Archive for the ‘ Holiday ’ Category

Keep Your Furry Friends Safe at the Holidays


While there’s no place like home for the holidays, you’ll want to keep these tips in mind for keeping your pets safe during the festivities. Holiday decorations and celebrations can prove dangerous for your furry friends.

  • Trade in the tinsel. Although it adds some pretty bling to your tree, tinsel can wreak havoc on your pet’s digestive tract if ingested. Ultimately, it can block your pet’s intestines, leaving your pet in pain and facing possible surgery. It’s best to find an alternative way to bring that extra sparkle to your tree.
  • Tree trouble. Make sure to anchor your tree so that it doesn’t tip over, possibly hurting your pet. If you have a real tree, it’s also a good idea to keep the area tidy – free of loose pine needles. If ingested, they could puncture your pet’s intestines.
  • Pass up poisonous plants. You probably know that poinsettias are poisonous to dogs and cats, but did you know that holly and mistletoe can be even more toxic if eaten? If you do chose to bring these items into your home, make sure to keep them in an area where your pet cannot reach them. Even better – choose artificial plants instead.
  • Wrapping this weekend? Make sure to keep your pet away from the supplies and the scissors. Before you know it, they could be swallowing your string or chewing the wrapping paper and you could be in for a trip to the emergency vet.
  • Merry and bright. Candles create ambiance, but they can be dangerous to pets. Always place lit candles on a high surface and blow them out when you leave the room. Curious kitties could burn themselves or knock a candle over in a heartbeat. Looking for an alternative? Choose  battery operated candles. They’re just as pretty and safer for you and your pets.
  • Ringing in the New Year? While the New Year presents lots of fun for us, your pets may not enjoy them as much. Fireworks and noisemakers can scare your furry friends and damage sensitive ears. Throwing a party? Keep your pets inside at all times (they could bolt if outside during  fireworks) and provide a safe haven for them. Stock a comfortable room with their beds, toys, food, water and a litter box.

It’s important to keep your loved one’s health in mind throughout the rest of the year, too. Did you know? We partner with Petplan® Pet Insurance to provide dogs and cats the care they deserve.* You can obtain comprehensive, flexible and affordable coverage for your  furry friends. Petplan policyholders may visit any licensed veterinarian in the United States and Canada for treatment of all unexpected accidents and illnesses – including hereditary and chronic conditions. For a free instant quote, go to Just enter promotion code SUB0109C and you’ll receive a 5% premium discount and an additional 5% discount for buying online. Questions? Call Petplan® at (866) 467-3875.

*Terms and conditions apply. For full details, visit Coverage under any pet insurance policy is expressly subject to the conditions, restrictions, limitations, exclusions and terms of the policy documentation issued by the insurer. Availability of this program is subject to each state’s approval and coverage may vary by state. Pet insurance policies are issued by AGCS Marine Insurance Company and administered by Fetch Insurance Services, LLC (Fetch Insurance Agency LLC in Michigan) d/b/a Petplan (Petplan Insurance Agency, LLC in California).

Is a department store credit card worth it?

woman shopping

We’ve all been there: you’re at a department store standing in line to make a purchase and the cashier offers you a chance to save a few extra dollars by opening a store credit card. While saving money is almost always an appealing option, you may be wary of opening another line of credit.

Store credit cards aren’t always bad. However, they’re certainly not always good either. Whether or not you choose to open one should depend on a number of factors, the most important being your own financial situation and the specific terms and conditions attached to the card.

The main pros associated with department store credit cards include:

  • Special Discounts: Department stores often provide perks to store credit card holders, including special discounts, free shipping and tickets to special events. If you frequently shop at the store anyway, signing up for a credit card could help you to save a lot of extra money. However, it’s important to look very closely at the rules surrounding the discounts first, to make sure you’re getting a good deal. For example, some stores require you to charge a significant amount before you get access to savings perks. On the plus side, other stores offer cash back right at checkout, which can really add up. Always be sure to read the fine print.
  • Establish Credit: If you don’t have much of a credit history or are trying to repair a damaged one, opening a store credit card can help to raise your score. Department store credit cards are typically much easier to obtain than traditional credit cards. As long as you shop responsibly and pay the balance off each month, it will look good on your credit report.
  • Fund Major Purchases: Some store credit cards offer a zero percent interest rate for the first six months or a year, which can help you finance major purchases when you need them, instead of waiting until you can save up the cash. However, it’s important to finish making payments before the interest kicks in or you’ll owe some serious extra money.

While opening a store credit card can have its benefits, there are also many drawbacks. The biggest cons of department store credit cards are:

  • Lower Credit Score: If you have a good credit score already, opening too many department store cards per year can lower it. Even if you only open the card to take advantage of the initial discount, pay it off, and cancel it, that doesn’t remove the inquiry from your credit report. As a general rule of thumb, don’t open more than one or two lines of credit per year.
  • High Interest Rates: Department store credit cards may have much higher interest rates than you’d find with a traditional credit card. Confirm the interest rate before you sign up for the card.
  • Low Credit Limit: As department store credit cards are typically much easier to obtain than traditional credit cards, you usually won’t get too high of a spending limit. While this can be a good thing, it can also be annoying if you have the money to do some pricey shopping, but can’t put your entire purchase on the card.

Making the decision to open a new credit card is a big deal. You should never rush into something that can have such a huge impact on your finances. While it can be tempting to sign up for a store credit card on a whim to save a little extra money at checkout, don’t do it. Take the time to read the fine print and really think about whether the card is a good fit for you.

There are other credit card options that offer you low interest rates, no annual fees, and reasonable limits. Some cards also allow you to make purchases and reap rewards from purchases outside of a single store. If after weighing your options you decide a store credit card is for you, open an account on your next trip to the store.

 Guest blogger: John Gower, NerdWallet

Don’t Let Your Holidays Go Up In Smoke


Don’t become a statistic. Every year fires ruin the holiday season. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, fires take the lives of over 400 people and cause more than $990 million in damage. Cooking, decorating and home heating are often to blame. We know it’s a great time to relax by a toasty fire, but make sure to take some precautions. Here are 12 tips to get you started:

1)      Ensure that your fireplace has a sturdy screen to contain sparks.

2)      Always cool your fireplace – ashes first – and then place them in a metal container when discarding them. It’s also a good idea to keep that container away from your house.

3)      Never toss wrapping paper in the fire. It’s highly combustible.

4)      Holiday decorations make the season bright, but make sure to examine your holiday lights for wear and tear.

5)      Use candles only in an area where they are attended. Scented candles contain oils which cause them to spark and catch materials on fire.

6)      Stay in the kitchen while you’re cooking. Keep all flammable items away from open flames and keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

7)      Talk to your children about fire safety. Teach them not to touch cords, electric lights, or decorations.

8)      Designate the kitchen as a kid-free zone while cooking and turn pot handles inward in case your child sneaks by you.

9)      If you have a tree, keep it at least three feet away from heat sources (candles, heat vents, fireplaces, etc.).

10)  If you are using a fresh-cut tree, always maintain water in the base to keep it from drying out.  Lights on a dry tree can cause it to catch fire.

11)  Know which lights and extension cords you’re using. Check the label to determine whether they should be used indoor or outdoor.

12)  Test your smoke alarm. If you need new batteries, change them.

Don’t forget! Members 1st also offers a variety of coverage options to protect you and your family, including homeowners, renters, and dwelling fire insurance. Contact one of our insurance specialists at (800) 283-2328, ext. 5218 or 5245 or visit (click on Products and Services>Insurance Services).


International Travel Made Easy with our NEW VISA Re-loadable Pre-Paid EMV Chip Card

Feel like going international? Make sure you get our new International VISA Re-loadable Pre-Paid EMV Chip Card  (EMV= Eurocard, Mastercard and VISA) before you cross the US borders.  Our International VISA Re-loadable EMV Chip Card is the perfect traveling companion for anyone visiting locations outside of the United States.

Designed with the latest technology in a fully reloadable card product, the card features an embedded microchip that aids in reducing the chances of unexpected transactional inconveniences such as transactions being denied or rejected because of lack of merchant training; the use of chip-only unattended subway and vending terminals; and the fact that some overseas merchants do not want to accept the magnetic stripe cards because of risk.

It also delivers full debit card functionality at the point-of-sale, ATM access, cash advances and may be used online. This card product is specifically designed for our Credit Union members who are working, traveling, living or studying in Canada, Europe and other regions of the world where EMV Chip Card technology is the preferred method of payment.

“This step into EMV Chip Card technology has two objectives for us – first to serve our international traveling membership and ensure smooth transactional experiences abroad; and second to deliver greater levels of security and risk mitigation tools within our card programs including our pre-paid programs and standard debit and credit cards,” explained Jim Heile,  our Assistant Vice President of Card Services. “While we’re doing all that we can to protect our members from fraud, account security risks and identity theft, we don’t have control over what others are doing elsewhere. This puts that extra layer in place in addition to the added convenience when a member is outside of the US border.”

In a recent study completed by VISA, it was reported that the decline ratio in international locations throughout the world has reached 10.7% because of the lack of EMV Chips and international merchants being reluctant to accept older magnetic stripe technology.

The EMV Chip Card also allows a member to travel without having to obtain foreign currency prior to the trip. The Card can be used to make purchases at millions of VISA debit locations worldwide and to obtain cash at any VISA ATM worldwide. Even merchants in countries who only accept cards with a Chip will be able to approve the transaction. However, note that some unattended kiosk terminals outside the U.S. such as luggage cart rentals, parking garages, even transit terminals may decline an International Prepaid Card due to the way the authorization is sent.

George Nahodil, our Executive Vice President of Retail Delivery, Public Relations and Marketing, believes our members will appreciate this new product. “We’re definitely excited about being able to add this product to our Card mix. If there is any way we can make our members’ experience positive, be it here or overseas, we’ll find a way to do just that. We’ve found that the United Kingdom, Italy and France are the top three countries where members are beginning to experience major changes at the point-of-sale. Even our neighbors in Canada are in the midst of a major migration to EMV Chip Card point-of-sale terminals at merchants. This Card is perfect for business travelers as well as students who may be studying abroad as well as the casual traveler,” he said.

 “We not sitting back watching what others are doing, we’re very much involved in the future today and EMV Chip Card technology is just the beginning,” said Heile.

How do you get your International VISA Re-loadable Pre-Paid EMV Chip Card? First you have to be a member of our Credit Union. This card may be purchased by any member at one of our conveniently located 51 branches or through For more information about obtaining an International VISA Re-loadable Pre-Paid EMV/Chip card, interested individuals may call (800) 283-2328, ext. 6035 or visit; click “Products & Services”, followed by “Card Services”.

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