Month: October 2017

5 tips to help you stick to a budget

America First recently concluded its 13th Annual Community Food Drive. The food drive, held at all branch locations throughout Utah and southern Nevada, collected 18,400 pounds of food. This equates to over 15,000 meals for those in need. Nicole Cypers from America First Credit Union talks more about it:

Our employees loaded all food donations into trucks which were then distributed to local food pantries and food banks. Thanks to all the America First Credit Union employees that participated.

The holidays are upon us and as Utah’s largest credit union, they know the importance of giving back to others. They’ve recently launched their Skip a Payment program, which is a great opportunity for members to skip a loan payment during the holiday months and simultaneously provide shoes for children in need.

The annual Skip a Loan Payment program offers members the opportunity to skip monthly loan payments from November 2017 – January 2018 for $25. America First will then donate a portion of the fee to purchase shoes and ‘warm the soles’ of children.

To learn more about donating through the Skip a Loan Payment program, call 1-800-999-3961, visit one of America First’s 124 branches or visit www.americafirst.com

Tips for Sticking to a Budget:

  1. Calculate expenses. Your first order of business is finding out exactly how much you’re spending each month.
  2. Determine your income.
  3. Set savings and debt payoff goals.
  4. Record spending and track progress.
  5. Be realistic.

America First has great free budgeting tools in our online banking and mobile banking applications. This is a great tool to track and manage your spending.

Viewer Question: Is it smart to use my credit card just to get the points/rewards if I’m paying it off every month?

If you are paying your credit card off each month, then yes it is smart to use your card for the points/rewards. You earn one point* for every dollar you spend, and with Visa Rewards you can redeem your points for a variety of rewards including:

  • Gift cards for restaurants and merchants
  • Merchandise such as iPods and Blu-Ray™ players
  • Tickets to events
  • Activities like amusement park visits, spa excursions, sightseeing & outdoor adventures

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costume

Last-Minute Halloween Costumes on a Budget

Believe it or not, there are some people who have their Halloween costume picked out before the Fourth of July. For others, finding something spooky to wear is a last-minute scramble on the afternoon of October 31. If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’re one of the latter and you need some quick inspiration. Here are some ideas for easy DIY costumes you can make on a budget.

Swamp Creature

Buy some inexpensive green and black plastic tablecloths from your local dollar store. Slice them into strips to wear on your head, shoulders & waist to become a mossy monster. Hey, we told you these costumes were going to be cheap!

Gumball Machine

Cut holes in large, clear plastic bag for your head and arms. Fill the bag with a bunch of brightly colored balloons and then cinch the bottom of the bag at your waist. Wear a long red skirt or pants for added effect. You could also use smaller balloons and become a bag of jelly beans.

Wanted Poster

Take a large piece of cardboard and cut out a large square in the middle. Write WANTED in thick western-style letters on top & your name and whatever you think the reward for your capture should be at the bottom. When someone asks about your costume, hold up the sign and pose behind it.

Flashback

Raid old boxes of clothes lying around your parents’ basement. Find a goofy outfit from the 60s, 70s or 80s or 90s, depending on how old your parents are and dress up as one of them. Or dig out some of your favorite old clothes and go as yourself in the past.

Flash Forward

If you’re not a parent, show people what you would look like if you were. Find a doll or two and borrow a baby carrier, car seat or stroller. Throw a diaper bag over your shoulder. Mess up your hair a bit and use some eyeliner to create dark circles around your sleep-deprived eyes. Add nametags on your fake children if you’re feeling inspired.

Time Zone

Use a marker to write the name of a time zone, such as Central or Pacific, on the back of a T-shirt. Buy a cheap clock, set the dial accordingly, hang it around your neck. If you have a group of friends, you could all dress up as the six U.S. zones.

The Other Holiday

Pull your Christmas decorations out early and wrap yourself in tinsel & lights. Put a star on your head—you are now a Christmas tree. Or find a large box, wrap it like a yuletide gift and make room for your head, arms and legs. You can even hang a tag from the festive box that reads, TOO SOON?

October Give Back Winner 10/24/17

It’s not always easy doing the right thing, but it does have its rewards. The community has gotten stronger after recent events and there’s one group that works nonstop to help. Meet this month’s ‘Give Back Winner’ from the Las Vegas Metro Police Department.

This segment is sponsored by America First Credit Union.

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credit union

Credit Union History Steeped in Cooperation

Credit unions began forming in Germany during the mid-19th century. Due to famine and crop failure, Herman Schulze-Delitzsch organized a cooperatively owned bakery & mill so local citizens could buy bread at discounted prices. The operation was so successful that, in 1850, he applied the same idea to the financial sector and created what he called the people’s bank.

Another German named Friedrich Raiffeisen established the Heddesdorf Credit Union in 1864 to give nearby farmers livestock and farming equipment purchasing opportunities. Raiffeisen based the group on philosophies of self-governance, stating that once you defeat dependency, you can fight poverty.

Expansion

This idea of credit associations extended across the Atlantic Ocean and took root in Quebec, Canada at the beginning of the 20th century. A man named Alphonse Desjardins was tired of loan sharks taking advantage of those in need, so he founded the first credit union in North America to make financing affordable for poorer families.

The first U.S. credit union was organized in New Hampshire in 1909. During the 1920s, not-for-profit financial cooperatives became more popular, because these institutions could offer smaller loans to people for things like appliances—the type of lending larger banks wouldn’t address at all.

Regulation

As the concept grew in the 1930s, the government implemented the Federal Credit Union Act to supervise the various cooperative financial institutions that were now spread across the nation. And as membership increased to over 6,000,000 in the 1960s, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) came about to regulate the industry and protect members.

From the beginning, such cooperatives were founded on the principle of democratic governance, with all members having a say, regardless of deposit size. Members would elect a board of directors, who volunteered their time to help guide the credit union. And with a membership of more than 230 million, we still follow those practices today in 109 countries worldwide.

heating

Stay Warm & Save on Heating Costs

As the weather turns colder, heaters are kicking on and many folks find themselves paying higher energy bills. However, keeping your home at a comfortable temperature doesn’t have to cost a lot. Here are some tips on how to stay warm and still save money on heating costs.

Dress Appropriately

Don’t rely just on the furnace to keep toasty in the winter—dress in warm clothes. Wear socks or a comfy jacket and you won’t have to turn the temperature up as high. Use cushy blankets while watching TV on the couch and put thick comforters & sheets on your bed.

Audit Your Energy

Search for heat leaks. If you feel a cold draft in your home, it means the hot air is escaping. Windows and doors are the biggest culprits. Check the weather stripping and replace if it’s old and worn. Re-caulk your window panes if necessary.

You can also take advantage of the sun. Open curtains during the day to let it shine in and naturally provide heat. And, contrary to what you may think a ceiling fan on a low setting can help circulate warm air instead of making things cooler.

Boost Efficiency

Many professionals recommend a furnace inspection every other year and, if your HVAC system is more than 10 years old, you should get it checked annually. But you don’t need an expert to change your air filter, which you should do every month or two. Regular maintenance will increase efficiency.

Resist the urge to crank up the thermostat when it’s cold outside. Keeping it in the high 60s or low 70s will ensure it’s comfortable without costing you too much. In fact, each one-degree drop can reduce your energy bill by up to 3%. And lowering it when you’re not there or while you’re sleeping can also save money. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that lowering the temperature seven to 10 degrees eight hours a day will cut the bill by about 10% annually. Many modern thermostats are programmable and some smart-home systems will only warm rooms with people in them.

The change in seasons doesn’t have to equal higher utility costs. By dressing warmly, maintaining your furnace and preventing heat loss, you’ll stay warmer and spend less doing it.

passwords

Fraud Prevention: Creating Strong Passwords

If your password is 123456, qwerty or, even worse, password, you should probably stop reading and change it now. Despite all the security hacks and data breaches in today’s world, many people still use easy-to-guess logins, putting their information & identities at risk. Creating strong passwords is your first line of defense against hackers, so here are some tips to get started.

  • Make it easy (for you)—Passwords you can’t remember are useless. Choose keywords or phrases you can easily memorize. But don’t make it so simple that someone else could quickly figure it out.
  • Make it unique—Don’t use the same login on various accounts, because if someone gets access to one, they’ll have them all. Create a unique password for every site to ensure better security.
  • Change cases—Many logins are case-sensitive, so using a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters will add an extra layer of protection. You don’t even have to follow the capitalization rules you learned in school—CapiTaLIze whateVER yOU WAnT, WHerEveR You wANt.
  • Add numbers—Include numbers that mean something to you. Don’t just include a 1 at the end of your password, put a series at the beginning (8675309Jenny), at the end (Jenny8675309) or interspersed throughout a word (J867e53nn09y). You can even replace certain letters with numbers, such as 4m3r1c4 F1r57 Cr3d17 Un10n.
  • Try special characters—Even adding a question mark at the end of your password can make a difference. You can add the pound sign at the beginning to make it hashtag (#PurpleToupee?) or put a word in quotes (Nowmadewith”real”cheese!). Be creative.
  • Consider passphrases—Instead of just one or two words, try a sentence. Create a long phrase that means something to you, such as nevergonnagiveyouUP!nevergonnaletyouDOWN! or WhyDoesMyEmployerMakesMeChangeThisEvery6Months?
  • Swap passwords often—Make a habit of changing your passwords periodically. This rotation will ensure that even if someone does discover your login, they won’t have it for long.

Following the advice above may not protect you from every cyberattack, but it will help strengthen your online security.

Fall Maintenance for Your Finances

When the seasons change, many of us have a home maintenance checklist that’s important to work through before winter arrives. The same is true for your finances, so here are a few fall to-dos:

InsuranceThese months usually present the opportunity to review your employer-sponsored benefits as open enrollment periods occur. Take a look at your health care, life & disability insurance, and related plans & see if your coverage levels need to be raised or lowered according to your changing life circumstances. 

Health saving accountsReview your contributions and determine if it’s a good time to start increasing your deposits. These accounts at America First are a smart way to manage the costs of care throughout the year, providing flexibility & convenient access.

 The costs of financing—Gather your loan documents and compare the rates you are paying for your home, autos, RVs and credit cards, with what America First offers. You may find that you can save significantly by refinancing with your credit union.

BudgetsMany equate budgets with diets: refusing to eat what you want yet don’t necessarily need. But the process doesn’t need to be painful. Visit americafirst.com for a host of valuable, easy & and free online budgeting tools that will get your finances in shape well before the new year.

And be sure to stop by your local branch if you have any questions or would like to speak with a representative.

Make the Most of Your Resources

With quick & easy home equity loans from America First, you’ll have the resources ready to tackle that much-needed remodeling project.

Plus, you’ll benefit from:

  • Low rates
  • Flexible terms
  • Interest-only & fixed-rate options
  • Quick access when you need it
  • Potential tax advantages
  • And more

Apply today.

Breaches & Identity Theft Are All Too Common—But We’re Here to Help You

By John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

Unfortunately, the news of data compromises occurring at merchants, large companies and most recently at Equifax, one of the three major credit-reporting agencies, is increasingly prevalent. Considering the Equifax incident involved nearly half the U.S. population—143 million residents—the chances of any given individual being affected are reasonably high. You can find out if this breach has impacted you at equifax.com. If your information is involved, there are steps you can and should take to protect your identity:

  • If you have an account with Equifax, change the password immediately. Be sure the new one is unique and not applicable to another site.
  • When you change a password, enable two-factor authentication when this feature is offered. Doing so will prevent those with malicious intent from requesting to reset your password, which would give them access to your account.
  • Monitor your credit reports. They are available from each of the three bureaus at no cost once a year. We also provide complimentary FICO® Scores, updated quarterly, through free online banking. Watch these indicators for negative movement.
  • Regularly review all your statements & transactions. Report potentially fraudulent charges immediately.
  • Be on the lookout for phishing emails that prompt you to click links or open attachments that are purportedly related to the Equifax situation. It’s also prudent to keep this in mind with any message you receive.
  • Identity thieves are additionally contacting consumers while posing as representatives of the credit bureaus. They will ask victims to provide personal information later used to defraud them. If you receive one of these phone calls, hang up immediately. If you need to speak with reporting agencies, contact them directly. This scam is sophisticated, with some caller IDs showing as originating from a bureau.

Your membership provides additional advantages that help safeguard your resources. Learn more about the following at americafirst.com:

  • Identity theft recovery services—If you suspect you’re a victim of identity theft, contact an America First representative, who can establish a case to help minimize the concern and impact. It’s free if you carry our Visa® credit cards & it covers all forms of ID theft.
  • Card Guard® mobile security—This free, state-of-the-art app gives you complete real-time control of when, where, and how your America First Visa cards are used.

Data breaches are serious problems for consumers and businesses. Financial institutions have complied with strict security measures since the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act passed. However, retailers and other entities handling sensitive personal financial information are not subject to these same standards. We should all urge our representatives and senators to support comprehensive data security legislation.

Thank you for your trust in America First and for the opportunity to assist in your complete financial needs. We look forward to a lifelong relationship with you and your family.

Enhance Your Community and Assist Our Less Fortunate Friends & Neighbors

There are many in our community who go hungry every day or who don’t know where they will get their next meals.

Thankfully, your generosity always comes through to combat this unfortunate trend. Please join America First to ensure the Greater Good food drive is a successful fall tradition.

We’ll be accepting canned & non-perishable food items–as well as other necessities, such as toothbrushes, diapers and soap—at all locations through Saturday, October 21.

You’ll be entered* in a drawing for an Apple Watch for each contribution you offer, plus you’ll be making a difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate.

Please visit us here locate an office near you.

*Eligibility & conditions apply to the drawing. Must be 18 years of age to participate.