualifying In-store Purchases are typically awarded within seven (7) days of transaction posting; Points for Online Purchases are typically awarded within thirty (30) days of transaction posting. Awarding of Points for some Retailer Offers may require additional processing time. Points for Travel Retailer Offers are awarded when travel is completed.

Prevent Fraud on Your Merchants Bank Cards

fraud word abstractPreventing fraud on your bank accounts can feel like a daunting process, but at Merchants Bank, we make it easy. By collaborating with us, you’ll have 24/7 fraud detection monitoring on your debit and credit card accounts and gain access to education on latest fraud alerts and trends. The fight to prevent fraud involves not only our expertise and diligence, but a constant open line of communication with each of our customers.

How does fraud detection at Merchants Bank work?

  • We work with our trusted partners, FraudWatch at Elan Financial Services and VISA Falcon Fraud Prevention Services, to monitor fraud trends and detect fraudulent transactions on your debit or credit card accounts 24/7.
  • We will call you in the event of a suspicious transaction. You may receive a call from our partners, Elan or Falcon, who will make you aware that the call is being placed on behalf of Merchants Bank.
  • When our partners call you they will ask you for some identifying information – such as the last four digits of your Social Security Number. They will never ask you for your full number. If you are uncomfortable and don’t want to speak with our partners, please call your local Merchants Bank office and verify the transaction or let us know that you did not make the purchase in question.

What can you do to prevent fraud? Keep in touch!

  • Ensure the Bank has your most up-to-date contact information. Call your local branch if you need to make any changes.
  • Contact us before you go on vacation and don’t be shy about sharing the details, for example: dates, exact locations and how we can contact you while you’re gone. If you make purchases in a state or country where you don’t normally use your card, we may think these transactions are fraudulent unless we know otherwise.
  • If you forget to contact us before you left on vacation, call a Customer Service Representative at your local branch during your trip to provide the information listed above.
  • Contact us if you’ll be making a large purchase that would be uncharacteristic when compared to your purchase history.

Click here for more security information from Merchants Bank make sure to review the Alerts section of our website.

Seven Ways to Save at the Supermarket

7-14 SupermarketFood shopping is an essential part of living for every family. But over the years, prices on fare have increased steadily, causing households to spend more and more on their weekly groceries. And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average American family shells out nearly $540 a month on food, with an average of approximately $312 for groceries.

But unlike your mortgage or gas bill, what you spend on food is flexible. Start with these tips to reduce your supermarket spending today:

1. Scour store sales and stock up. While many people think it’s the coupons that save families in groceries, it’s more so store sales — and combining a store sale and a coupon is one of the best money saving things you can do. Also, when something nonperishable that you use is on sale, it’s a good idea to stock up. It may seem counterintuitive at the time to spend more money (since you’re buying more), but in the end, you can save hundreds. Meats are also good to buy in bulk when they’re on sale, as they will freeze well.

2 …But don’t be fooled by said sales. Many times, a store will list a product for something along the lines of “buy five for $10” when, if you do the math, you may only be saving a couple cents. Also, keep in mind that when sales like these are listed, many times, you don’t need to buy five products, or whatever amount listed to get the sale price. So, for example, if a sale is for “two for $5,” buying one will cost you $2.50. Retailers are just listing that price in hopes that you’ll buy more. Don’t fall for it!

3. Clip coupons. Search your Sunday newspaper or visit websites such as Coupons.com, SmartSource.com and Redplum.com where many manufacturer coupons can be found and printed for free. There are also sites such as CouponMom.com, LivingRichWithCoupons.com and TheGroceryGame.com that offer up-to-date sales-tracking services for most states and grocery chains. In addition, it’s a good idea to shop at the stores that double your coupons (usually under 99 cents).

4. Don’t shop on an empty stomach. Even if you know you’re on a budget, a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that you’re likely to spend more money if you don’t eat beforehand. So, before you hit the market, have a meal or take a snack with you if you’re on the go.

5. Use cash. “It’s psychologically more difficult to fork over cash than a credit card,” says Jeanette Pavini, Coupons.com’s household savings expert. It’s said that using cash when grocery shopping will cut your spending by about 25 percent. Before going grocery shopping, stop at an ATM so that you’re fully stocked up on cash. You could also start a “grocery jar” and drop a few bucks into it each day or week, and use it solely for food shopping.

6. Keep your focus. Does a product ever catch your eye so much that you evidently stop and examine it, mulling over whether you should purchase it? It turns out that the more you interact with a product, the more likely you are to buy it.

“Virtually all unplanned purchases…come as a result of the shopper seeing, touching, smelling, or tasting something that promises pleasure, if not total fulfillment,” says Paco Underhill in the book Why We Buy. Another way to avoid impulse buys? Ride your bike or walk to the store.

“It’s amazing how focused you can be when you are limited to one shopping bag full of groceries,” says Ross Williams, writer at simplemindedinvestor.com. “Once you are very conscious of each purchase, it seems to carry over even to the small items where space isn’t really an issue.”

7. Check over your receipt. Just because a product is on sale doesn’t mean the register will automatically ring it up correctly. Always watch your products being scanned and if something trips you up, don’t be afraid to ask politely if that price is correct.

Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Deb Kemp Promoted

Deb Kemp

Deb Kemp

Deb Kemp has been promoted to Assistant Vice President/Credit Card Manager at Merchants Bank, according to Sue Hovell, Senior Vice President/ Director of Sales and Marketing.

Kemp oversees Merchants Bank’s successful credit card and merchant processing area, which has grown substantially under her leadership, including about 10 percent per year over the past four years. Most recently, Kemp’s area doubled the amount of balance transfers acquired during its most recent balance transfer campaign. Additionally, the merchant processing part of her department, which helps businesses process credit card transactions, has grown significantly.

“The work Deb and her department have accomplished over the past few years has been significant in helping Merchants grow across all of our locations,” Hovell said. “She works with many employees across our organization, and I join them in congratulating her.”

Kemp has been with Merchants since 1992 and has been a part of the credit card department since 2001.