Financial Education

splash pad

Splish at a Splash Pad this Summer

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a waterpark, consider taking your kids to a splash pad. These recreational areas are usually run by the city—so most of them are free—and they include fountains, spray nozzles and other water features to help you cool off. Plus, since there normally isn’t any standing water at these public parks, swimming lessons are not required.

Here are some tips to get the most out of your family trip to a splash pad:

  • Look around – You may have seen a local splash pad nearby, but it’s probably not the only one. Search online to see how many are close to home.
  • Time it right – Mornings at the splash pad tend to be busy. You may find it to be less crowded if you go later in the afternoon.
  • Prep beforehand – Get everyone in their swimsuits and sunscreen applied beforehand, so no one has to wait to play in the water.
  • Don’t forget towels – Even in hot weather, playing in the water can make you cold. And make sure to dry everyone off before the drive back.
  • Bring some bandages – Wherever children and wet concrete meet, slips & scrapes will happen. Keep the fun going with some simple first aid.
  • Keep it clean – Use swim diapers for those who aren’t potty trained yet to avoid contaminating the water supply. Change dirty diapers immediately.
  • Supply some snacks – Nothing keeps your kids happy like a quick break to eat some treats. Keep it simple and keep the cooler at home.
  • Keep ’em hydrated – Playing in the sun will make you thirsty. Bring a couple of water bottles so no one is tempted to drink water from the nozzles.
  • Expect a short stay – Splash pads are fun, but it’s not an all-day event. After an hour or so your little splashers will probably run out of steam.
geocaching

Geocaching—Treasure Hunting with the Family

Did you know there are hidden treasure boxes all around you right now? If you’re looking for a fun, inexpensive summer activity you can do with the whole family, try geocaching—all you need is a GPS-enabled device and a sense of adventure.

Geocaching is the process of using GPS coordinates to find containers (or “caches”) concealed above the ground in forests, fields, caves, bodies of water and city streets. You’d probably be surprised to discover how many are nearby. According to geocaching.com, there are more than three million caches in over 190 countries. Some are as small as film canisters while others are large buckets. They have been placed there by the community of geocachers to give the others something to find.

Once you pick a cache and locate it using the listed coordinates, you’ll normally find some sort of logbook and some trinkets or small toys. The rule of geocaching is that if you take something, you’re supposed to leave something of equal or greater value. These real-world treasure hunts vary in difficulty, so all ages can enjoy it.

It’s easy to participate:

  • Step 1: Register for a free account at geocaching.com or download the free app. This will allow you to see coordinates for various caches, get clues from other geocachers and log your finds.
  • Step 2: Choose your cache by searching near your location or destination. If you’re just starting out, select a regular-sized or large cache with a low difficulty rating.
  • Step 3: Use your GPS-enabled device. Once you’ve successfully located a geocache, sign the logbook and then return it to its original location so the next treasure-seeker can find it.

Have fun outdoors and get some exercise by geocaching!

online statements

Easy, Earth-Friendly, Free: Online Statements

Most financial institutions, including America First, offer online statements. After all, paper versions fill your mailbox, clutter the counters and end up in the landfill.

To recognize Earth Day, considering cancelling your paper statements. With the online version, there’s no waiting for the mail—your information is available anytime, anywhere just by logging in to a secure account. Plus, online statements don’t get lost or delivered to the wrong address, and they guard against identity theft.

If instant access and added security weren’t enough, going paperless is also an environmentally conscious decision. Reducing unnecessary paper waste helps diminish the number of trees that need to be cut down annually. If everyone at all financial institutions got their statements exclusively online, we could help ensure our beautiful forests will be around for years to come.

America First makes switching easy:

  • Log in to online banking
  • Click the Other Services tab
  • Select Statement Preferences
  • Follow the brief instructions

Go paperless—it’s for your convenience, protection and better for your planet.

federal holidays

A Brief Explanation of Federal Holidays

Federal holidays have been around since 1870, but back then they only applied to government employees in the District of Colombia. As time went on, these officially recognized calendar holidays have broadened to honor icons & aspects of American heritage that have shaped us as a nation. On these holidays, all non-essential federal government offices are closed. Also closed are federally chartered financial institutions, including credit unions and banks. This is because many, like America First, depend on national agencies to process specific transactions.

There are currently 10 federal holidays:

  • New Year’s Day (January 1)
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (third Monday in January)
  • Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February)
  • Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
  • Independence Day (July 4)
  • Labor Day (first Monday in September)
  • Columbus Day (second Monday in October)
  • Veterans’ Day (November 11)
  • Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday in November)
  • Christmas Day (December 25)

If it falls on a weekend, the holiday will usually be observed on the closest weekday. Credit unions also close for official state holidays. In Utah, for example, America First offices close for Pioneer Day (July 24), while our Nevada locations will be closed on Nevada Day (last Friday in October) and Family Day (the day after Thanksgiving).

Although you’ll find our branches unavailable on federal holidays, we’re open to serve you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year with online and mobile banking, as well as at thousands of ATMs nationwide.

romance

Don’t Get Fooled by Romance Scams

Falling in love can make you feel as though you’re walking on air, but if a budding relationship is exclusively online, it’s important to keep your feet on the ground. Here are some tips to avoid becoming a romance scam victim.

  • You may be charming and attractive, but scammers will try grooming you by flattering your ego. Be suspicious if things progress too quickly without meeting each other in person.
  • Watch out if your new friend starts making financial requests. He or she may play with your heartstrings and say there are medical expenses to pay or ask you for travel expenses for a date. Don’t do it.
  • Never send cash, cashier’s checks, gift cards or wired funds to unverified individuals. It’s almost impossible to get that money back.
  • Resist the temptation to send expensive gifts to your virtual boyfriend or girlfriend. Save that for when and if you meet in person. Even then, don’t spend more than you can afford.
  • Private information, such as your account number or PIN isn’t to be shared with anyone but joint account owners.
  • Don’t provide your address, credit card numbers or Social Security number to someone you’re talking to on a dating site or in a chat room.
  • Resist any effort to connect to your account to an online friend’s, even if they claim they’ll only make deposits.

In short, a healthy amount of skepticism can keep you safe whenever you start seeing—or chatting with—a new love interest.

snow

(Safely) Dashing Through the Snow

As soon as snow starts to fall, it seems people suddenly forget how to drive in a reasonable manner. So, we have pointers for avoiding costly accidents in the winter.

Proper Preparation

Check the weather and your route before a trip. Give yourself plenty of time so you can drive slowly and arrive safely. Tell others an estimated time of arrival. That way, if you do get stuck, people will know where to look.

Make sure your tires are properly inflated and that they have sufficient tread to handle icy roads. Cold weather can reduce pressure and increase the risk of blowouts. Keep your gas tank at least half full—running out of fuel in the middle of a blizzard is a miserable experience. On a related note, keep your phone’s battery full in case you need to call for help.

Stock your vehicle with winter weather basics such as a snow scraper, jumper cables, mobile charger, and blankets. Clear off your headlights and keep them on so everyone can see you coming. And make sure your windshield wipers are working correctly so you can see others coming.

Acceptable Acceleration

Everything you do in a car—stopping, starting, turning—takes a little longer in the snow. Move at a moderate, steady pace. Don’t rely on cruise control when the streets are slippery, wet and icy. Keep your eyes on the road & your hands on the wheel.

Also, just because the posted speed limit is 55 miles per hour doesn’t mean you should go that fast. In fact, you can be ticketed for driving the limit if conditions are deemed unsafe. Drive slowly enough that you can retain control and move with the flow of traffic.

Don’t punch the gas pedal when you start out or begin ascending a hill. Gradually applying pressure is the best way to avoid spinning your wheels or skidding off the road. If you drift, take your foot off the accelerator and let your car slow down until you get back on track.

Beneficial Braking

Stopping is one of the most dangerous parts of driving in the snow. In fact, if you can avoid coming to a complete halt, you’ll maintain your inertia and have less chance of getting stuck. Allow plenty of room when approaching a stoplight or an intersection, then decelerate naturally. If you’re behind another commuter, give yourself eight to 10 seconds instead of the usual three or four.

Become familiar with brake functions in both wet and dry conditions. Most modern vehicles have anti-lock features, but slamming on the brakes will almost certainly cause skidding. And don’t think you’re invulnerable just because of four-wheel or all-wheel drive—this won’t help when you hit a patch of black ice.

During the winter months, drive slow, smart & safe. You’ll save some money and your stress levels will decrease dramatically.

seasonal

Seasonal Jobs are Coming to Town

With all the spending taking place over the holidays, many look for ways to earn extra money. Luckily, it’s also a time when employers need individuals to fill temporary positions dealing with the influx of shoppers and shipments. Here are some seasonal jobs you can find almost anywhere in the country.

Warehouse Worker

Warehouse facilities are full of electronics, furniture, clothing, toys, jewelry and so much more. During the busy months, they need people to perform lots of tasks, including forklift drivers to stock the shelves, pickers to find items, and packers to fill boxes. Additional workers load trucks at night for the next day’s runs.

Delivery Driver

Companies like FedEx and UPS hire seasonal employees every year. If you don’t feel comfortable driving a delivery truck, you can also be hired on as a helper, who acts as an assistant to the driver, doing whatever’s needed and getting packages to porches. Either job is highly active, involving lots of lifting and walking. So, along with gaining some extra cash, you may also lose a few pounds.

Retail Associate

While malls are not the holiday haven they used to be, many retail stores require employees this time of year. There are cashiers who interact directly with customers, stockers who ensure the shelves are full and presentable, and security personnel who help prevent shoplifting and loss to the business. People skills and patience are usually the most important qualifications for seasonal retail jobs.

Customer Service Representative

Call centers are often seeking assistance at Christmastime. These employees handle both inbound and outbound calls, whether they’re from customers troubleshooting products or those filing complaints. You’ll be trained on specific subjects, so you shouldn’t stress about not knowing the answers immediately. And, if there’s a problem, it can always be escalated to your manager.

Event Staffer

All those company parties at hotels, country clubs, and conference centers have staff to set things up, cook meals, serve guests, bartend, run audio & video presentations, and clean afterward. Since these events normally peak at the end of the year, the venues are a great place to find seasonal work.

Finally, if you’re looking for meaningful part-time work with flexible hours that could easily turn into a full-time career, check out the open positions at America First Credit Union.

Black Friday

Black Friday Survival Guide

It’s Black Friday! And even if you’re reading this article after the sun has come up, here are some tips on how to save some cash on one of the biggest shopping days of the year without sacrificing your well-being.

Have a plan

If you haven’t already done so, set your budget and decide which items are most important as well as which ones are likely to go quickly. Map out your route to minimize wasted travel time. Then, after that, make a backup plan. There may be a few times when the deal you want won’t be available. If you don’t have an alternate option, you may take too long to decide, and you could lose out on yet another deal.

Divide & conquer

Don’t bring your young children with you, they’ll only slow you down. Find another adult friend or two and split up the list. They can visit the toys section while you shop electronics. Or you can visit entirely different stores on opposite sides of town. Just make sure that you’re in constant communication so you don’t accidentally double-buy something.

Price check

Don’t automatically believe that every discount you see is the best deal. Take a moment to look online for similar items at other locations. If you find a lower price elsewhere, determine whether the difference is worth the cost of going to another store. Also, make sure to check the return & exchange policies on any bargain you may encounter, just in case you find a better deal elsewhere.

Shop virtually

Many retailers offer the same deals online that they do in-store. You can do your Black Friday shopping from the comfort of your own couch while wrapped in a blanket and sipping hot cocoa. You can even choose the store pick-up option if you want to get out of the house and people watch for a little bit. Just make sure that you only make purchases from trustworthy sites.

Don’t panic

Yes, there are lots of so-called doorbuster deals on Black Friday, but many retailers offer week-long or even month-long discounts in the weeks preceding Christmas. And you may find that they rival the ones offered on the evening of Thanksgiving. If you don’t want to stay up late, wake up early, or battle the unruly crowds, consider visiting stores another day.

There’s always next year

If you couldn’t snag the stuff you wanted this year, learn from your mistakes. Start making a plan of attack, which may include following specific stores and brands on social media and signing up for emails and mailing lists, so you can be notified as soon as items start to go on sale for the next Black Friday.

underwriter

What Does an Underwriter Do?

If you apply for a loan or an insurance policy, your documents must be reviewed by an underwriter. But what functions does the underwriter perform? How do they fit in the process?

The backstory

The word underwrite simply means signing under or below something. In the early days of banking, underwriters would place their names below the amount of risk they were willing to tolerate, in exchange for a premium. If anything went wrong, the underwriter would have to answer for it.

Underwriting now

Today, underwriters are trained on all lending guidelines & procedures. They assess loan risk and determine if an institution is wise to invest in an individual. Auto financing, credit cards, mortgages and insurance policies are all underwritten. These professionals evaluate all the paperwork and examine your income, debts, credit score, property, assets, job stability and borrowing history.

After an underwriter examines the facts and crunches the numbers, that information and a proposed decision is delivered to a loan officer. This could be an approval, a rejection, or a call for further information, or a suggestion that adjustments need to be made. It is up to loan officers to give borrowers the verdicts.

Why they’re helpful

Underwriters mitigate the institution’s liability and stay apprised of economic trends, such as new types of fraud or a pending recession. If the underwriter does their job correctly, financial institutions and insurance companies don’t lend to or cover those who can’t or won’t make the required payments. However, underwriters are also beneficial for borrowers, because they’ll analyze your situation and ensure that you don’t get in over your head.

How to become an underwriter

Does this sound like a career you’re interested in? It helps to have computer proficiency, as well as experience in business, mathematics, economics or finance. Underwriters receive extensive training and then complete a series of certifications to stay up to date on changing policies and regulations and remain consistent in lending decisions.

If you’re interested in assessing finances and helping people get the loans they need, keep an eye on the America First job listings page.

veterans

Veterans Day Deals & Discounts

Veterans Day is when we as a country honor the brave men and women who fight for & protect the nation. Many businesses recognize those in the military with discounts.

Below are some deals service members, past and present, can receive on Veterans Day. Some require purchases, while others ask for identification or are dine-in only. Be sure to check the merchant’s official sites or call ahead for details, as these are subject to change and may apply to different days. For example, this year, Veterans Day falls on November 11, but will be observed on November 12.

  • Applebee’s – free entrée
  • Boston Market – buy a meal and a drink, get another meal free
  • Buffalo Wild Wings – free small order of wings & side of fries
  • California Pizza Kitchen – free entrée
  • Chili’s – complimentary meal
  • Chipotle – buy-one, get-one menu item free
  • Cracker Barrel – free slice of cake or Crafted Coffee beverage
  • Denny’s – free Build Your Own Grand Slam® breakfast
  • Dunkin’ Donuts – complimentary doughnut
  • Famous Dave’s – free two-meat combo
  • Golden Corral – free dinner buffet, drink
  • Goodyear Auto Services – free auto check and 10% off all tires
  • Great Clips – complimentary haircut
  • Hyatt Hotels – room rate discounts up to 15%
  • IHOP – free Red, White & Blue pancakes
  • Joe’s Crab Shack – 20% off entire check
  • Little Caesar’s – free Hot-N-Ready® lunch combo
  • Mattress Firm – 20% discount
  • Outback Steakhouse – free Bloomin’ Onion, drink
  • Red Lobster – free appetizer or dessert
  • Red Robin – Red’s Tavern Double burger & fries for free
  • Romano’s Macaroni Grill – free Mom’s Ricotta Meatballs & Spaghetti
  • Sizzler – free complete lunch
  • Sport Clips – complimentary haircut
  • Starbucks – free tall brewed coffee
  • Target – 10% discount on in-store & online purchases
  • Texas Roadhouse – free lunch
  • Tucanos Brazilian Grill – BOGO Churrasco meals
  • Village Inn – free INN-Credible breakfast
  • Wienerschitzel – free chili dog, fries, drink

And be sure to visit americafirst.com to see the benefits we provide to those serving in the military every day.