emergency preparedness

Emergency Preparedness on a Budget

In case of fire, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes or even job loss, an emergency preparedness plan can make a big difference. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has recommended that each household be sustainable for at least three days after a catastrophic event. And while you can buy food storage and 72-hour kits for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, here are some tips for getting prepared on a budget.


Don’t wait until a disaster hits to start stocking up or you’ll be faced with empty shelves and a limited selection. Grow your inventory in small steps, buying whenever a good deal comes around. Skip eating out once a week and use that money to purchase some non-perishable items.

Start with a few cans at a time and watch for case lot sales at your local supermarket, where you can buy canned beans, fruits, vegetables and meats in bulk to save even more. Also, keep an eye out for deals on spices, which will be much appreciated if you’re living on wheat bread and beans for a while. Spend less on generic brands, but make sure you’re getting something you and your family will actually eat. Rotate your storage every few months.


Water is essential for any emergency preparedness inventory. You need to be ready in case your city’s water supply is contaminated or cut off completely. Recommendations are to store one gallon of water for each family member, per day. However, instead of expensive bottled water, save a few bucks by filling up empty two-liter soda bottles. Make sure to clean and rinse them to prevent any contaminants that could promote bacterial growth.

Not all water is used for drinking, though. If you have advanced warning, fill up your bathtub and some buckets for bathing, washing clothes, and doing dishes. If your water is shut off, you’ll also need a reserve to flush your toilet. Ration it wisely and make sure to keep your two water supplies separate.

Other Supplies

Your emergency preparedness kit should also include items to keep you warm, dry & clean. Many dollar stores carry basic toiletries, bandages, rubbing alcohol and other first-aid supplies, as well as cheap flashlights. After all, you don’t want to have to waste your phone’s power. Test them regularly and replace the batteries as needed.

Instead of donating all your old clothes to a local thrift store, keep an outfit or two to include in your 72-hour pack. You don’t need new clothes or the latest trends when you’re trying to stay warm. And if you have small children, consider using cloth diapers instead of disposable ones—they’re reusable and take up much less space. Keep a small amount of cash on hand, too. No electricity means that credit & debit cards won’t work.

Putting together an emergency preparedness kit doesn’t have to be expensive. Set apart a small amount each month for additional preparation purchases. You can also ask for items as birthday or Christmas gifts. It may take a little longer on a budget, but every little bit helps when disaster strikes.

credit score

How to Improve Your Credit Score

A good credit score is your passport to approvals. Lenders will look at that number to determine how risky it is to provide you with financing. Scores can determine your rate, term, or even if you get the funds at all.

If yours is lower than you’d like, you should know that there is no quick fix. In fact, the so-called simple tricks you’ll find online will most likely backfire. Responsibly rebuilding your credit score takes time and effort, but if you want to improve it, here are some tips.

Know Your Number

Your score is a three-digit number that comes from one of the major consumer reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. A FICO® Score, created by the Fair Isaac Corporation, is used by many lenders. At America First, you can see your FICO® score just by logging in to free online banking–checking it as many times as you like without affecting your credit rating. In case you don’t know if your number is good or bad, here is a quick breakdown:

  • Exceptional: 800+
  • Very Good: 740-799
  • Good: 670-739
  • Fair: 580-669
  • Poor: under 579

Correct Errors

Every year, you can get a free copy of your full credit report. Scan the documents from all three bureaus for any errors that negatively affect you. Are all your accounts listed? Are there any applications you didn’t set up and don’t recognize? Are there payments listed as late that you can prove were made on time? If you do find something incorrect, you can dispute it with the agency reporting the error.

Pay Your Debt Down

Start reducing your debt at a steady & deliberate pace. Don’t just move it around. Keep your credit card balances low and pay off your monthly charges. Also, be sure to stay current with all your bills. With America First online banking, you can set up alerts that notify you when a loan payment’s due and enroll in free online bill pay for automatic transfers. These will take care of utilities, your phone, cable and other accounts on time, every time. Paying your debts consistently and in full is the best way to improve your credit score.

If you think your credit is beyond repair, talk to an expert. America First offers free financial counseling for every member. And remember, building up your credit isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Consistency and responsibility are your best options for improving your credit score.


By John B. Lund, President & Chief Executive Officer

It’s September. The kids are back in classes, days are getting a bit shorter, and the harvest is on. We’re entering a wonderful time of year and I hope you’re enjoying it.

Each year, our management team establishes an internal theme we use as a principle focus and rallying cry for leadership and training meetings. Throughout 2017, our spotlight has been on Believe. This is a powerful concept, because we are guided and shaped by our beliefs, forming the foundation for the way we think, what we do, and how we live. There is undeniable power behind believing in something or someone.

We plant crops and gardens because we believe in and need the harvest. We go to school because we believe education will improve the future. Believing is the catalyst for action…or inaction. Therefore, what we believe can have a profound impact on our own lives and the lives of those who surround us.

One of the things I love about America First Credit Union is that we are a group who chooses to believe in each other and the core purpose of helping people. In January, I challenged the staff to renew and recommit to understanding and believing in our mission— improving the financial well-being of the membership. If we believe in ourselves & one another, follow through and work toward shared goals, our members will continue believing in us.

Thank you for your membership, loyalty, and the value you believe America First can deliver. We will work hard to retain this trust and look forward to a lifelong relationship.

Think of All You Can Do with America First Home Loans

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

  • Fund additions & expansions
  • Options with no closing costs
  • Potential tax advantages
  • Fixed terms and affordable payments

Plus, you’ll benefit from low rates, the best in quality member service, and more.

Apply today.

Security Update: Being On Guard When You Go Online

The popularity of online shopping unfortunately brings an increase in cybercriminals targeting unwary consumers.

When you make purchases via the Internet, you’ll need to take a few precautions:

  • Type the merchant’s URL
    Instead of just clicking on a link, it’s safer to enter the retailer’s site directly into your browser’s address bar.
  • Use a dedicated email account
    Consider creating an address dedicated specifically to online shopping. This can help reduce the risk of malicious messages disguised as sales promotions or other notifications.
  • Manage & protect access
    Using a password manager can help you to deal with multiple accounts. Most antivirus and Internet security software include these security features.
  • Be careful with Wi-Fi
    When you’re in a shopping mall, it can be useful to make a last-minute comparison with the best deals online. You can do this with your mobile device, rather than tapping in to vulnerable public Wi-Fi networks.

And for updates regarding how America First is continually working to help guard your resources, visit us here.


The Benefits of Beneficiaries

As much as we don’t want to think about dying, it’s important to plan for it and have your financial affairs in order. Naming beneficiaries for all of your accounts and keeping that information up-to-date is vital to avoid disputes among those you’ve left behind.

Keep it Current

The joint owner has equal ownership with the primary owner, so if one of them passes away, the funds default to the other. If your account has a single owner, you can still elect who receives your America First resources by submitting this payable-on-death beneficiary form to any branch.

There are many life changes that can affect who your beneficiary is, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of someone in your immediate family. It’s therefore essential to keep your designations current. These apply to personal savings, checking & money market accounts, as well as certificates and IRAs.

You can also elect more than one recipient. In fact, additional coverage from the National Credit Union Administration is available when you have multiple beneficiaries. Details are at NCUA.gov or contact an America First representative.


The credit union is required by law to disperse the funds to the named beneficiary, unless otherwise determined by the courts. This means if you remarry, but forget to change your information and your former spouse is still your designee when you die, your assets will go to him or her.

If you don’t choose a beneficiary and your account doesn’t have a joint owner, your money could be subject to probate, a process that administers a deceased person’s assets in a court of law. It costs to file the case, may require an attorney, and can take a long time if your estate is contested, so you want to avoid this if possible.

Another way to protect against probate is by opening a trust account. You’ll need a lawyer to draft the trust document, then we will set up your account that you will fund. America First also offers free professional consultations regarding trusts, wills and estate settlements. For specifics, call (801) 827-7130.

Staying current with your beneficiaries will help your family avoid unnecessary entanglements and stress. If you don’t know who is named on your account or want to check or change your status, please call 1-800-999-3961 or visit a nearby America First office.

America First Credit Union, Utah’s largest credit union, opens newly-remodeled Ogden Harrison branch

For Immediate Release:

America First Credit Union, Utah’s largest credit union, opens newly-remodeled Ogden Harrison branch

Riverdale, UTAH (Aug. 22, 2017) – Utah’s largest credit union, America First Credit Union, opened the doors to the newly-remodeled Ogden Harrison location today at 4768 Harrison Blvd, Ogden, Utah 84403. The location is one of 123 locations serving Utah, Nevada, Idaho and Arizona. The grand opening, beginning Monday, Aug. 21 through Saturday, Aug. 26, will be marked with celebratory events throughout the week, including daily drawings for a $100 visa gift card and a grand prize drawing for an Apple watch.

Updates to the branch include a new teller line and reconfiguration of the main space to include seven loan desks and a member waiting area, along with the addition of a coin room, video wall and a new glass installation between the teller line and drive-up areas. The branch also received upgrades with new lighting, paint, tile and carpet, as well as additional safe deposit boxes.

Aaron Mower will serve as branch manager of the Ogden Harrison location. Mower began his career in financial services in 2009 and moved through the ranks as lead teller and assistant manager, before assuming the role of branch manager in 2013. In his free time, Mower enjoys camping, fishing, hiking and biking with his family.

The Ogden Harrison Branch is located at 4768 Harrison Blvd, Ogden, Utah 84403. Branch hours are 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturday.

For more information, visit www.americafirst.com, America First Credit Union on Facebook, Twitter, @AmericaFirst on Instagram and Pinterest.

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About America First Credit Union:
As the largest credit union in the state of Utah, America First boasts a long-standing history and 78 years servicing members and has become one of the largest, most stable and most progressive credit unions in the country while remaining a member-owned, not-for-profit cooperative financial institution. Today, America First has 123 locations and is the 11th largest credit union in assets in the United States with more than $8.9 billion and the sixth largest credit union in membership in America with more than 861,000 members.


America First Credit Union
Nicole Cypers
C: 801-726-9480

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Melanie Devries
D: 702-506-0828
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HSA: Saving You Money on Healthcare

Health savings accounts (HSAs) are dividend-earning accounts specifically designated to pay the costs of managing your healthcare. If you’re generally healthy and don’t need to visit the doctor very often, an HSA is a great way to limit your upfront expenses and save some money in the long run.


Many people have preferred provider organization (PPO) coverage because that’s the most traditional way. With a PPO, you are billed larger premiums by an insurance company whether you use the program or not.

Health savings accounts are relatively new and this unfamiliarity makes some people hesitant about them. However, they offer more control when it comes to health expenditures. Plus, the funds in your account are tax-deductible—or you can set up pre-tax contributions with your employer—and the dividends you accrue are also tax-free.

How do I open one?

To qualify, you must have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). This may seem intimidating, but if you don’t normally spend a lot of money on medical care anyway, you’ll benefit from the lower premiums. After that, opening an HSA with America First is as easy as getting a regular savings account.

How do I utilize it?

Once it’s open, you’re responsible for the funding and making sure the money is used correctly. You’ll receive a debit card to pay for qualified medical expenses, which includes everything from doctor’s visits, eye exams and dental work, to insulin, wheelchairs and guide dogs. You’ll additionally need to track all your expenses and keep the receipts in case you’re ever audited.


Unlike PPOs and flexible spending accounts, the money you put into an HSA is yours to keep. If you quit your job, retire or otherwise lose your HDHP coverage, you can still spend these funds on eligible medical costs. And, when you turn 65, you can do what you want with the account balance, which means it can eventually become part of your retirement fund.

America First health savings accounts come with no fees and no minimum-balance requirements. We also offer custom products to fit your needs, such as HSA checking and certificate options. You’ll get 24/7 access with free online & mobile banking, and, as always, you’ll benefit from the assistance and expertise of our member service team. Contact your employer or insurance provider today to see if they offer HSA-qualified high deductible plans.


How to Pay for College Even When You Think You Can’t

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual cost of college tuition, fees, room & board is between $16,000 and $42,000. If those numbers make your head spin, you’re not alone. Whether you’re trying to pay for college yourself, or you’re looking to fund your child’s education, here are some resources that can help ease the financial burden.


Thankfully, there are ways to make a university education more affordable. Some scholarships will cover your entire tuition, as well as books & housing, whereas others will only award you a few hundred dollars. Keep an eye on the deadlines and apply for as many as possible, because you can get more than one.

Academic and athletic scholarships are probably the most common, but you can also gain funds based on your ethnic background, hobbies, military service, or an essay you wrote. They can also be unusual, such as the TCI Scholarship Award given to students above a certain height, and the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest, which has awarded more than $73,000 in scholarships since it began in 1974.

Contact the school’s financial aid office to discuss what’s available and how to apply. You can also find options online, but beware of scammers who will ask you to pay for consideration or ask for too much personal information.


Federal and state grants are financial aid distributed by the government. They’re available for almost anyone in need and generally do not need to be repaid. There are four federal types:

  • Pell Grants – awarded to undergraduates in financial need
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) – created for undergraduate students having exceptional financial need
  • Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) – given to students who intend to teach at schools with low-income families
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants – for students whose parents or guardians died during military service

Apply at https://fafsa.ed.gov/ to see what assistance you qualify to receive.

Coverdell Education Savings

America First offers Coverdell education accounts, which are savings accounts specifically designated for your kids’ education. You can deposit up to $2,000 per year and automatic transfers make setting aside the money easy. Even $10 monthly will quickly add up and make a difference in your child’s future.

Get involved

It pays to get involved with school organization and activities. Many student government officers receive tuition discounts. You can also qualify for stipends at many universities by creating college clubs. Additionally, on-campus jobs will sometimes include a tuition portion in addition to a paycheck.

No matter what you decide to study, higher education is costly. However, it doesn’t have to mean financial ruin. By saving money, applying for scholarships & grants, and getting involved on campus, you’ll find that paying for college can more affordable.