Little Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season

You don’t have to be a great detective to figure out that the holiday season is the time for giving. Retailers, from jewelry stores to auto manufacturers,season to give have made that painfully clear as they flood the airwaves and cyberspace with images of beautiful diamond bracelets and luxury cars with giant red bows. And while many of us would love to indulge and shower those we love with beautiful and expensive gifts, it’s simply not financially possible.

 

But to experience the true meaning of the holiday season, and the joy of giving, you don’t have to spend large amounts of money. There are plenty of little ways you can give back to make a big difference in the lives of others. Here are a few suggestions on how to give:

  • Collect canned goods and other foods and bring them to a food pantry. We have our annual Food and Toy Drive through December 7. Stop by any branch and drop off any donations and we would be happy to see that they make it to the food bank.
  • Donate old coats and boots to a shelter. The winter can be cold and harsh for many struggling families.
  • Visit elderly patients in nursing homes. The holidays can be a very lonely time for many people.
  • Buy someone’s cup of coffee in the drive-thru line.
  • Shovel a driveway or walkway for an elderly neighbor.
  • Write a letter or make a card to thank someone you care about.
  • Collect and donate toys to give to less fortunate children, or to children in hospitals.
  • Bake a cake or cookies for a neighbor.
  • Do an act of kindness for someone and invite them to do the same for someone else. You’ll start a chain of kindness.
  • Volunteer at a food pantry or homeless shelter and invite family members to join you. You’ll form a great bond of kindness.
  • Read to a child.
  • Smile and say hello to everyone you meet or encounter.
  • Send a card or letter to a soldier away from home.
  • Pick up trash to keep your community clean.
  • Share your skills. If you have expertise in a certain area, such as resume writing, tutoring, cooking, etc., volunteer your time to help others who could benefit from your knowledge.
  • Call or write a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while.

Start giving today!

Again, it doesn’t take much to give back; all you need is an open heart. And that’s a gift that’s priceless.

Tip for Shopping Online

Tips for Shopping Online 
(Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information)

Know who you’re dealing with.

Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name. Confirm the online seller’s physical address and phone number in case you have questions or online shoppingproblems. And if you get an email or pop-up message that asks for your financial information while you’re browsing, don’t reply or follow the link. Legitimate companies don’t ask for information that way.

Know what you’re buying.

Read the seller’s description of the product closely, especially the fine print. Words like “refurbished,” “vintage,” or “close-out” may indicate that the product is in less-than-mint condition, while name-brand items with bargain basement prices could be counterfeits.

Know what it will cost.

Check out websites that offer price comparisons and then compare “apples to apples.” Factor shipping and handling into the total cost of your purchase. Do not send cash or money transfers under any circumstances.

Check out the terms of the deal, like refund policies and delivery dates.

Can you return the item for a full refund if you’re not satisfied? If you return it, who pays the shipping costs or restocking fees, and when you will get your order? A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rule requires sellers to ship items as promised or within 30 days after the order date if no specific date is promised. Many sites offer tracking options, so you can see exactly where your purchase is and estimate when you’ll get it.

Pay by credit card.

If you pay by credit or charge card online, your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Under this law, you can dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates them. In the event that someone uses your credit card without your permission, your liability generally is limited to the first $50 in charges. Some companies guarantee that you won’t be held responsible for any unauthorized charges made to your card online; some cards provide additional warranty, return, and purchase protection benefits.

Keep Records.

Print or save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and the emails you send and receive from the seller. Read your credit card statements as you receive them; be on the lookout for charges that you don’t recognize.

Protect Your Information

Don’t email any financial information. Email is not a secure method of transmitting financial information like your credit card, checking account, or Social Security number. If you begin a transaction and need to give your financial information through an organization’s website, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a URL that begins “https” (the “s” stands for secure). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some fraudulent sites have forged security icons.

Check the privacy policy.

Really. It should let you know what personal information the website operators are collecting, why, and how they’re going to use the information. If you can’t find a privacy policy — or if you can’t understand it — consider taking your business to another site that’s more user-friendly.

Holiday budgeting tips

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or the general holiday season, chances are you’ll be spending money on things during this time ofholiday budget year that are outside your regular budget. Remember the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future in Charles Dickens’ classic story, A Christmas Carol? Those three ghosts have inspired a timeless strategy for holiday spending. Here are some tips for spending smart.

 

CHRISTMAS PAST

Look back. Review how much you spent last year and how you spent it. Analyze what you spent money on, over what period of time, and how you paid for it. If you used credit cards, be sure to look at how long it took you to pay them off. If you were still carrying Christmas debt on your credit card while on summer vacation, you may want to rethink how you handle the holidays.

CHRISTMAS PRESENT

Make a list. Include not only gifts, but decorations, cards & postage, food & drink, travel and any special stuff you’ll need to buy.

Decide how much you have to spend. Set a budget and stick to it. Period.

Comparison shop—use online resources. If you’ve taken time to make a list of who you’ll be buying for, it will be easy to think about what to buy for them. Start shopping at home—or at least start looking at home. Go online for gift ideas and start comparing prices.

Use cash if possible. Since you’ve established a budget, done your homework to find the best price and have committed to staying within your budget, shopping with cash will be a cinch. You’ll be forced to think about an impulse purchase, perhaps thinking it through to the point of realizing it really isn’t worth it. If you do choose to use credit cards, be sure to exercise discipline to stay within your budget.

Track Expenses. Track every dollar you spend: cash, checks and credit cards. It doesn’t matter if you use money management software, a spreadsheet or the back of an old Christmas card, but be sure to record how you spend. Not only will this keep you on track, but it will also help with returns and with planning for next year.

Beware of the spirit of Christmas Present(s). Retailers spend a lot of time and even more money to help you “get in the spirit”. Their hope is that the more spirit you have the more money you will spend. Hold strong against developing an overly generous heart for the wrong reasons. That happy high in your gut at the register will likely be replaced with a spending hangover when the credit card bill arrives. 

CHRISTMAS FUTURE

Shop early. Buy next year’s holiday decorations on clearance as soon as the holidays are over. Keep your eyes open for bargains throughout the year and stash them away. Beware though: track that spending and don’t lose track of what you’ve bought.

Save all year. Make holiday saving a year round commitment. Set up an account at a local bank, perhaps a different bank than your main bank, just for holiday savings. Set aside a designated amount with each paycheck or as you pay your monthly bills.

With a little planning and some discipline, the holidays can truly be a relaxing time to enjoy family, friends and responsible gift-giving.

Fifth Annual Food and Toy Drive November 12-December 7. Donate today!

You can help us make a difference and brighten up the holiday season for those in need.Holiday Food & Toy Drive

 

We’re proud to announce the start of our Fifth Annual Food and Toy Drive. Each year it brings us great pleasure to bring back this special seasonal event to help support the organizations and individuals in our communities.

Helping others during the holidays

You can drop off non-perishable food goods, such as canned vegetables and fruit, soups, baby formula, powdered milk, peanut butter and hot/cold cereals, at any Community Bank branch between November 12 and December 7.

Collections made in Southern Maryland will be donated to the Southern Maryland Food Bank, collections in King George County will be donated to the Department of Social Services for the King George Food Pantry and collections in Fredericksburg will be donated to the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank.

We are also collecting new, unwrapped toys to distribute to local families with young children during the holidays. Toys collected will support the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program.

Introducing a safer way to pay

The last time you were in a retail store, you may have noticed swiping your card through a brand new card reader. Many retailers are currently in the process of updating their payment systems to accept chip cards, the latest and safest way to pay. In the coming weeks, Community Bank of the Chesapeake will begin updating our customers’ cards, issuing new Checkcards with security chips. Here are a few things you need to know in advance ofGraphic_2 the rollout.

What does the microchip do?

The chip in your card adds an extra layer of security by creating a unique, one-time use code every time you dip your card at a chip-enabled terminal. Your purchase can only be approved with the chip-generated code. The bad news for would-be fraudsters is that the chip in your card is virtually impossible to duplicate, meaning that making counterfeit chip cards is much more difficult than counterfeiting magnetic striped cards.

How do you pay with a chip card?

Paying with a chip card is easy! Instead of swiping it like you would a magnetic strip card, you insert the card into the slot at the bottom of the machine so that the chip can be read. Leave the card in the machine while the transaction processes. You may be prompted to sign for your purchase. On some terminals, the machine will beep to alert you that the transaction is complete and that it is safe to remove your card. Remember to always take your card out of the machine!

You can use your new chip card anywhere magnetic cards are accepted.

Your card will still have a magnetic strip, which means that you can still use the card at a retailer that hasn’t upgraded to a chip-enabled point of sale terminal. Be aware, however, that the chip functionality will only work at retailers that have activated their chip terminals.

You still need to guard against fraud when you use your card online, over the phone or by mail.

Unlike with in-store transactions, there is no card-reading device receiving the secret, one-time authentication code from the microchip to verify your card’s authenticity. This means that you still need to remain vigilant when shopping online or giving your card data over the phone or by mail. You should always be sure to monitor your account on a regular basis and report any unauthorized transactions to your bank as soon as possible. When shopping online, always verify that the site is secure before entering your payment information.

While these new chip cards cannot completely eliminate the threat of fraud or data breaches, they will go a long way to help keep your card data and information safe. If you have any questions about chip cards or how to use them, please visit your local branch or call us toll free at 888-745-2265. Be sure to keep an eye on our website, cbtc.com, for updates on when you can expect to receive your chip card.

Check out this infographic from the American Bankers Association to learn more about how to use your chip card!

We will begin issuing EMV cards to all card holders beginning November 30, 2015. There is no need to request a new card and there is no extra charge.  You will automatically receive your new card in the mail before your current card’s expiration date.  Once your new card arrives, be sure to activate it for use and then destroy your old card. If you have any questions, please contact your local branch or call us toll free at 888-745-2265.

 

Halloween Safety Tips

It’s the most “spooktacular” time of the year. That annual ritual when young pirates, princesses, superheroes, mermaids, and other characters venture out into the streets to collect tasty treats from friends and neighbors. But while Halloween can bring joy and excitement to children, it can bring worries to parents about their children’s safety. Here are some simple tips to ensure your child enjoys the treats of the season — and stays safe.Halloween Safety

 

Food Safety:

  • Instruct your children to eat only factory wrapped candy or treats from people they know and trust.
  • Carefully examine all the candy and treats for any signs of tampering.
  • Read the labels on all candy packaging. This is especially important to parents whose children have dangerous food and other allergies.

Costume Safety:

  • Ensure costumes are flame retardant.
  • Do not have your children wear masks or other equipment that obstructs their vision.
  • Before applying makeup, be sure to test it on a small section of your child’s skin to prevent an allergic reaction.
  • Ensure your child’s costume is not too long, which could cause them to trip or fall.
  • Choose comfortable shoes, such as sneakers. While princess heels may look great, they may cause your child to fall or experience foot pain.
  • Make sure your costumes are bright or reflective. Or, purchase reflective tape that can be adhered to any costume.

Road Safety:

  • Make sure young children are always accompanied by an adult.
  • Have children carry flashlights so that they can see and be seen.
  • Keep children on sidewalks and instruct them to walk not run.

General Safety:

  • Adhere to the trick-or-treat hours your city or town has established.
  • Instruct children to stay away from candles and lighted jack-o-lanterns or other decorations that use fire.
  • Teach children not to enter any houses without being accompanied by a trusted adult.
  • Ensure children only go to houses of people they know.
  • If a house is dark, instruct children to stay away.

Home Safety

If you plan on handing out treats, here are some safety rules to ensure the safety of trick or treaters who visit you.

  • Turn on outside lights and make a clear path so young visitors can see where they are going.
  • Choose healthier, lower calorie snacks.
  • Limit the amount of snacks you provide to your young guests.
  • Turn out your lights when trick or treating has ended in your city or town or when you run out of candy.

Treat yourself to more safety tips.

For more helpful tips on keeping children safe, visit the Center for Disease Control or the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Holiday Travel Survival Tips

There’s an old expression that says “getting there is half the fun”, but if you’ve ever Happy family driving in  the car surrounded by snow.taken road trip, you know that all that time spent traveling in close quarters for long periods of time isn’t exactly restful. Throw in extra holiday traffic and the excited frenzy of the holiday season and traveling by car can be especially stressful.

Ways to Make Your Journey a Little Less Bumpy This Holiday Season

Before you head out on the road with your family to visit loved ones or take a much-needed vacation this holiday season, be sure to read these important survival tips:

  1. Take a reliable vehicle. Your old minivan might be comfortable, but it also could break down, leaving you in the worst situation possible: stranded with cranky children. Even if you have a newer car, it’s important to have routine maintenance done before you leave.
  2. Join a travel club. In the unfortunate event your car breaks down, you’ll be able to get roadside assistance. Companies like AAA can also bring you other benefits like discounts on shopping, dining and hotels, in addition to helping you out if you’re stranded.
  3. Map your route in advance. Today there is no shortage of online tools to help you map out a route. Give your route to a family member so that they know how to locate you.
  4. Plan your travel times. If you have younger children, plan your travel around their sleep schedules. Traveling at night is a great way to avoid heavy rush hour traffic.
  5. Pack healthy snacks and refreshments. Bring along a cooler with water, fruit and other refreshments, and pack other healthy snacks. Avoid unhealthy sugary foods.
  6. Stay connected. Charge your cellphone before leaving, and don’t forget bring along your car charger. Also, be sure to charge those electronic games and music players in advance!
  7. Play family games. In the event that those electronic games or players run out of battery life, there’s nothing like a good old fashioned game of “license plate” to engage children.
  8. Dress comfortably. Dress kids in loose, comfortable clothing or even their pajamas for nighttime travel.
  9. Play good music. Bring along relaxing music for the ride. Be sure to select songs you and your children will enjoy.

And lastly…

  1. Remember to keep your sense of humor and a positive attitude!

Online Holiday Shopping Tips

If the weather outside is frightful (or if you’re just looking to save some time), online shopping is the way to go for your holiday purchases. The advOnline shopping safetyantages to the online marketplace are many: no lines, no crowds and no multi-store trips to find that one specific toy. As you zoom from Amazon to Etsy and back again, here are some tips to make your holiday shopping as productive and safe as possible:

  • Protect your data

The holiday shopping season always comes with a host of horror stories about identity theft, so when you log on, make sure you take the proper steps to keep your information safe. Shop only through sites you trust and always check that the site is secure. Secure sites typically have URLs that being with “https” instead of “http” on any page where you’re entering card information. Additionally, you should always see a lock icon somewhere in your browser window when you’re on a secure page.

  • Choose credit

When it comes to checkout time, it’s better to use a credit card rather than a debit card for online purchases. Credit cards tend to have a higher level of fraud protection than debit cards, and you are not liable for debt incurred after a credit card is reported lost or stolen. On the other hand, if your debit card information is compromised, your entire bank account balance could be at risk.

  • Keep track of those receipts

Have a designated place (either a physical folder or folder in your email inbox) to keep track of your receipts, payment confirmations and tracking numbers for your purchases. Always be sure to read the fine print with respect to returns; different vendors’ policies will differ where returns and exchanges are concerned.

  • Buy items together to save on shipping

The one obvious downside to online shopping is the cost of shipping. Depending on the site and the shipping option you choose, a reasonably priced item could easily become one that causes you to hesitate at the checkout page. Sites like Amazon offer you the option to bundle items together and ship them in the fewest boxes possible to save you money, and may also offer free shipping when you spend a certain dollar amount. Plan out your shopping in advance to maximize your transactions on each site—it will help you take advantage of these benefits and keep your shipping costs low.

  • Check the dates

Speaking of shipping, pay close attention to the estimated shipping times on your purchases and make sure to leave enough time for things to arrive. Most sites will provide you with a tracking number for your package once it’s shipped.

Remember: Identity theft increases around the holidays, so take extra care when shopping online. Here are some additional safe shopping tips from Webroot.com.

Don’t Let the Grinch Steal Your Identity—Seven Tips for Safe Holiday Shopping

While you may be dreaming of a white Christmas, an iIdentityTheftdentity thief may be dreaming of stealing your identity. With higher traffic both in stores and online on retail websites around the holidays, identity theft is known to increase during this time of year. As you prepare to start your holiday shopping, here are a few tips to keep your identity safe:

-When you shop, carry only the cards you plan to use. Keeping some of your cards separate could help minimize the damage if your wallet is stolen.

-Know where your cards are at all times. Shopping in stores around the holidays can be stressful, and it can be easy to lose track of your card when you’re rushing. Make sure your card makes it safely back into your wallet after each transaction, and keep your wallet close.

-Check for evidence of tampering before you use an ATM to obtain cash. Glue and overlays on the card reader are common indicators of tampering. Trust your instincts; if you suspect a machine has been tampered with, consider withdrawing cash somewhere else. Also, remember to protect your PIN from anyone who may try to read it over your shoulder when you’re using an ATM machine or POS terminal.

-Monitor your account activity through online banking and check your monthly statements closely. Your shopping patterns are likely to change around the holidays, which means it’s important to check your statements even more closely than usual to ensure that there are no fraudulent charges. Hold on to your receipts to help you verify your transactions, and contact your financial institution or card provider immediately if you see a charge that you did not make.

-Make sure you’re securely shopping online. If you’re shopping online, make sure your computer has the most up-to-date antivirus software, and that you’re only giving out credit card information on authenticated sites. You can tell whether a site is secure by looking for the prefix “https” before the web address, or a green bar around your search bar when you go to checkout.

-Keep yourself up to date on any large-scale data breaches that occur. Large retail data breaches are becoming more and more commonplace, and it’s impossible to know when the next one will be, or which store will be affected. If a data breach occurs at a store you frequent, be proactive: call or check the store’s website for specific information, and if the situation warrants it, cancel your card and request a new one from your financial institution. Some retailers may offer free credit monitoring services for a limited time after a large-scale breach, but it’s also a good idea to consider making those kinds of services a permanent part of your defense against identity theft.

-Hold off on that social media post. While cyber-crime is a growing threat, you should also protect yourself from the threat of burglary. Refrain from sharing your holiday travel plans with your entire social network; letting the world know you’ll be on vacation for a week could give a prospective burglar a golden opportunity to break into your home.

For more tips on staying safe during your holiday shopping, check out this article from the Washington Post.

 

Community Bank of the Chesapeake Wins Financial Education Award for Financial Scholars Program

Waldorf, Maryland, December 1, 2014 – Community Bank of the Chesapeake was recently recognized by the Maryland Banker’s Association’s Financial Education Awards for its efforts to promote financial literacy in schools. The Bank received a second place recognition in the Young Adults Category for its Financial Scholars Program, powered by EverFi, which is currently available in 13 high schools within the Bank’s service area.

“Encouraging financial literacy is one of our goals at Community Bank, and we are delighted to accept this award,” said Hillary Theriault, Senior Vice President, Director of Marketing for Community Bank of the Chesapeake. “Our Financial Scholars Program gives high school students the opportunity to build a solid understanding of personal finance, which we feel is essential as they prepare to become financially independent adults.”

Launched by Community Bank in 2011, the Financial Scholars Program is a 10-unit course that offers six hours of programming aimed at teaching, testing and certifying students in a variety of financial topics such as credit scores, insurance, credit cards, student loans, mortgages, taxes, stocks, savings, 401(k)s and other critical concepts. The system tracks the progress and score of every student and provides those who successfully complete the course with certification in financial literacy.

The Financial Scholars Program is currently operated in high schools throughout Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties, and fulfills the financial literacy requirement for high school graduation required by the State of Maryland. Since the program’s inception, it has reached over 5,800 students.

The Maryland Banker’s Association’s Financial Education Awards recognize the outstanding consumer education initiatives taking place across Maryland. Awards are given in various categories for programs and activities that reinforce financial education concepts such as developing good savings, budgeting techniques, money management skills, establishing and managing credit, understanding mortgage and consumer lending products and a variety of consumer protection practices. These prestigious awards, bestowed by the Financial Education Council, recognize the outstanding efforts of the MBA’s Charter Members who are actively engaged in consumer education outreach.

About EverFi
EverFi is building and operating the nation’s largest network for K-12 online education in off-curriculum, but highly valuable content areas such as financial literacy, student loan management and other key life skills for the 21st century student. EverFi’s award-winning platform is designed to provide a highly engaging experience for students and features the latest technology and instructional design, including rich media, high definition video, 3D simulations and social networking. EverFi is powering a national movement that enables corporations and foundations to partner with schools and colleges to use the EverFi platform to deliver a measurable and lifelong impact on students.

About Community Bank of the Chesapeake
Headquartered in Waldorf, Maryland, Community Bank of the Chesapeake is a full-service commercial bank, with assets over $1 billion. Through its 12 banking centers and four dedicated commercial lending centers, Community Bank of the Chesapeake offers a broad range of financial products and services to individuals and businesses. Community Bank of the Chesapeake is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Community Financial Corporation (NASDAQ: TCFC). More information about Community Bank of the Chesapeake can be found at www.cbtc.com.