Month: April 2017

Security Update: Protecting your Resources is our First Priority

At America First Credit Union, protecting the membership’s finances & information is our highest priority. We offer the best in free security features, including:

  • High-grade network traffic encryption
  • Chip-enabled EMV Visa® cards
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Advanced fraud detection systems
  • Card Guard® mobile app
  • Identity theft recovery services with our credit cards
  • And more

Another essential tool we provide is education. Below are some are beneficial sites where you can learn about the latest frauds, scams, and what to do if you ever become a victim. Review these regularly to guard against cyberattacks that affect millions every year:

And be sure to visit us here for news & updates about how we’re working to safeguard your resources.

How to Apply for your First Loan

Whether you’re wading into the world of borrowing with a credit card or diving into the deep end with a mortgage, the process can be daunting for someone who hasn’t done it before. If you’re looking for a lender to meet your financial needs, here are some tips on how to apply for your first loan.

Defining the Terms

In order to feel comfortable when you apply, here are a few common terms:

  • Principal – the actual amount you borrow
  • Interest – percentage the financial institution charges for lending money
  • Term – how long until you pay it back
  • Down Payment – initial amount you put in when buying
  • Collateral – something lenders are offered in case you can’t pay your loan

Gathering Information

You’ll need to provide certain information. First, determine the specific amount you want to borrow, remembering not to take on more debt than necessary. Second, most lenders require proof of income and employment history. Consider how much you make and spend every month, then estimate your monthly payments. When you know this, you’ll get a better idea of how much you can spare. America First offers easy-to-use mortgage calculators and auto loan calculators to help you figure out what your monthly payments could be.

Then, look up your credit score, which is essentially your financial grade. It tells lenders how well you pay debts. A score above 700, for example, is considered good. The higher your number, the more you can borrow — at a lower interest rate, too. America First gives you quick and free access to your FICO® score through online banking.

If you have no credit, you can build it up by using and regularly paying off a credit card. If your score is low, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get a loan, but you may face a higher interest rate. Those with better credit can co-sign for you, but remember their scores could be negatively affected if you don’t make the payments.

Actually Applying

Many people apply for loans at credit unions or banks. However, you can also finance vehicles at the dealership, home loans at mortgage companies, or student loans at universities. Shop around for the best rates, terms and an institution you trust.

There are ways to lower your rate. Besides having good credit, bigger down payments usually bring the interest rate down. You can also extend the term to lower your rate, but that means it’ll take longer to pay back. Most auto loan terms range between five to eight years. Mortgages are 10 to 30 years.

You’ll also need to decide if you want variable or fixed rates. Fixed stay the same for the entire term, whereas variable rates can change throughout. Some people like the consistency of a fixed, while others prefer the flexibility of variable.

If you’re still anxious about getting your first loan, bring an experienced friend or family member with you for advice and guidance. America First also has free financial counseling services and helpful loan officers to help prepare you for your journey into borrowing.

improve your home

Spring Sprucing: Affordable Ways to Improve Your Home

Spring has a way of getting us to tidy up our living spaces. Some might be satisfied with traditional cleaning, while others use a home equity line of credit for major renovations. But if you’re on a budget and still want to make changes, here’s a list of affordable ways to improve your home.

Boost Curb Appeal

  • Add a pop of color to your front door with a bold shade or bright hue, then paint the exterior trim and shutters to match.
  • Modernize your address numbers with a different font, size and color to create personality.
  • Buy a fun new doormat or paint your old one.
  • A mowed lawn, weeded flowerbeds, trimmed trees and watered window box gardens make a world of difference.
  • Give your mailbox a makeover.
  • Add new light fixtures to your porch.
  • Build a pergola over your parking space.

Make Your Bathroom a Personal Sanctuary

  • Bring in flowers and candles to make it feel more luxurious.
  • Replace the shower curtain with a new pattern or color and switch the bathmat to match.
  • Apply a new coat of paint to refresh the area.
  • Hang quirky art on the walls.
  • Update your towel bar and get some new colorful linens.
  • Use ornate glass jars for decoration and organization.

Whip It Up in the Kitchen

  • Paint your cabinets and swap out the old hardware with something more modern.
  • Remove cabinet doors for an open shelving effect.
  • Display decorative plates on your walls.
  • If you have a fridge that doesn’t flow, you can use chalkboard paint to completely transform the look.
  • Check out local thrift stores for vintage light fixtures.
  • Purchase new, colorful small appliances and use them as decorative accessories.

While we don’t expect you to try everything on the list, it’s hopefully helped you realize that improving the look and feel of your home doesn’t have to cost a lot. However, if you want to invest in significant upgrades, you can always apply for an affordable, low-rate home equity loan from America First.

kids financial literacy

The Importance of Teaching Kids Financial Literacy

We all know reading, writing and arithmetic are three essential building blocks of an education. However, it’s also vital to teach your kids financial literacy. Children need to learn how to make informed money decisions to become self-sufficient and contribute to society. Plus, just in case you’re hesitant to talk to your kids about money, remember that financial independence will help prevent them from coming back to live with you after they’ve grown!

Promote Active Instruction

When children are old enough to say they want something, they’re ready to learn about finances. We all form money habits early in life. Don’t force kids to piece together their own conclusions based their limited views — make your instruction intentional. Take advantage of teaching moments when they arise, but don’t turn on information firehose. Financial education isn’t something you can cover in one sitting. It takes time and patience. It’s also important to be positive. Don’t push or lecture. This should be a part of the natural daily discussions you have with your children.

And try to make money real. Show your kids that your Visa® isn’t a magical card full of unlimited funds. Explain how you earn money and discuss how your paycheck is a reward for what you do. And while it’s not a bad thing to explain the finite nature of your checking account, don’t overshare financial concerns. As your kids grow, discuss the difference between needs and wants. Teach them the value of long-term saving versus immediate spending. Give them the opportunity to make financial choices.

Preparation & Planning

Prepare your children for the future by letting them help plan the family budget. Show them how to use tools like Money Manager for setting limits and tracking spending. Let them start by monitoring a discretionary expense. That way, if they make mistakes, it won’t affect your overall plan. Plus, it’s better to have them make mistakes with small amounts when they’re younger than with larger amounts when they’re older.

Opening a youth account at America First, will give your boys and girls a safe place to put their money and save up. They’ll also begin to learn about things like interest and dividends. Additionally, if your children are between the ages of 12 and 17, they can get Fundz cards, which have the convenience and security of Visa without the revolving credit line.

There are also several apps that instruct kids about financial skills. Some teach basic counting and values, whereas others allow users to virtually invest in the stock market. But remember, using an app is only effective if it’s backed up by parental discussion and action.

Practicing Makes Perfect

The grocery store is a great school for basic finances. Start by letting kids help you look for coupons, then find those items on the shelves. As they progress, you can give them your shopping list and challenge them to stay within a certain spending limit. Encourage them to compare prices and look for deals so they come in under budget.

Young kids can learn a lot by running a lemonade stand or candy store for the summer. If you’re having a yard sale, you could put them in charge of the cash box or the mobile credit card swiper. Finally, when they’re of age, encourage your children to get a job. Gainful employment is the best possible way to teach the value of a day’s work. And as they get their first paychecks and you continue your economic conversations, it may surprise you how financially responsible your child can be.

Get Free Identity Theft Recovery Services with our Visa Cards

When you choose Visa® from America First, you’ll gain some of the market’s best benefits, features & options.

Now, one of the most significant advantages is the free identity theft recovery service that comes with our credit cards. This covers you and your family if you’re ever a victim of this crime or if your personal & financial information is compromised.

A recovery advocate will work on your behalf, report progress along the way, and be there until the issue is resolved—no matter how long it takes. And if important documents are lost or stolen, you’ll be able to secure replacements. It’s also valid for up to three generations, including your spouse and dependents under age 25 with the same permanent address.

To learn more about this complimentary service or to purchase upgraded protection, click here. If you’re not carrying the America First Visa, apply today.