Posts Tagged ‘ bank ’

Lose Some Debt Weight in 2015


So many bills!

 

Do you have multiple department store or gas cards that you never use? Do you pay annual fees for cards that never see the light of day?  Maybe it’s time to clean out your wallet and lose a little debt weight this year. Here are some tips:

PAY. If you have numerous credit card balances, tackle the one with the highest interest rate first and pay the minimum amount required on all of your other balances. When that one
is paid off, consider rolling that amount into the next highest credit card balance (old amount plus the minimum payment required).

TRANSFER. Consider transferring your higher rate credit card balances and loans to a Members 1st VISA®, which could save you money! Take advantage of our 1.90% APR VISA® Balance Transfer option. Call (800) 283-2328, ext. 6040, visit a branch or log into Members 1st Online » Card Services » VISA® Balance Transfer. This offer is available on balance transfers received through June 30, 2015.*

CHOOSE. Figure out which card you’ve had for the longest amount of time. Make sure to keep this card open, since lenders often see borrowers with short credit histories to be riskier than those with long credit histories. Determine one or two cards to utilize regularly and leave the rest at home. If you have a card that has a low-interest rate or offers rewards, it may be best to keep it open. It’s alright to close those credit cards that you’re no longer using, as long as they don’t have balances and you have other cards.

FOLLOW UP. If you choose to close a credit card, make sure to send a letter to the issuer sharing your decision. Double check your credit report to see if the card is reported as “closed.”

*The 1.90% Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on Balance Transfers using the specific form or online submission is a “Discounted” rate that will be in effect from the time of the posting of the balance transfer to your card account for six consecutive billing cycles afterwards, which will be considered the promotional period expiration date of that specific balance transfer. After the expiration of your “Discounted” rate the remaining unpaid portion of the original balance transfer request will be subject to your normal APR as outlined on your monthly statement based on the specific Members 1st FCU credit card selected. Consumer Cards (Business Cards are ineligible) may have up to 10 individual balance transfers open at any given time period. If you default through becoming 60 days or more delinquent we may increase your APR on the balance transfer and other balance amounts as defined within the cardholder agreement and disclosure, which is provided upon card issuance and available online at http://www.members1st.org. All payments received on your account in excess of your minimum payment requirement will be applied first  to the highest rate balances, secondly to the lowest rate balances and finally  to new purchases. All rates are effective as of January 1, 2015 and this offer may be withdrawn at any time. Other restrictions or conditions may apply. You may not pay off your current Members 1st loans or lines of credit by using this balance transfer option. For current rates, fees and other cost information, please reference the Visa Balance Transfer disclosure or contact the Members 1st FCU Card Services Group at (800) 283-2328, ext. 6035. We do business in accordance with the Federal Fair Housing Law and Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

 

Stay on track with financing college


college kids

High school graduation is right around the corner. There’s no way your baby is old enough to be going off to college. You just waved goodbye to kindergarten and you’re dealing with the fact you really do have a child old enough to be in college. And it costs how much? What do we need to do when? What’s a parent to do?

We know there are many important steps to getting your son or daughter into school, so here’s a college preparation checklist to help keep you on track:

Now:
• Complete income tax forms as early as possible (information is needed to complete federal and state financial aid applications)
• Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Pennsylvania State Grant Application. The FAFSA can be completed online at www.fafsa.gov and the PA state grant application can be found at www.pheaa.org.
• If the college/university requires additional documents or applications, be sure to complete those, too. Make sure all forms are completed before each school’s deadline.
• Continue searching for scholarships now and the entire way through college.
• Plan college visits if you’re still deciding on the right school.

April through June:
• Financial aid packages/award letters and college acceptance letters will start rolling in from schools. Keep track of them and pay attention to any deadlines.
• Thoroughly review the award letters to determine how much financial aid (grants, scholarships, work-study and loans) you’ll receive and how much is still needed to bridge the gap between the cost of attendance and the amount of aid offered.
• If financial aid and college savings plans aren’t enough to cover all school-related expenses, start researching additional options (ex. monthly payment plans with the school, federal & private student loans, etc.)
• Attend one of our financial aid seminars for addition details on financing a college education. They’re scheduled for April 24, May 22 and June 26. You can register online at
www.members1st.org.
• Complete applications for student loans if necessary.
• Open a checking account and VISA® Debit Card with us for your child and set up across account transfer capability so you can transfer money from your account to your child’s account.
• Celebrate graduation with family and friends!

Not sure what do make of the entire student loan process or just need to talk to someone with some expertise? Call Tiffanie DeVan, our Specialty Loan Administrator, at (800) 283-2328, ext. 6017 or (717) 795-6017 or email devant@members1st.org.

 

Has Old Man Winter Done a Number on Your Home?


ice and snow on roofIce, snow, freezing rain, melting snow, refreezing snow – we sure have had our fill this winter, haven’t we? How’s your home holding up to all of this winter abuse? Old Man Winter has the potential to do serious damage to your roof, other areas outside your home – not to mention the possible ripple effects that can occur inside. Obviously pre-season prevention helps, but if you didn’t prepare your home for winter a few months ago, keep the following in mind as we move towards the end of the winter season.

Be aware of an ice dam forming on your roof. This happens when water from melting snow re-freezes at the edge of your roofline. If you don’t remove the snow from your roof, this ice dam could grow large enough to prevent water from draining off of the roof. When this happens, just like when the drains are covered on the street, water builds up, backs up and then it could make its way inside your home. The last thing  you want is your roof or ceiling having issues. As a property owner, you are responsible for the cost of preventive maintenance. You may find it helpful each winter season to develop a snow removal roof monitoring plan. 

If you have an attic, be sure it is thoroughly insulated. When heat escapes through the roof, it will melt what’s on top of it and then when it re-freezes, you could end up with a serious issue.

Make sure you’re turning off your outside water faucets and draining them before the deep freeze sets in. Add weather-stripping around doors and caulk your windows to guard against drafts and heat loss. Maybe you need to make the investment into new windows and doors. Be sure to get your chimneys cleaned and your furnace checked out each season. Change your furnace filter. Don’t turn off your heat or set it below 55 degrees. You need to have some heat circulating in your home, even when you are not home. You really don’t want to have to deal with frozen or bursting pipes, do you? Clean a clear path around your outside dryer vent, ventilation pipes and so on.

Keeping your safety in mind first, should you have a roof full of snow and ice, be sure remove as much snow as you can after every storm. The amount of snow and ice that your roof can handle varies according to a number of factors such as the roof type, age, and condition of the structure. And remember to inspect your roof each season, keep gutters free from debris such as twigs, leaves and the like. Clean out your down spouts.

Use a roof rake to clear the snow. Rule of thumb – if you have more than a foot of heavy, wet snow up there along with ice, do what you can to get it removed. If you can’t do it yourself or with a neighbor, call a reputable contractor or check with your home, landscape or roofing contractor or call your property maintenance company. Remember, climbing a ladder in snow and icy conditions is never a good idea. Safety first.

Before filing a claim, be sure to have seasonal maintenance done on your home to avoid those costly repairs. The cost of snow removal may be considerably less in price than the cost of roof damage, interior damage and other issues caused by water leaks.

Would you like a free quote for your homeowners insurance? Check out Members 1st Insurance Services*.  Also, ask us about renter’s insurance – protect your personal property while renting under someone else’s roof.

How Can You Help Your Credit Score?


Stressed man with bills

Think of your credit report as your financial resume. It says a lot about you and how you manage your money. It’s a summary of all of your debts – those you’re currently paying on, those you’ve paid off and it shows payment history, debt amounts and more. It’s your ticket to being approved for a loan or being denied. It determines how much interest you pay when it comes to the amount of money you want to borrow.  Maybe you’ve had some financial issues due to job loss, illness, or maybe you simply developed some bad financial habits like having too much money going out for bills and not enough money coming in.

Whatever your situation is, there’s always a way to help improve your credit score. May we suggest:

Pay your bills on time. This is pretty much a no-brainer. If a situation comes up and you know you’re going to be late with a payment or can’t make it in full, pay something and/or call the creditor to work out an alternative payment arrangement and make sure it’s noted in your account. Consider using an online bill pay system to help you schedule payments.

Credit card usage. Use them lightly. Just because you have a $5,000 limit, doesn’t mean you need to go on a charging spree. Use less than 30 percent of your total available credit.

Pay off your installment loans  (mortgage, auto, student, etc.).  This can help your scores but typically not as dramatically as paying down — or paying off — revolving accounts (think about all of those store credit cards you signed up for to take advantage of that point-of-sale discount) and other credit cards.

Lenders like to see a big gap between the amount of credit you’re using and your available credit limits. Getting your balances below 30% of the credit limit on each card can really help; getting balances below 10% is even better. Pay off  your highest-rate card(s)/loans first and then put those payments towards other debts such as credit cards that  are really close to their limits.

Pay more. Anytime you can pay more than the minimum payment, do it. You’ll end up paying less interest in the long run. Remember, every little bit helps.

Lines of credit. Too many open lines of credit, whether or not you’re using them, may send a red flag up the pole to potential lenders.

Balance. Maintain a good balance of credit between your installment loans (car loans) and credit cards.

Old credit is good.  If you have charge cards you haven’t used in a while or have paid off, but still have open lines of credit, use them once in a while and pay them off in full each month.

Check your credit report. You are entitled to a free annual credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com. Go there, order up your credit report, grab a cup of coffee and take a good, long hard look at it. Make sure you get it from all three credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Dispute any discrepancies you may find. You don’t necessarily need to correct accounts you closed listed as being open or accounts you closed that don’t say “closed by consumer.” Closing an account may hurt your scores. If your goal is improving your scores, leave these alone.

Pay attention to significant errors. Sometimes life deals us a bad hand – you have financial issues due to job loss, medical issues, divorce, gambling problems, and so on. If you have any of the following on your credit report, it is worth your effort to correct these issues sooner rather than later:

  • Late payments, charge-offs, collections or other negative items that aren’t yours.
  • Credit limits reported as lower than they actually are.
  • Accounts listed as “settled,” “paid derogatory,” “paid charge-off” or anything other than “current” or “paid as agreed” if you paid on time and in full.
  • Accounts that are still listed as unpaid that were included in a bankruptcy.
  • Negative items older than seven years (10 in the case of bankruptcy) that should have automatically fallen off your reports.

Additional resources:

Members 1st FCU offers free access to money management and financial education services through GreenPath, a financial management program. Through comprehensive education and exceptional service, GreenPath has been assisting individuals for more than 50 years. As a member, you can receive assistance with:

  • Personal and family budgeting
  • Understanding your personal credit report and how to improve your score
  • Personal money management
  • Debt repayment
  • Avoiding bankruptcy, foreclosure, and repossession

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5 Financial Resolutions for 2014


financial goalsAccording to a Marist poll, a whopping 44% of Americans make some sort of New Year’s resolution. If you’re one of the 12% that are setting new financial goals for 2014, the tips below offer practical, sustainable changes that can substantially transform the weight of your wallet. Since these activities are effective even as short-term goals, they should help you maintain your resolutions long after January 1. Read on to get started.

Set aside at least 10% per paycheck
It’s easy to get swept up in spending spree fantasies when you receive your paycheck, but don’t forget to set apart a percentage of your income for your savings account. The key word is percentage. If you save in proportion to your income, your savings can adjust to any sudden changes in pay—for better or worse. This takes the pressure off of having to save a set amount each month.

Try to make your savings contribution as seamless as possible. Some direct deposit options allow you to send a certain percentage of your income straight to your savings, before you have a chance to see it. If you don’t have that option, set aside money manually. To do this with discipline, it helps to think of your real income as your paycheck minus savings. If it helps, start at a modest 10%—which is the minimum generally recommended—and over time steadily increase the percentage of your paycheck you contribute to savings.

The key is to let the savings build—set up a special savings account if you need to remind yourself not to dip into them.

Pay high-interest debt first
Look over your loans and credit card bills and sort them out in order of interest rate. Paying more than the minimum on the debt with high interest will save you incredible amounts in uncharged interest. Even if your other balances continue charging you interest, so long as you make the minimum payments and maintain the low interest rates, you’ll be ridding yourself of the fastest-growing debt.

In addition, when you finally free yourself from the worst of your debts, you’ll not only have fewer payments to make, but you’ll feel fantastic knowing you avoided extra debt. Confidence from your previous success will make paying off small-interest debts that much easier and bring you one step closer to financial freedom.

Consolidate your credit
Another way of securing lower interest rates (and paying less in the long run) is by consolidating your credit card and loan bills. Consolidating means combining your outstanding debts, or transferring outstanding balances, onto a new loan or credit card with a lower interest rate. The main benefit of debt consolidation is that you can exchange the high interest rates of your previous loans or lines of credit for the lower rate of the new one.

However, keep a sharp eye out for any deals that seem too good to be true. Sometimes, lenders will initially give you fantastically low rates, and then jack up the interest as soon as the promotional period expires. Be careful to read the fine print, or consult a professional, before committing to a loan consolidation.

Learn more about the balance transfer options at Members 1st Federal Credit Union.

Automate and synchronize payments
Automating your loan and credit card payments can help you avoid those pesky late-payment fees or hiked up interest rates. Late payments reflect badly on your credit score, so anything you can do to avoid missing the due date helps. Automated payment services like online bill pay or direct debit are easy to set up and require little to no maintenance.

Keep in mind that we have the biggest tendency to overspend when we forget our debts and think of only the positive number in our accounts. Timely, regular and synchronized credit card payments will keep your brain (and your eager, spending heart) in check.

Get your free credit report
If you use credit, it’s always helpful to have a credit report on hand. A credit report tells lenders all the details about your past credit use, payment history and total credit available under your name. It’s best to know exactly how your credit is doing in what areas, so you can make specific changes in your faulty credit habits. Luckily, through the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you are entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.

To get a better sense of how your credit is doing throughout the year, order one of your free credit reports every 4 months.

Last word
The best thing about these resolutions is that they are each practical enough to start immediately—even today—yet, they also promise to significantly improve your finances in the long run. Half the battle of keeping resolutions is your ability to feel good about what you’ve accomplished in the short-term, and these changes allow you to hit rewarding milestones along the way to accomplishing your bigger, long-term goals. With a little prioritization, effort, and discipline you can proudly make 2014 your best financial year yet!

Note: Members 1st offers free access to money management and financial education services through GreenPath, a financial management program. Through comprehensive education and exceptional service, GreenPath has been assisting individuals for more than 50 years. As a member, you can receive assistance with:

  • Personal and family budgeting
  • Understanding your personal credit report and how to improve your score
  • Personal money management
  • Debt repayment
  • Avoiding bankruptcy, foreclosure, and repossession

Guest blogger: Nico Leyva of NerdWallet

 

 

 

 

What’s the difference between a credit union and a bank?


Mature couple enjoying in the park.
They both have money, tellers, ATMs and similar products and services. While all things financial may appear to be quite similar, rest assured there are a few significant differences that set banks and credits unions apart when it comes to how each respective financial institution operates. Where you do your “banking” is your personal choice. We just thought you may like to know the differences between banks and credit unions in the event you’re looking for a financial institution or if you’re not happy where you currently are. Making an informed decision as to where to take your hard-earned money is important for your financial future. Take a look at the differences between banks and credit unions:

Banks:

  • Generate profit for stockholders, Make decisions based on what will give stockholders more profit.
  • They are commercial businesses. They offer services to make a profit.
  • People who buy stock in the bank own shares of the business
  • Serve customers from the general public. Anyone can use a bank.
  • Their Board of Directors are paid a salary. Daily operations are performed by a paid staff.
  • Only people who own stock can vote for the Board of Directors. The customers who use the bank do not have a say.
  • Income is returned to the stockholders in the form of higher dividends on their shares of stock.
  • Like other for-profit businesses, banks must pay taxes to the government.
  • Deposits are federally insured up to $250,00 by the FDIC, a government agency.

Credit Unions:

  • Are not for profit, not for charity, but for service. Without a “profit motive,” they make decisions based on what’s best for their members.
  • Are financial cooperatives. Members pool their savings to provide low-cost loans and low-fee services to each other.
  • Each member is an equal owner regardless of how much money they have on deposit.
  • They exist solely to serve their members. To be eligible to open an account and use the credit union’s services, an individual must meet current membership eligibility requirements within their field of membership per the credit union’s charter.
  • Unpaid volunteers elected from the general credit union membership serve on the Board of Directors and guide the credit union. Daily operations are performed by a paid staff.
  • As owners, members elect fellow members to serve on the Board of Directors.
  • Income or profit is returned to the members in the forms of better savings rates, lower loan rates, and low or no fees for services.
  • Like other not-for-profit institutions, credit unions are exempt from paying federal income tax.
  • Deposits are federally insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration, a government agency. The NCUA’s insurance fund is the healthiest of all federal deposit insurance funds.

If you’re looking for a place to do your “banking” and you’re not a member, consider Members 1st Federal Credit Union.

Keep Your Pets Safe In An Emergency Situation


Moneypennyresting-winner_smaller

You may have an emergency plan in place for your family, but have you included your pets? Here are some tips for keeping your furry family members safe in case you need to evacuate your home during an emergency or you lose power.

ASSEMBLE A PET CRISIS KIT. Round up all of the things you’d need for your pet(s) in case of an emergency and place them in a large duffle bag or sturdy container/tub that’s labeled and ready at a moment’s notice. Some items to include are: disposable litter trays and kitty litter (even aluminum roasting pans work well as litter boxes), enough dry food or “pop-top” wet food and bottled water for 3-7 days, at least one weeks’ worth of your pet’s medicine, a pet first-aid kit, cat/dog beds, blankets, extra collars/harnesses/leashes, bowls, pet carriers and favorite toys. Make sure to include vaccination records and other important details specific to your pet’s health in your pet crisis kit, too.

LOCATE A PET-FRIENDLY SAFE PLACE TO STAY IN CASE YOU’RE FORCED TO EVACUATE. Since not all Red Cross disaster shelters or hotels accept pets, it’s important to have a pre-determined safe haven for your entire family. Identify hotels in and outside of your immediate area that welcome pets and keep the list in your pet crisis kit. Check http://www.pet-friendly-hotels.net or www.tripswithpets.com. Consider asking friends or relatives outside of your area if they’d be willing take in your pets temporarily.

IT’S ALSO A GOOD IDEA TO PLACE A “PET RESCUE ALERT STICKER” ON YOUR FRONT DOOR OR WINDOW PANE NOW. Order a free sticker at www.aspca.org/form/free-pet-safety-pack or www.gopetplan.com/firesafety/. If you would have to leave your home (and you have the time), write the word “evacuated” in permanent marker across the sticker to alert rescue workers. Also, make sure your dog or cat is wearing a collar that lists your cell phonenumber in case you would get separated.

IF YOU DECIDE NOT TO EVACUATE, TAKE PRECAUTIONS. Designate a room in your house as your “safe place” where your family (pets, too) can go in case you decide to wait it out. Keep your pet crisis kit in this area so you’re as prepared as possible.

LET US BE PART OF YOUR CRISIS PLAN, TOO. We partner with Petplan® Pet insurance to help you pay those unexpected veterinary bills when your furry friend has an accident or gets sick.* With Petplan,® you can follow your veterinarian’s treatment plan, knowing that your pet health insurance will help provide you with financial peace of mind. For a free quote, visit www.GoPetplan.com. Questions may be directed to (866) 467-3875.

For information about personal insurance, call Members 1st Insurance Services at (800) 283-2328, ext. 5218 or 5245. Insurance services is avaiable to Pennsylvania residents only. We have several insurance carriers who extend additional group discounts to our valued members. Call us for details.

*Terms and conditions apply. For full details, visit www.GoPetplan.com. 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).

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