Tis the season for holiday shopping and credit offers

It is literally happening within hours. The official holiday shopping season floodgates are about to open. Whether it’s 9 p.m. or midnight on Thanksgiving night, the bargain hunting Black Friday (er, Black Thursday?) faithful will be hitting retail outlets far and wide for this year’s hottest find at the right price. Let the Christmas shopping begin!

Christmas shopping should be considered an Olympic sport. Bargain hunting isn’t easy. There’s a lot of physical and mental preparation going into it. And it can leave you emotionally drained. You have to dodge other shoppers, be careful and mindful you don’t run anyone over with your cart (or that they nail you). You have to carry, lift, push, grab, stand in line, walk, load the car, unload the car, and finally wrap. It’s tiring just thinking about it. As fun as it can be, it can also be dangerous in many ways. Each year many shoppers or retail employees are injured or worse because some shoppers take the spirit of “Black Friday” bargain shopping to the extreme. We encourage you to keep in mind no bargain is worth someone getting hurt.

Despite the physical exhaustion from the thrill of the hunt, Black Friday can also be dangerous to your wallet and your budget.  You’re going to be inundated with on the spot discounts at the register. In case you’re a Black Friday rookie, they go like this, “Will that be on your ABC Card?” or “Do you have an ABC Card? Would you like one? You can save 15% today just for applying.”

When you hear those words, think twice. Unless you already have the store card and consistently pay it in full each month, say no thank you and use cash, or VISA debit card or a major credit card that offers rewards such as annual cash-back rebates based on purchasing.

Store cards are not necessarily the bargain the sound like. Sure, you get 15% off that purchase immediately, but if you don’t pay off that balance when the statement comes, you may be in for big surprise. Suddenly that discounted purchase is costing you anywhere from 18% to 22% or more in interest because you now have a balance on your card. Just dare to make one late payment.  Add in a few late fees or over limit fees at $15 or $30 a pop and you’ll be suffering from the not-s0-much-of -a-bargain blues. Do the math. It doesn’t seem to add up quite right, does it?

Let’s say you take advantage of one or more store credit cards this season. Not only do you have your discounted purchases, but you also just made yourself more bills to pay. Remember every time you apply for a new card, your credit report is reviewed. Yes, you can apply for all of these cards and pay them off after the holidays. But, the fact remains that for every single card you just opened to save a few dollars, the credit bureaus have been tapped. Multiple credit requests within a short period of time can have an adverse affect on your credit later and your ability to be approved for a better rate loan for a car or home.

Remember most store cards don’t offer additional perks other than a monthly billing statement and an occasional bonus discount for being a preferred shopper. For a better bang for your buck consider the following:

  1. Use a Visa debit card – it’s like shopping with cash without carrying the cash. You debit your checking account. It keeps your budget in check. We offer a Visa debit card with a monthly cash-back rebate. It’s a great way to earn a few extra dollars each month.
  2. Use a re-loadable prepaid Visa card – This is another great tool to keep your shopping budget on track. You load money on your card and can only spend what’s available.
  3. Use a credit card that offers rewards. Whether it’s cash-back rebates based on annual purchasing or reward points for travel and merchandise, this may be a better option for you. And your interest rate and other fees may be a lot lower than store cards.
  4. Open a holiday savings club account. Plan ahead for your shopping. Even if you only save a few hundred dollars, that’s a few hundred dollars more going into the holiday shopping season compared to starting with zero dollars.
  5. Use lay-away. Many retailers are going back to providing this shopping service. It’s convenient and easy.
  6. Check out online bargains. Many times you can get free shipping this time of year. That could mean saving money on gas.

Our point is, be a smart holiday shopper. Be wary of on-the-spot discount offers. Read and understand the fine print – that’s where you’re going to find out all about those hidden surprises that show up later on your monthly billing statements.

Have fun shopping. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Members 1st Federal Credit Union.

How to buy car insurance

Purchasing the right auto insurance can be confusing, especially for first-time buyers. Here are a few tips to help you learn some of the basic elements that can help you get the most for your money and feel confident that you have the right coverage. The most important thing to do is learn – ask your insurance agent questions, make comparisons and never make the costly mistake of driving without car insurance.

Our Insurance Services experts offer the following tips:

  1. Be a safe driver. Drivers with good driving records can save as much as 60 percent over drivers who cause accidents.
  2. Enroll in a driving class. Drivers who complete a state-approved defensive driving course, or drivers under the age of 21 who take a driver training course either through their high school or elsewhere, could qualify for savings.
  3. Buy a car that includes safety features such as anti-lock brakes, alarms or other security features like airbags and automatic seat belts.
  4. Consider a higher deductible. A deductible is what you pay out of your own pocket before the insurance policy kicks in. A higher deductible could mean less expensive premiums.
  5. Eliminate unnecessary coverages. If you drive an older car with little cash value, consider eliminating “collision” or “comprehensive” coverage which pays for damage to or theft of your car.
  6. Insure more than one car with the same company and you may be eligible for savings.
  7. Insure your car and home (or get your renter’s insurance) through the same company and you could be eligible for multi-policy discounts.
  8. Ask about low-mileage discounts if you car pool or do not put a lot of miles on your car annually.
  9. If you are a student, ask about student discounts for completing a behind-the-wheel training at school and for qualifying grade point averages. There could also be discounts if a driver in your household is living away at college and not driving as much.
  10. Buy a safer car that will cost less to repair and less to insure. Research crash-test reports, repair records and manufacturer recalls of any car you’re thinking about buying.

How would you like a free car insurance quote? If you need insurance or have questions, one of our personal insurance representatives are available to assist you. Give us a call at (800) 283-2328, ext. 5218. Members 1st Insurance Services is an independent insurance agency working for you and is available only to residents of Pennsylvania.

Get $10 when you refer a friend

Do You Belong?

Bank Transfer Day – Saturday, November 5, 2011
Make the Switch to Members 1st FCU – Receive $10

The big day is coming in less than 24-hours. While any day is the right day to switch to a credit union, thousands of bank customers are expected to take a stand against big bank fees and practices on Saturday, November 5 by taking their money elsewhere.

If you are currently one of our members you can help this movement known as Bank Transfer Day by referring your friends, family, co-workers, or neighbors to Members 1st FCU. If your referral opens an account between November 5 and November 30, 2011, both you and your referral will get $10 each. This small token of our appreciation has big value. You, as a member, already know the benefits of being a credit union member. It’s now time for everyone else to do the same.

How to make a referral:

  1. Download and print this Refer a Friend form
  2. Fill in your contact information and give it to your referral(s)
  3. Your referral simply needs to bring it into any branch when he/she opens their NEW account (current joint owners on any Members 1st account are not eligible to be a referral)

Become one of more than 92 million Americans nationwide who are already enjoying the advantages of credit union membership. Consumers that do make the switch will find that on just about any given day, on average, credit unions offer higher return on most savings, lower rates on most loans, and lower (or no) fees than other financial institutions charge. Not everybody can join any credit union but rest assured there is a credit union for everybody, according to the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association.

For additional information:

Members 1st FCU

(800) 237-7288

Your voice counts in so many ways

The customers of one big name financial institution spoke. Their voice was loud and clear. And that collective voice made the cookie crumble – at least for a while. In case you haven’t heard, Bank of America (BofA), one of the nation’s largest financial institutions (JPMorgan Chase is number one according to a recent article in the New York Times), has decided to abandon its plan to charge its customers a $5 fee to use their debit card for purchases.

Imagine – big business listening to the people who keep it in business. Why the change of plans? Could they not handle the outpouring of complaints? Maybe the looming Bank Transfer Day planned for Saturday, November 5 had something to do with it.  Perhaps Molly Katchpole, the 22-year old from Washington who used Change.org to organize a 300,000+ signature collection platform had a bit of influence. Maybe BofA customers were upset with their bank’s decision to cut thousands of jobs to allegedly save money but yet chose to add yet another fee. One thing is certain, BofA and the others (Wells Fargo, SunTrust, JPMorgan Chase, Regions Financial) will have something else up their sleeve that they’ll spring on their customers once this debit card fee dust settles. You don’t have to be a savvy, degreed financier or Wall Street analyst to know that they’ll have to make up for lost income somehow.

The media – social and mainstream – will let us know in due time. For now, there’s a lesson to be learned here. Don’t ever think your voice doesn’t matter. It does matter. In fact it’s one of the most powerful tool you can use. Remember the old shampoo commercial from the 1970’s? The lady in the commercial told 2 friends about how great the shampoo was. And they told 2 friends. And they told 2 friends. And so on and so on. Good news travels fast. Bad news travels even faster. Fast-forward to 2011 — all you need to do is update your status on Facebook, post on your blog, tweet, text, rant in a YouTube video, or start a grassroots campaign on Change.org and voila, you’ve just told hundreds or thousands within a fraction of time. Your voice becomes the enabler of change.

Your voice can make a huge difference and companies should be willing to listen. Voices indirectly pay their salaries. That’s why at Members 1st we listen.  We make channels available to you to let us know what you want, need, and how you feel about the way we conduct ourselves as a member-0wned organization. Your voice drives what products and services we offer. Your voice drives the changes in how we deliver those products and services. Your voice counts as we lack stockholders but have a volunteer board of directors who come from our membership (if you don’t have an account with us, you can’t be a board member).  Bob Marquette, our President & CEO, strives for nothing less than our delivering to you what he calls an “unparalleled experience” at all times and all of our associates are expected to serve you in that capacity.

Don’t ever think your voice doesn’t matter in business, banking, or any other realm. Someone once said, “If we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.”  So if your bank isn’t taking care of you, come see us.

We’re growing and growing

We just opened our 50th branch and that means more convenience for you, especially if you happen to be in the Lancaster area. If you’re heading out to Lancaster, PA and you’re near Lowe’s, Costco or Best Buy or running other errands, stop by our newest branch located at 1815 Hempstead Road. It’s our 4th branch in Lancaster County.

While opening another building may seem dime-a-dozen and particularly unnoteworthy, it shows just how far we’ve come from that 9-member credit union that started with a desk in a hallway back in 1950. Since that time, we’ve grown into a $2 billion full-service financial institution with 200,000 members and 50 branches.  One of the things that sets us apart is not only do we have 50 branches, but we also have all of the latest online and mobile banking technology. That means we can give you bricks and mortar and anywhere convenience day or night. It is truly the best of both worlds.

Stop by our grand opening celebration event on Saturday, November 19, 2011, from 10 am to 1 pm and meet us.  Bob, our President & CEO (aka the Advice Guy of those television commercials) will be there  as well as 101 the Rose (live broadcast 10 am to noon). Some of our Marketing team members will be serving free hotdogs, sodas/water and will have games and prizes for you and the kids. Be sure to enter to win a free iPad – just in time for the holidays! Of course we’ll have some great special offers that we can’t tell you about here – you’ll simply just have to stop in and open your NEW account to find out what they are!

We look forward to meeting you so stop by this new branch and say hi to Judy, our Hempstead Road branch manager, and her staff and see just how we do it when it comes to putting our members first and bringing another choice of financial institutions to beautiful Lancaster County.

Make the Switch Now

It has made national headlines, Facebook and blog posts and is the subject of countless tweets all thanks to a 27-year old California woman who just got tired and fed up. She got so fed up and tired that her disgust, disillusionment and disappointment with a particular well-known big name financial institution that she single-handedly started a national “event” via Facebook that is designated to take place on Saturday, November 5, 2011. If you haven’t heard about Bank Transfer Day at this point, you haven’t been listening. And if you’re a customer of a financial institution that’s not a credit union, you may want to rethink your relationship with the organization you “bank” with.

Kristen Christian, founder of Bank Transfer Day, is urging everyone and anyone who has had it up to here (visual – stand tall and place your hand parallel over your head) to grab their money and run – run to the nearest credit union or small community bank to show those big bad bankers that the people of America are not going to take it any more (does the 1980’s anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister come to mind?). She wants fed up bank customers to take a united stand and make the switch because of the fees and other practices she believes are unethical. However, if you’re perfectly happy with fees and other related practices, you have the choice to stay where you are, get over it, and do nothing.

Where you “bank” is obviously your personal choice. We’re not writing this to tell you what you should do. We are simply reminding you that there are significant differences between a credit union and other financial institutions as noted in previous posts and you have the right to choose where you put your money.

Would we like for you to become one of our members? Absolutely. Will we make it worth your while to switch? We can only hope that we do.  But the choice to switch remains all yours. All we ask is that if you’re not a credit union member, consider joining us. See what we’re all about. If we’re not the right one for you, which again we hope that we are, then look for a credit union that does meet your needs. We just want to see you get the most out of your hard earned money and be treated fairly and consistently. We don’t want to see you nickel and dimed to death. We don’t want to see you ambushed by a surprise attack of new fees, takeovers, buyouts and big time payouts to executives and stockholders.

Ms. Christian has managed to energize people, like tens of thousands, to really take a look at their relationship with their current financial institution. Kudos to her for taking the stand and reminding people that there are other options out there that truly have the best interests of their members (customers) at heart.

10 Reasons to Join Members 1st:

  1. We’re the third largest credit union in PA with over 200,000 members. Just because we have a lot of members doesn’t mean you get lost in the crowd. Providing you with unparalled service is top on our list!
  2. We have 50 branch locations throughout Southcentral PA – convenient!
  3. We belong to the CO-OP ATM network and the CU$ ATM network – that means you won’t be charged surcharges at these ATMs.
  4. We have all of the latest online banking technology including mobile banking apps – convenient!
  5. We are locally-owned and operated – that means “they” can’t buy us or take us over.
  6. We have a FEE-FREE debit card that PAYS YOU! That’s right – we pay you 5 cents for every non-PIN based point-of-sale transaction! 
  7. We reward you for being a member – exclusive Swipe 5 debit card rebate (see reason #5 above), loyalty rewards, few fees, low loan rates, special contest to win PSU tickets, cash-back or travel/merchandise rewards on our VISA Credit Card, and more!
  8. We love the communities in which we have a presence – we donate thousands of dollars into the local community through charitable and community events and our associates volunteer hundreds of hours every year helping numerous organizations. 
  9. We don’t have stockholders to pay – our board of directors consists of volunteers nominated right from our membership and they’re people you know. That means any profits we make are returned right back to our members who have accounts with us. That’s why are name is what it is… Members 1st… we really do put our members first.
  10. We’re Simply the Best – at least that’s what the readers of Harrisburg Magazine tell us. And with 200,000  members worldwide, we must be doing something right!

Credit Unions build a better world

On October 20, 2011, credit union members around the world will celebrate International Credit Union Day, an event to commemorate the credit union movement’s impact and achievements.  

Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives that provide an effective and viable alternative to for-profit financial institutions for more than 184 million members in 97 countries worldwide. They exist to serve their members, providing a safe place to save money and access affordable loans. We’ve grown from 9 charter members in 1950 to serving 200,000 members. Our Credit Union now has 49 branches as of this post and $2 billion in assets.  And we keep growing.  That in itself is something to celebrate.

Credit Union Day 2011 logo

Since 1948, International Credit Union Day has been celebrated annually on the third Thursday of October. Each year, the international event affords the opportunity to remember credit unions’ proud history and promote awareness of and support for the credit union difference. This year’s theme, “Credit Unions Build a Better World,” celebrates the important economic and social contributions credit unions make to their communities worldwide. It also aligns cooperatively owned and controlled credit unions with the greater cooperative business sector and the United Nations, which will launch the International Year of Cooperatives 2012 later this year.

 Credit unions are recognized as a force for positive economic and social change and have provided significant value in both developed and emerging nations. International Credit Union Day is sponsored by World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), the international trade association and development agency for credit unions worldwide, and numerous national credit union trade associations and federations around the world.

Celebrate with us on Thursday, October 20. Visit a branch or go to members1st.org to take advantage of all that we have to offer.

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