Month: October 2017

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.