How to Save on Your Hotel Stay

Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway or you’re taking the whole family on a vacation, lodging can consume a large chunk of your budget if you’re not careful. Here are some tips for saving on your next hotel stay.

Timing is everything

The best way to spend less per night is to go during the off-season. Peak times will vary depending on location. A room at a ski resort will cost a lot less in the summer, for example, but you’re going to have a hard time finding inexpensive accommodations on Valentine’s Day. This also applies to days of the week. Most hotels charge more on the weekends, so a Tuesday-through-Thursday trip could be a lot cheaper. Finally, make your reservation in advance to take advantage of early booking discounts.

Do your research

Shop around to see how much rooms are in certain areas. If you want to reduce expenses & don’t mind traveling, consider staying outside downtown areas. Lots of hotels offer free guest shuttle services. Speaking of which, keep an eye out for complimentary perks such as breakfast, a pool, fitness center, and laundry service. Little bonuses like these can add up. On the flip side, watch out for hidden fees for things like parking or internet access.

Visit a few online aggregators to compare costs and read reviews, but don’t rely solely on them. Sometimes there are limited time offers that aren’t on third-party sites. Once you have a price in mind, contact the hotel directly—they might beat the pricing—and others may match any listing. Ask about the lowest non-refundable rate and if there are deals & discounts not listed elsewhere.

Find the discounts

Look for coupon codes for both the hotel and travel service sites. If you’re a member of AAA, AARP or the military, there’s a good chance you’ll score a cheaper room. Some businesses have loyalty programs that deliver discounts just for signing up. And ask about free upgrades when you arrive, especially if it’s your birthday, anniversary or honeymoon.

Additionally, America First can give you a break just for using your Visa® card—activate ABC Deals® and get 10% off at select hotels. Plus, with our Visa rewards program, you’ll earn points for every dollar you spend, then redeem them at hotels.

Try something different

Seek unconventional options, such as bed & breakfasts or hostels, to save big bucks. If you’re traveling with a large group, rent a vacation home near your destination and split the cost. If you have an in-room kitchen, cooking instead of eating out will lower your budget significantly. And, finally, if you want the cheapest break available, send the kids to their grandparents’ and spend the evening alone together in your own, now quieter & calmer home.


What to do Right After a Car Accident

No matter how safe you’re driving, you can’t control anyone else on the road, which means you may still get into an accident. When that time comes, knowing what to do can save you time, money, even additional injuries. Here’s how to proceed immediately after a collision:

Step 1: Secure the scene

First, don’t leave. Fleeing the scene is a crime and will only get you in more trouble. Move your vehicle to a safe area, such as on the shoulder of the road or a parking lot. If your car is immovable, turn on the hazard lights and stay out of traffic as much as possible. Check everyone involved. If people are seriously injured but not in immediate danger, don’t move them until paramedics arrive—you don’t want to cause further damage.

Step 2: Carefully communicate

If there are injuries, call 911 immediately. Even if no one is hurt, you should still contact the police, making sure proper protocol is followed. Plus, their report is helpful if you decide to file an insurance claim. If the incident is minor enough that officers aren’t dispatched, you can still file your own accident report with the police department or DMV. As you wait for the authorities to arrive, exchange information, including:

  • Names
  • Insurance companies & policy numbers
  • Vehicle makes & models
  • License plate numbers
  • Eyewitness contact information

You should also take note of the responding officer’s name and badge number. You can even take pictures that capture this information instead of writing it down. Also, as you’re talking about the accident, don’t admit fault. This may feel strange—especially if you think you are the one who caused it—but there is a process for determining who’s responsible & the professionals should make that call. For example, you may have been looking at your phone when you hit the other vehicle, but after the cops speak with a witness, they could discover that the other driver ran a red light. Don’t rush to judgment, just state the facts.

Step 3: Consider a claim

Most insurance cards have numbers to call in case of an accident. Report it as soon as possible to ensure quick benefit delivery. However, just because you were in a crash doesn’t mean you must claim it with your insurance company. If it’s a minor fender-bender and no one is injured, filing claims can cause premium increases.

Caution and common sense go a long way after an auto accident. Following the three steps above will help save you some pain, both physically and financially.

Better Money Management

Many of us resolve to practice better money-management when a new year gets under way, but by maximizing your membership in America First, you can truly reach those goals.

We offer several free, state-of-the-art services to monitor, track & control your funds, such as:

  • Money Manager—easy, intelligent online budgeting
  • FICO® Scores—check your credit any time with free online banking
  • Account alerts—stay informed about balances, transactions, deposits and loan payments
  • Card Guard®—set transaction limits, approve merchants & turn your America First Visa® cards on and off

Click here to learn how these and other premier tools can enhance your financial health.

Avoiding Tax Season Tricks

The middle of April might feel as though it’s ages away, but the tax deadline will soon be upon us—and so will the online scams.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the country experienced a 50% hike in reported identity theft crimes since 2015, including those related to someone filing a false tax return in a stolen name.

To follow are some timely tips to prevent fraud during the coming months and throughout the year:

  • Officials recommend doing your taxes as soon as possible. The Internal Revenue Service only accepts one return per Social Security number. If yours is in early, a criminal cannot submit another with your personal information.
  • Imposters often claim to be government agents, but official U.S. agencies will never email or call you demanding payment without mailing you a notice first. Nor will they ask for card numbers via email or phone.
  • Regularly review your accounts and activity with free online & mobile banking. We also post your FICO Score ® if you have free checking and/or a loan with us. And be sure to check your credit report for shady transactions at least once annually.
  • Watch out for unsolicited emails, texts, social media posts or fake sites that prompt clicking on links or sharing valuable data.
  • Take advantage of free antivirus or protective software.
  • Add a system firewall to prevent unauthorized users.
  • Visit us here to see how we’re working to safeguard your resources.

Guest Commentary: All Indicators are Positive for Continued Economic Growth

By Glen Olpin, Senior Vice President—Chief Economist

February of 2018 marks the 104th straight month of national economic recovery. This period of economic improvement may be the longest, yet weakest on record, but there are no signs of a slowdown on the horizon.

Utah and neighboring Intermountain West states are experiencing stronger overall growth than the national average. Nationwide strength in economic growth as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) was recently reported for 2017; we expect continued strength throughout this year.

Businesses have acted cautiously during the latest cycle of an improving economy; however, recent measures assessing the commercial sector show increased strength and confidence. We expect a favorable business services and lending climate to prevail in 2018.

Consumers have led the recovery and remain optimistic about the future. Utah and surrounding states are exhibiting strong employment growth and personal income is rising. Consumer spending has been solid and we expect to see continued strength in spending this year. There are some cautionary indicators, however, including consumer debt rising to pre-recession levels.

Inflation has been slowly trending upward since late 2015, but it does not constitute a threat to continuing economic growth; we are predicting inflation to remain in the 2% to 2.5% range during the coming year.

Short-term interest rates have slowly inched upward and are expected to rise by as much as an additional 1%. As these rates increase, long-term interest rates are expected to move moderately higher as well.

New and existing home sales have been healthy in the face of increasing prices. Housing and construction spending should stay robust. Real estate lending rates are also forecast to remain relatively low. These positive indicators are combining for an already favorable real estate environment to continue throughout 2018.

We have seen ongoing demand for automobiles and that trend is expected to continue. The need for America First vehicle financing is strong. We pledge to remain the leader in auto lending for our members.

Consistently low interest rates, a strengthening business environment, the wealth effect from increasing home values, continued fundamental vitality in the stock market, as well as the hope of reduced regulations and tax relief, are combining to increase consumer and business confidence in a growing economy well beyond 2018.

We expect this to be another successful year for America First Credit Union. We appreciate your membership and remain dedicated to serving your complete financial needs as we move forward together.

Get Some Additional Cash Back and Get the Perks You Deserve

For a limited time, when you transfer balances from other institutions to Visa® from America First, we’ll pay you 3% of that amount! And you’ll get:

  • Additional cash back with free ABC Deals™
  • Free Card Guard® mobile security & fraud protection
  • Free identity theft recovery services
  • Much more

Plus, our cards always deliver:

  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase
  • Exclusive deals & discounts
  • Free Picture Perfect™ customization

Apply today.

Eligibility & conditions apply.


auto insurance

Understanding Auto Insurance

After buying a new or used vehicle, your next step should be getting it insured. Auto insurance, after all, can save you a lot of money on repairs, hospital stays, and even property damage. Most states require drivers to carry insurance, but it’s important to understand what you’ll need before you hit the road. Here are the main auto policy categories.


This pays for the other person’s damage and injuries when an accident is your fault. If the accident is caused by the other driver, his or her liability insurance pays for your repairs and medical bills. Getting this is usually mandatory, though the levels of coverage may vary. In Utah, for example, you are required to have a minimum of $25,000 for bodily injury per person, $65,000 for bodily injury total per accident, $15,000 for property damage per accident, or $80,000 total for bodily injury and property damage. This may sound like a lot but, remember, this is not the premium you’re paying the insurance company, it’s the coverage you’re getting from it.

Personal injury protection (PIP)

Also necessary in some states, personal injury protection is primarily for the cost of accident injuries. Utah law requires that you have a minimum of $3,000 per person. It is also known as no-fault insurance, because it gives you additional financial protection, regardless of who caused the accident.


No matter who’s at fault, this insurance pays for your vehicle’s repairs when you’re in an accident. Collision coverage comes in handy when the damage total is more than what the other driver’s insurance can pay. Additionally, if the vehicle is unrepairable, it will provide payment at the actual cash value. It’s optional in most states, but many lenders require that you carry collision until your car is paid off.


Sometimes vehicles get wrecked by things other than cars & trucks. Comprehensive coverage takes care of damage due to fire, hail, flooding, tornados, theft, vandalism or even if you hit an animal. Once again, it’s optional, but it’s a good investment if your vehicle has an expensive price tag.

Uninsured motorist

This pays for car repairs and medical expenses if the other driver isn’t covered. It’s estimated that one in seven drivers on the road are uninsured or are underinsured, which means that you could end up facing the costs of the crash if the wrong person hits your vehicle.

There are, of course, other types of auto insurance, such as rental reimbursement, where you’ll get a loaner if your car isn’t drivable, but these five are the most prevalent. Discuss all options with an insurance agent, then decide what’s best for you and your vehicle.

used car

Five Steps to Take Before Buying a Used Car

It’s an exciting experience to buy a used car—especially when you finally find the make, model & color you want—at a price that looks like a good deal. However, before you get caught up in the process and sign the paperwork, here are five steps you should take.

Do your research

Don’t make a final decision the first time you visit a dealership or private seller. First, look up the vehicle online and, if applicable, the dealer. Use NADA or similar guides to check the value and read what others who own the same type of car are saying. You can even find repair records if you have the vehicle identification number (VIN).

Take a test drive

The best way to get to know a used car or truck is to drive it. Create a checklist beforehand so you don’t overlook anything. And don’t just take it around the block, either; see how it handles at various speeds on different roads. Use each of your senses by looking for excessive wear and tear, listening for strange rattles, knocks and squeaks and determining if the heater or air conditioner is generating odd smells. Press all the buttons, flip the switches, and turn on the lights to be certain everything is in working order.

Get a second opinion

While you’re out test-driving, take it to a friend or family member’s house. Talk to them about the mileage, the seller, the price and anything else that’s on your mind. This will give you the valuable perspective of an outsider who might be able to uncover red flags you can’t.

Visit the mechanic

If you’re not well versed in vehicle maintenance, you might consider going to an auto repair shop and getting a pre-purchase inspection. The mechanic can likely discover things you wouldn’t find just from looking under the hood. These normally run around $100, but spending a little upfront could save you from expensive repairs in the future.

Get preapproved

Never wait until the last minute to think about financing. Getting preapproved for an auto loan will help ensure you get the lowest possible rate. Plus, you can choose your lender instead of relying on expensive dealer offers. This will speed up the buying process when you’re ready. America First even delivers instant online approvals so you can get an idea of what you can afford before you even set foot on a used car lot.


Take Control to Achieve Financial Well-Being

Good financial health doesn’t just happen—you must take an active role to have stability and success. But gaining control of your money isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Here are four simple things you can do:

Follow a budget

You don’t need a complex algorithm from a popular financial website—find a budget that works for your lifestyle. It could be an Excel spreadsheet, allocating cash envelopes to each family member, or just using a pen & paper. America First’s money manager is a free online tool that intuitively tracks, provides a plan to deal with debt, and automatically categorizes your transactions. Plus, you can add any other accounts to see everything in one place.

Monitor your account

It’s important to stay informed about income and your expenditures. You can log in to free online banking every morning and look at your transactions. What’s even more convenient is setting up free account e-alerts to be notified when certain actions happen. Receive an email or text when your balance is low, money with withdrawn, you’ve reached your Visa® credit card limit, a loan payment’s due, when your paycheck arrives & more. Customize the alerts according to your needs.

Secure spending

Speaking of custom notifications, Card Guard® is a free app from America First that adds an extra level of control to your Visa accounts. After registering, you’ll get instant alerts whenever your cards are used and you can limit transactions to certain geographical areas. You can additionally set up threshold amounts so your card will automatically deny purchases for more than you allocated. And if your card is lost or stolen, you can simply turn it off. Using this kind of instant security is essential, as identity theft and cybercrime continue to increase.

Know your credit score

Understanding credit is essential to reach your financial goals. Your score, after all, informs institutions of how much risk they’re taking by offering you a loan. It influences your interest rate, terms, and even if you’ll get financing at all. You can look up your FICO® Score every time you log in to free online banking from America First and it won’t affect your credit. It’s updated quarterly, which means you can always see where your borrowing power stands.

These are just some fundamental things you can do to control your money matters. For more ideas for improving your financial well-being, check out our range of user-friendly products & services at


Stay Healthy, Save Money

You probably know someone who’s sick because we’re right in the middle of cold & flu season. And since illness usually means spending hard-earned cash on doctor visits and medications, staying healthy can save you money. Here are some tips:

Keep things clean

First and foremost, wash your hands regularly—especially before eating. Experts recommend using soap & warm water for 20 to 30 seconds, then thoroughly drying. Carry hand sanitizer for when you don’t have quick access to a faucet. But even when you think your hands are clean, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible, as those are direct ways for bacteria to enter your body.

Speaking of germs, ensure your surroundings are hygienic. After all, touching a dirty doorknob will negate all your hand-washing. You don’t have to become a germaphobe, but regularly using disinfectant wipes to clean keyboards, countertops, desks, light switches, and your phone this winter will help you avoid the nasty flu that’s going around.

Be on guard

It goes without saying that, in order to stay healthy, you should avoid contact with ill individuals. However, sometimes you can’t tell who is contagious and who isn’t. Whenever you share a sip of soda or a bite of your sandwich this time of year, you’re taking a risk. The same goes for grabbing candy out of a shared bowl at work or dipping your chip in some salsa at a party—you never know whose hands have been in there, so take the proper precautions to prevent illness.

Avoid large crowds whenever possible and, as strange as it may feel, resist shaking hands over the next couple months. If you do handle something used by the public such as a phone, cash or even a pen at a checkout counter, be sure to wash directly afterward.

Take care of yourself

When it comes to staying healthy, the best offense is a good defense. Stress and a lack of sleep can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible. Get plenty of rest and find time to relax or meditate. You should also eat foods rich in vitamin C (strawberries, broccoli, oranges), vitamin D (eggs, cheese, yogurt) and vitamin E (sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach) to boost your immunity.

Exercise can also help, but if you’re suffering from fever, fatigue or coughing, you should take it easy. Drink plenty of fluids to flush the toxins from your body. Also, get some fresh air. We often shut ourselves in during the colder months and even opening a window for a little bit can help disperse indoor pollutants.

You may still get sick with these precautions, but keeping things clean, being on guard and taking care of yourself can drastically reduce your chances, which will in turn lessen your medical expenses during the cold & flu season.