Christmas

Have Yourself a Frugal Little Christmas

After all the shopping and party prepping are done, your holiday budget may feel two sizes too small. If you want to boost your Christmas spirit, but don’t feel like spending large sums of money, here are some inexpensive activities you can do with your family, on a date, or on your own this season.

Decoration expedition

Enjoying elaborate exterior decorations doesn’t have to cost a lot—go on a drive and appreciate your neighbors’ work. There are websites, apps & maps that identify impressive holiday displays, or you can explore and find them yourself. Many cities have lights in public parks with free admission.

Movie marathon

On the other hand, if you’re staying in, throw on pajamas, wrap yourself in a blanket and have a Christmas movie marathon. There are plenty of holiday streaming options available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and YouTube, or you can turn on the TV and see what specials are playing.

Twinkling story time

Check out classic Christmas books from your local library, such as “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” “The Polar Express,” or “A Christmas Carol.” Turn off all the lights and read stories by the glow of the Christmas tree. You can also play some soft seasonal tunes to fill the room with more cheer.

Magical mall walks

Remember the mall? Even though many purchase presents online these days, shopping centers are full of festive decor, joyful music, aromas of pine & peppermint, and Santa’s workshop. Strolling through the mall without the stress of having to find a gift is a nostalgia-inducing experience.

Christmas karaoke

You already know the songs by heart, so why not throw a holiday-themed karaoke party? After all, as Buddy the elf said, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” And if you’re feeling brave, you can take your show on the road and go caroling.

Celebratory crafts & treats

There are thousands of Christmas craft ideas and recipes on the internet. Find those that work with supplies you already have and get creative. Cut out paper snowflakes, bake cookies, write heartfelt cards, set up a hot chocolate bar, or try your hand at DIY candy canes.

Joyful service

There’s something magical about serving others during the holiday season. Shovel a driveway or wrap packages for an elderly neighbor. Pay visits with the treats and crafts you’ve made. Volunteer for organizations that help the homeless and poor. Look for ways to brighten other people’s days and your yuletide spirit will shine even brighter.

America First Credit Union Gifts More Than 1,800 Pairs of Shoes to Underprivileged Students Throughout Utah and Nevada

Riverdale, Utah – (Dec. 19, 2018) – As part of its annual Warm the Soles of Kids initiative (Warm the Soles), America First Credit Union distributed more than 1,800 pairs of gift-wrapped shoes to children in need throughout the month of December. This year, 24 schools and agencies spanning across Utah and Southern Nevada took part in the project.

America First employees visited several schools in December including Midvale Elementary, Dixie Sun Elementary, Lakeview Elementary, Hurricane Elementary, Red Rock Elementary, Gibson Middle School and Hill Air Force Base to hand out shoes and host a festive holiday celebration.

Celebrating its 24th year, the Warm the Soles project is funded by America First member donations and the Skip a Payment program. America First works to raise funds and donations from members throughout November and December to purchase shoes for children in need during the holiday season. The project is coordinated through the America First Credit Union Charitable Foundation.

For additional information, visit www.americafirst.com or find America First Credit Union on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Photo attached: America First Credit Union employees and volunteers deliver new, gift-wrapped shoes to underprivileged children during the annual Warm the Soles event.

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ABOUT AMERICA FIRST CREDIT UNION

With a long-standing history and more than 79 years servicing members, America First has become one of the largest, most stable and most progressive credit unions in the country, and has remained a member-owned, not-for-profit cooperative financial institution. Today, America First has 129 locations, and is the 10th largest credit union in assets in the United States with over $10.2 billion, and the sixth largest credit union in membership in America with more than 988,000 members.  

Card Guard

Card Guard: Powerful Protection for your Transactions

Your financial information can be stolen at any time of the year, but people are particularly vulnerable during the holidays, just because everyone’s spending more. But when you have Card Guard® from America First, you control when, where & how your Visas are used—giving you the best possible protection.

Our revolutionary security app is free and available for Apple and Android devices. Download it, then log in to your account and pick the credit, debit and ATM cards you want to manage.

Customizable Control

If you misplace a credit card, for example, you can flip a switch and it will be disabled. Once you’ve retraced your steps and realize, for some reason, that you put your card in the fridge, you can quickly and easily turn it back on.

Another feature lets you set geographic limits on where cards can be processed. You can also choose to allow transactions only if your smartphone is in the vicinity. If anyone tries to use your card number in a store outside of this pre-determined area, or if the scammer doesn’t have your mobile device with them, the purchase will be declined.

Card Guard also lets you allow some transaction types and decline others. Or you can determine which card you want to be used at certain department stores, gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores. This kind of control can prevent theft or help you manage your budget.

Additionally, your card can deny any transactions above a pre-determined spending threshold, stopping scammers from buying things with huge price tags. However, some criminals start by buying something smaller to test the card, which is why you want to set up real-time alerts.

Instant Notifications

These notifications are one of the coolest things about the Card Guard app. Once real-time notifications are enabled, your phone will deliver instant alerts about specific transactions or when your card number is being used at all. So, if you get an alert in the middle of the night, you can quickly review the transaction and see if you need to turn your card off or if it’s just your recurring charge from Netflix.

Add extra protection to all your purchases with Card Guard today.

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.

Reflections of the Season

By John B. Lund, President & CEO

As I write this message, I have very mixed and deep emotions. I always look forward to the holidays and the excitement, splendor, beauty, and feelings of good will they bring. At the same time, I realize there are individuals and families under tremendous stress, who are facing hardships, or who have broken hearts and cause to mourn. The holidays can bring significant peace and comfort during these times, yet in some cases, the season may seem to magnify the difficulties they are going through.

I’ve also been thinking about the recent observation of Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving. There is so much for which we are grateful as citizens of this wonderful country. We enjoy unparalleled opportunity in terms of education, employment, health, religious freedom, recreation, service, and general quality of life.

We’re truly indebted to the men, women and their families who sacrifice tremendously—in many cases with their own lives—to protect and promote peace. Other individuals such as teachers, friends, co-workers, leaders and family members also enrich our spirits. Upon reflection, I’m indeed thankful for my great parents. They have passed on, but the tremendous memories and life lessons they left continue to bless and inspire all who knew them.

I’m certainly appreciative of America First Credit Union. Our mission is to improve our members’ financial well-being and to enhance the communities we call home. Our volunteers and staff are passionate about this purpose. We stand ready to educate, inform and assist you during both joyous and challenging experiences.

I regularly speak with members who share examples of the excellent service they have received. Additionally, I’m genuinely humbled to hear stories of life-changing events where America First has helped provide solutions to complex and trying circumstances.

Please accept our sincere thanks for your membership and loyalty. We look forward to a lifelong relationship. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas, a happy holiday season, and a productive and joyful new year.

It Pays to Stay Cautious When You’re Shopping Online

Many of us find online holiday shopping more convenient than slogging through traffic, looking for parking and dealing with crowds.

At the same time, you need to be on guard when you’re getting gifts electronically. Follow the tips below to keep the season financially safe:

  • Put antivirus software on your devices
  • Visit merchants that have secure sites
  • Read sales, return & privacy policies
  • Keep all receipts

You can find additional security updates here.

Volunteer Service Highlights America First Annual Meeting

According to America First Credit Union bylaws, three members will be elected to three-year terms on our Board of Directors at the Annual Meeting. It is scheduled for 7 p.m. on April 16, 2019 at the David S. Eccles Conference Center in Ogden, Utah.

Incumbent volunteers, who serve without compensation, are:

  • Barney B. Chapman
  • Kenlon W. Reeve
  • Michael W. Roden

Those interested in becoming directors must meet the following minimum standards:

  • Membership in good standing
  • Legal age (18 years or older)
  • Bondable
  • Free from any conflicts of interest
  • Available for all Board of Directors, Committee, and other designated meetings unless excused

Please submit letters of application to the America First Nominations Committee, P.O. Box 9199, Ogden, Utah 84409. This should include your statement of qualification (limited to 150 words) and must be received by 5 p.m. on January 7, 2019 at the above address.

Nominations by petition are also accepted and must include qualification statements, documents attested to by 500 fellow America First members, and a signed certificate from the nominee stating he or she is agreeable to the process and will serve if elected. Petitions must be received by 5 p.m., January 7, 2019 at P.O. Box 9199, Ogden, Utah 84409. Nominations are not accepted from the floor at the Annual Meeting.

Please direct any questions regarding the Board of Directors and election procedures to Sheryl Cox by calling 1-800-999-3961.

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.