Posts Tagged ‘ credit unions ’

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

 

 

 

 

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

Watch out for deer this time of year


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It’s that time of year when deer are on the move. According to a State Farm Auto Insurance 2013 Deer-Vehicle Collision Report, here’s the top 10 states with deer crash risks. Yep, Pennsylvania made the list:

1. West Virginia – 1 in 41
2. Montana – 1 in 65
3. Iowa – 1 in 73…
4. South Dakota – 1 in 75
5. Pennsylvania – 1 in 77
6. Minnesota – 1 in 80
7. Wisconsin – 1 in 82
8. Mississippi – 1 in 84
9. Arkansas – 1 in 89
10. Michigan – 1 in 92

We’d like to pass along the following*:
• Deer are most active between sunset and midnight, and during pre-dawn hours so watch for them.
• Migration and mating season is October-to-January.
• Slow down in posted deer-crossing areas.
• If you see one deer, remember that others are probably nearby.
• Use high beams at night in deer territory when there is no oncoming traffic.
• If a deer is frozen in your headlights, honk your horn in a loud, sustained blast.
• Don’t rely on deer whistles or roadside reflectors; they have not been proven effective.
• If you can’t avoid a deer, brake and stay in your lane. Don’t endanger other vehicles.
• If you strike a deer, do not touch the animal. It may harm you or further injure itself.
• Call police immediately if you hit or are hit by a deer.
• Take pictures of the accident scene and vehicle damage for your insurance claim.

Lack of auto coverage will cost you in ways you can’t imagine. The experts at Members 1st Insurance Services know car insurance and can help you design a coverage plan tailored to your needs: comprehensive, collision, bodily injury liability, property damage liability, injuries caused by uninsured/underinsured motorists, and medical payments. Ask us about rental reimbursement, repair or replacement coverage, towing and labor coverage, gap insurance and more. Call us for a free insurance quote at (800) 283-2328, ext. 5218 or 5245 or visit our insurance services web page.**

*Source: Insurance Information Institute 
**Insurance services are avialable to Pennsylvania residents only.

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.

Unite for Good as a Credit Union Member


2013icuday-logo

Guest Blogger: Bob Marquette, President & CEO, Members 1st FCU

Since 1948, credit unions from around the world have come together to celebrate International Credit Union Day and the credit union difference. More than 196 million members of credit unions in 100 countries worldwide benefit from credit union services, and the number of members grows every day. By comparison, we serve over 247,000 members across the globe.

On October 17, 2013, we are joining in this world-wide celebration and invite you to visit your local branch that day to receive a token of our appreciation. Celebrating the history of the credit union movement with that of our own is something we do every day. Any credit union history lesson will tell you that credit unions were built on the cornerstone of cooperation. People pooled financial resources together to help those who needed it.

As you are aware, unlike many other types of financial institutions, we are not in business to make a profit. Credit unions all over the world are a united front focused on you, the member-owners, with an unwavering belief in the “people helping people” philosophy upon which we were built.

We started our Credit Union in 1950 with 9 members and a desk in a hallway. When I first started here in 1986 as a Mortgage Department Manager, I remember our having only seven branches and the services we offered included Personal Service Loans/unsecured lines of credit, ATM cards, and other basic financial products (checking accounts, CDs, etc.). Since being promoted to President and CEO in 1997, we have added 45 new branches and a full range of financial products and services for both consumers and businesses. We employ over 800 people and are one of the top 50 fastest growing companies in Southcentral Pennsylvania. We’ve grown in response to the needs of the community, our members, our volunteers and staff. We are fortunate to be able to seek out new market areas successfully. We’re here to make your lives and Southcentral Pennsylvania a better place.

While there’s the business side to Members 1st, we also have a cooperative spirit that goes beyond what’s contained within the walls of our branches and administrative headquarters. It extends far into the communities in which we exist and serve. Each of our associates is required to be involved with a minimum of two community or charitable events each year. They participate in everything from parades, fairs, and community clean ups and nights out to business expos, distributing food, and financial education initiatives at local high schools to name just a few. Individuals in our business development positions attend countless events each week not only representing our credit union but also networking to get to know other business and community leaders to better understand their needs and those of the community and plan ways to engage in mutually beneficial partnerships for all.

In 2012 alone, our associates participated in more than 234 community and charitable events and provided 4,767 volunteer hours for the benefit of our local community. We also participated in a total of 245 chamber of commerce events. Members 1st and our associates raised and contributed over $494,183 to charitable, civic and credit union industry organizations. In the first half of 2013, our associates have participated in 121 events, giving 2,593 volunteer hours to the local communities. We’ve contributed over $262,000 to many local charities and community organizations to date.

As you can see, we don’t just build buildings; we build solid relationships – with members, with businesses, with community organizations, with government officials, to name a few. In the spirit of “Uniting for Good,” this year’s International Credit Union Day theme, we promise to do all we can to support the communities where we have branches and to help you get the financial products and services you need. Together, let’s unite for good and make Members 1st and our local communities the best they can be. Thank you for being a member. We truly appreciate your business and your trust in us.

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).

Make sure you’re covered.


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It’s important to know that you could experience new penalties starting in 2014 if you don’t have health insurance. If you do not carry health insurance, you may have to pay a fee – along with all of your health care-related costs. To avoid the fee, you will need insurance that qualifies as minimum essential coverage. As a way to help individuals obtain the required coverage we will soon offer a new tool on our website (www.members1st.org) which will allow you to compare multiple plans from the top carriers in the industry and to enroll online. Beginning in 2014, Health Care Reform provides guaranteed eligibility, so you can no longer be turned down because of medical conditions.

If you have questions about Health Care Reform our licensed insurance professionals at Members 1st Insurance Services* are here to help guide you through this complicated maze. Give us a call at (800) 283-2328, ext. 6269.

For information about health care reform, visit www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform.

*Insurance Services is available to Pennsylvania residents only.

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